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posted by LaminatorX on Monday November 10 2014, @03:27AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the better-than-detention dept.

Atheist vlogger Thunderf00t reports that Jordan Owen, Slade Villena, and Mykeru were "all suspended from twitter for no reason." Jordan Owen is the co-producer of the documentary The Sarkeesian Effect, a critique of the methods of controversial vlogger Anita Sarkeesian. Mykeru is the producer of The Block Bot and the Dumbification of the Beeb, a critique of the BBC Newsnight segment "Talking to the Twitter Trolls and those Who Study them". Slade Villena is a former writer for Gamasutra and the founder of indie game developer Rogue Star Games.

Thunderf00t himself was suspended from Twitter for two weeks in September for unclear reasons. At that time Twitter had also banned the account of "The Camera Lady", the researcher for a video series accusing award-winning developer Phil Fish and the Independent Games Festival of racketeering.

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New Twitter Features Re-ignite Censorship Concerns 24 comments

Over the past year as the communications service Twitter has rolled out new features with the stated goal of stopping "abusive tweets", critics have expressed concerns that this technology may be used for political censorship. These concerns received broader attention last week when Cryptome published a report by Paul Dietrich alleging that Twitter had hidden information about leaked NSA papers from American users.

As alleged by Dietrich, Twitter will hide information from users for the critical period of the first 24 hours, when users are most likely to spread the information, before allowing the information to be seen again. The disappearance and reappearance of the information resembles a software glitch. Dietrich describes this mechanism as "Censorship that doesn't look like censorship... Subtle, deniable, and quite ruthless."

Concerns about the system were first raised in April by Twitter user Daddy Warpig who reported that Twitter was hiding all posts by certain users of the conservative #TCOT and liberal #Gamergate hashtags along with users affiliated with the Sad Puppies campaign of science-fiction authors protesting against a perceived bias in the Hugo Awards.

Twitter introduced a revised system in May, stating that it would hide only "tweets sent directly to an individual which are from a recently registered account and use language similar to previously flagged messages." Lizzy Finnegan, a writer for the Escapist, discovered that Twitter was hiding messages from established users who had previously used the #Gamergate hashtag but was not blocking new accounts created to test the system by sending the exact same messages.

[More after the break.]

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Thexalon on Monday November 10 2014, @03:50AM

    by Thexalon (636) on Monday November 10 2014, @03:50AM (#114399)

    Twitter is under no obligation to provide service to anyone they don't want around (provided they aren't making the decision solely because of a very very short list of inborn traits like race or gender). Neither is Youtube, Facebook, or any other privately run site. You have every right to say or write what you want online, provided that you are not participating in a criminal conspiracy by doing so. You have no right to use any particular company's servers to do so. SoylentNews could ban me, right now, just because, and I would have no recourse.

    My guess is that Twitter had a reason, though. It might have been a stupid reason, or an unjust reason, but it probably had one. My guess would be words in their tweets were similar to the ones used by the actually dangerous Gamergaters (the ones that are making violent threats along with publishing their targets' addresses), and so whatever algorithm they developed to try to find and ban those people snagged them (possibly falsely, but since I don't follow Twitter drama at all I really don't know).

    --
    Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by GoonDu on Monday November 10 2014, @04:18AM

      by GoonDu (2623) on Monday November 10 2014, @04:18AM (#114404)

      If I remember correctly, it was Twitter's automated responses. There was an earlier incident where accounts on the Gamergate's side were also suspended along with accounts that support Atheist+ as well. I think the whole fiasco really tripped their automated responses.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Sir Finkus on Monday November 10 2014, @04:22AM

      by Sir Finkus (192) on Monday November 10 2014, @04:22AM (#114405) Journal

      I don't understand why twitter does any kind of censorship of this type. It seems like things like threats and harassment should be dealt with by law enforcement, not word filters on twitter. In my opinion, the only thing content they should be trying to block is spam and anything they're legally obligated to remove from their service.

      • (Score: 2) by mojo chan on Monday November 10 2014, @08:32AM

        by mojo chan (266) on Monday November 10 2014, @08:32AM (#114444)

        Twitter's public image wouldn't look so good if they just ignored accounts making death threats. They provide a commercial service and need to sell it to companies and advertisers, so like it or not they have to take a stance sometimes. They have a pretty good record actually, basically allowing pretty much anything as long as it isn't illegal under US law.

