Alt-Social Primer / “Taking Stock of the Ecosystem”

February 25, 2024
8 min

Executive Summary

The emergence of alternative social media platforms (alt-social) has marked a significant shift in online discourse, offering users spaces for expression outside the confines of mainstream social media moderation. These platforms host diverse communities, spanning various topics and political spectrums. And, each platform has its own unique approach to content moderation. Some prioritize free speech with minimal moderation, others enforce strict content controls, and a few rely on open-source community moderation models. 

The absence of moderation on certain platforms raises concerns about the spread of disinformation and hate speech. Despite these risks, alt-social platforms have gained significant traction, impacting political engagement and real-world events. Understanding this ecosystem's complexities is crucial for its implications both online and offline.

The Alt-Social Ecosystem

In recent years, a paradigm shift has occurred in the online ecosystem with the rise of alt-social. In general, conversations that were previously happening in the open are now moving to smaller, more niche communities, or chat applications. These platforms are typically smaller in community size (although not always) and operate outside the conventional moderation frameworks present in mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and pre-acquisition Twitter (now X). Alt-social (also known as fringe or unmoderated social) can provide online spaces for individuals to express beliefs that would otherwise be removed under those traditional content moderation regimes. 

While the term alt-social came to prominence with platforms that are typically associated with the far right, of the sites that we are aware of and monitor, there is not a prevalence of far right ideologies over others. Notably, with the rise of platforms such as Spoutible and, alongside the legacy platform of Reddit, left-leaning communities are also finding a home on the fringe. And of the 32 alt-social platforms we monitor, we have discerned a notable balance between explicitly conservative and liberal ones. 

Some alt-social platforms, like Gettr and Gab, prioritize free speech, providing users with a platform where content is largely unfiltered and unmoderated. Gettr’s mission is to be a “social media platform built on the foundation of freedom of opinion and expression,” and Gab “strives to be the home of free speech online.” But, this freedom comes with inherent risks as the absence of moderation opens the door to disinformation, conspiracies, and hate speech (racism, anti-semitism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia etc).

Sites such as 4chan and 8kun, while typically lumped in with other alt-social platforms, are generally more conspiratorial in nature rather than explicitly ideological. And some sites such as Incels cater to a specific community with extremist views, in this case, misogyny.  

Others, like Spoutible and, enforce robust content moderation, arguably more-so than mainstream platforms. While they don’t market themselves as liberal, these platforms attract left-leaning users who seek refuge from content present on other sites.

Other platforms, like Mastodon, Bluesky and Discord, operate on a decentralized framework. While this gives users more control and autonomy, without a central authority dictating moderation rules, it has its own hidden set of dangers because extremist groups have the freedom to launch their own servers and sites. 

Alt-social platforms are gaining influence, with 6% of Americans now relying on them for news. What's more striking is the active political engagement fostered by these platforms - 33% of alt-social news consumers say they have participated in an in-person political rally or other political activity they learned about on these sites, and 36% have donated money to accounts they follow on these sites. 

And, when harmful discourse goes unchecked, its online impact can extend into the real world. Just look at the devastating case of a 6-year old Palestinian boy, fatally stabbed 26 times by someone radicalized through extremist far right rhetoric on the Israel/Hamas conflict.  Or, the boycotts of Starbucks and McDonalds over their alleged support of Israel, which were supported by far left antisemitic rhetoric. And, the economic repercussions faced by Target and Bud Light when they faced boycotts over their support for LGBTQ+ initiatives, also caused by online discourse. 

Recognizing the complexity of the alt-social ecosystem is the cornerstone for understanding the implications of these platforms online and offline. Here’s a snapshot:

Explicitly conservative alt-social platforms

Platforms like Gettr, Rumble, Gab, and Truth Social, explicitly position and market themselves as conservative havens, catering to individuals whose beliefs are not only tolerated, but encouraged. They have become popular platforms for right-leaning users who believe they or their views have been censored on mainstream platforms. 

Despite controversy and scrutiny for enabling extremist content, they remain steadfast in their commitment to providing a platform for conservative and right-leaning discourse, prioritizing free expression and minimal content moderation. 

