SDNY Calls DOJ’s Definition of the Espionage Act an “Academic Interest”

DOJ has now responded to my intervention in the Joshua Schulte case. Presumably because my motion, written by Kel McClanahan, focused on how flimsy the government’s claim to keep transcripts of a CIPA conference hidden, the government’s response pitches this as exclusively a CIPA battle. It’s totally a reasonable legal stance.

But along the way, in apparent effort to distract from the topic at issue — in part, the application of the Espionage Act to journalism — SDNY suggests it is just an academic interest whether DOJ would charge someone for sharing classified information already published by the NYT.

The mere fact that someone would like to know information is not a part of the right-of-access analysis, however, and the Government’s motion should be granted.

[snip]

Intervenor’s desire to speculate as to the potential application of the Government’s articulation of the elements of an offense to other circumstances has no bearing on the ability of the public to monitor or assess the actual rulings of the Court in the CIPA § 6 hearings to which Intervenor demands access.

[snip]

[T]he question is not whether redacted transcripts are coherent as a matter of language or whether they might be relevant to Intervenor’s academic interest.

I’m the intervenor here, not McClanahan (who is a professor on national security law at GW Law). I need to know this stuff not just to cover WikiLeaks (I’m more of an expert than the expert SDNY relied on in the first trial, Paul Rosenzweig), but also to understand my own exposure as a journalist.

Not once in the filing does the government use the words “Espionage Act.” Not once does DOJ mention “journalist.” Not once does it mention the NY Times, the hypothetical that DOJ is attempting to hide, which (as Judge Jesse Furman described in a court hearing) is this:

I gave you two hypotheticals. I think one is where a member of the public goes on WikiLeaks today and downloads Vault 7 and Vault 8 and then provides the hard dive with the download to someone who is not authorized to receive NDI, and I posed the question of whether that person would be guilty of violating the Espionage Act and I think your answer was yes. That strikes me as a very bold, kind of striking proposition because in that instance, if the person is not in a position to know whether it is actual classified information, actual government information, accurate information, etc., simply providing something that’s already public to another person doesn’t strike me as — I mean, strikes me as, number one, would be sort of surprising if that qualified as a criminal act. But, to the extent that the statute could be construed to the extend to that act one would think that there might be serious constitutional problems with it.

I also posed the hypothetical of the New York Times is publishing something that appears in the leak and somebody sharing that article in the New York Times with someone else. That would be a crime and there, too, I think you said it might well be violation of the law. I think to the extent that that would extend to the New York Times reporter for reporting on what is in the leak, or to the extent that it would extend to someone who is not in position to know or position to confirm, that raises serious constitutional doubts in my mind. That, to me, is distinguishable from somebody who is in a position to know. I think there is a distinction if that person transmits a New York Times article containing classified information and in that transmission does something that confirms that that information is accurate — right — or reliable or government information, then that’s confirmation, it strikes me, as NDI. But it just strikes me as a very bold and kind of striking proposition to say that somebody, who is not in position to know or does not act in a way that would confirm the authenticity or reliability of that information by sharing a New York Times article, could be violating the Espionage Act. That strikes me as a kind of striking proposition.

The government is no doubt exploiting the emphasis in my filing, but the notion that whether I can be charged for doing journalism is not an academic interest! It’s not just that there is an acute interest, amid the Julian Assange extradition proceedings, to know the government’s thinking about the Espionage Act, it goes to the chilling effect of not knowing what I can safely publish in the course of doing my job. I don’t have the luxury of “speculating” about the application of the Espionage Act, because if I guess wrong, I could be imprisoned for a decade.

The government wants this to be about CIPA. But the problem is that the government is attempting to hide something that is not classified — the elements of offense for a serious crime that can chill the ability to do journalism — via claims about CIPA.

Third, Intervenor asserts a First Amendment right of access premised on the assertion that “the Government present[ed] legal arguments about elements of the crime itself,” which Intervenor claims both have traditionally been open to the public and are of value to the monitoring of the judicial process. (D.E. 988 at 2). Intervenor’s contention that legal arguments the Government may have advanced at the Section 6 hearings are “something that interested persons in the field should know” (id. at 3) simply “cuts too wide a swath—taken to its extreme, considerations of logic would always validate public access to any judicial document or proceeding.” United States v. Cohen, 366 F. Supp. 3d 612, 631 (S.D.N.Y. 2019). Contrary to Intervenor’s suggestion that discussion of the elements of an offense “stray[s] far from a simple discussion of evidentiary issues” (D.E. 988 at 3), such discussion is integral to virtually any assessment of the relevance and admissibility of evidence, including that occurring in CIPA § 6 hearings, in which courts “look to what elements must be proven under the statute,” United States v. McCorkle, 688 F.3d 518, 521 (8th Cir. 2012); see also United States v. Bailey, 444 U.S. 394, 416 (1980) (describing need to “limit[] evidence in a trial to that directed at the elements of the crime”).

Tellingly, SDNY’s citation of a 2019 District opinion relating to the unsealing of Michael Cohen’s search warrants — which were released with redactions, the desired goal here! — is inapt to the question of whether the government should be able to hide its discussions of how it understands the Espionage Act by claiming that that needs to be protected as classified information.

Considerations of logic also counsel against recognizing a First Amendment right to access search warrant materials. Of course, public access to search warrant materials may promote the integrity of the criminal justice system or judicial proceedings in a generalized sense. United States v. Huntley943 F.Supp.2d 383, 385 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) (remarking that “the light of the press shining into the innards of government is necessary to inhibit violation of the public trust”). But such an argument cuts too wide a swath—taken to its extreme, considerations of logic would always validate public access to any judicial document or proceeding. Cf. Times Mirror Co.873 F.2d at 1213 (rejecting as overbroad the argument that the First Amendment mandates access to any proceeding or document that implicates “self-governance or the integrity of the criminal fact-finding process”); In re Bos. Herald, Inc.321 F.3d at 187 (“In isolation, the [rationale that the public must have a full understanding to serve as an effective check] proves too much—under it, even grand jury proceedings would be public.”). As the Ninth Circuit aptly observed, “[e]very judicial proceeding, indeed every governmental process, arguably benefits from public scrutiny to some degree, in that openness leads to a better-informed citizenry and tends to deter government officials from abusing the powers of government.” Times Mirror Co.873 F.2d at 1213.

Understanding the law is a matter that precedes the media’s scrutiny of whether the government abused the Espionage Act in this case (or in Julian Assange’s). And while the elements of the offense of the Espionage Act does dictate whether evidence would be helpful or not to the defense — the consideration of a CIPA hearing — ultimately this debate was about (and significantly appeared in) jury instructions, the law as applied.

Again, SDNY’s stance seems tactical, a response to our filing’s greater focus on matters of classification than the status of the press. But the outcome — SDNY’s claim that I have the luxury of merely “speculating” about the application of the Espionage Act — is alarmingly arrogant.


I was only able to make this challenge because McClanahan was able and willing to help — and he can only do so through the support of his non-profit. If you believe fights like this are important and have the ability to include it in your year-end donations, please consider supporting  the effort with a donation via this link or PayPal. Thanks!

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]):

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/13No4yxY-oFrN8PigC2jBWXreFCHWwVRTftwP6HcREtA/htmlview

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]):

https://www.presscheck.org/

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xnbct41Sxnk

— 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.

