Trolls are spoofing commentariat and authors (Update: countermeasures!)

Thanks to the spate of trolls (who are, in fact, members of our rationalist community!) spoofing our users, owing mostly to their levels of immaturity and the realization that they can type other people’s identities in the comment fields, a few blogs are turning on comment registration. I strongly advise that, even if your primary hangout is a blog that does not require registration, you should consider registering your username/email address anyway.

If you’ve already registered your account, and you need to edit your profile because the display name or email address are no longer valid, the top bar shows a “Howdy, username” link on the right. Hover over it, then click on Edit My Profile. You should also be able to get to it by clicking here — but that link might change depending on your user access level and future WordPress changes. The top bar should always be right.

I have no intention of turning on comment registration at my blog. I am instead working on making changes on the network (via a plugin or via editing the core of WordPress) to ensure that anonymous users cannot use a username or email address of a registered user. If you want to protect your name here, I strongly advise you register your account.

The registration process can use Facebook, Twitter or WordPress as authentication tokens, so you don’t necessarily have to build an account unique to Freethoughtblogs. Our software will rely on those sites’ auth APIs, and won’t ever see your login information. However, if you use these options, I strongly advise that you also log into your profile per the above instructions before making a comment, and set all the options appropriately. Otherwise your display name will show as “sc_{random characters}”, which is dead ugly.

Update: I’ve installed a plugin network-wide that protects login names and email addresses from being spoofed by anonymous users. It doesn’t protect the display name though — if your display name is something different from your login name, this won’t help you much. On blogs where registration is required, people shouldn’t notice a difference. And I’m sure asshats can still spoof people with a fair degree of fidelity to casual outside observers (I can think of two ways myself — there might be more), but this at least gives us an idea of when it’s happening.

Regardless, register your accounts.

I know where that January spike came from, and it had nothing to do with TAM

Shane Brady posted a quantitative analysis of web traffic for Skepchick and Freethought Blogs using Alexa’s daily reach statistics. While this data is certainly only a subset of the actual data — a sort of Nielsons ratings for the web — it’s probably pretty close to representative of the actual data we’ve collected via StatCounter. The traffic matches extremely closely to what we’ve seen ourselves on the Freethought Blogs end, though despite common misperceptions I have no access to Skepchick’s stats, not even through the hive mind uplink.

A screenshot Shane provides for Freethought Blogs’ (admittedly short) existence:

Shane says of this:

As you can see, FreethoughtBlogs is a relatively new blog network, so we don’t have the same history as with Skepchick.org. However, FreethoughtBlogs has substantially higher traffic than Skepchick.org and spikes might be harder to detect. That said, we can see some traffic increases that seem to correlate with some posts by Greta Christina that were heavily commented and cited. The trend for 2012, though, has primarily been flat. There was a slight increase during the days leading up to TAM2012, but nothing dramatic.

Emphasis mine.
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What Thunderf00t did, and how.

By now, I’m certain you’ve read Phil Mason’s, AKA Thunderf00t’s, confession about how he’s done exactly what people have accused him of: accessing the back channel after being kicked off the blog.

He spins himself as a whistleblower about vast conspiracies within Freethought Blogs, how we’re looking to destroy people’s careers every time we commiserate with one another about someone who’s aggrieved us. How this back channel operates like a “clique” where achievements are lauded, messages amplified, and disagreements mocked mercilessly. In other words, it’s a social club for people who choose to participate, to help spread collegiality amongst our bloggers and support one another when under attack. As such, considering that many of these private thoughts are not fights we wish to pick publicly and how Thunderf00t now controls what fights we have with whom because of misplaced trust in what happened to be a compromised listserv, Thunderf00t now gets to control much of the dialog of this blog network.

How very conspiratorial.
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Youtube giants join FtB!

The assimilation of the world’s greatest Youtube atheists, skeptics and freethinkers has begun!

First Zinnia Jones (ZJemptv)…

Zinnia Jones is an atheist activist, writer and videoblogger focusing on the impact of religious belief, political follies and LGBTQ rights. Since 2008, her videos have been viewed over 7 million times and her articles have been featured in the Huffington Post, The New Civil Rights Movement, and The Fight magazine in LA. Originally from Chicago, she’s currently living in Florida with her partner Heather and their two children. She is still insufferably Midwestern. Her pleasures include picking apart everyone’s arguments, rationality, feminism, philosophy, transhumanism and pet rats. You can reach her at zjemptv@gmail.com or on Twitter at @ZJemptv, and her YouTube channel is at www.zinniajones.com.

…then Aron Ra

Aron Ra is one of the “YouTube atheists” and an advocate for rationalism in science classrooms. He grew up in an exclusively creationist environment where he felt like a lonely outcast just for understanding evolution, let alone accepting it. Being raised in a mostly-Mormon family encouraged him to explore other denominations and eventually non-Abrahamic spiritualism before rejecting faith-based beliefs altogether. He was drawn into activism when the Religious Right dominated his state’s Board of Education, and began undermining education in history, health, science, and social studies. His videos often focus on evolution and the evidence indicating an interrelated tree of life. His series summarizing the ‘Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism’ and his subsequent series, ‘Falsifying Phylogeny’ (including the Phylogeny Challenge’) have been mirrored, featured, referenced, and recommended by many professional scientists, secularists, and educators, and has attracted more than 60,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel.

