'Twitter today is a cesspool of hate. A plague of frogs.'
October 16, 2017 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Designer and man-about-Internet shares his personal history of Twitter.
posted by nerdfish (227 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pretty much sums it up, both why people came to love it and why it's benefits are increasingly outweighed by its vile downsides.
posted by Artw at 6:54 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


This is strong:
’ve known plenty of people who’ve worked at Twitter over the years. Most have left by now. Usually out of frustration. And their stories aren’t mine to tell, so I won’t. But I’ll tell you this: a lot of those people have tried, honestly tried to deal with the abuse on the platform. But when leadership doesn’t want something fixed it’s close to impossible to fix it. And when leadership doesn’t see something as a problem, it’s not getting fixed at all.
And I’m sure that in the next few days Jack Dorsey will come out and make a pledge about how Twitter needs to be more transparent. He’s very good at that. But when companies tell you they need to be more transparent it’s generally because they’ve been caught being transparent. You accidentally saw behind the curtain. Twitter is behaving exactly as it’s been designed to behave. Twitter, at this moment, is the sum of the choices it has made. Even when the coop is covered in chickenshit, the chickens will come home to roost.

posted by Artw at 6:58 AM on October 16, 2017 [29 favorites]


Twitter reminds me of the Belcerebons from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

As a punishment for this behavior, which was held to be offensively righteous and provocative, a Galactic Tribunal inflicted on them the most cruel of all social diseases, telepathy.

Wouldn't being able to constantly hear everyone else's thoughts be terrible for a society's ability to function properly? Now we know that it is! It's the fucking worst!

Also, I don't know how you get from this -

Ten years ago, a group of white dudes baked the DNA of the platform without thought to harassment or abuse. They built the platform with the best of intentions. I still believe this.

to this -

Twitter is behaving exactly as it’s been designed to behave.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:18 AM on October 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


This bit is what resonated with me.

Ten years ago, a group of white dudes baked the DNA of the platform without thought to harassment or abuse. They built the platform with the best of intentions. I still believe this. But they were ignorant to their own blind spots. As we all are. This is the value of diverse teams by the way. When you’re building a tool with a global reach (and who isn’t these days) your team needs to look like the world it’s trying to reach. And ten years later, the abuse has proven too much to fix.
posted by infini at 7:19 AM on October 16, 2017 [21 favorites]


Twitter has become the comments section of the internet. Never read the comments.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:21 AM on October 16, 2017 [29 favorites]


Not a huge twitter user but like reddit if you've chosen good reasonable context(the worst arguments in /r/math are genteel ;-) it's a fine platform. Many quite sincere and clever folks. Very sad that a communications platform can not move towards enforcing politeness but clearly monitization rules. What would happen to mifi with an infusion of a couple hundred million? Mods, if that ever happens -- take a payout and run.
posted by sammyo at 7:22 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


'A young Ev, Jack, and Biz get their first round of financing.'

Yeah... I'm finding it very hard to reconcile the stories of them being nice people with their obvious inability to reign in Twitter.

This headline was when I started to get really suspicious: Senator Berates Twitter Over ‘Inadequate’ Inquiry Into Russian Meddling. The way they handled Rose McGowan doubled my suspicion.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:29 AM on October 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


Monteiro's screed triggered my own tweetstorm - there's interesting data bits popping up (and not that small or weak either) that are a repudiation of the entire business model built on the foundation of we are the product.

That is a tsunami that orangefreak has triggered, along with his minions of hate and prejudice.
posted by infini at 7:29 AM on October 16, 2017


Ten years ago, a group of white dudes baked the DNA of the platform without thought to harassment or abuse.

I saw this happening in real time (albeit in a very very low stakes venue) right in front of my eyes a few months ago and I was seriously challenged to remain professional. Like, have we learned nothing? I was sitting in a room full of dudes, some young coders practice-pitching an idea that has 99.9999% chance of never amounting to anything, some older colleagues of mine and I knew I was supposed to be gung-ho supportive of these youngsters (after all, this thing they were proposing amounted to little more than a class project, really) and I knew I was making myself "look bad" in front of colleagues and bosses and probably would be described as "shrill" and "difficult". But ffs they were proposing yet another social media platform with no moderation, no oversight, literally no adults, and not a single consideration of "what if someone uses your platform to stalk and harass another student?" I brought that up and got blank stares. "We've been testing it out with our friends and that hasn't happened, so it's fine."

o
m
f
g
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:33 AM on October 16, 2017 [99 favorites]


Just learned over the weekend my eleven year old son set up a secret Twitter account falsely identifying himself as a 27 year old man; I’m starting to think all the early years I spent trying to promote the idea that internet adoption could bring about a cultural renaissance is what brought me all the bad karma I feel like I got crushed under now. Jesus, who would have thought a technology with so much beneficial potential could go so horribly wrong. Christianity might be a terrible religion in some respects, but one idea they absolutely got right and that ought to be revitalized is that the love of money really does seem to be one of the most powerful root causes of misery, human suffering, and evil.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:34 AM on October 16, 2017 [14 favorites]


Yeah... I'm finding it very hard to reconcile the stories of them being nice people with their obvious inability to reign in Twitter.

I don't. Lots of very abusive, horrible people are able to get away with it partly by being very pleasant and personable when you meet them casually.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:34 AM on October 16, 2017 [18 favorites]


Also a lot of people who seem very agreeable and pleasant are not up for taking any kind of stand, because they are more offended by breaches of etiquette than breaches of justice. Thus, they end up on the side of the bully because they want to keep the peace more than they want to stop someone from harassing someone else.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:37 AM on October 16, 2017 [99 favorites]


Also, I don't know how you get from this - to this

The language is a little sloppy maybe, but the idea that you could design for one goal and end up inadvertently designing for a second, much worse, goal doesn't seem crazy.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:44 AM on October 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


Over on Facebook, a lot of my male friends are responding to the "me too" movement with statements that they want to help and they had no idea, etc., etc. One of them said something that struck me, though - he said "this is the most effective movement social media has done."

Which struck me because I remember exactly the same kind of "it happened to me" story-sharing trying to start up when the Access Hollywood tape came out. However, the problem was that it reached a tipping point and some guys got defensive and started the "not all men" pushback, and ultimately they got all the attention and things descended into some petty squabbling.

I pointed that out to that guy, and said that hey, right there was something men could do to help - if they saw this kind of shit on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, FUCKING SAY SOMETHING. Report this shit, push BACK. Take a fucking stand.

Part of why the assholes have taken Twiter over is because the majority of good guys are not getting involved and GIVING the place to them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 AM on October 16, 2017 [17 favorites]


Ironically, it's asking me to log in via Twitter (or Facebook or Google) before I can read the story.
posted by clawsoon at 7:55 AM on October 16, 2017


All this written by a dude who still can't decide whether to close his twitter account.
posted by brennen at 8:00 AM on October 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


Alexis Madrigal's latest piece in The Atlantic is also, I feel, an important companion. Not just because of "omg, what Pandora's box have we opened?" or "it was all so beautiful before the Channers showed up" but also because he shows how Channers were courted specifically as a result of Facebook and Twitter trying to outedge each other for eyeballs.
posted by bl1nk at 8:02 AM on October 16, 2017 [12 favorites]


Catalonia’s debt to Twitter

And the Arab Spring came about primarily through social media: The Arab Spring: Six Years Later
posted by cjorgensen at 8:06 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


The thing that surprises me reading more about Twitter in the last few weeks is that even with their shitty business practises, they don't actually do very well as a business. They lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year and really surprisingly are not even in the top ten of social networks in terms of active users. How long will investors put up with the combination of constant bad press and bad financials?
posted by octothorpe at 8:07 AM on October 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


The number one thing I don't understand about business - any business - (and I really cannot stress enough how little I understand about business) is how a business that continually loses huge sums of money can be said to be worth *anything*. If I had a lemonade stand that had lost $20 a day for five years, what would my pitch be if I tried to sell it to someone else? "I couldn't make a go of it, but maybe you can! That'll be ten thousand dollars if you'd like to find out, please!"
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:13 AM on October 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


I deactivated my account just now, by the by. I'd been holding on to it in order to spite some YouTube / Instagram celebrity with an overlapping username whose profoundly irritating 13 year old followers were constantly in my mentions, but on reflection I no longer actually care about this.
posted by brennen at 8:15 AM on October 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


Monteiro's screed triggered my own tweetstorm - there's interesting data bits popping up (and not that small or weak either) that are a repudiation of the entire business model built on the foundation of we are the product.

That is a tsunami that orangefreak has triggered, along with his minions of hate and prejudice.
posted by infini at 7:29 AM on October 16 [+] [!]


Could you link to this, or talk more about it?

How long will investors put up with the combination of constant bad press and bad financials

In one of the politics threads someone suggested that Twitter was too useful as a surveillance tool to be allowed to fail. I don't know if that's true, but it certainly is useful for messing with public opinion, so...yeah. I feel crazy even writing that, but it is 2017 and everything is already crazy.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:19 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


> All this written by a dude who still can't decide whether to close his twitter account.

And?

Everything he writes resonates with me. I've had some of the greatest and oddest interactions on twitter. I helped a woman fix a plumbing problem from 1,000 miles away. She was a total stranger and with the help of twit pic I got her sink fixed. I've had some of the funniest interactions with my partner on twitter while she was sitting next to me on the couch! I've interacted with fans of my writing, and writers I am a fan of. I've stayed in the homes of strangers (twice) that I only knew through social media. I met my illustrator through twitter, and plan to someday sleep on his couch as well. I could go on. I have tons of stories.

To a large degree it is what you make of it. I mute a lot of words, hashtags, and users. I only follow real people, and I block a fuckload of people.

I will admit it's not as fun anymore, and I blame the downfall on when twitter took away the ability to easily see the mentions of your friends. It became increasingly difficult to find new and interesting people to follow. The influx of celebrities didn't help, and I think the embedding of media sucks.

But I do think the platform is fixable, but not sure if they will do it. Personally, I think they should just go ahead and charge a nominal fee. There would be fewer anonymous eggheads.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:20 AM on October 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


Part of why the assholes have taken Twiter over is because the majority of good guys are not getting involved and GIVING the place to them.

The thing I'm struggling with, as someone who doesn't want to cede the place to the assholes, is how to start. There's no way to fight the brigaders on their terms; they're bored and uninvested and basically tireless, and to argue is just giving them what they want. Pressure the CEO and shareholders somehow? Report it using the broken and useless reporting tool? I can fight with my relatives and their racist friends all day long and it gets us no closer to a better environment to exist.

It feels a lot more manageable to disengage from a broken platform and invest my time in places that are not infested with racists and griefers.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:22 AM on October 16, 2017 [12 favorites]


> If I had a lemonade stand that had lost $20 a day for five years, what would my pitch be if I tried to sell it to someone else? "I couldn't make a go of it, but maybe you can! That'll be ten thousand dollars if you'd like to find out, please!"

See Amazon.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:24 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


If your lemonade stand has thousands of loyal customers then the fact you're losing money hand over fist doesn't mean so much. The pitch really is "Here you go, find a way to monetize these thousands/millions/billions of people."
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:28 AM on October 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


If I had a lemonade stand that had lost $20 a day for five years, what would my pitch be if I tried to sell it to someone else?

“My business model for the last five years has been to have people write down lots of personal information in exchange for $1 of lemonade. About 20 people / day come and write down their personal information, who their friends are, what they’re interested in. I’ve lost $36,500, but I have information on 36,500 people, including a map of their relationships with one another.”

I can see how someone would pay $10,000 for that.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:29 AM on October 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


Four years ago, Mike Monteiro gave an excellent talk called "How Designers Destroyed the World". Take some time and give that a watch or listen, if you got an hour.

But the TL;DW is "designers have to think through the consequences of what they design" which is a recurring theme in Monteiro's works about design. (Previous Monteiro discussion on MeFi) Twitter not only has failed to think through the consequences of what they design, they continue to refuse to. Whether it's because they don't actually see the problem for what it is, or a lack of care, I can't say for certain. But I come back to this bit in Mike's piece:
[W]hen companies tell you they need to be more transparent it’s generally because they’ve been caught being transparent. You accidentally saw behind the curtain. Twitter is behaving exactly as it’s been designed to behave. Twitter, at this moment, is the sum of the choices it has made. Even when the coop is covered in chickenshit, the chickens will come home to roost.
I attribute this to a sort of sociopathic apathy on the part of Twitter's founders. They don't care about what effects their platform has because it doesn't affect them except in how it influences their bottom line. It's a sociopathic apathy that's crept deep into the company's culture, even down to how the oxymoronic "Trust and Safety" team handles abuse. (You can't trust them, and they don't keep Twitter users safe. Unless they're Nazis.)