Held Hostage by the Barmy Bird

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

Of all the journalists suspended by Elmo on the bird site, I was bothered most by that of Voice of America’s Steve Herman.

I mentioned before he’s a straight news kind of guy. I’d followed his account at Twitter so far back I can’t remember which of us had a Twitter account first. He was one of the few early Twitter sources I could rely on for news about earthquakes in Japan. His coverage of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011 was invaluable.

But the most important factor about Herman’s suspension is that he is a U.S. government employee.

Herman works for us. He’s paid with our tax dollars.

And a single foreign-born billionaire offering weak excuses after the fact had OUR public employee suspended for doing their job.

Once again, I’ll point out that Elmo was exercising his own free speech rights by suspending journalists on the social media platform he owns.

Popehat said it better, of course:

Remember: Twitter is Elon’s company, he has the free speech and free association right to run it pretty much however he wants and to ban people for petty narcissistic reasons.

And we have the right to laugh and point at his ridiculousness and at the free-speech pretenses of his gullible fans.

But even Popehat said that on Mastodon.

Elmo may be within his rights to capriciously decide to suspend journalists, but in suspending VOA’s Herman it became crystal clear that the U.S. government should not allow its resources to be subject to the whim of a single individual when the entire country relies on those resources.

Thankfully, Herman was already on Mastodon before the suspension and has been ramping up posting on that open platform since he launched his account.

But it’s who else is NOT on Mastodon which is now a problem.

Every member of Congress who has an account on Twitter is vulnerable to suspension.

Every U.S. government department and agency still on Twitter is likewise at risk.

Let’s say Musk becomes annoyed with the Federal Aviation Administration because of its regulations on airspace and planes, commercial and private. Could he suspend the FAA’s account?

Or perhaps Musk gets his pants in a knot about National Aeronautics and Space Administration because he and NASA don’t see eye to eye about a SpaceX-related matter. Could he suspend NASA accounts (there are multiple for this agency).

One might say, “Surely Musk wouldn’t be stupid/crazed enough to do that.”

Except he’s already suspended one employee of a U.S. government agency, and holding that person’s account hostage until content is deleted from that person’s account.

Elmo might have the right to do this, but the U.S. should not be held hostage by a pasty excessively-monied git with an unmanaged ego.

Look at this situation from another angle: this is ransomware denying service to a user until a specific deliverable has been provided.

In VOA’s case, Musk by way of Twitter Safety has demanded Herman delete a tweet before service will be resumed.

How should a government agency respond to demands for ransom like this, when an open platform is ready and waiting to provide alternative service?

There’s no good reason why each department and agency is still on Twitter but not on Mastodon, nor is there any good reason why each member of Congress doesn’t have an account on Mastodon.

None of the work government departments, agencies, and employees do should be impeded by the private sector let alone by a single butt-hurt billionaire.

Contact your members of Congress and tell them this needs to be fixed going into the next session of Congress. Each of them and their caucuses need to have a non-commercialized open social media platform account.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121 or use Resist.bot (which has a Mastodon account, by the way).

After the Deluge: What’s Next on Mastodon for Journalism? [UPDATE-2]

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Updates at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

After Thursday’s Musk-ian tantrum booting off more than eight journalists from Twitter, there was a stampede of new users opening accounts on the open social media platform Mastodon.

It bogged down performance considerably on the largest servers. My timelines lagged by nearly three hours at one point on mstdn.social. But that was Friday; there wasn’t a lot of urgent news. We could afford the lag.

Though service improved greatly over 24 hours later, servers may still be throttled a bit. They’ll likely be upgraded over the next week or two depending on the instance and if traffic continues to level out over the next 48 hours.

The lag will be more obvious than some of the corporate-owned commercial platforms, but we’ve all seen now what the price is for the responsiveness of commercial Big Tech.

Besides, we’ve been here before during early rapid growth of a platform.

We’ll get through this.

~ ~ ~

Now that journalists have finally been confronted by the reality their go-to social media platform is run by an erratic narcissist, it’s time to ask what’s next.

Some of the outlets employing these journalists are already turning a blind eye to what happened now that Musk has lifted the suspension on several journalists. The selective approach should be yet another signal to media outlets that there is no return to normal. The big name outlets like CNN, NYT, NBC saw the ban on their journalists lifted, but the smaller independent outlets and freelance journalists are still suspended.

Among them are the only woman of color who was banned (Linette Lopez) and a commentator who’s retired from political commentary (Keith Olbermann). Hello racism, misogyny, ageism, and not a single complaint from the big media outlets about this because they’re not affected (wow, if that doesn’t say something else).

Not only is the Musk-ian problem of throttled journalism continuing, it will happen again. It’s just a matter of time before some other issue arises which trips Musk’s hair trigger and a journalist or outlet will be suspended.

(While I was writing this piece, Washington Post’s Taylor Lorenz was suspended from Twitter without explanation. Her account also happens to be on the so-called antifa list circulated last month — surely just a coincidence, hmm?)

There’s purpose to this beyond an expression of Musk’s shallowness. It’s now a means to change the subject and redirect journalists’ attention — even away from some of the journalism being throttled.

What was it that Lopez reported which triggered Musk? Why isn’t that getting more attention?

And as I asked in my previous post, what really tripped the suspension of Matt Binder? Was it about Tesla’s performance?

This is among the what’s next actions: journalists and their employers need to stop getting played by Musk the same damned way they were played by another malignant narcissist who mastered undermining and marginalizing the media.

Stop navel gazing and start doing more and better reporting about Musk and his effect on free speech and press freedom.

Publish it on an open social media platform, which the narcissist’s platform isn’t.

Do that with all reporting.

~ ~ ~

Consultant Dan Hon has posted a few observations, assessments, and recommendations of media outlets’ next steps. He began writing about news organizations moving to open web platform Mastodon back in October just before Musk took ownership of Twitter, before journalists were banned:

— News outlets need a Mastodon instance;
— Instances should be associated with organization’s existing website URL to ease discovery while building on and enhancing brand;
— Instances should verify its journalists’ (and opinion columnists’) identities through the Mastodon instance;

Thursday’s journalists’ suspensions emphasize the importance of Hon’s recommendations. News media shouldn’t be held hostage by a single billionaire with an attitude, especially if these outlets don’t have financial relationship with that billionaire and his social media business.

It’s possible the big name media outlets whose journalists’ suspensions were lifted have or have had advertising purchases with Twitter which influenced Musk’s handling of the suspensions.

No outlet so far has copped to this though it’s certain some participate in Twitter’s video monetization program Amplify. We only know that some of the outlets begged for mercy *cough* asked for reconsideration of the suspensions.

The New York Times asked its reporters not get into confrontations with Musk in public view on Twitter.

In one case the news outlet has punished the journalist for their coverage of Musk. NBC dressed down Ben Collins and pulled him off coverage of Twitter for his tweets earlier in the month which were characterized as “not editorially appropriate.”

NBC’s behavior may have emboldened Musk.

Entities pleading with Musk like the American Foreign Service Association on behalf of VOA’s Steve Herman may only have fed Musk’s ego.

FreePress.net’s insistence Musk step aside as Twitter’s CEO is laughable given how much of his own wealth is invested in the business, not to mention Musk was exercising his own free speech rights suspending journalists.

