We’ve talked before about my negative view of fake social media profiles and sock puppets, and how I think impersonation of someone (whether well-known or just pretending to be a real person other than yourself) is unacceptable. See: Spoofing David Fisher and Anonymous comment vs IMPERSONATION

It’s one thing to consistently use an internet ‘handle’, a nom de plume or pseudonym to try to separate your ‘real life’ from your web persona. It’s another to be a fake or a sock puppet … and yet another to inhabit social media using fake profiles (‘following’ or ‘liking’ your enemies in order to stalk them — see: Stalker Cameron Slater: new year, same bullsh*t)

The new (to me) concept of a ‘cabal’ of people posting or participating in discussion online under a joint pseudonym is worth noting. I first became aware of the practice last year when the fabulous, clever, funny parody Twitter account @DrBrash was revealed as the work of two men — in my view, comic geniuses.

Since then, in response to my question on the matter, twitterer @BarnsleyBill (apparently widely seen as NZ Truth promotions manager Russell Beaumont) was revealed as ‘sometimes Russell Beaumont but sometimes one of three or four other people’. Likewise, again with apparent (but not proven) NZ Truth connections, someone piped up claiming to be “the representative of ‘the cabal’ operating” the fake Fisher twitter account — a group that put so much energy into impersonating NZ Herald journo David Fisher.

From an Apple Insider report … Apple patents reliable social networking system that tracks ‘stalkers’ and ‘spammers’

A patent granted to Apple today details a social networking system that can reliably identify friends, as well as “stalkers” and “spammers.” Under the system, a user with a relationship to another user can enter a “friend state.” However, rejections of friend requests increase a user’s “stalker count” — a user rejected a number of times within a specified time period will no longer be able to make a friend request to that same user. Likewise, a “spammer count” is created by limiting the number of friend requests one user can make within a specified time period, making it possible to prevent additional friend requests for the remainder of the time period. [via Apple Insider]

So … a computer logarithm would attempt to work out from someone’s behaviour online, and people’s response to it (e.g. rejecting their friend requests) whether they appear to be a ‘spammer’ or a ‘stalker’ — looking at things like multiple (rejected) friend requests to the same user.

It got me thinking about another aspect of the social dynamic of social media.

I’m not a big Twitter user — see @onThePaepae. Anyone who’s read this blog will perceive I still wince at quoting from people’s Twitter comments or interactions as if they were ‘news’ (retch).

But I liked some analysis which I read yesterday (link here) that indicated Twitter is over-represented by journalists and media types (and ‘social media’ types!), many of whom pay attention to it as part of their job. This virtually ‘fixation’-level attention, combined with the self-selecting bubble most twitterers inhabit means they can sometimes easily operate under the misapprehension that ‘everybody is talking about’ issues (when they’re really not) and that information that the general population hasn’t even heard yet is ‘old news’ — both reality-distorting effects.

Don’t get me wrong: I think the wildfire effect of Twitter for breaking and significant news is astounding and positive — but in terms of reflecting what’s ‘topical’ in the mainstream world? The ‘issues that matter’? Nah, not yet.

So it’s interesting to see how some who fancy themselves as political operatives use Twitter to wage war against ‘the enemy’, as noted above. And to watch reactions and counter-reactions …


fingers in earsI think I’m currently ‘blocked’ on Twitter by three people, all sensitive petals in my view, who used the ‘block’ button perhaps prompted by something like hurt outrage at discussion here at ThePaepae.com or a comment on Twitter.
[UPDATE: Not any more. Since writing this post, I appear to have been unblocked by these guys. That’s better.]
Martyn Bradbury — didn’t like me questioning his anti-democratic stance about the mere possibility of Cathy Odgers being selected as an ACT candidate. (see: On a collision course)

Carrick Graham — didn’t like me detailing his ‘hobby’ as a pro-tobacco propagandist/lobbyist when he pretends to deny it (see: It’s only ‘propaganda’ if you’re talking about the other side, right, Carrick?)

Jordan Williams — apparently didn’t like me retweeting his confession that he was a mercenary for Don Brash in the ACT Party leadership coup which unseated Rodney Hide. (This won’t helped either, I guess.)

Of course they’re free to filter their reality any way that makes them happy. And bless them.

A couple of other social media legends and occasional sparring partners surprised me by blocking me (in concert) for a while after I didn’t abide by a dumb, racist speak-not-of-Waitangi-Day “brown out” (yuck). I did the opposite: writing and blogging about the history of the Treaty of Waitangi, historic breaches and redress and discussing Treaty issues several times during the day. But they got over themselves, I’m pleased to say, and we’re ‘talking’ via Twitter again.

It’s far better, in my opinion, to engage in debate (it’s one of the things I like about Cameron Slater, which perplexes people) — even if things become occasionally less than completely civil. Far better to talk with those of different views than to stick one’s fingers in one’s ears.

Over Easter I knocked off about half of Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind … which I thoroughly recommend. This passage about reasoning and disagreement struck me (p90):

A neuron by itself isn’t very smart. But if you put neurons together in the right way you get a brain; you get an emergent system that is much smarter and more flexible than a single neuron.

In the same way, each individual reasoner is really good at one thing: finding evidence to support the position he or she already holds, usually for intuitive reasons. We should not expect individuals to produce good, open-minded, truth-seeking reasoning, particularly when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play. But if you put individuals together in the right way, such that some individuals can use their reasoning powers to disconfirm the claims of others, and all individuals feel some common bond or shared fate that allows them to interact civilly, you can create a group that ends up producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system. This is why it s so important to have intellectual and ideological diversity within any group or institution whose goal is to find truth (such as an intelligence agency or a community of scientists) or to produce good public policy such as a legislature or advisory board.

Which brings me to Craig, a pseudonymous commenter here who seems to be convinced I am a ‘shill’ for the NZ Labour Party, despite my overt denials. His evidence? That I don’t criticise ‘left wing’ arguments or politicians enough to give an appearance of being sufficiently ‘neutral’ for him. According to Craig, I am the left wing equivalent of Cameron Slater.

Wow. Speechless.

– P