        --
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        • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Sir Finkus on Monday November 10 2014, @09:45AM

          by Sir Finkus (192) on Monday November 10 2014, @09:45AM (#114463) Journal

          Twitter's public image wouldn't look so good

          Oh? Do telephone companies suffer image issues because they don't scan conversations and ban people from them using their service if people trip filters? What about the postal service? Gmail? SMTP servers? Twitter a medium for communication, and give its users tools to remove or block any users they find objectionable. They have every right to ban anyone they want from their service, but I think they lose much more image banning people with "offensive" opinions.

          As far as death threats go, I don't think I've seen any evidence that any of the people involved in the story have made any, so that point is rather irrelevant.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @10:31AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @10:31AM (#114473)

            The difference is that all the services you mentioned are sending supposedly private messages to selected persons, while Twitter messages are public.

            It's like an event host will likely not get problems if he doesn't stop you from telling your explicit sexual fantasies in private to a friend on the event in a way no one not involved can hear it, but there will be a huge outcry if he doesn't stop you from doing the same publicly on stage.

          • (Score: 2) by mojo chan on Monday November 10 2014, @11:29AM

            by mojo chan (266) on Monday November 10 2014, @11:29AM (#114479)

            Actually, in the UK (where Thunderf00t is based) the phone companies are required by law to take action if they get complaints about abuse and harassment. More over they are generally quite eager to shut down scams and criminal enterprises using their networks, and are under no obligation to provide service to everyone.

            Thunderf00t probably had a lot of complaints registered against him, not without merit I might add. Twitter did the right thing, acting to stop his on-going actions while they did further investigation and presumably contacted him to ask him to tone it down a bit. They have no obligation to prove him with a platform, and have shut down many other troll accounts in the past.

            Ironic that the "cookie" on this page reads "You can never trust a woman; she may be true to you."

            --
            const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
            • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Sir Finkus on Monday November 10 2014, @11:22PM

              by Sir Finkus (192) on Monday November 10 2014, @11:22PM (#114668) Journal

              Thunderf00t probably had a lot of complaints registered against him, not without merit I might add.

              I'll admit I haven't been following this gamergate bullshit, but reading this guy's history I don't see anything that qualifies as harassment.

              The comparison of twitter to broadcast television also doesn't really work. Over the air broadcasts are regulated by the FCC, and similar entities in other countries. Cable and satellite channels can choose their own standards as to what they want to broadcast. On channels like HBO, virtually anything goes.

              It is very easy on twitter to block or unfollow people whose messages you don't want to read. If you're using twitter as a platform to try and advance a political agenda, it's natural to expect that people with differing opinions are going to try and pick your statements apart, and even insult you. That's something that comes with the territory.

              The attitude of "ban first, figure it out" also has problems. Twitter is a very real-time medium. Banning someone at a critical time can silence them when their arguments might be most relevant. It's far to easy for people that just don't like someone to bandwagon report someone. There are similar problems on sites (such as this one) with user moderation. Posts that don't follow the hivemind tend to get downvoted and effectively silenced. Dissenting opinions are often the most important ones to hear.

              Really, I think the only reasons twitter should ban someone are threats, fraud, and network abuse (spamming other users, hacking accounts etc). In most cases these should be evaluated by a human, not an algorithm. Obviously things like links to phishing sites can be checked for automatically.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11 2014, @08:04PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11 2014, @08:04PM (#114959)

              Correction

              Thunderf00t is English but lives and works in the US

              It is obvious you know nothing more of the man than wild speculation and rumour, do some research, read some of his allegedly offensive tweets, watch some of his youtube videos then try telling me he is guilty of harrassment.

          • (Score: 3, Informative) by DeathMonkey on Monday November 10 2014, @05:41PM

            by DeathMonkey (1380) on Monday November 10 2014, @05:41PM (#114566) Journal

            Oh? Do telephone companies suffer image issues because they don't scan conversations and ban people from them using their service if people trip filters?
             
            The difference is one-to-one communication vs. one-to-many. A more appropriate analogy would be a broadcast company. Most broadcast companies do in fact censor their content.

