Leaving Las Birdas

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Marcy asked Sunday about a checklist of actions:

It’d be useful for someone to put together a checklist for journalists to prepare for the inevitable banning: download archive, delete DMs and phone number, update Masto follows… What else?

I started drafting one but as I was doing so, Elmo was changing the rules. I had to toss some parts, rewrite others, do more research than I expected all because Elmo decided he was going to ban a journalist permanently (WaPo’s Taylor Lorenz) and ban all references to certain other social media platforms.

And then Musk did a 180-degree turn and deleted a bunch of the new rules late Sunday evening.

A flood of new users over the weekend combined with increased posting volume flooded Mastodon servers again, making everything a bit slow. It will speed up again once everything settles down into a new stasis.

Anyhow, here’s the list journalists probably could have used already.

1) Get your Archive — Do not pass go, do not collect $200 until you have requested an archive of your Twitter history which includes all your tweets, retweets, quote tweets, media, more.

— Select Settings and privacy.
— Choose Your account.
— Select Download an archive of your data.
— Confirm your password, then select Request archive.
— Watch for notice in your Settings within the next 2-5 days that your archive is ready to download. Don’t count on an email notification as those appear to be spotty.

This archive will not be readily readable to folks who don’t code, but there are tools to format it into readable structure.

2) Obtain 2FA backup passcodes — you need a way to access your account if Twitter’s 2FA service crashes. It has in Ukraine and India and spottily in the US since November 1.

Once you have your 2FA backup passcodes, make sure you have 2FA set up on your account. Next step will help a lot with 2FA.

3) Remove your phone number from your Twitter account. Lifehacker published a how-to. If you must keep a phone number attached, consider either switching it to a dedicated cheap burner or leave the existing number but get a new number wholly separate from Twitter for everything else.

Unauthorized use and sale of phone numbers may violate the FTC’s consent decree, but Musk has already proven repeatedly he doesn’t care what the FTC’s consent decree says, having violated it multiple times since taking control of Twitter. Don’t assume regulation can restrain him or that regulatory bodies in the U.S. or EU can act before the damage is done.

4) Leave contact information as to where else you can be found.

Musk is now suspending accounts for sharing Mastodon, Facebook, Instagram, Post, Tribel, TruthSocial, Nostr addresses and links. To ensure readers can still obtain addresses at these platforms, try these alternatives:

— There are three open source link shorteners available which can mask an underlying link. See https://opensource.com/article/17/3/url-link-shortener for information about Lessn More, Polr, and Yourls; or

— Use Glitch.com to cite all your social media addresses and identities in one link. You can ‘hide’ your Mastodon address in it and use the URL on your Twitter profile;

— Another approach is to collect your identities and put them in an image file and add it to a pinned tweet (do not include any text referring to the image’s content). So far I haven’t seen any indication Twitter is using OCR to detect ‘forbidden’ addresses except perhaps in profile header images;

— If you already have a blog, you can draft a post or a page with all your contact information in it and link to that page/post. (I’ve done this, it’s very easy.)

5) Delete your Direct Messages (DMs) — this may take some time if you haven’t had a practice of deleting them as you go along. In the future use Signal for private messages with auto-deletion so you don’t have this albatross to deal with if you need to leave another social media platform.

Protect your sources and ask them to make sure they’ve deleted on their end as well.

6) Delete your Tweets — this is not a necessity and may actually cause problems if others have relied on your tweets in their reporting. Unlike DMs, tweets are assigned a unique URL; deleting one can create a 404 error for anyone who cited one of your tweets. Think long and hard about doing this.

It may be difficult to delete more than your last 3200 tweets. I couldn’t; the service I used choked on the copy of my archive for one of my accounts. So I left it as it was.

If you have sensitive tweets which could end up deleted by Twitter’s current or future regime, consider archiving them in the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive.

