Massive Right Wing Fail of the Day: The Twitter Gulag
As nearly every right wing “news” source pushes the ridiculous paranoid claim that conservatives are being targeted in a “block and report” campaign on Twitter in order to get their accounts suspended — a claim for which they present absolutely zero evidence — here’s an article at Yahoo News on this outbreak of wingnut hysteria with a few facts that they’ll no doubt ignore: Husband of CNN’s Dana Loesch Not Targeted by Leftists on Twitter, Evidence Suggests.
Chris Loesch posted nearly 50 tweets in the next 45 minutes, retweeting messages from supporters and responding to others who he felt were maligning his wife. Around 9 p.m. on Sunday, Twitter suspended his account.
Several conservative sites arrived at the conclusion that Chris Loesch was the target of a coordinated campaign of liberals who reported his account as abusive. “He was apparently targeted by leftist users who utilized the ‘Block & Report Spam’ function to trigger the social media account’s automatic spam algorithm,” one Washington Times blogger wrote. Human Events, a less obliquely conservative outlet, called the campaign the work of “digital brown shirt gangs that make coordinated attacks to silence conservative voices by abusing Twitter’s spam flagging feature.” Supporters started a #FreeChrisLoesch hashtag. After he was briefly reinstated later that night and then summarily uninstated, the tag was appended to #FreeChrisLoeschAgain.
Hains, the user whose account of her argument with Dana Loesch sparked the mix up, connected Yahoo News with several users who say they routinely report misbehaving Twitter users as abusive. “I absolutely do advise people who are harassed by these hateful idiots to use block and report,” a man named Charles Johnson responded in a tweet. There is no hard evidence, however, that such efforts alone can get a legitimate user removed if he or she is not actually being abusive.
Twitter has about 900 employees and 140 million active users, so like many companies with huge numbers of users they rely on algorithms to detect anomalous behavior. These secret algorithms are incredibly sophisticated in order to prevent people from cheating them, and they’re generally very effective. A recent Berkeley study that deconstructed the algorithm found a fairly low degree of error in the site’s detection system for malicious spammers.
Although calls and tweets from Yahoo News to multiple Twitter spokespeople went unanswered, the company is certainly accounting for factors other than pure numbers of people flagging accounts as spam. If that were the case, prominent voices of any political flavor would regularly vanish and reappear. (This Yahoo News reporter’s experimental attempt to get himself suspended on Twitter by encouraging followers to report him as abusive was unsuccessful.)
More likely, Chris Loesch triggered a red flag at the Twitter headquarters by responding to well-wishers too zealously after rising to his wife’s defense. Dana Loesch posted a screenshot of the warning page her husband received for his first suspension, which states that he was cut off for “sending multiple unsolicited mentions to other users.” His rapid-fire retweeting of others in the immediate aftermath of his spat with Daniel Barber could well meet that definition.
And now, of course, the eager right wingers are desperately trying to accuse me of being the puppetmaster who makes Twitter do his bidding. Here’s one of the dozens and dozens of right wing trolls currently raving at me on Twitter:
How unbelievably pathetic.