• A fresh round of Block Bot related nonsense

    The Atheism+ Block Bot has made news again this past week, as the Daily Beast hits a new low in thinkpiece journalism.

    By now, we have all grown quickly accustomed to the idea that algorithms can do better than we do alone at finding, ranking, and realizing our preferences.

    What algorithms are you talking about, Mr. Paulos? If you were to click that handy link which you provided to www.theblockbot.com, the first thing you would see is a note in italics which says “The blocker adding the person makes the call, see why you were added.” It should be noted here that “blocker” means a human being who scours Twitter for expressions of political incorrectness they subjectively consider worthy of public scorn, rather than a collection of algorithms designed to detect trollish or phobic behaviour. Public performance of righteous outrage is at least half the fun for these hobbyist moral entrepreneurs, why would anyone expect them outsource that to emotionless robots?

    None of this is to say that the Block Bot team didn’t come up with clever automation, on occasion. Awhile back, one of the people associated with the Block Bot came up with a rather helpful tool which can be used by blocked people to figure out why they were targeted as part of ongoing Atheism+ efforts to “kick the C.H.U.D.‘s back into the sewers” in the immoral words of Richard Carrier. Here is what it looked like:

    20130210-230325.jpgI loved Sarah’s tool, and recommended it to my Twitter friends, many of whom are locked in an ongoing informal game of C.H.U.D. oneupmanship trying to find increasingly hilarious ways to get blocked and Storified by the Block Bot. (I have been disqualified from play, because my Twitter account has been protected for years.) “Loved” is in the past tense, alas, because it appears she has recently taken it offline. I have reason to suspect this is because of a letter of claim issued from one James Desborough, but it could also be a result of legal threats from someone styling himself after the historical figure Matthew Hopkins, who managed to murder around 100 women per year in his self-appointed capacity as Witchfinder General.  (It is fitting, I suppose, that this latter-day self-appointed witchfinder has also found a way to abuse the British legal system to nefarious ends.)

    The response from Twitter has been predictably dismal, as several GamerGate supporters shamelessly celebrated the fact that Sarah felt the need to take her Block Bot subdomain offline. Let that sink in. Someone was threatened by legal action designed to chill speech, they took part of their website offline as a result, and then a bunch of people openly celebrated that chilling of speech. There are times, of course, when speech acts should be curtailed or punished, such as incitement to riot on the spot, conspiracy to break good and just laws, or advertising homeopathy as effective. It is really difficult for me to see how this can possibly be one of those times, though I’d be happy to hear from those who would put forth that argument.


    Category: Atheism PlusFree Speech

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.