Mass atheist suspension on Twitter – Correction

Christina here…

CORRECTION:

I was wrong! 

Appearances can sometimes lead people to wrong  conclusions. I concluded from the mass suspension of atheists on Twitter yesterday that it could be due to a campaign by other twitter users to report the suspended users as spam. 

Well, turns out Twitter updated their spam-catching algorithms, which started suspending users with a huge history of @mentions.

I found out via Skeptical Software Tools, so thanks!

Normally I dig deeper when things such as this happens (like when Twitter users accused Twitter of blocking #godisnotgreat and #atheistrollcall from trending) but for some reason I didn’t bother to read Twitter’s own blog to see that they had updated their algorithms.

Thanks Tim of Skeptical Software Tools, for tracking down the real reason people were being suspended. You can follow him @krelnik

Some of my fellow bigot baiters on Twitter have been suspended for “spam” yesterday.

Here’s a list of people whose accounts have recently been suspended:

@AtheistGal1 - (has a new account, @1IntuitiveGal)
@god_sucks
@idebunkforme
@SalafiAtheist
@SATANSTVWHORE
@SluttySlutSlut
@Zombie_Narwhal

Update: these folks are unsuspended:

@atheistjulie
@atheistpunk
@BibleAlsoSays
@RadicalSkeptic
@GSpellchecker
@TheAtheistFool
@LogicalNarwhal
@IntuitiveGal1

 

@idebunkforme is definitely keeping abreast of updates as well over here.

Some of these folk’s accounts have already been restored, but it appears an effort by other twitter users to mark these accounts as “spam” caused an automatic suspension of these users.

Shame on you Twitter people for attempting to silence atheists on Twitter. Being petty isn’t nice.

Twitter user @Atheist_Julie got this response from Twitter:

Hello,

Twitter has automated systems that find and remove multiple automated spam accounts in bulk. unfortunately, it looks like your account got caught up in one of these spam groups by mistake.

I’ve restored your account, sorry for the inconvenience.

Please note that it may take an hour or so for your follower and following numbers to return to normal.

Thanks,

How many times must an account be marked as spam before Twitter boots it?

It’s not really Twitter’s fault that these accounts got suspended, but if you feel inclined, you can certainly email them and ask that the accounts in question that have not yet been restored get restored. In the meantime, you should maybe think about following all of those awesome people once they get unsuspended. Oh, and me =D

p.s. You can back up your twitter account.

Learn more about Christina and follow her @ziztur.

 

About christinastephens
  • zaarcis

    Automated banning systems sucks very much. In every possible way. :(

    Can I ask for updates when something changes to better? For example – when these accounts get restored, which one already restored (or replaced with new ones) etc.

    Followed you in Twitter. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

      Done!

      • zaarcis

        Thank you!

    • left0ver1under

      Automated anything is a lousy way to (mis)manage a system.

      In a stupid attempt to save a few bucks. Instead of paying minimum-wage “moderators”, companies write poor programs that are easily abused. All it takes for someone to be banned is to hold an unpopular opinion – not a wrong opinion, just an unpopular one.

      I’ve lost count of the number of times my comments on sites are “hidden” because they’re voted down (e.g. when I speak out against the killing of prisoners, what is mislabelled “capital punishment”).

      • left0ver1under

        That should read:

        “It’s a stupid attempt to save a few bucks.”

      • Alverant

        It also happens with non-automated systems. I’ve seen a few message boards where enough “thumbs down” can get your comment hidden. Most of the time where I’ve seen it, it deserves to be hidden (ie racist or especially obnoxious) but there’s enough times where the opinion was just unpopular and even stated facts people don’t want to admit are true.

        And what happens when a moderator decides any view sufficienctly different from his or offends their beliefs should be banned? We have seen similar incidents where employees think they can change company policy.

        I see no perfect system.

