Nazis for New Year

by wjw on January 9, 2018

If you use social media, you’ve met neo-Nazis and their allies.  They’re everywhere, and they’re about as charming as you’d expect.  And if you haven’t met them personally, you’ve probably met one of their avatars.

The con goes like this: The impersonator lifts an online photo of a Jew, Muslim, African-American or other minority — typically one with clear identifying markers, like a yarmulke-clad Hasid or a woman in hijab. Using that picture as a Twitter avatar, the bigot then adds ethnic and progressive descriptors to the bio: “Jewish,” “Zionist,” “Muslim,” “enemy of the alt-right.”

False identity forged, the trolls then insert themselves into conversations with high-profile Twitter users — conversations that are often seen by tens of thousands of followers — and proceed to say horrifically racist things.

In this manner, unsuspecting readers glancing through their feed are given the impression that someone who looks like, say, a religious Jew or Muslim is outlandishly bigoted. Thus, an entire community is defamed.

Yair Rosenberg, who a study by the Anti-Defamation League found received “the second-most abuse of any Jewish journalist on Twitter during the campaign cycle” (better luck next time!), helped create a bot called Imposter Buster, which patrolled Twitter and identified impostors.

The Nazis, who of course have bots of their own, and lots of accounts, began bombarding Twitter with complaints.  The result?  Twitter suspended Imposter Buster.

The company’s justifications were both entirely accurate and utterly absurd. “A large number of people have blocked you in response to high volumes of untargeted, unsolicited, or duplicative content or engagements from your account,” we were informed. This was true; Impostor Buster had been blocked by many neo-Nazis. “A large number of spam complaints have been filed against you.” Yes, by neo-Nazis. “You send large numbers of unsolicited replies or mentions.” Yes, to neo-Nazis.

The real threat, apparently, was not these trolls — who today continue to roam the platform unchallenged — but our effort to combat them.

I guess neo-Nazis and the high volume of traffic they generate are too important to Twitter’s business model to allow anyone to interfere.

Frohes neues Jahr, everyone!  2018 is beginning to look much like 2017.

Urban January 9, 2018 at 9:12 am

This is what massive automated artificial stupidity will give you.
The use-maximising algorithm is completely without morals so of course it will take the side of a large number of users against any bot because it’s completely oblivious to what happens outside of its platform. Until one of its inputs is “company’s public reputation score”.

James Strickland January 10, 2018 at 3:49 am

Prediction: twitter will degenerate to bots harassing bots soon. And someone will realize there’s no money in any of it.

Colin Wright January 15, 2018 at 1:31 am

Having briefly scanned the results for Rosenberg, and already being familiar with Neo-Nazis, the ADL, and Tablet, for whom Rosenberg seems to write, I can only comment that they all deserve each other, and in an ideal world, they’d all be on a desert island together, where they could entertain each other indefinitely.

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