There's no ability to change it from the bottom up as users. There's no ability for employees to change it from the bottom up as it's embedded in the culture, too. Just see this recent Buzzfeed piece on how Milo normalized racist discourse on Twitter---even Twitter employees were in on the game. Only if Jack and Biz, or at least Twitter's board and investors, decide it's really a problem will something finally change.

Since most of Twitter's board still doesn't use the platform, we're stuck with pushing Jack and Biz into waking up to reality. Having folks like Monteiro, who was there from the beginning, scream at them helps. I think it's too late.

Honestly, I'd delete my Twitter if I could get my friends to follow me elsewhere, like Mastodon or something.
posted by SansPoint at 8:32 AM on October 16, 2017 [14 favorites]


How long will investors put up with the combination of constant bad press and bad financials

Twitter does have a lot of cash sitting in the bank, and they do bring in a lot of revenue. (In total, over the past four years, IIRC: $4 billion in revenue - $6 billion in expenses = $2 billion in losses.) It could be worth money in two ways for an investor: 1) Shut down the company and give the investors the cash that's sitting in the bank. That would lose the investors some money, but they would lose less money than if all the cash gets spent and the company goes bankrupt. 2) Cut down on expenses and start turning a profit.

Last year, Twitter brought in $2.5 billion in revenue. They spent $932 million on cost of revenue, $713 million on research and development, and $1.2 billion on sales, general, and admin. I'm sure someone in the boardroom has been writing numbers on napkins to figure out how to get the expenses down or the revenue up. It's not like a profit is impossible for them, though they may have to give up on the typical Silicon Valley "keep growing forever!" model.

In other words, they could turn into a profitable cesspool.
posted by clawsoon at 8:35 AM on October 16, 2017


The language is a little sloppy maybe, but the idea that you could design for one goal and end up inadvertently designing for a second, much worse, goal doesn't seem crazy.

Yep, that's my take too. Keep in mind that Monteiro is a design guy, and when he says something is "working as designed" it's likely a less casual use of the word than from most folks. The distinction from "working as intended" is meaningful, and partly at the root of why the people building/running it meaning well doesn't solve any of the problems. If you build a gun because you're trying to figure out how to get acorns out of tall trees, it doesn't matter how much you intended to facilitate acorn-fetching if people are getting shot. You didn't design an acorn-fetcher, you just thought that's what you were doing.

All this written by a dude who still can't decide whether to close his twitter account.

Shit's conflicted. Dude's got deep roots. Old old old school web guy, of the sort that made up the primoridal MeFi crowd. I think shutting your account down is a super defensible reaction to twitter's bullshit but I also don't think it's a litmus test for valid anger at Twitter. But I say that as someone who continues to be angry at and holler at twitter but finds value so far in breaking to the keep-my-account-open side. Much as I'd like to see everyone bail on over to mastodon, I care about the social ties I have with a lot of good people who are also circumstantially stuck on twitter for now.
posted by cortex at 8:35 AM on October 16, 2017 [20 favorites]


There's no way to fight the brigaders on their terms; they're bored and uninvested and basically tireless, and to argue is just giving them what they want.

Worse, many of them are doing this as their full-time jobs.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


And?

And this is why we're fucked, I guess. I'm not going to argue that anybody has a moral responsibility to quit Twitter, or Facebook, or Google services. There are plenty of valid reasons you might want or need to occupy space in those ecosystems. But I'm pretty comfortable saying that until and unless there is a mass defection from the systems like these that have eaten the network, we'll keep getting pathological outcomes.
posted by brennen at 8:37 AM on October 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


In the 90's, I helped run the indymedia collective in Atlanta. Indymedia still has an open publishing philosophy, and a strict anti-oppression policy.

well, the nazis found the site. then they spent all day on it. So we spent all day deleting, not producing pieces, interviewing sources, fact-checking, any of the things we wanted to do.

in the end, we had to close the open wire--it was much less time spent to approve non-racist posts, and it drove attention away from the site.

Indymedia is still running and still relevant in non-english speaking places as the journalism scratch pad--the first draft of the first draft of history, we always intended for it to be.

But the idea that people in california didn't know that online nazis would be a problem is disheartening, because it was all too obvious so long ago.
posted by eustatic at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2017 [16 favorites]


The thing that surprises me reading more about Twitter in the last few weeks is that even with their shitty business practises, they don't actually do very well as a business. They lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year and really surprisingly are not even in the top ten of social networks in terms of active users.

Well, first, 348 million alleged users isn't anything to sneeze at, especially since Twitter is more popular in the West, where much of the potential business opportunities that might be based around it are looking to do business. Some of the more popular sites are bigger elsewhere, like QQ, for example.

Secondly, I'd think that Twitter attracts interest for having a more top down design, rather than series of more isolated social groupings. Twitter, from what I understand, relies more on individual users who post frequently and/or are famous and different group/corporate accounts to generate most of their interest which are then followed by many other users, a large percentage of whom don't tweet much at all. It's a more celebrity driven model than Facebook, where even when people "like" celebrities, they use the site more for sharing information back and forth among people "friended" personally.

Facebook, I gather, relies on their newsfeed and ads to interrupt those discussions for their business model, and while Twitter can do something of the same thing, the more notable part of its model is in how much more direct the conversation appears between the top users and the base. That at least gives some hint at a different kind of model for building revenue, where fewer users can influence greater amounts of people by what they say. The love of fame makes Twitter an awfully attractive platform for many in a way that Facebook can't as easily match, even as they of course have advantages of their own that are equally or even more harmful to the general public.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:42 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


> If I had a lemonade stand that had lost $20 a day for five years, what would my pitch be if I tried to sell it to someone else? "I couldn't make a go of it, but maybe you can! That'll be ten thousand dollars if you'd like to find out, please!"
The lemonade isn't the product. The customers are the product.
posted by runcifex at 8:43 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]



There's no ability to change it from the bottom up as users.

SansPoint

Sure there is: stop using Twitter. If enough users left, it would cause a change because it would then affect their business.

And?

Everything he writes resonates with me. I've had some of the greatest and oddest interactions on twitter. I helped a woman fix a plumbing problem from 1,000 miles away. She was a total stranger and with the help of twit pic I got her sink fixed. I've had some of the funniest interactions with my partner on twitter while she was sitting next to me on the couch! I've interacted with fans of my writing, and writers I am a fan of. I've stayed in the homes of strangers (twice) that I only knew through social media. I met my illustrator through twitter, and plan to someday sleep on his couch as well. I could go on. I have tons of stories.

cjorgensen

This is akin to saying, "I know the heroin is killing me, but when I shoot up it feels great"

Twitter is a cancer. It took the worst, ugliest, most harmful aspects of online communication, or communication in general, and built a platform out of them. A platform that by nature encourages and amplifies the worst human instincts: instant response without thought, anger and bombast, tribalism.

Whatever good the platform has done the bad far, far outweighs it. Chief among that long, long list of evils is having a large hand in getting Trump elected. By Trump's own admission: "Without the tweets, I wouldn’t be here. I have over 100m [followers]. I don’t have to go to fake media." (And he reiterates the point: "Well, let me tell you about Twitter. I think that maybe I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Twitter, because I get such a fake press, such a dishonest press.")
posted by Sangermaine at 8:44 AM on October 16, 2017 [13 favorites]


But I'm pretty comfortable saying that until and unless there is a mass defection from the systems like these that have eaten the network, we'll keep getting pathological outcomes.

I think that's pretty true, and that's a fucked-up aspect of this whole thing. But it's fucked up partly because even a really successful campaign by every angry but thoughtful account-closer to socially pressure every angry but thoughtful account-maintainer into also shutting down their account would leave twitter with...a whole shitload of people who are more indifferent anyway. A campaign to induce a mass defection needs to aim at the masses, not at the edges; saying e.g. someone is critical but not critical enough doesn't do anything to get at the big shareholder-visible pile of people who aren't feeling particularly critical at all.

Unfucking this userbase momentum problem isn't gonna happen because sympatico people differing by degrees scrap with each other. It takes something bigger, and I don't know what that is but if someone figures it out I'd see Mike Monteiro as a pretty good person to try and draw in on it vs. write off.
posted by cortex at 8:47 AM on October 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


> The lemonade isn't the product. The customers are the product.

Ah yes, sometimes I forget this.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:54 AM on October 16, 2017


Sangermaine: Problem with just giving up on Twitter en masse is that Twitter has become a bit like indoor plumbing. You can live without it, but people are going to look at you funny when you say you don't use it.

Similarly, I once applied for a Social Media gig with The Wirecutter, and in the interview, I was asked why I didn't have a LinkedIn account. (I had issues with LinkedIn, plus I was trying to lay low from a previous, toxic employer.)

If you're putting yourself and your content out on the Internet, you kind of have to be on Twitter. The opportunity cost of giving it up is still a bit too high, so a lot of us pinch our noses and wade into the cesspool.
posted by SansPoint at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


His point about Twitter being fun and useful for meeting new people in the early days rings very true for me. We used to organize local "tweet-ups," - after work happy hours only publicized on Twitter. I'm still IRL friends with several people I met from those. I'd be terrified of who might show up today if we tried to do that.

Honestly, I'd delete my Twitter if I could get my friends to follow me elsewhere, like Mastodon or something.

When I stopped using FB a month ago I restarted my Tiny Letter weekly email. The only thing I've posted on FB the last few weeks is a subscribe link when I push out a new email - usually Sunday AM. I had 300 FB friends, I've got 26 Tiny Letter subscribers, and one is my mother! What I take from that is less than 10% of my Facebook friends actually want to hear from me once per week.

And I'm fine with that. 25 good connections is > 300 weak ones.
posted by COD at 8:58 AM on October 16, 2017 [24 favorites]


The shouts from the executive offices of twitter, aimed at the void, of "The system works!" have never been more clearly heard than recent days, and never more misguided.

I followed a twitter exchange with Biz Stone, surely sitting at the top tier of that executive tower, where someone pointed out a particularly gruesome tweet. "I've flagged that tweet!" he shouted, showing us that everyone up in that rarefied air has full faith in the system.

A couple days later, someone returned to remark the objectionable content was still there, but a handful of people who had brought it up had since been banned for using mean words to verified users. THE SYSTEM WORKS!
posted by mikeh at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2017 [15 favorites]


Sure there is: stop using Twitter. If enough users left, it would cause a change because it would then affect their business.

Individual boycotts aren't going to matter. Articles like The Myth of the Ethical Shopper are relevant - although Twitter doesn't have sweatshop conditions, it does have millions of users who aren't going to give it up, no matter how bad conditions get. They either don't know how to find something else, or the cesspit aspects don't personally reach them.

What we need is law enforcement to get involved - we need someone, probably the FBI, to decide that online harassment is an interstate crime and start going after perpetrators, not just sending a note to Twitter about "hey, this one is really bad; plz shut off this account." Go after the worst of the harassment cases just like they would if someone threatened a politician or celebrity (sometimes those are exactly what's happening); go after white-pride marches that claim they're going to be violent; go after drug- and gun-dealing conversations. Treat public posts like conversations happening in the lobby of a movie theatre - if the theatre won't throw out the people who act like criminals, the cops will step in and actively look for people causing trouble.

And don't stop because the account got suspended or deleted. If a guy walks through a neighborhood throwing rocks at windows, and the landlord comes out and takes his rocks away, the police don't say, "oh, it's all good now." They need to start treating online crimes as real crimes, not as "if you cancel that account the crime never happened."

Secondary to that is getting Twitter to enforce its TOS. It'd be first, but we've already seen that they don't want to, and aren't going to without severe outside pressure. A few criminal convictions, followed by civic lawsuits that also go after Twitter - for aiding and abetting by refusing to enforce their TOS - is what it would take for Twitter to change policies.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:08 AM on October 16, 2017 [23 favorites]


>How long will investors put up... ?
Until the the money runs out, i.e. corp cannot raise capital in public or PE markets, to cover expenses. Which is not benchmark of bankruptcy, but benchmark of debt service to preferred shareholders. Internal rate of return (IRR) -> 0.

Then the shareholder exit strategy kicks in. Which is not to say liquidation, but sale of the going concern. And that may materialize by LBO ("telegraphed" with so-called activist and proxy battle PR) , closed or open market solicitation also known as merger and acquisition (M&A).

