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I have been shadowbanned by the libs
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I Think Elon Musk Really Overestimates How Little Normal People Care About This Shit
Another round of the #TwitterFiles dropped last night. The previous installment showed that Twitter had decided to remove Hunter Biden’s leaked nudes and this time around it was revealed that the site’s trust and safety team, uh, did trust and safety work.
Conservative media is trying to spin it up as a secret group inside of the company that was shadowbanning right-wing users, but if you actually read what’s been published, it’s basically Slack conversations between Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s then-head of legal, Yoel Roth, the then-head of trust, and then-CEO Jack Dorsey talking about how to limit COVID misinfo from populating the site’s algorithmic recommendation widgets. This is not shadowbanning, as some are describing it as. Also, most of this was public anyways.
If you don’t know what a shadowban actually is, it’s when a user can see their posts, but no one else can. I’ve worked with moderation systems that had this feature. The thought process is that a troublesome user will eventually lose interest if no one is engaging with them. And it’s a fairly effective tool in comment sections and message boards, but I’m not so sure it would work that well on a site like Twitter, which has a chronological timeline and where users have followers. Instead, it seems like Twitter’s strategy was to block certain accounts from appearing in search and changing how visible they were in sections of the app that tracked trending content. It also seems like the conservatives gnashing their teeth right now about Twitter’s “visibility filters” don’t seem to understand wha those filters are or do.
Is any of this scandalous? Not in any way that I can see. Though, if Elon Musk wants to follow Dorsey’s advice and just release everything in one big dump, I wouldn’t complain. The “blacklisted” users named in the newest #TwitterFiles thread include folks like Dan Bongino and Charlie Kirk. They aren’t random users, nor are they even actual politicians. They’re just prominent right-wing influencers that have caused problems on the app for years.
And, as writer Parker Molloy pointed out, some of the screenshots of Twitter’s backend released last night actually showed that other right-wing accounts, like Libs Of TikTok, were earmarked as being exempt from normal moderation, just in the same way some users are via Facebook’s XCheck, or cross check, system.
But the most important takeaway here is that all of this stuff is insanely boring and tedious. Moderating social networks is dull, thankless work and every policy you create just becomes the new guardrail that a bunch of very obsessive and unwell people are going to spend all their time and energy trying to jump over. And, frankly, I don’t think anyone actually cares about this stuff. I mean, it’s barely mildly interesting for me and I’m someone who literally has Twitter open all day.
There is supposedly more #TwitterFiles coming, but I don’t see this being enough to keep people interested in the app. Which is the only rational explanation for why this is happening in the first place. During the Trump years, there was a new crazy right-wing melodrama every week and we had to care about it to some extent because, well, we live in America. But Twitter was already a small app before Musk acquired it and, while there has yet to be a real replacement for Twitter — and, I’d argue, there probably won’t ever be — I think the gravitational pull of the site is weakening quickly. And I think if your last ditch idea for keeping people interested in your app is to “reveal” how the site’s content filters work, you’re going to have a real bad time.
Last call for survey responses! We’re looking at what’s over- or under-hyped in the world of the tech as we head in 2023. We’ll be sharing back our findings with everyone in a few weeks.
Welcome To Allegra’s Wrapped
I started writing for Garbage Day in November 2021, so 2022 has been my first full calendar year on the official roster. And wow, what a year! We kicked it off with some silly NFT drama which seems comically small in view of the crypto crash that dominated Q4; in March I documented the birth of the Our Flag Means Death fandom and presciently predicted its staying power; over the summer I argued for more fandom histories in a review of Kaitlyn Tiffany’s excellent book and got really mad about people breaking the fandom fourth wall. After recovering from my dizzying month at the Edinburgh Fringe, I wrote about cults, went to NYCC, and finally did TikTok.