None of these actions deal with the problem, which is that a media platform has been taken over by a billionaire fascist narcissist with no genuine interest in free speech and a free press.

Dealing with this effectively means building a better mousetrap which can’t be overtaken by a single person’s whims.

There have been some instances established on open platform Mastodon for some media outlets listed below:

— USA —
https://c.im/@ABC (bot)
https://c.im/@CNN (bot)
https://c.im/@NBC (bot)
https://journa.host/@onthemedia
https://journa.host/@[email protected]
https://mstdn.social/@RollingStone
https://newsie.social/@TheConversationUS
https://newsie.social/@themarkup
https://newsie.social/@Chalkbeat
https://newsie.social/@STAT
https://newsie.social/@ProPublica
https://newsie.social/@damemagazine
https://mastodon.world/@FAIR
https://mastodon.world/@foreignpolicy
https://mastodon.world/@theprospect
https://mastodon.social/@niemanlab
https://mastodon.social/@GovTrack

— US Local —
https://mastodon.social/@gbhnews
https://mastodon.social/@KCStar (bot)
https://texasobserver.social/@TexasObserver
https://newsie.social/@Chron
https://mastodon.tucsonsentinel.com/@TucsonSentinel
https://journa.host/@msfreepress
https://journa.host/@berkeleyscanner
https://sfba.social/sfchronicle
https://sfba.social/@sfgate
https://sfba.social/@sfstandard
https://sfba.social/@thevallejosun
https://verified.mastodonmedia.xyz/@theoregonian
https://mas.to/@sltrib

— Technology —
https://c.im/@Mashable (bot)
https://c.im/@Engadget (bot)
https://geeknews.chat/@arstechnica
https://mastodon.social/@macrumors
https://restof.social/@restofworld

— Sports —
https://c.im/@NBA (bot)
https://c.im/@NFL (bot)
https://c.im/@MLB (bot)
https://c.im/@NHL (bot)
https://c.im/@Soccer (bot)

— International —
https://botsin.space/@bbcworld (bot)(UK)
https://bylines.social/@BylinesNetwork (UK)
https://bylines.social/@BylinesScotland (Scot)
https://bylines.social/@BylinesCymru (Wales)
https://bylines.social/@YorksBylines (UK)
https://bylines.social/@NEBylines (UK)
https://bylines.social/@BylinesEast (UK)
https://bylines.social/@CentralBylines (UK)
https://bylines.social/@NWBylines (UK)
https://bylines.social/@KentBylines (UK)
https://bylines.social/@SussexBylines (UK)
https://bylines.social/@WEBylines (UK)
https://c.im/@BBC (bot)(UK)
https://c.im/@DW (bot)(German)
https://mastodon.social/@riffreporter (German)
https://mamot.fr/@lesjoursfr (France)
https://mamot.fr/@mdiplo (France)
https://piaille.fr/@Vert_le_media (France)
https://piaille.fr/@politis (France)
https://amicale.net/@lemondefr (bot)(France)
https://masto.ai/@linforme (France)
https://mastodon.social/@Reporterre (France)
https://mastodon.social/@Mediapart (France)
https://mastodon.social/@citizenlab (Canada)
https://mastodon.social/@rferl (International, Ukraine)

Note those marked (bot) — these may not have been established by the news organization but instead by some other entity whose identity is not clear. They are cross-posting news headlines from somewhere, possibly Twitter. Each (bot) is a failure; it may share the organization’s news articles faithfully, but the site isn’t verified and its posts will never answer any questions from readers. It’s a loss of control over IP and branding, at a minimum.

The real successes are those which set up their own instances, like the Texas Observer. Best in class is the Bylines Network which has not only established an instance but accounts for each of its local news subsidiaries. Ideally this is what news organizations like Gannett or McClatchy would do with their network of local papers.

Of course these are all news outlets which still focus on print; television news should take the same approach.

And all of the journalists who report for these entities should have verified accounts with their employers’ instance.

Not a single thin dime need be spent on Twitter Blue to achieve verification.

Every instance is an opportunity to develop a closer relationship with readers in ways Twitter couldn’t provide. Because Mastodon is RSS friendly, every one of the news outlets above can be followed with an RSS reader by simply adding .rss to each address and then adding the address to a preferred RSS reader.

~ ~ ~

Why haven’t or won’t media outlets migrate to an instance on open platform Mastodon? As Don Hon wrote, it’s a bunch of work! It needs maintenance not unlike a website, and it needs a level of creative thinking which Twitter/Facebook/Instagram haven’t required because they’ve been fairly stable for years. The open web and the Fediverse is terra nova for news organizations, and it will take some craftiness to develop an new media ecosystem with measures to determine success of any invested effort.

It’s also too tempting to look at another billionaire-funded closed platform like Post.news and assume from its polished finish that this might return media outlets to normalcy.

Sadly, no. Many users are turned off by what has been characterized as a hollow echo chamber effect with little community building.

There are still more opportunities but each has has major drawbacks. Hive.social has had a major security problem; Jimmy Wales’ WT.social in beta phase is based in the UK and subject to entirely different laws regulating speech and intellectual property; no one wants to go back to relying on Facebook or Instagram, and LinkedIn wasn’t designed for the kind of community usage Twitter has had.

I have yet to hear anyone express interest in Jack Dorsey’s BlueSky which is still in development.

At some point media outlets need to face reality, as UCLA Associate Professor of Information Studies Dr. Sarah T. Roberts explained:

As people are leaving Bird for good, I find that many are engaged in what I believe is a dangerous and misguided game of mixing apples and oranges. After what just happened, and all that it has revealed about reliance on for-profit corporate entities for interpersonal and community interaction, why advocate for another such environment? Substack is already known garbage, and Post provides no future-proofing. When I say, “seize the means of your social media production,” this is why.

Seize the means, indeed.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 12:15 P.M. ET 18-DEC-2022 —

Community member Laura Hoey informed us The Oregonian (OregonLive.com) has a Mastodon account. I’ve added it to the list of local news outlets above.

It’s a particularly interesting addition because the host instance, https://verified.mastodonmedia.xyz, is a dedicated server for use by journalists or media personalities. The owner/operator is Matt Karolian, who describes himself as “Boston Globe by day, Mastodon Admin by night.”

If you know of a local news outlet which has a Mastodon account but isn’t on the list above, let me know in comments and I’ll add it as long as comments are open on this post. Thanks!

UPDATE-2 — 3:50 P.M. ET 18-DEC-2022 —

Another local news outlet added to the list, courtesy of community member Katrina Katrinka. See Salt Lake Tribune at https://mas.to/@sltrib.

If you are a newer user of Mastodon and find the site laggy, it’s because of a crush of new accounts and more posts. I’m trying to write yet another post which should address the reason for this influx.

Elmo and the Urge to Purge [UPDATE-3]

[NB: check the byline, thanks. Updates at the bottom of post. /~Rayne]

Elmo has had a bug up his ass for at least a couple days.

It seems Twitter added a warning note to all tweets which included the word “mastodon”; it made for some laughs from the archaeo-bioscience sector when it resulted in a warning attached to a tweet about ancient mastodon DNA.

