Monday, January 15, 2018

Noah Smith on Twitter Nazis & Others

Noah Smith‏

1/So, as someone who writes approvingly of immigration and diversity, I get mobbed by Twitter Nazis occasionally.

I thought I'd share what I've learned.

2/A Nazi attack will begin when a reasonably well-followed Nazi account quote-tweets one of your tweets.

In the old days (and still occasionally) this was a screenshot or manual RT.

3/I call this account the "screamer". As near as I can tell, screamer accounts go around all day looking for targets and quote-tweeting them. It's either a passionate hobby for them or a full-time job.

4/In the old days, there were a few very well-followed Nazi screamers, like Genophilia. Now, thanks to banning, there are a bunch of smaller screamers with maybe 3-4k followers.

5/The screamer will usually not have a lot of Nazi memes and keywords in their profile. Thus, scrolling through your mentions, you may mistake it for a normal account quote-tweeting your tweet approvingly.

6/Once the screamer flags your tweet, you will be attacked by a bunch of throwaway accounts with 0 to 200 followers, often with lots of Nazi memes and styling.

I call these the "soldiers".

7/The soldiers will insult you, threaten you, call you a liar, spit various memes at you, etc. The usual Twitter stuff.

I doubt their specific tactics actually matter much.

8/The soldiers' goal is not to scare you or shut you up or rebut you or discredit you.

The soldiers' goal is to *appear numerous* to people reading your tweets.

9/By appearing numerous, the Twitter Nazis create the general impression that their movement and their ideas are mainstream. A big popular grassroots movement, rather than a fringe of a few thousand internet assholes and their pet bots.

10/The screamer/soldier strategy allows Twitter Nazis to create the false impression of a bunch of normal people who just stumbled across your tweet and became outraged.

11/By hopping from person to person and keeping up this shtick all day long, they can make normal people think half of America has gone Nazi. It's a force multiplier.

12/This was an old tactic of the Mongols and other horse nomad armies, who would use clouds of dust or extra campfires to create the illusion of superior numbers.

13/So how do you defend against these tactics? If you're like me and enjoy blocking Nazis, just block all the soldiers and giggle.

But if you want to stop the attack, you must find and block the screamer.

14/This can be difficult, especially if your tweet was very popular, and especially if you don't constantly monitor your mentions.

The soldiers rarely include the screamer in their replies, in order to prevent you finding and blocking them.

15/You can also just block Nazis en masse with apps like Twitter Block Chain, or by using block lists.

16/Sooner or later Twitter will tweak their interface to make this tactic less effective - for example, by letting you see a list of only quote-tweets, making it easy to find and block screamers.

The Nazis will then think of a new tactic.

17/Remember, you're dealing with a small but fanatic fringe with a lot of time and passion. Such a group will always find a way to cause destruction and chaos disproportionate to their numbers.

Bad guys work full time.

18/But the most important thing is to remember: The Nazis are few in number, and despite all their best efforts they are going to lose.


Oh, random note: Mobs other than the Nazis, like the MAGA people (who are actually quite distinct from the Nazis) or the "dirtbag" leftists, feel much more organic. You can tell they have a lot more people than the Nazis, and their mobs are born from honest outrage.

Noah Smith is a Bloomberg View columnist. 
He was an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook University, and he blogs at Noahpinion.

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