A Twitter Bitcoin war is raging and no account is safe

"Paging @Bitcoin: These tweets do not help anyone."

At first glance, Nick Tomaino's tweet, investor and entrepreneur, might not be perceptible in the incessant war that Twitter cryptography – and all cryptographic social media – has become.

But while the situation has been simmering for a long time, Tomaino's tweet arrives at what could be a new boiling point, following what was arguably the most controversial message of the popular grip in the world. ;history.

Posted on Wednesday, the tweet found @bitcoin sending a message to its more than 800,000 followers that, as Tomaino's tweet shows, even impartial observers admit to being incendiary, attacking the group that keeps the software most used cryptocurrency and promoting a cryptocurrency alternative that separated in the last year.

But for some, the tweet was merely a confirmation of what was already clear – the account moved to a new property that seems to have the intention of pushing a controversial opinion.

Indeed, for several months, @bitcoin's current administrator has been promoting bitcoin money instead of the original cryptocurrency, posting content that, at the very least, seems subversive current dominant view of technical development.

And this marked a clear change from the past years.

Launched in 2011, @bitcoin has been tweeting for a long time on tips and basic information about cryptocurrency, and the anonymous account has had several administrators over the years.

CoinDesk itself even praised the handle from 2013 to 2016, but in the midst of leadership changes, all agreements with anyone who might have been in place have long since vanished. (Emails to the former owner and CoinDesk executives are not returned.)

Still, recent tweets do not happen in isolation, at a time when Twitter has seen a dramatic rise in cryptocurrency scams across the platform, ranging from fraudulent audited accounts to a general increase in copycat accounts.

Going up the situation, dozens of crypto accounts were suddenly suspended or "banned" this week, which means that their messages have in some cases disappeared from searches and subscriber flows.

Ash Bhat, co-founder of RoBhat Labs, who uses social media to identify robots and propaganda, told CoinDesk that he believed that the social media giant was not protecting its user experience from manipulative campaigns and bots.

Bhat said:

"You basically have voices and opinions that are magnified and that do not represent the basis of human users." From Twitter's point of view, it's horrible. "

Message received

S interest in the story, it is that far from ignoring the problem, Twitter's leadership is openly expressed on the role that it plays currently in the speech of cryptocurrency.

In an article published in November, Twitter highlighted its place in the conversation by highlighting the people who tweeted about bitcoin, while indicating graphs and data indicating that the size of the conversation was among the fastest .

"We find that the volume of Bitcoin conversations ($ BTC) exceeds that of FANG shares alone (Facebook $ FB, Apple $ AAPL, Netflix $ NFLX, Google Google) on a daily basis," the company wrote. .

In this context, Twitter seems to be taking steps to defend its position in the midst of recent controversy.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey released a series of tweets last week expressing his concerns about the platform's ability to deliver a beneficial service. On Thursday, he appeared on the video suggesting a way to reduce digital scams would be to check all user accounts, or at least open the option to all accounts.

Creating a standard where people need to check the facts about themselves would almost remind Facebook's "real name" policy, which is controversial and widely criticized.

Still, Twitter's official statement on cryptocurrency scams was less clear about what might be ahead.

"We are aware of this form of manipulation and are proactively implementing a number of signals to prevent these types of accounts from coming into contact with others in a misleading way," he said. CoinDesk in a press release.

But both comments provide evidence that by closing and checking multiple cryptographic accounts, the company acknowledges that it is finding out what accounts for malicious behavior when it is not. she discusses emerging technologies.

Some Bitcoin traditionalists, like Peter Todd, a Bitcoin Core lawyer, for example, report @bitcoin for allegedly misrepresenting bitcoin, and Twitter's response to Todd was that @ bitcoin's tone violated platform policies .

Moderation or Censorship

But as shown by the exchange between Todd and Twitter, when it comes to cryptocurrency, it can be difficult to distinguish moderation from censorship.

The elimination of robots is almost a universal goal. However, restricting individuals, organizations and anonymous educational accounts like @bitcoin is entirely different. How should Twitter define deception or manipulation when discussing amorphous ideas?

