[Discussion] The Inconceivable Power of Trolls in Social Media

This is a follow-on to the nearly two year old topic "Trouble at the Kool-Aid Point." The intention is to provide a place to discuss the unreasonable power social media trolls have over women and minorities, with a primary focus on video games (though other examples are certainly welcome).

Mind you, it's a good job they jumped on this so quickly. Who KNOWS what kind of dama....

...oh. Nevermind.

And future National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has been retweeting that bullsh*t, so good luck getting anyone to face consequences for spreading lies.

Michael Flynn is a special kind of scum.

Did I mention that this stuff has gotten out of hand? Because it's gotten out of hand.

At least there was an arrest for this death threat:
Sandy Hook Truther Arrested for Threatening to Kill Parent of Murdered Child

It was one thing when the fake news was targeting people like innocent game academics, because at least it only radicalized gamers and everyone could pretend that the people who were threatening to rape and murder over lies they believed were just spontaneous manifestations of the internet that would go away if we closed our eyes and ignored them.

A heavily redacted FBI compilation report on Gamergate is now available.

https://vault.fbi.gov/gamergate

Quintin_Stone wrote:

A heavily redacted FBI compilation report on Gamergate is now available.

https://vault.fbi.gov/gamergate

I don't have the time or emotional hardiness to wade through that and deal with another firehose of sh*theels. I'm going to wait for a TL:DR writeup somewhere.

Jonman wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

A heavily redacted FBI compilation report on Gamergate is now available.

https://vault.fbi.gov/gamergate

I don't have the time or emotional hardiness to wade through that and deal with another firehose of sh*theels. I'm going to wait for a TL:DR writeup somewhere.

I don't have time to go over it in detail at the moment either, but a quick glance at the un-redacted bits shows:

- a copy of the Utah State University bomb/shooting threats

- a bunch of redacted incident reports, including the San Francisco bomb threat at GDC, an identity theft targeted at Intel after their announcement, a suicide bomb threat in Australia, a bunch of doxxing/threats/swatting, a bomb threat against PAX East, and so on.

It's so redacted that it's really hard to figure out what's going on.

It does confirm that the FBI (SanFran branch, not to mention local police departments) were doing investigations into Gamergate as early as September 30, 2014 (page 113).

Some people sent reports to the FBI talking about threats coming from people at 4chan/8chan and one mentioned SomethingAwful.

There are some email chains included that are back-and-forths between the FBI and people who reported threats and are asking for updates.

On page 163 there's a write-up of an interview conducted by the Indiana State Police with a suspect who (after trying to blame someone else) eventually admits to calling someone in MA (possibly Brianna Wu) "at least 40-50 times with threats". "He sometimes just harasses her and tried to get on her nerves." There are no legal consequences mentioned that I can find.

There's a summary of an FBI interview with a suspect on 10/30/2015 (page 170). Again, the person admitted to emailing a threatening message to someone. If anything came out of this (unlikely), it's not included because the PDF ends right after that.

Brianna Wu is posting a reaction:

1/ Press is reaching out to me now that Gamergate records have been released by the FBI. I want to make a few comments on the record.

2/ Reading it, I'm absolutely livid. Only a fraction of a fraction of information we gave the FBI was looked into. They failed on all levels

3/ About 7 months into Gamergate, we got a notice that none of the daily reports we were sending them had been looked at.

4/ We mailed the FBI a hard drive of the names and leads of death threats we'd meticulously documented for them. None of this is in report.

5/ So essentially, we been paying three different people to document and investigate Gamergate for no reason whatsoever.

6/ To me, of this report shows the value of FOIA requests. The FBI failed on every imaginable level, and proof is there for anyone to see.

7/ When I am elected to Congress, we're going to make sure the federal government never fails women like this again. It's a disgrace.

"he has probably called her at least 40 or 50 times with threats" Well, young man, don't do that again. If you call her 200 or 300 times, we may have to slap your wrist!

Just imagine what might happen if the FBI actually enforced the federal law against threatening communications, and that enforcement was made public. As it stands, there is still zero incentive not to harass and threaten anyone electronically.

Tagging in. Good thread idea.

And then sometimes they pick the wrong target: https://twitter.com/UrsulaV/status/8... (Content warning: some gory images from 4chan.)

TheHarpoMarxist wrote:

Tagging in. Good thread idea.

