Thursday, 19 September 2013
The Internet is a funny place...
... just in case any of you had not noticed. Not that that is in any way news to me, but the past few hours have highlighted the oddness. Upon returning home last night, I tried to log into Twitter, to be informed that my account had been suspended. I had not been e-mailed to that effect; nor was I given any explanation why. The Twitter page I eventually found informed me that I must fill in a form, read various guidelines, and generally be a good boy in the future. I filled in the form, though it was difficult to know what to say about past misdemeanours and future good behaviour, since I had no idea what I was held to have done in the first place. Shortly after, I received an automated e-mail reply, which essentially told me that I had to write all of that again, in a reply to the reply. That I did, and waited, and waited...
In the meantime, a bizarre comment appeared on my blog (click here, and look for the first posting from 'Seine Frau'). It was bizarre not merely in formulation but because the words it attributed to me were nowhere to be found on that review, nor indeed anywhere on my blog. (They were actually used, in a very particular context, in a Twitter exchange; there, if anywhere, would clearly have been the place to refer to them.) Since I began the blog, the only cases of disallowing comments have been when they were actually spam; there have been occasions when I found myself sorely tempted, yet I have still - just - allowed them. I let it through, then, and even allowed it the dubious courtesy of a response, whereupon another posting swiftly arrived. At that point, given its irrelevance to the subject of Bampton Classical Opera's La finta semplice, I thought it best to say that subsequent postings would not be permitted. Cue a tirade of abusive and indeed pornographic attempts to post, which were refused, but which I still had to read. (Spam filters, if they work at all, seem to need a little time to get going.) Given the pretty clear identity in terms of 'voice' and concerns between 'Seine Frau' and a strange person with various other sobriquets, 'Genevieve Castle Room' being one of them, and the knowledge that this person in the guise of @CMadruscht followed me on Twitter, I wondered whether there were any connection between the two strange Internet occurrences. (It seems that there was not, but who knows?) This person had been pestering me - and many others - for years, through social media and sometimes, still more creepily, directly via e-mail. Weird questions concerning opera, especially Pelléas et Mélisande, would appear without context, sometimes more than once but from a different e-mail address. The following is a single example, not in any sense threatening, but certainly weird:
Is it just me or is this one of the silliest articles on opera?
Mind you that was published in the Wall Street Journal, not some glossy pop magazine.
The Unrepentant Pelleastrian
Anyway, that strange, latterly foul-mouthed person has now been blocked, both on the blog and on Twitter, to which I should now return.
Nothing had changed with regard to the suspension this morning, but I received a few messages via other means from friends whom I was following. Many of them raised awareness, even to the wonderfully touching extent of launching a #FreeBoulezian hashtag. I was unable to reply to any of them, but their support was greatly appreciated. OperaCreep e-mailed me and wrote about the situation on his blog. Just before he made his posting, I received the following reply from Twitter (name of the employee deleted):
Twitter has automated systems that find and remove multiple automated spam accounts in bulk. Unfortunately, it looks like your account got caught up in one of these spam groups by mistake.
I've restored your account; sorry for the inconvenience.
Please note that it may take an hour or so for your follower and following numbers to return to normal.
Such things happen, I suppose, and no lasting harm has been done; indeed, it was gratifying to learn - with the exception of one person who sourly commented, 'Can do without him TBH' - that so many kind people valued my contributions. However, I cannot help but think that, at the very least, I should have been notified and permitted to inform the site that I was not guilty of that of which I was accused. (Doubtless it is all there in the small print none of us ever reads, but that is not really the point. I know some people will say that it is, but we shall have to agree to differ on that.)
I had started to wonder whether I should simply withdraw from social media for a while, especially since it brought up bitter memories of some libellous blogger of whom I had never heard but who, a few years ago, accused me of anti-Semitism. His deranged blog or rather blogs - he claims that one is his, and the other belongs to his non-existent partner - appears to target various writers, artists, musicians, and others from time to time, making groundless and without question defamatory claims. I shall not link to it, since I do not wish to grant him any more visitors than is necessary. After my initial discussion with lawyer friends, who advised me that yes, I could sue, but I was better just to ignore him, my only concern was that someone searching for me online might find the claim that I was an anti-Semite. I simply had to hope that such a person would find other things first, and also judge the blogger by the rest of his lunatic postings. (Again, to give further details would simply reward him, which I have no intention of doing.)
Anyway, I have now more or less put that out of my mind and am back in the virtual world. For the moment. Thank you once again for all those who offered help and support; I cannot necessarily reply to you all individually, lest Twitter suspend me again for incessant messages, but I should like you to know how much your efforts have been appreciated.