  • Gettr is a Twitter clone founded  in 2021, after Donald Trump was banned from Twitter. Its mission is to be a “social media platform built on the foundation of freedom of opinion and expression.

But, its focus on adhering to “First Amendment principles” enables racism, anti-semitism, and even terrorism on the platform. At least 250 extremist accounts spreading Jihadist material and propaganda were found over the span of 1 month. And, the white supremacist Proud Boys organization has been promoted on the platform.

  • Truth Social is a Twitter clone launched in 2022, in response to concerns about content moderation and censorship on mainstream social media platforms. Its mission is to be “America's "Big Tent" social media platform that encourages an open, free, and honest global conversation without discriminating on the basis of political ideology.”

It is a hotbed for all kinds of extremism (including xenophobia, homophobia, anti-semitism, and political violence). It was one of the top platforms used to launch boycott campaigns by anti-LGBTQ+ groups targeting organizations that promote Pride initiatives, including Anheuser-Busch, Target, Kohl’s, and North Face. 

Many users flock to Truth Social to discuss immigration, primarily in a negative and often racist context. In the last week, Pyrra’s AI over 5,000 posts mentioning “immigration” on Truth Social, the most out of any alt-social platform we track:

And, anti-immigration content on Truth Social is not limited to the U.S., as we detected discussions about the U.K.’s policies: 

  • Gab is a Twitter clone launched in 2016. Its mission is to “to defend, protect and preserve free speech online for all.” It saw a significant increase in users after Donald Trump was banned from Twitter, and has continued to see growth in users who believe mainstream social media is censoring them.

It is known for its lack of effective moderation around extremist, hateful, and violent content, including anti-semitic threats from an individual that directly preceded a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, and the discussion of plans to storm the Capitol before the January 6th insurrection. 

  • Rumble is a video-sharing YouTube clone launched in 2013. Its mission is to “protect a free and open internet.”, 

It is popular amongst conservative commentators and conspiracy theorists who are attracted to the platform’s relaxed moderation policies. Following the Israel/Hamas conflict, white supremacists, such as Holocaust-denier Nick Fuentes, posted inflammatory videos in attempts to radicalize supporters online, and Charlie Kirk, co-founder and president of the far right conservative group Turning Point USA, spread anti-Muslim messages on the platform. 

Implicitly liberal alt-social platforms 

While platforms do not generally market themselves as liberal, Imgur, Spoutible,, Mastodon and Bluesky, naturally fall into that camp. 

This is largely due to these platforms' commitment to robust content moderation, resonating strongly with left-leaning users, particularly in light of mainstream social site X relaxing its moderation policies under the leadership of Elon Musk.

X reinstated controversial accounts, like far right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene who was banned for sharing Covid-19 misinformation, former President Donald Trump who was banned after the January 6th insurrection, and renowned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. So, while X doesn’t necessarily claim to be a conservative platform, it effectively is now, meaning other users are choosing to have an online presence elsewhere. 

  • Imgur is an image-based platform launched in 2009. Its mission is “to build an authentic place online where people express themselves, feel good, connect, and discover the magic of the internet.” It fosters a meme-centric community that is moderated, explicitly prohibiting hate speech, violence, and harassment. Notably, memes on Imgur see a lot of migration to and from Reddit.
  • Spoutible is a Twitter clone launched in 2023 in response to Elon Musk’s acquisition. Its mission is “to change how social media platforms have operated for over 20 years by fostering diversity, inclusion, and accountability.” Spoutible prioritizes user safety, enforcing a "zero-tolerance policy for targeted harassment, hate speech, disinformation, and platform manipulation.” 
  • is a Twitter clone launched in 2022. It describes itself as a “social platform for real people, real news, and civil conversations,” and focuses on “building a community for safe, authentic, and editorialized information.” Its content rules include  prohibiting fake news and misinformation, as well as hate speech and harassment. 
  • Mastodon is a decentralized and open-source platform launched in 2016. It allows users to create their own servers or join existing ones, each with its own set of rules and moderation policies. It supports a diverse user base, with a wide variety of topics and interests (similar to Twitter), but adds a focus on user control and privacy.
  • Bluesky (previously an invite-only platform) is a Twitter clone launched in 2023 that operates on a decentralized model, adopting community moderation through an open-source framework. Its mission is “to develop and drive large-scale adoption of technologies for open and decentralized public conversation.”