This is standard practice in mysterious "creative destruction" philosophies of life.
posted by marycatherine at 9:10 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Not a huge twitter user but like reddit if you've chosen good reasonable context(the worst arguments in /r/math are genteel ;-) it's a fine platform

Still RTFT, but both Twitter and Reddit are good examples of how 'reading the comments' is fine if you both curate and moderate (or block, I guess in the case of Twitter) effectively. I am very choosy about which subreddits I visit (the cosmetics one I spend time on has a lot of discussion on cultural/capitalistic elements of the beauty industry, and 0% men telling us we look pretty without all that stuff on our faces) and never ever look at anything politics etc. related because I value my blood pressure. With Twitter, I have blocked a couple of people I really don't need retweeted into my timeline, so mine is mostly people I knew from Livejournal days, sexworker/trans activists, and police dog accounts.

Not that this is an argument against proper moderation, but you can rid yourself of these things much more effectively than on Facebook or most sites. (I notice IMDB turned off their comments, which I suspect was to do with the fact that every time I looked up an actress, there'd be several threads on whether she had 'lost it'.) I like internet discussion, I like the comments, at least when you are able to sift through the noise and the shitposting.
posted by mippy at 9:13 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Although fuck the TL:DR culture of Reddit. I should point that out. Build walls of text, not walls.
posted by mippy at 9:13 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


> "I know the heroin is killing me, but when I shoot up it feels great."

No it's not. It's really not.

I'm not addicted to twitter. It's not killing me. It's a tool.

If it had gotten Hillary the election instead of Trump you wouldn't be pointing it out as a negative. Twitter did a lot of elect Obama. Obama's use of the internet, targeted fundraising, data mining/big data, and use of social media helped him immensely. None of those things are evil by themselves.

I'll concede the tool is being misused by some, but that doesn't change its history, the positive experiences had there, nor the benefits still found.

I've never really heard of heroin being used as a tool to fight oppression and injustice, but twitter has. I've never followed heroin on social media, but I have followed several political movements, including donating to both the medical and legal funds of Standing Rock protestors who only were able to get their message out using twitter and Facebook.

I still remember the shining moment when it looked like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring were going to change the world. These only happened in large part because of twitter. That they failed can't be placed at their door.

I honestly think you can get out of it what you want. By the nature of the platform you can ignore most people and subjects. It doesn't bother me in the slightest if two people have a conversation I don't agree with as long as they have it over there. Follow only people you are interested in, filter out people with default avatars and unverified phone numbers, mute words you don't give a shit about (football, Trump, Brexit, tapioca), aggressively report and block the fuck out of bad bots, spammers, and bigots, and you'll not have anywhere near of a problem. Most people find it difficult to get attention and followers.

At the end of the day, it's a personal call, but pretending there is no benefit or positivity is disingenuous at best and revisionist history as well.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:15 AM on October 16, 2017 [16 favorites]


"Twitter was built at the tail end of that era. Their goal was giving everyone a voice. They were so obsessed with giving everyone a voice that they never stopped to wonder what would happen when everyone got one. And they never asked themselves what everyone meant."
Anyone who's ever watched Forbidden Planet should've had some hint of an inkling of a suspicion what might happen when everyone could instantly express any thought, fear, or hatred to everyone else in the world.

That said, I've always used twitter largely as an information delivery device. I've learned a lot from the 200 or so journalists, scholars, writers, artists, and institutions I follow, tho maybe nothing that I couldn't have gotten from a deeper read of various periodicals. I concede every criticism made of twitter today but I'd still consider it a loss if those voices vanished. I've played with Mastodon a little but, at least so far, there's nothing on it that interests me.

(I've also used to twitter to call Donnie a fucking moron on several occasions, so I guess I can't deny that I'm part of the problem, however small.)
posted by octobersurprise at 9:17 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I for one am pleased to learn that somebody may be reading SEC filings of a corporation. Further advice: always read the footnotes.
posted by marycatherine at 9:19 AM on October 16, 2017


cjorgensen: I still remember the shining moment when it looked like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring were going to change the world. These only happened in large part because of twitter. That they failed can't be placed at their door

And neither can their successes, as limited as they were, be placed at Twitter's door, either. Twitter loves to play up OWS and the Arab Spring because it's good for "Investor Storytime." They did nothing to cultivate activism, but are more than happy to take credit for it.

But what can be placed at Twitter's door is the effects of their negligence in maintaining the platform, to keep it safe, to keep users safe, and to take out the garbage. I mean, for shit's sake, I still get at least two "Buy Followers" spambots in my notifications each week. They can't even be bothered to check for shit like diacritics in text when someone sets up a spambot account.
posted by SansPoint at 9:20 AM on October 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


Remember Menshn? It was supposed to be the right-wing rival to Twitter. Thankfully it was a little while before the alt-right, otherwise it would have been VOAT to Twitter's Reddit.

On the other hand, it would keep all the dicks in one place.
posted by mippy at 9:21 AM on October 16, 2017


I'll concede the tool is being misused by some, but that doesn't change its history, the positive experiences had there, nor the benefits still found.

I say this without rancor or intent to upset, but this kind of strikes me as a very similar argument to some of the things I hear from people defending their ownership of guns. Sure, other people misuse them and cause harm, but I'm a responsible gun owner so it's not fair that my right to that be taken away, especially given the historical reasons we have the second amendment.

There's gotta be a tipping point somewhere at which your personal ability to use a tool for good is outweighed by evidence that as a society we are using it more for harm.
posted by solotoro at 9:22 AM on October 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


mippy: Gab still exists.
posted by SansPoint at 9:23 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


> And this is why we're fucked, I guess.

This seems like hyperbole to me.

I don't feel like I am fucked because my friends like to use Facebook, or that some of them even share shit that can be easily disproven. I don't mind when they make stupid arguments. Both these allow me to link to snopes or to play out thought in the marketplace of ideas. There is value to people being able to speak their minds even if what they are saying is objectionable to all right thinking people. It's only when others say stupid shit can the rest of the people have a chance to refute those messages.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:24 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Unfucking this userbase momentum problem isn't gonna happen because sympatico people differing by degrees scrap with each other. It takes something bigger, and I don't know what that is but if someone figures it out I'd see Mike Monteiro as a pretty good person to try and draw in on it vs. write off.

Yeah. To be clear, although I occasionally disagree vehemently with Mike Monteiro, I don't really want to invest any more energy in snarking at people who won't quit or whatever, or even honestly think that I can convince anyone to bail on twitfacegooglemazon by any means at all. I more think: Unfucking this problem isn't going to happen.

The web is bad now and the network as a whole is bad now. My plan is mostly hiding out in quiet corners while the world burns and maybe building small decent things if I can manage it.
posted by brennen at 9:25 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Gab still exists.

Oh, now they're ruining frogs as well. WHY CAN'T WE JUST HAVE NICE FROGS.
posted by mippy at 9:26 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, it would keep all the dicks in one place.

Eh. The problem with internet cesspools is they overflow. So trolls and Nazis owned 4chan and Reddit before they owned Twitter, but they'd use that to organize raids on Twitter and now it's theirs too.
posted by Artw at 9:29 AM on October 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


For the same reasons that we can't have swastikas as Buddhist symbols of good.
posted by acb at 9:30 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


cjorgensen: There is value to people being able to speak their minds even if what they are saying is objectionable to all right thinking people. It's only when others say stupid shit can the rest of the people have a chance to refute those messages.

The problem isn't necessarily people saying stupid shit. Twitter shouldn't ban you for getting on their platform and spouting about simultaneous four-day Time Cube or The Colossal Pillar of Wasp Eggs. The problem is when you have people saying violent shit, both straight up harassment and abuse, but also promoting toxic and violent ideologies like Neo-Nazism. That is where Twitter, Facebook, and Google have all failed, but none quite as spectacularly and brand-taintingly as Twitter.
posted by SansPoint at 9:30 AM on October 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


Early days Twitter was, to some degree, a kind of consolidated RSS feed / IM status / .plan file that felt looser and more flexible than The Other Social Networks and complementary to doing the rounds of blogs and/or following updates in your preferred RSS reader. It has now mostly sucked all of that stuff into its maw. And I'm glad for its broadening of the voices available, its lowering the barriers to entry, but by god it has let in a lot of shit.

Follow only people you are interested in, filter out people with default avatars and unverified phone numbers, mute words you don't give a shit about (football, Trump, Brexit, tapioca), aggressively report and block the fuck out of bad bots, spammers, and bigots, and you'll not have anywhere near of a problem.

You do, however, end up with a feed that looks like the transcript of an ancient papyrus unless you start, um, meta-filtering out the followers who quote-tweet terrible people to draw attention to their terribleness or have other interactions that expose user-defined lacunae. I remember Usenet types who built killfiles of such thoroughness and intricacy that they could reduce long, toxic troll-ridden threads to a couple of substantive posts, and while that probably improved their day compared to everybody else who read it, it's a bit like dressing up for the evening in a hazmat suit.
posted by holgate at 9:31 AM on October 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


The problem is when you have people saying violent shit, both straight up harassment and abuse, but also promoting toxic and violent ideologies like Neo-Nazism.

And maybe it's the circles I run in, but I saw far more refutations of Nazis, and encouragement for Nazi punching than I ever saw pro-Nazis.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:32 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


this kind of strikes me as a very similar argument to some of the things I hear from people defending their ownership of guns.

It's the same kind of argument you can make about every morally ambiguous technology, from guns to automobiles to television to industrial civilization. In nearly every case, genies don't go back in bottles and regulation and mitigation is the best hoped-for solution.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:33 AM on October 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


cjorgensen: I mostly get Nazi refutation too, but I also have a block list the size of the mighty Amazon, thanks to Randi Harper's work during GamerGate.

Despite that, any time I look into the replies to a high-profile tweet, I see plenty of the Nazis and their supporters posting their toxic, violent garbage.

Need I remind you that Richard Spencer is still on Twitter, and still verified.
posted by SansPoint at 9:35 AM on October 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


This "it's just a tool" argument strikes me as a facile way for some users to avoid having to engage in critiques of social media platforms in ways that might require them to change their actual behavior. It's also difficult for me to envision this argument being said with a straight face in regards to other extremely powerful multi-national corporations.

"There's nothing wrong with Wal-Mart, per se, it's just a tool, a place to buy things."

"Exxon-Mobil isn't really that bad, it's just a tool, a way to get energy in the form of oil to people who need it."

Wal-Mart and Exxon-Mobil do serve a purpose in our capitalist economy, but I can't imagine anyone but the most conservative of people saying that they are exempt from strong criticisms of their very specific malicious business practices, just because they provide some economic value.
posted by scantee at 9:40 AM on October 16, 2017 [12 favorites]


And maybe it's the circles I run in, but I saw far more refutations of Nazis, and encouragement for Nazi punching than I ever saw pro-Nazis.
First eagle: Do you think Mr. Owl is a predator?
Second eagle: Of course not. He's never bothered me.
First eagle: Yeah -- I've no idea what Mr. Mouse is going on about.
posted by introp at 9:41 AM on October 16, 2017 [31 favorites]


I honestly think you can get out of it what you want.

This is the kind of nonsense, universal experience statement that only a white man could make. I don't know a single woman, POC, or LGTBQ+ person who has the privilege of filtering Twitter for what they want, and think it's offensive to presume that there's an option for them to get what they want that they're not chosing.
posted by notorious medium at 9:42 AM on October 16, 2017 [37 favorites]


Even if the people targeted by Nazi misogynists and their ilk could choose to simply not experience terrible things because...magic, I guess, there's still the fact that there are externalities to this fuckery, like, say, electing a white supremacist into high office. Just because you're not watching the harm doesn't mean it's not happening.

This is really a stunning abandonment of anyone who is targeted by these people.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:46 AM on October 16, 2017 [23 favorites]


Exactly. The Internet is not a world unto itself anymore, if it ever truly was to begin with. Ask any of the victims of GamerGate, or the black activists targeted during Operation Lollipop. Threats in Twitter mentions are only the tip of the iceberg. People have been SWATted, had to move, forced to go into hiding, had their lives fucking destroyed because of unchecked abuse on social media. To not understand that now, in 2017, is to be willfully ignorant of the reality of the situation.
posted by SansPoint at 9:50 AM on October 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


This "it's just a tool" argument strikes me as a facile way for users to avoid having to engage in critiques of social media platforms in ways that might require them to change their actual behavior.