Todd believes that the borderline between shilling and spreading misinformation is at best elusive.

"Suppose I am a supporter of IOTA, I can silence my critics by falsely signaling them, and hoping that the Twitter AI interprets this as a reason to flee someone else. a … The @bitcoin account is a good example: knowing if it should be banned is a very delicate problem that requires a lot of industry-specific knowledge, "he said.

The cryptocurrency analyst and investor Brad Mills is another Twitter user who has discovered the dangers of algorithmic moderation first-hand.

For months, he played an active role in the debate over what defines bitcoin as an idea, but shortly after Twitter tweeted Twitter to curb scams, Mills' account was abruptly suspended for two days.

Yet, as his comments show, it can be difficult to determine well-intentioned and malicious behavior, especially if, from an outside point of view, both seem identical.

He told CoinDesk:

"People who seem to have been banned have been heavily involved in the bitcoin debate over bitcoin money, but the other interesting thing is that we have all reported these accounts We have received reports, blocked by people on the other side of the debate and we have given access to reports and blockages to all these phishing scams. "

The result is that Bhat thinks that Twitter needs to be more active to get feedback from users in order to help algorithms distinguish bots from those who have opinions.

However, Kat Lo, a Ph.D. student doing research on online moderation at the University of California at Irvine, agrees that software and a deployment of team of human moderators could provide a better solution.

"A major hurdle in many of these cases is that much judgment of moderation is context-based, and most moderation systems for large-scale platforms do not incorporate meaningful context into their context. review process ". ]

Splitting Along Party Lines

But the problem is not unique to bitcoin.

Other cryptocurrency communities, such as those that have formed around ETH, XRP, NEO, and other large crypto-currencies, voluntarily promote the products and services of investable assets, often at the limit of spam.

But Todd continued to show how difficult it would be even for humans hired by Twitter to moderate the ongoing debate. For Todd, a frank bitcoin maximist, all the encryption assets that are not based on the pioneering evidence of bitcoin work are probably scams.

In this way, Todd does not care about a certain level of shadowbanning, as long as he favors his preference, and that means that there are many fewer people who are constantly doing the promotion of specific tokens.

"These stories are annoying and hurt my experience on Twitter," Todd said. "Hiding their tweets would be an advantage, and something I would like."

A Twitter user who experienced a temporary shadowban on Tuesday, @Joebwankanobee, told CoinDesk that subjective moderation does not help cryptocurrency communities.

In fact, lack of censorship is precisely why he prefers Twitter to other platforms.

"Even though I understand that it's frustrating, I also firmly believe that someone should do their own research on something and that they're solely responsible for the movements they're making. do with their money, "said @Joebwankanobee.

And there is reason to support his belief that Facebook may have been too restrictive – in January, the social media giant announced a new policy banning advertisements for bitcoin, initial offerings and donations. other types of cryptocurrency.

Decentralizing Communication

But the specific problem of Twitter could go a little further than that of Facebook.

After all, in some cases, the specific messages that disfavor the users may amount to advertisements, but they are also statements purporting to be made by individuals.

Thus, some crypto-currency fans have come to believe that the problem lies in centralized media infrastructures in which management and moderation are the responsibility of a central authority, in this case Twitter and Facebook.

Muneeb Ali, co-founder of the Blockstack Decentralized Internet Project, told CoinDesk:

"Twitter's response to the ban on bots has been to ban real accounts, some with tens of thousands of followers, leaving innocent people defenseless against imitators and finally stifling freedom of expression … Twitter is also a valuable public service to remain centralized. "

Already, Ali said, developers are working to build decentralized versions of social media that would work on the open-source technology that they are developing.

As the situation with crypto Twitter shows, decentralization may be able to offer benefits. The main Twitter users of the "defense" against censorship today are to obtain verified and reactive restrictions, but these options favor celebrities and brands over ordinary individuals.

But such solutions might not help the problems today.

With Twitter to clarify how it finds and defines crypto-currency abusive behavior, many users will be left with the fear of losing their brand platforms by participating in a game without clear rules or referees.

Broken keyboard image via Shutterstock

Leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media that strives to achieve the highest journalistic standards and adheres to a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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