Bluesky’s approach has gained favor among left-leaning users, including Democratic lawmakers, who view it as a safer and more gentle alternative to X." 

And while these platforms emphasize impartiality, the evidence shows that left-leaning and far left misinformation is more likely to slip through the cracks of their moderation rules than others. A user on, for instance, accused a traditional media outlet of censoring anti-Trump content, blaming Russian interference - a baseless far left conspiracy.   

As we outlined in a recent report, political violence isn’t just limited to the far right. In 2017, far left political activist James Thomas Hodgkinson was responsible for a mass shooting targeting Republican lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game in Virginia. A vehement critic of Trump, Hodgkinson’s mainstream social media posts contained hateful rhetoric like, "Trump is a traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It's Time to Destroy Trump & Co." Indeed, the dangers of misinformation is akin to what incited Hodgkinson, undermining democratic institutions, stoking anger and encouraging violence from both sides of the political aisle. 

Conspiratorial alt-social platforms

While some platforms like 4chan, 8kun, Wimkin, Minds, Odysee, and Bitchute might lean right, they are more conspiratorial in nature. Other platforms, like Incels, don’t have a partisan lean, but still serve as a hub for conspiracies. 

These platforms enforce little to no moderation, 4chan and 8kun encourage anonymity, and Odysee and Minds emphasize user privacy. So, users are encouraged to push conspiracy theories, hateful rhetoric, and misinformation with little to no impunity. 

  • 4chan is an image-board site launched in 2003, wherein forum style commentary is shared on specific images and descriptions. The site enforces very little moderation, and encourages anonymity. It has fairly diverse content, but has a consistent conspiratorial lean (it is the origin of QAnon).

This has led to real-world harm. And, the most infamous of which (‘Pizzagate’) took place in 2016, when the personal emails of John Podesta (Hilary Clinton’s campaign chair) were hacked and leaked, QAnon members on 4chan falsely claimed the emails contained coded messages that connected members of the Democratic Party to an alleged child sex trafficking ring. These claims were so believable that a North Carolina man traveled to one of the alleged sites - Comet Ping Pong in D.C - and fired a rifle inside the restaurant in an attempt to ‘save’ the victims. 

  • 8kun (QAnon’s new home) is an imageboard site launched in 2013. It is a more extreme and racist version of 4chan in many respects, enforcing even less moderation and focuses on adhering to the “First Amendment.” 
  • Wimkin is a Facebook clone launched in 2020. It proudly promotes itself as “100% uncensored media,” and explicitly states it does not fact-check posts. 

While the platform is used to discuss mundane topics, its lax moderation policies have inadvertently provided a home for fringe communities, including QAnon. Notably in 2021, Apple removed Wimkin from its app store following an incident where a group on the platform attempted to organize a “Million Militia March” on Inauguration Day: 

“IF OUR COUNTRY DIES on 1/20, it won’t be the only thing that dies. President Trump will die, they will hang him, if not by a rope they will end him in some way. Don Jr. too. Eric too. Ivanka. Barron. The First Lady. They will not leave ANY Trump free to avenge what they have done to their father. THEY FOUGHT FOR US. What are WE going to DO?”

  • Odysee is a blockchain-based media platform launched in 2020 that is best known for hosting videos. Its lack of moderation and privacy-heavy monetization methods encourages bad behavior, and misinformation is rampant. 

The Great Reset and Great Replacement conspiracies are heavily featured on the platform. The Corbett Report, a channel with 135k followers, shared a video exploring the Great Reset conspiracy in depth.

  • Bitchute is a video-sharing platform launched in 2017. It aims to “put creators first and provide them with a service that they can use to flourish and express their ideas,” prioritizing free speech and enforcing very little content moderation. It is popular among communities who feel their content is restricted or censored on more mainstream sites like YouTube. 

