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Social Media Censorship as Psychological Warfare

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“There is no free speech in [the] real world and you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system.” — Nasim Aghdam

After another round of Twitter purges by the techno-Stasi, I felt a very real sense of loss that I could not quite articulate. Several of my closest Twitter friends – two of whom had more than ten thousand followers – were gone in an instant. Ever-changing and exceedingly nebulous “rules” are enforced by Twitter to get rid of what they deem to be “low-quality” users – so low-quality that I know for a fact many of them had been seeing well over a hundred thousand monthly profile visits and ten million monthly impressions.

By “low-quality,” what Twitter and other social media platforms mean is anything that runs contrary to the mainstream narrative and to their political machinations. Low-quality is clearly a euphemism for what the Soviets might have deemed “counter-revolutionary” under Article 58: those refusing to toe the Party line, the dissidents dealing information on the black market throughout the Eastern bloc, the brave souls risking everything to speak truth to power.

What social media platforms are doing when they delete accounts is far more wicked than merely controlling the flow of information and viewpoints in the new de facto public square. They are dealing devastating psychological blows to those who are silenced, as well as their followers. Many of the men and women on social media – particularly those sympathetic to our metapolitical convictions – have nowhere else to go where they can be with like-minded people, and no other place to to run where they can escape the nihilism, despair, and insanity of our political hegemony (to paraphrase Kipling, those who hear the same things they hear and see the same things they see).[1] For many, their online friends and the ability to speak their minds and share observations on social media are the only reprieve they have from this postmodern nightmare from which we cannot seem to wake, and it provides a very real support network for those who often have nobody in their day-to-day lives with whom they can speak freely about the current cultural malaise.

Deleting accounts and thus severing these support networks can – and often does – forcibly isolate the censored individual from the only people they know who truly understand them.  All of these relationships (many built over years), all of the ingenious intellectual material, all of the private conversations that are left unfinished, are all suddenly gone “like tears in rain.” All of the posts that gave hope when there was none, all of those confidants, all of those random memes that granted the only smirk that was had all week – all vanish without a trace into the digital ether.

Ostracism has long been used as a form of social control and punishment. The ancient Greeks would cast out those members of society who were deemed a threat to the city for ten years, cutting them off from their families, friends, and familiar surroundings. Contemporary social psychological research on ostracism proves that even slight exclusion, including by strangers, lowers a person’s self-esteem, mood, and their sense of self-worth, control, and belonging. Upon being excluded from a group, the same part of the brain that registers physical pain is activated – although studies also show that the pain of social exclusion lasts even longer than physical pain, leading to increased levels of aggression, lower productivity and mood, feelings of despair and helplessness, and even suicidal ideation.[2]

One of the more fascinating aspects of this research is that it shows that all of these negatives occur even in low-intensity, lab-controlled scenarios. A virtual ball-tossing game called “Cyberball” is often used as a method of testing the effects of being ostracized. The participant plays a simple computer game with two other players – complete strangers (he is told that there are two other players, but these are usually computer programs) – who then exclude him. Mere moments later, participants begin to feel the negative consequences, as measured by the experimenters. Contrast this with being thrown off of social media by force (most often suddenly and without any warning).

There is also the psychological warfare being carried out against those users whose accounts are not outright deleted, but rather “shadowbanned.” Twitter has claimed in a company blog post that they do not shadowban – although a few lines later, they admit to ranking content from “bad-faith actors” lower than others. And of course, a “bad-faith actor” is merely whoever Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or the Anti-Defamation League deem them to be. When accounts are shadowbanned, their exposure plummets; monthly impressions drop and their number of followers either stagnate or decline. This is nothing short of gaslighting – given that they are not notified, all they can see is the drop in their interactions, giving the impression that your messages are no longer being well-received and that you are essentially alone, talking to yourself, causing some to eventually tire of trying altogether. Those users who have not actually broken any rules will be treated this way in an effort to suppress them and force them to leave of their (apparent) own volition.

