So been a bit of a controversy with an addition to the block bot, in actuality an addition that occurred and was vetoed twice, a record there. Won’t mention names but this has happened three or four times with different people within parts of the Twitter communities served by the bot being added then vetoed by another person. They were all added for problematic behaviour and then vetoed by another blocker. Hypocrisy? The block bot haters will definitely say so as we are possibly not applying rules, that would get them added, uniformly. However the primary purpose of the block bot is to be the block list serving a community, it cannot serve all communities, for instance radical feminists who want to exclude trans women. They have a right to be free of abuse and can sign up to the bot and unblock/follow their fellow TERfs, or better yet create their own block bot. But it cannot be for them. Who it is for is defined by the community of blockers who the adding is crowd-sourced to. We have tried to make them the best group of intersectional feminists we can persuade to join in on Twitter, plus me.
But what happens when one of these “in community” tweeps is added to the bot? Is it ever right to add someone and potentially exclude them from their community? Doubtful, for me, and I think we should avoid it where ever possible. My first pangs of doubt about the block bot in this regard come from @AuntyOrthodox being added. However her community is clearly the Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist community and she could never be part of the Twitter communities the block bot serves. So adding her removed her access to people she would abuse and could never be allies with and had limited social rejection implications. However those added and then vetoed are for the most part in contact with large parts of the community the bot serves. Unfortunately other large parts of those communities dislike them with a passion.
Where I think the exception comes is in people like @TransInAction (TIA: Definitely NSFW atm) , who are not quite @AuntyOrthodox (AO) as not out of the community. But they are such obvious trolls and say such extremely bigoted shit that it’s hard to see any response other than adding them. But really that should be the level for people either in or on the periphery of the communities the bot serves. The reason? Structural violence! Well not really as that is the reason mentioned to me on Twitter, but I can’t see that as a reality, mainly hyperbole (Disclaimer on the privilege of the writer of this). Twitter could maybe be accused of that by not dealing with abuse on Twitter properly and forcing marginalised people off completely by that inaction and denying people needed social support. But we impose the bot on no one and can only run it as long as Twitter allow and our users voluntarily sign up to it. However there is limited social power associated with the block bot and the potential for closing avenues of social support within the community by othering and promoting ostracising, so they have a point. Adding to oppression of marginalised people should not be an outcome from the bot wherever possible.
At least two of those vetoed are very well known in the community as people who will be abrasive, at best, and hence worth avoiding. Like them or hate them, they are however in the community. Until they decide to remove themselves from it, either by joining the TERfs (AO) or by trollololing hard (TIA), the general principle, I think, needs to be one of caution. A higher standard of evidence and lower standard of behaviour is needed to add people who are in one of the communities served by the block bot due to the possible extra censure involved in adding them. 99.9% of those added lose nothing by not being able to contact people who would in all likelihood not want to speak to them in the first place, so no consideration is needed. It’s easy to think this is universal, however those in a community can sometimes elicit as strong or stronger negative reactions than those outside it but adding them includes an element of social rejection that is not there for the MRAs/TERfs. This needs to be taken into account, especially given the communities we are talking about are of already marginalised people who rely on that support.
So I think the bot has worked as designed, the veto was used, it has only been used on three or four people in nearly a year of use. I don’t think there are any people on the bot who should not be there, and that is the main aim. There will always be people who should be on there but are not, Twitter and the world is unfortunately replete with assholes and I’d rather miss a few than risk adding someone undeserving. Or even miss off someone deserving to avoid adding to their oppression with social rejection they might be adversely affected by. Being blocked by the block bot should be all benefit for the users with little to no possibility of drawbacks for those added (Apart from their ability to troll/hurt others).
(Disclaimer: Given the context this is likely to be seen as a defence of the person most recently vetoed. While the incident made me write this post I’ve been thinking about this since AO was added and this is meant to be a general principle not just a trans community thing. I really don’t know them, I’ve seen them be an asshole to others but not enough to add them myself, although I’ll probably not follow on Twitter any more! I think they and any people “in community” need to be consistently bigoted assholes and the community the bot serves needs to almost universally agree they should be added. This doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment as many people I respect spoke up in defence of this particular person. Admittedly more against, but any in defence is enough for a veto. Hence their community vetoed the add, the end for now.)