Whitney Phillips explains how Trump controls the media

Description of this podcast episode:

Here’s a fun fact: The best training for understanding the president’s media strategy is to have studied internet trolls for years and years.

Okay, maybe that fact wasn’t so fun. Maybe it’s incredibly depressing.

At any rate, Whitney Phillips did exactly that. She was one of the earliest scholars of online trolling (yes, that’s a job). She was studying trolling when it was a tiny sideshow. And she was there, studying it, as online trolling got amplified by algorithmic platforms and a click-hungry media. As Gamergate made it a political movement. Then, most importantly, she was there, watching, as the media manipulation tactics that she had seen perfected by the trolls became the playbook for how Trump controls the media’s agenda, and the national conversation.

Twitter Drops Its Egg, The Unintended Avatar Of Harassment

Excerpt from this article:

Since 2010, the default avatar on Twitter has been an egg. The idea apparently was that a new user was like a gestating bird, soon to make its first tweet. It was designed to be playful and cute.

But over time, Twitter’s eggs came to symbolize something different: users who remain shadowy on purpose, to harass their fellow tweeters.

Today, Twitter announced that it was doing away with the egg as its default avatar, opting instead for a nondescript person-shape figure. No more bright colors, either — the new avatar is all gray.

Trolls Are Winning the Internet, Technologists Say

Participants dressed as dwarves, goblins, orcs, and other characters re-enact a battle from "The Hobbit," in a forest in the Czech Republic in 2016.

Excerpt from this article:

We all know it by now. The internet, like the rest of the world, can be as gnarly as it is magical.

But there’s a sense lately that the lows have gotten lower, that the trolls who delight in chaos are newly invigorated and perhaps taking over all of the loveliest, most altruistic spaces on the web. There’s a real battle between good and evil going on. A new report by the Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center suggests that technologists widely agree: The bad guys are winning.

 

I’ve left Twitter. It is unusable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators

Excerpt from this article (and for more on Lindy West’s experiences on social media, check out this post):

I deactivated my Twitter account today. It was more of a spontaneous impulse than a New Year resolution, although it does feel like a juice cleanse, a moulting, a polar-bear plunge, a clean slate (except the opposite – like throwing your slate into a volcano and running). One moment I was brains-deep in the usual way, half-heartedly arguing with strangers about whether or not it’s “OK” to suggest to Steve Martin that calling Carrie Fisher a “beautiful creature” who “turned out” to be “witty and bright as well” veered just a hair beyond Fisher’s stated boundaries regarding objectification (if you have opinions on this, don’t tweet me – oh, wait, you can’t); and the next moment the US president-elect was using the selfsame platform to taunt North Korea about the size and tumescence of its nuclear program. And I realised: eh, I’m done. I could be swimming right now. Or flossing. Or digging a big, pointless pit. Anything else.

Twitter, for the past five years, has been a machine where I put in unpaid work and tension headaches come out. I write jokes there for free. I post political commentary for free. I answer questions for free. I teach feminism 101 for free. Off Twitter, these are all things by which I make my living – in fact, they comprise the totality of my income. But on Twitter, I do them pro bono and, in return, I am micromanaged in real time by strangers; neo-Nazis mine my personal life for vulnerabilities to exploit; and men enjoy unfettered, direct access to my brain so they can inform me, for the thousandth time, that they would gladly rape me if I weren’t so fat.

I talk back and I am “feeding the trolls”.

Local Idiot To Post Comment On Internet

Always a good laugh to finish up the week, here’s an excerpt from an article on the spoof news site, The Onion:

In a statement made to reporters earlier this afternoon, local idiot Brandon Mylenek, 26, announced that at approximately 2:30 a.m. tonight, he plans to post an idiotic comment beneath a video on an Internet website.

“Later this evening, I intend to watch the video in question, click the ‘reply’ link above the box reserved for user comments, and draft a response, being careful to put as little thought into it as possible, while making sure to use all capital letters and incorrect punctuation,” Mylenek said. “Although I do not yet know exactly what my comment will entail, I can say with a great degree of certainty that it will be incredibly stupid.”

