Reply All: #112 The Prophet
December 18, 2017 11:25 PM - Subscribe

After Andrea is attacked by a stranger in Mexico City, she just wants to figure out who the guy was. Investigating this question drops her right into the middle of one of Mexico's biggest conspiracies.
posted by latkes (12 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Also, I must say, I don't know how you could be a twitter or facebook employee, and hear this story, and not quit or unionize or, I don't know, poison the Keurig machine or something. It's so appalling and so clear how social media enables horrors both personal and far reaching and international.

In conclusion, I very much liked this episode.
posted by latkes at 11:30 PM on December 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

This episode fucked me up, you guys.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:43 AM on December 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

I've been waiting for this one to show up here. This episode was one of the best of theirs that I've heard. Like latkes, I cannot understand how someone in social media can read this and not need to fix it right now.

After listening to this I was really surprised that this didn't become a bigger story in the media. I suppose that there is still time for it to happen. I certainly took it as "this is an example of what is happening in Mexico but it is very clearly the same thing that is happening in US/UK/France/Russia". It's just nuts.
posted by montag2k at 8:01 AM on December 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

The only way I can imagine a company being okay with their product be used in this way — by paid trolls who harness toxically misogynist teens to bully and spread fake news that affects the outcome of a PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION — is if they think this is a valid use of their product.

I suspect Twitter thinks it is a valid use of their product.
posted by maxsparber at 8:25 AM on December 19, 2017

Listening to this reminded me of the tidbit in the Daily Stormer style guide to link to "Twitter especially" when targeting women and Jews for harassment. It's almost like it was designed for this.
posted by theodolite at 2:27 PM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

How do I get everyone I know to stop and listen to this??
posted by Gin and Broadband at 2:38 PM on December 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't know, my personal perspective is Twitter isn't a misogynist and anti Semitic conspiracy, although that's certainly possible, but rather throughout history and in this example, people with power and wealth capitalize on whatever factors they can to increase their power and wealth, often by consciously or probably more frequently unconsciously justifying their increasingly harmful choices through focusing on other aspects of their behavior and pretending the harmful aspects are out of their control or don't exist. Meanwhile, their behaviors shift the culture toward more acceptance of these harmful behaviors toward whichever group is being oppressed at that juncture. I don't excuse, for example, the inherent racism of Twitter policy, but I do think it is likely happening primarily because Twitter execs are focused on making money or making the more desirable aspects of Twitter and are suppressing thinking realistically about the negative impacts of their technology. In a sense I think this kind of behavior is more pernicious than say, if @Jack was agenda-driven by anti-Semitism for example. Because it shows how we can all delude ourselves into complicity with harm. I'm not totally sure on this analysis but it's where I tend to lean.
posted by latkes at 4:07 PM on December 19, 2017

I think that is where it must land for people involved in the tools too. They may say that something like newspapers (tabloids) could be used for both good and evil in the past but that nobody is saying now that we shouldn't have them. The belief is probably that these technologies will grow into their full potential/goodness over time.

It just doesn't seem like the hands-off attitude of Twitter is doing it any good whatsoever. Self regulation is loads better for the company involved than regulation by law.

Regarding cultural acceptance: I hope that if more people heard stories like this told as simply and clearly as this one, it might push the needle in the right direction. It's just culturally accepted because it was fairly easy to ignore until recently. I hope!
posted by montag2k at 9:24 PM on December 19, 2017

This was a great episode; fantastic material, beautifully produced. I'm looking forward to Andrea Noel's piece on this.

I also can't help but wonder whether the attacks were actually random, or whether Noel's political work made her a specific target. The podcast made it sound essentially random, except in so far as politically active journalists are more likely to call significant attention to their assault in the first place. (Not that if it were a targeted attack it would excuse any of the shit, but it would be interesting to know just how smart the system actually is when it comes to choosing targets.)

Whether armies of 14 year olds engaged in social media manipulation is better or worse than the days when politicians only needed to influence a few dozen members of the publishing and broadcasting companies change national opinion isn't entirely clear to me. It hurts different specific people, and probably more of them. But it also seems harder to do well.
posted by eotvos at 3:54 PM on December 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh man, this one was hard to listen to. I was ready for the sexual assault descriptions, I was not ready for the online harassment.

I've only had to deal with serious online harassment once - I called something in comics sexist on my tumblr, a few days passed, my post got picked up by the wrong person, and I got harassing messages for a few days. The messages themselves were pretty standard fare - but they made sure it sent it to an email with my full real name in it - one that wasn't at all associated to an email connected to my tumblr. I finally figured out how they managed, and it was by going from tumblr to twitter, reading a few week's worth of tweets, and finding a gofundme that I'd posted saying I'd contributed to, reading the list of contributors, and finding my full name based off of my first name there. It only went on for a few days, didn't get a response, and then I guess I went on with my life. I can't imagine dealing with that, multiplied by a thousand, and having it go on for months. Just having a taste made me rethink my presence on social media, and there are a number of projects that I haven't done because the risk of being a target again seemed too great.

It's hard to get across how scary and invasive it is for people you don't know to do that sort of research on you. My city council person - who I agree with politically - is sort of famous for doxxing her constituents when they sent her non-threatening emails telling her that she shouldn't participate in Black Lives Matter protests. She maintains that she did nothing wrong and has not apologized. But talking to other people in my ward, it was hard to convince them that this was a serious issue, and she won reelection.

The part about the inane fights on facebook and twitter being part of the noise used to drown out real news wasn't really anything I didn't already know, but having it presented to me so starkly made me think about some of the stuff that came across my feed recently, and wonder.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:50 AM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I will say that the golden girl infused breakmaster cylinder bit at the end was exactly what I needed after listening to that.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:51 AM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Excellent episode. I am so, so mad at Twitter right now and this is yet another one of thousands of stories.
posted by Nelson at 11:13 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

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