As everyone knows, Elon Musk is now running Twitter directly into the ground. Who knows? Maybe he needed some inspiration for the Boring Company.
This has, as many predicated, been a complete clusterfuck.
We should assume that Twitter is on its way out the door. Elon Musk is not a good CEO, as evidenced by the immediate mass lay-offs of Twitter employees.
Or his immediate pause of content moderation (which let some really dumb homophobes run wild).
You get the point.
Rather than continue to ruminate on the current mess, I’d like to instead take a moment of everyone’s present to look into the future, because we’re actually in a unique position to make a lot of good changes to the world; or, at least, to make something hilarious out of a bad situation.
This matters for everyone, but especially for furries, sex workers, and porn artists.
I’m going to break this post into three parts:
- How to Make a Larger Impact Than Deleting Your Account
- An Opinionated Summary of Alternate Platforms
- How to Architect the Porn-Friendly Social Media of Tomorrow
It should go without saying, but my standard disclaimer applies:
The contents of this blog post are the sole opinions of a 30-something gay furry who presents as an anthropomorphic dhole on the Internet. Do not confuse the opinion or satire contained within for either a) fact, b) professional advice, or c) the opinions of any company or entity; especially the author’s current or past employers.
How to Make a Larger Impact Than Deleting Your Account
If you’re considering deleting your Twitter account and moving to an alternative platform, I encourage you to move but not delete your account. There’s something much cooler you can do with your existing account than delete it.
Twitter’s operations costs are currently fairly predictable. Well, predictable enough to lay off a lot of the workers necessary to keep the lights on, anyway.
Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of deleting their accounts in protest, we decided to make our accounts cost more in storage and compute costs?
I posed a similar question to Twitter the other day.
Here are some of the more fun and interesting ideas that were shared with me:
Block and Search with Wild Abandon
(I can’t find a record of who suggested this idea. Maybe I imagine someone suggesting it, and it was actually my own idea, but I’m misremembering. Who even knows anymore?)
Filtering blocked/muted accounts from your timeline requires a small amount of server-side CPU.
Searching for trending topics and common words in your native language will likely hit many thousands of accounts.
If you ask Twitter’s search engine for all tweets that contain certain common words or phrases, and then the application has to filter out hundreds of thousands of blocked and/or muted accounts, this is going to become computationally expensive.
Especially if you systematically mute or block every single account that promotes a tweet.
Especially if you’re already using an adblocker, such as uBlock Origin (which you can install in Firefox for Android, by the way).
To be clear: The goal of this idea is NOT to degrade the platform or perform a Denial of Service attack. It’s simply to make Musk pay more for useless processing that won’t increase Twitter’s ad revenue.
Use Twitter Like TikTok
Instead of typing a reply, record a short video instead. The queerer and less marketable the contents of your video, the better.
If you don’t have a fursuit (most furries actually don’t), consider using rigged 3D models (or Live2D avatars; e.g. FaceRig) instead.
Just make sure you include a transcript or alt text for people with disabilities.
Everyone else can participate simply by diligently playing every single one of these videos (even if on mute).
Let’s run up Elon’s storage and bandwidth bills. There’s lots of fun that we can have with this idea.
Upload Lots of Compression-Unfriendly Images
Bonus points if you somehow manage to work this into the video reply idea, and it actually inflates their storage costs significantly.
Bad Suggestion: Reply to Brands with Yiff
There were a few people who suggested posting adult furry art in reply to brand tweets. The idea being that this will make Twitter less marketable for advertisers.
This is a terrible idea for two reasons:
- Optics. Regardless of your goals, you’re going to expose a lot of unsuspecting users to unsolicited pornographic art. This is not how you make friends. This will make a lot of undecided people form a negative opinion of the furry fandom.
- Underage users. The minimum age to sign up for Twitter is 13. Parents who might be comfortable with their young teenager following a household name Twitter account will not want their child being exposed to hardcore pornography.
Too often, I see some furries reach for this tactic. You should consider it the nuclear option, because the small tactical gain is largely outsized by collateral damage.
The only thing you’ll accomplish is giving ammo to right-wingers who loudly proclaim all LGBT people are groomers (meanwhile they vote down laws that would stop child marriage; how so very curious of them).
With any luck, we can make Twitter the most expensive $44 Billion that Elon Musk will ever spend.
An Opinionated Summary of Alternate Platforms
Where should we go when Twitter dies? There are a lot of opinions to be had.
Rumors of Tumblr’s Sex Positivity Are Wildly Exaggerated
Shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter, Tumblr had announced updated Community Guidelines that, allegedly, permit the naked human form to appear in Tumblr content.
This apparently doesn’t include cartoon nudity. To wit:
We can do better than Tumblr.
Cohost is a somewhat new platform for posting. I have an account there (@soatok).
You can think of Cohost as the best parts of Twitter’s user experience, with the best parts of Tumblr, without any ads, tracking, or recommendation system (The Algorithm).
The premise of Cohost is to build around users, not profit.