Same. I knew this thread was here, but hadn't participated. I thought the whole gamergate thing was awful and couldn't understand how something like that would be possible. Then the whole, you know, election thing happened which is the same thing in a way which blew my mind. I still don't fully understand how horrible the system is broken and how THE INTERNET took advantage of it, but the biggest thing that helped was the Reply All podcast on the pizzagate thing. That kinda explains the context of it all. Yeah, that's just one aspect of the whole thing, but it's a big aspect. The internet giving everyone an instant voice just reared it's ugly HP Lovecraft style head as of 2000 effin 16.

Anyways, check that particular podcast episode if you haven't.

The BC Library Association got Anita Sarkeesian for the closing keynote for their annual conference this spring. I'm excited to have the opportunity to hear her speak in person! Though first I'll need to become a BCLA member, something I've not yet done for 15 years... Never had as good a reason to!

BadKen wrote:

"he has probably called her at least 40 or 50 times with threats" Well, young man, don't do that again. If you call her 200 or 300 times, we may have to slap your wrist!

Just imagine what might happen if the FBI actually enforced the federal law against threatening communications, and that enforcement was made public. As it stands, there is still zero incentive not to harass and threaten anyone electronically.

Absolutely appalling......

I'm not quite sure where to put this... I don't think there's a general D&D video thread yet. But I've been watching through the back catalogue of a YouTuber I stumbled across recently and he's been doing some incredibly well researched, well thought out and quite witty debunking videos aimed at the awfulness put out by people like Sargon of Akkad, Thunderfoot, and a bunch of others I hadn't even heard of.

He hardly has any subscribers, so I have to assume it's likely no one else here has stumbled upon his vids. They're all really well done, I'd recommend checking them out, this is his latest:

No time (or emotional energy!) to watch them right now, but if they can be deployed as one-link replies to some of the gish-galloping Nazis...

Something I've been running into is that some of the stuff they say is so stupid/hateful that there aren't many examples of direct refutations. When people don't believe, say, the SPLC, I have to write the entire argument out myself... and by design, no one has time for that.

On that note (no one has time for that), I'm kind of surprised that Sea Lioning hasn't become more of a thing with the alt-right. I guess they don't have to Sea Lion when they're in charge. Instead they're just dismissive.

Twitter thread, summarizing recent history:

"what's the inside story on these young fascist nazis" a lot of them ended up in shock humor/lonely dude forums that nazi recruiters joined

Following up on my own post, here's some other articles on more-or-less the same issue:

And Then the Breitbart Lynch Mob Came for Me (Rosa Brooks)
Counterpoint: I’m a Liberal, and Shut The f*ck Up. (Zoe Quinn)
What Liberals Don’t Get About Free Speech In The Age Of Trump (Katherine Cross)

Hmm, it's nice to read someone who actually gets it.

I seek no protection from offence. I’m a big girl, and I can handle being annoyed by the foolishness or narrow-mindedness of others. What I protest in Yiannopoulos’ “Dangerous baggins Tour” is that he incites action, which cannot be ignored or brushed off by its targets. Yet despite being central to the issue, it is rarely the focus of chest-beating free-speech absolutism in the editorial pages.

...

“Never believe that anti‐Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies,” wrote Jean Paul Sartre in Anti-Semite and Jew. “They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words.” He might well be talking about the “troll” tactics beloved of today’s neo-Nazi alt-right, which cloaks its anti-Semitism (and sundry other bigotries) in irony and deceit.

...

Hannah Arendt had the right of it when, in her Origins of Totalitarianism, she explained what the purpose of Nazi propaganda was. It was not a proposition presented for debate, compromise, and rebuttal, but an alternative reality that justified its own existence:

“The assumption of a Jewish world conspiracy was transformed by totalitarian propaganda from an objective, arguable matter into the chief element of the Nazi reality; the point was the Nazis acted as though the world were dominated by Jews and needed a counterconspiracy to defend itself.”

...

This puts d’Ancona’s praise for Channel 4 presenter Cathy Newman into perspective. He holds her tough questioning of Milo Yiannopoulos up as a prime example of how to deal with the man, and indeed her forthright and unwavering dissection of his empty views deserves much praise. But by d’Ancona’s logic, this should have spelled defeat for Yiannopoulos. Instead, he went on to win a lucrative book deal.

