Meyer Memorial Trust is announcing today an indefinite pause of our engagement on Twitter due to growing concerns about safety and security on the platform. As an organization dedicated to advancing justice, we cannot continue to engage in a space where hate speech and misinformation are allowed to run rampant and unchecked. Yesterday’s dissolution of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, and other decisions that loosen content moderation standards and reinstate problematic accounts, make our continued participation untenable.
We’ve come to this decision in conversation and consultation with our staff and leadership, alongside research from organizations like the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Queensland University of Technology and Montclair State University, which have been tracking the uptick in harmful language and misinformation in the week after the company was purchased by Elon Musk. A snapshot of the data is sobering:
- Anti-Black tweets and retweets tripled from the 2022 average.
- Anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ rhetoric rose 53% from the 2022 average.
- Hate speech engagement went from 84 times per hour to 398 times per hour immediately following the acquisition.
A lack of responsible content moderation and account oversight has also fueled documented increases in COVID-19 misinformation, climate denial posts and given new life to election conspiracy theories that undermine our democracy.
Reflection and Responsibility
As the staff member who develops Meyer’s social media content, I know that no platform is perfect. Cyber hate and misinformation have become par for the course in today’s digital landscape and efforts to bolster democratized public discourse and information sharing too often contend with harmful agents for visibility.
My colleagues and I also understand that many of Meyer’s grantees, community partners and peers depend upon Twitter to share stories, spread awareness and fundraise. As a private funder, we recognize it is a privilege to even consider stepping away.
As someone who came of age during the early days of online social interaction, I still believe in the power of social media to connect people in ways that transcend time and space. The digital world is a tool for building community among diverse audiences that could rarely, if ever, exist on word of mouth alone. The ocean of possibilities within social media connectivity have the potential to make waves in transformative change at scale. As a society, we have already witnessed what can be achieved through the power of the collective in the era of virality.
But we cannot rely on a platform that weaponizes a false notion of free speech to abuse the very communities we support. The danger associated with the onslaught of harmful rhetoric and misinformation continues to mount and runs counter to Meyer's mission to accelerate racial, social and economic justice.
While building community may be at the heart of social media, it cannot act as a proxy for deepening relationships. Content is not a substitute for conversation. Purposeful communication requires an honest and transparent dialogue in spaces that respect individual differences and honor personal safety — online or IRL.
What to Expect, What’s Next
The decision to pause Twitter engagement indefinitely will give us time and space to reexamine our approach to promoting healthy conversation within the virtual landscape. We will continue to monitor the platform’s efforts toward moderating hate speech and countering misinformation to determine if and/or when it is safe to return. Our team is also investigating the viability of increasingly popular alternatives like Mastodon.
Meyer will continue to highlight the impact of our grantees and spread ideas worth sharing on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. We have ended promotion of staff Twitter accounts on our website, but continue to share LinkedIn account information for staffers who engage on that platform. Decisions made by staff about their own personal Twitter accounts and non-Meyer related content are their own.
A Continuing Conversation
We hope to continue listening to and talking with you as we work towards a better future as thoughtful communicators. In that spirit, we’re still advocating for and with communities throughout Oregon and value your partnership and engagement. Want to share your thoughts, have a healthy debate on the future of social media or just pop in to say, hi? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at taryn [at] mmt.org.
For those who are also grappling with how best to respond to the moment, here are some practical resources that may be useful:
- Thinking of quitting Twitter? Here’s everything you should know
- How to Quit Twitter—Safely
- Guidance for the New Twitter Reality: Community, Security and Quality
Regardless of how you choose to navigate through the tumult — by staying the course or swimming to a different shore — I hope you find healthy discourse and connection.