Tuesday 2 June 2015

Twitter Curiosities

Despite following the weather and club updates online, when I turned up to watch some cricket at lunchtime on Sunday, it had started raining again. As irritating as that was, I whipped out the trusty smartphone to pass some time catching up on what was happening on Twitter.

Someone had (wrongly) mentioned that tobacco duties don't cover cost to society of smoking - citing a steaming pile of horshit from Policy Exchange in 2010 - so, naturally, I attempted to send them this article by Snowdon, and this one by your humble host which show why it was blatantly biased (and perhaps even pharma-sponsored) balderdash. However, Twitter refused to accept the tweet and it took nigh on 20 minutes to get them on there by being a sneaky bastard.

The reason became clear when I clicked on Snowdon's link myself to see if it was correct and was met with this warning.

As we all know, it is safe to ignore the warning and click through for the article, but it was disturbing that someone might have flagged a well-researched, well-written and factual blog as "potentially harmful". That isn't the end of the story though, because later the same day I found that this blog, too, was subject to the same Twitter warnings and still is now.

The first thought was that it was a general glitch with the blogspot domain, but it doesn't seem to have affected any other Blogger accounts apart from one guy who rips into the notoriously censorious SNP. It is also isolated only to blogspot.co.uk and not the hundreds of country-specific suffixes that Blogger employs. Therefore if you were tweeting the links from Ireland, Germany, Spain etc, there was no discernible problem, meaning that only the British versions of the blogs were deemed "unsafe".

Now, why would it be that two British bloggers who talk about the cant, hypocrisy and lies of public health - and tobacco control in particular - were flagged as unsafe on Twitter, on the same day, and only for the British domain suffix? Probably just a coincidence, eh?

If - and it is a big 'if' - there is something nefarious behind this, it's amusing that it was counterproductive. I've personally noticed no downtick in visits and, in fact, my Twitter mentions have rocketed as followers were drawn to the gossip and the articles behind it. Monday's article, especially, has flown past the visiting stats I'd have expected to see and is on course to be the most viewed of the year so far. If there was some attempt to damage mine and Chris's blog - hard to believe considering there are no anti-smokers anywhere who are obscene and in need of psychiatric help -  it was less successful than someone putting their fist into a bucket of water to see what kind of hole they could make.

Apropos of nothing, I thought more recent readers of this blog might be interested in a similar Twitter palaver from February last year. A Twitter account called @_TobaccoTactics had been parodying the laughably inept Tobacco Tactics website - which you pay for, by the way - and had therefore raised the hackles of tobacco controllers who find it impossible to tolerate dissent or debate.

A guy called Nicholas Chinardet, who was working for ASH at the time, took it upon himself to object to Twitter on some spurious premise and have the @_TobaccoTactics account closed down. They were irked by images such as this, y'see (click to enlarge).

Most people thought them very funny, but state-funded ASH - in their miserable wisdom - had decided that playtime was over. As Carl Phillips remarked at the time, this was just par for the course.
The tobacco control industry is so desperately worried about anyone criticizing what they are saying that they will take (illegal) legal action to try to stop it.  They realize they are incapable of defending their claims on the merits.  They do not engage in any public debate with their critics (they will talk to a few pet “critics” in stage-managed settings, but pretend that their real critics do not even exist). Censorship is the tactic of someone who has only power, not truth, on their side.
Of course, this is not to say that an organisation which advocates silencing of differing opinions; whose industry has spent the last few months smearing any MP who voted against plain packs; which has rubbished the dead in protection of its favoured sponsors; and whose Director tried to force MPs to ignore the public's objections to plain packaging in a public consultation had anything to do with my and Snowdon's opinions being censored on Twitter over the weekend. I just post that as a curiosity.

Because they wouldn't dream of doing such a thing. Except when they did last year, of course.


Sam Duncan said...

Have you seen this, on Breitbart?

But before you go off the deep end, could the blockage be related to Disqus? I wouldn't be surprised if someone's disguising censorship as malware protection - it's exactly the sort of thing these buggers do - but it's probably worth eliminating the obvious explanations first.

Simon Cooke said...

My sister's blog has the same problem (although mine doesn't for some reason). And she writes dull stuff about economics! http://coppolacomment.blogspot.co.uk/

Tom said...

Cautionary Warning: Blog may contain multiple, valid, provable truths. As such, blog may be dangerous to anti-smoking delusions and anti-vapor sensationalists. Resulting public outcry for defunding of anti-smoking fake-charities may not be containable. Therefore, caution is HIGHLY URGED, before proceeding further.

SadButMadLad said...

An example of the Streisand effect working reverse? Extra publicity helping you rather than hindering you.

moonrakin said...

The .co.uk blogspot domain seems to suffer repeatedly from this..... In Feb / March from overseas both this blog and Raedwald were unreachable using the .co.uk suffix.

There are many possible reasons for this and it would be good to get to the real reason. One wonders how transparent Twitter are - given their knee-jerk reaction to some climate change related pretty mild language some weeks back.

A smoking (!!) gun would be very handy in this.... anybody bothering to pull on loose ends?