In 2004, the Russians passed the “blogger law” that requires “any person whose online presence draws more than 3,000 daily readers to register, disclose personal information and submit to the same regulations as mass media.” Three thousand daily readers is nothing, in Internet scale, where YouTube celebrities unknown outside of cyberspace garner 10 million views a week.
Some of them even met with President Obama.
Twitter, which has of late moved frighteningly into Orwellian censorship and Soviet-era “I denounce you” territory, just announced a process to allow anyone who doesn’t use a yellow egg icon to apply for “verified” status. That puts a nice little checkmark by your name, and supplies Twitter with all kinds of tidbits about you, known as “personally identifiable information.” Like your driver’s license, your birthday, and your phone number.
Beyond making Twitter the world’s biggest hacker honeypot, trusting the social media service that caters to legions of anonymous Russian trolls (run by the Kremlin), and thousands of ISIS-related accounts with your personal data might just be too terrifying for the average Joe.
Besides, what’s the point of Twitter anyway? Anyone can get fake followers. Political figures like Donald Trump have millions of followers. Of Trump’s 8.5 million followers, only 70 percent of them are considered “real”* (that means 2,530,617 fake followers as of May). Having that little checkmark by your name, meaning you’ve received the imprimatur of authenticity by the Twitter Powers-That-Be, does nothing to decrease the level of trolling and tweet-bot accounts permeating the service.
Facebook is much more secure, honestly, because nobody can “friend” you without your approval. Sure, you can set up Twitter as private (many celebrities do), but per the “rules” for verified status, you have to be public. You also have to have a profile photo (sorry, no yellow eggs or clipart). And once Twitter has your credentials, they can revoke them.
Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart’s flamboyant British gay tech editor, who calls Donald Trump “daddy,” was once verified. Then he was stripped of his verified status. Then he was suspended, then reinstated. And as of Tuesday, @nero is no more–permanently banned from Twitter. All over a flame war with a B-list celebrity, who ran to @jack (Jack Dorsey, CEO), her safe-space protector.
But it’s even more Soviet-esque.
The decision to unperson Yiannopoulos was done in secret in some hidden Twitter office, no doubt one with cheerful Twitter blue birds on every wall. His “suspension” was retroactive: His past posts—virtually all of which were once regarded as acceptable—have been vanished just as much as any problematic ones.
Right down the memory hole. Flushed into “unpersonhood,” names scrubbed from existence, never to be seen again or remembered. This is like Donald Trump banning The Washington Post because he doesn’t like what they write, or Barack Obama trying to yank Fox News’ White House credentials. It’s unworthy of a free society.
So remember when you’re on Twitter: It’s perfectly okay to have 2.5 million fake accounts, populated by Russian troll farms and tweet-bots following you and inciting all kinds of mayhem, starting and spreading false rumors, retweeting hate speech, and bullying African Americans, Jews, Cubans, you-name-it. But it’s bad to be a conservative–whether you support Trump or Cruz.
Yeah, that makes me want to go right out and get my little blue checkmark today. Or maybe I’ll just delete my account before it’s too late.
*Just for grins, I ran @hillaryclinton through Twitteraudit.com: 90 percent real, with 6.6 million followers (but really? I don’t know). @POTUS is much worse, with 56 percent, nearly 2 million fake followers. But the worst is @JustinBieber, who is in a class of his own: 52 percent real, 48.9 million fake accounts (as of a year ago).
Twitter is a toy, friends. A dangerous toy used by real bad actors, but scrubbed clean on the outside to make it look safe. Don’t give them your personal information. Really, just don’t.