I don't believe that "it's a tool" means "it's an idol that musn't be interfered with." How tools are used are definitely situated in a network of social behaviors and definitely should be subject to criticism, moral, social, and legal.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:51 AM on October 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Hello, dear web product manager. Hello, technical engineering lead. Hello, potential technical co-founder. I'd like to give you a little bit of advice. If you are ever put into the spot where you're tasked with designing a new social network, there's one requirement I'd like you to absolutely mandate. (Besides "oh hell no I'm not creating a social network") Just one requirement. Everything else, knock yourself out. But this one requirement is absolutely set in stone.

Mandate that new users verify their accounts via SMS, and make the phone number a unique key.

"But hold on now, mark242, why on earth would I do that. I want my users to be able to sign up quickly so they can get to the onboarding experience and get to using my app and blah blah blah blah". No. You don't. What you want is a token that is (mostly) difficult for an abusive asshole to create. Phone numbers are (mostly) hard to spin up in bulk.

Is this a perfect solution? Hell no. It won't stop nation-state-sponsored trolling. It won't stop the dedicated basement dweller. But it will make it hard on your average shithead amplifier after his phone number gets banned. It will make it hard on your amateur troll. The amateur trolls aren't the root cause of the problem but they sure as hell are a wider swath of the abuse that you see. The very act of seeing that phone number in the signup form scares the crap out of them, because they are cowards. You will get far fewer signups but the quality of your userbase will be second to none.

"But hold on now, mark242, wait just a minute, sending SMS messages for every new user gets really expensive when I'm going to be *web scale*." Yeah, okay there, Zuck. Your Twilio bill will be $75 for every 10,000 users. If you can't get at least 10 times that in revenue from 10k users, maybe you need to re-think whether or not your idea is a good one.

So please - verify your users by phone number. It isn't hard, and your userbase will thank you.
posted by mark242 at 9:51 AM on October 16, 2017 [17 favorites]


I don't believe that "it's a tool" means "it's an idol that musn't be interfered with." How tools are used are definitely situated in a network of social behaviors and definitely should be subject to criticism, moral, social, and legal.

I don't believe that either. I do believe that people who say it's just a tool use that belief as justification for suggesting that social media corporations aren't quite as bad as other kinds of corporations.

What's a corporation that's widely hated? Monsanto seems to be on many people's shitlists. Instead, of thinking that Twitter, Facebook, and Google aren't quite as bad as a corporation like Monsanto (or Wal-Mart or Exxon) I think it would behoove us to assume that they are certainly just as bad as those corporations, and proceed accordingly in terms of how we interact with them personally and, more importantly, through advocacy of public policy that limits their power.
posted by scantee at 9:58 AM on October 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


This is very good and I appreciate that an insider wrote this to his peers.
posted by latkes at 10:17 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I do believe that people who say it's just a tool use that belief as justification for suggesting that social media corporations aren't quite as bad as other kinds of corporations.

I don't doubt that some people do say that. I think a debate over the relative badness of Twitter vis-à-vis Monsanto or Exxon is fairly futile, but I don't for a moment believe that they are a "good" corporation or that even if they were that they are or should be exempt from the kinds of public criticism, political regulation, and legal accountability to which every other endeavor—and the use of every other tool—should be subject.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:22 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Mandate that new users verify their accounts via SMS, and make the phone number a unique key.
You have suggested a technical solution to a social problem which itself spawns a whole host of new discriminatory problems. Please don't.
posted by introp at 10:43 AM on October 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


introp: I'm not sure it's as discriminatory as you think. 95% of Americans have a cell phone that can receive SMS---even a flip phone can do that---and most people with Internet access outside of the first world have it via smartphone. SMS access is pretty dang ubiquitous now.
posted by SansPoint at 10:49 AM on October 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


I still get phone calls for the person who used to have my number, but at least I don’t get their tweets, too.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 11:09 AM on October 16, 2017


More people have phones than computers, last I checked.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:09 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Cross-posted from the other "Twitter is a wretched hive of scum and villainy" thread:

To set your location on the iOS X Twitter app:
Click your picture in the upper left.
Go to 'Settings and Privacy', then 'Content preferences'.
Click 'Trends', then disable 'Trends for you'.
You will now be able to change your location to Germany.

If enough people switch their location to Germany (where Nazi accounts are muted automatically), it would show that there is a demand for a more moderated Twitter.
posted by domo at 11:16 AM on October 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


Mandate that new users verify their accounts via SMS, and make the phone number a unique key.
There are many legitimate reasons for one person to have many Twitter usernames. Usernames aren't just people—they're businesses, news aggregators, art projects, and lots more.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 11:17 AM on October 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Apparently over 95% of Americans own a cell phone, with 77% of Americans specifically owning smartphones. (Source.)
posted by XtinaS at 11:18 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I deleted my twitter account yesterday because I had subbed to all the imaginable block lists I could but the end of the day it wasn't the TERF's or the Kek's that got me to bail, it was my fellow trans women on twitter who became too irritating to bear and then I realized there was no way I could abide the platform. Twitter sucks. The interface is designed to maximize the shittiest of our human potential.

And while I was at it I blew away my FB account as well because fuck that place also.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:19 AM on October 16, 2017 [12 favorites]


I think mark242's idea is to use the phone number not as an identifier, but as a token. E.g, I'd still be @sanspoint on Twitter, but @sanspoint would be tied to 555-555-1234 to prove that I am @sanspoint. It wouldn't be public. If I start being a terrible person, Twitter can block me and my phone number, and it would be a lot harder for me to set up a new account without changing my phone number.

Now, any reasonable implementation of this would allow to change the phone number token in Twitter, in case one needs to change their phone number (moving to a different country, for example, or changing a number to avoid abuse).

---

To ArmandoAkimbo's point, perhaps there can be tiers of accounts. If you need to have a Bot Account, that's a different thing. How about if you need/want Bot API access, you pay $5 up front, and a certain amount per month for tweets over a certain number per month. And, of course, if your Bot misbehaves and violates the TOS, you can get your API access shut down.
posted by SansPoint at 11:22 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


If I start being a terrible person, Twitter can block me and my phone number, and it would be a lot harder for me to set up a new account without changing my phone number.

The part of this fancy new technical suggestion that already fails: Twitter doesn't block terrible people now. Having phone-to-account verification doesn't solve for the Twitter folk being total fuckers about who to and to not block.
posted by XtinaS at 11:26 AM on October 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'd prefer the frogs to the shitstorm that Twitter has become. I have an old account there. From the very beginning. I no longer go on. Not for a while now.
posted by Splunge at 11:27 AM on October 16, 2017


XtinaS: The part of this fancy new technical suggestion that already fails: Twitter doesn't block terrible people now. Having phone-to-account verification doesn't solve for the Twitter folk being total fuckers about who to and to not block.

Well, yes. Perhaps, replace "Twitter" in that comment with "New, Twitter-like Social Network Run by People Who Actually Give A Shit"
posted by SansPoint at 11:27 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


If enough people switch their location to Germany (where Nazi accounts are muted automatically), it would show that there is a demand for a more moderated Twitter.

I set mine to Tokyo, mostly because I can't read Japanese and thus the tide of celebrity gossip/sports results/product placement/other banalities Twitter insists that I, as a normal, monetisable human unit must be interested in consuming becomes just noise.
posted by acb at 11:39 AM on October 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


Twitter is really big in Japan though - I follow several accounts which I don't understand, but which provide me with pleasing images of mascots getting stuck in doors.
posted by mippy at 12:23 PM on October 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


Brilliant! "moving" to Japan immediately. Twitter doesn't offer Finland as an option for trends.
posted by infini at 12:30 PM on October 16, 2017


Twitter's problem is that their very model assumes people want to be exposed to the whole world, period. Most social media doesn't let J. Rando tag you in a post if you're not friends. Twitter does. Most social media makes it easy to tailor your post's audience (friends only, friends of friends, subgroup of friends), but Twitter does not.

Blocking works on Facebook (to a degree) because Facebook defaults to hiding messages from unconnected strangers. If someone creates a new account to pester you, it might tell you J. Rando wants to chat, but you don't see the message. Blocking on Twitter doesn't work at all, because the harassers can create new accounts and tweet at you faster than you can block, and Twitter *lets them.*

Until Twitter changes their actual model of use, Twitter becomes nigh-unusable for anyone who'd like to actually interact on Twitter, but manages to upset even a few dedicated haters. I assume Trump et al can use Twitter only because they're using it as a one-way megaphone, and not actually interacting with other users.
posted by explosion at 12:47 PM on October 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


> Need I remind you that Richard Spencer is still on Twitter, and still verified.

But I want him on twitter. When I was in college some dumbasses took to putting racist bullshit on their doors. Freedom of speech and all that. There were obvious outcries and objections, and the administration's response was to ban all signage on doors. The bigots didn't go away. You just could no longer identify them as easily (or at all). I thought they were doing the world a service by broadcasting their ignorance.

We'd also get the occasional Westboro Baptist asshat preaching on campus. It was never well received. Same with the flat-earthers, intelligent design people, Nazis/KKK, anti-vaxxers, and global warming deniers. They don't go away just because you stopped them from talking for now.

You can't fight ignorance if you deny ignorance a voice.

This said, I don't follow Richard Spencer. I don't care what he has to say. (I'm ashamed to admit I watched the video of him being punched entirely too many times to be healthy.) But I will always believe the answer to bad speech is more and more better speech.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:52 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


explosion: Twitter has two account settings: public or private. Either the whole world sees your posts, or just your friends. There is no middle ground. No "These tweets are public, and those tweets are private." It's all or none. By comparison, Mastodon has three levels of privacy per post: Public, Unlisted (can be seen on your timeline, but not in a public feed) or Friends Only.

cjorgensen: If Spencer gets booted from Twitter, he still has a voice. He can fuck off to Gab. He can set up a Mastodon instance for him and his Neo-Nazi buddies. He can start a blog. He has a right to speak, sure, but he doesn't have the right to use Twitter as a platform. Banning Spencer would make Twitter a safer platform for the kind of people his very presence silences. We can't make them go away, sure, but we can keep them from having as wide of an impact, and keep them from enabling more violence and abuse.
posted by SansPoint at 12:58 PM on October 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


They also don't have an opportunity to convince others of their genocidal ways if they don't have an approved platform from which to pontificate. They also drive away people who are attacked by such folk on those platforms.

I'd be perfectly happy--I would be the Platonic ideal of happy--if I could go on Twitter and be fairly certain that if someone espoused genocidal racist bullshit crap, they'd be kicked off and out. I don't want to always try to rehabilitate scum. Sometimes I want to use the god damn service without worrying about the Pepes coming for me and mine.
posted by XtinaS at 12:59 PM on October 16, 2017 [13 favorites]


Freedom of speech and all that.

Turns out that theory of free speech more Nazis meaning free speech for Nazis hasn't really born out since they silence everyone else.
posted by Artw at 1:00 PM on October 16, 2017 [12 favorites]


You can't fight ignorance if you deny ignorance a voice.

This is simply untrue. The flat earthers are not being convinced of their wrongness by having a voice. The anti-vaxxers are not being convinced of their wrongness by having a voice. Nor are the white supremacists.

It turns out that fear of reprisal and looking stupid and being banned for being an idiot has a much more beneficial effect than all the free speechers ever thought.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:00 PM on October 16, 2017 [22 favorites]


The problem with internet cesspools is they overflow.

Yeah. And that's what concerns me with the current Metafilter groundswell of "move to Mastodon, it's great there, it's like Twitter without the assholes." THE ASSHOLES WILL INEVITABLY FOLLOW. And I'm not at all convinced that Mastodon's instances-run-by-volunteers-out-of-love model is going to be any better at moderating the huge-influx-of-assholes problem than Twitter is.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:01 PM on October 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


> First eagle: Do you think Mr. Owl is a predator?

No one is denying there are bad actors in the world. But to use your analogy, you are suggesting if the eagles aren't bothered, then all is well for the eagles and owls, but it sucks to be a mouse. All analogies break down at some point, but I would say I was heartened by the number of mice that stood up and said no more and who got an eagle or two to join them.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:01 PM on October 16, 2017


But I want him on twitter.

Good for you, but I sure as fuck don't. I'm pretty comfortable taking the position that the answer to being a fucking nazi is being booted out of any decent space. It's remarkable that twitter's answer differs when free speech absolutism is clearly not something they're actually pursuing.
posted by cortex at 1:01 PM on October 16, 2017 [33 favorites]


So, is there a "water filter" for the stream of shit that is Twitter? I keep hearing Mastodon thrown around but I'm thinking an invite only Thing that relays tweets (and can tweet out) with a pyramid like design? You get two invites to pass on per week/month/whatever but if anyone in your tree of invites fucks up you/your entire invite tree loses the ability to invite people for X time while the mess is removed. Maybe tie in the phone number bit mentioned up thread for an account to this "Biosafety Cabinet That Twitter Lives In" service.

