Here we go again. A whining conservative at Breitbart is complaining about How Authoritarian Activists Are Censoring Twitter because they use filtering software.
Unfortunately, unrestricted free speech will always have its malcontents. Authoritarian activists using Twitter’s API have found a way to install themselves as de facto moderators for thousands of users. Twitter’s reputation for openness and free discourse may now be under threat.
The past two years have seen the rise of ‘autoblockers’ – shared lists of pre-blocked Twitter users that others can sign up to. The ostensible purposes of these lists is to block ‘abusers and trolls’ so that subscribers do not need to encounter them. However, as we shall see, this is typically a mask for politically-motivated blacklisting.
Oooh, he makes it sound so nefarious! “Authoritarian activists…have found a way to install themselves as de facto moderators for thousands of users” — like they’ve stealthily snuck in and imposed their will on people. Those thousands of users — out of the millions on twitter — have voluntarily signed up for a service that reduces the cacophony on twitter.
Let’s make this simple, with a physical world analog. There are two objects: gags and earplugs.
If I get a gag and stuff it in your mouth, I am violating your right of free speech. That is bad. It would restrict your free speech. I wouldn’t do that.
If you are yammering at me and being generally annoying, for any reason whatsoever, and I get a pair of earplugs and stuff them in my ears, I am not restricting your right of free speech in any way. In fact, it would be an imposition on my autonomy if you insisted that I don’t have a right to use earplugs.
It is also not authoritarian if someone comes along with a big bag of earplugs and hands them out for free to anyone who is tired of hearing, for instance, ranting libertarian assholes.
The various blockbots are not gags. They are earplugs.
I know. The people who are complaining the loudest about the easy availability of internet earplugs tend also to be on the libertarian side of the spectrum, which makes their complaints both hypocritical (What? You mean I don’t have the liberty to not listen to you?) and self-serving, since the largest group of people eager to use these kinds of services are those who are fed up with selfish, obtuse, obnoxious conservative jerks…exactly like the people complaining.