It’s not the first time Twitter has been hinky about “mastodon”; Twitter users had difficulty last month during a wave of users leaving Twitter for the open social media platform Mastodon.

Then Elmo lashed out yesterday punitively removing @elonjet from Twitter, the account which tracked his personal jet.

Never mind the flight data is public record and @elonjet merely reposted that data.

Elmo also removed all accounts associated with Jack Sweeney, the teen who launched @elonjet. There was no advance notice.

There was some back and forth with reinstatement but some whining on Elmo’s part blaming Sweeney and @elonjet for some possible road rage event. No proof was offered showing a link between anything tweeted by Sweeney or his accounts and whatever transpired on the road.

Elmo did manage to dox the person he claimed threatened him in a car, violating his own Terms of Service.

But that was yesterday.

This evening Elmo purged a bunch of journalists. At least one was banned permanently with the rest receiving a suspension of their accounts.

Aaron Rupar, Substack (@atrupar) – permanent suspension

Donie O’Sullivan, CNN (@donie) – suspended

Micah Lee, The Intercept (@micahflee) – suspended [on the list]

Drew Harwell, WaPo (@drewharwell) – suspended [on the list]

Ryan Mac, NYTimes (@[email protected]) – suspended [on the list]

Matt Binder, Mashable (@mattbinder) – suspended [on the list]

Tony Webster, independent (@[email protected]) – suspended

Keith Olbermann, retired (@KeithOlbermann) – suspended

Here’s what’s particularly interesting about half of these eight known accounts: they were on a list circulated via Telegram on/around November 25 labeled “Antifa accounts and antifa follower accounts.” The intent appeared to have been brigading and purging 5000 accounts on that list from Twitter; the same list was purportedly supplied by an entity called “Right Side News” and shared with Elmo.

The list is out there somewhere; it had been shared at Pastebin. It’s not going to be shared here because the site doesn’t need the hassle.

No matter the reason Elmo’s panties were in a bunch, there’s no such formal organization called antifa. As noted several times here at this site, antifa is an ideology — anti-fascism — and yes, journalists who benefit from the First Amendment and its free speech press protections might well identify with antifascist ideology.

But every journalist has a different take on what constitutes fascism which makes it gross overreach to claim any and all journalists are members of an imaginary group called antifa let alone claim their ideological bent is antifascist. You can certainly think of a few folks who claim to be journalists whose work appears very fascist or in the service of fascists.

One might also assume that a business targeting those earmarked as antifa or sharing antifascist ideology is itself fascist.

Ken White (@Popehat) shared on Mastodon:

Remember: Twitter is Elon’s company, he has the free speech and free association right to run it pretty much however he wants and to ban people for petty narcissistic reasons.

And we have the right to laugh and point at his ridiculousness and at the free-speech pretenses of his gullible fans.

Yup. I have the right to call Elmo a hypocritical spoiled asshat.

And the third largest shareholder at Tesla has the right to say some blunt things about Elmo’s performance:

Investors and executives at Tesla have raised concerns regarding Musk’s shifted focus to Twitter. On Wednesday, Tesla’s third-largest shareholder, investor Leo KoGuan, tweeted that Musk had “abandoned Tesla” and that the company “has no working CEO.” Other prominent investors have echoed the concerns. Future Fund Managing Partner Gary Black tweeted that the market was indicating that “the $TSLA brand has been negatively impacted by the Twitter drama. Where before EV buyers were proud to drive their Teslas to their friends or show off Teslas in their driveways, now the Twitter controversy is hurting Tesla’s brand equity.”

That excerpt was from RollingStone magazine; it included this tweet by Matt Binder:

Huh. I wonder if this tweet in particular is what caused Matt’s suspension?

The RollingStone article was written by Nikki McCann Ramirez. I wonder if she had a Twitter account and if it was suspended or not, and if so was she also on the so-called “antifa list”?

Place your bets now on which journalist(s) will feel the emerald mine heir’s bitchy boot.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 10:10 P.M. ET —

Well that didn’t take very long. Steve Herman of the Voice of America was given the boot after he tweeted about the @elonjet account. Herman is a straight news guy, can’t imagine a journalist less likely to provoke anyone.

At least this heave-ho revealed Elmo’s Achilles heel.

Oh, and if you’re at Mastodon, follow Steve Herman at https://mstdn.social/@[email protected]

UPDATE-2 — 11:30 P.M. ET —

HELLO JOURNALISTS EXITING TWITTER — please do NOT attempt to join the largest Mastodon servers/instances if you are looking to create an account for the first time.

The sites are extremely busy now and performance is degraded for everyone. It will make you feel even more frustrated than you may already be, having seen fellow journalists booted off Twitter this evening.

Check this list of servers/instances for one that fits your needs. It doesn’t have to be permanent — you can switch to a different server in the future if you find one you prefer.

These three servers are more lightly loaded and dedicated to serving journalists:

https://journa.host
https://newsie.social
https://federated.press

Check each server’s About page.

Look for their moderation policy which may vary by server — what content is permitted/not permitted, how moderation works, so on.

Some servers require approval of applications, some are instant.

Note whether the server has defederated from/blocked other large or critical servers.

The three listed here for journalists are not likely to be an issue with regard to moderation, application speed, federation, but it doesn’t hurt to check up front.

Once you’ve wrapped your head around which server you want to call home for now, read this introduction-and-how-to by Electronic Frontier Foundation:

How to Make a Mastodon Account and Join the Fediverse

It’s straightforward, plenty of graphics, and will surely get your back with regard to security.

Next, find yourself a Mastodon mobile app you prefer. I don’t have a recommendation for Apple iOS but I am happy with Tusky on Android. It has a Twitter-ish feel which makes adoption easier.

I use the Mastodon native app in the browser on my desktop, don’t have any other recommendations yet for you. It’ll get you started.

Once you’ve launched an account, you need to begin changing your thinking and your work habits because Mastodon is not like Twitter.

— Set up a profile carefully, then an introductory post to pin to your page. Add 5-7 hashtags to the introduction about subjects of importance to you.

— There are no algorithms, nothing comes to you that you don’t first seek and pull.

— There is no search inside the applications which operates across the federated Mastodon universe (the Fediverse); this is intended to prevent harassment by trolls brigading. You can use Google, however, if you plot out your search terms carefully.

— Hashtags are searchable across the Fediverse, however. Use them often. However don’t sprinkle them inside text as they interfere with e-readers; append hashtags to bottom of your posts.

— They’re not tweets but posts; they used to be called “toots” but that recently changed because it annoyed too many people and it was based on a joke anyhow.

— Follow many people; boost (comparable to retweeting) anything of interest; likes are compliments to the poster.

— Quote tweets were seen as causing negative engagement by Mastodon’s progenitor and are therefore difficult to do.

This should be enough to get you started in Mastodon; it’s more than I had and I am doing pretty well. Bring friends!

UPDATE-3 — 11:00 A.M. 16-DEC-2022 —

For folks still looking to open a Mastodon account here’s a site which helps identify servers with best fit by a handful of criteria:

https://instances.social/list

I would have shared this last night but it was crashing. LOL

Do note that Mastodon servers offer many more criteria by which to sort for a new home. Some of this may be a reflection of local laws where the instance operates — pornography-free servers, for instance — or it may be a reflection of the values of the persons using that server.

