Last April, I learned for the first time about the dark Twitter art of “flag spamming.” This happens when a sizable number of Twitter users gang up to falsely label a target as a source of “spam” – that is, unsolicited advertising junk mail or verbal abuse.
The great popularity of the Twitter social media tool has brought commensurate problems with spam accounts, so Twitter introduced a simple tool for flagging any given user as a possible nuisance account. The Twitter administrators then use a series of automatic tests to collect these reports and decide if the account truly deserves suspension.
Unfortunately, it’s not that difficult to “game” those automated tests and use the spam-flagging tool to blow legitimate users off the network, particularly if they don’t have a large network of followers. It can be quite a hassle to convince the Twitter administrators that a particular banning was unfair, and get your account re-instated. Groups of leftists have been using this tactic to silence conservatives – they’ll organize a mob and swarm the target with false spam reports, until Twitter’s software responds by exiling the target to what has become known as the “Twitter Gulag.”
This remains enough of a problem for Twitter user Todd Kincannon to step up and do something about it. Kincannon formed a volunteer “Twitter Gulag Defense Network,” using the tag “#TGDN” to organize its communications. He has been using this network to distribute advice for avoiding flag spamming attacks, which Twitchy.com has helpfully accumulated into a single, easily readable page. Much of his advice boils down to methods of spotting people who might be part of an online piranha swarm, and resisting the temptation to respond to their provocations – if you don’t address messages to the flag spammers, they have little to work with.
It’s fascinating, and disturbing, that a Twitter Gulag Defense Network is necessary. Funny how so many of the people who think we need a “national conversation” about various topics, or believe we should organize each others’ lives through political debate, are so keenly interested in dispensing enforced silence.