I imagine it's already been tried and that the results have either been clunky, against Twitter TOS, requiring too many mod hours, etc etc.

I guess what I'm saying is that there's a lot of talk about alternatives to Twitter (hard because so much is already tied into Twitter) or getting Twitter to change (which doesn't seem likely as the top execs seem really too keen on letting the alt-right stick around) but I don't hear about people trying ignore both of the above issues with something hacky.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:02 PM on October 16, 2017


When I was in college some dumbasses took to putting racist bullshit on their doors. Freedom of speech and all that. There were obvious outcries and objections, and the administration's response was to ban all signage on doors. The bigots didn't go away. You just could no longer identify them as easily (or at all). I thought they were doing the world a service by broadcasting their ignorance.

It's easy to think that when you're not the target. Maybe it becomes harder to identify the bigots, but I'd imagine that minorities had a reduction in stress with not having to deal with hate aimed at them as part of living their lives.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:04 PM on October 16, 2017 [15 favorites]


We had a deal, Kyle: One of the advantages to Mastodon is that many instances have active moderation and so, if a bunch of Nazi assholes join up and start shitting in the pool, your instance admin will likely shut that shit down. If a bunch of Nazi assholes spin up a Nazi instance and start shitting in the pool, your instance admin can block that Nazi instance from federating with yours.

It's not perfect, but it's still better than Twitter in that bad actors and instances hosting bad actors can be contained.

Slackermagee: For a "water filter" you can try using Block Together to share blocklists and block typically problematic accounts ahead of time. I also like using Tweetbot, a third party client for Mac and iOS that has good filtering functionality: you can mute hashtags, users, clients, phrases in tweets, and even use regular expressions. However, it's a paid app.
posted by SansPoint at 1:06 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I love Mike, and I look forward to long pieces like this by him. But he gets the ending wrong.
They built the platform with the best of intentions.
I wanted to believe that for a long time, but I don't anymore. Twitter has shown time and time again that it's a platform mostly designed for people like Jack and Biz—upwardly mobile, right-leaning venture capital bros who probably align much better politically with the Google memo author and the pharma bro than with Barack Obama.

The dream of the internet in the 90's—the leftist, progressive hacker aesthetic (hell, the dream of Metafilter itself)—is dead. We're just now realizing it.
posted by littlerobothead at 1:06 PM on October 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


It turns out that fear of reprisal and looking stupid and being banned for being an idiot has a much more beneficial effect than all the free speechers ever thought.

This forever. "Free speech" has morphed into "freedom from consequences" so incredibly thoroughly that folk are advocating for letting Nazis speak in public spaces because that way we can argue with them*. I don't want to argue with them. I want them shut down and out, isolated and siloed, and publicly mocked if possible.

Sure, they get to talk. In their rooms, in private, where no one can hear them.

* Folk arguing this position don't seem to remember that sometimes the targets of such haters don't particularly feel safe doing the arguing.
posted by XtinaS at 1:08 PM on October 16, 2017 [21 favorites]


The flat earthers are not being convinced of their wrongness by having a voice. The anti-vaxxers are not being convinced of their wrongness by having a voice. Nor are the white supremacists.

I'm not trying to convince them. They are (often) a lost cause. But sometimes someone's purpose in life is to serve as an example for others. The guy who says, "Whites are better than everyone else!" probably isn't someone I am going to be able to debate and reason out of this opinion, same with the flat earther, but when they speak up, and are resoundingly shut down, the other side becomes stronger in its messaging.

It turns out that fear of reprisal and looking stupid and being banned for being an idiot has a much more beneficial effect than all the free speechers ever thought.

Looking stupid is how a lot of people learn, but it's difficult to educate someone if you don't know they are ignorant. I would argue you are utterly wrong on your method being more effective than speech and debate. If public shaming, banning, and looking stupid were enough to effect change we'd have someone else in the White House right now.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:08 PM on October 16, 2017


cjorgensen: If public shaming, banning, and looking stupid were enough to effect change we'd have someone else in the White House right now.

And if Twitter actually banned Nazi accounts and the current situation still happened, you'd have a point. The problem is that Nazi bullshit is rampant on Twitter, they don't do anything about it. It's normalized.

Twitter regularly likes to toot their own horn about how many ISIS-linked accounts they shut down. Should Twitter let those accounts stay up and be public, despite the real world consequences? If Twitter must be a platform for the violent rhetoric of Neo-Nazis, why shouldn't it also be a platform for the violent rhetoric of ISIS?
posted by SansPoint at 1:12 PM on October 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


THE ASSHOLES WILL INEVITABLY FOLLOW

Well, the assholes will inevitably try to. But (a) the assholes aren't already there, and (b) it's possible to take an active role in moderation and community management and community self-policing to prevent the assholes from setting up shop.

Like, I feel you on the idea that "let's leave and go somewhere else" doesn't solve the fundamental problem. But I like mastodon because it's a place to share space that isn't as toxic and fucked as twitter actually definitely specifically currently is; and I like it because it has the capacity to try and prevent that from changing. I don't know if it'll work, I don't know if mastodon will ever scale that much either, but if my choice is penning myself in on twitter vs. trying to be somewhere that makes me happier and feels aspirational, I'm gonna put some energy in on the latter even if its not a cure-all.

But sometimes someone's purpose in life is to serve as an example for others.

Yeah but my dude the process of "serving as an example" can itself be hurting people. You stand at a distance and say hey, look at that wronger mcwrongerson with his bad speech, what a jerk, and otherwise walk away unharmed? Dandy for you but not so dandy for the people being harmed by his bullshit. You want Richard Spencer on twitter speaking his mind, I want him the fuck off because I see the friends talking about confronting a return of the kind of rhetoric that lost them and me family when Hitler fired up fucking gas chambers in WWII. Being a nazi with a blue checkmark isn't harmless jerkery. It's fucked up.
posted by cortex at 1:14 PM on October 16, 2017 [26 favorites]


I thought they were doing the world a service by broadcasting their ignorance.

What is it going to take for white cis men to understand that hate speech hurts people? By the same logic, we should be just fine with catcalling and sexual harassment because hey, at least that lets us know who the sleazebag rapists are!
posted by AFABulous at 1:21 PM on October 16, 2017 [35 favorites]


> I don't want to argue with them.

Then don't.

Your attitude is scarier to me than Nazis. Why? Because Nazis are ludicrous. No one other than Nazis and Nazi-sympathizers are going to argue for Nazism.

But the idea that speech we don't like should be "shut down and out, isolated and siloed, and publicly mocked if possible," is insidious because it seems reasonable.

Sure, they get to talk. In their rooms, in private, where no one can hear them.

Man, if we're going to start making a list of all the subjects and groups that are deemed unacceptable and should be isolated and mocked it's going to be a long one. I get the appeal, but you realize the same exact feelings you are having about bigots on twitter are the same feelings these bigots (and some not bigots) are having about NFL protestors? I guess I don't trust people enough to make this list for me.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:21 PM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


How do you not understand the difference between "I want to kill Black people" and "I don't want to be killed"? You look ridiculous.
posted by AFABulous at 1:24 PM on October 16, 2017 [31 favorites]


I'm never overly bothered by people acting like jerks on the internet. Yes, there is a signal-to-noise ratio problem that make going there painful, but actually twitter can easily have a better signal-to-noise ratio than moderated forums like metafitler.. except if you count page download times where twitter just sucks amazingly hard.

I believe twitter's success is partially due to providing a relatively fair but not manipulated notion of trending topics/hashtags. It's a place where movements like black lives matter can actually gain a foothold. And this makes it a place where important people want to be. There is zero chance this unfettered access to the public consciousness will be permitted to continue indefinitely however. Investors will fix that!

We'll eventually need some distributed scheme that provides a twitter-like discussion along with a fair notion of trending topics, but you cannot just naively count tweets because then bots will manipulate your stats like crazy.

I think "Proof of Personhood Parties" could help provide this fairness despite all the bots, companies, etc. Imagine we've some public federated system like mastodon where anybody can post anything they like under basically whatever name they like:

If you've gone to a proof-of-personhood (PoP) party then you have distinct identity for every hashtag that cannot be linked either to you or to your identities for other hashtags, as it uses ring signatures. You only have one identity per hashtag because you could only physically make it to one PoP party, well unless you paid some homeless guy to go for you. Anytime you retweet a hashtag, you may optionally publicize it by signing it with this unlinkable identity, maybe you'll deanonymize your unique per hashtag identity by publicizing all your own tweets of course, but that's your problem. Aggregators would collect these publicize ring signatures to provide accurate public counts as to how many unique people were publicizing how many tweets with a particular hashtag.

In essence, we replace twitter's elaborate super-secret anti-spam system with users needing to go to nearby parties once or twice a year.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:26 PM on October 16, 2017


No one other than Nazis and Nazi-sympathizers are going to argue for Nazism.

Unfortunately, this is not true in practice. Please see this FPP.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:28 PM on October 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


cjorgensen: You're treading dangerously close to "Antifa are the real fascists" territory here.

I'm reminded of Sartre in Anti-Semite and Jew
The anti-Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith; at the outset he has chosen to devaluate words and reasons. How entirely at ease he feels as a result. How futile and frivolous discussions about the rights of the Jew appear to him. He has pleased himself on other ground from the beginning. If out of courtesy he consents for a moment to defend his point of view, he lends himself but does not give himself. He tries simply to project his intuitive certainty onto the plane of discourse. I mentioned awhile back some remarks by anti-Semites, all of them absurd: "I hate Jews because they make servants insubordinate, because a Jewish furrier robbed me, etc." Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side.
posted by SansPoint at 1:28 PM on October 16, 2017 [18 favorites]


Your attitude is scarier to me than Nazis. Why? Because Nazis are ludicrous.

They killed 11 million people. Given the chance they will do the same again.
posted by Artw at 1:30 PM on October 16, 2017 [33 favorites]


"Your attitude is scarier to me than Nazis. Why? Because Nazis are ludicrous. No one other than Nazis and Nazi-sympathizers are going to argue for Nazism."

This just in: Me saying that Nazis should fuck off and not speak to decent human beings (including their victims/targets)--literal actual serious for-real Nazis--is scarier than someone literally advocating genocide.

What is wrong with you.
posted by XtinaS at 1:31 PM on October 16, 2017 [33 favorites]


Because Nazis are ludicrous.

Circus clowns are ludicrous. Nazis murdered millions of Jews and a whole lot of other people besides, as the apotheosis of a mass campaign of dehumanization. That's history in living memory, not the plot of an absurdist novel. It's a history being celebrated today by fuckos who would be happy to pursue a repeat, and that rhetoric, that bad speech, is getting nodded along to to the extent that we have a clatch of monsters in the White House and far-right, xenophobic groundswells in Europe.

Fuck nazis. Think a lot harder about how some stalwart absolutist defense of free speech creates space for them at the cost of the people they want to harm. Think a lot harder about whether you want to carry water for them for the sake of ideological consistency. Because what you dismiss so easily and persistently as ludicrous or laughable or shruggingly tolerable is scary as fuck to a lot of people who have more skin in the game than you.
posted by cortex at 1:37 PM on October 16, 2017 [46 favorites]


You're treading dangerously close to "Antifa are the real fascists" territory here.

Bah, I'm for the side using non-violent speech. If rocks and fists are being thrown I don't care what the motivations are of those throwing them. I'm going to take the peaceful groups side. Same with some asshat driving a car over people. I'm automatically on the side of the people going about their peaceful business.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:38 PM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Advocating for genocide is itself violence.

So then, your response would be...
posted by XtinaS at 1:40 PM on October 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


You're not on our side if you don't want to protect us.
posted by AFABulous at 1:40 PM on October 16, 2017 [18 favorites]


cjorgensen: As others have pointed out, the very ideas behind Nazism and white supremacy are the opposite of peaceful. When the rhetoric is literally "these people are subhuman and should die," that is not peaceful speech. It is violence, pure and simple. If someone going about their "peaceful" business calling for the death of people because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation, they are not actually peaceful.

And by not pushing back against this violence, you become complicit in it.
posted by SansPoint at 1:42 PM on October 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


We need a new feature for muting nazi sympathizers.
posted by Artw at 1:43 PM on October 16, 2017 [14 favorites]


But I will always believe the answer to bad speech is more and more better speech.

