There’s been a storm brewing all year on social media and this week it hit with a vengeance. Wave after wave of protest has lashed the ocean liners Twitter, Youtube, Apple, and Facebook after controversial passengers were forcibly ejected for speaking out of turn. As the censorship cyclone has intensified, cryptocurrency users have begun fleeing to safer havens, with Mastodon and Gab the leading the charge.
Also read: Decentralized Apps Might Be the Future but They’re Not the Present
Censorship Aboard the Good Ship Social Media
For the left, the right, and everyone caught in the middle, it’s been a wild seven days on social media. Trouble has been fomenting for months, but it hit fever pitch with the permabanning of the right’s most notorious agent provocateur. Alexander Emric Jones, better known as Alex Jones, was effectively booted from the internet without warning in a pincer movement orchestrated by Apple, Spotify, and Youtube, leaving the Infowars firebrand displaced and disenfranchised.
The left immediately began toasting his ousting, as the left are wont to do with designated enemy combatants who don’t accord to their worldview. The right countered, fighting for the Alex Joneses of the world to be allowed to speak, regardless of how misinformed or offensive their views might be. On crypto Twitter, meanwhile, something that had been known for a long time was revisited with a sense of urgency: it is no longer safe to rely on tech giants for access to the internet.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, to his credit, refused to join the internet monopolies in forcibly ejecting Alex Jones, despite the usual howls of protest. In other cases, however, Twitter has been every bit as supine as its peers, shadow banning and temporary blocking users for the slightest infringement at the drop of a hat. Alex Jones might have survived the latest Twitter cull, but with members of the cryptocurrency community less fortunate, the flight to a safer haven has begun to gather momentum, with Mastodon a primary option.
First They Came for the Alt Right
When Twitter initiated its first wave of permabans last year, ousting conservative figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos, free speech-based alternative Gab.ai was billed as the logical replacement. Led by young conservative Andrew Torba, it’s basically Twitter without the censorship. Gab has had a very good week, both on Twitter and on its own platform as the free speech furor has thrust it into the limelight. Premium members of Gab are able to cross-post to Twitter, enabling them to effectively retain their followers while enjoying the safety of a less censorship-prone platform.
A similar feature is available on Mastodon, a distributed social network housed on independently operated servers. More than 500 members of the crypto community have now moved to an instance parked at Bitcoinhackers.org. “No Scams, no impersonation, no begging, and no illegal content. Keep it civil and we should all survive :)” it proclaims. It remains to be seen whether social media alternatives such as Mastodon, Gab and (for BCH proponents) Memo retain traction once this latest free speech debacle dies down.
The events of the last few days, however, have reaffirmed something bitcoiners have known all along: decentralization is the only long-term solution to the states and shadow states that are intent on silencing, surveilling and shadowbanning those of us with the temerity to step out of line. Just as “neutralize” became the chilling term for murdering enemy combatants, social media giants can now “unperson” an individual, ejecting them and the digital allotment they have spent years tilling. It’s been a bad week for free speech, but perhaps, once the dust has settled, it may come to be seen as a good week for the fledgling decentralization movement.
Have you tried Mastodon, Gab, or Memo and if so what are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Pixabay, Gab, and Twitter.
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