SIU Today Summer 2021 - 19

Social Media Update
By Joe Stephenson, CIFI, FCLS
What's the Alternative? Not So
Mainstream Social Media
It's hard to believe that summer is upon us, but we've managed
to return to some level of normalcy, and I'm pretty excited at
the chance to see all of you again in September in Orlando
(yes, this is a reminder to register now for the IASIU Annual
Seminar). The last 18 months have been an interesting time
in history. Between the pandemic, politics, the economy and
Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez splitting up, I don't know
how much more I could take! Of course, while we were dealing
with all the new issues that a pandemic causes society, social
media was also changing - some good, some bad. So let's take
a few minutes this month to talk about some of the alternative
social media you may not have heard about yet but should
definitely be aware of.
Parler is back. As many of you know, following the Capital riots
it went away for a while, but it has returned. Parler bills itself
as a " free speech " social media where you can express yourself
openly, without fear of being 'deplatformed' for your views. "
A Twitter-esq platform, the users tend to be more alt-right in
their political views, and some of the discussions can get pretty
heavy (conspiracies, violence, hate, etc.), but so can Facebook
and Twitter. So why would you want to be on there? Well, with
over 10 million downloads from the US alone, there's a lot of
" regular " people on there. And because many feel they are with
like-minded people on the platform, they tend to be more open
with their speech and opinions. I have had considerable luck
locating profiles on Parler when someone's Facebook timeline
suggests they might have very strong opinions, especially
with the Facebook timelines that tend to offer little personal
information but a lot of shared political content. Now, should
you put this on your list of sites to search on every case? No.
But depending on the type of claim you are investigating and
who the person is, sites like Parler could provide you with
significant additional information.
The same goes true for sites like Gab or Mastodon, both of
which I would recommend you check out. Gab also bills itself as
a " social network that champions free speech, individual liberty
and the free flow of information online " and while you will see
a lot of alt-right on there, it's starting to level out some. You
may have heard of Gab back in 2018 when it was used heavily
by white supremist and other hate groups and for a slight rise
in popularity when 4Chan was forced to decentralize. While
it is easy to get sucked into the political rhetoric on Gab, the
platform itself is very similar to Facebook. Every profile has a
timeline, comments, photos and videos, and you can set up a
news feed from the various sources you pick. Best of all, you
don't need any login credentials to look at someone's profile,
but you do need to log in to view their comments, photos or
videos. It would actually be a nice alternative to Facebook if
it wasn't for its history of being a propagation of hate speech.
Mastodon is very much like Twitter, but with a twist. Instead
of " tweets " they call them " Toots. " When you are on a user's
profile, you will see their " Toots, " " Toots and replies " and
" Media, " just like Twitter. You can scan their Toot history, find
links to their other social media, communities they run or
moderate and other bio information. Why it's different is the
way that it is structured because it isn't just one source like
with Twitter. Mastodon offers the ability to create your own
quasi-social media network on their servers, called " instances "
or " communities. " The easiest way to explain Mastodon is to
think of it as Twitter meets the Internet. Each community
is set up like a computer on the Internet but instead of an IP

SIU Today Summer 2021

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