Pressed for further details regarding his intended post, Mylenek, who will comment under the Internet pseudonym “xblingdaddy2005x,” revealed that there is a strong possibility he will inadvertently post the comment twice.

“After clicking the ‘submit’ button, I will immediately refresh the page so that I can view my own comment. I will then notice that my comment has not appeared because the server has not yet processed my request, become angry and confused, and re-post the same comment with unintentional variations on the original wording and misspellings, creating two slightly different yet equally moronic comments,” he said. “It is my hope that this will illustrate both my childlike level of impatience and my inability to replicate a simple string of letters and symbols 30 seconds after having composed it.”

Is it the Beginning of the End for Online Comments?

The Daily Dot recently became the latest news website to get rid of user comments

Excerpt from this article:

Vibrant online communities? Or cesspools of abuse? Have comments had their day?

The debate about comment sections on news sites is often as divisive as the comments themselves. Recently outlets such as The Verge and The Daily Dot have closed their comments sections because they’ve become too hard to manage. And they’re far from alone.

That’s the downside. But it’s also worth remembering that many news organisations – including the BBC – have used comments sections to make real connections with audiences, find stories, and turn what was once a one-way street into a multi-headed conversation.

In our experience, our community hasn’t evolved in our comments. It’s evolved in our social media accounts. To have comments, you have to be very active, and if you’re not incredibly active, what ends up happening is a mob can shout down all the other people on your site. In an environment that isn’t heavily curated it becomes about silencing voices and not about opening up voices.

Fight Online Hate with Awesomeness

it-is-ok-to-be-awesome

Excerpt from this article on OgilvyDO:

…A Google Chrome plug-in which shields users from potentially upsetting content. Designed by Verve Search and inspired by ‘Everything Is Awesome’, Tegan & Sara’s infectious soundtrack to The Lego Movie, the app transforms text it deems inappropriate or insulting into the word ‘awesome’, spelled out in rainbow colours.

As a means of taking away cyber-bullies’ power, it’s a novel notion. The most obvious utility here would be as a parental tool, to protect younger and more vulnerable internet users from stumbling across language they’re not quite ready to process. It might even take off among grown-ups who have been cyber-shamed; I’m sure Justine Sacco, or Tim Hunt, or whichever poor soul Twitter targets next, would be thrilled with this pleasing-to-the-eye censor.

There’s no doubt that the trolls will be up in arms over this rainbow-hued infringement of free expression, and even some consumers may be concerned, especially after we all got so outraged when Facebook tried to moderate the content in our feeds. The difference here, of course, is that users have to opt in.

F**k the High Road: The Upside of Sinking to Their Level

Excerpt from this article:

Don’t feed the trolls: it’s probably the most common refrain in online discussions, especially when dealing with misogynists in feminists conversations. The idea is that the best way to deal with sexists is to starve of them of the attention they’re so clearly desperate for. Besides, we think, why sink to their level?

But the high road is overrated.

…Indeed, one of the questions I’m asked most often by younger feminists is how to emotionally and mentally deal with the incredible amount of hate that gets thrown their way. My advice has usually been not to talk to brick walls—to think of their activist energy as a precious resource and save it. But I’ve never fully taken that advice. Responding to—and making fun of—sexists has always been a part of my feminist work. Not just because it shines a light on misogyny or holds people accountable to their words—but because it’s fun.

This Is What Happens When Women Actually Accept A Compliment From A Man Online

Excerpt from this article:

Gweneth Bateman had a problem that many girls and women experience online. If a boy messaged her with a compliment – on Twitter, Tinder, or elsewhere – and she didn’t reply, they’d criticise her for not replying.

…“If a guy messages me I usually don’t reply because most of the time they are complete strangers to me,” she told BuzzFeed News. “When they don’t get a reply out of me it usually ends up with them calling me ‘rude’ or a ‘bitch’.

So she decided to run an experiment she’d seen on Tumblr: If a boy messaged her with a compliment, she would reply with a warmer, nicer answer, agreeing with and accepting the comment.

…“As predicted the response is still the same: hateful,” the West Midlands student said.