Aug 112013

So I was going to blog about the little run in we had with “Anonymous” in relation to @the_block_bot … But I was on holiday and lost interest. Until that is I was alerted to a video where it was used as evidence that the block bot is administered by the “wrong person”, me, even though its at least 10 people who actually run it …

Background, Tim Farley wrote a blog post about the bot here, I mostly don’t have an issue with it as I focussed on the technical issues brought up and they are easily fixed. (Roadmap and github commits to come!) However it did seem Tim mistook the “A+” block bot as THE block bot, confusing but I guess BBC Newsnight did present it as “one solution” to the problem of Twitter trolls. For me the reason it is a solution is that I open sourced it and other communities can create their own block list, not that the one the A+ forum runs would police Twitter as a whole. That would be ridiculous for many reasons, not least of which is that many people who may want a shared blocklist, such as TERFs, are on the A+ block list! Also @doubting_tom wrote a nice rebuttal to this point and Tims rather unskeptical use of an argument from authority to attack the decision to add some of the people to the block bot. Rather poorly timed given one person has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault at a conference, another of at least one rape. Stephanie Zvan tore apart two of the other people on the list as well. So I think its clear Tims authority on this subject of who should be on the block list is clearly not one you’d want to trust.

Now I suggest everyone reads Toms post on the whole podcast as it covers all the points, I just wanted to address the one point about Anonymous that Tim makes.

But, last week, independent of this whole thing, Ool0n decided to block one of the accounts of Anonymous, the giant hacker collective. And he decided to start taunting them about it. And as a result of, right when my blog post went up, and through Friday and Saturday, the Block Bot was actually being Denial of Service attacked by Anonymous. Um, and he continued to taunt them, including calling the Block Bot “unblockable.” And, y’know, Ool0n, you, like I said, you’ve been nice to me, but that shows really poor judgment. Taunting Anonymous publicly on the Internet is about the dumbest online thing I can think to do. Um, and that’s the person who’s running the Block Bot for you.

Again Tom demolishes this nicely in his post. I’d also add that the “Anonymous” Tim talks about is not Anonymous… No really, Anon are an amorphous anarchic collective of separate groups with many many different aims. This particular bit of Anonymous I “taunted” (Personally I’d say ridiculed) was the same bit that attacked Caroline Criado-Perez as documented by her here.  Hence members of their group were added to the block list, which seriously pissed them off. Now if I was Tim I would presumably have kowtowed to “Anonymous” and apologised for freezing their peach as you’d have to be the dumbest person on the internet to cross those internet vigilantes. So who is best at running a block list? The person that runs away at the first sign of danger or someone who sticks it to Anonymous, even if its just mini-Anonymous lulz trolls. Tom says the same thing, clearly you want someone who will stand up to authority, be it “celebrity” skeptics or internet vigilantes. I should point out here that there are 10 people adding to the block list, all of whom are not beholden to me and have the same skeptical attitude to authority.  Recently there was a dispute about the level a person was on and I asked the community at the forum to resolve it, its not up to me to decide. I am no boss and this is not a heirarchy, in fact I always defer to the majority decision even though as the admin I could overrule the community. I don’t for the obvious reason that the community administered list would fall apart if I was dictatorial in any way.

I sometimes get told off by @Xanthe_Cat and some of the other admins for being a bit too trollish myself (Totally justified!). But no one seemed that bothered by me ridiculing Anonymous in this case. They were horribly misogynistic and deserving of all the criticism and ridicule they got in relation to this incident. Click on some of the tweets below and look at the threads. After this outburst I saw Laurie Penny also have a go at them for their misogyny.

The story, so you can judge how dumb I really am:

So I and many others have running arguments with #cuntsec (Yes really) people about being added to the list… They were instrumental in attacking Caroline Criado-Perez and have a hash, #InternetOps, that they use as a call to arms to dogpile people with “raep” memes and threats. Word gets back to @Anon_Central, I assume through their leader @SatanSek… If you look on his site you can see they like to freeze some peach themselves by DoS’ing racist organisations with a slowloris python script. This will become relevant as the block bots server was for some reason also attacked with slowloris! Co-incidence? No.

As it happens I have no issue with them taking out the racists, the irony of them doing this while attacking us for “freedom of speech” infringement is ridiculous though. I have a problem with them dogpiling women on Twitter with abuse, so they got added to the block bots list.

