Home / General / Will Abuse Destroy Social Media?

Will Abuse Destroy Social Media?

Comments
/
/
/
348 Views

1416229868-1fa66d7b5d9058acf0c4418c45a4c7f4-1366x1114

I don’t know that Twitter is dying exactly and certainly social media as a whole isn’t dying. But the inability and utter unwillingness of the designers of social media or executives of social media companies to take abuse and cyberbullying seriously–or to take actual human emotion and desire seriously in many cases–certainly challenges the viability of some of these companies because people will stop using products they find unpleasant. The obvious answer is for Twitter and other tech companies to hire people who work on these issues. Google already hires psychologists to understand its audiences for instance; hiring similar experts on abuse issues would do social media companies a lot of good. But the culture of these companies is very much not set up to care about these issues, preferring to isolate these issues while focusing on business models that don’t have to take people seriously.

As we host one of the only good commenting communities left on the internet, I feel like we are a last bastion of conversation. But given the overall tone of comment sections, what Michelle Malkin’s flying monkeys do on Twitter, all the MRA and Gamergate stuff, etc., that most of us would be better off personally shutting off social media entirely. That would be too bad I think but it would certainly make some rational sense to isolate yourself from awful people.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • sparks

    If Twitter’s level of discussion is really no better than the unmoderated alt. groups of Usenet, why should it continue?

    Note: I never cared much for Twitter or Facebook because they seemed more playgrounds for narcissists than useful avenues of information.

    • carolannie

      Well, be fair. FB also allows families and friends to communicate without the hassle of writing letters or individual emails with elaborate distribution group set up.

      • Yes, Facebook (which I also don’t use myself) is among other things a decent solution to the “push” problem, where people want to get updates on something (like PTA meetings and school closings, or family pictures) without having to type URLs or click “refresh” all the time.

        • I don’t know. I don’t use Facebook at all but I understand that dysfunctional families and communities can use and abuse Facebook despite Facebook’s attempts to (kind of) rein that stuff in. Families routinely steal pictures, post pictures, comment on pictures/events, facebook stalk each other, etc..etc..etc…There’s practically a whole genre of family dysfunction that centers around facebook.

          • postmodulator

            Yeah, there’s reams of stuff online about “how to protect your social media presence from the abusive parents with whom you wish to have no contact.” Facebook in particular, since the privacy stuff seems to be about as stable as a bookshelf made of mashed potatoes.

          • Yeah, I am going to have to break down and get an account someday because PTA, other moms, etc., but then I’m going to have to manage my friends list, scroll through a bunch of stuff I don’t want to see, and spend time managing it in an IT kind of way. And in a nearby town, someone created a FB group that ended up with this awful intra-town political spat where a bunch of clergy ended up creating a new RL group to discuss the fissures it exacerbated. And on the OTOH a group (I think a listserv though) got sued because of political opinions expressed by participants. But the paper sometimes posts pictures of school events, and it’s easy for my husband to repost those to family. (Some of my family has reposted them again, and can’t remember that the privacy settings only allow them to be seen by people who already saw them the first time. I don’t think the rest of the family is mostly tech-savvy enough to do real damage except with reposts of sappy slogans.)

            eta: luckily I haven’t had to deal with the stuff postmodulator mentions

          • AcademicLurker

            Based on what I hear, it sounds like a big part of the Facebook experience is discovering that people who seem nice and normal in face to face interactions are actually religious/political fanatics of some stripe or other, or conspiracy theorists, or otherwise crazy somehow.

            I don’t see the point. The people I work with in my department all seem nice enough. If any of them are actually neo-nazis or whatever, do I really want to know? What good will knowing do me? I still have to work with them.

            • Hogan

              I’ve heard FB described as an app that tells you which of your relatives are stone cold racists.

            • postmodulator

              Occasionally you are afforded the opportunity to watch a previously stable friend become crazy. This guy that used to play keyboards in a band I was in has in the last several months become a rabid pro-Putin conspiracy theorist, convinced that the Western media is out to make him look bad.

              • DW

                The fact that Putin is in on the conspiracy shows you how deep the conspiracy goes!

              • wca

                I’ve seen that. (Former) good friend from middle school/HS/college decided to jump fully into both gun culture and Donald Trump fanboyism.

                What’s really weird is that he invented a whole other childhood for himself where his family’s guns were continually used to protect his cherished home from invaders. The guy lived out near some very quiet farmland, where the most dangerous-sounding thing ever to intrude on the property was a murder of crows. And even the crows were looking for the cornfield across the road.

                • BiloSagdiyev

                  And what color were those crows, hmmm?

                • Warren Terra

                  Yes … a murder of crows. Need I say more?

                  Not to mention the occasional destruction of feral cats.

          • I have, really, only an nigh unmitigated benefit from Facebook.

            1) I’ve connected with family and (esp. old) friends I just would not any other way

            I can’t overstate how wonderful this is. I’ve not lived near my family in decades and they’ve scattered quite a bit. We’ve made major moves (never more than ≈10 years in a location, from North Caroline, to Maryland, to Manchester). We’re not annual letter writers. On Facebook, I see stuff about lots of people. They see stuff from me. We wish each other happy birthday. It is wonderful.

            2) Sometimes, FB is the fastest/most reliable way to contact someone for me.

            3) Zoe is trying to use it for promotion/connection with audience. (Minimal success there, but my fingers are crossed!)

            Like her page! We tried “boosting” her Pope song and, well, eh :)

            • Malaclypse

              I keep my nym and my real name pretty separate, so it was rather strange, a couple months back, when i saw that an acquaintance liked your beloved’s page to not make a “small world” comment.

              • Heh!

                That’s fun!

                • Malaclypse

                  The other really fun time was when the Arda cell service thread went viral amongst my real friends in real time.

                • Murc

                  Can you link that sucker, Mal? I was active in it and had a blast but didn’t save it.

                  (Ironically, I have soullite’s greatest hits saved, but not, you know, anything productive or fun.)

                • Malaclypse

                  My google trick to find it:
                  site:lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com “you mean you had a flashlight”

                  I can remember that quote because it was my favorite line. It gets you to this thread. There were actually two threads that day, though, and I can only find the second by hunting the April 30/May 1 2012 archives.

                  EDIT: Strange to see all our avatars now on that thread. Really would have spoiled things at the time.

                • Malaclypse

                  The second thread was May Day.

                • Murc

                  You, sir, are a scholar and a gentleman.

                • Those threads always remind me of the LOTR Very Secret Diaries. From Aragorn’s:

                  Day Eleven:

                  Orcs killed: 7. V. good. Stubble update: Looking mangy.

                  Legolas may be hotter than me.
                  I wonder if he would like me if I was King?

                  Day 28:

                  Beginning to find Frodo disturbingly attractive. Have a feeling if I make a move, Sam would kill me. Also, hairy feet kind of a turn-off.
                  Still not King.

                  Day 30:

                  In Lothlorien. Think Galadriel was hitting on me. Saucy wench.

                  Nice chat with Boromir. He’s not so bad.
                  Took a shower. Yay!
                  But still not King.

                  And from Gimli’s

                  DAY FOURTEEN

                  In Mines of Moria. May have made slight miscalculation, as it seems that cousin Balin has been dead for at least sixty years. Suppose it should have occurred to me that has been a while since last got Christmas card from the Moria folks. Still, cannot be expected to keep track of everything.

                • Malaclypse

                  Still the prettiest!

              • ThrottleJockey

                Wait a sec, I thought your real name was Mal A. Clips? You mean it has nothing to do with your real name?

            • advocatethis

              I don’t have too many complaints about what I get exposed to on Facebook. There are a couple of people whose postings I’ve restricted (they are still my “friends” but their postings no longer show up on my feed), but I guess I don’t “friend” too many people who I later find objectionable. What I find it great for is maintaining a connection to people geographically distant from me, particularly if they’re in other countries. Plus, where but facebook can you make a discovery like my daughter recently did that a woman from Australia who she met in Spain knows the guy from Santa Cruz who gave her a pair of sunglasses at Burning Man four years ago; that guy also knows my daughter’s best friend’s mother.

