The Block Bot FAQ

 

This is the FAQ for the block bot, a service to automatically block tweeps from annoying to nasty for Twitter users. If you are already sold on it go here to register… Otherwise have a look at the FAQ or leave a comment if you have unanswered questions.

  1. What is the aim of the block bot?
  2. How does it work?
  3. Who will be added to the block list?
  4. What about Mah Freeze Peach!?
  5. How can I use the block bot?
  6. How to sign up?
  7. What is your privacy statement?
  8. How are people added to the block list?
  9. How do I see who is on the block list?
  10. How do I uninstall it?
  11. How do I uninstall it? Part II, removing blocks..
  12. Can I have the code?
  13. Who are the blockers?

 

What is the aim of the block bot?

This was originally created by @ool0n to copy @aratina’s #BlockSaturday idea and automate it. Basically Aratina has been identifying general bigots,  assholes and fools and tweeting their ids with the #BlockSaturday tag so they can be blocked by his followers and anyone following the hash tag #BlockSaturday. So basically this bot will now automate the blocking for anyone that signs up, so you don’t need to check the #BlockSaturday hashtag or worry about what trolls are trolling the twittersphere -> they will be removed from your timeline seamlessly. Hopefully this will make being a feminist-atheist-skeptic on Twitter a more pleasant experience and remove some of the harassment that is usually directed your way.

How does it work?

The PHP oauthtwitter framework is used to get authorisation to access twitter accounts via the Twitter REST API. There are then some scripts run by crontab that ->

1. Every 15 minutes read @theblockbot mentions and if there is a #Block tweet add all the users in there to the block list (Identified by +<name>). Also check to see if any mentions have the #AddBlocker, #AddAdmin hashtags in them and add any @mentioned users as blockers or admins with the access to add people to the block list (Note in this mode @mentions are used so the user knows they have been added as an authorised user).

2. Every 15 minutes loop through all of the registered users and for each user block anyone on the block list who is not already blocked or followed by that user. (About 15 blocked per-user every 15 minutes due to Twitter rate limiting)

–> Important to note if you are following a blockee they will not be un-followed and the block bot will not try and block them!

 

Who will be added to the block list?

The short answer is anyone that a blocker defines as block list worthy. The general rule is if you are the type that would find yourself banned on a blog on Freethoughtblogs.com, Skepchick.org or from the A+ forum then you will likely end up in the list…

 

What about Mah Freeze Peach!?

You will be able to read anyone’s timeline who has blocked you and they will be able to read yours… Same as any blog or forum with an ignore function *cough*Slymepit*cough* all this will do is make it so you cannot directly interact with that user of Twitter unless they want you to.  No one will be blocked and reported as spam **. The users of the block list would need to do this themselves for real spam accounts -> so it will NOT CAUSE accounts to be suspended. It is true that if any account is reported for spam then these blocks being applied will likely figure into Twitters spam algorithm -> but the bot will not be the cause, at worst a contributory factor.

If you are still worried then fear not, if the worst happens and you are suspended (Not due to the bot!) then follow the instructions in this article as it is ridiculously easy to recover your account and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

http://blog.tweetsmarter.com/twitter-downtime/how-stop-people-from-getting-your-twitter-account-suspended-by-mass-action/

** NB: Since TBBV2 there was a facility to block and report for spam at #level1 when #spam was added. This was reserved for fake accounts spamming, or sock accounts created to threaten and abuse people. It could not be applied to #level2 or #level3. However it has now been removed, while the aim was to suspend these nasty accounts it didn’t work. Blocking a new test account for spam with all the blockbot users had no effect. Also this is likely in theory against Twitters TOS so since more people are reporting the bot to Twitter there is no need to give them ammunition when the feature doesn’t do anything anyway. Instead TBBV2.1 will tweet differently when #spam or #abuse is added to encourage blockbot users to report an account for abuse.

 

How can I use the block bot?

Go to the Sign Up page and select the level of blockee you want to block -> click the twitter icon and authorise the application and you are away!

 

How to sign up?

Go to the Sign Up page and click on the twitter icon at the bottom of the page. This will add the block bot as an authorised application in your account when you are forwarded to Twitter to allow the access -> it will never do anything other than block on your behalf (See privacy policy). You can see what apps you are already authorising here -> https://twitter.com/settings/applications –> you might be surprised how many already have access to read/write and if you have mobile twitter apps etc there will even be some with full access. At any time you can revoke access to this application, there is no way anyone could use this to take control of your account. When you have given access you will see it in your applications page as per the link above ->
Screenshot showing the app settings in Twitter with the block bot authorised

What is your privacy statement?