So when this gets back to @Anon_Central this account tweets the following ->

Rather a homophobic response, followed up with a sex-negative straw-feminist response to my question!

I tweet attacking another of their tweets that call feminists “feminazi fucktards” …

And one reply to criticism gets @Anon_Central to favourite my tweet, I assume they are not that worried about me criticising them!

I taunt some of the trolls since after criticising the bot as infringing on free speech by trying to get accounts suspended … They launch a false flag campaign to get myself, @aratina and @the_block_bot suspended as spam! Given they have tens of thousands of followers this nicely proves that this does not get accounts suspended.

Some of the #cuntsec crowd threaten to DoS site and lo and behold but there are a couple of slow loris attacks.

Not that well executed as they didn’t use a proxy and I report them.

Seems they take note and start using anonymous proxies

While blocking the individual IPs I realise that I need a better solution as I’m off on holiday and cannot login to kill each individual IP. Looking at the man page for iptables I see I can configure that to reset the connections from any IP address that tries to spam my server. Unfortunately when playing around with it I accidentally take my own site down! Doh! Insult is added to injury when @Anon_Central takes responsibility, to be fair there were a couple of DoS attempts going on at the same time. But I assert that I killed my own server, not them ;-)

The misogyny here is palpable once again, seems this branch of “Anonymous” is full of dudebros. At this point I say that their attack on us is rather daft given its just been announced that their #cuntsec friends trolling has led to Twitter adding an abuse button. Personally I think grassroots community blocklists would be better than an abuse button that can itself be abused.

After a restart and the new iptables rules in place I also add cloudflare and a couple of other anti-DoS measures I’m not going to mention here. So I was rather surprised when @Anon_Central kept tweeting that the site was down, twice in fact. At no point was it down, I was watching their DoS attempts being nixxed by the new rules on iptables primarily.

So I poke the tiger a little -

Including this one, which I assume is where Farley asserts I said the code is unhackable in the podcast.

Sorry but that was called a joke… If anyone knows how to explain humour to a spock-skeptic let me know. The point I was making was that the block bot code was running elsewhere as I temporarily moved it to a different EC2 instance. So there was no way their DoS’ing could kill the bot for those already signed up. I’ve moved it back now and renice’d the httpd process to the lowest priority so it cannot kill the server. I can easily start it elsewhere again if needed, but to hack it they need to hack Amazon EC2 or my personal laptop. Neither would be easy.

@Anon_Central takes it all quite well

They get told off for their misogynistic approach and lack of understanding of free speech

So far since I put in the anti-DoS measures they have not succeeded in taking the site down. There are a number of slow loris attack attempts from time to time but these are easily defeated. If they really took an interest and used a large bot net then there is no doubt they could kill the site. Although they’d need to make sure each member of the bot net was not using slow loris but something a little more intelligent. Not worth the effort for them over a small community block list.

Seems to me I had a little fun ridiculing them and pointing out their misogyny, they deserved the criticism they got for it. Tim Farley thinks this makes “me” the wrong person to run it. Well apart from me not running it alone, but with 10 others,  I respectfully disagree and think he needs to learn a bit more about Anonymous and be a little more disrespectful when it comes to our “leaders” and vigilantes on the internet.

 Posted by at 10:15 pm

  5 Responses to “Only the Dumbest People on the Internet get to Administer @the_block_bot”

  1. [...] Now, I only saw bits and pieces of what Farley’s describing as it unfolded, so I asked Ool0n if he thought it was an accurate description. He didn’t think so (1, 2, 3, 4), and said he’d post about it when he gets home. (Edit: here’s that post.) [...]

  2. Well Oolon, as far as “problems with authority” go, I much prefer your “too little deference” to Tim’s “too much.”

    • You would think that approach would fit in well in the atheist-skeptic community, but it seems many assume the “leaders” in the community should be afforded special consideration.

      The “Anonymous” thing is just weird, thinking about it more it seems to be an ad-hom aimed at discrediting the bot. Maybe based on this idea that it is positioned as “the” block bot. I did also think that maybe I should hold off on “Anonymous” for a second or two but I figured the worst they could do is kill the website for a few days. They are bound to find someone or something more interesting to do eventually. Not sure what consequences Tim was envisioning for crossing the “Anons” beyond that. Doxxing? They tried that as well and got it wrong, despite my info being on this blog!

  3. Lovely post, James, you should know by now I tell people off when I think they can do better.

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