Lew Perin is a user on mastodon.social. You can follow them or interact with them if you have an account anywhere in the fediverse. If you don't, you can sign up here.

@xahlee Blockbots with shared lists, users can submit names for blocking with little or no review. Guilt by association if you follow or interact with evil accounts. I seem to be blocked by him as well; have never heard of him before reading your comment here.

@xahlee I don't think it's coordinated by means of special Twitter accounts (too easy for the C&C account to become a target) but see projects like github.com/freebsdgirl/ggautob (which is one strong reason for me not to support FreeBSD, since they tolerate the author of that)

Lew Perin @wrenpile

@mattskala @xahlee I don’t see what’s wrong with that. I only block boring people who get reposted by those I follow, but if there were a 4chan or reddit campaign against me, …!

When I heard Trump was blocking his critics, I didn’t get why this offended them, either.

I don’t suppose there’s a right-wing version of this yet, but don’t be surprised if one arises — as a fork of the repo.

What am I missing?

@wrenpile @xahlee If I block you because I don't want to read your stuff, that's my business. But if I tell 10000 people "Don't read this guy because he's an evil harasser" (today it would be "Nazi" but these systems are a couple years old now), and people take my word for it without checking, is that harmless?

@xahlee @wrenpile moreover if by some technical means I can instantly *cause* 10000 people to block you without intervention on their part after they have been coaxed into agreeing that they want to block "harassers"... is that a power I should be trusted with?

@mattskala @xahlee There’s harm, but it’s widely distributed: largely from the fools who’ve never been attacked but still use the blocking software.

That said, I don’t think I have the right to order people who *are* being attacked not to use the s/w.

If I believe in free thought, I can deplore people burrowing into intellectual holes, but I can’t in good conscience stop them.

@wrenpile @xahlee Not saying they shouldn't be allowed to do it. But they're shmucks.

@xahlee @wrenpile Or in more formal terms: not every behaviour that is bad, should be illegal.

@mattskala @xahlee So it’s your opinion that *nobody* has been helped by them?

@wrenpile @xahlee I think the only people who've been helped by Twitter blockbots are people pushing a political agenda I abhor, helped to push that agenda. But I also think that's the wrong way to analyse it. Some people have been helped to avoid crime by racist housing covenants because no doubt at least one person excluded by such was a genuine criminal; that doesn't mean they were ever justifiable.

@mattskala @xahlee You seem to be saying an action is never justified if it’s wrong in most situations.

@wrenpile @xahlee that's an awfully general principle to infer from what I said. I think that Twitter blockbots are not justified by the supposed existence of "harassment," but that statement is informed by the observation of the way they've really been used in practice, and against whom, not by theoretical considerations.

@mattskala @xahlee That’s all for me tonight; I’m going to bed.

@xahlee @wrenpile I don't know what I'm not seeing, but the last three from you that I saw are "good night," "reply too long, here is image," and a thing about "first to reply to Trump -> you get massive numbers of followers"

@mattskala @xahlee If I saw a thousand hate-filled posts, some threatening violence, on my timeline, I’d call that harassment.

@wrenpile @xahlee Yes, I oppose online mobbing too. But what are we actually discussing here? Every branch of this thread seems to have a slightly different topic.

@mattskala @xahlee Isn’t mobbing the official use case for blockbots? Maybe I’m wrong about this — I didn’t even know blockbots existed til yesterday!

@wrenpile @xahlee Yes, but A. I'm not convinced blockbots would work against mobbing in practice even if ideally used; B. I'm not convinced blockbots would be an acceptable measure against mobbing even if they worked; and C. in practice, blockbots *really are* used as a form of mobbing in themselves - not as a measure against it, despite the proponents' claims.

@xahlee @wrenpile It may also not be entirely clear that they're claimed to be an anti-mobbing measure. I think they're more often sold on the premise that they are a measure against bad *individuals*. This claim depends on a slightly different theory of how mobs form, from my own.

@mattskala @xahlee A and C are falsifiable. I’d be interested to see evidence.

Please note that I’m not dismissing your thoughts if you don’t have data right now.

@wrenpile @xahlee I don't think it's possible to test A without deploying an ideal blockbot and having it be used ideally. The difficulty of doing that is one reason not to unleach blockbots lightly. For C, look at people we don't consider likely to be "harassers" who nonetheless get onto the blocklists. @xahlee seems to be one; @St_Rev from Twitter is another; and I think President Obama (while he was still President) was on one the the major lists for a while.

@mattskala @xahlee I wonder if you can get unblocked without being Obama, or failing that, at least president.

@wrenpile @xahlee Depends on the list. I think at least some of them do have appeal processes. I think at least some of those, require some sort of gesture of obeisance.

@xahlee @mattskala

1/ Re muting: when I said I block boring people who get reposted by people I follow, I meant I mute tem; sorry.

I too reject the idea that anyone should expect to avoid ever being offended, especially in places supposedly designed for the exchange of ideas, like social media and universities.

@mattskala @xahlee

2/2 But that doesn’t mean colleges/social media shouldn’t have rules for soeech. Threats of violence are out, right? And I bet you think people who shout down a right-wing speaker, making him inaudible, should be disciplined, right?

If you have those rules, you need a repirting mechanism, too, right.

If course, you also need a fair review process. I’m not saying Twitter or any specific college does that correctly.

@wrenpile @xahlee > And I bet you think people who shout down a right-wing speaker, making him inaudible, should be disciplined, right?

If they are *only* shouting I'm not inclined to worry about it. But the minute that edges into violence...

@xahlee @mattskala It occurs to me that this is pretty similar to email spam blacklists: what matters is whether you get a lot if spam and how trustworthy a particular list is.

@wrenpile @xahlee One difference is that most spam blacklists, and all those that serious people take seriously, have a defined appeal process. Also, the incentives to avoid false positives are stronger because false positives *really hurt* for the recipient, not only the sender. That's much less true of twitter blocking.

@mattskala @xahlee Agree that there should be an appeal process. Maybe there will be one eventually, if only in a competing list.

You’re also right about false positives harming the recipient more in email.