To make it clear what the app will do and what it will not do :-
–> It will
1. Read a list of your followers (Publicly available information, not stored by the app)
2. Read a list of your blocks (Not publicly available but stored no where by the app)
3. Create blocks on your behalf -> if you are not already following that person or blocking them (This is where the “write” access comes in)
–> It will NOT
1. Tweet on your behalf
2. Follow or Unfollow on your behalf
3. Block anyone you are already following
—> It can NOT
1. Read your Direct Messages (DMs)
2. Read your password or any information that is not publicly available on your account

This app could not gain control of your account as there are no passwords stored. Have a look at https://twitter.com/settings/applications you’ll be surprised how many apps you already authorise! DISQUS for example has read and write access for some reason –> why do they need to send tweets or block/follow for you!

 

How are people added to the blocklist?

An authorised user, or “blocker”, will send a tweet to @theblockbot that looks like this ->

Level 3: @theblockbot #Block #Level3 please block these annoying people +a_twit +etc

Level 2: @theblockbot #Block #Level2 please block these unpleasant people +an_asshole +etc

Level 1: @theblockbot #Block #Level1 please block this nasty twit +stalker +doxxer +etc

The scripts will then pick up the +<names> in the tweet and add them to the block list, this runs every 15 minutes so it doesn’t take long for them to get into the block list. The script to then block these users is ran every 15 minutes and the latest blockee’s added are blocked first. This is anonymous in that only people reading the person who added the blockees timeline will see it. As a user you will be totally anonymous if you wish…

N.B. The names must NOT be mentions, mentioning people for the purposes of blocking could be seen as spam. Also the script won’t pick up the names! So make sure its +ool0n NOT @ool0n… Or someone more deserving! We discourage you from notifying the person blocked.

N.N.B. You might want to reply to the blockee to make sure you have their actual name given @opheliabenson and @opheIiabenson are not the same id… Look again the ‘L’ is a capital ‘I’ … Just replace the @ with a + then send it to the block bot –> would be embarrassing if anyone blocked the real Ophelia.

UPDATE: There is now a review step so anyone added to L2/3 requires a second blocker to also add them before they go in. So all tweets to alert blockers to review a proposed add go to @Block_Review, another blocker then adding confirms the addition. This is to remove the possibility of accidentally adding people and also means people added in haste are not put in for no good reason. Those added only once stay in #Level4 until someone else confirms or they are added again. There is also the possibility for people previously added to be “removed” by putting them in #Level4, see #ReLevel below.

REPORTING: As well as or an alternative to adding accounts there is the ability to report on tweets: -

@theblockbot #Storify +a_twit <link(s) to tweet(s) / screenshot(s) etc>

These are then saved as examples of the tweets that got them added. So it is possible to add someone then report a bunch of tweets that wouldn’t fit into the report. Typically it is possible to fit in only 2-3 tweets into an add. More hashtags to describe the categories of the blockee are also possible. This is open to everyone, except people on the block ist.

MOVING LEVEL: A block might have been added to the wrong level. If the level is too low just re-add them with the higher level. However to move the block down you need to use this command.

@theblockbot #ReLevel +a_twit #Level2 or #Level3 … Default if nothing specified is #Level4

The block will then be moved to the new level.

MISTAKES: If someone is added by mistake then they can be immediately removed using this command ->

@theblockbot #RemoveFromBlockList @a_twit

Note: This is @<screen_name> NOT +<screen_name> … This is so they are notified they have been removed. They are then unblocked for all users that the bot blocked on behalf of — so anyone not already blocking this person.

ADMIN FUNCTIONS: To add someone as a blocker -

@theblockbot #AddBlocker @a_twit

Note: This is @<screen_name> NOT +<screen_name> … This is so they are notified they have been given authority to block people. The bot also tweets to this effect when the command is picked up, so if this doesn’t happen contact @ool0n.

To remove someone from the list of people with blocking privileges.

@theblockbot #RemoveBlocker @a_twit

The bot does not tweet this has happened. This is in the case of the blocker breaking the rules/guidelines above and the blocking community deciding they should be removed. This may happen pre-emptively and the community polled to see if they should be re-added. Obviously a malicious blocker could cause some serious issues, so if there is any suspicion they will be removed immediately.

BLOCKER GUIDELINES :
For those with the authority to add people to the block list it’s important to follow a few rules in adding people.