Mastodon leans hard into anti-abuse and anti-discrimination policies though some servers are less firm about them. Those that stray too far and allow too much offensive material and even more offensive users may find their server defederated after other muting and blocking methods have been exhausted. In this respect Mastodon has better and moderation than Twitter since users are the frontline of moderation, blocking and reporting content and abusers.

Elon Musk’s Self-Described “Crime Scene”

On Saturday, Elon Musk tweeted that the social media site he owns is a crime scene.

I’m pretty sure his confession to owning and running a crime scene was not intended as an invitation for the Securities and Exchange Commission to mine the site for evidence that Elmo engaged in one or several securities-related violations in conjunction with his purchase of it. (As I’ll get to, Elmo’s claim that his own property is a crime scene may, counterintuitively, be an attempt to stave off that kind of investigative scrutiny.)

Similarly, he probably wasn’t boasting that the Federal Trade Commission and a bunch of European regulators are investigating how Elmo’s recklessness has violated his users’ privacy. He cares so little about that, his newly installed head of Twitter Safety, Ella Irwin, confirmed she was spending her time in charge of a woefully gutted department sharing private user data with one of the mouthpieces Elmo has gotten to rifle through Twitter documents. Worry not, though: Irwin deemed sharing the moderation history of three far right activists — and the control panel used for moderation — not to be a security or privacy risk.

Likewise, I’m virtually certain Elmo didn’t mean to boast that San Francisco has started cataloguing the beds he had installed at Twitter headquarters so he can flog his (often H1B-captive) engineers to work round the clock.

Given what has come out of the “Twitter Files” project so far, not to mention the number of coup-conspirators Elmo has welcomed back on the platform, I assume he doesn’t mean to emphasize that Twitter is one of the key sources of evidence about the failed January 6 coup attempt, even against — especially against — the coup instigator. On the contrary, Elmo has invited a bunch of pundits to write long breathless threads about the ban of Trump’s account that entirely leave out what happened on January 6. Here too, then, Elmo may be trying to undercut a known criminal investigation by labeling his social media site a crime scene.

No.

When Elmo says Twitter is a crime scene, he’s not imagining federal investigators swarming his joint to collect evidence that would be introduced in a legal proceeding according to the Rules of Criminal or Civil Procedure.

Indeed, a central part of the breathless Twitter Files project involves insinuating, at every turn, malice on the part of either law enforcement (often the FBI) or other federal organizations mislabeled as law enforcement (like the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, CISA, which is part of DHS), even while presenting evidence that disproves the allegations being floated. That’s what Matt Taibbi — whom I will henceforth refer to as #MattyDickPics for his wails that the DNC succeeded in getting removed nonconsensually posted dick pics — some of which were part of an inauthentic campaign that Steve Bannon chum Guo Wengui pushed out. (Side note: my Tweet linking to MotherJones’ story on the Guo Wengui tie, which shows that these tweets were doubly violations of Twitter’s Terms of Service, got flagged by Twitter as “sensitive content.”)

In one attempt to prove that former head of Twitter Safety Yoel Roth was too close to law enforcement, for example, MattyDickPics showed that Roth didn’t have weekly meetings pre-scheduled, and therefore could get blown off in favor of the Aspen Institute or Apple.

In another, Matty showed Roth writing to what appears to be an internal Slack, but claiming it was a “report to FBI/DHS/DNI,” about Twitter’s Hunter Biden response. Taibbi has discovered something genuinely newsworthy: Per Roth, when he asked about the “Hunter Biden” “laptop,” the government declined to say anything useful.

Weekly sync with FBI/DHS/DNI re: election security. The meeting happened about 15 minutes after the aforementioned Hacked Materials implosion; the government declined to share anything useful when asked. [my emphasis]

This entire campaign largely arose out of suspicion that the FBI was ordering Twitter to take action to harm Trump (or undermine the Hunter Biden laptop story). Matty here reveals that not only did that not happen, but when Twitter affirmatively asked for information, “the government declined to share anything useful.”

This is one of those instances where the conclusion should have been, “BREAKING: We were wrong. FBI did not order Twitter to kill the Hunter Biden laptop story.” Instead, Matty labels this a “report to” the government, not a “report about” a meeting with the government. And he says absolutely nothing about the evidence debunking the theory he and the frothy right came in with.

Instead, Matty makes a big deal out of the fact that, “Roth not only met weekly with the FBI and DHS, but with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).” Reminder: At the time, DHS was led (unlawfully) by Chad Wolf. ODNI was led by John Ratcliffe. And one of Ratcliffe’s top aides was Trump’s most consistent firewall, Kash Patel. Roth may have been meeting with spooks, but he was meeting with Trump’s hand-picked spooks.

In another fizzled pistol, Matty shows Twitter responding to two reported Tweets from the FBI (without describing the basis on which FBI reported them) and in each case, debunking any claim that the Tweets were disinformation.

Matty complains that Twitter applied a label reassuring people that voting is secure. This is either just gross cynicism about efforts to support democracy, or a complaint that Twitter refused to institutionally embrace conspiracy theories. Whichever it is, it amounts to a complaint that Twitter tried to protect the election.

Perhaps my favorite example is where Matty, who is supposed to be showing us what happened between the Hunter Biden laptop moment and when, after Trump attempts a coup, Twitter bans him, instead shows us Slacks that post-date January 6. He provides no date or any other context. He shares these, he says, because they are an example of a Twitter exec “getting a kick out of intensified relationships with federal agencies.” They show Roth joking about how he should document his meetings.

Matty provides no basis for his judgment that this shows Twitter execs “getting a kick out of intensified relationships with federal agencies.” It’s even possible that Roth was claiming this was an FBI meeting the same way people name their wifi “FBI surveillance van,” as a joke. This is the kind of projection of motive that, elsewhere, Matty complains about Twitter doing (I mean, I guess he counts as Twitter now!), but with literally no basis to make this particular interpretation.

Honestly, I wish Matty had committed an act of journalism here — had at least provided the date of these texts! — because these texts are genuinely interesting.

It’s highly unlikely, though, that Roth is worried about documenting that he had meetings with the FBI, and Matty has already shown us why that’d obviously be the case. As Matty has shown, Roth had weekly meetings with the FBI on election integrity and monthly meetings on criminal investigations. He listed those meetings with the FBI as meetings with the FBI.

Yoel Roth was not afraid to document that he had meetings with the FBI, and Matty, more than anyone, has seen proof of that, because this breathless thread is based on Roth documenting those meetings with the FBI.

One distinct possibility that Matty apparently didn’t even consider is that, in the wake of the coup attempt, Roth had meetings with law enforcement, including the FBI, that were qualitatively different from those that went before because … well, because Twitter had become a crime scene! Consider the possibility, for example, that FBI would need to know how Trump’s tweets were disseminated, including among already arrested violent attackers. It was evident from very early in the investigation, for example, that Trump’s December 19 Tweet led directly to people planning, among militia members and totally random people on the Internet, to arm themselves and travel to DC. Or consider the report in the podcast, Finding Q, that only after January 6 did the FBI investigate certain aspects of QAnon that probably could have been investigated earlier: Twitter data on that particular conspiracy would likely be of interest in such an investigation. Consider the known details about how convicted seditionists used Trump’s tweets in the wake of the failed coup attempt in discussions of planning a far more violent follow-up attack.