… and now Cristina Rad (ZOMGitsCriss)!

Romanian Atheist blogger and video maker, Cristina Rad, (cybername ZOMGitsCriss – pronounced “Zoh My God, it’s Criss!”), likes to address the conflicts between secular and religious views, as well as discussions on philosophy, current events and science matters. She is the author of the online published audio-book «The Unreasonable God» and she’s an outspoken supporter of civil rights for gays and lesbians.

And as though these three weren’t enough, the giant himself, Thunderf00t!

The true beauty of a self-inquiring sentient universe is lost on those who elect to walk the intellectually vacuous path of comfortable paranoid fantasies. -That is all.

…whose profile doesn’t talk about himself. Dammit Thunderf00t, your first post at least tells the readers that you’re “just some guy”. What the hell is that quote? Nice quote and all but it tells us nothing about you.

Jeez. Newbies. Gotta teach them a thing or two about blogificating. Sigh.

Well, maybe they’ll absorb it through the Hive Mind. Err, we have one of those, right?

The FtB Conversation about TAM: Transcript Pt. 1

Here’s the first half hour of the transcript for the big FtB Conversation from yesterday, done once again by the indefatiguable Kate Donovan. She’s the poor soul who did the transcript for the “PenisGate Debate”, who volunteered for this as I guess a sort of palate-cleanser.

If you’re just joining in, read these two posts first:

In Medias Res: how to find the plot if you’re just tuning in
The harassment policy campaign timeline

Transcript below the fold. Part two as soon as she’s done.
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Because I’m an atheist

I’ve been an atheist since I was 13. This is well before I knew the word, or the implications, though I had a vague inkling that a lot of people were probably wrong about a lot of things. When I further realized that my own parents counted among those people, I figured it was a very bad idea to let anyone else know what I thought about theology.

Several years ago, my sister came out to me as gay. The way she approached it was to ask me, “what is the worst possible thing you could imagine me telling you about myself?” I joked, “that you vote Conservative.” So, she apparently took that as an indicator that I’m safe, and came out of the closet.

Read the rest of my story at the perennially excellent Crommunist Manifesto.

(And I’m not just saying that because he complimented me. Seriously. Ian’s got writing chops. All of the chops.)

On drama vs conflict regarding harassment policies

I made a snide remark aimed at certain trollish parties in a comment at Almost Diamonds in a post that probably could stand far less of my snideness. Stephanie describes the repeated and disdainful dismissal of the conflict between folks who want harassment policies and folks who don’t, and the repeated and disdainful reductionistic treatment of that conflict as one between DJ Grothe and Rebecca Watson, two players who, while leaders in our skeptical communities, are really both adjunct to the overarching question of whether or not our communities need better harassment policies. You should read that post in its entirety before coming back here.
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You Must Always Be Nice: why I’m not being nice to DJ Grothe

Women supporting harassment are told they're just recounting "locker room tales" and "sexual exploits"... BUT SOME GUY CALLED ME A DOUCHEBAG SO BOTH SIDES ARE EQUALLY BAD.

If I’ve learned anything over the last week, it’s that there are two opposing factions that slaver at the bit to attack us feminists for different kinds of slip-ups — or perceived slip-ups, rather. There’s the “free speech” crowd who think that freethought means you should be free to use whatever racial, sexual or other slurs you want while making your arguments, who will scream and yell and build controversy over your banning them as disingenuous asses. There is, at the same time, another faction who will taunt and misconstrue and manufacture controversy over any perceived instance of being “mean”.

People like me — people who both condemn folks for using sexist slurs repeatedly and with impunity, but at the same time are willing to call people names when I get emotional — are stuck in the middle of both groups. I look like a tasty target to both sets of people because I appear to be a hypocrite. And surely I am! I mean, how could I possibly advocate not using certain insulting words when I’m willing to use other insulting words?

It’s rather easy to sort this out, of course. Though it does take a bit of intellectual honesty. And probably more patience and empathy than a certain class of reader has to hir credit.
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An apology, a mea culpa, and my stated opinion of DJ Grothe

yes, actually he SAID: "ALL OF THESE POSTS ABOUT SUPPOSED RAMPANT SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND UNNAMED LISTS OF CERTAIN SPEAKERS “VICTIMIZING” YOUNG WOMEN, AND THE LIKE. SO MUCH OF THAT FEELS TO ME MORE LIKE RUMOR AND DISTASTEFUL LOCKER ROOM BANTER"

So, I have this problem. A vacuous shitbag troll is running around telling everyone that I’m a homophobe based on a reading of my comment here:

DJ Grothe is not LITERALLY a douchebag, as he does not store vinegar or other potentially harmful chemicals in his person for the purposes of “cleansing” a woman’s vagina. In fact, I hear he wants little to do with women’s vaginas.

When people who have shown every intention of manufacturing controversy just happen to be right about something, I have this tendency to not believe them because of all the dross they’ve spat out before. I sometimes trust my pattern recognition all too much. The fact that this troll is presently spamming both DJ and all my compatriots, and has been for two days, is galling, but must not blind me to the fact that some people could find that offensive.
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