7) Pull a list of follows/followers if you’re headed to Mastodon — technically speaking, this information is in your archive copy but without the right tool it can be difficult for the non-coder to read. Use tools like Fedifinder or Twitodon to pull a list of follows/followers identifying those who’ve migrated to Mastodon already. Log into your Mastodon account and follow the emigres as desired.

8) Nuclear Options: a) Lock your account, or b) Deactivate/Delete your account.

a) Locking your account means it is only visible to your existing followers at the time it is locked. You won’t get spammed/trolled by non-following accounts while you’re locked. Other accounts may try to follow you but you’ll have to approve them and at this point most may be spammers or troll/bot accounts not worth your time to screen let alone approve.

b) Deactivating/Deleting your account will freeze your username for 30 days but after that the username is available for use by another new user. I do NOT recommend this; if your name is your brand, you don’t want someone misusing it. Just make sure the account is secured by 2FA and walk away.

Between my two accounts I have less than 3000 followers and I’d informed them the account was going on hiatus and left info on how to find me. I locked my accounts and haven’t logged back in.

9) Prep your other social media/future social media home — I’m not going to assume journalists are headed to Mastodon though many are. Some media figures are heading elsewhere.

— Make sure to update your other/new media accounts with new addresses as appropriate;

— Make sure you’ve activated 2FA or MFA secured logins on your other/new accounts;

— If you’re leaving Twitter, remove buttons and links from your social media accounts and — blog/website which take readers to your Twitter account;

— Share a post as soon as possible on your alternate platform(s) advising your status, and then make sure to sustain some level of consistency in posting there to develop audience.

10-a) If you are moving to Mastodon — find the circulating lists of journalists who’ve opened a Mastodon account. Follow your peeps from that list, have yourself added to that list.

an ongoing Google Doc of journalists prepared by Tim Chambers, administrator of indie.social (@[email protected]):


The list is at least 1280 entries long. When clicking through the link above, note the link at the top to a form to collect new entry’s personal information.

an ongoing active list of verified journalists prepared by Dave Lee of the Financial Times (@[email protected]):


Caveat: Dave is swamped, there’s a backlog of requests by new accounts.

10-b) If you are moving to Mastodon — you have a lot to learn in a short period of time; make sure you understand how Mastodon’s culture differs from Twitter’s, and how the lack of algorithms and nominal analytics may change your mode of operation.

— YouTube video introduction by Jeff Jarvis (@[email protected]), journalism prof at CUNY Newmark School:


— Introduction to Mastodon at Washington Post:

A guide to getting started with Twitter alternative Mastodon (gift link)

There was another intro at Wall Street Journal this weekend as well — which says something interesting, doesn’t it? I don’t have a link to it, though, as I don’t have a subscription.

~ ~ ~

Now, a note about reporting on Elmo and Twitter going forward: ARCHIVE TWEETS BEFORE REPORTING ABOUT THEM. Make this an automatic practice.

I’ve run in to a number of situations where journalists have posted in Mastodon about Twitter rules and Elmo’s tweets, sharing links to the Twitter-based content. Because I refuse to give Twitter traffic I copy the URL of the tweet and check the Internet Archive first for an archived copy instead.

I can’t tell you how many times the shared tweet url had NOT been archived, even this Sunday during the height of Musk-ian confusion about the new rule regarding mentions of social media competitors.

Do not trust Elmo not to delete content whether tweets or administrative content under Help, Twitter Support, or other Twitter organization account. Take a screenshot, document the hell out of it. Add any links to the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive.

Polititweet had been archiving Musk’s tweets including tracking those deleted, but I can’t be certain it’s up to date.

Just don’t trust him or the business he runs because it’s not the Twitter you once knew.

~ ~ ~

Go. Remember you’re supposed to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Do it from a better place than the circus Twitter has become.

25 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    It’s after 2:00 a.m. here and I have spent far too much time on Elmo-driven drama this weekend.

    I’m hitting the hay. Stay out of trouble.

  2. Bay State Librul says:

    Catchy headline

    At first, I thought you were mimicking
    The Patriots last-play-of-the-game
    stunning loss to the Vegas Raiders

  3. Leoghann says:

    Thanks so much for this resource-full post. I know several people besides myself who can benefit from the information.