Within certain rule-governed spaces—a debate, the academy, polite society, possibly others—and over a period of historical time, this is probably true more often than it isn't. And the benefits that accrue to culture and intellectual life by acting as if it is true more or less often are probably worth holding on to the belief. But any knowledge of history would suggest almost innumerable cases where it is obviously not true or not true enough or not true enough at the moment that it most needed to be true. It's not an axiom that can be relied upon to be true independently of the rules that make civilization possible.

The surest way to eliminate a signal is to overwhelm it in white noise.

I'm maybe not as sanguine as others that there are easy ways to protect society from lies, rumors, calumny, and hateful speech, but I think it's a mistake to assume that "better" speech will necessarily prevail over it merely by virtue of being better.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:45 PM on October 16, 2017 [13 favorites]


I don't always thing better speech will prevail. But I do think it's always the answer.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:48 PM on October 16, 2017


Well thank you, spirit of 1997, we'll take that under advisement.
posted by Artw at 1:49 PM on October 16, 2017 [22 favorites]


I don't always thing better speech will prevail. But I do think it's always the answer.

Sounds like someone who has never experienced speech as violence, in spaces where people have a right to expect better.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:50 PM on October 16, 2017 [21 favorites]


Feel free to side with the Nazis, who claim to be peaceful today while they beat people to death behind the building. As you sow...
posted by introp at 1:50 PM on October 16, 2017 [7 favorites]


I don't always thing better speech will prevail. But I do think it's always the answer

In the abstract, tho, isn't that merely a privileging of form over content—it isn't important what gets said, just that it can be said? And isn't that in itself pretty much the antithesis of anything resembling "better" speech?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


cjorgensen: I don't always thing better speech will prevail. But I do think it's always the answer.

So if a group of Neo-Nazis try to beat my queer ass into a pulp because I had the audacity to not be heterosexual in their vicinity, the answer is to use better speech, not my fists, or whatever large, heavy object I can get my hands around. Thanks.
posted by SansPoint at 1:54 PM on October 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


> Think a lot harder about whether you want to carry water for them for the sake of ideological consistency.

I don't carry water for Nazis. Fuck Nazis.

But as soon as you decide that the Ann Coulters of this world and the "clatch of monsters in the White House" should be silenced, you're not too far from thinking some ideologies should just be banned. Then what?

A "stalwart absolutist defense of free speech" does have drawbacks. I'd be an idiot if I suggested there was no price to pay to have free speech, but it beats the alternative.
"[T]he ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution." —Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:55 PM on October 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


cjorgensen: Some ideas should be banned. Namely, the ideas around Nazism and White Supremacy, the view that non-white, non-cis, and non-heterosexual people are less than human and should be exterminated. There is no society in which this point of view can be acceptable that could possibly be considered a just society.

Nazis are humans, they're just shitty humans who need to shut the fuck up. There's quite the difference between "Don't spout your dehumanizing violent horseshit" and "You are subhuman and need to die."
posted by SansPoint at 2:00 PM on October 16, 2017 [16 favorites]


But as soon as you decide that the Ann Coulters of this world and the "clatch of monsters in the White House" should be silenced, you're not too far from thinking some ideologies should just be banned. Then what?

I've got litterboxes to clean which seems more fun than arguing with you but... "then what" means we can have a safer society where marginalized people aren't silenced. If not for your long history here, I'd almost think you're trolling. Can you really not see how whipping people up into a frenzy of hate always leads directly to physical violence? Why should that be tolerated?
posted by AFABulous at 2:01 PM on October 16, 2017 [16 favorites]


A "stalwart absolutist defense of free speech" does have drawbacks.

Tell the dead that they're drawbacks. Tell the terrified, the beaten, the disenfranchised. Tell everyone who actually feels the existential terror of being in a world where "now, now, let's let the nazis say their piece" is the genteel response of people living outside that terror.

Right now you are bending over backward to not say "maybe Nazis should in fact shut the fuck up". You're putting in a hell of a lot of effort there. And you can say you're defending a principle and not the Nazis exploiting that principle, but they are who you are actually helping with this. That's what lets the fuckers keep spreading the good word. That exact tolerance-of-anything-speech-shaped absolutism.

Festering hatred and xenophobia and dehumanization is a hell of a price to consider better than taking megaphones away from the Richard Spencers of the world, and it is a price you are suggesting you are willing to let other people pay if it means you don't have to budge on an abstract principle.

You don't want to carry water, put the fuckin' bucket down.
posted by cortex at 2:02 PM on October 16, 2017 [48 favorites]


Dude, i so wish we could transmit more knowledge of 2017 back to you twenty years in the past, because it's almost like without that knowledge you are bringing out a bunch of hypothetical arguments that waste our time. But I will transmit this nugget back: Ann Coulter is in no danger of being silenced.
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on October 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


The "marketplace of ideas" is hot nonsense. Shit like Nazism and white supremacy are literal mind-viruses that short-circuit rationality because they make the espouser of ideas feel powerful. I could argue with Richard Spencer until I am blue in the face about how I, a queer man, deserve to live, about how my genderqueer partner deserves to live, about how my transgender, black, and Jewish friends deserve to live. But I can guarantee there isn't a word I can say to Richard Spencer that would convince him, because he does not give a flying fuck about the counter-argument. He gives only a fuck about being a superior, powerful, violent white guy who wants to crush everyone not like him under his feet.

Some people cannot be convinced by argument.

But if you make it harder for those people to insert their toxic ideas into other people's heads, you make it harder for those viruses to spread.
posted by SansPoint at 2:06 PM on October 16, 2017 [13 favorites]


"There is a term for people who say "Both sides are bad," when one side is nazis. They are called Nazi sympathizers."
-- @HalpernAlex

If you're standing on your principle over the bodies of people targeted by the scum, then you are complicit.
posted by XtinaS at 2:07 PM on October 16, 2017 [24 favorites]


I don't always thing better speech will prevail. But I do think it's always the answer.

This is exactly the mindset as to why I left twitter and why I no longer believe in free speech, as it were.

Because this obsession with free speech, thinking that it should always be unfettered, is actually, paradoxically, silencing, in the same vein as the "paradox of tolerance". Numerous minorities continue to leave platforms, or stop talking, in the wake of every hate maelstrom created by the privileged white mass.

I let my Twitter account go fallow. It's locked now, I put nothing on it, and I stripped out everything in the profile I could. I'm not exactly saying I had anything of value to say, but in the wake of GamerGate? No way in hell was I going to leave that opening.

I killed my Quora account after several super creepy messages. Almost everything is anonymous now, and I no longer write there, nor do I respond. Whatever is still attached to my very identifiable and unique name was already published on a larger platform, so that cat is out of the bag.

Everywhere I am, I've taken mild pains to reduce the target surface. I've tried to take up less space. Everything I lock, I seal, I hide. Even then, a sleuth could conceivably still track me down.

Why? Well, their free speech. And I know that I don't have many defenses, really. And I don't want to attract the baleful eye of white supremacy.

Again. I don't know if anything I have to say is of value. But I also don't want to risk what little I have, and so I no longer say much. I've gone silent in many places, because it's clear free speech isn't for people like me, and I am not as brave as others.

And you're right. It'd be a shame if some thoughts were outright banned, I guess, declared thoughtcrime, and so on. I guess it's less of a shame that some voices don't want to speak instead.

So worried about having warm camembert alongside cheddar, you're okay with stinky tofu and isitshwala disappearing.
posted by anem0ne at 2:11 PM on October 16, 2017 [29 favorites]


introp: You have suggested a technical solution to a social problem

I want to be perfectly clear-- there is no technical solution to this problem. Technology alone cannot solve the "anonymity begets assholes" conundrum. (As an aside, I think this is why Twitter is so monumentally fucked. They're drowning in a sea of hatred and they can't code themselves out of this. See Slashdot's karma system.)

The one thing that technology can do is to make the act of abusing someone else more difficult. Right now, on Twitter, it takes almost zero effort to crank up a thousand accounts to @ someone and make their lives a living hell. That is wrong, period, and it speaks to Twitter's malfeasance that they allow that ease of abuse to continue. You could argue that Reddit is just one small step above that; it takes five seconds to create an account and then potentially spin up another abusive garbage subreddit.

Adding in a very simple barrier like SMS verification to a hypothetical Twitter2 is definitely not a solution. However, it is at the very least a barrier which abusers will have to work around, and it is a (again, mostly) tough barrier to overcome, especially for those more casual assholes who do nothing but amplify attacks.
posted by mark242 at 2:11 PM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


The "marketplace of ideas" is hot nonsense.
There is no marketplace of ideas when so many of the purveyors of ideas are trolls and bots and paid shills and computer algorithms. You cannot change the mind of a Russian troll or a bot or a lobbyist with reason or cajoling or linguistic legerdemain.
posted by xyzzy at 2:14 PM on October 16, 2017 [16 favorites]


As far as the SMS notion goes, SMS is staggeringly easy enough to spoof (via technical ways, as well as social engineering) that NIST no longer recommends it for 2FA.

In other words, it's not unique/secure enough to really serve as barrier for any abuser, particularly because the tools to technically defeat it are easy enough to access.
posted by anem0ne at 2:14 PM on October 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Adding in a very simple barrier like SMS verification to a hypothetical Twitter2 is definitely not a solution. However, it is at the very least a barrier which abusers will have to work around, and it is a (again, mostly) tough barrier to overcome, especially for those more casual assholes who do nothing but amplify attacks.
That's very true. I'd be sad to miss out on some of the weird bots I follow (dril, ApprovedNews6, &c), but (a) I'm sure there could be a workaround and (b) the increased barrier to entry would be more than worth it.
posted by XtinaS at 2:17 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


If only we had a pithy phrase to describe people who sympathize with Nazis.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:18 PM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Additionally, you refer to Twilio; both it and Google Voice can easily create new SMS boxes that can receive as well as send, again defeating the point of having it as a unique identifier.
posted by anem0ne at 2:23 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


You cannot change the mind of a Russian troll or a bot or a lobbyist with reason or cajoling or linguistic legerdemain.

But they can still behave just like the little agitators on the playground in middle school, stirring up fights, bad feeling and creating the perception of conflict where it doesn’t really exist to get a mob whipped up, just like the passive instigators who stir up gossip and lie to start playground fights because the kids have gotten bored with the routine and want to see a good fight. Of course, with the bots, the goals are even less innocent than that. Yeah, the social problem is serious and real and possibly still growing quickly but there is a technological aspect involved that’s making it worse.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:28 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


anem0ne True, but it's harder to do that at scale. You'd need to set up a new Google Account, then set up a new Google Voice/Twilio account, and get those all running. It adds friction, which is enough to put quite a dent into potential mass account abuse.
posted by SansPoint at 2:29 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


anem0ne: In other words, it's not unique/secure enough to really serve as barrier for any abuser

I strongly disagree, and while I'm not attacking you personally, this kind of statement smacks of something that a product manager inside Twitter might say to justify not even trying.

You try to register for my social network. I ask for your phone number and only allow you in after you've put in a code that I've sent to you via SMS. There are a million ways around this, of course there are, but J. Random Asshole just isn't going to go through the effort. There is a wide gap between "I'm going to fire up a bot to try 100k combinations of this SMS code" and "hey I don't like Leslie Jones either, so I'm going to retweet this racist garbage" and it's okay to try to stop the latter without the technical chops to stop the former.
posted by mark242 at 2:33 PM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I strongly disagree, and while I'm not attacking you personally, this kind of statement smacks of something that a product manager inside Twitter might say to justify not even trying.

I mean, yes, I know that on my 360-review I was dinged for always pointing out why something won't work and not offering a solution, sometimes the problem is that maybe I don't have a workable idea/alternative at that point?

I'm not saying not to try, I'm saying that I don't think its sufficient and I don't think it'll work as one intends.

But, whatever. I'm not interested in arguing the point.
posted by anem0ne at 2:40 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Relevant plug for people to check out my project just posted to MeFi projects: MuckTweet. It's a Chrome extension that records your Twitter abuse reports and monitors them for updates, notifying you when there has been a change + tracking those that go unresolved.

Would be great to have feedback from MeFites!
posted by waninggibbon at 2:41 PM on October 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


There is a difference between the speech permitted by law and the speech a platform displays, cjorgensen. You are seemingly speaking about the former while everyone else here speaks about the latter.

IANAL but American hate speech laws are mostly designed to pass the "imminent danger" test, which makes sense and seemingly works fairly well. It's always fun seeing Le Pen get finned in France of course, but overall their stronger speech restrictions seem counter productive. Theresa May became prime minister despite her extreme racism and far tighter speech laws in the U.K. If anything, American courts should tighten the "imminent danger" test to focus on protecting individuals over property, because anti-speech law enforcement prefers protecting industries doing horrible things over protecting racial or cultural minorities.