Matty, for one, simply doesn’t consider whether Elmo’s observation explains all of this: that Twitter had become a crime scene, that the FBI would treat it differently as Twitter became a key piece of evidence in investigations of over 1,200 people.

None of this shows the “collusion” with the Deep State that Matty is looking for. Thus far, it shows the opposite.

Which may be why, close to the beginning of this particular screed, Matty explained (as he did about several other topics), that he was making grand pronouncements about Twitter’s relationship with law enforcement (and non-LE government entities like CISA) even though, “we’re still at the start of reviewing” the records.

Seven Tweets before he made that admission — “we’re still at the start of reviewing” these files — Matty insinuates, in spite of what his thread would show turned out to be evidence to the contrary — that Twitter struggled as Trump increasingly attacked democracy “perhaps under pressure from federal agencies.”

He and his fellow-Elmo mouthpieces have reached their conclusion — that Twitter did what it did “perhaps under pressure from” the Feds, even though they’ve only started evaluating the evidence and what evidence they’ve shown shows the opposite.

This is, nakedly, an attempt to attack the Deep State, to invent claims before actually evaluating the evidence, even when finding evidence to the contrary.

I mean, Matty is perfectly entitled to fabricate attacks against the Deep State if he wants and Elmo has chosen to give Matty preferential access to non-public data from which to fabricate those attacks. But it certainly puts Elmo’s claim that his site is a crime scene in different light.

Elmo has chosen a handful of people, including Matty and several others with records of making shit up, to confirm their priors using Twitter’s internal files. He’s doing so even as he threatens to crack down on anyone with actual knowledge of what went down speaking publicly. That is, Elmo is trying to create allegations of criminality based off breathlessly shared files — a replay of the GRU/WikiLeaks/Trump play in 2016 — by ensuring the opposite of transparency, ensuring only people like Matty, who has already provided proof that he’s willing to make shit up to confirm his priors, can speak about this evidence.

That’s Elmo’s crime scene.

Elmo has targeted Anthony Fauci.

He fired former FBI General Counsel, Jim Baker, because Jim Baker was acting as a lawyer — and because Jonathan Turley launched an attack on Baker.

He has fabricated an anti-semitic attack on Roth, suggesting the guy who made the decision to throttle the NYPost story on “Hunter Biden’s” “laptop” is a pedophile.

These are scapegoats. Elmo is inviting House Republicans to drag them through the mud; incoming Oversight Chair James Comer has already responded with a demand from testimony for Jim Baker and Yoel Roth. Elmo has not invited law enforcement into his self-described crime scene. The mouthpieces Elmo has invited in to tamper with any evidence have, instead, speculated (in spite of evidence to the contrary) that pressure from law enforcement led people like Jim Baker and Yoel Roth to make the decisions they did.

That’s Elmo’s crime scene.

A week before Elmo announced that he hosted a crime scene, he posted this, “Anything anyone says will be used against you in a court of law,” then within a minute edited it, “Anything anyone says will be used against me in a court of law.”

Elmo’s response to buying a crime scene, used to incite an attack on American democracy, is to flip the script, turn those who failed to do enough to prevent that attack on democracy into the villains of the story. It’s a continuation of the tactic Trump used, to turn an investigation into Trump’s efforts to maximize a Russian attack on democracy into an investigation, instead, into an investigation that created FBI villains, just as Matty invented pressure from law enforcement while displaying evidence of none.

And Elmo’s doing so even while using the fascism machine he bought, which Trump used to launch his coup attempt, to incite more violence against select targets.

Three Things: Goodbye to the Once and Former Shitty Crustpunk Bar

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

Social media sites can be like your favorite watering hole, whether a blog, a forum, a platform like Orkut. You find one you’re comfortable hanging around because of content, and then you stay longer if you like the regulars who are likewise attracted to the content.

You get to know the regulars’ names after becoming familiar with the dynamics of the digital neighborhood. After a while you realize you’re a regular too – you’ve gotten to know this person has kids, that person has a beloved pet, yet another has a quirky habit manifest in the way they comment.

They get to know you and call you by your name as if you were Norm entering that Boston pub called Cheers.

Site moderators get to know you, too, may cut you a little slack if you’ve been there long enough and paid your dues to the community by making your own form of contribution with credible comment material and respectful interaction.

With some investment getting yourself situated for optimum comfort, it’s easy. Everything just comes to you — the bartender now knows exactly what to serve you.

All of this is incredibly important to people who are marginalized offline. The digital neighborhood can be a lifeline of sanity, a place where they can escape the oppressive crap of the real world. They can join the community through a lingua franca within their circle of safety. They don’t have to burn any more precious energy to obtain a measure of peace.

Safety borne of familiarity, regularity, and connection, of a cultivated common culture — that’s what the digital refugees who are fleeing Twitter miss, that’s what they’re seeking.

It’s not at all easy to replace. It also feels like personal and social loss to leave it.

Except the refugees didn’t leave it. It left them.

~ 3 ~

A couple years ago there was a really great thread at Twitter in response to comments made about the far right’s weaponization of free speech.

We’ve seen the weaponization in action in many ways – the white nationalist Nazi-types terrorizing Charlottesville with tiki torches while exercising their free speech, ultimately resulting in the death of a young woman crushed by a white nationalist expressing himself with his car.

Cosplay Nazi-lite lighting smoke bombs during a rally without a permit on the National Mall, or planning to disrupt a Pride parade again in cosplay.

Disrupting community events at libraries, terrorizing families enjoying themselves.

Or the January 6 insurrectionists storming the U.S. Capitol expressing their anger as they laid bombs the night before, breached barriers, assaulted police, shat on the floor, stole equipment while hunting for the House Speaker and the Vice President in order to kill them. Multiple people died as a result of the insurrection.

Anyhow, this chap at Twitter noted the point at which this weaponization of free speech should be addressed to prevent the predictable overreach into violence, when Popper’s Paradox is optimally preempted.

The venue needs to deal with the hate speech as soon as it arrives with its hair neatly combed wearing a button down with an insignia-covered tie. Cut it off in the whitewashed alt-right larval form; grab the club and set on on the bar top long before the Nazi must be punched. That’s when the effort is most effective; that’s when you can still fight and eliminate the emerging Nazis.

Unfortunately, Elon Musk figured out how to get inside this OODA loop.

He bought the bar. He was simply faster at doing this than Paul Singer was back in 2019.

And now the once-beloved shitty crustpunk bar which many of us could comfortably call home is now a goddamned Nazi pub.

The longer you stay there, the more that shit rubs off on you: you’re one of the Nazi watering hole’s patrons.

You’re a Nazi by association.

~ 2 ~

Jack Dorsey is a crypto Nazi. He’s been encouraging Musk for some time, and now he’s nudging him to take all remaining restraints off the Nazis Musk has already freed, including insurrectionists like Roger Stone. “[M]ake everything public now,” which will allow right-wing propagandists to run amok and distort past moderation decisions.

The way Twitter responded to Trump’s racist crap back when Dorsey was at the helm should have been clue enough; the donation Twitter made to the ACLU was just whitewash, the few hundred thousand a feint when Musk would spend billions to upend the entire place to free his Nazi fanbois’ speech.

