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What If There Are Just 5 Million Bad Internet Users?
There’s a joke I’ve seen on Tumblr become more and more prevalent over the last six months or so — that all of the dumb and embarrassing daily controversies happening on Twitter right now happened on Tumblr six years ago. This started making the rounds again over the weekend, when a Twitter user got called out for trying to buy human remains. In 2015, the Tumblr community famously had their own human remains controversy. Amid the parallel discussion of this weekend’s human remains Twitter discourse happening on Tumblr, a user named darkosm offered up an interesting idea that I haven’t been able to shake.
“i really think the porn ban essentially cleared out a majority of the worst people on tumblr,” they wrote. “and since they all moved to twitter, twitter has somehow become 1000000x worse than it usually is.”
For curiosity’s shake, I wanted to see if this holds water. According to Statista, between December 2018, when the porn ban went into place, and April 2019, the number of total number of blogs on Tumblr basically flatlined. This doesn’t really tell the whole story, though. Most users leaving Tumblr (or any platform really) don’t typically deactivate. They just leave. A Mashable article from 2019, looking at page views and Google trends data, estimates Tumblr lost about a third of its users in the year following the ban — about 150 million people. And according to Statista’s metrics on Twitter’s monthly active users, Twitter by the winter of 2018 was actually losing monthly active users, but the Spring of 2019, it had gained back about 10 million users. Now, there’s no way to know if those users were refugees from Tumblr, but, it should be noted, Twitter is the only mainstream site that currently allows pornographic content. But even if 5 million people moved from Tumblr to Twitter, that would make a noticeable difference in how the site feels, community wise.
Now, I want to make it clear that I don’t think there’s anything bad about featuring adult content on your internet community. If moderated well, I think it’s completely harmless. But Tumblr’s porn ban was explicitly designed to deal with the child pornography spreading on the platform at the time. And I’ve also written in Garbage Day a few times now about the site’s general lack of boundaries within fandom spaces, which led to all kinds of abuse and harassment. After the porn ban, a lot of that culture pretty much vanished.
Amid the global conversation we’re all having right now about online platforms’ effects on society, the majority of the discussion is centered around the companies that run these sites, as it should. If a restaurant is getting everyone sick, it’s ultimately the restaurant’s responsibility to fix that or shut down.
But what I find fascinating about this idea — that a few million Tumblr users left the site in 2018 and started spending more time on Twitter, thus making that site more toxic — is that it reflects something that I think is lost in abstracts when people write about the internet. Online communities are just a bunch of people. And those people regularly move across websites. 4chan users don’t only spend their time on 4chan. Redditors don’t only post on Reddit. And these people tend to find each other across the web. So, it’s not outrageous to think that there are just a bunch of people who will show up to your poorly-moderated online community and make it worse.
The question is, what if content moderation, as we understand it, is actually about protecting your website from the same group of 5-10 million problematic users? And for sites that have managed to get those users under control, what moderation tactics were undertaken to do so?
Speaking Of Twitter And Its Many Faults: This Trump Tweet
The President has left a tweet up for days from satirical conservative website the Babylon Bee. If you aren’t on Facebook, you may not be familiar with the Bee. They’re basically the right-wing Onion. They’re regularly the most-shared media outlet on Facebook. It seems as though Trump may have been a bit confused by this extremely fake story and decided to tweet it out as real. The New York Times published a good piece on the Bee last week. In terms of content strategies, they aren’t actually that different from someone like Andy Borowitz. They post hyperpartisan fake news stories that are supposed to be funny, but tend to look like genuine news stories to old people on Facebook.
It’s honestly hard to feel like any of this matters anymore. I think the outrage switch in my brain has fully burned out at this point. There’s only so much you can say about this sort of thing before you just start repeating yourself. This sucks and is embarrassing and none of this needs to be like this.
You Can Buy A Fart In A Jar On eBay For $50
My friend Katie sent me this. The item’s description on the eBay listing is simple and to the point: “fart in jar. Condition is New.” It also has free shipping! That’s a good deal for a jarred fart. You have 13 days left to make an offer.