      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Monday November 10 2014, @02:28PM

        by Thexalon (636) on Monday November 10 2014, @02:28PM (#114507)

        It seems like things like threats and harassment should be dealt with by law enforcement, not word filters on twitter.

        You seem to be missing my point entirely, and acting as though Twitter has some sort of responsibility to host whatever its users want to host, when no such obligation exists.

        To use a meatspace metaphor here: Let's say something newsworthy happens near your front door, and a local news reporter comes to your house to interview you about what happened (this has actually happened to me when a high-speed police chase ended on my lawn). That reporter may use what you say in their report, but they also might not. Or maybe they'll want to include it and their editor says no. But in any event, they are under no obligation to include a word you say in the story. You gave the reporter the information to do with as they will, and they'll do whatever they want with it.

        Sure, law enforcement can and at this point probably should be involved in dealing with the criminal threatening cases, but Twitter has every right to censor its users, for whatever reason it likes. It has no responsibility to the public discourse, and ultimately all it is is you trading the contents of your 140 character messages and targeted advertising eyeballs for a possibly wider audience for what you have to say.

        --
        Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
        • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday November 10 2014, @09:07PM

          by tangomargarine (667) on Monday November 10 2014, @09:07PM (#114625)

          and acting as though Twitter has some sort of responsibility to host whatever its users want to host, when no such obligation exists.

          Not a legal or economic obligation, but the argument could be made for an ethical one.

          --
          "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Common Joe on Monday November 10 2014, @05:24AM

      by Common Joe (33) Subscriber Badge <reversethis-{moc ... 1010.eoj.nommoc}> on Monday November 10 2014, @05:24AM (#114413) Journal

      Twitter is under no obligation to provide service to anyone they don't want around (provided they aren't making the decision solely because of a very very short list of inborn traits like race or gender). Neither is Youtube, Facebook, or any other privately run site.

      I think the "so what" is that if you want to have any kind of communication with large groups of people (and therefore a chance to "make it big"), you need Twitter, You Tube, and Facebook for the marketing. Of course, a person or company can have their own URL, but that only goes so far. That is where the problem comes in. In a way, we (as a society) are censoring ourselves.

      I think this article by Wait But Why [waitbutwhy.com] has some fascinating pie charts... especially the second one.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by frojack on Monday November 10 2014, @06:13AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 10 2014, @06:13AM (#114421) Journal

        you need Twitter, You Tube, and Facebook for the marketing.

        No, you don't. In fact spending time on that guarantees you will "make it small", because nobody that matters spends any time at the navel gazing trough of twitter. It gets far more people into career threatening trouble than it helps.

        Oddly even junior high kids are starting to get this, even then the 20 somethings are still waiting for the tweet that will change their lives.

        --
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        • (Score: 2) by Common Joe on Monday November 10 2014, @07:04AM

          by Common Joe (33) Subscriber Badge <reversethis-{moc ... 1010.eoj.nommoc}> on Monday November 10 2014, @07:04AM (#114429) Journal

          The Wait But Why Article I suggested was interesting if you haven't read it. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated Wait But Why, but I am a regular reader.

          What would you suggest for Wait But Why? As a person who wants to better target people for my own personal stuff, what do you suggest for me? (Note: The stuff I want to peddle is not associated with my Soylent News name "Common Joe".)

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @02:19PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @02:19PM (#114502)

            Well, from that article I gather Twitter in particular isn't relevant (YouTube wasn't even listed). Facebook, OTOH, provided a big part of the pie.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by FatPhil on Monday November 10 2014, @09:20AM

          by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Monday November 10 2014, @09:20AM (#114450) Homepage
          It's all context dependent. Those for whom social media is an important part of what they actually do have more of a reliance on social media, and get more back from social media. You appear to be deliberately ignoring those, and GPP is deliberately focussing on those. Whilst it would be nice to pretend that your view is the better one, there's so much out there that has become part of the self-fulfilling social media prophesy, you really can't ignore it.