Social media has a history of psychologically manipulating its users. In January 2012, Facebook conducted what has been widely regarded as a highly unethical experiment involving nearly seven hundred thousand unknowing Facebook users. The experiment divided participants (who were not informed that they were in one) into control and experimental groups. Those subjected to the experiment had either positive or negative emotive posts removed from their news feeds. Results show that when negative posts were withheld from users/participants, they themselves used fewer emotionally negative words and began using more positive ones. Conversely, when positive posts were withheld from users, they then used fewer positive emotional words and began using more negative ones. By manipulating what a person sees on their social media account, Facebook was able to alter the content the users themselves then produced.[3]

The results were remarkable for many reasons. Researchers found that emotional suggestion can very much happen via online social networks, and even more disturbingly, that social media companies can and will intentionally manipulate the mood of their users. The implications of this cannot be overstated. There is a very real possibility that social media sites are using similar techniques to intentionally lower the emotional states of dissidents. The connection between mood and emotional well-being to psychological and physical health and well-being are also well-established. This knowledge could be used for everything from lowering consumers’ moods in order to encourage impulse buying (anxiety and depression are known causes of it) to being used to push people who are already unstable over the edge. I would not put anything past these people.

There is also those remaining on social media, being gaslit by the absence of those who share their sentiments, to consider. When all they see on their newsfeeds are those sanitized views that remain, they begin to think that they are the only “crazy” ones who have such ideas. Just as others’ moods can be manipulated by acting out certain types of behavior, it is very possible social and political orientations can be similarly altered.

Twitter, the Anti-Defamation League, and others are indeed influencing the political discourse, unilaterally deciding what ideas can be be discussed and which can’t. Even more insidiously, they are waging a total war on the hearts and minds of their users. They are separating people – often vulnerable ones – from their support networks, with devastating consequences for some.

Dedicated to my friends Ecco Autist / Trashworld Citizen & Alba Rising

Notes

[1] Rudyard Kipling, “The Stranger.”

[2] Kipling D. Williams, “Ostracism: The Kiss of Social Death,” Social and Personality Psychology Compass 1, no. 1 (2007): 236-47, doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00004.x.

[3] Adam Kramer, Jamie Guillory, & Jeffrey Hancock, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” Proceedings of the National Academy of        Sciences, 111(24) (2014), 8788-8790, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1320040111.

 

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9 Comments

  1. Cecil Henry
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    Twitter: we don’t control what you can say but ….

    .

    “This request looks like it might be automated. To protect our users from spam and other malicious activity, we can’t complete this action right now. Please try again later.”

    Does this work everywhere? How about at work, in court, …

  2. R_Moreland
    Posted September 19, 2018 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    There are several approaches to the current crisis of deplatforming:

    * Do nothing.
    * Rely on the System. The DoJ anti-trust division is going to go into action and break up the IT monopolies, isn’t it? One of these days. Then it’s back to biz as usual, right? (Even if the IT cartels were broken up, there is no guarantee anything will change as long as the same people control any new companies.)
    * Divide the Outer Party. It’s been reported that there are many conservatives/libertarians who work for the IT monopolies who are fed up with their companies’ leadership. Perhaps they can be convinced to walk out and form a rightist IT cartel.
    * Get active. Support digital freedom groups like Electronic Frontier Foundation and GreatFire. Make free speech (online and offline) the big issue for nationalists. Get busy with swarms and non-hierarchal networks. See the Zapatista online netwar for how this works.
    * Meatspace, baby! Have a contingency in the event of total deplatforming. Members of nationalist networks meet up in the realworld. Think about retro media like shortwave and the humble newsletter. Bear in mind that all successful radical movements prior to the 21st century succeeded without a single tweet(tm).
    * Millennium Challenge 2002. Look this up for an idea how low-tech can take on high-tech.
    * Build your own. Develop alternative technologies (like peer to peer communications), then exploit them to gain spectrum dominance. Think about the day when nationalists can de-platform the foe.
    * Allies. Get with nationalist movements in Europe. They can possibly mobilize the resources (money, people) to build new technologies.

    Radicals of a prior era saw gaining control of the means of production as a major operational objective. In the 21st century, it’s gaining control of the means of information. Let’s see some discussion – and activism – along these lines.

    • Posted September 19, 2018 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      I do what I can.

      I run a yacy server to index RSS/Atom feeds of conervative blogs/news sites. Currently indexed about 20 million docs and 3+ million URIs. I set aside just a 50 G partition for yacy as my hardware / bandwdth isn’t best.

