Jan 062014

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.)

 Posted by at 8:58 pm
Dec 132013

Update: Twitter have folded faster than a wet tissue and backed out of the follow and RT changes… So less confidence in their competence but at least they listen to users. Maybe next time they’ll publish a roadmap or even just discuss changes before making them!


So I have a few reasons to have no faith in Twitters ability to manage the harassment and abuse that is meted out on a regular basis on their platform.  I know they need to balance freedom of speech with individual users right to privacy and freedom from harassment, this is not easy. However the very basics would be allowing users to stop certain Tweeps from stalking them. However Twitter have recently done the exact opposite, allowing even Tweeps you have blocked to follow you and (ReTweet) RT all your tweets. Of course it was possible for a stalker/obsessive to view your tweets via a search or unauthenticated Twitter session but this was inconvenient and only hardened stalkers did it. Or even for them to manually RT your tweets, but this constituted unwanted @’s and was a reportable offence. How can you report a RT that is allowed by the platform? Abusive Tweeps will use passive aggressive RT’ing to encourage their followers to dog pile people they are disagreeing with. There is now no way of cutting off an abusive conversation, if the abuser wants it to continue, it will, and all their followers will join in.

(BTW It was recently reported that the only way to stop people following is to block and report for spam. But Twitter didn’t update their documentation properly as it works no differently to a normal block. Of course that is out there now so expect a lot more spam blocking, to no effect. Well done, Twitter!)

So what else have Twitter fucked up recently? Well there was the so called “Trollocaust” where a bunch of accounts targeting a select few feminists were banned from Twitter with no recourse to appeal. Some of these seemingly for pretty much nothing, although the people running the accounts are far from innocents. Most are professional Twitter trolls… But this is such a regressive way of dealing with the problem of abuse, focus on a few high profile people and token-suspend a few accounts. What happened next was a text book example of why this method does not work. The trolls had new accounts, created using proxies, within minutes in some cases. They then proceeded to blame the select few feminists who were being @’d and abused them, to this day. I’m pretty sure it was Twitter unilaterally taking this decision, not something the feminists in question wanted. It doesn’t take a genius to realise this would create a lot of bad will against them and I doubt they would agree … Seems Twitter policy here is not being decided by any geniuses at the moment.

Not to mention that there are a LOT of marginalised people on Twitter who get a fuck-tonne of abuse, but a few high profile feminists are “protected” (However ineptly) and there is nothing to help anyone else. People who need some actual action from Twitter, not inept attempts to silence trolls who cannot be silenced.

Suspending the accounts is mostly useless, yes if they tweet threats, dox, etc then suspend them. But keeping the accounts contained and easily ignorable is the proper approach as otherwise they will be back with new ones in minutes and nothing to lose. The trolls have a freedom of speech right to say whatever they like in their community, they don’t have the right to be heard outside of it. Twitter should be helping communities block out and ignore hateful speech, if they want to. This flexibility is sadly lacking at the moment.

Now I am biased as I wrote and help run @The_Block_Bot, no point looking that up as it’s suspended, here is where it gets ridiculous. I’d be perfectly happy if Twitter implemented something like the block bot to filter out abusive users by community action and put me out of a job. (Note this is for each community as clearly one communities abusive user is another communities favourite Tweep). Centralised top-down filtering cannot work as the standards applied will be either so watered down that they barely help anyone, or they will be too restrictive and silence Tweeps on Twitter. But Twitter have been mixing both these approaches up and getting it wrong from both angles recently. The Block Bot is at least a grass-roots attempt by a Twitter community to curate their own experience, not be dictated to by Twitters scatter-gun rules.  (Worth noting the bot is still working fine – sign up! Just the account is suspended.)

So why ridiculous? Well I recently got a reply on why the @The_Block_Bot account is suspended ….


Your account was suspended because it was found to be violating the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules), specifically our rules around participating in targeted abuse.

Your account will not be restored.

Thanks,  Twitter Trust & Safety

Yes that’s right an account that auto-tweets like this ->

I just added https://twitter.com/ool0n  to my L1 blocklist https://twitter.com/the_block_bot/status/403952878152204289 …

Constitutes targeted abuse… As defined by Twitter …

Targeted Abuse: You may not engage in targeted abuse or harassment. Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be targeted abuse or harassment are:

  • if you are sending messages to a user from multiple accounts;
  • if the sole purpose of your account is to send abusive messages to others;
  • if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats

LOLWUT!? The account never @’s anyone for fucks sake :D … Follow @Block_Review as the backup account, unless Twitter undo this daft decision it may become the main account or @TheBlockBot will!

Some accounts not considered to be engaging in “targeted abuse” below … TRIGGER WARNING … (Yes for some reason it comes after the Block Bots vicious automated tweets of DOOM!)

