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13 January, 2013

Block Saturday, Possible Censorship?

Twitter account @aratina, called Aratina Cage, included me in a tweet and then immediately blocked me (coward) last week. The tweet included the hashtag, #BlockSaturday and included a few other twitter handles. Greg Laden also retweeted it, which made me lul.  Most of them I already followed, but I added the rest, of course.

It was brought up on the 'Pit this week and I mentioned that I had seen the same thing last Saturday. Someone then pointed out an interesting fact about twitter and how their algorithm suspends accounts. Twitter has been criticized for being too heavy-handed and suspending accounts that don't deserve it. It's actually pretty easy to suspend an account with a concentrated effort: Users can be suspended if they have sent a higher ratio of @replies to regular tweets, if they are reported as spam enough times or -- here's the kicker -- if they've been blocked by a large enough number of people over a short amount of time.

Aratina Cage looks like just the kind of dogmatic, fingers-in-the-ear brownshirt that would know this and start this as a campaign. I'm going to ask twitter if this is something that violates the TOS because it doesn't seem like something a networking site would want encouraged. I'll update if I get an answer.


  1. Be sure to share what you find out. I have no problem with a person using the block function on Twitter, but encouraging others to block users so they will have their accounts suspended does not seem terribly consistent with freethought or the stated desire to have a diverse community.

    1. But it's certainly consistent with the atmosphere of dogpiling and hair-trigger ban-hammer that permeates FTB/Skepchicks/A+.

  2. I have also contacted Twitter about this. First I thought it was fairly amusing, because #blocksaturday got me more new followers than #ff ever did, but then I talked to other tweeters about it and they told me that people have actually had their accounts suspended as a direct result of the practice. Especially new users, with a small list of followers and who haven't taken it upon themselves to block the Ladens and Watsons and all those other atheismplus trolls, are particularly vulnerable to this new form of internet censorship and harassment.