Update 9/6/18: we did it. https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/6/17829188/twitter-permanently-suspension-infowars-alex-jones
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This article is a Medium-based version of a viral Twitter thread I wrote about a very specific way we can encourage Twitter’s leadership to drop Alex Jones from its platform. So many people have participated in this action in a short period of time (71,000+ as of the morning of 8.16.18) that it made news the very first day it launched.
To encourage Twitter to drop Alex Jones, I personally blocked the Twitter accounts of every Fortune 500 company that has a Twitter presence. There’s a quick and easy way you can do this too, within a few clicks. Since users’ time and attention is what Twitter is selling, the idea is to remove access to that time and attention until Jones is shown the door.
The quickest, easiest way to participate is to use a free tool called Block Together, created by Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Using Block Together, I created a custom block list to which you can subscribe with just two clicks. This doesn’t negate or overrule your own Twitter block list. You’ll just be blocking my list in addition to your own.
To subscribe to my block list, make sure you’re logged into Twitter, then click this custom link. Then click the button that says “Block All and Subscribe.” Then click the blue “Authorize App” button. Voila! You’re now blocking all the companies on my list. You can just close the tab now and the app will do its work. You don’t need to stay on the Block Together page for it to work at this point. The app appears to have been experiencing high volume lately so it can take some time to block all the companies, but it happens eventually.
When you’re launching Block Together, you can ignore the wording that says the app will be able to post to your Twitter timeline. It won’t do that. That’s boilerplate copy that appears for all external Twitter apps. I’ve tested the tool and it doesn’t do anything unexpected or unwanted. Here’s the link again.
This block list is comprised primarily of the main corporate Twitter accounts of Fortune 500 companies, plus additional handles belonging to these companies, such as their UK or Canadian counterparts. The Twitter handles of some big corporations and brands above and beyond the Fortune 500 list have been included as well. Note: if you’re following a company, Block Together will automatically prevent you from blocking it via my list. If you want to block a company you’re following, you’ll need to do that manually.
When Twitter drops Alex Jones, I’ll immediately unblock all the companies on this list, which means that you will too — instantly & automatically. That’s the power of this method. If enough people participate, it gives Twitter a strong incentive to change for the better!
You can also unsubscribe from the block list anytime before that on your own, for any reason. Just go to the “Subscription” section of Unblock Together & uncheck “shannoncoulter.”
If you sign up for my block list, I will be able to see that you have (I’ll see your Twitter handle in the private list of participants), but I will never publicly reveal your participation in the action for any reason. I’d sooner go to jail. So, if you’d like to participate but can’t publicly say so, please know that I understand and will protect your privacy. The information, by the way, is stored in the Block Together app. Not a Google doc. Not in email. Not locally on my computer. The fact that Block Together was created by a senior EFF technologist is important because the EFF has a longstanding commitment to Internet privacy and developer-level domain expertise in how to ensure that.
That said, if you still prefer not to use an external app like Block Together, you can use this public Google doc. This is the most manual, time consuming way of going about things. There are links to each company’s Twitter page there, so you can manually block companies at will. Even if you only blocked the top 25 to 50 companies, that would have impact.
If you’re comfortable working with .csv files, there’s a third and final option for blocking the Fortune 500 on Twitter. It’s pretty quick, at least on the front end of the process. Twitter lets you import a block list as a .csv file. So, you can just download this Google doc as a .csv file. This document is just a very plain list of the Twitter ID numbers of all the Fortune 500 companies. That’s the required format for this method. (And yes, some of the company’s ID numbers are much longer than others. I’m not sure why.)
Once you download the document as a .csv file, go to “Settings & Privacy” in your Twitter account. Select “Blocked Accounts” on left hand side. Select “Advanced Options” and“Import a List.” Select “Attach a File to Upload” then choose the .csv file you just downloaded. When Twitter drops Jones, you’ll have to manually unblock the companies one by one, so although option three is quick to set up, it’s a bit more time consuming on the tail end. (If you’re comfortable running scripts, there’s a handy one that can unblock all at once but I recommend this option only if you have experience in this area.)
And yes. You absolutely should be willing to unblock these accounts if Twitter does get rid of Alex Jones/Infowars. These kinds of consumer actions only work if you’re willing to reward the company for taking the requested action. Otherwise, the company has no incentive at all to change.
Blocking these accounts until Twitter drops Alex Jones means you’ll no longer see either these companies’ timeline Tweets or promoted Tweets. You’ll still see their promoted hashtags, but that’s not something most companies do very often.
I chose Fortune 500 companies because they likely represent the bulk of Twitter’s ad revenue. As companies, they’re also powerful and unintimidated enough to put real pressure on Twitter’s own leadership team. Many of these companies spend enough money on Twitter that they can reach out to high level staff members at Twitter and that call will be taken. Since Jack isn’t listening to users right now, I’m hoping he’ll listen to his advertisers. Finally, I feel it would be neither fair nor strategic to target smaller businesses in this particular action, so I focused on the big players.
If Twitter fails to respond to this action, I will consider rolling out a much larger, expanded list of companies to block.
By the way, it’s important to note here that it was technologist and activist Jeff Reifman who came up with the idea of using Block Together as a way of protesting Alex Jones’ continued presence on Twitter. (Thank you, Jeff!) He had already compiled a list of 7,000 small-to-medium sized businesses that have advertised on Twitter but I wanted to see where we could get by focusing primarily on large corporations.
Not all Fortune 500 companies have a Twitter presence, by the way, but every one that does has been included. I’m also gradually adding larger companies that are not in the Fortune 500 but have run large Twitter ad campaigns in the recent past. The longer Twitter fails to show Alex Jones the door, the more large companies/advertisers I will add to the group block list.
That’s it! Ready to flex your consumer power? If you block these companies using any of the above methods, use either the #GrabYourWallet or #BlockParty500 hashtags on Twitter to let me know. And if you have any questions at all, feel free to ask! I’ll try to answer all of them. Let’s do this!
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Press Coverage for #BlockParty500