Tiny selection from Level1 blocks, remember not targeted abuse folks …


 Posted by at 12:50 am
Nov 182013

I was going to write a comment on this post -> http://alano1992.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/the-almighty-block-bot/

But it got ridiculously long so I decided to make it into a post. Amazing to me that people put on a list that we think are worthy of maybe ignoring is still eliciting blog posts months later! All the block bot does is call out what we think are harmful behaviours and suggest to our users they may not want unsolicited contact from these people. If the users know and trust us then they will use it, even if we get it “wrong” and block someone they will like there is no harm here. Incredibly rarely I see a block bot user mention someone in a conversation or someone they found through search etc. turned out to be blocked (I can think of two, maybe three, occasions where this happened and was due to the block bot). They then proceeded, in all cases, to unblock the person and talk to them. One occasion only ended up in that person stopping being a block bot user, ironically they changed their mind, both about the person they were following and the block bot itself. Far, far, more often, many times some weeks even, I see block bot users exclaiming how they are glad person X is blocked for them. They either missed a nasty tweet or saw someone else dealing with a person they have already auto-blocked. It gives them control over who contacts them without having to go into protected mode and make it so no one can see their tweets. Frankly I care about what the users have to say about the bot and not those on it or on the sidelines hating it. I’m not above criticising their half-arsed attempts as a critique however :D

So, the blog post, I found it hilariously lacking in any self awareness … The two best tweets, reasons for him being on the list, are not mentioned but reproduced below… In response to Julia Larson getting rape “jokes” (Pretty close to a threat in at least one case) and lots of nasty abuse.

“I’m not saying it’s justified but a tweet like that is like putting a sign on your door saying it’s unlocked”

“Not to sound like I’m victim blaming, but sending tweets like that aren’t you kind of asking to be trolled?”

He also started this lie about Julia Larson, triggering her PTSD and causing her to go offline for a few days to recover. Of course she is “over sensitive” as far as this person is concerned. From his position as PTSD-cop, I assume?

I wonder if any of that sounds convincing when he played it back in his head? “I’m not saying X but… “, is a great example of reason_OFF (His twitter id is “reason_on”). Let me help him, the correct response to people being nastily misogynistic is to tell THEM not to be nastily misogynistic. Not to tell those who are the targets that it’s their fault somehow. Racism, sexism, etc are not going to stop if we blame the people subject to it for the abuse they get. Some feminists have unfortunately called women like Ann Coulter/ Sarah Palin nasty sexist things in response to their bigotry, this just perpetuates sexism and it makes things worse. So even if Julia somehow managed to be that bad in his and his friends views it wouldn’t justify sexist abuse. Fortunately the feminists I like are against using sexist slurs to demean anyone, friend or foe, and they have the conviction to call people out for it, their allies as well. I’d much rather be a part of a community that will tell me when I’m wrong or doing something harmful rather than one that ignores it as “free speech” (Well some things, if someone started being anti-vax, religious or whatever their pet cause is you can be sure they’ll call their own and others out for it, but that’s different, somehow).

As for the “too sensitive for their own good” crapola… Any human being when subject to constant abuse will be sensitive to it. This is called being a human. The evidence free world view that victims of abuse need to “toughen up” might work for some. Great, I’m really happy for them. How in the world this manages to be treated as gospel by a group of so-called “skeptics” I don’t know. Where are the studies backing this view up? I doubt you’ll find many reputable therapists espousing the same view – if it works for them then that’s great – trying to make it a universal “rule” and other and demean people who don’t fit it is utter bullshit. Unless they have the evidence this works?

An extreme example of this is someone who got caught up in the arguments about the block bot with his “side”. She mentioned that her childhood abuse meant that the word cunt actually did trigger her PTSD on its own, let alone being called a cunt as an insult. Hence she tries to avoid situations where people will be calling her this, to protect her mental health. The response from someone his side? To call her a cunt. No call-out from anyone his “side” as this is perfectly acceptable behaviour in his social circle. Nothing can be done about it (Free speech!!) so you need to “toughen up” or fuck off the internet. Lucky he didn’t tell her vaccines have dangerous mercury in them, bit of a non-sequitur, but you can be assured a pile-on of his friends would have resulted from that harmful behaviour!

To be totally clear they are free to have this social circle where little apart from a belief in a god (Or anti-vax etc) will get any opprobrium from those in the clique. We don’t want to infringe on their freedom to do anything they want to do. Totally up to them. However much like the way they socially punish and “blacklist” anyone having a god belief in their clique we socially punish and “blacklist” anyone acting in the way I describe above. For much the same reasons, we think acting like that is wrong. It’s irrational, it does real harm. So we criticise and argue with people that do. We also allow people to block those with their victim blaming “professional victim” ideology (as well as some others, TERf, MRA, etc)  through the bot as some don’t want to deal with people on Twitter like that. That is also the users of @the_block_bot’s choice … Frankly besides the whining about “echo chambers” and “lack of discourse”, I think the bot has created more discourse about this subject than was occurring before. But only those that want to be part of the discussion are part of it, not possible to force the users of the bot into the discussions unless they want to be a part of them.