      I also run my own hubzilla server. It can add RSS/Atom connections, so I’ve added 75 or so such connections to follow sites which are either shadow banned or outright deplatformed. A nice feature of hubzilla is its nomadic identity. You can clone your identity to another server so if one server goes down you can still log into another server under your cloned identity and all your social connections are intact, including permissions on shared photos, etc. Nothing gets broken. One can also build websites with hubzilla or publish wordpress content to hubzilla with plugins. Visitors to yor website can be shown different content depending on whether they’re authenticated with hubzilla or not. Can also use hubzilla as an OpenID/OpenAuth server — no need to login to sites with FB/Google+/passwords. In the next month or two, hubzilla is releasing zap, osada, and zot6. Zap will be a paired down less complicated, user-friendly hubzilla for strictly social media (no website building, davfs, davcal, etc). It will use zot6 communication protocol. Osada will target larger audiences with ActivityPub and Zot6. Hubzilla will still be the swiss army knife and will be upgraded with Zot6. Though it can function as a social media platform, it’s intended to be a system for developers to create new WebOS platforms.

      • sylvie
        Posted September 21, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        impressive tech-knowledge!
        But can you please be a little more explicit what you’re talking about.

        Starting with your link which consistently generates error messages of the type

        This zot.shorehub.com page can’t be found
        No webpage was found for the web address: http://zot.shorehub.com/channel/saka-suna

        Please explain to a humble internet user what I do wrong.

  3. metal_gear
    Posted September 18, 2018 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    This article is spot on. Back in February I was given what seemed at the time a permanent ban from Twitter. I was unable to create a new account with a fake email, I was suspended almost immediately after a dozen or so attempts over the next few months. Eventually I gave up, moved on and forgot about it. In the immediate aftermath I did however experience many of these psychological effects. I felt I had been cut off from people that shared the same feelings as myself, and I missed them, even though I had less than 100 followers. A few weeks ago I heard they were lifting some bans prior to appearing before Congress. Lo and behold I was able to create a new account after changing my IP address on both my laptop and phone (I had tried this before and it did not work). The key to not getting banned is total abstinence from engaging with anyone that posts something you disagree with. They (or some other horde of losers) will scan your account and report you for anything that can be deemed “low-quality” as you put, and next thing you know your account is locked or suspended. It already happened to me last week, so needless to say I won’t be repeating that mistake. For anyone with an audience (a few thousand followers or more) this becomes much harder, and I don’t know how they would deal with that, if they even could.

  4. Dave
    Posted September 18, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    This is a problem for normies like James Damore who still subscribe to the official truth but have lately been asking too many questions about it. Real right-wingers know better than to build a house on someone else’s land or host content on a platform controlled by their enemies. Andrew Anglin and others have already done the hard work of finding alternative platforms that don’t censor right-wing opinions.

    What you describe is the shock of Lenin’s “useful idiots” discovering that the Party no longer has any use for them. Time to confess your crimes in a five-minute show trial and kneel down for a bullet to the head.

  5. alexei
    Posted September 18, 2018 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    Issues of Silicon Valley’s raging shitlibism aside, I have no sympathy for the sort of people you seem to be talking about… Yeah, you’re going to be ignored, or attacked, or mocked, or outright removed from online discussions, and it will initially feel unjust or inexplicable to you. You either get over it, develop some detachment and sense of humor, or you get out of the kitchen. It is as simple as that. If you are the sort of person who has to meditate for a hour in order to get themselves together every time that they see their comment disappear, then you are of no use to any movement or goal. In fact, getting yourself off the net might be the best thing you could do for yourself in that case.

    • Posted September 18, 2018 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      There is nothing the enemy wants more than for our people to believe they are of “no use”, thus mentally incapacitating them and in extreme cases making them dead men walking – like the suicides of Richard Russell and Zachary Gromland demonstrate.

      I am against condemning someone for falling victim to social engineering tricks. This article and many others are important for exposing this behaviour.

      Once someone understands how they have been manipulated, they will of course be full of anger and want to join us in bringing down these manipulators down.

      Anyone who has the self discipline to be able to sit still and meditate for an hour is an asset; they could be formulating any number of propaganda posters, protest formations or information strategies.

    • Rob Bottom
      Posted September 18, 2018 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      Alexei, our movement and goals should not require anything more than the dissemination and normalization of our ideas. Censoring us is therefore a much larger blow to us than you seem to want to admit, besides the fact that IRL activism of the Identity Europa or Unite the Right kind is largely made possible by first building momentum online. You also completely ignored the ramifications of the psychological manipulation that is in its own way just as bad for all of us (including those we disagree with — who are, in effect, being further brainwashed to conform).

      Our people, the ones you claim to have no sympathy for, obviously aren’t upset when they are mocked, ostracized, or attacked for the things they post online — if they were, they wouldn’t do it. We’d rather engage with a hateful mob than not at all. Pointing out the gatekeepers’ hypocrisy and immorality, as this article does, should not be met with such a dismissive attitude.

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