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One of the most annoying things about Twitter is the plethora of spam accounts which are set up for selling everything from porn to baldness cures.  Twitter's solution to this problem is to allow users to report accounts for spam by simply clicking a couple of buttons.  If enough users report an account for spam, it is automatically suspended.

The Twitter Gulag Defense Network (#TGDN) was created in January by  former executive director of the South Carolina GOP and self-proclaimed Honey Badger of American politics Todd Kincannon.

Boasting a following of more than 35,000, Kincannon considers himself the most influential conservative political voice on Twitter.  You can hear him crow about his Twitter chops on this video at about the 30:00 mark.  (I considered embedding the video, but it's about as interesting as watching paint dry.)

Kincannon's unique South Carolina political commentary emanates around the clock from his uber-active Twitter account:

During the Super Bowl on Sunday Kincannon lowered the bar with a series of appalling racist tweets making fun of the death of Trayvon Martin.  (Did I mention he's the most influential conservative voice on Twitter?)
The Honey Badger created TGDN with the declared aim of reducing unjust supensions by bringing conservative Twitter users together to add followers, since the more followers an account has the harder it is for it to get suspended.  

In reality the #TGDN network is being used to silence political opposition, an ironic twist from a group which incessantly congratulates itself for its understanding and unflinching application of the Constitution to everything from AK-47 ownership to fast food gluttony.  But not so much with the free speech.

TGDN members frequently tweet each other instructions to block liberal accounts.  Using the #TGDN hashtag in these tweets allows all users who are monitoring that stream to see the directive, block the liberal target account, and quickly get it suspended as a spam account--even when it isn't.  The Honey Badger himself is guilty of encouraging this abuse of Twitter's terms of service:

As of late, even Kincannon himself appears to have backed off of using his followers as a spam blocking hit squad:
Change in policy for TGDN on January 16
But that doesn't stop him from calling for them to "regular block" any account he doesn't like:
February 3
Even with this slight change of heart, the problem is the cat is already out of the bag.  Kincannon has brought together large groups of people and taught them how to abuse Twitter's algorithm.  And whether he approves of it or not, this abuse of the spam blocking feature by #TGDN members continues on a daily basis.

One group that has been the most frequent target of #TGDN spam blockers is StopRush.  StopRush is a social media movement  which has had a serious impact on Rush Limbaugh's ad revenue in the wake of his attacks last year on Georgetown student Sandra Fluke.  

StopRush volunteers use Twitter to communicate with each other and with sponsors about ads on Rush Limbaugh.  Extremely unpleasant right wing trolls frequent the #StopRush stream in an effort to disrupt the effort and harass volunteers with a variety of slurs and insults:

They also frequently use the #TGDN hashtag in an effort to get #StopRush users suspended:
@serr8d calls for #TGDN members to spam block #StopRush users
My account @proglegs was suspended on February 2 by these TGDN trolls for the seventh time since the middle of December.  Not once have I peddled porn or baldness cures from this account--it's simply a tool of activism against Rush Limbaugh's powerful hate machine.  I imagine they would argue that they are simply preventing me from interfering with Limbaugh's right to free speech.  That makes sense, right?

Find out what the left is doing to push back against TGDN spam blockers after the mutant carrot.

On Sunday, UniteBlue founder Zach Green spoke with me about his efforts to stem this tide of illegitimate suspensions.

Green says UniteBlue was launched 7 months ago as a way to connect the left on Twitter.  The attempt to utilize it to stop spam blocking began in January after large numbers of progressive accounts started to be suspended as a result of TGDN efforts.  

Green is focused on teaching people how to avoid suspensions, in part by not talking to those who are going to spam block you, since @ tweeting a spam blocker puts you at greater risk of suspension.  Because having more than 3000 followers greatly reduces your chance of being suspended, UniteBlue uses lists of followers to help UniteBlue members build up follower counts.  

Green believes that the ultimate solution has to be to change the algorithm so it's not so easy for people who disagree to silence one another.  Among his suggestions are that Twitter might limit how often an account can make spam reports, or institute a policy that if your account has been blocked a certain number of times you can't spam block others.  In the meantime, UniteBlue offers at least some defense of freedom of speech.

Zach Green's primer on how to use Twitter effectively can be found here

Interested in joining UniteBlue?  Tweet "I want to join @uniteblue" then wait for Green to add you to a defense list--generally within 24 hours.  After you receive notification that you've been added to a list, begin at List 1 and start following other UniteBlue members.  Green organizes lists so that the people who are appear highest on List 1 are those who have followed the most other UniteBlue members, so the more you follow others the higher up on the lists you will move.

If you have a relatively small amount of Twitter followers, limit your follows to 50-100 per day.  Following too many too fast can get you suspended for aggressive following.  And don't go willy nilly following just anybody with a UniteBlue twibbon on their profile picture.  You never know who you might come across.

Beware wolves in sheep's clothing
Want to join the effort to hold Rush Limbaugh accountable for spreading homophobia?  There is a successful movement underway to convince Rush Limbaugh's sponsors that it's unethical for them to legitimize his hate by funding his program.  You can lend your voice to the StopRush movement in the following places:

Join:  The Flush Rush Facebook community
Visit:  The StopRush sponsor database
Tweet:  #stoprush Twitter campaign

Originally posted to ProgLegs on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 01:36 PM PST.

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