The ‘Twitter Files’ are a distraction | Opinions

Billionaire Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter is one of the top stories in the media by 2022. The takeover was an inevitable disaster, resulting in the layoffs of more than half of the workforce, drastic cuts in content moderation teams, and increased human exploitation. members, an unprecedented increase in hate speech, censorship of dissidents and journalists, and technical glitches, among other ailments. In a whirlwind of chaos, damage, and dysfunction, a distraction is needed.

Import “Twitter Files”. In November, Musk announced that information would be released regarding the “suppression of free speech” on Twitter before he took over. In December, a number of journalists and writers began publishing topics and articles on Twitter based on files they were granted access to, pressuring governments and corporations to prevent a number of stories or opinions.

While the revelations point to some disturbing practices, the way they are handled and released is rather troubling. Worse yet, they serve the agenda of a “digital dictator“who are not interested in elevating the profit-driven digital colonial model that allows governments and corporations to arbitrarily restrict freedom of expression on social media platforms.

secret condition

So far, the “Twitter Files” releases have mostly supported right-wing grievances about the way content censorship allegedly targets conservatives. These include the defeat of the Hunter Biden laptop, the “visibility filter” (i.e. suppression) of some conservative voices, the downing of Donald Trump, Democratic and Liberal pressure against Russiagate, and alleged “cheating” in the COVID-19 debate on Twitter.

They also revealed that Big Pharma pressured Twitter to censor activists working to remove intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, and that the company’s content moderation team whitelisted it. fake accounts in Arabic promoting US interests in the Middle East.

While it is standard practice to use leaked material in reports, the treatment of “Twitter Files” is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons.

First, the public is not given access to the files, the way they are provided by platforms like Wikileaks. Instead, Musk hid them behind closed doors as company property. Writers can only search the database through Twitter’s attorneys.

The Intercept’s Lee Fang, one of the people who worked on the project, made it clear: “The search was performed by a Twitter attorney, so what I see may be limited.”

Former Rolling Stones journalist Mark Taibbi, one of the lead authors on the project, also explained that Twitter’s lawyers had to be careful not to reveal any material that could get the company sued. However, there is no transparency behind the filtering process. If Musk retains search results that conflict with his interests or ideology, we’ll never know.

Second, there were certain conditions to get access to the files. Musk asked all “Twitter Files” reporters to publish their findings on social media first. According to Bari Weiss, one of the authors granted access, this is Musk’s only request.

But Taibbi has stated that he must agree to “certain conditions”, which he says he cannot disclose to the public. Those conditions can be problematic.

Third, it is also hard not to notice that the majority of the lead authors granted access to the records are American and have predominantly conservative or anti-liberal tendencies.

This has been reflected in the stories published to date, many of which focus on issues fought by the American right.

These stories could significantly skew public perception of Twitter’s pre-Musk-era content moderation practices and appear to confirm allegations that the “free establishment”, Tech companies large and “liberal media” dominate society and suppress conservative voices.

However, there is quite a bit of evidence of Twitter censoring leftist, Antifa, and anti-colonial voices. For example, human rights organizations have documented how Twitter has repeatedly censored Palestinian writers and activists, even at the behest of the Israeli government. The writers of the “Twitter Profile” have yet to dig deep into these incidents, and even if they do, can we trust Team Musk to give us the full story?

Ultimately, the project excluded access to documents from Musk’s disastrous reign to the company. For instance, it would be nice to know what happened when he censored journalists on Twitter or terminated the job of a content moderator in the Southern Hemisphere.

But that archive will not be considered part of the “Twitter Files” because it does not serve Musk’s personal and ideological interests. And while he’s trying to present himself as an antagonist, it’s impossible to see him this way. The second richest man in the world is as prestigious as you.

Digital Capitalism and Colonialism

While the “Twitter Files” provide interesting information, the general story they reveal is well known. Governments, interest groups, and powerful corporations have been trying to censor and shape the flow of content on social media networks for years now.

And unlike what Musk wants you to believe, he’s not part of the solution. He is not a benevolent dictator “worried about the future of civilization” and he will not rightfully defend our “freedom of speech.”

Under his rule, Twitter’s censorship practices will not improve, and the overarching problem is allowing governments and corporations to interfere with the platform. won’t go anywhere. That’s because Twitter’s ownership and business model, like other major social media platforms, is an expression of Digital capitalism and colonialism.

Practically speaking, the major social network is a project of the American Empire: Apart from TikTok, US transnational corporations own and control almost all of the world’s leading social networking platforms. operates outside Russia and mainland China.

The failure to challenge the social media ownership of American companies — as if it were a trivial phenomenon not worth mentioning — is an expression of American supremacy.

Taibbi, Weiss, and others—as individuals interested in the politics of the media—did nothing to challenge American ownership and the capitalist social media regime. In fact, they are a huge part of the beneficiaries – amassing a large following on Twitter, which may have helped them attract paid subscribers on publishing platforms. that they use.

One key narrative that the “Twitter Files” helped distract was the influx of Twitter users to the open-source social media platform Mastodon, fueled by Musk’s takeover.

Musk himself mocked Mastodon in a tweet, and he was quick to block the promotion of alternative social media accounts among Twitter users. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of users have created Mastodon accounts and listed their Mastodon handles on Twitter.

Actions like these are key to subverting the current corporate-owned network model.

fediverse, an open source collection of talkable social networks, of which Mastodon is a part, Decentralized social media and put ownership in the hands of users and their administrators, who can maintain the network themselves. Mastodon itself does not serve ads. Its developers refuse funding from private investors to protect its nonprofit status.

As a working prototype, it demonstrates that a company is publicly owned and controlled socialist alternative to major social media networks like Twitter is possible. The “Twitter file” diverts our attention from these already existing radical solutions.

Mastodon is a step in the right direction: turning social media into a digital community. Socializing the networks is the most equitable, democratic solution — and the greatest threat to Elon Musk, the US government, and the capitalist ruling class.

Indeed, just change system will end this media ecosystem nightmare.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.

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