This is why we should roll our eyes every time Slate or Huffington Post declares that some satirist has “destroyed” or “eviscerated” some famous fool. It’s not just the exaggeration, but the overwhelming and naive faith in the power of merely disproving someone. All of Trump’s ideas, such as they were, were debunked time and again long before the election; it did not stop Wisconsinites from voting for him.

Counterpoint: I’m a Liberal, and Shut The f*ck Up. (Zoe Quinn)

Do not read the comments.

Jesus, "you're a fascist". For what? Not letting an actual fascist have a platform? OH my god, what a horrible crime, stopping fascism from receiving any sympathy.

Seriously, the number of folks stuck in the realm of "we must be tolerant of intolerance" like that wasn't a solved problem is soooooooooo stupid.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

Hmm, it's nice to read someone who actually gets it.

This puts d’Ancona’s praise for Channel 4 presenter Cathy Newman into perspective. He holds her tough questioning of Milo Yiannopoulos up as a prime example of how to deal with the man, and indeed her forthright and unwavering dissection of his empty views deserves much praise. But by d’Ancona’s logic, this should have spelled defeat for Yiannopoulos. Instead, he went on to win a lucrative book deal.

This is why we should roll our eyes every time Slate or Huffington Post declares that some satirist has “destroyed” or “eviscerated” some famous fool. It’s not just the exaggeration, but the overwhelming and naive faith in the power of merely disproving someone. All of Trump’s ideas, such as they were, were debunked time and again long before the election; it did not stop Wisconsinites from voting for him.

My problem is that Milo is clearly using a troll's playbook. We here all know it, but the current reactions to him fuel his brand. We need more Cathy Newman and less, well, just about everything else.

From what I understand, most of the violence [at Berkeley] was perpetrated by infiltrators who were looking to sow chaos and destruction. Yet many of the peaceful protesters and organizers have admitted that they too were attempting to shut down Milo’s talk. The last thing you ever want to do is give an opponent the moral high ground—and attempts to suppress, intimidate and revoke constitutional rights do exactly that.

There is absolutely nothing that Milo has said (and more importantly, done) that ought to revoke his First Amendment right to give a speech on a college campus. It’s profoundly hypocritical for the same activists who demanded safe spaces against microaggressions to march en masse and aggressively shut down a nerdy, gay conservative immigrant with a funny name (a minority if there ever was one) until he flees under armed guard. As much as you might dislike what he’s saying—and I personally dislike it a lot—I promise, you are not setting a good precedent by preventing him from saying it. Worse, you’re giving him more people to say it to when the ensuing media coverage explodes.

If you actually want to fight back against these trolls, here’s a strategy to consider: Organize all you want, get as many people as you can to show up at their events, but don’t try to shut them down. In fact, the only thing you should try to shut down are the instigators who try to incite violence. Regain the moral high ground by saying that you absolutely respect their right to free speech.

And then, actually listen and talk to them. To me, the most effective retorts against the alt-right were when Trevor Noah had Tomi Lahren on his show and when Elle Reeve profiled Richard Spencer for Vice. Both came off looking mostly like jokes. Tomi Lahren showed her age. Richard Spencer revealed his movement to be mostly a collection of a few thousand sad dorks. Wale’s Twitter exchange with Tomi was effective too—there was no outrage, no opposition, just teasing.

They say sunlight is the best disinfectant. But it is also what allows you to see whether the emperor has any clothes. And it’s this sad, and often pathetic reality, that the collective hysteria has beneficently covered up in those it’s trying to fight. What should be seen as farce somehow looks like real fascism.

From here.

Katherine Cross argues that the above has been tried with Milo, but I'd counter that once is not enough and he's continued to have his brand fueled by him playing media, social media and the left.

For instance, in this talk from New Mexico he gets to have the high ground, even if he manufactured it.

I get that we don't want people to profit off of inflammatory speech, but we can't continue to go about it the way we have. The article by cognitive scientist George Lakoff, which was posted in one of these threads recently, is spot on about how arguments need to be framed to be more effective. Ranting at Milo, even if you're 100% correct in all you say, plays to those who agree with you, but at the same time plays right into his hands, making him look more like the martyr to his followers and potential converts. Quit doing it. It's a war you won't win, even if you win each battle, as it were.

