On social media platforms, the arc of justice is long and quite a dud.
Last week on Twitter, reporter and self-declared “digital nazi hunter” Yair Rosenberg found his “Imposter Busting” Twitter account suspended permanently. Yair frustratingly said “Twitter has supported the Nazis”
I fully understand his frustration.
Imposter Buster was described as “…a Twitter bot that exposes racist trolls impersonating Jews and other minorities”. The entire intention behind the account was to help clean up social media and confront highly deceptive internet harassment, in this case from online racists and neo-nazis that troll Twitter.
It turns out the Imposter Buster account was suspended by Twitter due to a “deluge of harassment reports about the account”, a method the nazi trolls used to fight back against Yair’s Imposter Busters mission.
Yair writes in his NYTimes op-ed, “Just as they duplicitously cast themselves as minorities, they disingenuously recast our response to their ongoing abuse as harassment,”
This is a signature strategy that looks very familiar, but sometimes complex to express or describe.
This is how troll farms “think”, it is not an isolated strategy. We also need a word for this “reciprocal reverse accusation” as it is a common tactic amongst trolls. I don’t think there is any internet language that properly describes this behavior, for example like “gaslighting” describes a particular type of abusive strategy.
Yair and I have something in common.
My historic Reddit account, going back almost 10 years now, was also permanently banned from Reddit around the same time, specifically because of a “deluge of harassment reports” that my account, 23canaries, was “doxing and harassing” other users. An identical tactic my harassers have used on me for years. I even blogged last week, showing the actual threat one of them wrote to me, threatening this tactic in a direct message on Reddit.
I was really disappointed the Reddit admins fell for it, considering the thread on Reddit that got flagged had at least a half dozen of Oliver and his brothers “sock puppets” all over it. These were all freshly created Reddit accounts that were created to harass me where I reposted a “Wikipedia, We Have a Problem” article on Reddit. It should have been easy to spot.
But since admins on any platform really do not have any tools to deal with harassment, the meager tools they do have actually wind up enabling the trolls who just use them to get their critics banned, as in my case and Yair’s.
The RationalWiki troll farm, however – uses a MediaWiki instead of a tweet, and this is how they have contructed an entire article about me, bit my bit over four years.
So after getting my account suspended on Reddit, the RationalWiki trolls then added the event they instigated on Reddit in the very article they are writing on me back on RationalWiki, attempting to astroturf a new source.
don’t let the ideologies fool you
Nazi’s suck, it is easy to see the behavior because no one identifies with Nazis (except Nazis of course).
Yet this type of troll behavior has nothing to do with ideologies. RationalWiki flies under a pro-science and progressive banner. If we ignore the ideology behind it RationalWiki troll behaviors are indistinguishable from their alt right neo-nazi troll brethren.
Yair and I share a remarkably similar philosophy on the problem and the direction for the solution.
Yair mentions on CBC Radio,
“I’m a big believer in finding ways to solve problems on social media that are sort of bottom-up rather than expecting all these companies to figure out how to police all of their content” he adds “I think users should fight back against people who misuse the platforms because most users want platforms to be, you know, healthy and honest.”
Troll farms are a serious problem on the web, the Nazi troll farms are just the more obvious.
It is the wiki troll farms that are a bit more insidious because they hide behind brands or platforms that seek our trust, like Wikipedia, or editing under the guise of science or progressive politics. Oliver Smith, one of the Wikipedia and RationalWiki editors who have stalked me, was himself a former race baiting troll and editor at MetaPedia, in addition to his own peculiar “theories”, himself quite guilty of “pseudoscientific research” on Atlantis. I don’t think it is about ideologies for Oliver and his brother either, they just get obsessed on people and stalk them.
It’s depressing sometimes to see many users on Twitter retweeting RationalWiki, seduced by the “progressive” attack on their right wing foes without awareness of the disturbing troll farm behind their activity. These supported of RationalWiki, like the juvenille Wikipedia editors they nurture, do not realize they are being used to instigate reactions on the web, simply growing the ranking for David Gerard and Trent Toulouse fame and notoriety through instigation, trolling, and solving absolutely no problems.