              • Lee Rudolph

                the guy from Santa Cruz who gave her a pair of sunglasses

                So that’s what the kids are calling it these days?
                Huh.

            • Karen24

              My FB experience is the same. I got a page accidentally back in 2007, then all of a sudden a bunch of high school and college friends got pages. I actually really like it, even reading the strange political stuff. So far I’ve only “unfriended” four people, and that was because they started sending me creepy messages. As far as the rest goes, well, if they want to argue with me, I’ll happily argue back.

            • ThrottleJockey

              Wow, Bijan, Zoe has a beautiful voice!

              • Thanks! I’ll let her know. She’ll be quite pleased.

                She working on a new album! I always sneak in a vocal cameo :)

          • The Dark Avenger

            My FB relatives who are very distant kin to me sometimes complain about their exes or will do 20 posts in one day in a kind of cyber mania, but even thou a few are Teabagger types they post their stuff, I post my stuff, and we manage to get along. The relatives who know me don’t give me any stuff about my political postings because I have the reputation of being the genius of the family, as well as being politically active since I was 13.

        • sparks

          Lots of people/organizations put up so much unnecessary information that it became tiresome to have to sort through. I was on FB for about three years before I had enough and found myself ignoring most of my friend list.

        • Woodrowfan

          I like Facebook because it’s like a college reunion where you only have to hang out with people you like.

          It’s also good for local history. There are some good DC-area FB pages that post photos and maps that can spark discussions. it can also help crowd-source IDing photos.

          But yeah, sometimes it’s disturbing to find your old buddy turned into a 9/11 Truther and thinks Ron Paul is great.

          • But yeah, sometimes it’s disturbing to find your old buddy turned into a 9/11 Truther and thinks Ron Paul is great.

            Oh, but then you know not to go out with them for a coffee!

            • ThrottleJockey

              Geez, I learned on FB that a girl I dated–actually the first ever girl I dated–went from being a nice, liberal Catholic girl to be a Teapartying Conservative Evangelical. It was bizarre. And sad. She once posted something about the Tea Party and I thought she was being sarcastic, so I made some obscene comment of support back, only to find out she was actually being serious! Awwww-kward!

              • Hahhahaha.

                That alone makes FB worth it.

              • Malaclypse

                I found out that my first girlfriend is now a raging islamaphobe who believes in the healing power of auras, so I’m happy knowing I dodged a bullet.

          • Malaclypse

            But yeah, sometimes it’s disturbing to find your old buddy turned into a 9/11 Truther and thinks Ron Paul is great.

            I keep the following lists: Conservatives, Racists, and Dead to Me. Filters are your friends.

    • guthrie

      Oddly enough i use both twitter and facebook for information. The latter for what some friends and family are up to, the former for more academic and research and fun oriented.

      Of course, most of the people I follow on twitter are real people, adult in all senses of the word, and not particularly narcissistic. Most of us know that there are severe limitations to twitter, having worked it out ourselves or read enough about it in other places.

    • NonyNony

      I think you’re being generous to Twitter here.

      Unmoderated alt.* groups on Usenet could occasionally generate good intelligent conversations. And if you had a good killfile, even the trolls couldn’t take that away from you.

      Even if you removed the trolls from Twitter, you still wouldn’t get good conversations. The best you can get is the internet equivalent of people standing on different sides of the grand canyon yelling short snippets of ideas through megaphones.

      • guthrie

        Yes, exactly, that’s the other weakness of twitter. Most people I know on it use it for light hearted banter/ comments or links to blogs or other sources of information and longer discussion.

      • postmodulator

        The best thing to come out of Twitter is the Twitter joke. Like most art forms, an artificial restriction — in this case, 140 characters — leads to a bloom in creativity. Most of the people I follow on Twitter are professional comedians. For example, Dana Gould’s take on the People of the Gun:

        I love America, so I need guns to go to war against America to protect the guns I have in case I need them for that war.

        • nixnutz

          I only follow comedians and I think Twitter is pretty great. You get a lot of jokes and you hear about events sometimes. Although I now hear about most breaking news stories through jokes I don’t get, that’s a little weird. And it can be a good way for those types of celebrities to communicate with their fans, although abuse can definitely be an issue there.

          It seems like it would be awkward for genuine social stuff but I like Facebook for that stuff. I’ve never been great at keeping in touch with people over years and moves etc. and it’s nice to have a bit of connection, see when people move or get married, see pictures of their kids, have a way to get in touch. Aunts and cousins and elementary school friends, I don’t look at it religiously and the algorithm they use to choose what to show me is a bit bizarre but I think it’s a great thing.

          I haven’t witnessed any drama although a few years ago a friend who was a poet and a singer with thousands of FB friends passed away and finding out by seeing hundreds of RIP messages in my feed was an experience. His profile is still up and I like it when people post new photos and comments.

      • Matt McIrvin

        Twitter seems to have become the primary social network for public science outreach. The conversations are frustratingly telegraphic, but it’s the place for links to good content.

        Google+ is surprisingly good for specialized conversation on technical topics, but it’s marginal enough in terms of overall popularity that big names usually don’t bother to post there. Its very marginality probably improves the tenor of discussion, though lately there are some roving cranks who show up to be annoying.

      • JL

        To me, the appeal of Twitter has nothing to do with conversation. It’s a terrible medium for most conversation. The appeal is that you can spread information quickly (as often seems to happen among Activist Twitter at protests, or as happens when Twitter is used for breaking news) and that you can use hashtags to raise awareness of issues (e.g. #YesAllWomen). If I’m doing street medic dispatch for protests in Ferguson, remotely from Boston, in addition to a set of livestreams I’m reading a larger set of Twitter accounts (they obviously can’t cover things as comprehensively, but there’s a lot more of them).

        • It seems to me Twitter is essentially SMS (texting) over HTTP, with some searching, a couple of search/indexing conventions, and minimal conversation threading. It’s not really a social media platform in itself, it’s a platform for people to create their own social media practices.

          So what you say makes perfect sense. Twitter works for you, and it works (in a different way) for the PR flacks at Redwood Rhiadra’s company, and a different way for Taylor Swift. It doesn’t work for the writer of the linked post, who wants to have conversations that include everyone but hateful people, but I’m not sure the problem is that Twitter’s designers didn’t put in enough safeguards. I don’t think you have to be techno-utopian to think they might have made the platform less useful for activists, say, if they had.

          • JL

            Certainly, I have had some experience (though less than others, as I’m too obscure to get the real awfulness) with hateful people on Twitter, and I know some people who have had truly awful experiences with hateful people on Twitter. Even if you aren’t really there to have conversations, sometimes they will try to have conversations with you. I feel like the mute button, where you can put someone on a do-not-see list without them knowing it, was a great advance. I’m not actually sure if muting a hashtag is a thing you can do, but if not I think it would be a great advance. I’ve heard mostly negative things about Twitter’s response to complaints of harassment, threats, etc, so they could probably stand to tweak, and/or beef up, their response department.

    • kayden

      I agree with you. I don’t have either a Facebook or Twitter account. Reading comments on moderated blogs like LGM is good enough for me. If social media cannot or does not want to stop death threats/abuse, then it should disappear.

      • Redwood Rhiadra

        So the post office and the phone system should also disappear, then. (Plenty of death threats and abuse over the phone and through the mail still…)

    • Philip

      Facebook has, so far, been really really helpful for staying in touch with friends from college.

    • JL

      Different social media have different reasons to use them. My own (probably unrepresentative) uses of social media these days:

      Twitter: Activism, news, the occasional personal announcement or brief exchange, getting ahold of activist colleagues when I don’t know their phone numbers or email addresses.

      Facebook: Occasional updates for family, party invitations. Occasionally check groups. Mostly ignore it because I don’t want to read family members’ more horrible political views because I love my family members and it makes me sad to read that.

      Zephyr (my alma mater’s internal social media, sort of a cross between IRC and Twitter, that is several years older than I am): Actual, in-depth, often thoughtful conversations with actual friends and a few friends-of-friends. Ranting, angsting, asking for advice, political discussion, posting links, keeping up with friends who have moved to California or other not-here places, asking if anyone wants to get coffee with me. By far the one I use the most.

