Like many Liberal Democrats I have been viewing with concern the developments at Twitter where it appears that a right-wing takeover of the Company could damage its reasonably justifiable claim that it is a platform for free speech but where extremes are moderated.
That raises to my mind the question as to how we should respond to this as a Council, as a Party and as individuals.
I have already registered on Mastodon which is a sort of Twitter although I have neither done much on it nor got many followers on my account. I have noticed though that a few people on Twitter have also looked at this route and have now begun to follow me. I can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the short term I intend to do the occasional repeat on Mastodon that I do on Twitter and see what happens. I have about 11,000 Twitter followers and am in regular discourse with many of them, so I don’t want to lose them unless I feel morally or politically obliged to do so.
My concern is the way that Twitter could go. The new Twitter owner is an apologist for Russia at least as far as Ukraine is concerned. He is a huge polluter with his Space X promoting vanity trips into space at a huge environmental cost. He hides behind a veneer of environmentalism with his TESLA cars but there appears to be no commitment here other than to make even more money.
What he does outside Twitter is his concern. I certainly will neither be going into space nor buying a TESLA car although my next care will be an electric one. What he does on Twitter however is a matter of real public concern as it has such domination of that part of the social media sector. Within a week of taking control of the company he sacked half its staff. Crucially, to my mind, his axe fell hardest on the moderators who looked at content.
Here he may have gone to far. There is a laissez-faire attitude to such matters in the USA which is his main concern but, in the UK, and the EU we have harder rules and regulations on these matters. I can see a time developing quickly where our regulators will first place demands on Twitter and then possibly followed by fines.
The ultimate sanction will be, of course, banning it in our air space. I would regret that because I believe in moderation and persuasion and not compulsion and force but if push comes to shove……! It is already clear that things are changing on this site. The use of the N word has increased 500% in just one week. It is not clear whether this is because of less moderation or because more people feel emboldened by the ownership change. Only time will tell.
The biggest test will be if Donald Trump is allowed back on. Twitter and Facebook banned him because of his lies and clear racism and attacks on democracy within weeks of him losing the Presidential Election. That will be a clear time to move out of the channel.
Already though the channel is losing a lot of advertisers with some big names not being prepared to risk their reputation alongside the potential right wing move in. They have already taken a big revenue hit for next year’s budget with pre bookings at a specific media sales event slumping. This might mean that the new owner comes to his senses and does maintain an impartiality and fact checking service which could be useful. The problem will be if he does not.
As an individual I will have an easy choice. If I am not happy with what happens I will just go and move everything to Mastodon and slowly build it up.
Could we allow public information to be put out through a media which includes many distorted and impartial messages. Twitter has been very effective in getting quick messages out and the Council will need to replace it.
Should the standard media, such as the Liverpool Echo, which is now so heavily dependent on clickbait be associated with a media route which could be the exact opposite of the social concerns and policies which it claims to espouse.
Should the Liberal Democrats abandon the millions of followers that we have between us to go into uncharted waters when we need to communicate in as many ways as possible both on a day to day basis and an electoral basis with our residents and citizens.
It is too early to tell what we might do but it is not to early to think about what we might do should circumstances change. If things do go the wrong way the last thing that we want is to have no alternative options in hand.
So that is my suggestion. Watch carefully and prepare thoughtfully in case action needs to be taken. I have done my thinking. Will you now do yours?
You can find Mastodon at https://mastodon.social/