Mastodon, a social media alternative to Twitter, has reportedly become the source of aroused infighting and journalistic “gatekeeping,” much to the amusement of media critics and Twitter CEO Elon Musk himself.
After Musk began issuing new policies on the site, including restoring suspended accounts like former President Trump, several prominent people announced they would be moving to Mastodon in protest. However, as more journalists flocked to the site, there were more reports of blocks, attacks, and outright bans of users over political issues.
In one case, former Slate podcaster Mike Pesca was suspended from the popular Mastodon “instance,” or server for verified journalists called journa.host, after he linked to a New York Times story about the negative effects of puberty blockers on children . Transgender blogger Parker Malloy attacked Pesca, complaining that the “anti-trans content” was not removed from the network. According to the New York Times, Pesca was soon informed that “he had been suspended for calling Ms. Molloy an ‘activist,’ which was derogatory.”
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“I had to join Mastodon in being called a fanatic by @ParkerMolloy for saying a well-reported NYT article made a general claim about puberty blockers difficult. Seems a big difference from Twitter,” Pesca tweeted on Saturday.
Malloy was subsequently suspended from journa.host for calling transgender journalist Evan Urquhart a “bootlicker”.
With several similar stories of self-proclaimed moderators making arbitrary decisions, Twitter users have joked that Mastodon has become a den for Hall Monitor journalists.
“Among the many irritating things about Mastodon is that it allows journalists who seek status to control their peers by judging whether they have enough clout or are useful in climbing other people’s corporate ladder,” tweeted Heidi N Moore, digital media consultant, on Sunday via an article on journa.host.
FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver replied, “Mastodon seems to be a honey trap for Hall Monitor personality types. Honestly, if Elon gets all of the Hall Monitors to migrate to Mastodon, that could be his greatest contribution to the betterment of humanity.”
Musk himself responded to Silver’s post tweet, “What could be more fun than a social network made entirely of indoor monitors!?”
In a separate tweet, he wrote: “Hopefully all courtroom monitors stay on other platforms – please I beg of you.”
“Mastodon is the firing squad hell pit of the woke lib journo that Twitter always wanted,” joked Twitter user Comfortably Smug.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted: “Over on Mastodon – the obscure haven liberal journalists flee to in fear of free speech even though they can’t find out – they’re already banning each other for the most trivial offences. It’s like a laboratory to study how censorship-loving rats behave.”
“I’m shocked to see that kinder, gentler Twitter is just as full of drama,” tweeted Katie Herzog from the Blocked and Reported podcast, while her co-host Jesse Singal said, “[T]His meltdown really only reinforces whatever beliefs I already have about this entire censoring crew. Let them have their stupid mastodon instance so they leave the rest of us alone.”
“Mastodon is already one [colossal] Failure, with all the guards reporting and suspending each other,” wrote researcher Eli David.
“Mastodon is hell. And it’s a hell where any moderator can read your DMs and if they think you’re talking behind their back you get banned. It’s the opposite of Twitter where people can publicly poke fun at @elonmusk and not get banned for it,” explained journalist Ian Miles Cheong.
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Several journalists and media pundits offered “definitive” tweets late last week, believing Twitter would shut down due to Musk’s policies and mass layoffs. CBS News even announced on Friday that it would stop using Twitter due to the “uncertainty.” The media outlet returned to the account less than 48 hours later.
However, some journalists have continued to defend mastodon as a viable option. The New York Times’ Joseph Bernstein reported that many members claimed the site was just like Twitter without “the meanness.”
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“Many journa.host members use the service no differently than Twitter, sometimes posting the same text on each platform at the same time,” Bernstein wrote. “In fact, journa.host looks a lot like Twitter at times, just without all the non-journalists and most of the meanness.”