      Slack*: Similar to Zephyr but less. Also, discussing the woods LARP that I write/staff for with other plotwriting staff.

      Livejournal: Reading my friends’ long life updates and angsting, occasionally posting my own. Much less of it these days as most don’t use or rarely use Livejournal anymore.

      LinkedIn: Maintaining a profile through which recruiters sometimes contact me.

      *Yes, I am aware that Slack is meant as corporate software for business team collaboration. It turns out that you can use the free version as social media if you get a group of your friends together and create a Slack group, and it’s pretty good at being genuinely social social media. Also good for non-corporate group projects.

  • Crusty

    My hunch- abuse will not destroy social media completely, but it will stunt it somewhat and social media will become a little less popular with most people, but will persist strongly with teens and college kids.

    Also, I think that calling things “social media” and a distinction that something is or is not social media will fade. I was thinking to myself that lots of social media corners of the internet are pretty vile, but then I remembered the wonderful guitar forums that I visit, which I guess are social media, but I don’t think of that way, because they’re just websites with nice people sharing info. My point is that I think some adults will one day tire of the sport of shouting down strangers.

    • NewishLawyer

      Teen and college kids have largely moved beyond FB and Twitter and unto programs and apps that are apparently completely counter-intuitive to anyone over 25 like snapchat.

      A writer friend of mine showed me an article that said writers and other freelance artists can raise their profile and popularity via twitter. The downside is that it is very exhausting to do so. Academics also seem to like twitter as a way of reaching a broader audience and being public intellectuals.

      The people I know from college who seem to use social media to enhance their careers are all writers. One guy writes on culture and politics, another woman is the “first homes” columnist/journalist for a suburban newspaper, and another writes romance novels.

      • NonyNony

        Teen and college kids have largely moved beyond FB and Twitter

        Shockingly, once a place is considered to be somewhere that “old people” (i.e. people over the age of 23 or so) hang out, the teens stop going there and find somewhere else to hang out. Somewhere with people their own age and where their parents are unlikely to come looking for them and see what they’re doing. And where “old people” won’t yell at them for doing the kinds of stupid things that teens do.

        Turns out this rule works on the Internet pretty much the same way it works in meatspace.

        • Crusty

          Facebook was done once mom was on it.

          • NonyNony

            Mom has money, though, so Facebook’s advertisers are happy to have mom there.

            And when mom becomes grandma, she strong-arms the kids into getting onto Facebook whether they want to or not to share pictures with her. The circle of life – Facebook is actually sitting on a pretty good thing if they don’t screw it up.

            • Brett

              Oh, they know it, too. I read the Facebook Effect about how Facebook rose to become the company it is, and it has Zuckerberg mentioning a bunch of times that he knows Facebook won’t be cool someday, but wanted it to be woven into the structure of the internet so it would be valuable regardless.

          • ThrottleJockey

            I predicted that way back in ’08 shortly before I got on FB and I remember how many people laughed at me.

  • AcademicLurker

    While I waste my share of time reading and commenting on blogs, I’ve totally avoided social media (no twitter or facebook accounts). Nothing I’ve seen or heard leads me to believe that I’m missing out on anything of value.

  • Charlie

    As we host one of the only good commenting communities left on the internet

    I may be ugly, and I may be hate-filled, but, uh, what was the third thing?

  • NewishLawyer

    Bullying might be a factor in Twitter’s death but I think it is far from a main cause. Twitter is dying because it is not something that monetizes very well. Certainly not as much as facebook. FB seems to make intuitive business sense to people. The general reaction I hear about twitter is “How are you supposed to make money off of that?”

    • Warren Terra

      I don’t use Twitter as it’s intended, but there are some comedians whose twitter feeds I look at occasionally, by web browser rather than an app and without logging in to an account. It’s actually impressive how very little Twitter tries to monetize eyeballs, at least the way I use it – I almost never see an ad (“sponsored tweet”).

      Or maybe nobody is buying “sponsored tweets”?

      • JL

        Hmm. I see a fair number of promoted tweets. Though there are often periods where I see the same one over and over.

        I don’t know how Twitter is “intended” to be used, but I use it quite a bit, though I tend to back off from it for weeks at a time when I’m stressed.

    • Yeah, certainly the idea that Twitter is worth hundreds of millions of dollars or something never made the first lick of sense to me.

    • Monetization is definitely part of the reason why social media isn’t in a hurry to address bullying. Google was easy to monetize, but any attempt to monetize social media will fly directly in the face of making it a more hospitable, less abuse-friendly place. Mind you, twitter is definitely trying to follow in Facebook’s footsteps in terms of data-mining its users and exposing them to promoted content.

      • guthrie

        Also good and effective ways to address bullying etc cost money and take time to implement. Thus are not at the top of the agenda of the companies.

    • Ronan

      I have to say I find if very useful for “intellectual” stuff (sorry, I couldn’t think of a less pretensious way of phrasing it)ie links, pointers towards interesting research ,contacting people randomly with queries about stuff they’ve written etc. I used to find it mildly enjoyable for trolling certain public figures, I’m ashamed to admit, but they’ve mainly blocked me so the funs gone out of it. As long as you don’t get too caught up in the nonsense*, it’s pretty useful

      * that’s just my experience. I’m not saying anything about the cyber bullying aspect, which I (personally) have obviously never experience

      Edit: that’s obviously not relevant to your comment, but it seemed like as good a place as any to leave my thoughts

  • I don’t use Twitter. It seems less useable to me than Usenet was, though at least you don’t get the sense that you’re in a “space” with the trolls, I guess.

    But I doubt the phenomenon of journalists retweeting mostly other journalists is due only to the existence of terrible people. It seems like the kind of thing that was inevitable. Maybe a kind of commercialization of the space. It might also be inevitable that what’s left over becomes lawless in the worst possible way.

    • ChrisS

      though at least you don’t get the sense that you’re in a “space” with the trolls, I guess.

      This is where I am with Twitter. I follow mostly sports people, journalists, some academics, and chefs/foodies. I have tweeted at people occasionally, but rarely do I join massive conversations. So I’m largely insulated from trolls unless someone retweets something particularly vulgar or I make the mistake of diving into a celeb’s feed where I get to see all the nastiness.

      If I were a celebrity, I would have a hard time dealing with trolls. Michelle Beadle, a B-level sports personality must have skin like iron. She gets barraged with absolute filth.

  • Bruce Vail

    Oh, I hope Twitter dies.

    Although some people use it for entertainment, it is really an advertising medium for business and creates a real burden on a lot of workers who are forced by their employers to use it.

    • ThrottleJockey

      Why would employers force workers to use Twitter? Outside of the marketing/PR staff I don’t understand how it fits into a business’ operations.

      • Bruce Vail

        Marketing/PR staff and journalists are often pressured into it by employers, as a way to increase the visibility of their efforts. Journalists, in particular, have in some instances been required to send out a certain number of tweets per day.

      • Redwood Rhiadra

        In order to spread their tweets to the widest possible group, the marketing departments send out press releases with “suggested tweets” to all employees. Everyone is required to promote those press releases/tweets on their feeds, or be penalized on their next performance review.

        I’m completely serious – this is the official policy at my company. I work in bloody technical support and have to maintain a twitter account just for the daily marketing crap.

        • Ken

          And somehow it never works both ways. You have to help marketing do their job, but try to direct an IT question over to them…

  • NonyNony

    The whole idea of “social media” as some grand open space where everyone can talk to everyone else is flawed from the get go. Nobody wants to talk to everyone, and nobody wants everyone to be able to talk to them. In meatspace we carefully control who has access to our social life – why we would think this would be different on the Internet is beyond me.

    And I think there’s evidence that people are culling their social circles down to just the people they want to talk to – and cutting out the people they don’t want to deal with. If Twitter can’t handle this shift then Twitter will die, but already it seems that Facebook gives you ways to just silently remove people from your online life if you’re sick of the grief that they’re giving you. I assume that Twitter will adapt.