  • PossumRoadkill

    Some people can’t take the heat of a good debate and then turn to chickenshitery and mark people as spam. You know I don’t do that because we r twit buddies. I have to admit you give as good as you get and really hold your own with some of these people. Enjoying the fight u r having right now. The guy is a dipweed, seriously.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

      We totally are Twitter buddies. *highfive*

      I wonder how many people have to mark an account as spam before it gets booted?

      • PossumRoadkill

        I don’t really know, but there was a forum I used to post on that had an automated system and it took 10 complaints to get a post deleted. I’m sure there is a threshold setting their IT people can set otherwise someone would have to look at everything. On days where there is a lot of traffic it would be pandemonium and the spammers would have the run of the place.

  • jamessweet

    This is just like the time that a bunch of lying atheists decided to violate one of the Ten Commandments by bearing false witness regarding a bunch of Christians’ Twitter accounts falsely reporting them as spam.

    Oh wait, except for that one didn’t actually happen. Nevermind.

    • Marshall

      Well, to be fair, we don’t HAVE to lie. In fact, it’s kind of hard to lie when all you’re saying is “I don’t believe you, and why should I?” When you win pretty much every argument by default with “evidence or GTFO”, there really isn’t much motivation to censor your opponents. Hell, why would you want to? That’s no fun.

  • Eric Charland

    AKA @Sluggy_

    All added, keep me posted on twiter and i’ll add them as they come back.

    Anyone ask Twitter to take a look at those who falsely reported those account for spam ? Same handle has to come up for all suspended accounts. They should be the ones banned.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.farnham1 sc_703b971ce98b63be13b9f59c684e7734

    It isn’t just atheist posts that get voted down and disappear. A Spanish physicist and science writer started me on a quicker path to understanding what I was getting into when researching the use of the ‘Denier’ meme ( a Christian pejorative I should think ) led me to linking up different instances of its blatant lying. In my case I found an old Larouche file linking Anthropogenic Global Warming with energy politics in the NPT TRAP – and even Holocaust Denial posed as the attitude of Dr. Ahmadinejad of Iran. Interestingly, he says Israel denies any lesson of the Holocaust in its behaviour to the people of Occupied Palestine.
    Anyway, if I post on different websites as somebody who does not subscribe to the Church of Anthropogenic Global Warming…it gets voted into invisibility.

    • jamessweet

      Surely you understand the difference between a comment getting downvoted by people who disagree vs. a Twitter account being falsely reported as spam by people who disagree…?

      You are not entitled to say shit and have everyone agree with you. In a forum where comments can be upvoted and downvoted, you are not entitled to have your comment upvoted. You are merely entitled to be dealt with in good faith.

      Get back to us when somebody falsely flags you as a spammer because of your AGW denialism. Then you’ll have something to whine about. Until then, you’re basically just saying, “Oh, poor me, people think I’m wrong just because I reject the scientific consensus!”

      • Alverant

        Remember that she could be actually spamming people with her comments.

  • quawonk

    All the people who falsely flagged those accounts should be the ones getting banned. If there’s no punishment, they’ll just keep at it.

  • Eric Charland

    Hope you do a #FF with them tomorrow. easier to add them that way.

    PS: I know, i’m lazy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003489295326 sc_76aad7d6ab1c213df54f398f0b35ae0e

    @god_sucks has a new account, it’s @DONNESS.
    http://twitter.com/DONNESS

  • ‘Tis Himself

    Yet another reason why I don’t have a twitter account.

  • F

    It’s not really Twitter’s fault

    Yes it is. All automated takedown systems suck, and that is the fault of whomever implemented the system in question. It’s an extension of a general cultural problem where the first to accuse gets the benefit of the doubt and there is no such thing as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ except just a little bit in a court of law if one is lucky or privileged.

    And on the internet, all the wimps cave in to the whiners out of fear, and the lazy assume any report is valid.

    I don’t know that I’d harp on Twitter for this at the moment, but that is only due to lack of exposure. But automated takedowns of anything for whatever reason and horrible blocking filters are a bad feature of the intarnets which are here to stay until content and service providers get off their apathetic asses.

