Twitch y may be one of the most powerful political platforms online, but its role as an organized harassment tool is almost never discussed.
*Twitch y is intentional to keep this site from showing up if you search for this abusive #exposuretrolling BS & what have you’s that come with calling them out.
+Commentary: The entire article is a good read, or perhaps a primer is the better descriptor. As expected the author (properly predicted) she is now in the crosshairs of many right-wing trolls. Given that so much attention was paid to Brietbart & the Shaun King recently it was sad that it didn’t get included in the piece, but again its main focus was on women getting trolled, and even though it is by a white woman she does mention Women of Color (WoC) several times in an attempt at intersectionality. Probably it was already written & edited during the whole tense week of Dolezalling that Shaun received last week.
Watching a woman of color get trolled on Twitter is a lesson in intersectionality amplified. Being at the crossroads of race & sex, or more correctly sexism & racism , really does mean that all roads lead there. It is unfathomable the amount of filth I’ve seen in people’s mentions. Which brings me to the point of this story, and what I felt it didn’t really capitulate well. She talks about her direct mentions being under attack, using Alexa information to talk about the traffic that Twitchy receives, as a way of talking about the leverage of the trolls. That is an important point.
Yet leaves out certain other data that would be more worthwhile. Centering the conversation around their organized harassment is good; when I did a quick search of her mentions (via Topsy) this is what it showed for the past month, 3k+ on the day this story was published:
Using information like this, a solid number (and 8k mentions for someone who is not famous is huge) but contrasted to say a celebrity:
Why this number is interesting, alongside what she talked about in the article of taking a break, turning off the notifications, etc… is there is no way with that kind of pile on that ANYONE would have time or the stomach to read all of them. Even if this were something without the negative impact, if this were a campaign by a company. Highlighted to me just how difficult or impossible it is to scale “conversation” that Twitter is supposed to foster, and you see that there is not a chance this is scalable. The only way anyone (even her PR agency) could possibly wade through those is with NSA level software. So piling on, overwhelming someone is a tactic that would naturally emerge — as the author rightly notices because of the low barrier for participation. The attempt is to silence someone, make them leave, take their balls & go home. But secondly to also let them know how scalable an angry mob of mentions can be. Twitch y has always done this as long as I’ve been watching.
They are not all bad @’s either, but still, under such duress it seems what a mass attack on Twitter does is make sure to drown out both support & vilification. Which is the point. Certainly there will be many who are just making jokes, some showing support and then a few trolls sending out many multiples of harassing tweets. The people who participate actively on Twitter is still a very small ratio. Bearing that in mind what she calls to attention here is that many others (Breitbart, et al) are now using this system after watching Black Twitter take down multiple targets they are employing the same tactics but clearly perverting them.
This exposure trolling specifically aims or targets these vocal & active minorities and then baits them further drawing tons of traffic to their ‘hit pieces’ as we saw with Breitbart/Shaun King debacle. Yet even something like the lamentable “Chicago needs a Katrina” Article which only got so many views because people were rightly disgusted and had to read to see what all the hoopla was about. (Personally there was a cached & pdf version that I read to keep from giving them traffic) Trading in rather abrasive claims or assertions, not unlike the Trump Campaign as a way of getting traffic, centering their voices in the mainstream, and if they are lucky getting MSM to cover the outrage on the Nightly News. Certainly a low-point in last week was CNN running with the story about Shaun King, it was quite honestly so beneath them.
Yet what flummoxed me through and through was how our collective memory seems to forget Shirley Sherrod, and ACORN which were both high profile cases that Breitbart managed to turn into national news stories. Getting ACORN defunded actually, in what as I recall Rachel Maddow reporting on was a gross overreach of congressional power. Shirley Sherrod lost her job, ruined her life, and had everyone including Ben Jealous of the NAACP against her for a few days, until the truth about the edited video came out. So instead of that O’keefe kid with his camera, you know the one—the felon*, we have someone else with hidden cameras in Planned Parenthood. These tactics are not new, they are just hoping that as we head into another election year they can try what has worked in the past.
To me there is no doubt the way they heralded the felon with a camera & a wiretapping fixation with a Senate office was the “new citizen investigative journalism” etc… only to completely act like they didn’t know who he was after he was busted. Well again, they consider those people disposable. Which is what people in postions of power, be that the editorial board of a Chicago Newspaper hoping for a natural disaster, or minor Celebrities & phone-hacking editors like Piers Morgan, they are allowed to get away with trying to approach relevancy by saying deliberate & often outrageous (what they call provocative) things on social media, so that they get clicks, & improve their social standing. Another example is Montel Williams saying that DeRay was no MLK. Out of nowhere. Literally out of thin air. When DeRay & other BLM activists have considerably larger followings, and get those talking head spots that I’m sure Mr. Williams wish he could.
Jealousy, on social media is for the unfamous, when the infamous do it, they are clearly speaking with conviction? Or are they specifically targeting high-profile people to boost their street/social media cred. Then go on to talk about how the trolls are crazy, and need to be policed, or shut down. When they can easily lump valid critiques alongside people saying “Drink Bleach” — thereby further marginalizing valid voices into a silo of #ToxicTwitter. This is deliberate, even if it isn’t fully conscious to these minor celebrities, the people who count the page views & interactions on the tweets, are leading the charge for this not so subversive campaigns.
So it saddens me, but is part of what should be expected for the further & continued visibility of the Black Lives Matter online activists. It will require, and should be fully expect to evolve, and hopefully activists can roll with these new challenges & pivot to newer strategies.
* Oh they reduced the felony charges & he plead to a misdemeanor? #WatchWhitenessWork