Infosec Twitter whipped itself up into a fury this past week as Elon Musk became the sole owner of Twitter, many are threatening to leave, and many more are predicting the website will explode. So is infosec Twitter really leaving?
As a semi-regular user who does not spend every waking moment on Twitter, I find the drama amusing, but the super-active users, who obviously take Twitter a lot more seriously than I, seem to be furious with the way things might be turning out.
Why Are They Leaving?
The ringleaders are leveraging the current hysteria and encouraging others to leave with them so that they can set up their own goldfish bowl social instances that they control in their entirety. They want to be kings in their own petty kingdoms, with the power to moderate any post, ban any user, or content, and they do not care if they fracture the infosec community to get it. If you thought their intolerance to opinions they don't like was insufferable on Twitter, you can probably imagine what they will be like in their own little social fiefdoms.
Who Is Saying They Will Leave?
Think of all the most attention-seeking people on Twitter, the ones who never seem too busy to always be on here and you can probably guess who is threatening to leave. The usual suspects, given an opportunity, have once again become outraged and are saying they are going to leave this website. It is like watching a mass outbreak of hysteria, but through the fog of war I can discern four groups claiming to leave, with many in one or more camps:
The Blue Checks - The first are those with blue checks and a large audience that they probably would not have without Twitter. Am not talking about journalists, content producers, or public figures, am talking about those who see a blue check as a hard-won or long-sought-after status symbol, these people are outraged that their status is suddenly going to be diminished by Elon making those blue checks accessible to normal people. The only way these wannabe infosec elites can ever regain their lost status is to move to Mastodon where they can control everything.
The Political Activists - These are the people who think that the MUTE or BLOCK buttons are not enough, who refuse to share Twitter with those who might have a different opinion. These are the folks who are having a fit over the idea that Elon will bring political balance back to Twitter, they have nothing but contempt for Elon and cannot stand the idea of what he might do. Some of them even formed a well-organized activist group to try and stop Elon from having any sort of success with Twitter by writing to advertisers telling them god knows what, typical behaviour from people who think de-platforming those who disagree with them is normal.
Their Sycophants - These are the people who form the unofficial fan clubs for the first two groups, those who like their tweets, comment on their posts, emulate their opinions, and whom are ready to leap with their leaders in a lemming-like fashion off the cliff face that is Twitter. These folks can't seem to imagine life on Twitter without their influencers, so they will dutifully follow them through the painful process of understanding, signing up for and using Mastodon. These are the suckers who will have to endure being being seen on Mastodon until their influencer gets bored from the lack of attention and slowly return to Twitter.
People Of Principle - There are many people out there who are sickened by the idea that our social space can be bought by a wealthy individual and are threatening to leave on principle. I sympathize with their position, and I too believe our social commons should be owned or operated by its users for the good of civic society, but that being said am not about to leave just because Twitter now has a new owner and I seriously doubt many others will. Given that Twitter has always been a private business owned by a bunch of wealthy investors it is a difficult position to take seriously unless you have an irrational hatred of Elon.
I am looking forward to the coming BlueSky beta, but that is a social media protocol rather than a platform, and it will not provide a viable alternative to Twitter for a long time yet. Given a decent social media alternative that is not owned by people who want to gather and monetize my data, one my network is also prepared to jump ship to, I will leave Twitter and join them.
Where Are They Going?
They are following in the traditional footsteps of outraged Twitter users and threatening to leave for Mastodon, the little-known and barely-used decentralized social media platform which nobody but outraged social media exiles from other platforms like using. Many of those threatening to leave have even worked out how to set up an account on Mastodon and are posting their user handles on Twitter as if that is where you will find them from now on.
I suspect that these folks are going to be seriously disappointed following some short-term use, Mastodon is and never will be a Twitter replacement, and isn't a credible option for mainstream Twitter users, the mobile experience sucks, their user experience is confusing, and no smoothing of the onboarding process or helpful explainer tweets will change that.
They have nowhere else to go that is like Twitter and the thought of them going into self-exile to spend their time talking to each other about small groups is hilarious because if they wanted to talk to each other in small, self-isolated groups they control, then they were probably already doing that on Discord or Slack.
Mastodon is the same platform that all the right-wing extremists went to when they left Twitter, notorious right-wing social media websites like Gab, Parler, and TruthSocial all live on Mastodon. But even worse, Mastodon has long been a safe haven for a huge population of paedophiles, they dominate the platform and their social activity (sharing child porn) dwarves the activity of any other group.
Infosec influencers complaining about Elon are leading their followers out of a social media 'safe space' like Twitter and onto a platform filled to the brim with pedophiles, extremists, and child porn. They are also not very honest with their followers about the kinds of social media users that live on Mastodon, so I wrote this article covering the paedophile groups on Mastodon for them.
What Are They Saying?
