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Free Speech, Elon Musk, and Twitter

So Elon owns Twitter now, and has written a medium-length post about how he did it to protect humanity and defend free speech. So you don't have to click around to find it, here it is.

There's a lot to unpack there, because I mostly don't believe any of it. That's not fair, I actually believe a lot of the third part there; that Twitter aspires to be a place for advertisers. Advertising sales make money, and ultimately I believe that Elon only cares about making money, no matter what else he says. I don't have any faith in his ability to build a common public square. I don't have any faith in his ability to regulate free speech and balance the needs of humanity with his desire to make money. I actually do believe that Twitter will become a "free-for-all hellscape," where people will be banished and punished for daring to disagree with Elon. I believe that Elon will allow the Orange Menace back onto Twitter, because he believes the Orange Menace will bring followers with him, and those followers will bring more advertisers. He won't care about the damage they do to human rights, democracy, or even basic human dignity, because he cares about money. I believe that humanity needs a public square where we have intelligent, moderated, conversations about things that benefit humanity. I believe that this requires all of the people involved to do a few things; agree to communicate in a respectful fashion, agree that facts are facts, and "alternative fact" is another name for a lie, and remember that when all of humanity benefits we all win together, and that when our conversations need to have winners and losers, we're all losers. So what does one do? The first instinct I've seen from many people is to delete their Twitter account. I'm here to say "Don't do it! Don't delete your Twitter!" Start by cultivating the Twitter you want. I use Twitter to follow fashion historians, war historians, some gaming accounts, performers whose work I enjoy, sports teams and sports journalists I like. I highly recommend finding weird things, instead of following the Avalanche, follow their French account (I do). I follow a handful of LGBTQ+ activists I respect so that I can better serve my friends in my effort to be an ally. I follow local journalists in Denver, Fort Wayne, and Las Vegas, so I can see news from places I care about. I follow RockerSkating because there is no better source for figure skating. So, follow some things you like. Then aggressively cut out the bullshit. Use the buttons Twitter gives you. They show you a Tweet from Elon Musk? Block him. They show you some right-wing conspiracy theory shared as fact. Block it. More importantly, every single time that Twitter sends you a sponsored Tweet. Block the advertiser. Every single time. Even if you like the product and like the advertiser. Block them. Advertisers want reach, cut their reach and they'll find new places to advertise. If they are forced to find new places to advertise, Elon doesn't get as much money from advertisers. Don't delete Twitter. Abuse it. (If this catches on I suspect Elon will make blocking a paid feature when he monetizes the user end more heavily, and we will all be to blame. That's when I'll delete Twitter.)

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