Dreaming Of Elevator YouTube
Read to the end for two totally unrelated observations I can’t get out of my head
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The Mystery Of These Weird Shoe Videos
On Wednesday, I asked Garbage Day readers for help me identify where this weird shoe video came from. I said I thought it had probably come from Douyin, TikTok’s Chinese sister app. I was kinda right.
Thank you all for messaging me about it. One reader, named Gilben, tipped me off to the fact that crawfish videos were really popular on Douyin back in June. OK, sure why not! And a couple readers pointed out that New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz had tweeted out one of the weird shoe videos back in July.
My big lead came from a reader named Harry who told me he had seen these weird shoe videos were all over his TikTok For You Page in August. The videos were on an account associated with a Sarahwang0725@gmail.com email address.
I typed in the Sarahwang0725 email into Google and found two different TikTok pages, both featuring these weird sort-of-stop-motion shoe videos. Both accounts linked to a store called tiktokbuybuy.com. The store is a — you guessed it — shoe store. I tried putting the tiktokbuybuy URL into a Whois lookup, but all the domain info is private.
I’m going to guess it’s a Chinese eStore though. It’s still sort of novel in the US, but in China, TikTok-like short-form video apps have already essentially replaced physical stores. Both TikTok accounts associated with the Sarahwang0725 email started earlier this year and from what I can tell, the incredibly surreal videos are just a way to advertise the shoes. Here's a really good interaction I found in the comments of a video where a person wraps their toes in tinfoil and a big banana leaf and then puts on a running shoe:
This is my favorite kind of internet mystery — one where the answer is completely unfulfilling and just creates more questions. But I suppose the moral of the story here is, when in doubt, the confusing thing you’re seeing online is probably a marketing campaign.
Welcome To Elevator YouTube
A Garbage Day reader named Charles introduced me this week to a pocket of YouTube I had never heard of before — elevator reviews. Even better, apparently, the elevator YouTube community is big enough that there’s a wiki for it.
I unabashedly love discovering this sort of thing. I think it’s extremely easy to forget that beneath the surface of YouTube, there are countless communities like this using the platform to document the world around them. Also, based on a quick skim of videos in the elevator community, it’s important to point out that these videos appear to be especially popular with members of the autism community.
I also find these little YouTube communities really bittersweet tbh. Younger readers probably don’t remember what YouTube was like before it decided to shift its business model to “What if Nickelodeon was fascist and as addictive as heroin?” But before the era of influencers and brands-as-channels, YouTube was just a platform for weird videos. Users may have posted three or four videos and never updated again. Other users used it as a diary. One-off videos went viral often. We’d all share them and then they’d disappear. It felt more innocent. The website wasn’t a portal. It was just a website. Also, the content still felt like it had a connection to reality. It was recorded in real places by real people.
Now, it feels like YouTube world exists separately from our own. Influencer videos are all filmed in a digital video nowhere space where everyone is wearing River Island clothing lit by ring lights in vaguely Californian under-furnished McMansions. And far-right grifters lurk underneath every trending video. Everything is a reaction to a reaction to a reaction. All videos have to be 45 minutes long. This same YouTube hypernormalization is now having a disastrous political effect on our election information landscape. Because of course it is!
It all just makes me miss the YouTube that felt like it was a website full of content made by actual people. It would probably destroy YouTube as a business, but it would definitely make the world a better place. Give me more elevator reviews!
Let’s Check In On How Parler Is Going
Oh cool, the users have already begun publicly fantasizing about murdering their political opponents. Seems like a cool place to hang out. Excited to see whether or not it transforms into a full-fledged terrorism hub in the coming weeks.
Here’s How You Manipulate r/Conspiracy
I’m a big fan of anything that shows in painstaking and extremely boring detail how online misinformation works. I think a lot of people have a very abstract idea of how bad actors manipulate online platforms and I think a lot of news outlets tend wave away a lot of the details of how this stuff works because it’s usually both extremely mundane and also sort of complicated.
This post on Reddit’s r/Against_Astroturfing subreddit is a really fascinating look at how bad actors build up real looking accounts and use them to flood subreddits like r/Conspiracy with bull shit. (Astroturfing, by the way, is when you fabricate a grassroots internet movement.)