Following the Israel/Hamas conflict, Bitchute was flooded with  conspiracies. Some users  claimed there are terrorist sleeper cells in the U.S., and  others pointed the blame at Israel, specifically “jews,” for Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks:

  • Incels is an online forum launched in 2017. It is primarily associated with the "incel" subculture- individuals who identify as "involuntary celibates." It is heavily misogynistic and controversial discussions are often tied back to political conspiracies or comments made by political figures.

Implicitly conservative alt-social platforms

VKontakte (VK), Counter Social (one of Mastodon’s servers),, and MeWe harbor a lot of right-leaning sentiment, but are not explicitly that in nature. Users flock to these platforms as alternatives to Facebook and Twitter-esque platforms, for reasons similar to the explicitly conservative platforms: relaxed moderation policies, emphasis on user-control, and privacy features. 

  • VK is a Russian Facebook clone launched in 2006. Its mission is to “develop the best digital services possible that go above and beyond what users anticipate and evoke strong feelings.” It has a large conservative American user base and is commonly used as an alternative to Facebook for the right-leaning community (or other communities that resent perceived censorship or political bias from mainstream social media).  

In a welcome message to new VK users, Order 15, a hate group shared the following: 

Most of us are here because we have been blocked or accounts deleted by Facebook. And so we are now in a Russian speaking (dominated) social network. I love our fellow White European nationalists.

  • MeWe is a privacy-focused decentralized social media platform launched in 2016. It positions itself as an alternative to mainstream platforms like Facebook. It emphasizes user control over personal data, offers encrypted communication features, and promotes a commitment to ad-free, content-driven interactions.

Many of the risks that come with decentralization unfold on MeWe . hile it supports a diverse user base, it frequently attracts far right content that evades community monitoring. 

  • is a community-based platform launched in 2021. It is often used as an alternative to Reddit. It describes itself as a platform looking to “unblur the lines between entertainment and politics,” and is primarily associated with conservative and right-leaning discussions. 

Some communities, like the Great Awakening and are large enough to be treated as their own forums: The Great Awakening community describes its mission as “THE PUBLIC FACE OF Q. OUR MISSION IS TO RED-PILL NORMIES;” and, r/The_Donald, a highly controversial subreddit that was banned in 2020 for (among other things) promoting political violence, was revived here as the

Pyrra’s AI detected users claiming the GOP has been infiltrated by undercover democrats and calls for home schooling children to defend against “woke indoctrination”:


Some alt-social platforms defy political categorization, offering a spectrum of discourse ranging from professional networking to controversial forums. 

Here are a few that Pyrra’s AI tracks:

  • Telegram is an encrypted messaging platform launched in 2013. It has 700 million monthly active users. It offers encrypted chats, channels, and groups that can be private or public, with little-to-no platform-wide moderation policies and most moderation left to chat/channel/group administrators. 

Telegram has a very large and diverse user base, but is also used by extremists and other communities who want or need to coordinate privately and securely. Indeed, it has become a favorite among extremist groups, including Hamas. The extremist group used it to distribute press releases and propaganda, including graphic media and promotional videos. Despite Telegram's attempts to remove the content, the private, encrypted nature of the platform makes it difficult to monitor.

  • Blind and WallStreetOasis (WSO) cater to professionals:

Blind is an anonymous professional networking platform launched in 2014. Users discuss work-related topics and discourse is primarily focused on industry, company, or topic-specific groups. Its mission is “to bring transparency to the world, break down professional barriers and inspire productive change.”

WSO is an online community forum launched in 2006. Its mission is to “become the most entertaining and useful finance community in the world,” to “bring transparency to notoriously opaque industries,” and to “help every student and professional around the world, regardless of their background, develop superior career skills and access the same opportunities as those with the most privilege.” 

It's a virtual hub for networking, sharing insights, and discussing the world of finance, but  it can turn hostile including racist, sexist, misogynistic, and anti-LGBTQ sentiment.

  • Boardreader and Disqus are not platforms:

Boardreader is a social media aggregator launched in 2020. It is focused on thousands of smaller forums and message boards. 

And, Disqus is a centralized commenting service launched in 2021 that is heavily used by news platforms. Its mission is “to help publishers grow their sites safely and at scale.”

Its site plug-in enables commentary on articles and posts. The service offers moderation tools, but the actual moderation is enforced by the platform (not Disqus).

