Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos’s permanent ban from Twitter has sparked many discussions about free speech in the age of social media. Whistleblower website Wikileaks has threatened to create an alternative to Twitter to counter the “feudal justice” of their selective enforcement policies, and others have mentioned similar ideas due to both Twitter and Facebook’s lock on the social media market as a whole.
But while such plans are laudable and understandable, they are also very expensive and would take a long time to bear fruit. On top of that, technical and userbase hurdles won’t be the only issues; forces hostile to free expression would try to sabotage the service just as they did with Voat (a site meant to be a Reddit alternative) when they targeted Voat’s payment processors and web hosts.
Fortunately, there is a thing we can do right now to counter Twitter and Facebook’s draconian policies, and it doesn’t involve e-mailing advertisers or executives who won’t listen anyway. We can link each other’s blogs, and have open threads on those blogs.
If you don’t have a blog, you can use either WordPress to start one for free, or BADNET if you want something that costs money but is self-hosted (I myself used BADNET to make this site.) On a WordPress blog, I strongly recommend the Twenty Ten theme since it automatically adds new pages to a bar running near the top of your blog. Don’t worry about making it look fancy; use the default stuff for now.
If you do have a blog (or you just started one), link it on the social media profiles you use most often. This way, users of social media sites can see that you have a blog in the first place; if they’re interested, they would make a note of it. Putting this up is essential, since it shows them a place they can go to chat with you if you are suspended.
On top of that, I recommend pinning a tweet or comment containing your most recent post to your social media page just to make it clear that you have a site of your own.
Next, go through your followers and link all of their blogs on a separate post. State that these are your social media followers, and put a link to that post in a prominent place on your blog such as a header bar or a “Welcome” sticky post. This is ideal for people with small follower counts; people with larger counts should only select some readers that engage well or that they like to speak to.
Finally, make a link to an open thread, just in case someone wants to leave you a note and interact with others. Like the follower list above, the link should be placed on a prominent part of your site. Open threads don’t have to be “on topic,” so they let you approximate what social media allowed you to do. And best of all, Twitter and Facebook’s Terms of Service mean nothing there.
It would be great if there was a social media provider committed to free expression and impartial application of the rules. But until that provider comes, we’ll have to make do with what we have.