All of this also applies to Trump, to varying degrees.

Not sure where to post this, but tangential to this thread.

Disney Severs Ties With YouTube Star PewDiePie After Anti-Semitic Posts
Move came after the Journal asked about videos in which he included anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery

That's a WSJ article, so I'll post the article text below, in case it's behind their paywall.

Spoiler:

Millions of people have watched a Jan. 11 video by YouTube’s biggest star that included two men laughing as they held a banner that read, “Death to all Jews.”

The man behind the video is Felix Kjellberg, a 27-year-old Swede known as “PewDiePie,” who has amassed 53 million subscribers. His success has brought him multimillion-dollar deals from YouTube and Walt Disney Co., which owns a firm that runs Mr. Kjellberg’s business.

Since August, PewDiePie has posted nine videos that include anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery, according to a review of his channel by The Wall Street Journal.

On Monday after the Journal contacted Disney about the videos, the entertainment giant said it was severing ties with Mr. Kjellberg, who as PewDiePie rose to prominence via clips of himself playing videogames or performing skits and making crude jokes.

Under the terms of their arrangement, Mr. Kjellberg had editorial independence.

“Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate,” said a spokeswoman for Maker Studios, the Disney division that was business partners with PewDiePie.

PewDiePie’s account also took down three videos with a total of about 23 million views—the Jan. 11 video, and ones from Jan. 17 and Jan. 22—after the Journal’s inquiries. In the Jan. 22 video, Mr. Kjellberg showed a man dressed as Jesus Christ saying, “Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.”

Mr. Kjellberg said in a video a few days later that the Jan. 11 clip was a joke that went too far. Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which owns YouTube, pulled ads that run on its videos from the Jan. 11 video within days of its posting, before it was taken down this past weekend. YouTube hasn’t pulled any of the nine videos in question, though PewDiePie’s account took down three of them. Google hasn’t removed ads from any of Mr. Kjellberg’s other videos.

Mr. Kjellberg didn’t respond to requests for comment for this article. On Sunday, he wrote on Tumblr that he wanted to “clear some things up,” specifically that he doesn’t support “any kind of hateful attitudes.” Mr. Kjellberg wrote that he creates content for entertainment, not as political commentary, and understands “these jokes were ultimately offensive.”

The videos illustrate the risk for companies such as YouTube and Disney that, eager to reach young audiences, make deals with talent who may push boundaries on what is acceptable within the company’s standards or basic social norms. By distributing the content to a wide audience, companies are vulnerable to criticism when a user’s words are deemed offensive. In Mr. Kjellberg’s case, a major neo-Nazi website has embraced his statements.

Social media companies also are wrestling with how to address darker forms of speech, whether it is jihadist propaganda or rhetoric from an emerging white-nationalist movement. The dilemma is especially troublesome when it involves prominent figures like Mr. Kjellberg. Twitter Inc., for instance, has stepped up efforts to suspend accounts violating its hate speech and harassment rules. It recently banned Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos for violating its abusive content policy, for example. YouTube said it prohibits videos that violate its rules, which include a ban on content that “promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin (or) religion.”

In reviewing videos, the company said it considers intent as well as the context. “If content is intended to be provocative or satirical, it may remain online. If the uploader’s intent is to incite violence or hatred it will be removed.” YouTube declined to comment specifically on PewDiePie’s videos. Mr. Kjellberg’s videos in recent weeks have drawn the praise of neo-Nazi websites like Daily Stormer, which the Southern Poverty Law Center on Thursday dubbed the “top hate site in America.”

On Jan. 23, the site changed its motto to “The world’s #1 PewDiePie fansite,” according to the Internet Archive, celebrating Mr. Kjellberg for “making the masses comfortable with our ideas.”

Mr. Kjellberg is a top earner on YouTube, making roughly $14.5 million last year, according to estimates from social media data firm NeoReach. That amount includes splitting ad revenue with YouTube, as well as sponsorships and appearance fees.

His videos collectively have been watched 14.7 billion times, more than anyone else on YouTube. He has nearly double as many subscriptions as the next top YouTube star and roughly 78% of his viewers are under 20 years old, NeoReach said. His star power helped him secure a multimillion-dollar bonus from YouTube around late 2015 to keep his videos on its site exclusively, according to people familiar with the deal.

