You may or may not have heard about the latest easily-abused tool in “online spam / hate speech”, BotSentinel dotcom, but if you have encountered the site you likely know that its primary stated purpose (it’s in the name, duh) is to stop the bots. You know, the bots — the accounts who say things you disagree with politically & ideologically, making you want to silence them and have their accounts taken away. “Bots.” (for context: you called them “trolls” and “Russian agents”, before, but that humanized them too much so now we do “Bots”, ok.)
If you peruse the BotSentinel front page, you find a dashboard with various information including a scrolling display of recently analyzed accounts and links to app versions of their site, and in the upper-right corner you will see the mysterious, vaguely threatening statement “More than just bots…”
The 4 categories on the the BS front page contain labels to describe the kinds of accounts who fall into each, such as “normal”, “satisfactory”, “disruptive”, and “problematic”. Each of those categories contains numbers which show how many of each kind of account has been acted upon, such as “100,000 deactivated / suspended” or “100 added”.
Oddly, and instantly counter to the goals for the site – stopping bots with problematic behaviors – you will notice that BotSentinel’s own data shows the majority of accounts that have been targeted and then subsequently suspended or deactivated… do not even fall into their “disruptive” or “problematic” categories. If you count them, you find that “normal” and “satisfactory” accounts…. add up to a total of about 190,000 deactivations & suspensions, and that “disruptive” and “problematic” accounts total about 160,000, with claims of anywhere from 150 to 800 new accounts added *per day*.
According to numerous Twitter users whom I have discussed this with today and yesterday, it appears that, as usual, folks on the left or remotely on the left are being targeted with this tool. The site even offers to set you up with “auto block”, so their list of potentially falsely reported accounts can be automatically blocked so you don’t ever have to see them.
Does the page also block right-wing accounts? Yes it does, which is how the makers of the site can make the ‘fair and balanced’ claim, meanwhile white supremacist grifters and truly hateful people are equated with, and tossed into the same censorship bucket as, indigenous activists, atheists, feminists, trans and LGBTQ folk, autistic folks, of course socialists and critics of the US, pro-Palestine accounts, and really anyone who dares the ire of the gleeful, authoritarian censorship fans who frequent the page.
As a leftist, always make sure you have a few backup accounts. Don’t fall victim to online mob-censorship and lose your voice. Keep it ever-present, and loud!