Elon Musk Is Why We Need Librarians | From the Editor

Twitter’s decline makes the case for information literacy.



“A Twitter ruled by diktat is not a place for us.”

So wrote Anne Collier in a statement made alongside two colleagues in the ­online safety space, Eirliani Abdul ­Rahman and Lesley Podesta. The occasion? The three ­resigned from Twitter’s Trust & Safety Council last December, the letter concluded, “because it is clear from research evidence that, contrary to claims by Elon Musk, the safety and wellbeing of Twitter’s ­users are on the decline.”

Days later, Twitter abruptly dissolved the ­Council, a safety advisory group of more than 70 volunteer global members. But not before Musk trolled the three resignees in a tweet, tagging former ­Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in the thread and, ­inexplicably, right-wing extremist Mike Cernovich. “It’s a crime that they refused to take action on child exploitation for years!” Musk posted to his 125 million followers. “They” would seem to refer to Twitter under Dorsey. Still, Collier, Rahman, and Podesta were harassed and threatened as a result.

It’s an experience of the web that Collier, founder and executive director of the Net Safety Collaborative, hadn’t known. “What does Hunter Biden’s laptop have to do with online safety?” she asks ­rhetorically, referring to one particularly wild association hurled her way.

Musk is Twitter’s troller in chief, as well as CEO, who “weaponizes his followers and victimizes his users,” says Collier. “And others have experienced much worse than I have.”

Indeed, the marked rise in extremism since Musk’s purchase of Twitter is having physical-world impact across the globe, where users outside the U.S. and Canada comprise 75 percent of Twitter’s audience. Musk decimated Twitter staff in Brazil, furthering misinformation and contributing to the siege of government buildings there in January, reports the Washington Post.

What's next for media literacy, content moderation

For her part, Collier, who has pursued youth online safety for more than 20 years, will continue the work, advising Meta and YouTube and serving on the board of NAMLE (the National Association for Media Literacy Education), among other efforts. “I really believe that media literacy is needed more than ever now. Thank God for [SLJ’s] constituents and stakeholders and readers,” she says.

A positive turn is a first-in-the-nation effort toward a statewide information literacy curriculum. New Jersey governor Phil Murphy signed a bill last month requiring the NJ Department of Education to convene a committee—including certified school library media specialists—to adapt information ­literacy into K–12 learning standards.

Twitter’s gutting of content moderation and reinstatement of accounts previously banned for violating its content rules has damaged the legitimacy of the platform, which continues to bleed advertisers and users alike. It’s no more clear to this day whether that matters to Musk.

What’s ahead? “In the immediate future, we’ll have more and more [content] moderation by communities themselves, or a hybrid of central moderation and server-based moderation such as on Discord and Twitch,” says Collier. Further out, machine learning will enable individual users and organizations to customize algorithms to facilitate choice in the data that they consume. “That and, I hope, the build-out of the missing layer of user care are what lie ahead for a better, safer internet,” she predicts.

In the meantime, we’ll keep an eye on Twitter. Like many readers, I’ve joined Mastodon and Post, with a long way to go and still learning the ropes.

How are you faring on social? We'd love to hear.








Image: Chesnot / Contributor / Getty Images
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Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka is editor in chief of School Library Journal.

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