A show starring him now anchors YouTube’s subscription service, YouTube Red.

Mr. Kjellberg was since 2012 a part of an online video network run by Maker Studios, which Disney bought in 2014 for $675 million. Last year, after he threatened to leave, Maker formed its first ever joint venture making it and Mr. Kjellberg co-owners of a company that produces videos, mobile apps and merchandise, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement. Now that Disney has ended the joint venture, Mr. Kjellberg’s options are to produce videos independently or find a new partner.

Mr. Kjellberg, who in late December was working out of an old Disney office outside London, has said the media takes his jokes out of context.

“What I just think—and I believe strongly in—is that it is 2017 now,” he said in the Jan. 22 video that was taken down. “We’re going to have to start separating what is a joke, and what is actually problematic.

“Is a joke actually pure racism?” he said. “Is something that would be considered a joke purely homophobic, or anti-Semitic and all these things? Context ing matters.”

Mr. Kjellberg’s use of Nazi material dates back to at least Aug. 7, when he began a video with a swastika and other Nazi imagery. Wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat from President Donald Trump’s campaign, Mr. Kjellberg used a photo of Hitler as a segue between clips.

Mr. Kjellberg says the material is portrayed in jest. He showed a clip from a Hitler speech in a Sept. 24 video criticizing a YouTube policy, posted swastikas drawn by his fans on Oct. 15 and watched a Hitler video in a brown military uniform to conclude a Dec. 8 video. He also played the Nazi Party anthem before bowing to a swastika in a mock resurrection ritual on Jan. 14, and included a very brief Nazi salute with a Hitler voice-over saying “Sieg Heil” and the text “Nazi Confirmed” near the beginning of a Feb. 5 video.

In the Jan. 11 video, in which the two men are unfurling the “Death to All Jews” sign, Mr. Kjellberg paid people to do bizarre things via the website Fiverr, which helps freelancers secure part-time work. After he shows himself hiring the men to make the sign, he watches them unfurling the sign while they laugh and dance. Mr. Kjellberg appears to express shock and apologizes, saying “I didn’t think they would actually do it.” He doesn’t explain why he still included the clip in the video, which wasn’t broadcast live. The Indian men, apologized in a video saying “we really don’t know what the message meant when making the video.”

Mr. Kjellberg defended himself from criticism in a Jan. 17 video, saying “I think there’s a difference between a joke and actual like, , death to all Jews. If I made a video saying”—Mr. Kjellberg then quickly cuts to a close-up of his face illuminated brightly—“Hey guys, PewDiePie here. Death to all Jews, I want you to say after me: Death to all Jews. And, you know, Hitler was right. I really opened my eyes to white power. And I think it is time we did something about this.” The video then zooms back out and he adds: “That is how they’re essentially reporting this, as if that’s what I was saying.”

Jonathan Vick, an associate director of the Anti-Defamation League, criticized Mr. Kjellberg’s apologies. “Just putting it out there brings it more and more into the mainstream,” he said.

Fiverr suspended the accounts of Mr. Kjellberg, the two men in the video and the Jesus actor whom Mr. Kjellberg paid to say, “Hitler did nothing wrong,” according to a person familiar with the matter. Of the actor’s suspension, Mr. Kjellberg said in a later video, “Isn’t it ironic that Jews found another way to f— Jesus over?” Fiverr is based in Tel Aviv.

So as it turns out, ironic racism is pretty much just actual racism that uses the joking as a cover. I don't know what PewDiePie's intent was--but it doesn't matter. Not when bonafide Nazis are using you as a rallying symbol.

This Film Critic Hulk twitter thread gets at the dynamic. It's one that we've seen a lot of over the past few years: start by making outrage jokes, end by listening to your new supporters who came from the hate sites.

Stuff like this always makes me think of Charles Krafft. The guy made sculptures and such incorporating Nazi imagery or Hitler himself and everyone assumed it was some kind of satirical statement. Eventually the fact that the guy was a Nazi and holocaust denier became public knowledge.

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cul...

If Disney is concerned with racism and anti-semitism,

1) They should have watched some of PewDiePie before signing on with him, and

2) I hope they don't look too hard at Walt's stances.

UpToIsomorphism wrote:

2) I hope they don't look too hard at Walt's stances.

... because a large organization can't take a more progressive position than those held by its long dead founder?