Of Blockbots and Blacklists

“Are you, or have you ever been, a supporter of Gamergate, NotYourShield, Sad Puppies, Rabid Puppies, Men’s Rights Activists, Ron Paul, Donald Trump, White Supremacists, etc, etc etc?”

Blacklists have come a long way since the bygone days of McCarthy.

With the power of modern database and data processing systems, a list of targets can be drawn up in a matter of minutes, regardless of the criteria used to populate that list.  And with the Internet, that same list can be in place, worldwide, in hours.

Two fairly recent examples are Randi Harper’s Good Game Auto-Blocker and Vox Day’s SJWList.

Filtering Out Gamergate:  GG Autoblock Grow or Die: The Good ... David the Good Buy New $4.99 (as of 03:05 UTC - Details)

Randi Harper designed the Good Game Auto-Blocker to mute posts related to Gamergate from her Twitter feed.  The program scans Twitter to build a list of people to block, and then anyone who signs up has that list added to their own Twitter block list.  In essence, the program builds up her own personal blocklist, and other users can freely copy that list into their own accounts.

How does the program know that a person is a Gamergate supporter?  Simple association.  Starting from the key list of the largest Gamergate voices, like @Nero and @TheRalph, the program compiles a list of their followers, and adds them to the list.  

Of course, since @Nero–Breitbart reporter Milo Yiannopoulos–has over two hundred thousand followers alone, this approach is bound to gather a few false positives.

…not everyone who follows two or more Gamergate “ringleaders” is necessarily a member of the movement, which means some people who have never sent a single harassing tweet may end up on the block list. The official Twitter account for Kentucky Fried Chicken wound up on Harper’s list, for example. And because of how the auto blocker works, those merely interested in following the ongoing discussion surrounding Gamergate are likely to end up on the block list as well. A procedure to remove one’s name from the block list (called “whitelisting”) does exist, but users are at the mercy of an appeals group. The group will comb through a user’s timeline to make sure they haven’t sent harassing tweets to anyone; if the user checks out, their name is removed from the list.

In fact, Allum Bokhari pointed out that blockbot programs targeted far more than Gamergate figures, with such accounts as KFC, Richard Dawkins, Barack Obama, and even the Pope all included in the block lists.

Two of these tools, the Atheism Plus Block Bot and the GG Autoblocker have attracted over ten thousand subscribers each. Both claim to be simple anti-harassment devices…The GG Autoblocker is arguably even worse than the blockbot. Whereas the Block Bot decides who to block based on individual reports, GG Autoblocker uses guilt by association. The auto blocker maintains a list of several blacklisted users, including Breitbart London associate editor Milo Yiannopoulos, and at one point, the feminist academic Christina Hoff Sommers. If other Twitter users follow too many of these individuals, they will be automatically added to the auto blocker. You don’t have to do anything or even say anything to become a target. If you follow the wrong people, you’ll be blocked.

Harper did step back from the definition of the program as an actual blacklist (the file that contains the list of people was called “blacklist.txt” in the original version, but was later renamed).

More than one publication has declared the list a definitive collection of online harassers and abusers, with predictable results.

…refers to users mentioned as monsters, sheeple, and idiots various times, (which) means that journalists and gamers, such as myself, who follow a wide range of twitter users in order to keep myself informed on the latest news, have been implicated as offenders of harassment, despite never participating in such….Roberto Rosario, Chairman of IGDA Puerto Rico, has also been named a harasser by the resource, supposedly for using the GamerGate hashtag to speak out against Geordie Tait, who claimed that the only solution for ending GamerGate was to bring about a second holocaust. Rosario claims that if this is not adjusted, IGDA will have his resignation by Tuesday.

Other people did see the implications of a “list of Gamergate villains.”  Youtube personality Sargon of Akkad stated “The worst thing about the blockbot is that it creates an unofficial industry blacklist for political reasons.”  And Blizzard programmer Matt Schnee idly asked “I wonder if we can somehow turn the #ggautoblocker list into an employment blacklist, like a credit report or criminal background check.”

Blacklist or not, does the GG Autoblocker spot online harassers?  According to Women, Action, and the Media (WAM), no, not even close. SJWs Always Lie: Takin... Vox Day Best Price: $6.48 Buy New $14.99 (as of 08:25 UTC - Details)

  • WAM is using the accounts blocked by the ggautoblocker to represent the total population of GamerGate on Twitter. There are 9,844 accounts being blocked by the ggautoblocker (considering Lebron James, KFC, and Obama have all been on the blocklist at some point, this is probably a dubious representation, but that’s what they chose to go with so we’ll work with them on this).
  • WAM found a total of 538 accounts associated with the harassment of the LW’s and other women on Twitter involving threats, sexism, racism, doxxing, etc.
  • Out of these 538 accounts, only 12% were on the ggautoblocker list and therefore associated with GamerGate.
  • 12% * 538 = 65 GamerGate accounts are associated with Twitter harassment.
  • 65 harassing GG accounts / 9844 total GG accounts = 0.66% of GamerGate accounts on twitter are associated with harassment.
  • According to Women, Action, and the Media, less than 1% of GamerGate accounts are associated with harassment.