So, how do you farm a Reddit account? User u/f_k_a_g_n explains:
There are services that create large amounts of Reddit accounts and build up their karma to make them look legitimate. They then either use the accounts for things like selling upvotes, or they sell the accounts to others.
One method they use is reposting old content. One account will find an old popular submission and repost it with the same title. Other accounts will then copy old comments from the original thread and repost them in the new thread. They work in groups and take turns making submissions and commenting on each other's posts across multiple large subreddits.
The suspicious account that u/f_k_a_g_n found is named u/Nadnoerb and it appears to be part of a network of Reddit accounts that may total in the hundreds. They’ve been posting right-wing misinformation since at least 2016. The u/Nadnoerb account is a super active r/Conspiracy commenter.
u/f_k_a_g_n, in their post, identifies at least 11 accounts associated with u/Nadnoerb. They alternate between posting really anodyne content in subreddits like r/CatMemes and then switch over to more politically polarized subreddits and stir shit up. The accounts also talk to each other in comment sections and share each other’s content.
I went through u/Nadnoerb’s account and it’s very suspicious. Also, almost all of their recent comments have the same weird double letter quirk to them.
Yes, this is all very natural sounding.
I went through one of the other accounts in the network identified by u/f_k_a_g_n and they don’t have the same weird double letter writing quirk, but the comments definitely don’t read as natural either. I definitely checking it out. It’s a really good example of how various bad actors are more than happy to sink years into creating believable online facades to spew bull shit from.
If you want to read more about Reddit-specific misinfo and disinfo ops, a few weeks ago I interviewed a former mod who now works as a watchdog.
Have You Vaped Your Xbox Yet?
I want to thank my dear friend Julia for making me aware of this incredible trend. There are a shocking amount of videos of people blowing vape smoke into their Xbox Series X. It’s apparently a big enough trend that the official Xbox Twitter account has actually had to say something.
Gamers are all very normal people.
Hololive Is Breaking Up With China
In September, I wrote about a controversy happening in the Hololive Vtuber community. (If you’d like to hear about it instead of read about it, we also did an episode covering the whole thing on The Content Mines podcast.)
The TL;DR is that there are anime girl streamers called Vtubers and there’s a sort of meta production company for Vtubers called Hololive that’s owned in real life by a Japanese company called Cover Corp.
In September, two Vtubers were discussing their viewership metrics on a live stream and made the grave mistake of mentioning that Taiwan exists and that they had viewers coming from there. Chinese users got incredibly angry about it. As did Chinese streaming platforms. The real people behind the cartoon avatars were suspended. American fans on the r/Hololive subreddit then got very outraged over the suspensions.
Well, it doesn’t look like Cover Corp was able to smooth things over with Chinese streaming platform BiliBili. This week, the company “graduated” their Chinese streamers. Here’s the English language announement:
The five Chinese Hololive streamers will no longer be streaming, it seems, on Chinese platforms after December.
Can we just take a second and reflect on how creepy the word “graduate” is as a euphemism for “retired due to a repressive authoritarian government’s strict digital media censorship”?
Speaking Of Taiwan…
It seems as though the World Health Organization may have been blocking any mention of the word “Taiwan” from their Facebook comments. William Yang, a great journalist based in Taipei, posted screenshots of what happened when he tried to mention Taiwan in the WHO comment section this week.
Jane Manchun Wong, a developer based in Hong Kong, tried posting “Taiwan,” as well, and encountered the same block earlier this week.
William Yang @WilliamYang120Multiple sources, including myself, found that @WHO’s official Facebook account seems to have blocked any comment containing the word “#Taiwan” o go through. What is this deal? Censorship? https://t.co/p9BNKOeZv5
It looks as though the block was lifted sometime between Thursday and Friday, though. I tried posting a comment about Taiwan this afternoon and was able to successfully publish it.
According to Wong’s experiments with the filter, it seems like the block was not being done by Facebook, but by whoever is running the WHO Facebook page.
Cool! Totally normal and good stuff.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***