Cohost is brought to you by a group calling themselves the Anti Software Software Club–a software company that hates the software industry:
we are a group of three developers and designers—and maybe more soon!—with very strong opinions about how to operate a software company. we’ve all left jobs at conventional tech companies to build cohost and we’re thrilled we finally get to share it with the world. you can read more about us, including our manifesto, on our main website. ASSC is not-for-profit and 100% worker owned.According to the Cohost website
It’s worth emphasizing that “not-for-profit” is most likely an aspiration and a tenet, not a legal designation. Cohost is an LLC. It would be an error to mistake it for a non-profit organization. The legal term “non-profit” almost always refers to 501(c)(3) organizations.
Personally, I don’t care at all about these distinctions. Some people do. I’m not a lawyer, and I actually find legal topics exhausting to the point of being physically painful. That’s not at an exaggeration.
It’s a neat project. If you want a centralized replacement for Twitter, Cohost is probably your best bet.
Mastodon is federated software, which feels in some ways more like Email or RSS than Twitter does. Moderation is local to your instance, rather than top-down like a centralized platform. Discovery is based on which instances peer with which instances.
There’s a lot to like about Mastodon. However, if you’re an artist that’s looking for a centralized watering hole where all your customers already are, Mastodon… is not that.
That being said, a lot of people are moving to Mastodon already. Now’s probably the best time to join.
Personally, I used to have a Mastodon account, but I didn’t really use it much, and then the instance that hosted my account shut down and I lost all my data. That experience killed my interest in Mastodon.
Pro: Furries already use Telegram, extensively.
There are probably other platforms that are worth considering, but there are only so many hours in a day, and I have a day job.
If you find yourself deeply dissatisfied with the options presented, please feel free to explore others. Alternatively, you may wish to build a new platform in line with your own vision.
If you lack the skills to build your vision, grab a few friends and read through Furward Momentum together.
How to Architect the Porn-Friendly Social Media of Tomorrow
What do sex workers, porn artists, and fantasy sex toy companies have in common?
Sex workers and artists are two of the groups most likely to be negatively impacted by Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter.
What would it take to build a social media platform that actually supports sex workers and NSFW artists? Well, a lot. But I’d like to at least provide a sketch for how such a platform might be architected.
Require Hardware Security Keys For All Users
Your platform should use WebAuthn instead of password authentication.
I recognize that this makes onboarding users difficult (due to a lack of availability of FIDO2-compatible hardware keys), but the security benefits are immensely worthwhile.
The best thing about WebAuthn is, when implemented correctly, your users become extremely phishing-resistant without requiring any diligence on their part.
Use End-to-End Encryption for Private Messages
Further reading: Going Bark: A Furry’s Guide to End-to-End Encryption.
We don’t need more surveillance capitalism. The less you know about your users, the better.
Consider An Invite-Only Design
Lobste.rs requires new users be invited by an existing user.
This is a great way to reduce the blast radius of platform abusers and their subsequent attempts at ban evasion: If the same person keeps inviting bad people, take away their invite privileges.
I chose a similar approach when I designed FAQ Off.
Don’t Mix Payments With Platforms
Simply put: The platform that users interact with should be mostly independent from the component that processes payments for the users of the platform.
By “mostly independent”, I mean they should be distinct legal entities, with no overlap in ownership, that operate in different countries. The only things that should be exchanged between the two are HTTP messages (over TLS) and API keys.
The payment gateway should accept multiple options (credit cards, PayPal, etc.), but never provide a custom “memo” field. Where possible, the invoice feature should be used (with the possibility of tipping left open).
If you permit users to fill in custom memos, they will inevitably leave a remark that flags the recipient’s account as porn/sex related.
This payment gateway will not just process payments and subscriptions; it will also act as a payment escrow service and amortize the risk of chargeback fraud over multiple content creators. (To that end, it should have a name that isn’t embarrassing on a bank statement.)
The incumbent payment gateways used by the porn industry should be avoided, for multiple reasons:
- They’re expensive
- The transactions they process get flagged a lot as fraud
- They’re often used by spammers, scammers, computer criminals, and deplatformed hate groups
Instead, you’d want your value proposition to be more about social media and payments between friends. The fact that you allow porn and sex work on your platform (which should be one of many platforms that use this payment gateway) needs to be a mere footnote.
Finally, consider very carefully whether or not to support cryptocurrency in your payments (or payouts) platform.
This List is Non-Exhaustive
These are just some considerations I can think of off-hand when imagining what a sex-positive social media platform would look like, if it were built in 2022.
The biggest challenges any platform faces will not be legal or technical; they will be social.
Twitter exploded in popularity after a few celebrities started using it. I don’t know how to replicate their success with a greenfield project, and I doubt anyone else does either.
Elon Musk is probably going to kill Twitter. It would be really funny if we made this cataclysmically expensive for Elon Musk, personally.
There are a handful of alternative platforms that folks are already migrating to in anticipation of Twitter’s demise, but none is a clear winner.
Twitter’s death will put a lot of artists (especially porn artists) and sex workers in peril, so I sketched some ideas that would enable a Twitter alternative to better serve them.
Ultimately, the future remains uncertain. I don’t pretend to have answers, just ideas. If you think you know, or can do, better, I wish you the best of luck.