Leaving or staying on Twitter? Dilemma of journalists

A few days ago, Nicolas Berrod published his first pouêt. That’s what we call Mastodon posts, a sort of free Twitter clone. Right now, the journalist from Parisian more used to tweets. Moreover, he had no intention of abandoning them. On Twitter, he still has more than 47,000 subscribers, who are used to reading his daily analysis of the numbers linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. Among them, scientists, doctors and experts who are now part of its network (792 subscribers). Since Elon Musk took over the platform, many have deleted their accounts in favor of Mastodon.

It didn’t take long for the reporter to follow them to make contact. And then, to tell the truth, he understood them. ” In recent months, discussions have become increasingly tense on scientific topics, he observes. Mastodon may allow for a more peaceful exchange. » The social network is unlikely to fall into the hands of a billionaire. Launched in 2016 by German developer Eugen Rochko, Mastodon relies on a decentralized system. When registering, users select a server (an “instance”) that matches their interests or geographic area and where their data will be stored. Everyone is free to consult posts from other servers.

THE EXIT IN THE TIME OF DISASTER

The platform has gained nearly half a million new users since the end of October. Among them, inevitably, are journalists and press companies. In France, Mediapart was one of the pioneers. The investigative media opened an account there in 2017, during the first wave of the social network’s popularity in response to the arrival of Twitter’s algorithmic feed. Before leaving it, like everyone else. “ We went back there in the summer of 2021, a quieter period in the newsrooms, and since then we haven’t stopped feeding the account. “, explained Gaëtan Le Feuvre, in the leadership of the social networks of Mediapart. For the newspaper, this presence allows it to exist digitally without relying on Web giants.

Elon Musk proposed charging for the certification of accounts in the United States.

Same reasoning for Politics. For years, the social and political critic weekly has been denied its request for Twitter certification, that little blue badge next to a nickname that proves an account is trustworthy. “ They didn’t tell us why. So we take the lead by planting the flag Mastodon. It’s not a move, it’s a precaution “, referred to Michel Soudais, deputy editor-in-chief. Like a snub on Twitter, the newspaper awarded itself the famous Mastodon badge. ” It doesn’t cost anything but if you want to do it, just type it “:verified:” next to your name ” laughs the journalist.

At Twitter, certification is a guarantee of seriousness and credibility for media and journalists. Hence their distrust when Elon Musk announced, at the end of October, that he wants to give the blue badge to all users who request it, without identity verification and on the condition that they pay 7.99 dollars per month. ” Journalists who think they are the only legitimate source of information, you are the problem. That’s the big lie », annoyed the billionairewhich looks like ” free speech absolutist “. Beyond this relative opening of certification, Twitter’s new boss also intends to relax content moderation rules.

polished living room

It is by being aware of the changes to come that Johanna Luyssen, the deputy head of the Society of Release chose to pack up, despite having a verified account and 14,000 followers. ” As a feminist, for the past fourteen years, I’ve had it on Twitter. I was told “now this is going to be interesting, you have to stay to see what is happening from the inside”. But I don’t want to see how we can be harassed even more than before. The brutal layoffs on November 3, when Twitter’s 7,500 employees received a message asking them not to come to the office the next day, were the last straw.

A newcomer to Mastodon, the journalist talks about relaxed interactions and less self-censorship. ” I can totally post “Men are trash” and that won’t be a problem. This freedom is almost dizzying. At the risk of cutting oneself off from reality? ” As a journalist, I don’t see the point of being in a polite living room where everyone agrees » contradicts Guillaume Deleuence. The journalist at Politics did not intend to delete his account, very editorial where he set up daily appointments with his 48,000 subscribers. He acknowledges that, the impact of Trump and the pandemic has radicalized the debate on the platform. ” But to those who say that Twitter is rare, I remind you that you can always hide conversations and people “, he nuances, pragmatically.

Reality

Regardless of their tolerance for online violence, quitting Twitter is a luxury not everyone can afford. More precariously, freelance independent journalists see the platform as an accelerator to find work. ” I always have a reflex to go to Twitter when I want to propose a paper for a newspaper with which I have no contact, testifying Sandrine Chesnelmember of the board of the association of Profesyon Pigiste. I recently sold a six-page story to a cultural magazine whose editor followed me up and to whom I sent a private message. “Rewarding success, especially since the journalist, who is active in the network, has a certified account followed by more than 13,000 people. A visibility that he will remove from himself by moving to Mastodon.

The question also arises for young journalists who are building their network and for whom Twitter is both a directory and a search engine. If some want to leave the social network out of conviction, professional reality prevents them from doing so. ” My bosses encourage me to use Twitter more and more, confides Lucile Pascanet, judicial journalist at RMC, who just graduated from journalism school. When you start, and even after, it’s a gold mine to find topics and contact potential sources. His compromise? A mindful presence for the day before and related tweets only in his professional activity.

Various uses

The account of Mediapart feel free to use these codes. ” Our tone at Mastodon is very different. We are more relaxed, we speak with fewer filters and we are closer to people exclaims Gaëtan Le Feuvre, head of the newspaper’s social networks. The platform’s chronological thread also forces you to adapt. ” We are always afraid of spamming. If we publish twenty toots for twenty articles and the people who follow us only have three subscriptions, we’ll rot their feed “, he continued. To find this balance, the newspaper regularly polls its 30,000 subscribers on the density of their flow.

ancient land

So far, only a handful of independent newspapers are taking their first steps on the platform. ” As a mainstream media, we do not plan to open an account, explained Raphaël Grably, head of the department Tech&Co from BFMTV. The streaming news channel has 3.7 million subscribers on twitter. But if it becomes more people, why not. » Same logic for The Knowledgea new investigative medium where Twitter (6,000 subscribers) is an important visibility vector. ” Along with LinkedIn, it is our most important network in terms of traffic “said Jérémy Joly, social media manager.

Also few in number, journalists recognize each other thanks to the hashtag Journadon. Despite the bugs, some enjoy the prehistoric earth side. ” It’s a happy mess, we’re looking for our brands, we’re complaining about the complicated operationCorentin Lamy smiled. There is a wild side, a kind of naive and happy Internet. »

Leaving Twitter permanently remains a marginal option. For journalists, it’s like kicking an addiction. ” I still have the reflex to find the application on my phone, Johanna Luyssen admitted. And I tell myself all the same, all these discussions, this time spent… I have the impression of breaking up with a toxic person. ” Within, Mediapart starting to ask questions. There remains a dilemma to be clarified, underlined Gaëtan Le Feuvre. ” As Elon Musk’s libertarianism risks opening the floodgates of online hate and the far right, one wonders if it isn’t better, surely, that we stay in this space. »

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