          Well, I can, but I'm not constantly craving attention.
          --
          Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @06:18AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @06:18AM (#114423)

      >someone published people's addresses
      >evidence that people have been false flagging (a certain developer "reposts" images advocating harassment of her for being in anti-Gamergate, despite the date on the metadata of the image being before she involved herself in Gamergate)
      Nothing to see here! Please move on!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:59PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:59PM (#114553)

      So we shouldn't use such crappy services! I don't know the people mentioned or whether their cases have any merit or not. However the issue is very real. And sadly this encroachment is happening also offline.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_space#Privatization [wikipedia.org]

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @03:53AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @03:53AM (#114400)

    As Harvard and other big universities dumb down and plainly do not teach "social responsibility" to their students for a while now, could this be the general effect? That when a small start up hires MBA's taught from those places suddenly put their teachings to practical use: defend share holders before moral or cultural standards.

    The other example is google and their 'do no evil' mantra, which has shifted to 'on average do less evil'.

    Or is it that it is us who are wrong - looking at sites with massive up take on a gimick idea and expect that site to be an institution with morals... which I said before, arent being taught except if you read adam smith's original writings?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @03:56AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @03:56AM (#114401)

    They got banned for using some dipshit word like "vlogger" to refer to themselves

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by M. Baranczak on Monday November 10 2014, @05:58AM

      by M. Baranczak (1673) on Monday November 10 2014, @05:58AM (#114419)

      Vlogger? Seriously? Did they think: "'blogger' doesn't sound stupid enough, we need to up our game"?

      • (Score: 2) by Lagg on Monday November 10 2014, @02:04PM

        by Lagg (105) on Monday November 10 2014, @02:04PM (#114495) Homepage Journal

        I wasn't going to comment on this summary because the types it attracts quite frankly creep me out. Reminds me of the cultists I was around at one point in my life telling people that they're intolerant and oppressive because someone else told them that they're brainwashing hypocrits. But yeah, I agree. I actually made a video recently to check in with friends that is for all intents and purposes a "vlog" but I couldn't handle tagging it as such on youtube let alone using it in the title or description. It really takes a suppression of one's shame to use such a term that's fer sure. Especially when people pronounce it "vuh-log" instead of "v-log"

        --
        http://lagg.me [lagg.me] 🗿
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @07:46PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @07:46PM (#114599)

        I always thought Software Engineer was the silliest title in tech.

  • (Score: 1) by spamdog on Monday November 10 2014, @04:01AM

    by spamdog (4335) on Monday November 10 2014, @04:01AM (#114402)

    Or are they just gamergate agitators?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:24AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:24AM (#114406)

      Thunderf00t sounds like yet another over-the-top SIW - Social Injustice Warrior.
      Google him and you'll see he's had a hard-on for "feminism" since at least 2012.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @06:23AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @06:23AM (#114425)

        Thunderf00t is no better than a member of ISIS. We should doxx him.

        • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday November 10 2014, @09:10PM

          by tangomargarine (667) on Monday November 10 2014, @09:10PM (#114628)

          Oh the hypocrisy. Isn't getting doxxed exactly what everybody is up in arms about on the other side of the fence?

          --
          "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11 2014, @07:00AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11 2014, @07:00AM (#114742)

            It's OK if one side does it but not the other, that's what equality is all about now. Only the sides have changed.

    • (Score: 2) by mojo chan on Monday November 10 2014, @08:37AM

      by mojo chan (266) on Monday November 10 2014, @08:37AM (#114445)

      Thunderf00t definitely is not a journalist. He is a blogger, and not a very good one at that. He has a day job. His videos are just rants based on his own delusions and misogyny. Let's not pretend he has any interesting in journalism or reporting.

      --
      const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:20PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:20PM (#114536)

        He didn't say he was a journalist.

        Also, how is pointing out the flaws in feminism, misogyny? is this a case of "hearing something I don't like, and I'm "progressive". So the other person must be an evil woman-hating racist"?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:29AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:29AM (#114407)

    Slade Villena: Because it’s weaponized political speech; misogyny is an extremely hot button topic in the developed world, it incites an automatic reaction with common folk. Inciting and politicizing #GamerGate with misogyny is an effective disinformation tool; as it goes with false rape accusations against individuals, accusations of “homosexuality” “pedophilia” against clergy & school teachers. The language is a weapon. It is losing its effectiveness. They are losing because I have weaponized my language, and many other indie game devs like me, who have been silenced, isolated and vilified by industry cliques. They are losing because they keep using the same weapons, the same megaphones, and no one is buying it anymore.

