I Have Grown Tired Of Being An Unwilling Participant In Elon Musk’s Public Humiliation Fetish
Well folks, I am officially a civilian again. My verified checkmark has been stripped from my Twitter account and now I’m just a regular ol’ poster like everyone else. The most annoying side effect of being de-verified is that it reset all the notification settings on my app. I have that red notification counter turned off for most of my apps on my phone because I am a very zealous inbox zero person and I will simply stop using an app forever if it has too many unread notifications. So we’ll see how long I last with Twitter the way it is (a thing I’ve kept saying every nine hours for the last six months).
Anyways, the site is a drastically different place than it was even a week ago, so here’s the latest. On Monday, Twitter brought back shadowbanning and will now have labels on tweets that will notify users if their visibility is being limited. Then, on Wednesday night, Wired writer Dell Cameron was permanently suspended for tweeting a link to a story he wrote about the hacking of right-wing influencer Matt Walsh’s account. Ella Irwin, Twitter’s head of trust and safety and Elon Musk’s personal janitor, said that Twitter does “not allow the solicitation of or distribution of hacked/ illegally obtained materials nor do we allow threats to expose or doxx someone through the sharing of private communications/ information.” Which is not what Cameron was doing and Irwin knows it. But Cameron’s tweets did piss off Musk’s far-right fanboys and they run the site now, so fair enough.
Yesterday, we finally got the checkpocalypse. Right after Musk’s $3 billion rocket prematurely ejaculated into flames all over its launchpad, Twitter got rid of verified legacy checkmarks. Which worked about as well as the rocket and mine flicked on and off my page like a dying firefly for a few hours after the update was pushed. It also doesn’t seem like they’ve actually gotten rid of legacy verification as much as they’ve just sort of sloppily hid it.
Labels for media organizations and government entities are now also gone. Musk told NPR that this was author Walter Isaacson’s idea apparently. The affiliate labels disappearing now mean that Chinese and Russian propaganda outlets look as legit as anything else on the site. Which is to say, nothing looks legit anymore because weirdos with 10 followers are verified and well-known users who have been on the site for decades are not. Though, some famous people like Lebron James and Stephen King are still verified because Musk said he’s “paying for a few personally.” King actually complained publicly that he was still verified and Musk replied, "You’re welcome namaste 🙏”
I truly cannot think of anything more grim and pathetic than Musk personally “paying” for Lebron James’ Twitter checkmark. Oh wait, yes, I can. A bunch of Musk’s fans are now begging him to pay for theirs too.
According to one estimate I saw, yesterday’s de-verification netted Musk about 300 new Twitter Blue subscribers. Which may explain why I woke up to an email this morning from Twitter telling me if I want to run ads on the site I would have to pay for Twitter Blue or be part of a verified organization. Or, of course, I could just spend $1000 per month on Twitter ads. Funny enough, I got this ad because I experimented a couple years ago, back when the site was semi-healthy, with Twitter ads to promote a live event I was part of. And they did absolutely nothing — not in terms of clicks and definitely not in terms of tickets sold. So, no, I will not be spending $8 a month to advertise more.
Look, all of this is very silly, but it’s not going to be during the next breaking news event. Here’s a very long thread of all the public service accounts from around the world that are now de-verified. I remember what Twitter was like before we could somewhat count on it for actual facts in a time of crisis. It was very annoying at best and, at worst, downright dangerous. If you’re a publisher or a public service, I’m comfortable saying that, at this point, you have a moral imperative to get off the site and find somewhere else to post important content.
Twitter shadow CEO Catturd spent the morning alternating between making fun of celebrities like Bette Midler for being upset that they were de-verified and complaining that if celebrities don’t buy Twitter Blue his $8-a-month cartoon checkmark turns into an idiot cringe badge he paid for the privilege of wearing. Which is exactly how this is going to go the further out we get from yesterday’s mass-level de-verification event. I found one very lost soul in Catturd’s replies who wrote, “I’m lovin’ all this! Entitled elites may have been verified by Dorsey, but that means nothing to the new owner, Elon. Too funny how cheap these people are.” I don’t think you are, friend! You paid to kick everyone out of the country club and now that you and all your weird friends have moved in and you can see one another you getting nervous about how sad and pathetic you all look.
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New Bad Food Lady Dropped
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Reddit’s r/StupidFood has a new favorite TikToker. Her name is @myjanebrain and her channel has 300,000 followers. Her newest video, where she fries a steak in mac and cheese powder, has almost a million views. After watching her videos, it seems like her go-to hacks are waffle makers, muffin trays, and gross stuff with potato chips.
Oh, wait, lol sorry. I got like halfway through writing this and realized this all sounded familiar. Apparently, I wrote about her last November when she went viral and made Gordon Ramsey upset. Huh, well, I’m glad she’s still doing her thing.
In case you’re curious, she’s not a magician and seems to be in on the joke.
The New Pivot
Yesterday was a really bad day for digital media. Possibly bad enough to signal the end of an era, as Atlantic writer Charlie Warzel argued. And it’s hard not to see this current wave of layoffs and closures across the digital media industry as a direct reaction to the rise of generative-AI editorial content. Or, as Author Dan Sheehan put it yesterday, “The AI Writing thing is just pivot to video all over again, a bunch of dead-eyed corporate types willing to listen to any snake oil salesman who offers them higher potential profits. It'll crash in a year but scuttle hundreds of livelihoods before it does.”