2022 was a year where I got paid to think and write and talk about the things I love more than ever before. It has been absolutely incredible. After over a decade of yammering on to anyone who is willing to hear about how fandom and internet culture is like, Really Really Important You Guys, it seems like my dream is coming true and people are genuinely interested. I can only express my continued gratitude to Ryan for letting me on here to inflict Omegaverse and suchlike on his innocent subscribers. Although I suppose he started it.
In the grand tradition of the “wrapped” year-end summations that now dominate social media (even Reddit got in on the game this year, to say nothing of Ryan), I present to you: ALLEGRA WRAPPED 2022!
WORDS OF GARBAGE DAY COLUMNS POSTED: Approx 23,000 (46 columns at an average of 500 words per column)
WORDS OF FANFICTION POSTED: Approx 80,000 (Which is 17% less than last year)
TWITTER FOLLOWERS GAINED: Like 1,000 lol it’s great I won’t lie
TIMES MY MOTHER HAS ASKED ME “SO WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN WITH TWITTER?” OVER THE LAST TWO MONTHS: >20
DOMINANT FANDOM: The Terror AMC season 1
FAVORITE NEW FANDOM: Formula 1
SCARIEST THING I DID THIS YEAR: Do standup comedy at Brooklyn open mics
RUNNER UP: Get a very painful ear cleaning
BEST BOOK I READ THAT I THINK MOST GARBAGE DAY READERS WILL LIKE: Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage
YOUTUBE VIDEO I REWATCHED THE MOST: Eleven Raccoons Stuck Inside Porch
FAVORITE TIKTOK ACCOUNT: Zoe Bread
RUNNER UP: The UK National Archives
COLUMN I’M THE MOST PROUD OF: “Fandom will not be tokenized”
If I had to sum up this year in one sort of pithy moral, well, I wouldn’t be able to do that, because as you’ve learned by now I’m nothing if not unbearably longwinded. But I think it would have something to do with how it feels to be living in the waning days of this specific era of the platform age. Look at how eager people on Twitter were to weepily say their goodbyes and, like an entire user base of apocalyptic prophets, declare that the end was nigh. Of course, no such thing happened. But the impulse to memorialize was congruent with a desire to finally move on, to move out: to greener digital pastures that maybe don’t quite exist yet, but which are contingent upon the active effort of all of us to create.
My last live event of the year is this week! It’s at Caveat in New York on December 10th. It’s going to be a blast. Our speakers include Jordan Uhl, Abby Govindan, and Manny Fidel. You can pick up tickets here.
It’s All Kicking Off On Mastodon
Yesterday in Today In Tabs, Rusty Foster announced the first “main character” of Mastodon, as in, a person that everyone was talking about simultaneously. His name is Toby Roberts and he’s a former cop that is now working for hardware developer Raspberry Pi. The top reply on the post announcing Roberts hiring is, “‘We've hired a surveillance cop’ Sorry you've done WHAT?” You can click over here to read through all the responses, which I wouldn’t say feel exactly like a Twitter main character incident, but definitely has the same vibe.
What I found more interesting was the discussion between a Mastodon user and an instance admin about how to discourage this kind of behavior going forward on the platform. The admin at one point just says that she’d be more than happy to delete posts that she felt were dogpiling.
Fair enough! It’s her server, she can do as she pleases, I suppose. But it does make me wonder if all of the various ideas we’ve had about innate Twitter behavior over the years — main characters, cancel culture, callouts, brain worms, etc. — aren’t actually Twitter-specific and actually just natural consequences of non-algorithmic platforms filling up with too many users and gaining too much attention in the process.
There was a whole section in here previously about a “LinkedIn chicken”. It has come to my attention that it’s a troll. Utterly humiliated by this crushing defeat. Going to spend the weekend thinking about how this happened.
Congratulations to Milf Hunter On Winning A Steam Deck
A user named “Milf Hunter” won a giveaway last night during The Game Awards. Which is great and I’m very happy for them. Even better, writer Brian Feldman found their Tumblr account.
An Extremely Important TikTok
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(Tumblr mirror for folks in non-TikTok regions.)
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good tweet.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***