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Return to Twitter: the turning of the tide
A pleasant surprise is the restoration of my old Twitter account
I didn’t expect to be writing an upbeat article about Twitter, because yesterday I received an email that said my most recent appeal against my suspension had been declined.
Feeling a bit glum after having my hopes raised, I was anticipating writing about how my rights had been violated, yet my energy must clearly be needed elsewhere. Sometimes we experience disappointments in life as we are being protected from an unseen risk, which we only appreciate later on. However, I got a huge surprise when a few hours later a friend messages me to say my account had been restored, and so I quickly sent out my first tweet since January of 2021.
A lot has happened in that interim period, which includes our relationship to Twitter. Yet it remains the primary public square, since many brands, politicians, authorities, institutions, and movements only exist on very limited social media platforms. You can’t interact with your local council via Gab, for example. The exclusion from Twitter isn’t just a matter of loss of choice over the forum for speech, it is a form of digital exile. This is not just a restoration of my account, but also a return from banishment from mainstream dialogue.
At first the loss of my Twitter account hurt significantly, like a kind of avatar assassination. It taught me to separate out my bodily world from the virtual, and to tease apart my real identity from the character put out in public. I learned to let go, and instead accept that I was being offered new learning opportunities and ways of interacting with the wider world. I found via a diversity of platforms that each has its own audience, culture, affordances, limitations, and use cases. There is no one social media platform to rule them all.
Twitter’s culture is particularly favourable to marketing — of ideas as well as products. To give a trivial example, I didn’t feel any inhibition in selling my art prints on Twitter, and promoting my more commercial offers. On Truth Social I might post up lots of photos, and then at the end offer for people to donate to support my free art. On other niche platforms, it would totally go against the norm to sell anything or ever solicit for funds. These aren’t even properties of the user interface or terms of service, just shared expectations of the user base that vary depending on venue.
I have been fighting an information war at the front lines, at least in the public realm. Others go up against The System™ of debt slavery and child theft at huge cost to themselves in private. In order to maintain the effort you have to fund yourself without a “matrix job” and salary (plus gagging effect). This means blending together appropriate voluntary monetisation of free information, as I do here on Substack; nothing is behind a paywall, the content is given away for all. My Twitter audience was initially built on a purely commercial basis out of those interested in what I had to say about tech and telecoms; geopolitics came later.
Access to a mass audience (like with Twitter) is a critical part of this, as the 0.1% of the base (order of magnitude) who donate keep you fed, housed, and with transport and equipment to do the citizen journalist truth dissemination job. Twitter is an easier venue for resourcing yourself as well as spreading the word to wake people up — at the same time. You don’t let yourself be dragged through the reputation mud as a “conspiracy theorist” if you’re after money, there are much less stressful ways of making a far better living. It’s a reality, however, that Twitter is important to ensuring that operations are appropriately aligned to finding resources to keep up the war effort.
The combination of bot elimination, inactive account removal, and continued wait for reactivation of accounts means my follower count has dropped 100k from the previous high of 254k. These numbers are both irrelevant (as the truth does not care about your popularity) and critical (as those in groupthink see reach as a proxy for veracity). There are few platforms where ordinary people can, with hard work and skill, aspire to reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. That initial tweet on my return has had 130k impressions, which is the same as the circulation of a successful magazine or regional newspaper. There is a real impact in the world of being a “digital influencer”.
The American telephone system was regulated due to the equivalent at that time of shadow banning and deplatforming of commercial entities by biased networks. Today it is unthinkable that a phone company could take away your identity (via your mobile number) based on what you might say or to whom. We have a clear separation of technical matters of abuse of the network, and the breaking of the law via malicious communications or slander. Social media needs to evolve in terms of how it is architected and policed, and many models are legitimate and possible. But this kind of injustice cannot be allowed to repeat.
At the very least, nobody should be stripped of their freedoms of speech, assembly, and association without due process. Kicking people off social media also affects their ability to participate in civil society, engage with ordinary commerce like technical support, and earn a living my promoting their own products and services. If you are accused of breach of the policies of a private platform, at a very minimum you should have a right to know which content infringed which specific rule, so there is transparency. For a “public square” that hosts officials of state, there must be a right of appeal to an independent adjudicator in the case of total suspension, which ought to be limited in time, like any jail sentence.
Looking forward, Twitter is now just one of several social media platforms I use, and I often cross-post material between them. I plan to use Twitter for publishing my photo art, announcing articles, and keeping the pulse of what is being said. I don’t plan to spend all my days on my smartphone like I did in the past, nor read and acknowledge every comment on each post. It’s just not good for me or those in my immediate social surroundings. Telegram is my primary news platform, and we are no longer (as a collective) so dependent on one platform as we were two years ago. It is good to be back, but things will never quite be the same as they were. Twitter is the information battlefield for the mindshare of “normies”, yet in many ways we also have moved on.