  • Don’t add people twice to get around the review, adding at L2/3 requires another blocker to confirm and this is a necessary step. If they are being egregiously abusive then L1 adds them immediately, anything else can wait
  • Don’t add people that ask to be added. They’ll just construct a cross for themselves and whine about the bot and how they were unjustly added for all eternity. Make sure there is good evidence for them to be added to the list.
  • Don’t troll people then add them to the list, in fact try and avoid adding people you have recently interacted with. You can always ask a fellow blocker to review your interaction with someone and add if they think they warrant it. Anything else looks like we add people who “just disagree” with the blockers. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, one of which is bigoted abuse directed at you that can be added to the report as evidence.
  • Always over-ride other blockers if you don’t agree with an add. There is no friction in using #RemoveFromBlockList then discussing the add… But there potentially is in adding someone incorrectly.
  • Adding #abuse or #spam modifies the tweet to suggest the user is reported to Twitter. Use this on accounts breaking Twitters rules on harassment and abuse.

 

How do I see who is on the block list?

When you register here you will get a link at the bottom to see who is already in your block list (Could be useful for tweeting to the block bot as a suggestion for blocking! Feel free even if you are not a “blocker” as we will pick the messages up) and a list that shows all the currently blocked users.

 

How do I uninstall it?

The Block Bot can be uninstalled by going to your https://twitter.com/settings/applications page…

Image showing Twitters app settings with the bot authorised

…and clicking the “Revoke Access” button. Also see the section below for removing blocks applied by the block bot…

 

How do I uninstall it? Part II, removing blocks..

If you want to remove the blocks applied then go to the unblocker and sign up. It will remove all the people blocked at a given level (and above) at your command. There is also the possibility of selecting level Zero which will unblock ALL the blocks on your account. Total clean slate option.

www.theblockbot.com/theunblocker

 

When this has finished your authorisation token is discarded, but you may want to disable the application as explained above. Finally there is a possibility that accounts that were suspended come back or an error with Twitter results in the blocks not being removed properly. Check some randomly on the list to see they have been removed, if not sign up again. Please give the unblocker at least 24 hrs to do its work as we are limited by Twitter on how many blocks we can remove per minute.

 

Can I Have the Code?

On a non-commercial basis the code is provided free here -> https://github.com/ool0n/twitter_shared_blocklist/tree/master/TBBV2

 

Who are the blockers?

Admins (Can add other people to the block bot as blockers, have to be A+ forum members)

@TheBlockBot
@Xanthe_Cat
@VanguardVivian
@MAMelby
 
Blockers (Can add people to the block list, ideally A+ forum members to discuss blocks/issues but not mandated)

All the admins above plus….

@Hyperdeath128K
@Iguananaut
@caephyn
@DrJaneChi
@TheAngryFanGirl
@Artemissian
@SpannerDaniel
@EarlMoray
@SwooshyCueb
@unholyglee
@clpolk
@raethfall
@Koolasuchus
@Ardeluxe
@lucypaw
@KelestiMMO
@cronehead
@Shufflejoy
@DivergentSwarm
@DigitalRaavynn
@janeavr
@BarbB2013
@xanthine
@beestiel
@elsalroberts
@adrienneleigh
@c_halestorm
@sarahlicity
@keyrith_
@vex0rian
@feministlady
@heatherr_parker

(For any *technical* issues contact @oolon)

Process for addition of new blockers: contact one of the admins and if they think you are suitable,  have a track record of proposing new blocks that are subsequently added, they will ask the other blockers. If no other blocker has an issue with this person being proposed then they’ll be added by that admin. Blockers are expected to not add any contentious blocks without either talking to other blockers on Twitter DM or ideally mentioning it on the atheismplus.com/forums thread about the block bot.

In general if any blocker adds someone not agreed on, any other blocker is free to remove with #RemoveFromBlockList and the person to be removed has to be @’ed NOT +<screen_name>. Please do this if you disagree with a block immediately to limit damage, note with the new block bot v2.1 any blocks that were applied will be undone when this command is issued. Then the block can be discussed, if three or more blockers think the person should not be added they will stay off the list.

Any blockers that consistently add contentious blocks will be removed from the list of blockers.

 

  15 Responses to “The Block Bot FAQ”

  1. [...] by your community of peers. This is a process already used by @The_Block_Bot who has kindly made their code available so others can use it to run a similar service. This would not ban abusers but would make life [...]

  2. So free speech is a joke to you guys then?

    • “Freeze Peach” is black humour laughing at the stupidity of people who hold something in high regard but clearly don’t understand the concept. Sort of a laugh or cry scenario as its amazing how ill informed these people are. Except from the link below ->

      Free speech doesn’t include the right to be listened to. People who don’t desire to hear your opinion can hang up on you, block you on social media, change the channel, close the browser tab. Free speech doesn’t give you the right to bombard people with harassing messages or otherwise force them to pay attention to you against their will.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2013/05/free-speech-vs-freeze-peach/

      So “freeze peach” is a joke, as are the people who spout it.