    • It’s fallen completely out of favor now (and periodically gets shut down by pro-government Russian trolls) but I still think LiveJournal had the best and most sophisticated system for managing a social circle, encouraging conversation, and still being open to the rest of the web (those last two are where tumblr falls flat on its face). I was never on it myself (though I had an account I used to comment) but for several years during the 00s it was where I had the most engaging, intelligent, civil conversations of my online life.

      • JL

        These days a lot of the people who really liked the Livejournal model, especially the fandom and geeky types, seem to have moved to Dreamwidth, or crosspost between the two.

    • Brett

      You can do that already on Twitter if you turn on “protected” status. If I had an account that I was using only to send news to friends and family I’d do that, and only add them by request (like with Facebook).

  • Murc

    It’s worth noting that a lot of tech people are staunchly committed to providing as open a forum as possible as a matter of ideology; that even though they can control content on their platform, they choose not to do so because they really believe in letting people speak out even if they’re vile.

    This is a viewpoint I am sympathetic to; indeed, I would submit that most of the proprietors of this blog are, as this place has always been very welcoming to some incredibly despicable people in the interests of fostering a dialogue. It took Jennie a very, very long time to get banned, after it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt they weren’t here in good faith. David Nieporent doesn’t comment here anymore, but I don’t doubt he’d be welcomed (for some degree of welcomed) back, as would Brad Potts and possibly even Dagney/Winchester, who for all their insanity seemed to at least be a genuine Catholic reactionary theocrat.

    What this place has never put up with is The Donalde, who transitioned from “I am a bad person” to “I am a bad person who is actually stalking you and trying to fuck you up.” Legal action was taken, and quickly.

    The dark underbelly of “wanting to provide as open a forum as possible” is that, conveniently, doing so is also cheap. Even if you’re ideologically committed to being welcoming anyway, you have large financial incentives to not want to control behavior. People whose goal is to try and turn every forum on the internet into 4chan are, like it or not, a nontrivial and very vocal demographic, and are also willing to commit vandalism if you piss them off. And actually hiring people to try and control your space is very, very expensive if you want to do it right, with people examining the unique merits of every situation and actually rendering an informed judgment with a transparent and equitable appeals process.

    Doing that is incredibly fucking manpower intensive. Especially because vandals and hooligans will instantly try and take advantage of any “report abuse” functionality you might try and build into your platform to harass their enemies as a whole new form of play. Instantly. I’ve seen this happen from formats as small as a World of Warcraft Guild, in which our grievance procedure had to be re-written several times to prevent political infighting, all the way up to sizable forums that feel victim to moderator collusion with users to drive out their ideological foes.

    From the perspective of your silicon valley type, that’s a lot of money being thrown into a big black pit every quarter in order to do something you’re reluctant to do in the first place.

    • Warren Terra

      My recollection of the Donalde contretemps, at least as was made public, was that vicious attempts to sabotage at least one blogger’s professional career outside of this or any other blog led to serious action being taken – that his vitriol (and self-promotion) in the comments were distasteful but not really a spur to action.

      • Malaclypse

        There was also the strange belief that he had tracked down the real identity of Tintin from Sadly, No!, and he spent quite a bit of time/posts doxxing the wrong dude. He really was creepily obsessive.

    • Malaclypse

      This does seem an appropriate place to add my thanks to the proprietors of this fine establishment, because making this the place it is is indeed a lot of work, and that is appreciated.

      And I, for one, miss Brad Potts. While he was so very, very wrong, I rarely felt he was arguing in bad faith. I do hope he’s well, wherever he is.

    • Part of the problem is that most tech people come from privileged backgrounds and have no experience with abuse. It’s therefore a lot easier for them to champion “free speech” without ever acknowledging how easily it can be used to hurt people in very real ways.

      The recent proposed people-rating app Peeple was a great example of tech people completely failing to grasp the reality of how people interact online, and how different levels of privilege translate into vastly different levels of safety.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Part of the problem is that most tech people come from privileged backgrounds and have no experience with abuse.

        Speaking of which…

        This past Saturday evening I attended a (terrific) staged reading of Year One of the Empire, a “documentary drama” (all dialogue taken from documents) by Elinor Fuchs and Joyce Antler about the Spanish American War and the war on the Philippines (spoiler: there were an awful lot of really horrible people in American politics at that time, who did a lot of really horrible things). While there, I noticed that the Weiner lecture by Anita Sarkesian that had to be put off because of the February snowpocalypse has been rescheduled to November 2.

        …What I didn’t notice on the poster until downloading it in JPEG form is that attendees will need Brandeis ID. Oh, well, having typed this much, I’ll post this comment anyway.

        I assume that JL will attend and report on it somewhere, if not here.

        • JL

          I am hoping to, especially since having her speak was my advisor’s idea and he put a lot of effort into arranging it.

      • People about my age, though (I think I’m older than you) who may have been online since the 1990s, probably have a lot of familiarity with abuse and with the devolution of groups into shouting or worse. You would see a Usenet group appear that was devoted to the culture of some small country somewhere–sometimes I’d read a group like that because it was low-volume at first and because my newsreader showed me all new groups by default–and if that country had any political salience at all in the US, the first few dozen “hi where do you live” messages would be overwhelmed by political trolling within months. Some commercial service would add Usenet access and you’d suddenly have a spate of teenagers posting in all caps and no punctuation.

        My own personal peeve is non-tech people who got access to the computer network in college (at my school it was only for CS majors until 1986), and see the computer as a toy, an extension of their teenage social lives. They’re “techies” in the sense that they like computers, maybe. But granted that there are a lot of older engineers with annoying political beliefs who are pretty certain they’re right about everything including how to behave, bad behavior is more broadly distributed.

        • ScottK

          Sometimes the group would devolve into a political pissing match before it even existed. I was involved with Usenet administration in the mid-90s, when a news.groups proposal for ‘soc.culture.indian.jammu-kashmir’ came along. Indian and Pakistani discussion groups went *ballistic*. I’m not sure anyone actually wanted to discuss Jammu or Kashmir culture in the first place- they were just by Ghu determined that those other jerks were not going to have that newsgroup in *their* hierarchy.

          For all the bullshit, for all the long Septembers and trolls and green card lawyer spam, for all the ‘UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information’, I really miss Usenet.

          • Yeah, Usenet had its day. There was this one crazy troll guy in soc.feminism and this one woman who would engage him every. single. time. line. by. line. I kind of miss the days when you could see that. But the Well (which I never joined) took a lot of the interesting people. And then the blogging platforms (which I discovered after their peak, I think). And for a while there were those private forum setups where you couldn’t really tell who was running them, and comments sections on online magazines started popping up. I think I might say actually list serfs are best. You could do pretty much all of these social media functions in email, really. All Twitter is, is a simple cleartext (!) request, no special app needed. (HTTP really is the Cheetos of network protocols.)

            • Lee Rudolph

              I think I might say actually list serfs are best.

              Dead souls?

              • Ahuitzotl

                she’s missing the villeins?

        • People about my age, though (I think I’m older than you) who may have been online since the 1990s, probably have a lot of familiarity with abuse and with the devolution of groups into shouting or worse.

          Maybe that’s part of the problem? Certainly a lot of the dismissiveness towards reports of online abuse comes from old-hand, ex-usenet folks who think that the people (=women, POC) complaining are simply too soft and should get out of the kitchen.

          (I was born 1981, by the way. I spent a little bit of time on usenet, but nowhere where there were a lot of memorable flame wars. The biggest internet clusterfuck I ever participated in – not including things like Gamergate and Sad Puppies – was on a moderated Harry Potter discussion board on Yahoo Groups.)

          • Okay, in 1981 I was 14 and had a TRS-80.

            I don’t follow the recent stuff but I wouldn’t blame anyone who felt bullied, etc. I’ve seen crappy stuff done in my day. I do think the no-walls, no-structure nature of Twitter causes some of the problems (which is kind of a get off my lawn thing to say but there it is), but people who find uses for it are right to be pissed off, and people like the “everything should be run as 4chan would run it” crowd someone references upthread are IMHO out of line,

            • JR in WV

              In 1981 I was in college for the 3rd time, enrolled in a BS CS program in the nearby university as a 30-y-o student. I got into a study group with 2 19-y-o students and one other guy about my age, who is still my friend.