Dorsey tried to play both sides but it was ultimately easier to let his buddy Musk strip away the veil. Or hood, if you’d prefer.

Bari Weiss is a Nazi apologist who thinks she can escape what Nazis do by being their handmaid, carrying Nazis’ water, chopping their wood for them.

All the Musk fanbois who are Oh-My-God-Twitter-Moderated, amplified in turn by Fox News in the wake of Musk euphemistically ‘exiting’ Twitter’s counsel? Nazis.

And of course there are the Nazis Musk let back in the bar, putting out the Welcome mat for them.

They’re all hanging at the Nazi bar Musk bought in order to make sure Nazis had a cozy place to call home because Gab, Parler, and Truth Social don’t have the commercial cachet to realistically achieve any level of social and economic success.

The financiers who either bought stock or loaned Musk money are likewise good with Nazism. It’s not a stretch to see how three Middle Eastern fossil fuel producing countries might want to destabilize the U.S. by normalizing Nazis in American right-wing culture.

This normalization which heightens internal conflict is to them not a failure.

So long as the American left and center are preoccupied with fighting Nazis, they’ll have less wattage to undermine stultifying fossil fuels to the benefit of alternative energy development.

No idea what the hell Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison was thinking by loaning Musk money to buy Twitter. We can only rely on first principles and allow his actions to convey exactly what they look like: Ellison wanted a chunk of Nazi bar action.

That goes for all the other investors who loaned Musk money for Twitter.

Remember that social success may mean their ideas as noxious as they are gain what has been a mainstream platform used by this country’s largest media outlets — they are legitimized by proximity.

Remember that economic success may mean benefits other than those obtained by Twitter’s profitability. Like stifling discussion about alternatives to oil. Or disrupting conversations about open source, open data, open systems in the case of a proprietary database corporation’s CEO. Or thwarting changes to tax code which may affect billionaires by throttling communications by elected representatives who’d like to pass a tax increase on the 1%.

$44 billion for a Nazi bar might be a bargain.

~ 1 ~

This is when it gets – and already has been – dicey for advertisers.

Because they’re buying ad space from a Nazi bar, to be shown in a space where their brands appear cheek-and-jowl with Nazis.

The back and forth between Musk and Apple about Apple’s ad buys shouldn’t fool anyone. Apple doesn’t want to leave Nazi money on the table.

I say this with great disgust and a letter to the board of directors because I own Apple stock and the cost to buy Twitter would have been chump change to Apple.

It would have been more valuable to have access to a big chunk of the Android market’s users for advertising purposes while preventing damage to Apple’s brand if Apple had stepped up this past March after Musk’s stake in Twitter became public. Just whip out some cash and cut off the incipient Nazi bar.

But no, Apple fucked up.

Instead of making a values-based statement about its products and service the way they would have in the past, they’ve remained silent too long as Musk taunted them about free speech and nagged them about advertising buys.

The company that literally smashed the iconography of then-giant IBM in 1984 and Microsoft to follow, the company which was the first to be valued at a trillion dollars and subsequently two trillion, has been tippy-toeing around a fucking Nazi bar owner tweaking its nose.

What’s really even more egregious: while Musk is trash talking Apple and Apple responds in a way totally unlike one of the wealthiest and most creative on earth should, Musk is using Apple and refusing to compensate the corporation for it.

He just jacked up from $8 to $11 a month the price of Twitter Blue, the subscription service with verification to be available only to Apple iOS users, so that he passes on the fee Apple charges for listing in its app store.

In other words, Musk expects Apple to validate every Twitter Blue account by virtue of being an iPhone or iPad user with access to the Apple app store.

And he’s not going to pay Apple one goddamned cent for this validation service.

Meanwhile, Apple will continue to look Nazi-adjacent in Musk’s Nazi bar.

I hate that I’m going to trash my own retirement account saying this; I have a big chunk of my portfolio in Apple stock.

But I hate even more that Apple — which could have afforded to buy Twitter without going to other lenders as Musk did — is fucking up so badly and torching its brand by advertising in a Nazi bar and allowing a Nazi bar to profit off its hard work.

If Google ever figures out how to do microblogging, they may yet eat Apple’s lunch if they can stay clear of the Nazi bar and avoid Musk’s predatory moochery.

~ 0 ~

Yeah, I know — people I know, care about, and even in some cases love are still using Twitter.

You don’t need to know any longer what it was like in the 1930s before Kristallnacht, before the Reichstag fire. This is what it looked like, all the rationalizations, all the denialism, all the lingering doubts about whether it’s better to remain and hold the space, stay and fight, or walk away even as people fled Germany for safety.

The fight’s done, though.

Think about it: what happens to you when you get into a fight inside a Nazi bar?

There are other bars. Some of them are shitty, some crusty, some punk. One of them may only need you to make it a shitty crustpunk bar.

Maybe even one with a surly bartender who clearly hates you but still keeps a hand on their bat for Nazis.

Flipping the Bird: Social Media Update

Given Elon Musk’s concerted effort to turn Twitter into Gab, I wanted to update my current social media choices (I’ll invite other posters to do the same).

As a number of people have noticed, I locked up my Tweets the other day. That was a response to my inclusion on a list that fascists are attempting to deplatform on Twitter. I’ve heard from a number of people who don’t have an account and who only check Twitter for my Tweets. At least until the fascist campaign ends, and possibly for good, I plan to primarily post my journalistic tweets at Mastodon. And even ignoring that the Approve Follow Requests appears to be buggy at Twitter, I’ve got a long list of requests from entities that may or may not live in a troll farm in St. Petersburg.

So for those of you who might be locked out at Twitter, please check Mastodon.

The exception will be commentary about people on Twitter — commenting on things journalists or propagandists say on Twitter.

My Mastodon address is @[email protected].

I have gotten an account at Post.news, also @emptywheel. For a variety of reasons (privacy and format, among others), I’m taking a cautious approach with Post for now.

I do have accounts on other social media outlets, but for now, I’m focusing primarily on Mastodon.

As a reminder, you can get emailed notice of posts here at this link.

Three Things: Twitter Death Watch in Progress

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

This could be hyperbole but it’s difficult to imagine a social media platform the size of Twitter surviving nearly 90% loss of employees across the organization inside a three-week time frame.

I certainly wouldn’t bet any of my money on it.

~ 3 ~

Thursday was the deadline Twitter’s owner Elon Musk set for remaining Twitter employees to commit to being “hardcore” for Elmo.

They were supposed to have clicked/not clicked by 5:00 p.m. to take an offer of termination with severance.

Many are choosing to walk away, their goodbyes recorded in this ongoing thread (link active at time of posting but no guarantees how long it will stay up):

Kylie Robison for Fortune Magazine reported in a Twitter thread that as much as 88% of the staff Twitter had when Musk took over on October 27 has either been fired or opted to leave.

There were employees on vacation, on medical leave, and under H1-B visa who have questions which haven’t been answered; they will not have been able to make a fair election of hardcore for Elmo or nope, thanks.

The number of employees which may fall under this category could be about 1000.

At one point it was said Musk was negotiating with a handful of key engineers critical to keeping Twitter running.

Zoe Schiffer at Platformer reported at 6:52 p.m. ET badge access had been suspended and the Twitter office buildings closed.

