Saturday, November 19, 2022

Twitter Is People


Note the presupposition, now that he's the proprietor, that it's some kind of extension of his self, like a puppet in his hands, or a pet. "What trick should I teach it?"

But it really isn't his; I mean, I guess the proprietary software is, but the community isn't. That's something that's assembled itself over the years, and can't be owned.

I'm really disturbed to learn how much of the mass firings were focused on global Twitter, the part of the company that's not in the US, and more particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Of 250 Twitter employees in India, only around 12 remain. Almost all the marketing and communications employees in Southeast and East Asia have been let go, except for two in Singapore and one in Japan. In Mexico 50 workers have been sacked and only a skeleton staff is left, Brazil's 150 have been reduced to 20. 

While rightwingers in the US believe, or pretend to believe, that the platform restricts their freedom, and say it loudly, on Twitter of course, the over 80% of its users who live outside the country have a very different experience, in which Twitter's ability to protect civic speech rights, commitment to guaranteeing the privacy of those who wish to remain anonymous, and ability to ferret out and identify misinformation work together to create a forum for free expression that they might not be able to find anywhere else, as Rishi Iyengar writes at Foreign Policy:

The company’s user base around the world numbers in the hundreds of millions, and while that is far smaller than social media competitors such as Meta, YouTube, and TikTok, Twitter plays an outsized role in hosting and driving the global conversation. It is used by world leaders, government agencies, dissidents, activists, and journalists—in many cases against each other. 

In the past, Twitter has stood up for freedom of expression and human rights against governments that wish to curb those rights. In India, it filed a lawsuit against the government over demands to take down numerous accounts. In Nigeria, Twitter was banned for seven months after it took down a tweet by the country’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, that was interpreted as threatening violence against protesters. (The platform was reinstated earlier this year after Twitter pledged to establish an office and appoint a representative in the country.)

Looks like Musk has broken that last pledge, too: The company's first Africa office, located in Accra, Ghana, launched at the beginning of November with 20 employees, is down to just one. 

Twitter in the US is fun, but it's made itself a voice of dissidence around the world, from the Arab Spring to the defense of Ukraine, in Myanmar, Egypt and the rest of the Arab world (wonder if that's got anything to do with why Saudi Prince Alwaleed has become Twitter's second largest shareholder), Honduras, etc., and sometimes a vehicle of organizing resistance too. Even in the US it's where politicians, journalists, billionaires talk to us and we can talk right back. But in addition to all the international firings, Twitter's Trust and Safety department is pretty much gone in this week's resignations.

It's a lot bigger than Musk, and it needs to survive with or without him, preferably the latter.

No comments:

Post a Comment