As for twitter, I have never witness hate speech there except when I clicked on hashtags. I'd suspect they just handle @ and # too similarly for historical reasons when they should use a Markov process based on your social graph for hashtags. It's tricky because obviously if they censor hashtags too aggressively then say police unions or polluters will hire people to censor the black live matter movement or environmentalists by reporting abuse. If they only do relative censorship ala Markov then a black lives matter like movement could still build their own community and maybe break through that censorship.

There are analogies between the legal and platform cases of course, but they remain fundamentally different because a platform like twitter can adjust prevalence without outright excluding.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:56 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


cjorgensen, for just one day, imagine you had to walk around hearing everyone mutter "ho" when you passed by...
posted by infini at 3:20 PM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


But as soon as you decide that the Ann Coulters of this world and the "clatch of monsters in the White House" should be silenced, you're not too far from thinking some ideologies should just be banned. Then what?

A "stalwart absolutist defense of free speech" does have drawbacks. I'd be an idiot if I suggested there was no price to pay to have free speech, but it beats the alternative.


Let's say it again for the privileged dudes in the back: being denied a platform run by a private company is not the same as being denied speech.

Freedom of speech only applies to the government suppressing your speech.

You are not owed a platform from which to speak.

Again, Richard Spencer is fucking verified. While Jack and Biz et al might protest hand on heart that verification simply means his identity is confirmed, in practice that means his tweets are actively privileged above others. That means they are promoting hateful Nazi speech. Spencer actively promotes the idea of ethnic cleansing, and by extension Twitter actively promotes the idea of ethnic cleansing.

If you are actively demanding Nazi speech be privileged about those they harass into silence, then you are actively a Nazi supporter.

Deplatforming works. Ridicule and protest work. Punching fucking Nazis in the face works. Fuck these assholes, and ban them from every public forum they attempt to enter, because they will attempt to silence and kill women, LGBTQ people, people of color, and anyone else they deem unworthy.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:23 PM on October 16, 2017 [30 favorites]


People ever thought that a social media site named after Roald Dahl's book about horrible people, The Twits, would draw anything else other than horrible people?
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:28 PM on October 16, 2017


If you set location to Germany does that also filter out Antifa content? I know the Federal Republic shut down a (the most?) prominent German Antifa site a few weeks back. Leopards, faces...
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 3:54 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


So I'm pretty far to the lower left of the political spectrum. Happy to punch Nazis, not happy to try and demand regulating their speech. I'm sure that makes some people furious, here's my reasoning.

Normal people insist on using centralized social media networks to communicate, so we have to deal with what kind of harassment policies we want and what kind of speech we want to argue should be allowed on them.

Why do you think the rich white dudes in Silicon Valley are going to ban the people you hope they will? They never have before, they'll ban 1 nazi and 20 BLM/Antifa/Trans rights people due to their new "racial bigotry and/or violence" and "inappropriate sexual content" policies. The entire thing is guaranteed to be biased in favor of the groups they identify with, and it's not going to be women, people of colour, anyone left of the center-right or LGBTQ people.

These are large companies and moderation is not well paid, and it is a damn terrible job to look at that crap (including video and pictures) all day, so you are outsourcing your discomfort and emotional trauma to some oppressed person who has no choice but to take a job that awful.l

They will do that moderation according to some big set of guidelines that are written down, because just telling them "you know it when you see it" will result in it being crazy inconsistent and result in terrible public failures and bad press. So a committee will draft the policies. You ever tried to define in fair, concrete, exact terms, what speech is acceptable and what is not? You will hate what they come up with, because what you want is logically impossible. If everyone who thinks they agree all looked at 100 specific examples they would find they do not agree and really really hate the people who they thought they agreed with.

And all this bullshit about how no-platforming works? Yeah, it's working great. It's not like the age of no-platforming has had a resurgence of literal nazis whose entire playbook is made up of those and similar tactics.

If this could possibly work, I would be on your side. It can't. I'm not. We know exactly who these policies will be used against. Stop demanding better arms for your enemies because you are too naive and ignorant of history to know who they will be used against.
posted by Infracanophile at 4:12 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ah, calling someone's positions native and ignorant is such a charming way to get your point across. Excellent good-faith discussion tactic.
posted by introp at 4:22 PM on October 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


Fair point. Rephrase that to "Please don't ask that the racist patriarchy in charge of our communications is given even more power. They won't use it against the racist patriarchy. This should be obvious, especially since it has been tried many times historically. There is no such thing as trickle-down justice." with my apologies.
posted by Infracanophile at 4:28 PM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Please don't ask that the racist patriarchy in charge of our communications is given even more power. They won't use it against the racist patriarchy. This should be obvious, especially since it has been tried many times historically.

They already have this power, and the "tried many times" is actually happening at this moment. One needs to look no further than Ijeoma Oluo's travails during and after Cracker Barrel, or what happened to Rose McGowan. We've had FPPs on how Facebook protects white men but not black children when it comes to hate speech.
posted by anem0ne at 4:45 PM on October 16, 2017 [11 favorites]


But, alas, what choice do we have except to push Twitter, Facebook, et al to actually enforce their Terms of Service and start wielding the banhammer with more consistency?

Is it better that Twitter remain an inescapable toxic hellstew of Nazis, or for Twitter to step up dealing with abuse but take some of our people out with it? For what it's worth, there's plenty of toxic assholes on the left who I wouldn't mind seeing kicked off Twitter too—I just think there's less of them than on the right. Certainly the far right.

It just feels defeatist to say "Oh, Twitter's just gonna come down harder on marginalized groups." If we're gonna be defeatist, I'd rather just say "Twitter isn't going to change at all."
posted by SansPoint at 4:55 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Honestly the worst case there just sounds like the status quo.
posted by Artw at 5:25 PM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Neither "Twitter nazis are the price of our freedom" nor "The only alternative to a racist Twitter is an even more racist Twitter" seem like particularly strong arguments for doing nothing.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:31 PM on October 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure we are there yet, but they would be the arguments for nuking from orbit, not doing nothing.
posted by Artw at 5:37 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Tho yoking the threat of the "racist patriarchy" to a defense of the same is quite deft.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:54 PM on October 16, 2017


If you set location to Germany does that also filter out Antifa content?

It does a pretty piss-poor job of filtering out even actual Nazis. @richardbspencer isn't blocked, for example. there's plenty of nazi imagery right out on display in simple searches. Sure, it blocks some of the well known Neo-Nazi group accounts, but individual accounts are still at it.

(Seriously, we can identify a person's face from any angle with five lines of machine learning code, but we can't identify a fucking swastika? get real.)
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 6:39 PM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Please don't ask that the racist patriarchy in charge of our communications is given even more power.

GODDAMMIT THEY ARE A PRIVATE COMPANY NOT THE FCC, THEY ALREADY REGULATE THE SHIT OUT OF OUR SPEECH, WHY DO YOU THINK ROSE MCGOWAN GOT BANNED A COUPLE DAYS AGO RAAAAGH

There, now that I feel better: they already regulate the speech on their platform. They do so by banning people who tweet the word fuck at Ben Affleck. We're saying they should apply their rules to nazis who advocate for genocide.
posted by Existential Dread at 6:55 PM on October 16, 2017 [22 favorites]


Going back to the post title, "a plague of frogs?" Hey, the hate-mongers ruined Pepe, but we still have Kermit (and his nephew Robin), and the high-steppin' Michigan J. Frog, and their Corporate Owners (Disney for the Muppets and Warner Bros.) won't let the Nastys near 'em. Jeremiah from the musical '60s, Judy from H.R. Pufnstuf, Dig'em from Kellogs (with WAY too much sugar), Frogger from the old video arcades, and way back in the '50s, Froggy and his Magic Twanger. And one half-species over, there's Hypnotoad... EVERYbody loves Hypnotoad.

No, if you're looking for a Plague, go right to Twitter's mascot... BIRDS. not bluebirds, but vultures, crows, seagulls (like in the Hitchcock movie), owls who bite Tootsie Pops, and I don't trust that Woody Woodpecker either...
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:18 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop: How dare you sully vultures' good names. They are the cleanup crew! They would never cause or be a plague!
posted by XtinaS at 7:23 PM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


May I substitute buzzards? I get some of the big birds mixed up, but I know condors aren't the bad ones...
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:31 PM on October 16, 2017


They're all subtypes of vultures! ...however, on looking up some images of condors, I'm totally down with a plague of condors. o_O
posted by XtinaS at 7:35 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


"Setting your location to Germany" just changes your trending topics to those popular in Germany. Your IP has to be coming from Germany for it to block any content.
posted by AFABulous at 7:36 PM on October 16, 2017


How dare you sully vultures' good names. They are the cleanup crew! They would never cause or be a plague!

True cool fact: vultures have stomach acids and digestive tracts that emphatically do not fuck around: they can safely digest carcasses infested with botulism, cholera, anthrax, etc. Not only do they not cause plagues, they act against them!

I nominate wasps as the plague mascot of choice. They're just spiteful robots with just enough complexity to feel and act out of hate.
posted by Drastic at 8:25 PM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


You try to register for my social network. I ask for your phone number

What happens when the abuser spoofs the target's number and ruins it? Is the target supposed to get a new phone every time?

What happens when the abuser gets booted, but claims that's exactly what happened to them? Do they get a do-over?
posted by ctmf at 8:33 PM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I don't always thing better speech will prevail. But I do think it's always the answer.

Unassailable free speech is a curiously American obsession, like the supposed obvious and natural right to have guns but not medical treatment. It doesn't actually fly in the rest of the world. Twitter knows this, really, hence making Nazis invisible in countries that know, from experience, that free speech doesn't fucking count for Nazis.

You try to register for my social network. I ask for your phone number

See Twitter has actually started doing this. If you use Twitter now it will, at some point, request your phone number and if you don't provide it certain features will be disabled, your tweets may not be as visible. Oh, sorry, actually all this only applies to normal people. Repeat offender fascists, obviously, seem to get away with posting whatever they want without any repercussions, phone number supplied or not.
posted by Jimbob at 9:17 PM on October 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


I agree that the question: "will this new technical countermeasure make it worse for some victims?" supersedes the question: "will it stop some abusers?"
posted by Behemoth at 9:18 PM on October 16, 2017


On the broader free speech question: the positions that tend towards greater absolutism seem (at least to me) to require an equal commitment to enforcement mechanisms at the point where speech becomes a kind verbal brandishing. Within a speech-based platform, the enforcement mechanism is a ban because computers do not yet have the capacity to punch you in the face when you're a fuckweasel. The typical mixture of ignorance and indifference shown by local plod (and the jurisdictional mess in places like the US) towards threatening images and doxxing and dogpiling doesn't help, and neither does the tendency of social media platforms to direct users to law enforcement and act like they've done their duty.

On the specific Twitter question, I think this thread makes a valuable point: when the social space is full of lulztrolls and bots and drive-by randos who increasingly occupy a space between troll and bot, then fuck that noise because life is too fucking short.

It's probably time for a reset to a social model more reminiscent of the early-00s -- some kind of semi-permeable group chat -- but any attempt to do so that gains any kind of traction and is VC-funded will be acquired by FB/Google/Twitter before it becomes a threat. So maybe it's a choice between Mastodon or regulating social media like utilities.
posted by holgate at 9:27 PM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


These are large companies and moderation is not well paid, and it is a damn terrible job to look at that crap (including video and pictures) all day, so you are outsourcing your discomfort and emotional trauma to some oppressed person who has no choice but to take a job that awful.

MechanicalTurk often has moderator 'tasks' on there. For 10c a go, you can read hate speech or look at 'images which you may find offensive or disturbing'. When I was looking round the site, one of the tasks had pictures of old men wanking.
posted by mippy at 4:33 AM on October 17, 2017


The dream of the internet in the 90's—the leftist, progressive hacker aesthetic (hell, the dream of Metafilter itself)—is dead. We're just now realizing it.

This is what Green Day’s song “When (the eternal) September Ends” is about right?
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:37 AM on October 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


I wonder if 2FA hassles are why the Russians recycle their bit armies from campaign to campaign.
posted by Artw at 5:59 AM on October 17, 2017


"Setting your location to Germany" just changes your trending topics to those popular in Germany. Your IP has to be coming from Germany for it to block any content.