  • Others, like Triller and Sina Weibo, are similar to mainstream social platforms:

Triller is a social media platform launched in 2015, primarily known for its focus on short-form videos, often compared to TikTok. It gained popularity as an entertainment-centric platform for music and video content.

Sina Weibo is a Chinese Twitter clone launched in 2009, with similarly diverse content and user base. Its mission statement is to “let people stay connected with each other,” and it has become a significant platform for news dissemination, celebrity updates, and social interactions. 

  • Then, there are the controversial forums….

Kiwifarms is an online forum launched in 2013. It focuses on tracking and discussing queer individuals deemed to be internet "lolcows" or eccentric figures, often involving targeted harassment and doxxing of individuals, raising ethical concerns about online behavior and privacy. 

It has been ejected from multiple domain registrars, including Cloudflare, and as of December 2023 it has been unstable and moved from one domain to another (.net, .is, .hk).

And, YikYak is a location-based forum that was launched in 2013 and relaunched in 2021. It allows users to make anonymous posts in a geographical area (usually a university campus) that can be seen by other users within a five-mile radius. It has been used to make threats of violence against individuals and groups. 

Alt-social platforms that may turn mainstream 

Over the short-term we expect some alt-social platforms, like, Rumble, Bluesky, and Mastodon, to become more mainstream due to use by high-profile individuals and brands and increasing user numbers.

  •, is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, one of the most popular Silicon Valley VCs and the first to have invested in Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Many publishers like Reuters and Politico are using, and so are prominent figures like political scientist Ian Bremmer, renowned technology journalist Kara Swisher, and billionaire investor Mark Cuban. The platform was founded in 2022 and already has 950,000 monthly active users.
  • YouTube alternative, Rumble is surging among conservatives and conspiracists, who are attracted to the platform’s relaxed moderation policies. In 2022, the average monthly active users increased to 80 million, up 142%. 

The platform is used by:

  • Ben Shapiro (1.16m followers), 
  • Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (295k followers), 
  • White supremacist Nick Fuentes (55.4k followers),
  • Far right talk show host Charlie Kirk (1.34 million followers),
  • Ex-Fox news host Don Bongino (3.05m followers),
  • Controversial influencers Andrew Tate (1.77m followers),
  • and Russel Brand (1.83m) 

Notably, Bongino directed Brand’s fans to Rumble after YouTube punished Brand, removing his ability to monetize his videos there through advertising. Presently, Brand stands to earn up to $80,000 per video on Rumble. It is expected more influencers will mirror Brand’s move, as they are drawn by Rumble’s censorship and monetization advantages.  

To some, the answer lies with decentralized networks, such as Bluesky and Mastodon:

  • Bluesky, with 4.8 million users, has already gained favor among Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Robert Garcia. And, brands like the New York Times and The Onion have also created accounts. 

Many of the users are driven to Bluesky by their dissatisfaction with Musk's changes to X. The platform experienced a record surge in users after Musk announced plans to charge users.

Now that the invite-only period has ended, we anticipate that Bluesky’s user base will increase as more users open accounts (especially since it gained 800k users in its first public day!)

  • Mastodon’s user base has reached 1.8 million monthly active users, steadily growing 5% every month. Its network now spans 10,000 servers, up 12%. This upward trend shows no signs of slowing down, suggesting continued expansion and adoption of the platform.

Thousands of scientists are opting for Mastodon over X . A Nature survey revealed that 46.1% of respondents have opened accounts on other social media platforms, predominantly choosing Mastodon at 46.9%. They cite Musk’s changes and the rise in misinformation, hate speech, and trolling, as reasons for this transition, deeming such content unsuitable for scholarly discourse. They value Mastodon’s community moderation and find it more conducive to professional networking and scientific communication.

And, prominent news organizations, like NPR, BBC, and CNN, have created Mastodon accounts. In a post on Mastodon, NPR explains it decided to leave Twitter after being falsely labeled as ‘state-affiliated media’: 

But, the transition to decentralized platforms comes with the inherent risks similar to those already observed - the possibility of hate and extremism to evade community monitoring. 