So he cannot see why the bot is run the way it is, it doesn’t fit with his standards, good. I see that as a great endorsement that we are managing the bot the right way. If any of the bots users have some criticism please let us know!

 Posted by at 12:24 pm
Oct 202013

Never heard of this account @GSpellChecker, could be a parody as being a godless spellchecker seems a bit weird. Does it spend all day correcting theists spelling? I really can’t be arsed to Google it (irony!) and it doesn’t really matter in regard to the point I want to make. Anyway this is about @the_block_bot, as usual when a “big name” is added to the list because one of the blockers thinks they said something sexist, racist etc there is a collective testerical whine that erupts from the fans of these accounts that usually lasts for days. Seems to only ever be the atheist community that have this problem, to a lesser extent Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists have a good moan. MRAs a bit, even the Christian right have a bit of a go, but their followers rarely pile-on like atheists. Strange phenomenon as I’d expected a backlash when a high profile GOP politician had a go.

Pretty incendiary and I expected some shit… Got a little, but nothing like you get for adding an atheist account (big name one) to the “annoying” level. Bear in mind Todd was added to Level1 as a racist, sexist, transphobic piece of shit. Calling an atheist “annoying” and saying they may be worthy of ignoring is worse than Nazism, apparently. They cannot take criticism at all.

This one also typifies a lot of the problem with atheism online, total inability to admit to being wrong, or in this case total disinterest in learning only in one-upmanship. A veneer of intellectual superiority is what these “big name” accounts seem to go for and they have to keep up appearances despite the facts of the matter.

Could it be true? Well this spellchecker account got involved when one of the reasons for adding someone was “cismansplaining”, this was then reduced to just “mansplaining”. Whereupon the usual set of people not at all interested in actually learning what this means decide I have to explain it to them. Actually I don’t, Google is there for a reason. Which I point out.

.. and immediately “quoted” by the spellchecker account

Unfortunately it digs itself in further ..

Doesn’t see that even condescendingly suggesting someone look a word up themselves is rather different to condescendingly explaining what it means to them. So what is the definition of mansplaining? Urban dictionary has a good one ->

To delighting in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation

I suggested they look it up themselves, maybe condescendingly even, but not explaining. Being just condescending has a word already – condescending. The reason spellchecker is wrong is right there in the word! But they don’t see it and double/triple/quadruple down on it … To maintain that veneer to their followers as they cannot be seen to be wrong under any circumstances. But I didn’t realise how far they’d go. I had more important things to do – help make a pumpkin with my daughter and lose the best decorated competition at the village hall!

…and I give up as the spellchecker is clearly uninterested in learning anything, just scoring points. This is apparently a #win for the intellectually vacuous spellchecker. I can live with that and ignore.

So I think that’s it, the “big name” account has it’s win to crow to it’s brainless supporters… But no, this one cannot let it go. Maybe because it knows it was wrong and another account, @scthinks, carried on and the questions posed expose that. I happen to see @scthinks TL the next day and find hours later spellchecker is still arguing about the definition of the word and me being wrong .. AND, here is the unbelievable bit, it STILL hasn’t provided a definition of the word or demonstrated it knows what it means despite being given one. Seems if it isn’t in it’s magic dictionary then it doesn’t exist.

Clearly no need to agree on a common definition when arguing over the meaning of a word O_o … And this account is a fan of the dictionary?

It’s clear spellchecker has no interest in knowing the meaning of the word, just cannot give it up when it’s been proven wrong. Keep going to wear down the next opponent then claim VICTORY! #Winning … Hint, victory is when your interlocutor agrees with you or learns something, not when you’ve worn them down into giving up. Seems the atheist community on Twitter is mostly uninterested in this.
victory baby is victorious

 Posted by at 4:46 pm
Oct 012013


Twitter have agreed our changes meet with their Terms of Service and the bot does not and could not trigger their spam algorithm. (I’ve already proven it was not doing this, but it is possible as it grew it might have started triggering suspensions. This is now not possible).

So looks like thanks goes out to Cathy Brennan and the assorted anti-Botters who reported the application to Twitter. While your cut and paste objections were not valid, Twitter did have issues… But now, thanks to her we can say, as vetted by Twitter, go sign up to the Atheismplus.com Block Bot in the knowledge it is in compliance with Twitters ToS and it does not silence or censor any accounts by triggering their suspension.

Follow the Twitter account here :  @TheBlockBot

Sign up to the automated blocking here :  SIGN UP NOW!

