Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Trolls in the Hoods

One such post is an article on white supremacist website, The Daily Stormer. "How to be a Ni**** on Twitter" breaks down methods for creating a fake account in order to take "revenge on Twitter" for banning Andrew Auernheimer's white supremacist ads and for blocking Jared Wyand's account for anti-Semitic tweets. The secondary goal, the article notes, is to "create a state of chaos on twitter, among the black twitter population, by sowing distrust and suspicion, causing blacks to panic."
The Emergence Of The White Troll Behind A Black Face
I don't use Twitter. I've never had the time to look into it, and I have enough random online accounts that I don't use to begin with. So I don't have any insight into how Twitter society, even the Black Twitter society works. But I have to admit to being dubious about the idea that a bunch of trolls pretending to be Black people on Twitter could somehow manage to spark "panic" among actual Black people on Twitter. How does Black Twitter interact with the site that a disruption to it would cause "panic?" I understand how social media has risen from online yearbooks to become a central part of many people's lives over the past decade and a half, but it seems strange to believe that simply being unable to trust the someone who claims to be a given ethnicity is actually that ethnicity seems like a flimsy reason for fear.
Some of the steps to creating a fake account include pretending to know people they might be related to, calling people out on their drug dealing activities, and accusing them of being Neo-Nazis using fake accounts. This way, Aglin writes, "Blacks will then accuse each other of having fake accounts and start reporting each other."
Given that everyone understands, or should understand, that on the Internet, no-one knows you're a dog, it seems optimistic to the point of derangement to think that a few well-placed trolls could turn an entire online community, especially one that comprises millions of people, into effectively a circular firing squad.

Having some difficulty understanding how anyone could possibly believe that such a hare-brained scheme could work, I'm tempted to dismiss the whole thing as a parody, and chalk its newsworthiness up to Poe's Law. Sometimes, it's difficult to tell a genuine idiot from someone who's simply pretending to be one on the Internet. (Of course, given the generally low opinion that many people have of White Supremacists, it may be easy to believe that they'd hatch schemes that come across as obviously broken.)

In my own activities online, I have encountered any number of people who make assertions about themselves that I can't verify. Generally, speaking, I don't pay much attention to these things. When people post self-portraits of themselves, I typically assume that they are honest pictures, and when they make statements about what's going on in their lives, I typically assume that they're accurate descriptions. But I don't need them to be. I don't base my comfort and safety on the World Wide Web on the idea that people that I've otherwise never met, and only "know" from online interactions are who they portray themselves as being. If I really need to speak to a known quality, I simply connect directly with one of the people that I have enough of an offline relationship with to be comfortable speaking to. Were some noticeable fraction of the others to turn out to be engaged in elaborate subterfuge, I'd simply drop them. Calmly.

The fake account advice proffered up by The Daily Stormer seems to be based on a parody of a minority online community, a group of people who are frightened and insecure enough to require the comforting presence of people superficially like themselves, trusting enough to believe that anyone who presents as like them must actually be like them and naive enough be easily manipulated by literal strangers. In the case of Black people specifically, it also seems to be predicated on a sort of group subterfuge; a pretense of respectability that people engage in between drug deals. And in that sense it comes across as a plan to trap elephants using their fear of mice.

Like I said, White Supremacists are an unpopular bunch, and perhaps this is what makes it seem reasonable that they would think such a vapid scheme is workable. But from my perspective, I suspect that someone's having a good laugh at NPR's expense right now.

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