Mastodon, a social media alternative to Twitter, has reportedly become the source of infighting and journalistic “doormen,” much to the amusement of media critics and Twitter CEO Elon Musk himself.
After Musk began adopting new policies on the site, including reinstating banned accounts like former President Trump, several prominent people announced they were moving to Mastodon in protest. As more journalists moved to the site, however, there were more reports of users being blocked, attacked, and outright banned for political issues.
In one case, former Slate podcaster Mike Pesca was suspended from Mastodon’s popular “instance” or server for verified journalists called journa.host after he linked to the New York Times story about the negative consequences of puberty blockers on children. Transgender blogger Parker Malloy attacked Pesca and complained that “anti-trans content” was not removed from the network. According to The New York Times, Pesca was soon notified that he “had been suspended for calling Ms. Molloy an ‘activist,’ which was dismissive.”
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“I had to join Mastodon to be called a bigot by @ParkerMolloy because I said a well-reported NYT article complicated a common claim about puberty blockers. Seems like a huge difference from Twitter,” Pesca tweeted on Saturday.
Malloy was later suspended by journal.host for calling transgender journalist Evan Urquhart a “sucka”.
With several similar stories of self-appointed moderators making arbitrary decisions, Twitter users have joked that Mastodon has become a den for “room monitor” journalists.
“Among the many irritating things about Mastodon is that it allows status-chasing journalists to vet their peers by judging whether they have enough influence or are useful for other people’s career climbs,” the media consultant tweeted on Sunday. digital Heidi N. Moore on an article on journal.host.
FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver responded, “Mastodon looks like a trap for hall monitor personality types. Honestly, if Elon can get all hall monitors migrated to Mastodon, this could be his biggest contribution to the betterment of humanity”.
Musk himself responded to Silver’s post by tweeting, “What could be more fun than a social network made up entirely of auditorium monitors!?”
In a separate tweet, he wrote, “Hope all Judgy Hall monitors stay on other platforms – please beg you.”
“Mastodon is the hell pit of the lib journo woke circular firing squad they always wanted Twitter to be,” joked Twitter user Comfortably Smug.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted: “Over on Mastodon — the dark haven liberal journalists are fleeing to in fear of free speech even if they can’t figure it out — they’re already banning each other for the most trivial infractions. It’s like a laboratory to study how happy censorship rats behave”.
“Shocked to see kinder and kinder twitter is equally full of drama,” tweeted Katie Herzog of the Blocked and Reported podcast, while her co-host Jesse Singal said: “[T]its collapse actually just reinforces all my pre-existing opinions about this entire censoring crew. Let them have their stupid instance of Mastodon so they’ll leave the rest of us alone.”
“Mastodon is already a [colossal] failure, with all awakenings referencing and suspending each other,” wrote researcher Eli David.
“Mastodon is hell. And it’s hell where any moderator can read your DMs and if they think you’re talking behind their back they’ll get banned. It’s the inverse of Twitter, where people can publicly mock @elonmusk and not get banned for it,” said journalist Ian Miles Cheong.
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Several journalists and media pundits offered “final” tweets late last week in the belief that Twitter would be shut down due to Musk’s policies and mass layoffs. CBS News even announced on Friday that it would be suspending the use of Twitter due to “uncertainty.” The media returned to the account less than 48 hours later.
However, some journalists have continued to defend Mastodon as a viable option. Joseph Bernstein of The New York Times reported that many members said the site was just like Twitter without “the nastiness”.
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“Many members of journa.host use the service no different than how they use 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-journalist and most of the nastiness.”