Last week people joined up to Mastodon at the rate of 11,000 an hour. I am not, at this stage advocating that we withdraw from Twitter, although many have. However, we do need a Plan B if the situation continues to deteriorate.
When three weeks ago I put down a motion to the Liverpool City Council meeting on Wednesday I did not realise how well timed it would be. Since then, Musk appears to have completely removed all checks and balance on the system with a huge increase in abuse, racism, sexism and pornography. I have been on Twitter for 11 years and I have never had porn videos appearing in my Twitter with the promise of more to come.
It would appear that Musk loosened controls because of his belief in free speech. I believe in free speech but not if it denigrates individuals and parts of the community who cannot respond to racial, faith or gender-based slurs. Whether he has done this deliberately or not I have no idea, but we know that he has laid off or lost 75% of his staff depending on how many are let back into their offices today.
I am asking Liverpool Council to think carefully about its approach to Twitter and use the opportunity to review all its social media outlets whist we are about it. We need to consider the reputational damage that might be done by association with a media outlet that appears to have gone rogue.
Let’s suppose that the Council wants to put out messages about exploitation of women and what we are doing about it. What would it look like if that appears next to a Tweet about sex and pornography? What if we want to promote anti racist events and the Tweet before is using racist abuse such as the ‘N’ word?
That would clearly be guilt by association and would demean the positive messages that the Council and most public sector bodies seek to portray.
I suppose the final straw for me has been what is obviously a fixed poll about Trump re-joining the Twitter platform. Why do I think it was fixed? Because when I came to vote in what I knew was a charade I found that I had already voted!! Trump is a danger to democracy not only in the USA but his actions have emboldened extremism in the rest of the World.
How do you know when Trump is lying? His mouth is open! He bullies, distorts and lies as a matter of course. His acolytes do likewise. They seem to think that they are above the law. No-one should be above the law. In fact, elected officials from the President of the USA down to humble councillors like me should set a god example to those who we seek to influence. We will never be paragons of virtue, we are only human. But we should avoid clearly egregious behaviour.
I am slowly moving my social media activity from Tweet to Mastodon which has boomed over the past two weeks and already has ‘2 million Tooters’. My own following has increased from about 50 to about 550 in 10 days. They are global and delightfully from the nastiness and rancour which has become too prevalent on Twitter. My new ‘handle’ there is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, I will still be on several local and Lib Dem Facebook and do my blog to keep people such as you in touch with activity.
I haven’t suggested that the Council should pull off Twitter at this stage and will not do so myself. I think we should look carefully about how we use social media and have a plan B available whereby we can move if necessary.
Our interim Chief Executive has already agreed that my motion should be forwarded to the Head of Communications for a report. So I’m thinking about these things; the Council is; are you. Do you have a plan B? Have you thought what you will do if Twitter continues to deteriorate? If have not done so you need to!
In the meantime, I hope to see you on both Twitter and Mastodon.
Here is my motion to Wednesday’s City Council:
Liverpool Council and social media
Council notes that the Council is a heavy user of social media including Twitter to quickly get out messages and information to those of our residents, organisations and businesses who use social media. It particularly notes a heavy use of Twitter.
It notes that Twitter has a new owner who has already made major changes to the protocols by which it oversees the removal or moderation of hateful, racist, sexist or otherwise offensive messaging employed by some people. Twitter has also removed from employment many of the staff employed to enforce such protocols.
In the short term this has clearly increased the amount of hate items on the media stream including a 500% increase in the use of the ‘N’ word which appears to have gone unchecked.
It believes that if the situation continues to deteriorate then public and private sector bodies and individuals should not use a platform which is uncontrolled and with which the messages that our Council wishes to portray could be contaminated by association.
It requests the Mayor to commission a report from appropriate officers to establish the parameters for our use of social media and the checks and balances that it would employ to ensure it uses only outlets where proper controls are in place to monitor hate speech and remove it; and
Establish a system for regularly updating such a report.