One thing that keeps me up at night right now is the possibility that Twitter’s potential death spiral will coincide with a major regional/national/global crisis. For better or worse, Twitter is a crucial disaster comms tool, and we don’t have a replacement for it. 1/
Twitter has been a vital source of information, networking, guidance, real-time updates, community mutual aid, & more during hurricanes, wildfires, wars, outbreaks, terrorist attacks, mass shootings...etc. It's not something that can be replaced by any existing platforms. 2/
If Twitter suddenly stops working or if huge swaths of the population can't access it during a crisis, the result will almost certainly be preventable suffering & death. Elon Musk needs to stop treating this like a playground, and start protecting it as vital infrastructure. 3/
This isn't just my opinion. There is an entire line of research exploring the use of Twitter for crisis- and disaster communication. For example, here's a great study about the significance of Twitter as a communications tool during Hurricane Harvey. 4/
sciencedirect.com/science/articl…
As this study notes, Twitter has been identified by some researchers as the "most useful social media tool" for communicating during disasters. Other platforms play a role, but Twitter is the central hub for journalists, govt, citizens, witnesses/survivors, & first responders. 5/ Image
One of the reasons Twitter is such an important comms tool during disasters is that the nature of crises often makes it hard for traditional media to reach the public and the disaster scene. Twitter is often the first and only source of info about unfolding crises. 6/ Image
The design of Twitter is also uniquely conducive for use during crises. Hashtags, for example, become crucial navigational tools to find relevant, up-to-date information and advisories in one central place without having to lose valuable time searching multiple websites. 7/ Image
Effective use of Twitter by government agencies can also engender trust in those agencies during crises, which is critical when you need people to follow evacuation orders or other safety protocols. It helps keep people informed, engaged, and alive. 8/ Image
Twitter can also play a crucial role in the healing process after crises. It gives people a space to build community resilience, which also helps us better prepare for future disasters. These are, quite literally, life-saving implications. 9/ Image
My colleagues and I recently wrote/presented a paper on this very topic (I will share it when it's published), and one of our findings was that Twitter actually shapes the course and outcome of crises. It can literally mean the difference between life and death. 10/ Image
I truly hope Elon Musk will see that he holds people's lives in his hands, and will start acting accordingly — because if he continues playing around with Twitter like a new toy, he *will* be responsible for deaths at some point. 11/
In the meantime, I hope you'll use this opportunity to plan ahead. Make an emergency communication plan for your family, your workplace, your neighbors, etc. Don't wait until it's too late.

Here's how to get started on that:
ready.gov/plan-form

ready.gov/sites/default/…
Here’s more reading on the use of Twitter for disaster communication if you’re interested:

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More from @RVAwonk

Nov 16
It’s particularly painful to watch Elon Musk drive Twitter into the ground because it really doesn’t look he’s just a reckless novice making mistakes. It really looks like he bought Twitter — a platform that many of us love & many more rely on — just so he could destroy it.
Maybe I’m wrong? Could be. But this just no longer looks like a new owner coming in and making some changes that have unintended consequences. It looks like someone who is doing exactly what he set out to do, with no regard for the incredibly serious implications of his actions.
I think Elon Musk bought Twitter b/c he wanted to control the incredible amount of influence that flows from the platform. He wanted to grab that power & influence — which belongs to us, the ones who create it — and use it for his goals. He wanted to mine Twitter all for himself.
Read 9 tweets
Nov 15
It has already begun, but you need to be prepared for the full force of Russia’s “firehose of falsehood” propaganda model surrounding the missile strike in Poland. Russia will promote endless conspiracy theories — not to convince you, but to overwhelm you.
rand.org/content/dam/ra… Image
Russia’s “firehose of falsehood” propaganda model is based in cognitive science, and it’s meant to cause cognitive overload so your brain starts relying on shortcuts and you stop critically appraising info. The goal is to make you doubt that a single, shared reality even exists. Image
Although Russia has engaged in information warfare for decades, the downing of MH17 is considered a major turning point that birthed the aggressive, relentless style of info warfare they engage in today. These are just a few of the conspiracy theories Russia floated about MH17. Image
Read 10 tweets
Nov 15
My career as it exists today can be traced back to the research that my colleagues and I conducted in 2014-2016 analyzing Ebola-related crisis comms on Twitter. That’s how I ran into Russia’s 2016 election interference campaign — months before we knew it even existed.
So Russia also recognized that Twitter is a powerful tool for crisis- and disaster communication, and they piggybacked on that. Through my research on Ebola comms, I ran headfirst into Russia’s disinfo campaign — I just didn’t know what I was seeing at the time.
Given that we know our adversaries are willing to use disaster communication channels for the purpose of hostile social manipulation, it’s highly likely they would do the same during a time of domestic (US) crisis — more specifically, a crisis that they might deliberately cause.
Read 4 tweets
Nov 14
My impression, based on social media activity since Election Day, is that Republicans realize the Democratic message of “democracy is on the ballot” was incredibly effective. As such, Republicans are likely going to try to characterize Democratic positions as authoritarian. 1/
You can see this is in the response to the exchange between Sen. Markey and Elon Musk. The Republican reaction is to try to mischaracterize anyone who supports Sen. Markey’s statement as being in favor of government officials using their authority to attack critics. 2/
You will see sarcastic messages like “These are the people who claim to be protectors of democracy.” They’ll try to mischaracterize anything Dems say as being undemocratic in an effort to undermine what was, undeniably, an effective messaging campaign with electoral effects. 3/
Read 9 tweets
Nov 13
Here’s another Twitter account hiding behind a fake avatar making up strawmen to “win” arguments that no one is making. (In this case, claiming I made an equivalency that I didn’t).

This is a tactic of hostile social manipulation, and you can connect the actors who are using it.
You should learn to identify this tactic because it’s both common & relatively effective. It is used for a variety of purposes, one of them being to derail conversations into their territory so they can have the argument they want to have, rather than address your original point.
This tactic is also used to manufacture the appearance of “winning” an argument, which is a performative behavior that is usually aimed at image-building among one’s own followers. When you can’t actually win an argument, you just make up a strawman and argue against that.
Read 10 tweets
Nov 13
That’s not the argument. The argument is that even Elon Musk isn’t immune from oversight.

Right now you seem to be proposing that a billionaire controlling our communication infrastructure with no regulatory oversight is a preferable outcome — and I can assure you, it’s not.
Elon Musk wasn’t just criticizing Ed Markey. He was answering a serious inquiry about impersonation on Twitter with a flippant response that indicates that he doesn’t take the issue seriously. And although he doesn’t take it seriously, Congress does. As he will learn.
If Elon Musk made a joke about Ed Markey, and the senator responded by threatening to investigate Musk, that would be a problem. But that’s not what happened. The Senator brought forth a serious inquiry about a serious issue, and Elon Musk responded like an unserious troll.
Read 6 tweets

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