              I like blogs, which are still around.

              I confess to being an old and retired guy.

              Abigail, I just earlier in the late last night noticed your name was hi-lighted, hovered over it, and clicked to find your blog.

              I’m a big reader of SciFi & fantasy, though I’m less analytical and not as critical as your blog. Banks, what a loss, I hoped to read 20 more Culture novels. I’ll be reading your blog until I catch up, so keep up the good work!

          • Philip

            I dunno, I grew up on early-2000s fora, and I definitely saw and see abuse as a serious problem. Not right away, because 13 year old boys are not noted for their online empathy, but once I matured a little. I was somewhat inured to it, but I didn’t think it was okay, or that it wasn’t seriously harmful to communities and people.

      • ThrottleJockey

        I don’t think you have to come from a privileged background to favor free speech protections anymore than you have to come from an impoverished background to support speech controls.

        I think the main thing is how much of a civil libertarian you are. I’ve seen campaigns to restrict the KKK from “adopting a mile” of state highway, for instance, and even though I’m black I’ve always opposed those. The best way to nurture hate groups is to drive them underground. When the racists came out against the Interracial couple on the Cheerios commercial they got slammed hard and fast by everyone. No restrictions on speech required. Lawrence O’Donnell even ate a bowl of Cheerios on national TV to show his support for the commercial. That’s priceless!

        • The best way to nurture hate groups is to drive them underground.

          I’d argue that state support and social sanction would work quite well!

          Also, de-Nazificiation seemed to work out ok.

          Sometimes suppression works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Effectiveness isn’t what makes us not want to engage in suppression of minority groups for their speech, however loathsome.

    • sparks

      Willing to commit vandalism? That’s weak, it’s more like eager, champing at the bit to do it. You don’t even have to piss them off, they’ll test your limits just to amuse themselves.

    • NonyNony

      Sure this explains why social media sites don’t want to ban people who are horrible. But this doesn’t explain why “social media” sites refuse to implement a silent killfile. Just because you have the freedom to spout ugly bullshit, that doesn’t mean that I should be forced to listen to it.

      Honestly killfiles were the only thing that made Usenet usable back in the day. That technology is literally 40 or more years old – you’d think that major “social media” platforms like Twitter would have it by default.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Honestly killfiles were the only thing that made Usenet usable back in the day.

        I actually never used one (as a killfile; I did have some posters auto-selected). But many people I knew, liked, and respected did, so I never inveighed against their use, any more than I did against pseudonymous posting (which I have also always eschewed).

        The moral, I suppose, is that privilege has its privileges.

        • sparks

          My killfile was often bulging, but when the whim struck me (usually at least once a year) I’d trash the killfile and restart. Most of the time the same people ended up in it again. There were characters on Usenet who couldn’t have a civil conversation with anyone.

      • Murc

        But this doesn’t explain why “social media” sites refuse to implement a silent killfile.

        You can’t silently killfile people on FB, twitter, and tumblr? I somehow thought you could.

        (I’m only on tumblr and I can definitely completely block people there.)

        • wca

          You can certainly do that for Facebook feeds. (Not sure about private messages since I’ve never tried, but you can silently remove particular users from your feed while still remaining “friends”.)

          Edit: Also, if you “unfriend” someone it doesn’t send them a direct notification, but that’s not completely silent as you no longer appear on that user’s list.

        • You can block people on twitter, but they’ll find out about it if they try to follow you. You can also mute them, which they won’t know about. In theory people will also know if you unfollow them, but they won’t get a notification about it.

        • NonyNony

          Facebook you can, though originally IIRC if you unfriended someone they would find out about it.

          Twitter notoriously refuses to let you silently blacklist people. Third party solutions exist to try to get around it, but the trolls get mighty upset when they find out that they’re being blocked.

          • Murc

            … oh, I suspect I was using silently different from other people. By “silently killfile” I mean “they try and get in touch with you and as far as you’re concerned the message falls into the void.” Not “they try and get in touch with you and from their end it appears they’ve succeeded, but they really haven’t.”

          • Matty

            Indeed, there’s was a big ol’ contretemps over Randi Harper’s GG blocklist, especially as it turned out to be an especially effective anti Sad Puppies blocklist, a “white genocide” blocklist, and so on.

            http://blog.randi.io/good-game-auto-blocker/

            Googling for it found me a lot of hyperventilating articles about how it was “an ideological weapon poorly conceived” and whatnot.

          • Philip

            You can mute on twitter, which is transparent to the mutee. On the other hand, the API periodically barfs and lets through notifications from muted people. But that’s a broader engineering problem at twitter, it’s not limited to muting.

    • J. Otto Pohl

      Man, I did not even make it into the top three trolls. That does it I am officially retiring from the troll business. The competition is just too fierce for me.

      • Malaclypse

        Technically, you didn’t even make the top 5. I’d also rank you below k, the Big Fucking Arby’s guy, and GoDeep. And I know for a fact that Gary Ruppert has posted here several times. You’re barely in the top ten, dude.

        • J. Otto Pohl

          What a pathetic showing. That is really dissapointing. ;-)

          • We really need to get a feud going, Otto. It’s been years now!

            • J. Otto Pohl

              Alas Bijan Trolling like boxing is a young man’s sport and I am over half way to 90 now.

        • And I know for a fact that Gary Ruppert has posted here several times.

          Which Gary Ruppert?

          • Malaclypse

            He contains multitudes.

    • James

      Doing that is incredibly fucking manpower intensive. Especially because vandals and hooligans will instantly try and take advantage of any “report abuse” functionality you might try and build into your platform to harass their enemies as a whole new form of play. Instantly. I’ve seen this happen from formats as small as a World of Warcraft Guild, in which our grievance procedure had to be re-written several times to prevent political infighting, all the way up to sizable forums that feel victim to moderator collusion with users to drive out their ideological foes.

      I’d actually go somewhat further and say that on any kind of scale, managing the problem via human intervention is essentially impossible. It is so manpower intensive that I suspect the required users:moderator ration vs user:income isn’t high enough to cover the costs of doing it even if you were to do so in some sweatshop-esqe manner –various attempts at volunteer driven moderation awash as it is in its own problems would certainly seem to point in that direction. Automation could bring that down, but if we knew how to provide that automation this would be a very different conversation.

      Part of the issue is that at least as it stands, people expect almost all content on the internet to be free, or at least “free”. That has proven incredibly poisonous[1], because it so sharply constrains the solution space: it forces you to rely on ad dollars, which in turn makes you beholden to what advertisers want, and (at least according to the few people I know in that part of the tech industry) advertisers will punish you if you dare to moderate too tightly. They view trolls as a valuable demographic: young men who spend a great deal of time on the computer and are committed users of the platform. So even those who’d like to be more aggressive are in a sharp bind. It is essentially the same problem as email spam, which has a well understood solution involving micro-payments, something which everyone involved as proven astoundingly resistant too.

      Anyway. My basic point is that I suspect it may simply not be possible to achieve the necessary level of bulling protection while maintaining an Internet that looks much like the one we know today. The manpower costs appear prohibitive and the issue has been stubbornly resistant to technical solutions. Legislative action might help, but any legislation broad enough to change the facts on the ground is likely to have a serious impact on smaller, more marginalized voices; it may be worth doing regardless given how badly bullying falls on those same groups[2], but it will have consequences and some of those will be consequences we don’t love.

      (Incidentally, should you have made it all the way to the bottom: did anything ever come of the proposed LGM WoWS group/fleet/whatever they call it?)

      [1]Of course, turning users into paying customers presents its own dangerous pressures. The ideal solution might be legislation that creates a small (parking ticket-esque) fine for certain kinds of internet behavior married to some manner of required payment information to use the internet, but that in turn runs into (among many, many other problems) the fact that we don’t know how to do data security; unlike some I believe that the problem isn’t just that we under-invest or have poor incentives: I think we fundamentally don’t know how to make information networks both open and secure. It may simply not be possible.

      [2]Although we shouldn’t kid our selves that it isn’t a problem that falls or fails to be understood on the classic privileged young white male: swatting so far still falls mostly on that group, for example. Its easy, but false, because that group produces the preponderance of the offenders that that group is insulated, but it really isn’t.

