Discover more from The Alaska Memo by Matt Buxton
Back in Twitter Jail.
I haven't missed you. (You, being Twitter jail. I miss you all.)
Good afternoon, Alaska!
In this edition: Twitter Jail. And my song of 2021, according to YouTube Music.
Back in Twitter jail
Ah, Twitter Jail. I have not missed you one bit.
After live-tweeting the beginning of the Anchorage Assembly’s meeting last night where the city’s masking mandate was unanimously repealed, I was greeted this morning by an alert that my account had once again been suspended for a tweet purporting to spread covid-19 misinformation (which, for the record, I’m against). The offending tweet came from covering the open public testimony section of the meeting that included a man taking off his shoe, a woman quite literally blaming the Anchorage Assembly for killing her dog and several other wild accusations.
Which, upon reflection, I was just asking for trouble.
Here’s the notification and offending tweet:
This is the second time this year that I’ve had my Twitter account suspended in the course of reporting on the misinformation bandied about in official public venues. The first being the apparent sin of tweeting a comment made by Eagle River Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold during a legislative hearing earlier this year. And while I’d like to use this opportunity to opine about a free press and battling misinformation and the troubles of having a monolithic tech company moderating by robot, it frankly just feels like a gut punch.
I’m left questioning myself and what I do. Should I have fact-checked the claims within the tweet? Should I just go back to the post-Reinbold ban and be extremely vague about whatever was said? Should I just avoid tweeting about the Anchorage Assembly and every other venue for misinformation altogether? Should I even be this reliant on Twitter in the first place? Nothing about it feels great.
As I’ve grown into my voice and found my niche in Alaska, live-tweeting meetings has been one of my mainstays (losing some of the gifs and the snark over the years). From a reporting perspective, I’ve always preferred to focus on what’s said in these meetings with the belief that creating a real-time account peppered with bits of observation and context is an important part of the fabric of the Alaska media landscape. While tough interviews are neat and investigative deep dives are great, they’ve never really been my forte and since making the leap to the blog world, I’ve left that to reporters who have the resources and institutional support to do it right.
This newsletter and my work on the blog are an extension of that. Trying to provide context on an issue and answer the eternal question of “Why it matters.”
As for what was being said at the meeting, these ideas are not as fringe as we’d like to believe, they’re growing increasingly disconnected from reality (I doubt that anyone spewing these ideas regularly reads any reputable coverage) and they’re not likely to go away any time soon. These are dangerous and self-reinforcing ideas that are a threat on many different levels. Instead of dancing around them with happy little euphemisms—untruths, falsehoods, unfounded statements, errors—I think it’s important to stare them down in order to understand their pernicious impact on the political landscape and our discourse.
In this case, these wild accusations about covid-19 were linked arm-in-arm with a growing push to rile up the base over the Anchorage Assembly’s pending election reform package. The same woman whose testimony made for my offending tweet seamlessly transitioned from the wicked accusation that hospitals are intentionally killing covid-19 patients to claims that the 2020 election has actually been overturned. In fact, you can see the full and unedited testimony right here, still on Twitter:
It’s frustrating. Going solo has allowed me to lean more into my own political leanings, but my core value is and always has been a good, functional government that promotes equity and opportunity. This rampant disinformation—fostered and fueled by a few key players—is a rot that threatens to undermine that foundation for the benefit of some. We owe it to our community to not look away and allow these forces to fester in darkness. People like the woman above may beyond reach, but there’s still folks out there that are quietly enabling it all and reaping the benefit. Remember, you don’t have to embrace the worst tendencies of the far right to get friendly tax policy.
As for my status, I’ve filed an appeal with Twitter and am not entirely certain of where it stands. I got an email notification almost immediately (like within 60 seconds) that the team had already reviewed my appeal and rejected it, alerting me that I can delete the tweet—which is an admission that I was doing something wrong—and start my ticking clock to get back onto the platform. Meanwhile, the website itself says the appeal is still being considered. Jacob Resneck, of CoastAlaska who reported on my first banning, has reached out to me and the Twitter press office, which had conceded “We made a mistake with this enforcement action.” I’m going to hold tight, for now, in large part because these strikes put the entirety of my Twitter presence in peril.
At the end of the day, the whole thing serves as a reminder that much of the way we interact nowadays and how some of us make a living is entirely up to the whims of the algorithms and automated responses. I’m particularly grateful to have stumbled into the newsletter space because it’s allowed me to connect more directly with everyone, making us all a little less reliant on Facebook and Twitter.
We’ll get through all of this, together.
Song of the year*
While all the hullabaloo over everyone’s Spotify wraps has already come and gone, I finally got my 2021 recap for YouTube music, and my top song* feels pretty apt for a moment like this.
*Though, it does say that I listened to it 55 times in a single week, accounting for the entirety of the plays over the course of the entire year. When you knock it off the list, my second-most played song is “Te Veo a La Salida” (I’ll see you at the exit) by Daniela Spalla.