The rise of alt--social platforms has ushered in a diverse landscape with varying approaches to moderation, from unfiltered spaces to heavily moderated environments. As these platforms gain influence, it's crucial to understand their complexities and implications, both online and offline. 

Pyrra’s goal is to make the internet and the world safer by identifying and tracking dangerous narratives across alternative social media sites. If you think we can help, visit to learn more.

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2 “What you need to know about decentralized social networks.” Tulane. 

3 Id.

4 Id. 

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6 Mark Scott and Tina Nguyen. “Jihadists flood pro-Trump social network with propaganda. Politico. Aug, 2021. 

7 id

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9 What is GAB. Dec, 2020. 

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11 Bobby Allyn. “Social Media Site Gab Is Surging, Even As Critics Blame It For Capitol Violence.” NPR. January 2021. 

12 About Us. Rumble. 

13 Fuentes, Nick. GAZA WAR DAY 10: Biden Visits Israel After Iran, Hezbollah Vow To AVENGE Gaza | America First Ep. 1236.  Rumble. 16, Oct. 2023.

14Elon Musk’s Twitter reinstates Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. AP News. Nov, 2022. 

15 Celebrating Imgur's Next Chapter. Imgur.

16 Community Rules. Imgur.

17 About Us. Spoutible. April, 2023. 

18 About Post. Post.*kul4s1*_ga*NzY1NTk1NjM3LjE3MDc2NjYzMzE.*_ga_H0BN3KZ582*MTcwODYxNzAyNC4zLjEuMTcwODYxNzMzMS4wLjAuMA.. 

19 Post Content Rules. Post. 

20 Andrew Zalk. Post Content Rules. Post. Jan, 2024. 

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24 “New ADL Data: Mass Shootings Accounted for the Majority of Victims of Extremist-Related Killings in 2022.” ADL. Feb, 2022. 

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26 Kelly Weill et al. “Congressional Shooter Loved Bernie, Hated ‘Racist’ Republicans, and Beat His Daughter.” The Daily Beast. June, 2017. 

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29 Guidance. 8kun. 

30 Wimkin.

31 Kevin Johnson and Jessica Guynn. Inauguration Day 2021: What now? Capitol riots, Trump supporter threats prompt safety concerns.” USA Today. Jan, 2021. 

32 The Great Reset is a conspiracy that posits that the global elite are the architects of a secretly  emerging totalitarian government. The theory frequently incorporates antisemitic rhetoric, as adherents accuse Jews of orchestrating the plot.

33 The Great Replacement concept was popularized by French writer Renaud Camus in his 2012 book, Le Grand Remplacement (“The Great Replacement”). Camus postulated that black and brown immigrants were reverse-colonizing native “white” Europeans.

34 Community Guidelines. Bitchute. 

35 VK Annual Report. 2022. chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/ 

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37 About MeWe. 

38 Hale, Erin. “Telegram restricts access to Hamas channels on Google, Apple stores.” Al Jazeera. 3, Nov 2023. ;  O’Sullivan, Donie and Paul Murphy. “Messaging app Telegram restricts access to some Hamas-run channels.” CNN. 26, Oct 2023.,Store%20apps%2C%20CNN%20confirmed%20Thursday 

39 Careers at Blind. Blind. 

40Mission. Disqus. 


42Anna Sofia Lipolis. Is post news a real twitter alternative for journalists. The Fix. February, 2023. 

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44 Daniel, Mcneil. “Russell Brand Rumble: Where is Rumble based, who is the owner, what is their stock price - what is Rumble?” Yahoo. September, 2023. 

45 Bryab Metzger. “Democratic lawmakers are having a blast on 'Bluesky,' the latest alternative to Twitter.” Business Insider. May, 2023. 

46 Sarah Perez. “Bluesky saw record usage after Elon Musk announced plans to charge all X users.” Tech Crunch. Sep, 2023. 

47 Lance Whitney. “Bluesky snags more than 800,000 new users after opening to the public.” Feb, 2024. 

48 Sarah Perez. “Mastodon actually has 407K+ more monthly users than it thought.” Tech Crunch. Oct, 2023. 

49 Myriam Vidal Valero. “Thousands of scientists are cutting back on Twitter, seeding angst and uncertainty.” NPR. Aug, 2023.

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