  • Thom

    Not re social media, but I find the comments posted about Guardian articles particularly appalling.

  • Manny Kant

    In what sense is Twitter “dying”, though? The Medium article is just completely anecdotal. It certainly seems like there’s a lot of twittering still going on.

    • Vance Maverick

      I think the business is at risk — it’s not making enough to cover the costs of running the service. That’s not the same as saying the service is unpopular, obvs.

    • Warren Terra

      Their new CEO just fired a lot of people and cancelled a planned expansion of their headquarters, amid commentary that they’re losing market share to other messaging networks and falling to monetize their traffic.

      Of course, this doesn’t mean social media is diminishing, but it might mean investors will be more skeptical about growth curves, market share, longevity, and exclusivity plans to extract revenue.

      • guthrie

        So the obvious question is, why is twitter losing out to other messaging networks? Fashion? Or if you define facebook as another messaging network, then obviously facebook offers more than twitter.

        • Warren Terra

          I’m about the last person you should ask for a truly informed take on this. I mean, I know the names of several alternatives supposedly seeing greater growth among today’s youth (WhatsApp and Instagram), but I know of those from reading some very stodgy articles no more likely to have their finger on the pulse of today’s youth than I am.

          I would offer that (by reputation, since I don’t use it) FaceBook is said to be absolutely dedicated to extracting as much advertising revenue as it can from its traffic, while Twitter seems positively lackadaisical about this.

          • NonyNony

            Facebook turned itself into an entire lifestyle platform – it’s sitting in the spot that AOL used to have when AOL was the 800 lb. gorilla (in the days of dial-up and sending CD-ROMs in the mail).

            Twitter has stayed laser focused on being a messaging app – that’s really all they are. They are never going to replace Facebook because they aren’t even trying to replace Facebook. They may think that they’re trying to replace facebook, but really they’re just one portion of Facebook.

            And because their implementation just throws all messages together into one big stream-of-consciousness jumbled feed of messages aren’t even good at replicating the messaging portion of Facebook (where message threading is a bit more obvious and where the organization is a bit less chaotic).

            • And because their implementation just throws all messages together into one big stream-of-consciousness jumbled feed of messages

              Seriously. How many lines of code do you think their initial implementation was? Ten?

              • Redwood Rhiadra

                I understand the original implementation was in a LISP dialect. So ten lines, but five of them were nothing but dozens of parentheses…

          • WhatsApp is different from other social media (to the extent that I’m not sure it’s even correct to refer to it that way) in that it is strictly about messaging people you know, or to whom you feel comfortable giving your phone number (or both). Most of the people I know who use WhatsApp aren’t young and hip – they’re parents who will periodically complain that their kids’ kindergarten WhatsApp group is full of inane chatter again.

            • J. Otto Pohl

              Yes, I don’t use WhatsApp, but my wife used it extensively when she was in Ghana to communicate with family members in Kyrgyzstan. It reminds me of the old ICQ in some ways, but with the ability to send photographs.

    • This.

      The article doesn’t mention the business problems and effortless segues between “It’s a ghost town” to “it’s got lots of Ingroups/subcommunities”. These aren’t the same thing.

      To generalise from “Twitter” to “social media” is silly anyway. Twitter is a particular form. There are a plethora of social networks that rose up, flourished, then faded (MySpace, anyone?) Facebook seems to be doing quite well. I don’t know how Tumblr and the like are doing, but they were the next big thing for a while. Google Reader was very interestingly social and was killed. Google Buzz/Wave/Plus never got off the ground.

      It’s not at all clear to mean that interpersonal abuse, even flash mobs, are strong threats to the general success of online social networks. That abuse is really bad and horrible for individuals and various communities. But, it’s not at all clear that there’s some nearby tipping point that will push people off line or into non-social network activity en masse.

      (Contrast with ad blocking in iOS which seems a pretty live threat to loads of online publications. I wish it were a threat to crap click bait ads, but nuking from orbit might not kill those.)

      • JL

        Oh Google Buzz.

        I know someone who works for a software company that at the time was working on some stuff that was useful for dissidents in various countries, and sometimes he would travel to those countries to talk to them. The day that Google Buzz came out, he was in a particular sub-Saharan African country to meet people who wanted to use the company’s software, and Google Buzz somehow exposed his contacts with them to the Internet. He had apparently-random people on the street telling him that he was being watched by the government, and ended up in kind of a panic.

        He was good friends with another friend who happened to work at Google at the time and was rather defensive of it. Later that day the two of them had a pretty epic fight on MIT’s internal social media (they made up later).

    • JL

      That Medium article also acts like there’s something wrong with activists retweeting activists, economists retweeting economists. Like this is a sign of doom (I’ll give them media people retweeting media people, if only because media people, whose job is gathering and amplifying news, should probably try to get info from people other than just each other). Why wouldn’t subcultures form on this enormous platform, or existing subcultures transplant to it? Why wouldn’t people within subcultures use it to interact with and amplify each other rather than randoms? If I retweet something it’s because I want to show it to other people I follow.

      This has nothing to do with harassment or intimidation or bullying or mean behavior (abuse involves patterns of power and control, I don’t like calling it abuse unless it’s part of such a pattern, and I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by redefining abuse to mean “any shitty treatment”).

  • Mike Furlan

    That so many people feel the need to post anonymously tells me that there is a problem. Those who have explained their reasons include the fear of physical harm.

    • Warren Terra

      What are you talking about with “post anonymously”? Are you talking about this blog, or some other site/service?

      This blog has never had a lot of “anonymous” posts, and no longer even allows such. It does have a lot of pseudonymous posters, which is not at all the same thing. I for one use a pseud to separate my online socializing and grandstanding from the rest of my life, but with no fear of physical harm nor even any real fear of professional harm; I just see them as separate and prefer them that way. I assume others feel similarly.

      • sparks

        I’ve been pseudonymous since the ’80s and pseudonymous I will stay. It’s not like it’s difficult to find out who I am IRL. Then again, if someone does go through the effort of finding that information, I’ll know something about them as well.

      • Well, it can be hard to tell who’s pseudonymous and who’s not. I was 95% sure “Warren Terra” was a pseudonym, but I was almost equally sure “Vance Maverick” was. “John Doe” is almost certainly a pseudonym, but who can say for certain? Discomfort with using my real name on Usenet while not even knowing who else was or was not, especially in a group where “is that their real name?” had become a meme, was one reason I started using one myself. Though only one–there are plenty of better reasons.

        • Malaclypse

          I think the moment I learned that “Aimai” was not simply a non-traditional spelling of “Amy” was when I gave up trying to sort real names.

          • Ahuitzotl

            Wait, what?

        • My parents wanted to name me “Norman Bates” but couldn’t afford the extra letters.

          • Lee Rudolph

            “You want more letters in your name, when there are all those anonymous children in China???”

            • Warren Terra

              Not to mention the Vowels For Yugoslavia campaign!

              • I’m very disappointed in both of you. I gave you the mother of all straight lines…

                • Warren Terra

                  I understand you might have mother issues, but I’m not seeing the apparently obvious witty riposte.

                • parents…using the name “Norman Bates”…

                  Never mind.

                • Ahuitzotl

                  you need to abate your baiting of them

    • Vance Maverick

      That’s no different from LGM. Proprietors post mainly under their everyday names, but in the comment section you and I are exceptions.

      • NonyNony

        Wait – your name is really Vance Maverick?

        That is an awesome name.

        • On of my favourite LGM moments was finding that that djw and erik both thought my name was a pseudonym.

          Makes me smile every time!

          Smile and feel like a ninja!

          • Rob in CT

            I thought so too.

            And holy shit, it never occurred to me that Vance Maverick was a real name too.

            I basically assume that all the names are made up/altered in some way, unless someone says otherwise (the fact that yours is hyperlinked should’ve given it away, I now know).

            • I basically assume that all the names are made up/altered in some way, unless someone says otherwise

              I do the opposite! (Sorta :))

              (the fact that yours is hyperlinked should’ve given it away, I now know)

              That’s the funniest bit for me!

              I’m also super googlable.

