As Government Technology’s Lindsay Crudele wrote last November, “It took years for Twitter to evolve from a platform for casual lunch updates to a vital tool for public information exchange … [but] it took just days for [Elon Musk’s] chaotic, profit-driven strategy to dismantle the personnel and security functions that supported a once-reliable public resource.” The Twitter chaos has thrown government agencies into crisis. At the annual Government Social Media Conference this summer, several government communications professionals bemoaned the “hellscape” Twitter had become, and openly wondered when it was time to “time to pull the plug.”
Today, “hellscape” feels like an apt description not just of Twitter, but of wide swaths of the internet. In 2013, choosing Tumblr to launch a serious, high-profile response to the Snowden allegations felt incongruous because of the reputation of the platform itself; today, it feels incongruous because the whole internet seems to be falling apart. “Ultimately, this is a disservice to the public, which deserves information, accountability, and responsiveness from our public officials,” said Lorenz. “But it’s probably more of a headache than anything else in 2023, in this weird, fragmented, fraught platform ecosystem.”
As the promise of social media and the open web fades, is there a limit to what we can expect to solve by posting documents online?