This is demonstrably untrue. Set your location in preferences: (Settings & Privacy, Content, country=Germany). Go to twitter.com/anp14 (the American Nazi Party account). You'll see the following message:
@ANP14 withheld
@ANP14's account has been withheld in: Germany, France. Learn more
It does do _something_. I'm just saying it doesn't do nearly enough.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 6:11 AM on October 17, 2017


Well all this talk about setting my twitter to Germany has the Ramones' "Commando" stuck in my head.

First rule is, the laws of Germany....
posted by bile and syntax at 7:10 AM on October 17, 2017


Apparently you have to set your location on every client you use Twitter to Germany?

God, your software developers don't even know MVC, what is wrong with you Twitter.
posted by Yowser at 7:12 AM on October 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


This is demonstrably untrue. Set your location in preferences: (Settings & Privacy, Content, country=Germany).

OK. This is not the way the comment I linked said to do it.
posted by AFABulous at 7:34 AM on October 17, 2017


Looks like twitter just fucked with its timeline again in retaliation against users.
posted by Artw at 8:05 AM on October 17, 2017


Care to explain?
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:10 AM on October 17, 2017


I'm getting a bunch of tweets out of order now even with the shitty algorithm turned off, so it looks like they've slipped in some user hostile shit again for whatever reason.
posted by Artw at 8:15 AM on October 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


This is why I use Tweetbot, and will continue to use Tweetbot until Twitter shuts off their API access. Chronological Timeline Or Bust.
posted by SansPoint at 8:26 AM on October 17, 2017 [5 favorites]


I've logged out of Twitter and Facebook on all computers and uninstalled the apps on my phone. I'm just giving up on Twitter entirely except to read links that get posted and only reading Facebook in an incognito Chrome window so that they don't follow me and I don't get any notifications.
posted by octothorpe at 8:39 AM on October 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Between this and the political threads, I can’t help but think why we don’t just create a team of propagandists and Twitter bots to spam the shit out of the Nazis, harass them into oblivion, and convince the right wing that Donald Trump is conspiring to take away their guns and kill them by poisoning them with large quantities of dihydrogen monoxide. These platforms do nothing against harassment, through lack of effort and technical incapability, and these people are stupid and gullible.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:21 AM on October 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ah, see, when the regressive fuckholes decide to mass-report somebody for harassment, shit gets done. For example: every outspoken black woman activist who has been banned for clapping back at people who are attacking her.

I keep saying this, and I'm not going to stop. The "Safety" teams at Twitter and Facebook have been compromised by white nationalists and misogynists. If you look at what they actually do in practice rather than what they say they do, if you look at who gets sanctioned and who doesn't, it couldn't be clearer.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:33 AM on October 17, 2017 [20 favorites]


From Buzzfeed, "Twitter Has A Harassment Problem In India, And Targets Say The Company Isn’t Doing Much To Fix It ":
Within minutes, more than 31,000 notifications crashed Rajendran’s phone. Trolls had orchestrated the harassment campaign using a hashtag, #PublicityBeepDhanya (replace “beep” with an expletive of choice), which became one of the top five trends in India for hours.

The fact that a hashtag crafted specifically to abuse someone trended for hours became national news in India. Vijay, whose fans started the campaign, condemned the incident. The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), an organization that aims to promote gender equality within the Indian media, urged Twitter India to be “more sensitive to online abuse, specifically of women.”

And from Twitter? Dead silence. In fact, the social network did nothing about the hashtag until Rajendran picked up the phone and contacted a personal connection at the company, a member of Twitter India’s public policy team who offered to “put a word in,” Rajendran told BuzzFeed News. An hour later, Twitter India removed the hashtag from its list of trending topics
posted by mhum at 11:28 AM on October 17, 2017 [6 favorites]


If you look at what they actually do in practice rather than what they say they do, if you look at who gets sanctioned and who doesn't, it couldn't be clearer.

Case in point: /3 that's how @twitter reacts to quoting the fucking secretary of state.

User gets a 24h Time Out for saying "@realDonaldTrump is a fucking moron" to a trumpista.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 11:32 AM on October 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


> But as soon as you decide that the Ann Coulters of this world and the "clatch of monsters in the White House" should be silenced, you're not too far from thinking some ideologies should just be banned. Then what?

I dunno. Ask Germany?

Not all ideologies are created equal, and it says a lot about a person who insists that a genocidal ideology should have a place at the Legitimacy Table as every other one. That Nazism is an idea that can and should be argued over in the way that we argue about the way tax policies affect us. I really don't like what it says about you -and waaaay to many other people - that you argue this.
posted by rtha at 11:35 AM on October 17, 2017 [10 favorites]


User gets a 24h Time Out for saying "@realDonaldTrump is a fucking moron" to a trumpista.

Twitter's technical solutions are doing a bang-up job, aren't they?
posted by anem0ne at 11:57 AM on October 17, 2017


Generally Twitters technical solutions give the impression that they are only vaguely familiar with the service that they run, so at least that would be consistent.
posted by Artw at 1:27 PM on October 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


Does it state anywhere in official Twitter policy that the people who are against Nazism are the real Nazis?
posted by acb at 1:38 PM on October 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


The most generous reading is there's an over focus on small stuff like people Gettung sweaty when target by massive Nazi harrasment campaigns that they miss out on the big stuff like the massive Nazi harrasment campaigns themselves.

Oh, and Nazis spamming the reporting lead them around by the nose because they are fucking dumb.
posted by Artw at 1:51 PM on October 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


There was a coordinated attempt to report Dinesh D'Souza's virulent anti-semitism. No dice.
posted by Yowser at 3:02 PM on October 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


I just deleted my twitter account, because why be a part of it?
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:40 AM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


Twitter Was Warned Repeatedly About This Fake Account Run By A Russian Troll Farm And Refused To Take It Down
Twitter took 11 months to close a Russian troll account that claimed to speak for the Tennessee Republican Party even after that state's real GOP notified the social media company that the account was a fake.

The account, @TEN_GOP, was enormously popular, amassing at least 136,000 followers between its creation in November 2015 and when Twitter shut it down in August, according to a snapshot of the account captured by the Internet Archive just before the account was "permanently suspended.

...

The @TEN_GOP account offered a lesson in how inflammatory tweets can be used to gain followers and influence. In contrast, the actual Tennessee GOP’s Twitter account, @tngop, has only 13,400 followers, despite being the Twitter voice of the state party since 2007.

The actual Tennessee Republican Party tried unsuccessfully for months to get Twitter to shut @TEN_GOP down.
posted by homunculus at 7:36 PM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


ZOMG look at the profitable mentions and views spike!!
posted by infini at 1:29 AM on October 19, 2017


Damn, homunculus, that story is ridiculous. More humans in the moderating mix, please, Jack. This is not rocket science.
posted by mediareport at 6:25 AM on October 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


> The actual Tennessee Republican Party tried unsuccessfully for months to get Twitter to shut @TEN_GOP down.
I can't help but assume the worst: that the real Tennessee GOP deliberately failed to have it shut down, because the fake @TEN_GOP did what the real @tngop couldn't do without blowing their veneer of niceness.

No matter fake or not, they were agitating basically the same demography. There's only one GOP for them to vote. Why should the real attempt to kill the fake, when the fake worked for the real?
posted by runcifex at 8:48 AM on October 19, 2017


That's what happened with their presidential candidate I guess.
posted by Artw at 11:05 AM on October 19, 2017


Probably the best hope is that some high profile celebrities start their own Twitter clone focused on celebs and drain the lifeblood from them. Although TMZ might be a cautionary tale.
posted by benzenedream at 2:50 PM on October 19, 2017




Apparently, Twitter has given verified status to the organizer of the Charlottesville Nazi rally.

Are there any fucking adults in charge there?
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:25 PM on November 8, 2017 [3 favorites]


@jackboot, more like.
posted by Artw at 3:26 PM on November 8, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm waiting for the Chinese social media "managers" to meet the Nazis
posted by infini at 6:22 PM on November 8, 2017


And apparently Twitter's response is...a tweet decrying the "confusion" over the meaning of verification.

No. There is no confusion. You set up verification as a defacto endorsement.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:27 AM on November 9, 2017 [3 favorites]


They'll fix the confusion by replacing the verified mark with a little nazi salute emoji.
posted by Drastic at 9:48 AM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Link re Kessler
Ben Collins, Daily Beast: Twitter Verifies Charlottesville Rally Boss Jason Kessler, Who Called Slain Protester’s Death ‘Payback Time’
Kessler’s new verified status comes just 26 days after CEO Jack Dorsey again recommitted to eliminating “hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence” from its platform.

Kessler previously deleted his Twitter account in August after he tweeted that Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed protesting the white nationalist rally he created, “was a fat, disgusting Communist” and that her death “was payback time."
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 6:11 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]


Today's xkcd is a pointed summary of why Twitter is screwed. Be sure to read the alt text.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:29 AM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


I don't have another way to link to his work except to his tweets, but there's a developer working on a twitter replacement, among other social media networks. Adrian Jackson is planning to launch a fundraising drive for his work soon.
posted by gladly at 8:00 AM on November 10, 2017


You set up verification as a defacto endorsement.

It's never even simply been a status marker. Verified users got access to additional features, both user-facing and internally. They clearly get abuse reports addressed faster. Twitter has removed verified status as a punishment for TOS violations. The confusion is coming from inside the house.
posted by holgate at 8:50 AM on November 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


Yeah, their response on this is utter horseshit in denial of the actual facts.
posted by Artw at 8:53 AM on November 10, 2017


Why do we even have a little nazi salute emoji?!”
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:15 AM on November 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


“Why do we even have a little nazi salute emoji?!”

"Jack... are we the baddies?"
posted by tobascodagama at 9:49 AM on November 10, 2017 [5 favorites]


Apparently, Dorsey has some... interesting accounts to follow, including a MeFi fan favorite.

The rot started from the top.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:58 PM on November 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'll be generous here: I wouldn't judge @jack's follows the same way I would most notable people on Twitter: that is, as an extension of his personal interests. Given that Twitter has half-arsed moderation, I can imagine him wanting to keep an eye on people with significant influence as a kind of amateur half-arsed moderator.
posted by holgate at 7:55 PM on November 10, 2017


Or they're added semi-randomly as he barely uses the thing. Who's on his radar is still telling though.
posted by Artw at 8:34 PM on November 10, 2017


For those keeping track of Twitter [non-]response case studies, there are comments in the elections thread about how fake news troll and PizzaGater Jack Posobiec doxxed one of the accusers of Roy Moore. He posted an unblurred photo of her at her workplace.
And it was up for hours before HE took it down. Twitter never did shit. And still haven't since they haven't suspended his account. Remember they instantly suspended Rose McGowan for having a phone number in a tweet.
[snip]
posted by chris24 at 1:35 PM on November 10
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 9:30 PM on November 10, 2017


And it was up for hours before HE took it down. Twitter never did shit.

I wonder. I mean I'm curious why he took it down since he obviously didn't have a problem posting it in the first place. It'd be interesting if someone from Twitter contacted him asking for its removal since that would suggest a double dealing in how they handle complaints. But that's just offhand speculation of course...
posted by gusottertrout at 2:12 AM on November 11, 2017


It's cute watching people twist themselves into pretzels trying to explain Twitter's behaviour as a company without just accepting the obvious explanation: Yeah, Jack's a fucking Nazi.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:00 AM on November 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


Occam's CEO, man.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:00 AM on November 11, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Jack's a fucking Nazi.

Occam's CEO, man.

Hanlon’s CEO, to be an optimist.

Or they’re added semi-randomly as he barely uses the thing. Who's on his radar is still telling though.

If they’re added semi-randomly, they aren’t on his radar. If they were added deliberately, they are (and that ain’t great). It’s an imperfect barometer, like the rest of Twitter.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:37 AM on November 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


(Jason Kessler is still verified, incidentally.)
posted by Going To Maine at 1:48 AM on November 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


And Wired UK is reporting thatthe Russians used Twitter to influence the Brexit vote.

At what point does Jack and Biz just admit where their allegiances lie?
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:31 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]


Twitter has finally done what they should have months ago, and is now pulling checkmarks from and banning Nazis.

Took them long enough.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:59 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


They know who Spencer is, ban the fucker.
posted by Artw at 4:59 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Interesting timing, just as Mastodon is generating more interest. Ultimately all they care about is market share; if Nazis increase it they want them, if they are seen as decreasing it they will be banned. There are many flavors of horror in human history but capitalism may at this moment be the worst.
posted by latkes at 5:56 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


nteresting timing, just as Mastodon is generating more interest.

Evergreen tweet
posted by Going To Maine at 7:10 PM on November 15, 2017


Fair.
posted by latkes at 7:42 PM on November 15, 2017


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