              • Lee Rudolph

                I’m also super googlable.

                And I bet that no one using your name as a pseudonym has written books (including a novel) about blackjack, either.

              • Ahuitzotl

                Will you change that once the UK stops rationing pseudonyms?

                • Lee Rudolph

                  Will you change that once the UK stops rationing pseudonyms?

                  So that’s what happened to the crispy pseudonyms we had before the war!

                • By then I’ll *like* overcooked nyms and mushy nicks.

        • Vance Maverick

          Thanks! I’ve compensated for it by leading as unsurprising a life as possible.

          • We should form a superhero team!

            Or at least write a novel this NaNoMo to make peoples’ fantasies about our names come true!

            “Oh, are you named for the protagonist of ‘Moody Maverick: The Parsia Files, vol 1’?”

            “Why no! They are named after ME!*”

    • nixnutz

      I’ve noticed that my oldest niece and her friends mostly use cute pseudonyms on Facebook, I don’t really know what it’s about. Have other folks noticed that with teenagers?

      • Lee Rudolph

        I believe that if you run your smartphone over their “tramp stamps”, it will download an explanation of the whole phenomenon. Try it!

      • Matty

        I have a general sense that might be a teenage thing. I’ve moved from entirely pseudonymous (in the uBB message board days) to barely putting in the effort to basically posting most shit under variations of my real name over the past ~13 years. I wonder how much effort it would be to swing back the other way.

  • Owlbear1

    They are parlor games and so have a certain shelf-life before it becomes tedious.

  • Brett

    With comment sections, I wonder if you eventually might have to simply slam down a registration restriction limiting the commentator membership and only open comments to new people if they send in a request to do so by email that gets approved (or if traffic dies down and you want some new folks to show up).

    It’s the only way I can think of to keep a comment section on a high volume traffic site (or even a medium volume one) from eventually deteriorating as more and more trolls and malcontents show up. Otherwise you’re just going to exhaust yourself with moderation activity.

    In any case, I’d be sad if Facebook deteriorated because my mother loves it (she keeps in touch with some friends and family that way). Even Twitter would be a loss, because I love the whole “it’s like jumping into an on-going conversation” factor of it.

  • Crusty

    We’re always going to need a way to check in with the one who got away.

  • Mike Furlan

    “This blog has never had a lot of “anonymous” posts, and no longer even allows such. It does have a lot of pseudonymous posters, which is not at all the same thing.”

    Nitpicking. You chose to shield your identity, as is your right under the rules here and you don’t need to justify that decision to anyone.

    But it is true that people, often women chose not to identify themselves online for fear of actual physical threats. I had not previously considered that anyone would feel that way.

    • Arla

      Well, I’m not sure it’s nitpicking, since having a pseudonym allows you to have a bit of a consistent identity, ongoing conversations, and accountability for (or at least reference to) prior posts.

      But in terms of shielding your identity online–yep. I’m not sure how many lady commenters show up here on a regular basis, but I’m pretty sure the relative proportion of women here would drop *dramatically* if LGM instituted some sort of real name policy. (I’ve never gotten death threats using my real name online, but I have gotten a lot of very lewd messages that are explicit enough to be threatening, so I’ve stopped.)

      • Long ago, when I was using my own name and email address, I would get creepy offlist emails, sometimes from people on the list, sometimes from pseudonyms I’d never seen before. Some other stuff, that suggested someone knew where I lived (but could have been friendly, or something else altogether, I never figured it out). People without normal personal boundaries (not techies and not people who seemed to think of themselves as socially awkward) who I think were unsure how to interact with strangers who weren’t just like them. It wasn’t literally threatening, but that is not something I would expose myself to again.

        One of the good things about Twitter is that people don’t know your email address, and anything a creep says is said in public. I don’t think we’re going to go back to everyone giving out home emails all the time. But one of the good things about Google is that you can verify for yourself just how much or how little information someone would have to have to track you down.

        • Arla

          It wasn’t literally threatening, but that is not something I would expose myself to again.

          expose myself

          I see what you did there.

          Well played.

          • Do you? I hope you only see the pun I actually intended!

    • Lee Rudolph

      “This blog has never had a lot of “anonymous” posts, and no longer even allows such. It does have a lot of pseudonymous posters, which is not at all the same thing.”

      Nitpicking. You chose to shield your identity

      It’s not nitpicking at all. A pseudonym maintains one’s genidentity as a commenter (to the extent that one applies it consistently and is not nymjacked), which facilitates other commenters’ (and non-commenting readers’) abilities to ignore one, follow one, rely on shared in-blog experiences with one, etc.; someone who posts “anonymously” (which here, at least as far as I can see, can only be implemented as serial pseudonymy) deprives other commenters (etc.) of that facilitation (or forces them to work harder at doing a probably poorer job of it by themselves, via textual analysis etc.).

      That distinction is important, and nearly independent of the issue of shielding one’s (off-blog) identity (with exceptions, perhaps, for “real-world” celebrities and the like).

      • Indeed.

        You chose to shield your identity

        No, pseudonymous posters typically use one identity, but often don’t connect all their identities.

        Pseudonyms can be used to protect certain identities, or merely to separate them, or to craft different identities for different purposes. Crafted identities/personas are not inherently “fake”.

        (An obvious example is handles, character names, or nicks in online gaming. When playing with your legal-identity friends, they know that other identity, but interact with your game identity.)

    • JL

      When I had my last round of Twitter trolls, other than the ones who were trying to get all of their followers to troll me (fortunately most of their followers were apparently too lazy to do so), and the one whose profile pic was of someone pointing a gun at a USPS driver, the only one that actually scared me was the one who started his angry tweet to me with “What’s your name?”

      And obviously, I could and did choose not to answer that question. And given the context he could have found it out pretty easily with a little research if he wanted to. But the fact that he asked the question felt very aggressive to me, more than the “I hope you go to prison blah blah blah” people.

      Edited to add, because it seems worth adding: Some of the people trolling me, including the guy with the profile pic that I described above, used what appeared to be their real names. Or, in the case of the UMass College Republicans account, real organizational names.

  • MikeJake

    Social media apps are tools that allow one to simulate various forms of personal interaction. The benefit of these tools is that you can potentially reach a huge audience with them, and you can tailor the level of interaction.

    But this impersonality can be a drawback, because a social media interaction is different enough from a face-to-face interaction that many people don’t seem to think the established mores of how you interact face-to-face apply online. Someone who would never think of interrupting a conversation by shouting vulgarities see no problem with this behavior when it’s done on a messageboard or comments section. The online culture is too enamored with irreverence, for the sake of lulz.

    Now I’m fairly thick-skinned online, and I tend to think people whine too much on the internet. But the corollary to that is that if people want to congregate on some website and have their whiny, stupid interactions with one another, the fact that we’re all words on a screen doesn’t excuse someone from barging in and spewing diarrhea everywhere. In other words, if they have to stop whining, then you have to not be a dick and/or a creep.

    • Social media apps are tools that allow one to simulate various forms of personal interaction.

      No, they are actually forms of personal interaction. Not always, but at least sometimes.

      The benefit of these tools is that you can potentially reach a huge audience with them, and you can tailor the level of interaction

      Not necessarily at all. If you had looked above to my discussion of Facebook, you’ll see that while I would love for my beloved’s FB page to reach a huge audience, most of my benefit comes from reaching my family and friends. That’s it.

      You basically go on to chat about the online disinhibition effect. But that doesn’t define online interaction nor does it even touch all or perhaps most online interaction.

  • MPAVictoria

    And I just got tweeted at by Harry Shearer. My time on twitter would be justified by that alone.

  • Sue.K.Mabels

    I hate to say it because I’ve been reading LGM for …twelve years? Since I took a class from Farley in like 2003 I think. Ages ago. This is the only blog I’ve managed to continuously follow for so long and it’s the quality of the writing and the subject matter that interests me (although (battle)shipposting still escapes me).

    But ya’ll are no different from any other semi-isolated commenting community as far as I can see. Where you all mostly agree, you remain civil, but someone with a different viewpoint comes in (even legitimate ones) and the civility becomes the same knuckle-dragging bullshit that occurs everywhere else on the internet. The internet as a medium is not conducive to civil conversations (or perhaps that’s just humanity).

