About a year before the corona pandemic, I suddenly developed a very rare progressively paralyzing auto immune disorder that destroyed the myelin in my peripheral nervous system to the point that I was rendered tetraplegic, and my breathing was also affected to the point that I came close to requiring ventilation. It took doctors about two months to finally figure out what was going on, and progression was finally halted (just in time) with high dose steroid treatment. A slow, painful process of uncertain recovery then began in a clinical rehabilitation centre. Fortunately, I managed to recover enough to awkwardly hobble out of there, limping on crutches. It then took me at least another three years for further recovery, with two relapses along the way. But I was lucky: most in my situation do not recover to this extent, and I was told by the neurologist in charge of the medical specialists treating me that I would likely never recover fully. Indeed, I was told over 90% of the people in my situation remain disabled to some extent. But thankfully I beat the odds. I guess I was just lucky… in a way (of course, truly lucky people don’t get sick like this to begin with.)
Then the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic happened. Not so great timing, as the treatment for my disease (prednisone and rituximab) left met quite immunocompromised and more vulnerable to covid-19 than most. Twitter then became a very useful resource for information on covid vaccine development, new treatments, and just any kind of scientific knowledge on this new infectious disease. There was a veritable explosion of scientific papers. Many good papers, but also many bad papers. Even with my background in biology, it became very helpful to get feedback from leaders in relevant scientific fields to be able to sieve the torrent of publications. Known experts in virology and other relevant medical fields started taking to Twitter to communicate with each other, discuss current literature, and to inform the public about the developments. I started following many of their Twitter accounts. At much the same time, however, a few ‘scientists’—along with many people with absolutely no background in science at all—also started posting misinformation on Twitter.
It then became painfully apparent that the world was woefully unprepared for a crisis like covid. We never really understood just how little the general population knew of science, but this pandemic sure was a wakeup call. The vaccine side-effect monitoring system VAERS, for example, was suddenly widely misinterpreted and misused by anti-vaccine activists. Vaccines and evidence based medicine in general were eschewed, while all kinds of quacks started prescribing unproven vitamin treatments and medicines. Even the then president of the United States of America (Donald Trump) during a press conference bizarrely suggested scientists should investigate injecting bleach into the human body as a potential treatment. It was utterly insane, there was sometimes just no limit to the stupidity. Governments called upon social media to take self-regulation action and help protect public health by limiting the spread of blatant medical misinformation from quacks and covid conspiracy theorists. Finally, rules were implemented by Twitter et al. that forbade, or at least pretended to limit, the spread of medical misinformation surrounding covid-19.
Twitter remained messy, even with the anti-misinformation measures. It usually took great effort and lots of users repeatedly reporting accounts to get Twitter safety to take action. With considerable effort, however, a few notorious covid-misinformation spreading accounts were ‘permanently’ banned from Twitter. Then Elon Musk took over Twitter in October 2022, and all that changed. Since then, many of those banned quacks and grifters have had their accounts restored on Twitter, basically turning the platform into a totally worthless cesspool. The unchallenged publication and widely shared anti-vaccine pseudo-documentary “died suddenly” represented a particularly historic low-point.
Even before Musk, Twitter was often a bit of an open sewer. But it seemed, at least, that there was some kind of equilibrium, that there was still some balance. But post-Musk Twitter has now effectively become the internet’s primary echo-chamber for extreme right-wingers, racists, anti-semites, homo-/trans-phobes, anti-vaccine covid-deniers, and conspiracy theorists. For example, I have recently reported a user on twitter who posted a WWII picture of an apparently obese Jewish prisoner in a Nazi camp along with messages suggesting that the photo proves Nazis didn’t starve Jews, or posted trans-flags arranged in a swastika pattern. Such utterly perverted mixtures of anti-semitism, ironically combined with calling human-rights activists Nazis, have increased noticeably. Twitter ‘safety’ (ahem…) ruled that no violation was detected in both cases I reported. I wasn’t surprised. Since Musk dismantled the moderation system of Twitter by firing most of the employees, virtually no measures remain in place to stem the tide of hate speech, or the deliberate, financially motivated ‘dezinformatsiya’, or plain, ignorant, misinformation. More recently, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists have even gone so far as to resort to stalking and harassing medical scientists and posting the video evidence of their criminal behavior on Twitter, as recently happened to professor Peter Hotez. That was the tipping point for me.
When you can barely tell the difference anymore between Twitter and right-wing platforms like Truth Social or Gab, you know Twitter is done. That, combined with Twitters apparent open support of people spreading just the kind of harmful misinformation that affects people with my medical history, was the final straw. I downloaded a backup for archiving and then deleted my account. Time to move on.