What started 20 years ago in Nanaimo, B.C. spawned hit songs, worldwide LOLs and a giant hairball of drama
Leah Collins · CBC Arts · December 27
It’s a chapter of pop-culture history that could only have started in 1998, a time when more people than ever before were making sense of the internet for the first time. And that includes the folks you’re about to hear from. (Leah Collins/CBC Arts)
What, exactly, is the Hampsterdance? If you were online around the turn of the millennium, you probably think you know the answer to this question. I did, anyway. And the first, seemingly obvious definition is that it’s a website. It’s the kind of website you probably haven’t seen in a decade, at least — lost to the pixels of time along with stuff like Zombo.com and the emo rants you used to publish on LiveJournal. But it’s a website, just the same. One page with one purpose: deliver 392 animated GIFs of dancing rodents and the most infuriating .wav file ever uploaded — a sound that, way back when, threatened to blast out of your speakers every time you checked your email.
It’s weird to think about now — weirder than a website devoted to hundreds of cartoon rodents. But 20 years ago, the Hampsterdance was revolutionary, an example of “going viral” before anyone was even using the phrase. Want to make someone LOL? Send them the Hampsterdance. Want to prank your boss? Teacher? Roommate? Get everyone to load the page at the same time. It infiltrated the culture, both online and off, even popping up in a TV ad for Earthlink. And it made its conquest before iPhones, before social media — spreading through email and old-timey word of mouth.
The original Hamsterdance site. (YouTube)
When you consider all that, it’s fair to call it the world’s first online meme — or one of the first, depending on your source. And that’s the beginning of where things get tricky, because getting a handle on what a meme actually means can be strange business. It’s a thing — an image, a video, a concept, a website, some cultural object — that spreads wildly, mutating and evolving as it’s passed along. So when it comes to memes, we’re all authors, and we’re all the audience. Keep that in mind. It’s what makes this whole “Hampsterdance” question difficult. What is it — who made it — if we’ve all had a paw in there somewhere?
Daily Archives: December 31, 2018
In the past few years, social media platforms have experienced tremendous growth. Social networks are more than happy to welcome new users. However, more users mean it’s harder to keep track of everyone’s behavior on the site.
When it comes to social media, if you don’t play by the rules, you don’t get to use the platform. This is made pretty clear to all users. However, there has been one practice that has been shrouded in mystery for years, so much so that users are confused as to if it actually exists or not.
We are, of course, talking about shadowbanning. So, what is shadowbanning? And what can you do to prevent a social media platform from shadowbanning you?
What Is Shadowbanning?
Social media platforms can ban users in a few different ways. Either you lose access to your account for a short period of time, or indefinitely. They can also ban you from making a new account if the offense was serious enough for an IP ban, which is when the platform shuts you out based on your IP address.
These bans have one thing in common, and that is that the users know that they have been banned. This is precisely what sets shadowbanning apart. Shadowbanning, also known as ghost banning, or stealth banning, is commonly defined as the practice of blocking a user or their content, fully or partially, in a way that it will not be obvious to the user.
This way, the user retains access to their account and can see posts from other users. They can even post as usual, but the social network partially or completely “shadows” the posts, making them invisible to other users. Shadowbanning is different from Facebook’s shadow profiles, which have also been in the news lately.
The practice dates back to the 1980s when the bulletin board services started employing toggles to grant different users different privileges. One of these toggles was called the “twit bit,” which restricted a user’s privileges for not following the rules. This was to ensure that the troublemakers either left or started following the rules.
This is pretty much the concept behind the modern day phenomenon of shadowbanning. However, the mystery is whether the practice actually really exists in a tangible form.
Are People Really Getting Shadowbanned?
In the last few years, there have been numerous claims of shadowbanning across different social media platforms. With the politically charged environment making it harder than ever to distinguish genuine news from fake news, social media platforms have been accused of having a bias. And using shadowbanning to silent the opinions they dislike.
Shadowbanning on Twitter
A large number of users have claimed that Twitter has shadowbanned them. The claims began in 2016, with accusations that Twitter was shadowbanning people that supported the Republican Party in the U.S.
However, the situation escalated in 2018, after Vice News claimed that Twitter was shadowbanning prominent Republican politicians, which was soon followed by a tweet from the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.
Twitter was quick to respond, and while Vice News said that Twitter had “fixed” the shadowbans, Twitter claimed in a blog post that they have never actually used the practice. The blog post said that Twitter instead used ranking, which ranked tweets from “bad-faith actors”.
Apparently, Twitter determines these according to several factors which have to do with the authenticity of the account, and how the one uses the account.
Twitter also claimed that political affiliation wasn’t one of these factors and that there was no shadowbanning happening, but rather just a bug which affected hundreds of thousands of accounts, not letting them appear in search auto-suggestions. Twitter resolved this issue, but the accusations continue.