An Existential Question For Our Time
The Cock Destroyers Are Having A Moment Right Now
I’ve seen these two everywhere lately. Allow me to explain who they are, so you don’t ruin your search history. Rebecca More and Sophie Anderson are British pornstars who went viral in 2018 after tweeting a video where they said the iconic line, “we’re fucking cock destroyers.”
They’ve sort of floated around the periphery of the internet ever since. In March, they hosted a sex education video for Netflix’s YouTube channel. The top comment on that video, by the way, is, “how do I get a tattoo of a 13 minute long video” lol. Their Netflix video got a lot of positive attention for how LGBT+ it was. About two months ago, Rebecca More launched a YouTube channel, which, while still fairly small-time in terms of subscribers, is definitely building steam. This interaction More had in the comment section of one of their recent videos is going viral on Tumblr right now and it’s extremely inspirational.
Here’s Why You Should Learn About Copypasta
If you don’t know, 4chan is currently in a really weird place culturally. The site has a bunch of young dirtbag leftist users that are basically just super hateful tankies and the community, in general, seems pretty embarrassed by the rise of QAnon, which most of its users shrug off as boomerposting. Also, the big meme on the boards right now is “debunked,” which users comment on threads to make fun of older millennials’ insistence on facthecking internet content.
Two days ago, a user on 4chan posted a thread claiming that the NY Post had posted Hunter Biden’s DKIM — or DomainKeys Identified Mail. A DKIM is used for authenticating email sender addresses. Basically, if you had a DKIM you could tell whether an email was met to be sent or if it was the result of a phishing scam. The string of letters and numbers up there, however, is not a DKIM. It’s an encoded string that says:
Which is, of course, one of the oldest copypastas on the internet — The Navy Seal copypasta. The fact that this clearly isn’t even how a DKIM looks didn’t stop the original thread from filling up with comments from other 4chan users fighting about whether it was real or not.
But the post was also screenshot and shared to Reddit’s famously idiotic r/Conspiracy subreddit. A bunch of users in the comment section tried to explain that this is just copypasta, but it didn’t stop users flooding the comments with Trumper/illuminati nonsense. My favorite comment is: “WHY WONT THE MODS REMOVE PROVABLY FALSE POSTS” lol.
Internet literacy is important!
Two Cool Spotify Playlists
Here’s a playlist that features men covering women’s songs without changing the pronouns in the lyrics.
And here’s another featuring women covering men’s songs without changing the pronouns.
Both of these come from this fantastic Tumblr thread.
Today’s The Birthday Of None Pizza With Left Beef
Feels like there’s been a string of meme anniversaries coming up lately. Today, None Pizza With Left Beef turns 13 years old, if you can believe it.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, back in 2007, a blog called The Sneeze tried an experiment with Domino’s online pizza ordering system. He checked “none” on every topping except for beef, which he specified should only be put on the left of the pizza. Which graced the world with one of the funniest pictures of all time:
Back in 2017, there were a bunch of great 10-year anniversary pieces written about its endearing legacy, but even three years later, it feels we’re even further removed from the internet culture that produced it. Imagine doing a fun harmless thing and then documenting it on a website that people can go look at. Insanity.
Also, as my buddy Brian reminded me this morning, None Pizza With Left Beef was posted by Steven Molaro. Molaro would later go on to co-create the TV show Young Sheldon.
Another Good Tweet
Thank You For Those Who Messaged Me About LIBOR
On Friday, I wrote about a weird tweet the New York Fed Twitter account posted about LIBOR. I admitted I knew nothing about LIBOR or why we were transferring out of it. A very helpful reader named Chris sent me this explainer.
Basically, the London Interbank Offered Rate was being exploited by a bunch of huge banks. It was a huge scandal and I totally missed it. We are transferring to a new interest rate system in 2021.
P.S. here’s a good meme.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***