For those with an inquiring mind here is the bulk of the discussion between myself and Twitter Platform Operations. Omitted the back and forth where we are trying to find a solution as its pretty boring, they don’t want to tell us anything about the spam algorithm and we need to come up with a way of limiting the blocks so it is not triggered. It’s also possible they do implicitly give away some details by rejecting some options so I’ve felt it’s better to just keep it all private and show the beginning where we were suspended and the end where they agree with our proposed solution.

I notice the application is suspended a few days after it stops working… Fill out the WTF form on Twitters help centre.
Aug 30 04:44 pm (PDT)
Application Name: The Atheism+ Block Bot
Details: The application is a shared blocklist that users sign up to for blocking annoying -> abusive users. This is a valued application by our community. Would really like an explanation of what in the TOS we have violated.
Twitter username: @the_block_bot

Sep 06 04:14 pm (PDT)
Your application was suspended from interacting with the Twitter API because it violates our API Terms of Service (https://dev.twitter.com/terms/api-terms ). Specifically, users are not given any input into whom they choose to block, causing user surprise. Furthermore this application, at scale, takes advantage of our automated spam detection systems to suspend users who have not violated the Twitter Rules. Please review our rules and make the necessary changes to bring your application into compliance. Once the application has been fixed to comply with our policies and we confirm these changes, we will reconsider your API suspension.
Please also keep in mind that registering new keys to bypass the previous suspension of an API key without our approval is a violation of our API Terms of Service and may result in the permanent suspension of this API key and any affiliated developer accounts.
Thanks for your understanding,
Twitter Platform Operations

[Few emails back and forth trying to work out what we need to do, eventually this email hits on an agreed solution.]

Sep 11 03:51 pm (PDT)
1. User surprise.
–> Add to the sign_up page a clear list of who will be blocked and require the user to confirm they have reviewed it with a tick box at the bottom of the list.
–> Add a new page that when a user signs up to it will unblock all the blocks… Make it clear on the sign_up page and website that this option is available should they want to leave the bot. (I assume doing the max 15 per 15 mins of unblock is no issue API wise)
2. Spam algorithm.
–> Track how many different users block an account when its added to the bot in a 15 minute period, limit this to a configurable number. (When the app had only a few users there was presumably no danger, but now we are bigger this is an issue -> so make it so the bot effectively has 50 users and only 50 blocks are applied to a blocked account in a 15 min / period max? Total guess on if that is beneath your spam algorithm limit, it currently will do 500 as there are about that many users. This should stop the bot being more likely to suspend a user as the number of people using it increases. Please advise)
–> Add blocking help link (https://support.twitter.com/articles/117063) to the sign_up and information pages on the website.
So assuming the configurable number is agreed on – how do we proceed? I need to test these code changes outside of the current user base, so will probably need to create a new sign_up page and put a few test accounts on it. Do you want access to that then you can verify we have made the required changes?
Thanks for your help.
James Billingham.

Sep 16 02:21 pm (PDT)
Thank you for making these changes to reduce user surprise. Unfortunately we cant give specifics regarding thresholds and timing of our anti-spam systems, just please ensure these blocks are not applied aggressively and in a reasonable timeframe. Please let us know when these changes have been made, and we can review them for compliance.
Twitter Platform Operations

Sep 23 03:17 pm (PDT)
We have made the changes as requested … The test sign up page is here –>
[test URL redacted]

As discussed, now for every new block added to the block list it limits the number of people signed up to the service who are able to block this new account in 15 minutes to 50. This means the rate that blocks are applied to a blocked account will never increase as more people sign up to the service, it will just take longer and longer for them to be applied for all users.
As for you personally testing it the rate at which you get the blocks will be the same as before. I assume it is more the rate at which blocks are applied to a particular account is the issue not the the rate a diverse set of blocks are applied to a users account when they sign up. This is limited to 1/min which is obviously a lot less than the Twitter API limits given create/block is unlimited.
Hopefully this is sufficient to get all the applications under @the_block_bot and @ool0n unsuspended.
James Billingham.

Sep 30 01:40 pm (PDT)
We’ve unsuspended your API key, but going forward you must make sure your application adheres to our API Terms of Service (https://dev.twitter.com/terms/api-terms ), including our Automation Rules and Best Practices (http://support.twitter.com/articles/76915). If in the future we find that your application is in violation of these terms and allowing or encouraging users to violate the Twitter Rules (http://support.twitter.com/articles/18311), we will suspend the API key again.
Twitter Platform Operations

Sep 30 03:30 pm (PDT)
Thanks for your help! We will not change the code to circumvent these restrictions…. It will all go on github to be totally open.

Aaaand … We’re back, baby!