Fighting Fire With Fire:  SJWList

In a blog post, Vox Day suggested creating a list of confirmed SJWs, and his blog readers set about to create it.  Within a few hours, SJWList.com was being populated by a staff of volunteers.

Being added to SJWList has very specific criteria; the person in question needs to be “…on the record supporting censorship of some kind (no platforming, government censorship, or disemploying people).”  SJWList is structured as a Wiki, so each individual listed has their own page, linked to their statements and actions and thereby justifying their inclusion.

Criticism of SJWList has been vocal, as might be expected. Reddit suspended @TheRalph’s account for simply posting a link to SJWList.com.  Accusations have ranged from “building a list of people to harass” to “”sinking to their level” to “becoming SJW by adopting their own tactics.”  

The crew and supporters of SJWList, however, view it as more of a response to SJW tactics, an entirely acceptable escalation in the “arms race” that is the ongoing culture war.  As Brandon Eich, Tim Hunt, and many others can all attest, the social justice warriors have declared “track what they say or do and get them fired for it” a valid tactic.  

If one side in a war uses poison gas, while the other side refuses to “stoop to that level,” then they will cheerfully be the moral, upright, and dead, losers of the war.  The only way to convince the first side to stop using poison gas is to retaliate in kind.

SJWList.com had over 25,000 visitors in the first 24 hours the site was live.

Honorable Mention: SocialAutopsy

SocialAutopsy.com was designed as a cyberbullying prevention tool.  Candace Owens, along with a team of friends, created a Kickstarter to get the program off the ground.  According to their FAQ page:

Users submit a screenshot of a person’s hate-fueled social media post, which is then used to create a profile that includes their full name, place of employment, city of residence and schools…Each and every submission goes through a process in which our team determines whether or not the user is just expressing an opinion or exercising harmful speech. There is a big difference between “F*** the Patriots. Go Giants! ” and “I hope Tom Brady dies, and his wife is raped”.

The goal of the system was a blacklist like shaming system, where social media hate would be archived and plainly visible.  

The project came under fire from all sides.  

Surprisingly, the strongest criticism came from the anti-Gamergate faction, led by GG Autoblock author Randi Harper and Gamergate “Patient Zero” Zoe Quinn.  Surprising, because, as the victims of harassment, they would be expected to support anti-harassment efforts.  Candace Owens says

The facts of the matter are that Zoe Quinn then unleashed a twitter assault, an early, aggressive move against a company in which she really knew nothing about. To be precise, she released 22 back-to-back tweets aimed at the project, presenting herself as a former victim who knew that such a solution to end cyber-bullying could not work.

Shortly after a phone conversation with Quinn, the SocialAutopsy team began receiving a torrent of hate mail and abuse, and within 48 hours, Kickstarter suspended their funding.  

Candace discovered a post by Harper claiming credit.

What caught my attention was this line,

“You blamed your Kickstarter getting shut down on trolls. You’re wrong. That was [Zoe and I].”

It was that one little sentence, that one little line that locked everything into place to me, instantly.

Because Randi Lee Harper was making an appeal to the Gamergate community with it. She was, in one little sentence playing the martyr. She wanted them to believe that she and Zoe didn’t understand my twitter outrage against them and that they were happy to admit that it was actually them.

Even though he didn’t like the SocialAutopsy concept, Gamergate’s @TheRalph interviewed Ms. Owens, giving her the chance to state her case.

Owens has a very interesting narrative that shows her harassment only began once she ran afoul of Randi Harper and Zoe Quinn. It’s almost like these two notorious bullies were doing everything in their power to snuff her out before she could even get off the ground. I guess she had too much real credibility for them to take any chances. Candace also suggested that they have a lot to hide and that getting exposed would cost the pair “everything.” I would not doubt that in the least. Check Amazon for Pricing.

The Culture War in a Nutshell

The differences between the GG Autoblock and SJWList are like night and day.

Since the program is built on guilt by association, anyone can land on the GG Autoblock list without even realizing it, just by following the wrong person.  Anti-Gamergate SJWs are perfectly willing to ban ten thousand people from their Twitter feeds to ensure a mere handful are silenced.

If you are a person who wants to hear the viewpoints of both sides and are willing to run the risk of being offended by the words you read, then you also run the risk of being added to the Autoblock simply for trying to listen.

SJWList, by comparison, is specific and detailed.  The criteria are very clear and well defined.  No one listed there should be surprised at their inclusion or confused as to the reason because it attempts to clearly and accurately document past statements and actions.

In other words, like most political correctness/social justice issues, the key difference between the two systems lies in “who you are” versus “what you do.”