So, Victoria Brownsworth wrote a the-block-bot-sucks post a long time ago, back in March of 2015.
I haven’t responded to it, because frankly I would rather have as little interaction with her as I possibly can. However, her piece gets shared around occasionally, so I thought I would take a moment to set the record straight.
First, it’s a little difficult to take the first few paragraphs of the post seriously. She equates being blocked on Twitter by a few thousand people (among millions) with the Charlie Hebdo killings and makes odd links to anarchism, abortion legislation, and stonings. Of course, she can make any sort of bizarre and offensive false equivalencies as she wants. She’s not providing any information, just frankly being painfully over-dramatic. That’s just her style.
She shares the story of finding out that someone blocked her and then that person decided to unblock her. That’s great. We know that not all our users are going to agree with all our decisions. Sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we simply have different sensitivities than our users. That is why it doesn’t block people you follow and it is possible and easy (as Brownsworth’s story shows) to unblock someone. Also, if someone decides not to stop using the block bot, they can use our unblocker.
She mentions how the Block Bot was presented quite some time ago. As the Bot has grown in popularity and began to be used outside of a small group, we changed those descriptions to be less blunt, more accurate to the reality of what we do, and more explicit about the subjective nature of our work.
But now she starts, well, making stuff up.
She states, “Rather, TBB has a group of mostly white male and some white trans women administrators, all but one of whom are anonymous, and their primary targets are feminists.”
I’m not sure where she got this idea. Although the admins are mostly white, they are also mostly women. The admins are currently two trans women and one cis woman (me). Two of the folks that first started the Block Bot were white men, but as far as I know, white men have never been a majority of our volunteers. Many of us are anonymous. However, I am not anonymous and I’m not the only one who isn’t. I’m unsure where she gets the number “one”.
Also, our primary “targets” are not feminists. I suspect that the reason she gets this impression that feminists are the main group that are put on the BB is that there is a group of feminists that have been added to the Bot due to trans-antagonism and many of those feminists happen to be her friends. This is a common complaint. Men will accuse us of only “targeting” men. Gamer Gate accuses us of only “targeting” gamer gate. Atheists accuse us of only “targeting” atheists. The list goes on.
She states, “I am also, like those women, blocked by TBB for offences known only to TBB administrators.”
This is where it gets interesting. She seems to be complaining about a lack of transparency. We’ve attempted to make the Block Bot as transparent as we can, while making sure that being on the Block Bot does not show up in general search results or escalate conflicts. We do try to keep records of why blocks are made. If you know how to find those records, you can access them. All anyone needs to do to find out about a block is to message me on Twitter.
She states, “TBB administrators troll the TLs of feminists on a daily if not hourly basis and report anything they deem unseemly.”
“Daily if not hourly basis” is simply ridiculous. I wish I had that much time on my hands. We do document tweets from the accounts of those who are blocked, but usually only at the time that the block occurs. The irony is, when we do add to a report it is done for reasons of transparency. So, she first complains that nobody knows why some accounts are placed on the Bot, then she complains that we document the reasons that we placed accounts on the Bot. It’s a bit of a no-win there?
She states, “…the consequences of being a level one on TBB can be dramatic and are most definitely damaging.”
The consequence of being on The Block Bot is being blocked on Twitter by our users. That’s it. She is conflating consequences of her behavior with simply being placed on the Bot. The consequence to her twitter account being placed on The Block Bot was being blocked by a few people she wanted to interact with, one of which decided to unblock her. That’s it. Really. That’s all.
She states, “Welcome to my world and that of at least 100 outspoken feminists in the UK, US and Australia who are victims of The Block Bot.”
Where the heck is she getting her numbers, seriously?
She states, “Lying about women, especially feminists, is the Block Bot’s stock in trade.”
The Block Bot makes no claims. None. Instead, we add accounts to a block list as unobtrusively as possible and document a few of the tweets that led us to the opinion that the account should be added. That’s all. I find this statement particularly ironic since her post actually includes lies about me – a feminist and a woman. She also erases me completely even though I have been an admin of The Block Bot for years.
She states, “I know I was not alone in cheering when The Block Bot was put under legal scrutiny because of the addition of Dawkins and his refusal to just accept it.”
Dawkins never contact us. As far as I’m aware the extent of his “refusal to just accept it” was a quote or two in a news story many months after his account was added. We have been put under “legal scrutiny” but not by Dawkins, but another individual, whose online nym is an historical mass murderer of women. It’s a LONG story – but in the end our freedom of speech won out.
She states, “For years Googling my name brought up my journalistic awards and credentials and the books I have published. Now the third listing is The Block Bot slander.”
This is false. We purposefully make our records unsearchable. You need to KNOW what you are looking for and where to look to even know who is listed on The Block Bot, much less our documentation of each add.
I suspect what she has done is confuse The Block Bot with a news site called The Transadvocate. Perhaps this is because I have written for the Transadvocate, I don’t know. However, the article she is likely referencing is not filled with “slander”. It is a well-documented news article about a piece that Brownsworth wrote several years ago that many in the trans community felt was deeply exploitative and caused a great deal of anger toward Brownsworth.
Being on the Block Bot not only didn’t cause the “professional damage” that she is discussing, but it also arguably decreased the amount of interaction between her and the community upset at her due to her actions that were grossly inappropriate.
She goes on, “I have also battled breast cancer (which one of The Block Bot administrators finds hilarious and jokes about)…”
What? Who? She doesn’t seem to even know who the administrators are (or she is calling us “men”). I have no idea what she is talking about. I would invite her to share documentation of her accusation. If anyone on our staff were actually doing such a thing, they would no longer be on our staff. It’s amazing that she is writing about fairness while throwing around baseless accusations, seemingly being confused as to who-is-who, and wildly exaggerating the truth.
Then she starts calling us fascists. I thought at the beginning we were anarchists, but it’s all very confusing.
She goes on, “It wouldn’t matter if all the things being said about every woman blackballed by The Block Bot were true: We get to speak.”
Yes, you do. And you are not being “blackballed” – you were blocked on Twitter by people – the majority of whom likely really don’t want to interact with you. This idea that The Block Bot is stopping people from speaking is an old canard that I’ve addressed again and again.
She demands, “But do not lie about us to further your own agenda. That is indeed libel. And it absolutely must stop.”
Yes, lying about people isn’t okay. I’ve been called “troll” “fascist” etc so forth. Those are insults. That’s not libel. Libel must include false statements of fact. For example, lying about what someone has done or said. This article includes good examples of that.