    Well played, twitter. Bye bye Slade.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @06:17AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @06:17AM (#114422)

      I do not see why that rational train of thought is enough to denounce and ban someone unequivocally. That you chose to post such a quote and praise the decision without proper grammar let alone any thought yourself is very disheartening.

      If you disagree, show reasoning. Don't just denounce, ignore, and silence. The western world mostly stopped doing that in the middle ages and we are far better off for it.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:13PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:13PM (#114533)

        Don't just denounce, ignore, and silence. The western world mostly stopped doing that in the middle ages and we are far better off for it.

        You don't follow politics much, do you? Have you even seen the ads on TV?

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @05:55AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @05:55AM (#114418)

    The crowd they're up against uses "The Block Bot" [theblockbot.com]. It's a program that lets a Twitter user block a big list of people it the developer considers "nasty" (read: has a different point of view). Not only does it block them, it uses the user's account to report them for violating Twitter's community guidelines. Hardly suprising these people are getting suspended considering all of this is decided by an algorithm, which is being manipulated.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @07:38AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @07:38AM (#114436)

      I went to that link, and they seem pretty adamant that their system does not report people and could not get people banned. (It's implied that this was either considered or implemented at some point in the past, but is definitely not a current feature.)

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @03:54PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @03:54PM (#114523)

        Are you surprised? Gametainters have delusions of persecution, it basically defines the movement and lets them feel justified in making actual public threats against their perceived persecutors.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:16PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @04:16PM (#114534)

          Well, they're removed that "feature" recently if it is removed. That would probably still factor into the suspension of these people.

          Also, "delusions of persecution"? Jesus Christ, have you not looked at some of the anti-GGer's Twitters? They put all their shortcomings down to either "patriarchy" and the assorted "privileges" (male, white, thin, cis, Christian, heteronormative, neurotypical, non-"otherkin" (non-schizophrenic)) people different from them have, or MUH lack of equality. A figurehead of anti-GGers--Anita Sarkeesian--has made a very lucrative career whining about "oppression" in video games and pop culture.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11 2014, @02:27AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 11 2014, @02:27AM (#114705)

            And by "lucrative" we mean, gets threatened a lot, spends a lot of time on public service, and doesn't get paid for it. Unless you're counting 32 cents in youtube revenue.

  • (Score: 1) by jmorris on Monday November 10 2014, @08:38AM

    by jmorris (4844) on Monday November 10 2014, @08:38AM (#114446)

    Although the summary went out of the way to avoid the hashtag, this is about #GamerGate so account banning is just part of the stupid establishment type folk's way of fanning the flames and ensuring the controversy doesn't die out. That is pretty much what started it in reality. It was a tempest in a teapot until 4chan went on an account banning spree. Think about that, 4chan, the infamous hive of scum and villany known for decades as the worst place on the Internet decides to start banning accounts by the thousand to shut down a nasty rumor and some fanboys snarking about it. Raise your hand if you didn't see the only reaction possible would be epic nerd rage. Doh!

    It isn't paranoia when they are out to get ya. Especially when thousands of people have accounts very publicly banned. The is that very banning that gives them the sense that they are the righteous and 'the man' has to be afraid of their efforts because they wouldn't be flailing around with the banhammer otherwise. They are already marginalized outcasts, oppressing them only unifies and strengthens their resolve.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Thexalon on Monday November 10 2014, @03:05PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Monday November 10 2014, @03:05PM (#114514)

      "Help help, I'm being repressed! Did you see him repressing me? You saw him, didn't you?"

      It isn't paranoia when they are out to get ya.

      Saying "if you're going to talk like that, you aren't doing it here" is different from "being out to get ya". Being out to get ya would involve, say, a semi-organized effort to share information on exactly where to find you with those who have been threatening to rape or murder you. And then doing the same thing to others who spoke up in your defense.

      Raise your hand if you didn't see the only reaction possible would be epic nerd rage.

      There's a difference between epic nerd rage (e.g. taking a sledgehammer to your computer in anger) and threatening or carrying out real-world violence against those who you're raging against. It's not like if somebody killed Felicia Day or Anita Sarkeesian, she'd just respawn 60 seconds later at a rally point.

      --
      Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @09:36AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 10 2014, @09:36AM (#114458)

    I guess Twitter is a good source of fodder for Chris Hardwick's TV show, but outside of that I'd be quite pleased if I never had to hear about it again.