I think Sheehan is right, we are in a pivot to AI that will be just as disastrous as the pivot to video was five years ago. In fact, VICE and Forbes both have great (and unnerving) pieces out this week about the effect generative AI is having on the freelance writing world. But I don’t agree with Sheehan that the pivot to video was a crash — at least, on a macro level. Which is actually the scarier thing here to consider.
Online platforms and the world of Big Tech, as a whole, first “pivoted to video” around 2015 and dragged digital media companies with them. Yes, there were crashes. There were layoffs. It was a disastrous for the world, I’d argue. It killed journalism jobs that never came back and also made the internet objectively worse and more annoying. But it did succeed. Every website is some version of TikTok now. And it’s easy to imagine generative AI spreading the same way. Yes, it will fail. It will crash. The bubble will burst. Maybe a few times. And then one day you’ll look around and realize the majority of the stuff you read online (if you still read anything) was written by a machine first and (hopefully) edited by a person after.
The big difference between the pivot to video and the looming pivot to AI is that the pressure is coming from a different place. The spread of online video was about juicing time-on-site metrics and appeasing advertisers. The desperation for AI sludge from publishers feels way more like a more reactionary attack on creative industries from Silicon Valley and corporate America. And I thought this sentiment was best summed up by writer Mic Wright, who, responding to recent round of AI evangelism from the tech sector, wrote, “What you crave from AI is the return/expansion of a particular kind of feudalism. You’re giddy for suffering.”
The Future Of Digital Media Is Actually Crazy Ass Moments In Nu Metal History
Well, that was all thoroughly depressing. So if you need an antidote, you should check out this fantastic interview with Holiday Kirk, the author of my favorite Twitter account right now, crazy ass moments in nu metal history.
One of the few bright spots from Musk’s algorithmic feed being turned on was that I suddenly discovered a bunch of accounts like crazy ass moments in nu metal history, which hyper-target a niche or interest and then just post cool stuff related to it. Another one is Mathcore Index.
At first, I jokingly said to myself, damn, crazy ass moments in nu metal history is the future of digital media. But, honestly, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think it might be true? There’s something really nice about using the same toolkit that viral publishers have used for years to achieve outrageous levels of scale, but then turn it inward and use it to really carve out a specific audience. I also really like the mix of archival footage and new updates.
Nintendo Is Going After YouTubers
This is such a frustrating story. PointCrow is a massively popular YouTube creator that specializes in video game content. And he does a lot of videos about Nintendo games. Last week, he received several copyright strikes from Nintendo and they’ve essentially backed him into a corner. Either he stops making Nintendo-related content or tries to fight their DCMA requests in a court battle that he definitely doesn’t have the resources to fight. The bulk of the complaints against PointCrow were about videos featuring mods of Nintendo games, which isn’t technically allowed by the company’s terms of service.
This reminds me a lot of the struggle that YouTuber Totally Not Mark had with Toei Animation over anime content back in January. Obviously, I think Nintendo is in the wrong here, but I have to think there’s more that YouTube can be doing. In my opinion, the future of YouTube is more creators operating in the 100,000-million subscriber range. The professional hobbyists who can pump out fun, consistent content that works best in living rooms. Which is where YouTube can still beat TikTok. And a lot of that content requires a clear sense of what is and isn’t fair use.
Stability AI Launched A Language Model
When Stability AI’s diffusion AI tool Stable Diffusion launched in August, I essentially decided that AI image generation was here to stay. Stable Diffusion can literally run on a laptop without an internet connection. You can add whatever you want to it to teach it things that aren’t allowed in other tools like porn or Mickey Mouse. And if a wave of legislation went after this technology tomorrow, you could keep Stable Diffusion running just fine in your basement or whatever. So if you want a date for when Pandora’s box opened, I think August 22, 2022, is as good as any.
Well, Stability AI launched their own language model this week. It’s called StableLM and it’s just as open source as Stable Diffusion is. May god have mercy on us all.
Mirror World Is Real Actually
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This video has almost three million views on TikTok and another 14 million on Twitter. My favorite take on it was from Twitter user @chamillionsoc, who wrote, “I love how early on the internet had these people with aspirations of making a more enlightened era and ended up making people believe things a medieval peasant would.”
Some Stray Links
“The Making Of The Sonic Murder Game That Took The Internet By Storm”
P.S. here’s a good bug rule.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
"I am a very zealous inbox zero person and I will simply stop using an app forever if it has too many unread notifications." I am too, and my husband is NOT, meaning that I can sometimes pick up his phone for some reason and see that his email badge shows MORE THAN TEN THOUSAND UNREAD EMAILS (along with badges on just about every other app) and I somehow remember this anew each time, gasp loudly, and sometimes almost drop the phone as if I had been touching the chunk of "evil" in the toaster oven at the end of "Time Bandits."
I am so, so tired. I made peace with the fact I probably wasn’t going to ever make a living as a novelist, and now robots are gunning for my job as a copywriter. And yet, somehow, I still have to pay my bills. Weird....