    Anyways, there’s a lot more to say about the subject, but I’ll just note that in-group/out-group issues and a lack of self-awareness is a confounding factor in e-civility.

    Basically: we have met the enemy and he is us.

    • Vance Maverick

      Hmm, if you deny our unique mutual tolerance we may have to ostracize you.

      • Lee Rudolph

        She’s just dragging our knuckles through the mud!!!

    • sparks

      True as far as it goes, but since the knuckle dragging is almost ubiquitous in most comment sections (small groups of serious commenters in non political areas seem to avoid this), there’s nothing to be done except as Digby did and remove comments altogether. I was here in ’05-06 and stayed for awhile, left for a couple of years because the stories were boring or annoying depending on the writer, returned around 2010.

      The in-group/out-group dynamic has been here as long as I remember, and I just decided not to ingratiate myself to anyone when I returned. Since I’m planted in CA, it’s not like I’m ever going to meet any of these Eastern snobs anyhow.

      In its defense, for a long-lived blog this place has never been disgusting and as in need of policing comments as DKos. And if you want a clubby and very closed in-group, look in Eschaton comments, where they often don’t even address the post under which they comment. What I mean is even with the trolls and unwarranted feeding of same, this place is one of the better sites of its mature age which has comments.

      • But ya’ll are no different from any other semi-isolated commenting community as far as I can see. Where you all mostly agree, you remain civil, but someone with a different viewpoint comes in (even legitimate ones) and the civility becomes the same knuckle-dragging bullshit that occurs everywhere else on the internet.

        The in-group/out-group dynamic has been here as long as I remember, and I just decided not to ingratiate myself to anyone when I returned.

        I feel like this needs more unpacking. Who’s in the in-group? What crosses the line?

        I mean, there are currents of agreement and disagreement and a broad sensibility. But lines of fracture don’t seem primarily person based. (Take Joe from Lowell, for example. Or ThrottleJockey.)

        There are often extended attempts to accommodate variant opinion.

        (I don’t know what to make of the Eastern Snobs comment.)

        This isn’t to valorize the comment section. It’s largely comfortable for me, so I like it. I presume this is sorta historical and path dependent. I never got into e.g., Crooked Timber (either posts or comments). I think there are some very nice conversations and analysis. There’s a lot of just conversation. And enough bad conversation that we needed a registration system.

        Maybe I just think lots of conversations on the internet are better than y’all do?

        • that kid in the corner

          (I don’t know what to make of the Eastern Snobs comment.)

          The context is

          The in-group/out-group dynamic has been here as long as I remember, and I just decided not to ingratiate myself to anyone when I returned. Since I’m planted in CA, it’s not like I’m ever going to meet any of these Eastern snobs anyhow.

          Probably just a joke, Bijan.

          • I get that it’s supposed to be a joke, but I don’t get the joke. Is LGM so heavily east coast? I mean, take Erik, he’s at URI, but he’s from Oregon.

        • that kid in the corner

          I feel like this needs more unpacking. Who’s in the in-group? What crosses the line?

          I have been a fan of your (Bijan’s) use of this “support your argument with links” strategy in the LGM comments in the past. You totally pwn people with it! (I can remember, if not quote verbatim, some awesome skirmishes with dilan esper.)

          But “Who’s the in-group?” is – kind of? – a disingenuous question. Joefromlowell and Throttlejockey have been commenting here for a long-ass time. And they have stayed around while flying through flak that would’ve brought down a lot of planes. (Flak those planes would’ve deserved.)

          I wish I had time/expertise to do a Bijan Parsia- style analysis of the past comments here, classifying each into an ingroup/outgroup slot. I really do!

          Or to do an analysis of Sue.K.Mabels’s past comments here, as Origami Isopod has done, I see. http://lawyersgunsmon.wpengine.com/2015/10/will-abuse-destroy-social-media/comment-page-1#comment-1694729

          But I have to go to work. So I must apologize for only including one link in my post.

          • But “Who’s the in-group?” is – kind of? – a disingenuous question. Joefromlowell and Throttlejockey have been commenting here for a long-ass time.

            I mean it sincerely. Is Joe in group or out group? (When I joined, I though he was out group. But he seems in group in the sense of being a regular).

            The use here doesn’t seem to track the social identity account very well. Or, at least, it seems rather trivial.

            So is Joe, with his more hawkish than many views, in the out group? What about minzer, who left? Lots of people pound of the “BUT THE DROOOONES” crowd, but that doesn’t seem to be a function of the ideological content per se, but the ridiculous move to Naderism.

            I think you need a taste for this comment section and it’s not to everyone’s taste. But that seems a thin reed to push for some sort of cohesive group dynamics.

            (Thanks for the compliments. Much appreciated.)

            • Ronan

              Joe is in group, but he’s the apocryphal uncle who shows up for Christmas dinner after not having been seen for The last 20 years claiming to be running a business in Hong Kong, but you’re pretty sure he’s just got out of prison. The uncle who, by the end of the holidays, you don’t know whether to beg to stay or call their parole officer. Tj is the neighbour who calls to borrow sugar but won’t leave until he’s filled you in on everything that’s happened to him since you last met, and used the phone to call the cops on the local hoodlums smoking joints on the stoop. I’m not sure if that’s in group exactly, but you’d miss him when he’s moved from the building . Keeping to the Christmas theme, I’d like to see myself as the Christmas tree, decorative and beautiful but at the end of the day sheds everywhere , peaks seasonally and leaves the place stinking of bark

              • Joe is in group, but he’s the apocryphal uncle who shows up for Christmas dinner after not having been seen for The last 20 years claiming to be running a business in Hong Kong, but you’re pretty sure he’s just got out of prison.

                This doesn’t seem even close! Joe is here all the time. He has a slew of mainstream for the blog views and interactions and some outlier ones.

                • Ronan

                  But my description of myself as decorative and beautiful is accurate ? ; )

                • Malaclypse

                  That would depend on whether or not we apply Veblen to your analogies.

                • But my description of myself as decorative and beautiful is accurate ? ; )

                  I’m from the US where the dominant aesthetic quality of Xmas and its trees is tacky.

                  Own it! :)

          • I wish I had time/expertise to do a Bijan Parsia- style analysis of the past comments here, classifying each into an ingroup/outgroup slot. I really do!

            Actually, this would be fun. One day when I have gotten hold of the whole of the LGM archive as an xml dump, I’ll see if one can do a sentiment like analyzer instead of having to code it all by hand.

            • Philip

              Only if it’s paired with condiment analysis.

            • Malaclypse

              I’d suspect that if you actually did this, you would find the groups vary depending upon the front-pager. Since we’re using JFL as our example, he’d line up differently on a djw transit topic than on a lamentably-departed Charli human security post or a Lemieux Nader-basher.

              And I’d further guess that if you ran all the topics together, you would find few solid groups.

              Except everybody hates Neiporente. We’re none of us so far gone as to disagree there.

              • Lee Rudolph

                And I’d further guess that if you ran all the topics together, you would find few solid groups.

                Clearly what this conundrum analysis calls out for is something along the lines of cluster analysis or (my favorite on esthetic grounds) multidimensional scaling. Perhaps Manju can apply his MDS expertise.

              • I’d suspect that if you actually did this, you would find the groups vary depending upon the front-pager.

                That’s possible. Perhaps likely. What might be interesting is if the groups varied in their treatment of internal to the blog outgroup and in their treatment of external to the blog outgroups.

                Except everybody hates Neiporente. We’re none of us so far gone as to disagree there.

                He’s a uniter.

              • rhino

                Yeah, davey-boy can go to hell.

    • Origami Isopod

      Define “legitimate,” Ms. “You’re Immature if You ‘Let’ Trolls Upset You.”

      Also, it’s pretty typical of right-wing assholes to bawwwww about “censorship” or “groupthink” when assholes aren’t permitted to spew their shit all over a comment section.

      • JL

        Wowwwwwww that comment. I missed that one the first time around.

        • Ah, I didn’t recall that Sue was trolling like this.

It is main inner container footer text