 Posted by at 9:44 pm
Sep 252013

Having debunked the idea that a couple of suspensions were due to the block bot (Here), I wondered if it could be shown more conclusively that the bot doesn’t cause suspensions. I doubt it will help some rather delusional “skeptics”, but an interesting thing to graph would be cumulative dead blocks over the last few months that I have data for. Make it so –

You can see around the time of the Newsnight report there was a distinct uptick in suspensions. However I’d counter by saying that at that time we were battling the Anonymous lulz trolls who were being dropped like flies for sending “raep memes” to various feminists. The vast majority of suspensions occur in trolling accounts in Level 1, like the Anons. Interestingly when they get bored of baiting us the increase in dead blocks levels off completely to zero increase. We were adding accounts in this period. Just not them any more, and those accounts were not being suspended despite the vast increase in users at that point.

Then comes the death blow for the theory, IMO. The rate increases again as we were adding the atheist dudebros starting with the “secular” and “atheist”<nym> prats. For some reason trolling theists all over Twitter and calling them cunts leads to your account being suspended more often than average. This whine of attrition continues to this day as this group cannot stand people ignoring them. Why is this data so damning? Well the jumps in data in-between, the almost perfectly linear rate of dead blocks, is where the application was suspended. So it has been blocking no accounts but suspensions have continued increasing at the same rate! This lack of ability to block had ZERO effect on the rate of suspensions. Seems pretty conclusive that the bot does not cause suspensions and this matches with what Twitter have said – it could cause them if it carries on growing, but doesn’t currently. Will this stop them conspiracy theorising? Newp!

 Posted by at 5:41 pm
Sep 162013

Sorry to all our users for the bot being offline all this time. Unfortunately there was a false flag campaign (Bottom of post) orchestrated by Cathy Brennan to report the application to Twitter for breaking its Terms of Service (ToS). So @The_Block_Bot account has been running and new people added but no blocks have been applied… Most of what was in that cut and paste message was complete rubbish but Twitter did feel the bot broke the rules on two points ->

1. User surprise. There is not enough notification to the user on sign up exactly who will be blocked, this is only seen after signing up. Also if the user wants to leave the bot there is no automated way of unblocking the blocks applied.

2. Spam detection. We established with them we do not report for spam but Twitter say their spam algorithm will be tripped if and when the block bot scales, with just blocks alone.

So to be clear for the hard of reading, Twitter are not saying it causes suspensions, they are saying it could, at scale, contribute to their spam algorithm in the future. So they unfortunately decided to suspend the application while we worked out these issues.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:21 pm
Sep 092013

Final post and say on the nest of atheists who seemingly really do not know what rape apology is… First Storify is here, this was about the Shermer rape allegations and the awful response to this in the atheist community that I blog about here. The libel threats that came as part of that original Storify are partly written about as an edit in there, then I wrote Part II of this series since Len, who threatened, is apparently serious. Phew, a lotta back story there.

When arguing with one of Lens more reasonable followers (rarity) another fellow piped in with some inane observations. He clearly didn’t know what the issue was about or what the context was, but felt entitled to tell me how wrong I am about pretty much everything. So I thought I’d give it a go with an analogy to demonstrate that he is not infallible in regard to knowing his, or his friends, culturally ingrained biases. Biases such as rape culture ingrained victim blaming or in the case I gave the racist bias we are all subject to. Have a go at the Harvard Implicit tests and see where your biases lie, I actually came out as almost completely neutral on the racism one. In fact a small bias to black female and male faces, quite likely indicating I took it too slowly and effectively cheated. Like everyone I’m subject to culturally imposed bias, you are too.

So anyway, not learning my lesson that Len and friends have paper thin skins, I write a Storify to cover the argument we have and how “OldSparky” was not paying attention, at all. He didn’t even notice I used Michael Shermer as my “authority” and accused me of seeing him as my “guru” … He also called the Harvard Implicit tests laughable… Clearly reading the Storify, here, he realised what a twerp he had been. So like any normal person would he took it with good grace and equanimity? Well not exactly …

*sigh* because we all know the proper response to someone criticising your position and making a fool of you is LIBEL!!!1!! With an extra dash of “I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!!!”… As Russell Glasser, from “The Atheist Experience”, following the conversation on Twitter, in public, with everyone else puts it here.

So Sparky really did not like having his ignorance about the rape apology argument exposed, not even knowing that Michael Shermer is at the centre of the allegations! But he backed down and realised he had gone too far with that knee jerk reaction? Right?

No because apparently referencing a film where the man’s daughter is kidnapped and pretty much everyone is violently killed, is totally reasonable.

He really is Twitter impaired! But the constant insistence he knows where I live and the inability to realise we are laughing at him come across as more than a little creepy. So I warn him to cut out the threats.

Doesn’t work and some friends also make the point that he is not doing himself any favours here.