    • Sorry about your reading comprehension.

  3. Can people request to get added to the blocklist? It seems like an easy way to make sure annoying people never try to contact you. Get on the list and have them pre-emptively block you.

    • I assume you are not on Twitter? Them blocking you only stops you from contacting them, not the other way around…

  4. [...] a few criticisms of the Block Bot do resonate with me – concerns of public shaming and the worry that accounts might be suspended [...]

  5. [...] The block bot was created by Twitter user @Ool0ng, a supporter of Atheism Plus and a fairly effective programmer. @The_Block_Bot is a twitter profile that you can send commands to, in the form of specifically formatted tweets, in order to add individuals to the The Block Bot’s “block table”. Not everyone can send these commands, however. There are only twelve people who can tweet these specially formatted tweets and add people to the “block table”; they’re listed here. [...]

  6. [...] I’ll quote from the first question on the Block Bot FAQ: [...]

  7. So basicly the free speach comunity created a program to censort people. Wow, *slow clap*.
    Everyone has the right to be heared. Even more so they can be debunked if it is is bullshit they shout. Blocking them wont do any good. They just get less negative feedback while you only get to see one side of the story.

    Maybe this isnt such a smart idea, blocking people.

    Inb4 mod:
    Well, you need approval to post on a site of “free speach”

    • Oh Marcel, when you grow up you may learn that metaphorically shouting at people on Twitter will never change their minds. Argument absolutely is not the way to persuade anyone of anything, as soon as you start being adversarial they back into their corner and rationalise their beliefs even more. Progress is achieved by like-minded people discussing in a productive way … Pretty unlikely on Twitter anyway and blocking a few MRAtheists and out and out bigots will have a net effect of zero on the “truth” … Also go look up free speech, those people you think are “wrong” absolutely have the right to ignore you and anyone else they feel like ignoring.

      • So our dogma provides you a list to easily block suppressive persons. Oh wait that’s Scientology. Counter revolutionaries? Oh that’s Marxism. It’s MRAthiests and Bigots for this one, got ya.
        It’s good when your ideology lumps detractors into an easily identifiable box, plus points when you give it an evil sounding name.

        • Haha, “suppressive persons”, more like unimpressive persons. MRA’s are not demonised however much they want to be the cool “bad guys”, mostly they are laughed at (see manboobz.com) … There are plenty of credible detractors of feminism, atheismplus is a very strong critic of a branch of transphobic radical feminism. Including being involved in this petition -
          https://www.change.org/petitions/southern-poverty-law-center-monitor-gender-identity-watch-as-a-hate-group-2

          Trying to get a group of feminists monitored as a hate group by the SPLC, much like they monitor the laughable “manosphere” currently. I’d argue this group of feminists are more dangerous that MRAs, who are mostly disorganised whiny idiots. TERFs (Trans-exclusionary radical feminists) are well organised and have the ability to deny trans peoples rights, currently they are working with xtian ex-gay groups to influence the law and whip up fear of trans women in bathrooms.

          So yeah our “ideology” doesn’t give any groups of feminists or MRAs a pass if they are being bigots. So much for your comforting theory.

  8. I like the idea girls but this method is kinda wrong, Twitters software automaticley banns people who are blocked rapidly. It’s ok to block some guy if he’s in asshole but blocking people who are not interacting with us and having them banned is not very humanistic , what even qualifys the admins who determine the fate of any persons twitter account? We should find a better method that is more fair : ) We want to make progress, not start wars

    • No, they don’t ban people who are blocked rapidly. Where did you get that from? Even when we were applying 1000 blocks to an account in a min it didn’t “ban” them, or even suspend them, which is temporary. If you read this -> http://www.oolon.co.uk/?p=553 -> you’ll see Twitter platform operations have passed the application as not capable of suspending accounts.

      Nothing qualifies the admins to “determine the fate” of a persons twitter account. I guess you wrote that when you thought it causes suspensions … They are however able to use their judgement on if a persons tweets are abusive/threatening or from a sock/troll, #level1, just insulting and unpleasant, #level2 or annoyingly misinformed and wedded to their ignorance, #level3. The users then trust the blockers judgement. Although all users can decide to take the blocks or not, any they follow are never blocked and any they unblock are never reblocked by the bot. So, under the users control.

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