Her tweets leave open the possibility some of the employees who opted to leave may yet be asked to remain.

I wouldn’t hold my breath after reading BusinessInsider’s Kali Hays.

How does a company operate without payroll?

If Twitter has virtually no information security personnel, likely has no documented plan in place for dealing with this scenario, let alone failures all along the way for handling roll out of the Twitter Blue verification system which was a mess of violations all on its own, Twitter could be hammered hard by the Federal Trade Commission for failing to meet the terms of the 2011 consent agreement.

I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to say FTC has grounds to shut Twitter down right now if no users’ or advertisers’ data is secure; the FTC has shut down businesses before. Taking any money from advertisers at this point let alone users for Twitter verification or Twitter Blue would shortchange them if they expected data security.

As Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former CISO notes in this Twitter thread, it’s not just the FTC with whom Musk and Twitter will be in trouble. Twitter’s former outside counsel Riana Pfefferkorn agrees there are big problems and has more to add.

And Elmo’s response to all of this is shitposting.

Not even his own shitposting; he stole the meme from another user.

With total staffing and capabilities up in the air, will Twitter survive into the World Cup which begins on this coming Sunday November 20?

I won’t even put money on that.

~ 2 ~

Marcy wrote recently about Elmo’s forced marriage. Looking at the timeline of events leading up to the closing of the Twitter acquisition, there was certainly something iffy in the way Elmo avoided a background check and due diligence when offered a seat on the board of directors in April, and in the way he hustled out of Delaware’s Chancery Court in October where discovery might have revealed all that wasn’t back in April.

@capitolhunters found some embarrassing information about Elmo which might explain his skittishness. It’s public record but unless one is determined to find it, it won’t surface readily.

Read the entire thread at the Internet Archive; I wouldn’t count on it being available at Twitter. It may have been shadow banned at one point earlier Thursday evening as I couldn’t pull it up.

Is it possible the lack of qualifications and credentials as well as his former status as an illegal immigrant are the reasons why Musk appeared to avoid a background check and due diligence?

Is this a compelling reason he should not have been able to purchase Twitter to begin with — because he could be compromised because of repeated misrepresentations about his background?

~ 1 ~

If you’re a regular Twitter user, you may wish to see something constructive done and soon. There are entire communities of people who can’t just switch to another platform because they’ve had small businesses built up around their Twitter presence. There are minority groups who have difficulty switching to different platforms; without Twitter they lose contact with others in their minority community.

One only need look at the mass shooting at University of Virginia last weekend and the confusion about verification on Twitter to realize how serious the loss of Twitter’s integrity as a utility is to much of the U.S. — and it’s not just the U.S.

I recommend checking @Celeste_pewter’s Twitter thread for action items including calling your senator.

(There’s a copy of her thread at the Internet Archive just in case the original one at Twitter becomes unavailable.)

~ 0 ~

I can’t help think of two things:

— Oil producing countries Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE financed a considerable portion of Musk’s purchase of Twitter, with Prince al Waleed being the second largest investor. Did they do it for an investment, for access to a media space to promote their agenda, or because they saw a way to screw with one of the most popular electric car manufacturers by giving its compromised CEO the means to fuck himself?

— Text messages produced as part of discovery in Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk included messages between Musk and his ex-wife Talulah (Jane) Riley in which she begged him to buy Twitter and delete it because Twitter had banned conservative satire site Babylon Bee. Riley had discussed the banning with her close friend Raiyah Bint Al-Hussein, wife of British journalist Ned Donovan, and half-sister to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Why would a British actress like Riley be so upset about an American conservative website’s banning by a U.S. social media platform?

Three Things: The Early Bird Got Wormed

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

The self-ownage continues at Twitter. I don’t even know where to start because there’s just so much damage in the bird app’s debris field.

Let’s go with the problems closest to deaths.

~ ~ ~

The brilliant billionaire who overpaid for Twitter, who thought his Tesla engineers were qualified to determine staffing levels on software created over 16 years they didn’t write, had another brilliant idea.

He played Jenga with code within the platform because the application was too slow.

(I haven’t heard anyone complain about Twitter’s speed in ages, and when there’ve been complaints they’re usually in tandem with a major event flooding the network and system with user requests and tweets.)

Twitter’s speed hasn’t been a bottleneck to increasing users or profitability.

In the process of unplugging stuff to see if the platform would speed up, a worker who actually knew something about all the legacy code criticized Musk’s absurd efforts.

Free speech absolutist Musk fired him, egged on by his fanboi trolls.



And then users began to experience problems with Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) over Short Message Service (SMS), otherwise know as text messages.

The security system which allows users to ensure their account can’t be accessed by unauthorized persons was broken, preventing users from accessing their accounts.

This also prevented users from checking their accounts to make sure they weren’t hacked and their verification worked.

~ ~ ~

Which is why during Sunday’s night’s mass shooting at University of Virginia, students as well as the public following the story were reportedly confused about UVA’s emergency message. They couldn’t be sure after Elon Musk’s back-and-forth changes to its verification system whether the message they read in Twitter from UVA-Emergency Management was legitimate.

Fortunately students used their own student-developed thread in a mobile app called Yik Yak to validate the emergency. Yik Yak has been problematic in the past, pulled from app stores because of unmoderated toxic behavior, but it was relaunched in 2021 and valuable to students during the shooting lockdown at UVA because Yik Yak limits reach to five miles. In other words, the students knew whoever was using the app was local to campus.

It’s possible the students could have deduced the UVA-Emergency Management tweet was legitimate because it displayed the source of the message – Rave Mobile Safety, an emergency messaging system. Had UVA-Emergency Management’s account been spoofed, a phone or desktop might have appeared instead of Rave.

This detail may not be available for much longer. Musk thinks identifying the source of tweets by device or application is just inconvenient bloatware.

Should we ask UVA students and their parents about Twitter’s bloatware problem?

~ ~ ~

As I noted in my previous Twitter acquisition timeline post, the company has been subject to a Federal Trade Commission consent decree since 2011 because of its failures to assure users’ personal data was secure.

From the FTC’s 2011 statement:

…The FTC alleged that serious lapses in the company’s data security allowed hackers to obtain unauthorized administrative control of Twitter, including both access to non-public user information and tweets that consumers had designated as private, and the ability to send out phony tweets from any account.

A $150 million penalty had been levied by the FTC only a month after Twitter and Musk agreed on terms for the acquisition.

And yet Musk noodled around with Twitter Blue and the blue check verification system, affecting the verification status of organizations as well as individuals – none of the changes done with documentation prepared in advance, or with red team testing for quality assurance.

Musk’s ham-handed mucking around in microservices temporarily affecting 2FA SMS – some accounts are apparently still affected – was likewise done without advance preparation, and in the face of criticism by seasoned employees who understood the system.

It’s worth noting in that same statement by the FTC these last two paragraphs:

NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the respondent that the law has been violated. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. “Like” the FTC on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter.

Though the FTC might want to rethink that last Follow, persons who felt their personal data was at risk over the last three weeks might want to drop the FTC a note.

~ ~ ~

After reading about the acquisition and the subsequent mass terminations along with the manifold fuck-ups like verification and 2FA SMS, I wonder if Musk and Twitter executives ever notified the FTC of the change in ownership as required by the consent decree.

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