Indeed Joe, I have, and I also compiled into a document with his name, employment details and the town he lives in and sent it to the police. Of course Sparky even has something to say about that.

Warning he has friends in the police in Hampshire, so don’t report or else. Fortunately the police checked for his surname in the Hampshire police and there are no direct relatives. But given they know of the threat of nepotism it would be career suicide for his family member in the police, if they exist, to get involved. I’m sure they’ll be very appreciative of him dropping them in it.

One of the more ironic things about this is how I am able to report this to the police and they took it seriously. Rang me back in under an hour after reporting it on Hants online police website. Whereas many of the victims of violent threats in our community do not get the same privilege. They live in areas where the police are stretched or do not take online threats seriously. Heina, from skepchick, reported some abuse she got and was sexually harassed by the policeman! Personally I wouldn’t have reported this but for his insistence he was going to “find me” … Very good way of reassuring that he is not a stalker!

Yikes, onto ignoring Len and Sparky for all of eternity! It’s been an interesting ride as their stupidity has allowed me to blog about some interesting things such as rape apology and inherent bias. But I don’t think I’ll miss them. At least until the writ from their lawyers arrives on my doorstep!

I won’t even bother doing the libel smack down I did for Len’s accusation. He thinks that me calling everyone in the world racist (including myself) somehow libels him personally because he was the one I explained it to….  The stupidity burns so brightly in this one it hurts.

 Posted by at 9:37 am
Sep 082013

Part II because I tend to attract egotistical idiots who, rather than deal with criticism in a rational manner, resort to threats of libel at the first hint of losing an argument or being blocked on Twitter.  They prattle on about atheismplus destroying the atheist community, the block bot censoring and stopping free speech but then after a little mild criticism they run for their lawyers once they have pulled themselves from the fainting couch. Little lesson on “censorship”, for the bot to actually meet this definition there would need to be coercion. Something like using the law to shut people up and silence them … Not just ignoring them on Twitter, which is the aim of the bot regardless of how annoying or unpleasantly bigoted and abusive they are. They’ll still have their voice for whoever wishes to listen to them.

Rant about libel law copied from previous post, you can skip if you read it before. UK Libel Law is generally hated worldwide for good reason. More often than not it is used to suppress free speech (yes real free speech, not freeze peach) … I strongly recommend that people support the campaign for libel reform - they have already done a lot to improve the cesspit that is UK law in this regard. Fortunately recent changes to the law, driven by the campaign for libel reform, have much improved this situation… More on this in a bit.

So thin skinned “professional victim” number one is @Lenn_len who I had a very short argument with that ended in him threatening “Say that to my face!”… Rawr! This internet tough guy then sent his followers over to whine incessantly about me for daring to suggesting that something he said was rape apology. So rather than deal with 20-30 of his whining minions I wrote up my side into a Storify, makes it easier to just point them to that rather than have the same argument over and over. I also blogged about the wider issue and incidentally mentioned my run-in with Len and his entourage. He went ballistic … Apparently putting mine and his public tweets into a Storify was a gross act of libel which needs to be immediately punished with incessant crying about it.

Aww Len, you helpfully provide a link for idiots to explain libel … UK libel law… That is 4 yrs out of date. Basic research would have disabused you of this load of tripe.

That *facepalm* hit me hard! How do I break this to poor deluded Len? Teacher, atheist, egotist, fool…. Libel law was updated this year Len. Let me introduce you to a little thing called the Defamation Act of 2013. Something I’m fairly familiar with, given my last run-in with children who run to libel lawyers rather than handle criticism. Let me introduce you to the defences I would use if you actually managed to find a judge so drunk they were incapable of laughing you out of court immediately …

Requirement of serious harm: “A statement is not defamatory unless its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant”.

So “Len”, how exactly are you going to prove that your anonymous online identity has been damaged? You’ve damaged your nym’s credibility for as long as this blog post stays up and maybe a little longer … I am not to blame for your idiotic decision to threaten to sue for libel, something you cannot follow through on. But all you need to do is create a new nym, delete your Twitter account and move on, damage gone. Unlike IRL identities, hence you fail at the first hurdle.

Truth: It is a defence for defamation to show the imputation in the statement complained of is substantially true. If one or more of the imputations is not true, the defence does not fail if the imputations shown to be true, do not seriously harm the claimant’s reputation.

What I said is true and I can provide expert witnesses in the shape of respected feminists, leaders of the atheist movement, rape counsellors, rape victims and activists who agree with me. Fail number two.

Honest opinion: It is a defence for defamation, to show the statement complained of was a statement of opinion. That it indicated in general or specific terms, the basis of the opinion. That an honest person could have held the opinion on any fact which existed when the statement was published, including any fact in a privileged statement that was pre-published. The defence is defeated if the claimant shows the defendant did not hold the opinion. Opinion does not apply where the statement was published by the defendant, but made by another person (the author), and in such a case the defence is defeated if the defendant knew, or ought to have known, the author did not hold the opinion.

