Whack-A-Troll with Collaborative Social Blocking


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I think I detect contrary impulses here. Usenet had all kinds of filtering mechanisms, yet it has pretty much died (at least for the newsgroups I was reading). Allegedly this was due to the increasing prevalence of spammers, trolls, bigots, hobby-horse riders, and generally dumb people making intelligent conversations impossible. In severely limiting the length of messages, Twitter exacerbates the problem by discouraging serious and extended thought and favoring one-liners and the people who are fond of them (spammers, trolls, etc.). Yet Twitter is enormously popular. The simplest explanation is that people want and support the very things they’re complaining about.

I have eliminated a vast population of inane half-wits and obnoxious attention-pigs by not having Twitter in the first place.


Of course. But there is the curious phenomenon of apparently intelligent people using it with apparently serious intentions. There was a dust-up of sorts a few weeks ago (about obnoxious language, I believe, but no matter) and it turned out the core group from which the conflict arose were scientists discussing their work. How can anyone discuss scientific work in one-liners? Yet there they were. In fact one of them said it was their chief means of group intercommunication! One could say they were the not-too-bright variety of scientist, but still – scientists? Discussing their work?


You can do a lot in 140 characters of realtime communication. Rapid-firing around thoughts, quick opinions, links to papers, questions, suggestions… a few words here and there can make a lot of difference. Not everything that is scientific has to be a five-hundred pages tome.


Usenet was pretty effectively replaced by superior alternatives more dedicated to whatever particular thing people used Usenet for though. Web forums/Reddit/Twitter/Facebook/Comment Systems. Specialists winning out over the generalists, really.

Well, that combined with the whole “ISPs dropping usenet support for legal reasons” and the fact that Usenet is still increasing in users and traffic everyday…


Trust me, there are also female online stalkers. And often they are doing the reverse stalking tactics, posting a photo of the guy taking out the trash and then claiming it was the guy confronting them at work, or some similar maneuver. I’ve had multiple online female stalkers for years, and I’ve never had any idea who they are.

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This sentence didn’t make sense to me:

But tech can restore balance even as when it doesn’t fix inherent problems that arise when individuals interact.

Nor to me! Sorry; fixing. (I wrote that sentence somehow.)

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Cool idea. It’s a lot less distressing to flag horrible messages that are directed at a stranger. If the community is effective members would very rarely have to deal with this kind of crap on their own accounts.

It’s kind of sad this has to be done by third parties, though.


Sure, until you can’t. Until you can’t do what you need to do, which may be to explain something that takes more than 140 characters, or to approach a sensitive subject in a nuanced manner. Plus, besides the technical limitation, there is the tone and culture, one of blowing fluff around or wising-off, and the kind of people that sort of thing attracts.

Then you use another tool. How difficult concept!

Then you e.g. write a paper, and tweet its URL. Another difficult concept.


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Well, my first point up above: people seem to be seeking both sides of a contradiction. Those of us who were on the pre-Twitter Net, going back to Usenet and mailing lists, encountered very similar problems. Various tools were constructed, but when they were effective (not often) in many cases the liveliness of the list or newsgroup or forum disappeared. It seems that people actually desire the – what should we call it? Flippancy? – of discourse dominated by one-liners, of a bit of trolling or vandalism here and there.

I do think it’s sort of funny that serious, earnest, hardworking, seemingly bright people plunge into the sea of froth and get in terrific fights with each other over nearly nothing. But whatever floats your boat, right?

This isn’t an article about stalkers or alleging that it’s an exclusive problem to a specific gender, etc.

But it does discuss, anecdotally, two women being… I think stalked is a fair term even if it is not the one you chose. It may not be -about- that, but it’s the opening topic.

There sure are other topics in there also, and it was a good read, even if I think the problem has zero technological fixes. People are just jerks, in whatever context, using whatever tools they have, whenever they feel like it.

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Of course, there’s the small issue that The Block Bot goes hand-in-hand with Atheism+, which is partisan group, to put it mildly, and who’s members are not above being the perpetrators of harassment as much as targets of such. It should be noted that at least one individual on The Block Bot, Lily Cade, is by no stretch of the imagination a “harasser” and, if anything, was the target of harassment by “Queer Porn” activists who were miffed that she doesn’t hire transwomen for the kind of cis lesbian porn Cade does exclusively.

It should also be noted that Barack Obama was listed on TBB for a while before Billingham thought better of it. Who the President was thought to be “harassing” online, I have no idea.

Basically, the purpose of The Block Bot is as much to provide its users with an ideologically pure Twitter feed as it is to provide a harassment-free one. That’s something that, of course, those who want such a thing have every right to, but it should be stated up front that this is what TBB does, rather than dishonestly trying to push it as a generalized anti-harassment tool.


I don’t have any desire to threadjack, but I will quote the story:

If you’re an American white, straight, cisgender male reading this, you may wonder why anyone would need such a tool…f you don’t experience online harassment, abuse, and stalking, consider yourself lucky rather than stating it doesn’t exist.

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I’m wary of using the term imprecisely. Brown and Allen were subject to organized campaigns of harassment among other things. Stalking is part of a larger set of problematic behavior. In fact, one could argue that blocking doesn’t per se help with stalking because stalkers don’t always feel the need to leave traces — some do it for shock effect.

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Ah: this isn’t an article solely about stalking or that list of things; that’s the jumping-off point. There’s no need to make a case for stuff that’s not listed, because it’s about a response (that works for anyone).

I take your point, but my article is using Block Bot as a demonstration, not anointing it as something holy. There’s plenty of dissent within any group, and I note “up front”:

Block Bot’s administrative governance remains tied to the Atheist+
movement, a group attempting to accommodate diversity in “organized atheism,” as Stephanie Zvan describes it. The five administrators are part of the A+ forum.

People may make their own judgment as to whether or not they want to use the Block Bot’s current setup, and whether its public list of blocked parties is in accord with their ideas.

I don’t know the person in question or their behavior, but the point of these lists is that they are opt-in. Lily’s account is publicly listed. People may decide whether or not her inclusion makes them choose to be on or off the list.

That seems to misrepresent the narrative of how that account was added and removed.