Since Elon Musk took over Twitter last month, it has been a bit of carnage. He laid off half of the company and decimated content moderation teams, which in turn emboldened trolls. The verified tick - ostensibly a marker of authenticity - has been paywalled to an initial $8-a-month subscription to Twitter Blue, fuelling impersonators and forcing users to sign up or lose their verified status.
Since then, many journalists made grand pronouncements about leaving the platform. The problem is, there is no one place where everyone else is going. So far, most are begrudgingly continuing to use Twitter while tentatively setting up accounts on other platforms.
This decentralized, open-source platform launched six years ago but since Musk took over Twitter, it has been reported that nearly half a million new users signed up. Mastodon is said to be offering a similar experience to Twitter, with the additional advantage that it cannot be sold or go bust because it has not got a single owner.
Users can create a profile, upload photos and videos and post "toots" - messages of up to 500 characters - which is great news for those who struggled with brevity on Twitter. Other Twitter-like features include timelines, "boosts" which are basically retweets, and "favorites" aka Twitter likes.
Its decentralized design means that users can sign up on different servers but these can only host a few thousand accounts. Each server also sets its own standard for moderation so this is not centrally handled by Mastodon. The thinking is that if a small community starts to behave badly, it is easier to crack down on it.
If all this confuses you, imagine Mastodon servers operating like email providers - you can have an account on Gmail and email someone on Hotmail. But this also means Mastodon is a bit clunky and requires some getting used to, which has already been mocked by users.
Every Mastodon explanation: "It's very simple, your account is part of a kerflunk, and each kerflunk can talk to each other as part of a bumblurt. At the moment everyone you flurgle can see your bloops but only people IN your kerflunk can quark your nerps. Kinda like email."— Stephan Dörner (@Doener) November 5, 2022
You can find the growing list of journalists who already joined the platform here and add your handle if you decide to take the leap.
Sometimes there is really no need to reinvent the wheel. Reddit is likely the largest and longest-established social network that has been serving its communities for nearly two decades.
Journalists tend to hang out on r/Journalism "subreddit", which is a community page dedicated to a specific topic. However, interaction is limited to a text message board, pictures and videos that you can comment on, share or save.
For those who look to leave Twitter because of hateful content, Reddit may not be the best option. Although there are community rules in place, the platform does not tend to remove offensive content, claiming it wants to protect free speech.
This platform needs little introduction. LinkedIn is more than a place to expand your professional network. The emergence of posts and articles have given the platform more utility as a place for engagement, news consumption and discussion. You do not necessarily need to "connect" with interesting thought leaders - which can feel a bit forward and formal - simply 'follow' them instead for their posts to appear in your feed.
Groups, events, pages and newsletters have added powerful options for building up your presence as a writer. It does also support video and pictures. The issue some people take with LinkedIn is how self-congratulatory it has become.
no idea why everyone is going crazy over Mastodon when it’s appalling to use, and there’s already another text based platform where engagement is exploding and it’s full of employers/journos/opinion makers like Twitter…— Sophia Smith Galer (@sophiasgaler) November 8, 2022
it’s icky, I know, but…
For now, this is a bit of a pie in the sky that former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is promising to launch in the coming months. For something that does not exist yet, Bluesky is certainly doing well - online searches for the platform increased by 207.14 per cent over the past 30 days, according to Google Trends data, and more than 30,000 users are reportedly on the waiting list.
This platform has been around since 2017 but hardly anyone has ever heard of it. Its infrastructure is based on the open-source code of Mastodon and its mission is to be the safest place online. To root out trolls, misinformation, foreign-state influence and spam bots, its reported founder The Jester, a US hacktivist with a military background, outright blocked six countries responsible for most cyber warfare: Russia, China, North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria.
It is up to you to decide whether that means that CounterSocial is xenophobic and racist, or whether it is the least off-putting platform because the most offensive content will not make it to your timeline.
Like on Mastodon, you can post 500-word "toots", gifs and pictures from your phone. These, however, may show sideways because the "sanitizer" feature wipes your media of all metadata. These kinds of glitches add to the general clunkiness of the platform that displays as a five-column screen, a bit like Tweetdeck.
You can create watchlists of users, topics, or hashtags and your own end-to-end encrypted public or private user groups. Some cool features for journalists include a tool that listens to 7000+ emergency radio frequencies and will auto-tune in real time to chatter on the ground when a major incident occurs. The platform also offers virtual reality "rooms" that you can use instead of Zuck's Metaverse. Many of these features are behind the paywall though as CounterSocial relies on paid subscriptions.
Even more rough-and-ready than Mastodon, CoHost is another platform - still in the beta phase - tipped to replace Twitter. It is very basic: there is no character limit and very little focus on likes and shares. However, anyone can sign up, follow the posts of other people and request to follow someone else's page. That is about it for now.
Tribel describes itself as an "innovative pro-democracy Twitter alternative that’s free of hatred & fake news." Look closer and you will see a platform where largely left-leaning, Democrats-supporting Americans found their tribe. It is owned by two Democratic political activists who also own the Occupy Democrats news site.
While Elon Musk does his best to burn Twitter to the ground, @TribelSocial is exploding in popularity as the go-to Twitter alternative for progressives fleeing from his MAGA Twitter. We have an edit button, filter out hate & fake news, and are totally free — and always will be. pic.twitter.com/3fCOmaDtdv— Tribel (@TribelSocial) November 8, 2022
To the grand joy of everyone, it has an "edit" button, which in itself could be enough of an incentive for journalists to sign up.
Tribel allows users to target a specific audience to increase engagement. You can also customize your feed by following - or excluding - topics (Categories) spanning everything from pets to paranormal. Should journalists be devastated by the loss of their blue tick, they can chase another status by becoming a star contributor.
If we talk about Tribel, it is fair to also mention Parler, which calls itself "a free speech" alternative to mainstream platforms. Used mostly by right-leaning Americans, the social network is to be purchased by Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, who was banned from Twitter and Instagram following antisemitic messages. He promised to create an "uncancellable ecosystem where all voices are welcome." It has reportedly some 15 million registered users, including many Conservative politicians.
Its "free speech" stance means the platform is not for the faint-hearted. Last year, it was even dropped and later reinstated by Google and Apple's app stores following its role in the events that led to the storming of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. Parler has since reportedly updated its moderation policies.