This is the killer blow and directly contradicts “Len’s” tweet where he asserts you can sue for an opinion. I honestly think that what Len said is rape apology, he blames the victim for not reporting her rape and characterises her (or maybe her supporters, he refuses to clarify) as “hysterical”. An honest person could easily hold this self-same opinion and many, many do thanks to the Streisand effect of Len’s constant testerical howls of outrage. I can provide statements from 10, 20, 30 or more people who would agree that a reasonable person would come to the same opinion of Len based on what he said. So we ultimately fail for a third and last time. I see no reason to carry on humiliating Len.

Now I would have been perfectly happy to totally ignore him after that last tweet in the Storify. So if anyone thinks this has “gone too far”, go speak to Len as I need to defend myself when someone threatens libel. My advice to Len is to apologise, not to me, but to your followers for feeding them a pack of lies that you cannot back up. Looking at the responses to your tweets above I see your followers are as clueless about the law as you are. Encouraging them and others to sue for libel when someone criticises them on Twitter will have a far more deleterious effect on free debate and exchange of ideas than the block bot ever could. Someone not so versed in libel law as myself (Not very, but having a Barrister and Law lecturer as friends helps) might actually be scared into allowing your bullying tactics to silence them. That is a terrible way to behave and a terrible example to give to your followers. Apologise and move on … This is my final word on this ridiculous incident (Apart from tangentially mentioning in Part III), I’ll ignore the fool from now on and pass anyone wanting to debate the issue to my Storifies and blog posts on it.


Part (III) coming, with more threats, more stupidity (Hard to believe I know!) and the involvement of the local Police ….. Len has a great bunch of friends!

 Posted by at 1:52 pm
Sep 042013

This is a challenge as I’m not a critic of the Shermer rape allegations. I think on the balance of the evidence, multiple corroborated accounts. I have to believe the alleged victims claim, false rape claims are rare, rape is unfortunately not at all rare. However I still say “alleged”, this is because while I believe her and hence think that the allegations are true, I do not know the allegations are true. So the only rational position is one of agnosticism in the absence of overwhelming proof either way. But is the only rational position on belief to believe her? Well I obviously think it is and that has also been extensively covered here. I definitely think that taking the lack of cast-iron proof being present as justification for not believing is irrational. There will never be 100% proof, there will always be people irrationally refusing to believe even the most obvious cases of sexual assault and rape. For example this one of sexual assault, with five eye witnesses and dealt with by the conference authorities very well at the time. In this video she details the atheists and skeptics who minimise, blame her and gaslight her with accusations she is making it up. THIS is the problem in our community, IMO, not publishing claims of rape. Ordinary claims require ordinary evidence to be taken as provisionally true. 

What I’m really annoyed about is the reaction of those who don’t believe the allegations. Just not believing is clearly fine, you can come to a difference of opinion on the evidence, although I’d say most suggesting they don’t believe are those that do not seem to realise the extent of the claims. They don’t realise as well as the unidentified person who is known and trusted by PZ Myers and Carrie Poppy there is a person who is not unidentified, Dallas Haugh. They ignore that in preference of the claim PZ Myers published, based on the trust he and Carrie Poppy have in the person making the claim. Based on the many women who have stories of him being sexually inappropriate around them.  Based on second (update to post) and third independent corroborations of her account. Rape is common, rapists are common, this is not a claim of Bigfoot we are dealing with. But hey, you still don’t believe, that’s fine.

Unfortunately I’ve seen people criticise the publishing of the claim by PZ Myers, its a “witch hunt”, people are being “hysterical” by publishing the claims. This is not at all out of the ordinary, ask yourself how did the Catholic abuse scandals get broken? By people anonymously making allegations, people start to talk about it, more come out and the scandal is exposed. Enforcing silence on victims because they need to meet an almost impossible level of proof, or because they need to have been to the police with these claims to be able to speak out is wrong. We evaluated the claims that abuse victims made before they went to trial and decided given the amount of evidence they are likely true. Sexual abuse, like rape, is not uncommon. These victims almost universally did not report their rape to the police or the proper authorities.

