Block lists are no substitute for moderation: Twitter sucks

Previously, I posted that you should be ready to have a block list. This is 100% true. Go do that now.

Ok, a block list can ameliorate the worst excesses of hate mobs and you should have one, but it’s not a silver bullet.

Ok, first let me start off with a confession: I used extremely intemperate language when tweeting at a corporate account. I regret this action. Further context will be forthcoming in a later post. Regrettably, my intemperate post was screen capped:

That’s the tweet that set off several hours of fun as people dropped by to call me names back. You can see that it was liked 430 times and retweeted 279 times.

To stem the flow of abuse, the most obvious actions would be to block all of the people who ‘liked’ it, all of the people who retweeted it, and, to really stem the tide, all the followers of the people who retweeted it – as these are the people who will see it and come be mean to me.

If only it were so simple.

I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t let you do that.

This list of people to block is literally thousands of people. The only way to do it is via a script. However, there are problems:

API – Likers

The Twitter API does not give me access to the likers. I can get a few of the most recent ones via the the website, but none in an automated script.

API – Retweeters

I can only get the 100 most recent retweeters.

API – Speed

The Twitter API lets me do around 180 things in an hour. I wrote a script to block all the retweeters and their followers. It’s been running more than 24 hours. It’s not even a quarter of the way through.

Block Limit

I just exported my block list from Twitter and it’s at 25000 people. I exported it again bit later after more blocking and it was still at 25000 people. Block together also shows that’s how many people I’ve got blocked. Which would appear to mean that my old blocks are quietly disappearing as I add new ones. Checking back on some of my most alarming early blocks, I can see this is not the case. However, the export limit means that I can’t share a complete block list with the other person targeted.

You Can’t Block Everyone

Milo, a major instigator of harassment, has 154K followers. A few days ago, he tweeted this:

His followers will understand this to be a call to action.

As it happens, the account @BlockAllTwerps is running a script, blocking everyone who tweeted or retweeted that post and their followers.

It will tweet again when it’s done. Which will probably be in a few weeks. And, apparently, the block list will be impossible to export.

Milo can reach over a hundred thousand people instantly, but blocking by discovering relationships is rate limited and blocking by sharing lists is capped.

This Sucks

There are a lot of things Twitter could try to sort out their abuse problem, but this is what they picked. Blocking is a terrible model. The most glaring problem being that it puts the onus on the person being harassed. The technical issues just highlight the failure of the model.

Published by

Charles Céleste Hutchins

Supercolliding since 2003

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