You have to leave it to the Shinners. You make strategy. While government ministers jabber into the nearest mic on subjects like “who pays Tony’s salary” and “turf fires” and make off-the-cuff remarks about a half-baked policy idea they dreamed up five minutes ago, Sinn Féin strategists plot answers to foreseeable embarrassing questions.
A few weeks ago, Sligo-Leirim TD Martin Kenny proposed legislation for the party to force social media companies to reveal the identities of anonymous online trolls.
If your organization is being criticized for the abuse your supporters are anonymously posting online, proposing legislation to expose the trolls is a smart move.
Brazenly hypocritical, but clever.
“Yes, Claire, we take online abuse very seriously. In fact, we have proposed legislation to combat this problem.” Job done.
I was fed up with Twitter toxicity and gave up for good a while ago. While I miss the social aspect, my productivity has increased significantly, so it’s worked out well.
I’ve wondered why so many politicians cling to it to endure abuse that must impair their sanity and distort their view of reality. Did tweeting TDs do any good? Are the perceived benefits ever measured?
Because the most important thing to know about Twitter is that it doesn’t represent public opinion.
This became clear during the pandemic, when surveys by the ESRI Behavioral Unit showed that despite loud voices on mainstream and social media opposing lockdowns, the vast majority of the public agreed with the measures being taken.
Politicians’ nerves and concentration could improve if they let the Shinner bots chirp into space in their underpants. But there are worse fates than being trolled.
There are many good reasons why some people act anonymously online. Some are ordinary people who just want to keep their heads down. They maintain their privacy — which is reasonable — and wisely maintain a spotless internet footprint.
Others are activists, particularly those operating under authoritarian regimes and using social media to spread news and organize resistance.
These are acceptable situations. But the anonymity gives people a false sense of security because they will inevitably get caught.
A friend of mine was sued for making ill-considered comments on a pseudonymous blog. And there’s “Conor” – a hero to many of us during the pandemic.
While the media reported daily Nphet press releases, Conor searched the publicly available HSE database called Geohive, which contained much richer information such as hospital admissions and discharges.
He turned the data tables into graphs so we could understand the trends much better.
It was a real public service and in fact it was quite shameful that no media outlet, especially RTÉ, didn’t do it. But when the data showed that the vaccine had a positive impact on hospitalizations, he became the target of various anti-government malcontents.
He was outed and attacked with ridiculous claims that the HSE data was “pro-vaccine propaganda”.
It was a horrible experience for a nice guy who was so popular that people donated thousands of euros to the Simon Community in gratitude for his work.
To be honest Ireland is so small it’s not that hard to identify people. You can check who they follow and interact with to get an idea of their peer group.
But the same is true for activists in authoritarian regimes. Activists argue that human rights defenders and pro-democracy advocates need the protection of anonymity on social media.
But Evgeny Morosov, a Belarusian-born American academic, made a compelling argument in his 2011 book: The web madnessthat “cyber-utopians” are naïve to believe that social media can be a powerful tool in the fight against regimes.
When the internet first exploded, authoritarian governments tried to block it. Then they accepted it for three reasons.
First, by monitoring Facebook and Twitter, they were able to effectively infiltrate opposition groups online. Second, a population pacified by cat videos and porn is less likely to take to the streets to protest. Finally, these governments can outsmart, trick, and resource pro-democracy groups online.
Morosov argues that despite the excitement over “Twitter revolutions” like that in Iran in 2009, no popular uprising has been successfully orchestrated online.
In the pre-internet world, governments had to deploy teams of agents to go after just one activist. Now they can track entire groups from one desk while assembling their own army of bots and proxies to inundate Western media with propaganda.
It’s like a homeowner pointing a gun at a burglar only to see his gun confiscated and pointed at him. Whatever your good activist can do, the repressive regime can do better.
Morosov believes that pro-democracy activists can only achieve their goals by taking to the streets and publicly agitating. This is dangerous, of course, but relying on online anonymity is also dangerous, not least because the “slacktivists” grossly overestimate its effectiveness.
Now, for every pro-democracy activist in an authoritarian regime, there is a far-right troll destabilizing a Western democracy.
There are many good reasons to protect online privacy, but going public can be safer in the long run and keep everyone – good and bad – honest and accountable.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/yes-i-miss-twitter-but-culture-of-online-anonymity-fosters-bullying-not-activism-41557884.html Yes, I miss Twitter, but the culture of online anonymity encourages bullying, not activism