No more Infosec Tweets - In a display of petulance, infosec influencers pretending to leave for Mastodon are saying that they will no longer tweet about infosec subjects on Twitter, instead, they are still here tweeting about how bad the place is while they reshare Mastodon posts on Twitter for reach. More self-important than most, they seem to think the star power of their tweets will be enough to make their followers adopt Mastodon, seemingly without realizing the vast majority of users aren't on Twitter to follow them. These clowns genuinely think you are on Twitter because they are on Twitter, its hilarious.
Verification Won't Work - They seem to be focused on the idea that mass verification won't work, and predict that a horde of improperly validated blue tick users will take over the platform, flooding it with scams and hate speech. I have had conversations with technical users who firmly believe that Elon could never scale verification and properly identify users, despite the fintech sector having solved the problem of remotely verifying their customer's identities a long time ago, and scaling it up to many more millions of users than Twitter has.
The Website Will Explode - Some users genuinely seem to believe that the website is going to explode and are urgently sharing their alternate contact details with others, like the barbarians are at the gate and will soon be on Twitter murdering people. Am not sure what these people expect, they seem to think that they are about to lose touch with all of their followers in some sort of cataclysmic event and I am not sure what to make of it. Am putting it down to hysteria.
I am fairly sure that this billion-dollar website, owned by a billionaire, and managed by thousands of well-paid engineers will not explode taking your followers with it.
Hate Speech and Scams Are Coming - Many users are convinced that Twitter is about to become flooded with hate speech and scams from people impersonating other people, and I am not entirely sure why they think this. Despite Elon dismissing 15% of the overall moderation time during downsizing, I seriously doubt that Elon is going to open the floodgates to any more scams or hate speech than we already have, it just doesn't make sense if he expects to keep the advertisers around. It is in Elon and Twitter's best interest to make sure that the platform doesn't become a cesspool of disinformation and hate speech.
Moderation is a huge problem for any social media website and all of them have some form of scam or hate speech on them, I am not sure Elon has a plan to solve this any more than anyone else does. I do think if he gave us a downvote button users could help moderate content by downvoting hateful content into oblivion.
Any Opportunity To Criticize Elon - Elon seems to be living rent-free in these people's heads, evidenced by the fact that they leap onto any opportunity to criticize Elon without really thinking about it. I genuinely do not get it, I just don't care about Elon that much even though he owns Twitter now, and I didn't care much about him before. Seeing them obsess about him makes you wonder about their mental health, it's obviously not healthy to fixate on prominent individuals in an obsessive fashion and be hypercritical of everything they do.
Are They Actually Going To Leave?
No. They are merely attention-seeking, signalling and posturing over something they do not like, it's all they really can do and it comes naturally to them.
It is only a matter of time before they realize how thoroughly addicted to real-time audience validation they are and return to Twitter if they ever really left. Those with large followings who are addicted to the dopamine rush and the instant validation of their tweets that only an audience can bring are never going to be able to get that fix on Mastodon because their audiences are simply not going to follow them there. What is the point of sharing something without an audience to validate it?
There isn't one.
For many of these people, having a successful social or professional life depends on maintaining a strong social media audience, and life without that audience is no life at all. They may sulk around on Mastodon for a while, perhaps even maintain a semi-active presence there, but they aren't actually going to leave Twitter in any meaningful way, few of them will see their posturing through and leave Twitter.
I can already see them telling themselves things like they must not 'cede control of the domain to their enemies' whoever they might be, or leave room for others to 'take over the space in the information war', or not to delete their profiles so that the scammers cannot impersonate them, but to someone like me, too busy in life to care much about Twitter, they seem like deranged attention whores.
Is Anyone Else Leaving?
No. The vast majority of Twitter users are simply not outraged enough to leave Twitter and head to an infinitely worse social media user experience with none of their friends. Many infosec users are saying that they are not going to leave, many of them are excited about the changes that Elon will bring, but the vast majority are staying because they just do not see believe the story that Twitter is broken.
I think most Twitter users are like me, we don't take the place seriously, we don't invest much of our spare time here, we do not care or think about Elon much and we aren't here for politics, or to engage in a 'battle for the domain'. We don't care about having a blue tick because we are on here to network with our friends, peers, and those we share our hobbies or interests with. We are also perfectly happy to mute, block or unfollow anything, or anyone that we do not want to see.
For most users, this is an opportunity to watch the usual attention seekers gnash their teeth and lose their minds, but deep down we all know Twitter isn't going to radically change or lose the essence of what makes it Twitter. If we are all Twitter addicts, then we don't really care who our dealer is as long as we get our fix.
This is all just yet another drama for influencers to posture over, and arguably their behaviour has contributed to making Twitter a much more divisive place for regular users. If they do leave, Twitter will just carry on happily without them.
But they aren't leaving, because these people live off the attention their tweets get, and without their audience, these people have no pulpit.
I keep hearing influencers and famous folks claim it is they who make Twitter what it is, but that isn't true and is simply their ego talking. It is the millions of normal Twitter users who make Twitter what it is, without them these influencers have no audience, the only thing that gave many of these people influence to begin with.
Without their audience, an influencer has no influence, and Elon knows it.