I haven’t weighed in on the recent controversy over the BBC News Night segment on Internet trolling although I was a little taken aback by the segment, because there was only a single point of view given, there didn’t even appear to be an attempt to get a dissenting point of view.
Okay, a lot of people have discussed this on Twitter and in various blog posts, so I’m really not saying anything new here. What I was most curious about though was the part of the segment on The Block Bot.
I’ve been listed on the Block Bot, pretty much from it’s inception as Level 2 which is defined in the FAQ as an abuser and of course, since I discovered that my twitter name was listed there, I’ve mostly ignored, even laughed at this script. But the BBC show made me want to find out exactly how people were initially added, as well as how people are added now. I was a little surprised.
In the FAQ, under the heading Who will be added to the block list? Is the following statement:
The short answer is anyone that a blocker defines as block list worthy. The general rule is if you are the type that would find yourself banned on a blog on Freethoughtblogs.com, Skepchick.org or from the A+ forum then you will likely end up in the list…
Well, that clears up who this was created for, at least initially. The creators’ “friends” to protect them from dissenting opinions on Twitter, which they label harassment. Honestly, I have dissented from teh stupid a lot, so now I know why I was added.
This is something I think the BBC could have spent 5 minutes reading about before they recorded/aired the segment. If they did, it should have raised eyebrows and so I presume that either they read the FAQ and didn’t think anything of it, or were just incompetent, wanting to get ratings and to hell with honest journalism. Yeah, I know in today’s media world, that’s an oxymoron.
What’s really interesting is what I’d call the “disclaimer” portion of the FAQ under the heading of What about Mah Freeze Peach? Here’s the relevant part:
You will be able to read anyone’s timeline who has blocked you and they will be able to read yours… Same as any blog or forum with an ignore function *cough*Slymepit*cough* all this will do is make it so you cannot directly interact with that user of Twitter unless they want you to. No one will be blocked and reported as spam **. The users of the block list would need to do this themselves for real spam accounts -> so it will NOT CAUSE accounts to be suspended. It is true that if any account is reported for spam then these blocks being applied will likely figure into Twitters spam algorithm -> but the bot will not be the cause, at worst a contributory factor.
And notice the double asterisk. The authors have upgraded the script to include an option for reporting a user for spam, which will help to get them suspended from Twitter.
This is what I call doublespeak. The authors say that the list will not cause anyones account to be suspended…at worst a contributory factor. But now an authorized user can report someone for spam. So then, it is possible for an account listed to be suspended because the username is on the list.
So, let’s say I want to add someone to the list, how do I do that? Well, after registering(this is called an “authorized user, or ‘blocker’” , all I would need to do is send a tweet like this example given @the_block_bot #Block #Level2 please block these unpleasant people +an_asshole +etc
for someone I think should be added to the level 2 list. Note that I could add multiple usernames in the tweet.
So, then, automatically, because I’ve decided, as the example above, that someone is an “asshole”, they are added to this list. There’s no one to determine, other than me whether or not this twitter user should actually be on the list. That’s inherently unfair.
With the addition of the #spam tag, the authors make it more useable for their friends to have people they dislike to become suspended. There’s no arbiter, just what the person wants.
Okay, I know that probably most if not all I’ve just written is well known to all of you, so let me call it an exercise in my own education concerning those people that want to control the content on Twitter, and the rest of the Internet. People tell me I should again ignore these people, and I tend to agree. We should all be aware though, of how toxic some people that claim to be skeptics can be.