by Sara G.
It’s time for an RSS revival and socialists should be taking the lead. RSS–Really Simple Syndication–is a tool that aggregates content from multiple sources like news sites and tweets into one single feed. Popular in the early 2000s, it has since been overshadowed by social media as writers and artists moved from blogs to Twitter and Instagram. Corporations abandoned it because, as an open protocol, it isn’t easily monetized. When reading an article on an RSS feed, the reader only sees the content, not the multitude of ads embedded on the original site. The reader chooses what to view, so algorithms can’t push more financially beneficial articles in front of their eyes. This decreases the captive audience for corporate content.
While social media networks are where the largest audiences are, they are hostile to leftist organizing. Content is moderated to suit corporate agendas. For instance, X bans users who tweet “from the river to the sea” while promoting right-wing hate speech. All user data and content is tracked and fed into AI to put workers out of jobs or create deepfakes, or to hand over to the police or surveillance organizations like Palantir. Sex workers are kicked off platforms, and minority posters are routinely dogpiled, stalked, and doxxed. User posts appear alongside anti-semitic ads, or are algorithmically served up to the people most likely to be enraged by them. Social media sites can be actively harmful to leftists who post on or read them.
We are trying to build a mass movement, so we should continue recruiting the working class on large sites like X even though they are owned by our ideological enemies. They are great for posting out wins and advertising upcoming events. For anything deeper or more internal, we need to have greater control over our messaging and how it is presented and moderated, so that we can discuss issues on our own terms. RSS allows leftist writers to host their own content wherever they’d like, without relying on a social media conglomerate like Meta and being subject to its limitations.
Most leftists with a blog or newsletter don’t need to do anything extra to post to RSS. Sites like Squarespace and WordPress automatically provide RSS feeds of their content. The DSA National Tech Committee has created a feed that aggregates publications from DSA chapters. Chapters who want to syndicate their publications can talk to NTC about how to get added.
Since RSS is an open protocol, readers are not tied to one app or company to access content. To read RSS feeds, you need to download an RSS reader. Popular readers include Newsblur, Feedbin, Feedly, Miniflux, and Readwise. Some are free, some have ads, some have extra features like web clipping or archiving, and some are more minimalist. Some accommodate tweets and email-based newsletters, and some don’t. There’s something for everyone, but the downside of not having one monopolistic company means users need to make their own decision about which app to use. After selecting an app, feeds can be added. Leftists might be interested in the DSA feed, Jacobin, In These Times, and Labor Notes. We have a lot of opportunities to build a leftist ecosystem online that allows robust discussion and encourages the development of class consciousness. Social media companies don’t need to be the only way in which we interact with one another online: seize the means of content production!