(If you don’t think you know all the ins and outs of rape apologism, please read up before continuing. You are hardly likely to be able to disagree with me if you don’t even know the definition. Especially the examples at the bottom, for example in the Assange case bringing up irrelevant details with no evidence to construct the narrative that the victim made it up is rape apologia)

The focus on why she was drinking with him, it’s her responsibility to not drink too much. As if a woman drinking with a man is somehow responsible for what happens next. This is the worst example of victim blaming and I doubt many people would disagree that this is out and out rape apologism. Women can drink, get drunk and not expect to be raped exactly as I can get drunk and as a man expect not to be raped. This is a basic right and the other implication that she just got drunk, regretted it, then made up the allegations is inventing reasons on zero evidence and therefore rape apologia. False rape claims are, even at the top end of the estimates, very rare. Assuming this is the case because someone was drinking is irrational and not borne out by the evidence. This is exactly what happened in the Steubenville rape case, even though she was so drunk she was passed out. Women should have exactly the same expectations men have of having a drink and not being blamed for what people subsequently do to them in that state.

Why didn’t she report to the authorities? This is an irrelevant question. Like the need for cast-iron proof before believing victims you are imposing impossible standards on victims of rape before you will believe them. Many do report and get an experience worse or nearly as bad as the rape itself. Many do report the first time, then decide given the treatment they got that it is not worth reporting the second or third time that they are raped. Many are in a situation where they know if they report they will by default not be believed, or they deserved it and they would be stupid to report it. To present the situation as if reporting to the police is a cake walk and this victim should have reported it, is to not understand the realities of the situation. That is implying she is lying or she would have reported the accusations. You are making excuses to blame her for her own rape, you are saying she did something wrong in the aftermath of what is probably the worst experience in her life. The victim did nothing wrong, the rapist did everything wrong.

This isn’t to say that you cannot say in general victims should go to the police, if they can. Don’t say some who is a victim should have reported. The more reporting the better. But to ignore the reality of being a rape victim and the horrendous treatment they receive more often than not when they do report is giving rapists an excuse. With a tiny probability of actually getting justice, it is an unfair standard to apply to them. I’m sure everyone would agree on this in Saudi Arabia where you are stoned to death if you are raped for adultery. Or if “lucky” you have to marry your rapist. The situation is better in the western world but better is nowhere near good enough to expect people to report their assault. Again, consider the very well corroborated sexual assault claim I linked to above. Five eye witnesses, the conference people dealt with it well, and she still gets people from our community blaming her and claiming she is lying. She still waited over a year before talking about it, why? Because she knows how it will be dealt with, and that is the best one yet in terms of the nastiness of the reaction. Expand that to rape, where the alleged Shermer victim has been raped and in this case the conference organisers did not handle it well. Can you really blame her for not reporting? Should you blame her for not reporting? Or consider it in anyway indicative of a “false rape claim” …. Absolutely not!

(Image Source: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2013/02/rape-low-conviction-rate-in-the-uk/)

So I had a run in with some people saying that her not reporting at the time (despite her saying she did report it to the conference organisers who were dismissive) is somehow relevant. It isn’t and the way this point was phrased was pretty awful in my opinion…

Hysteria is from people who cry rape without reporting it to the proper authorities.

So I said IF they really think that this victim, or any other, not reporting their rape to the authorities is hysterical, the psychological condition not “funny” … Then that person is a shitbag and a rape apologist. I fully stand by that statement, IF that is what they mean. Even IF they are just saying that this particular victim should or had to report her attack to the police then that is also rape apologism. What I said -

You are a shitbag and a rape apologist if you can say that anyone not reporting rape is hysterical. #fuckyou

A charitable interpretation (I’ve been given) of them might be that they were saying PZ is the person who “cried rape” and was “hysterical” because he didn’t report it to the authorities… If so then what the fuck does that mean? Nothing to do with him, he has to respect the wishes of the victim. She wanted to publicise her account because she claims to know Shermer is still doing the same thing to this day. She wanted to warn other women so he cannot do it any more.

So please in these arguments online consider the very real possibility that this woman is telling the truth.  What message does she get when her community is criticising her for not reporting at the time? Or criticising her for drinking with him? What message does she get when her community is condemning her for coming forward and raising money for the person that attacked her? You have to consider that it is a very real possibility, that she is telling the truth. Not to mention Dallas Haugh, who also did not report, who also has his community raising money for the rich man he is accusing of rape. Where is the support for him? The legions raising money for his civil suit against Shermer? I would think he’ll drop it and give up, I seriously hope not but given the total lack of support. Who would blame him? Who would be surprised if any future victims in the community shut up and say nothing in preference to facing the angry mob blaming them for speaking out.


Comment policy: People indulging in rape apology will not have their comments published. Read the link on what rape apology is. If you think drinking is relevant, not reporting is relevant, you are making a claim that better have the worlds best stats to back it up as the evidence is not on your side.  If you think rape victims should stay silent until they have taken their accusation to the police you are ignoring the realities of the justice system. This is my blog and I don’t care to entertain rape apology today, take it to your own space.

If you are here to argue over the details of who said what in regard to the Twitter conversation referenced then don’t bother. I’ve documented it and unless or until the person involved clarifies, in detail, neither of us can know what his intent was.

 Posted by at 11:26 am