  • Ftoomsch

    My account was also blocked at about 8:45 pm Wednesday evening. I submitted the contesting form twice since I got an error msg both times; however I did get a form email back for both. Not too long afterward between flipping back and forth between the twitter rules and my tweets trying to figure out what the hell I had done wrong, a page appeared with 2 statements I had to check to be reinstated. This page had a very vague, no doubt standardized to cover generalized situations, statement that did not clarify why. It said something about retweets and mentions; I wish I had kept a copy of it. I submitted my agreement to follow the rules, still unaware of what rule I had broken. I wrote to them again requesting an explanation, since I can’t very well follow a rule I don’t know I am breaking. As of now, no answer whatsoever.

    I expect that in fact an algorithm was applied; and from my many years in IT, I understand why algorithms are needed considering the quantity and bandwidth of tweets. However, this is just another of the many defects or design issues I have encountered on Twitter that would not be there with a strong corporate policy of thorough software QA testing and a consistently applied and defined quality standard.

  • Mitch

    Not sure if it’s been mentioned in the comments, but you could email Twitter asking them to look for a pattern of accounts who maliciously, and in bad faith, reported legitimate tweets as spam. If there is such a pattern of accounts who are doing this, urge twitter to ban them for falsely flagging legitimate posts as spam, a clear abuse of the spam reporting function, and undoubtedly a prohibited tactic. I doubt Twitter would take any such action, but it is worth a shot.

  • ScarletAtheist

    This is @ScarletAtheist… I was just suspended a few minutes ago.

  • zaarcis

    Apologies to @IntuitiveGal1

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    • http://skeptools.wordpress.com Tim Farley

      The above is my blog post on this matter. I think you were getting close to the cause near the end of your post, but I explain exactly what some atheists are doing that trigger the newly adjusted spam filters on Twitter. Comments welcome.

      • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

        Thanks for figuring out the root of the suspensions! I didn’t dig deep enough – even if “digging deep enough” meant reading CNN or Twitter’s own blog. Normally I’m the type of person who would dig around, so I’m surprised by myself.

        I was really irate and blogged when people accused Twitter of blocking “#godisnotgreat” for example – because it betrayed a misunderstanding of the way Twitter handles trending topics.

        Thanks again, I’m glad I know the whole story now!

        =D

        • http://skeptools.wordpress.com Tim Farley

          Thanks so much for updating the post and saying such kind things about my blog. There are still a few holdouts who are insisting I’m wrong, but ah well. That’s life.

          • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

            Well, tell them to provide evidence that it wasn’t the Twitter update then. Good job!

  • http://www.facebook.com/csbair christopherbair

    It’s weird that you tell us who reject Tim’s claims that we need to provide evidence, but Tim has no evidence that indeed it was the spam triggers that caused it. I even provided Tim with four major abusers of what Twitter considers spam, and none of them were suspended. They’re all theists, too.

    On our Facebook group, a deist admitted that she, too, engaged in the same behavior that Tim alleges that got us all suspended, and she’s not been suspended.

    People would be unsuspended, and within hours they would be suspended again.

    Yes, we don’t know that it’s a targeted effort to mark our accounts as spam. But then again, Tim has no evidence that it is the spam filters doing this.

    It’s amazing that so-called skeptics accept one person’s word because of his authority, even when he provides less evidence to validate his claims than those who piece together circumstantial evidence that points to certain groups being suspended multiple times.

    Why is that?

  • The Atheist Fool

    Am I to assume, Christina, that you’ve lost all sympathy for those of us who’ve had accounts suspended? Cos that’s the message I’m getting here.

  • Pingback: Content Roundup for April 2012: Flowering « Skeptical Software Tools

  • http://www.godlesshumor.com Eating Babies

    I got suspended again. I’ve tried to contact Twitter Support twice already with no luck. They should certainly do something to that new algorithm.

    @EatABaby

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