  4. Tom-1812 says:

    If I’m not mistaken, the photo for this post on the Home page appears to show the skull of a Dodo, the original “Barmy Bird”.

  5. BobBobCon says:

    Even if people aren’t leaving yet due to dumb things like company policies, they really ought to fully backup.

    There’s no guarantee hackers — or even Musk — won’t start messing with old tweets and DMs.

    Good luck proving you didn’t say something back in 2015 that suddenly shows up with your name on it. A backup may be your only defense.

  6. Francine Fein says:

    Thank you, Rayne! This is all such useful information (although I’m not a journalist). I’m especially grateful for the link to the video on using mastodon as I’ve been stumbling through the interface on my own. I appreciate your work on Emptywheel. I learn so much from Marcy, you, and bmaz as well as from the commenters. I’ve been following Marcy since she live blogged the scooter Libby trial. Get some rest and have a wonderful holiday. Thank you again.

  7. Badger Robert says:

    How did it work out for Hearst? He couldn’t break into cinema and eventually TV shrank the publishing market.
    Young people, and apparently some not so young people will innovate around the bird app in ways that are not predictable.

  8. snarkattack says:

    Thank you for this! This is an extremely important post, and well written in that it’s perfect for sharing.

  9. rosalind says:

    re. Mastodon: my eyes can’t handle white text on a dark background – does anyone know if you can switch the color scheme to a black text on a light background? thx.

    • hester says:

      You can change those settings.
      On your home page on the right scroll down until you see “preferences”. Click on it.
      At the top you’ll see appearance. Below that, you’ll see “Interface language” on the left and “site theme” on the right. Mastadon gives you 3 choices: Dark, high contrast and light. Choose Light.

  10. BroD_in_Balto says:

    Reading this in the comfort of my cave overlooking the savanna, I understand it as clearly as your contemporaries will understand what I’ve painted on my walls. I take it as a quickly assembled digital survivalist’s response to The Twitter Event. Of course, since I don’t inhabit that world, I really have no idea whether it’s good advice or not. From what I’ve seen of the author’s previous contributions, I imagine it is both well-intentioned and highly competent.

  11. Stephen Calhoun says:

    Thanks for this guide. I assume I’ll be migrating. I might revive my Tumblr too. I’m interested in learning more about where artists who like to also write will be ending up.

    EW’s crew: thanks for your invaluable work. Happy holidays as we head into what will be a dynamic new year of reckoning and justice.

    • P J Evans says:

      Tumblr tends to be good for artists and writers. (It doesn’t have an algorithm, and it doesn’t push stuff at you. You have to find and follow people.)

  12. Raven Eye says:

    Elmo has caged the bird, and now want to control the singing. The kindest thing I can say about that is: “Silly man”.

    Unfortunately this has gone way past silliness.

  13. WilliamOckham says:

    Can we have a working thread on the Jan 6 Committee’s “Introductory Material to the Final Report of the Select Committee”? I’ve already found at least one interesting thing.

  14. greengiant says:

    Possible problem. Workaround is screen shot save.
    The Wayback machine https://archive.org/web/ stopped working for twitter uploads for me over the weekend.
    The delay stated for twitter was 30 minutes and is now worse. Trouble is now they never complete. I am probably in a multiple request limit hell loop now. Suggest don’t submit multiple twitter requests until the previous completes.

    • Rayne says:

      Screenshot isn’t a viable solution except to provide immediate documentation. It’s far too easy to post faked/doctored images now which can be difficult to detect as such; the archive documents the date/time and the coding of the page and images archived.

      I’ve run into the delays, too, but it’s the price we pay for that archive. Just make the request and let it work. I’ve had waits overnight in the past; the archive has gotten better and faster.

      Which brings me to a suggestion that folks who rely on the archive consider making a charitable donation to them before year end. I’ve done so already.

Comments are closed.