On "Gaming" Social Media

I begin this blog post with an acknowledgment of the irony of the situation. But I'm taking the opportunity use this chance to highlight the social media snowball and how to use your momentum responsibly. This post is in no way an indictment of MalwareTechBlog, nor am I implying that they did anything wrong here. If I come across as petty it is intentional and not sincere.

On May 26th, 2017, I tweeted about a bug with Microsoft Office in which a background task would flicker a command prompt briefly due to it being mistakenly registered as a user-context task.

Thirty-seven hours later the Savior of the Internet, Slayer of Wcry, MalwareTechBlog posted a tweet that said basically the same thing. With no significant additional information.

Second, more popular mouse gets the cheese
Social media is all about visibility. After MalwareTech posted their tweet SwiftonSecurity retweeted it, and between both of their substantial platforms a very visible conversation about this background task occurred. I sat at my desk and watched it happen in real time in amusement. I made a petty remark about it at the time.

On May 31st, 2017, I replied to a tweet by SwiftonSecurity with a witty joke about an article they linked. Nine minutes later MalwareTechBlog posted basically the exact same joke except publicly rather than a reply.

Something something penis joke
I made another remark about it and MalwareTechBlog showed up in my notifications with sympathy. It's a shared experience on social media because everyone is a product of their surroundings, in this case technology and security, and often encounter similar problems and often have similar senses of humor.

Here is some information about social media. As Alexander Payne pointed out, Twitter does not treat everyone's tweet with fairness. Despite my joke being first and Alexander Payne meeting the criteria to see my joke (they were following both SwiftonSecurity and I) my tweet appeared later in the time line due to default settings pushed out by Twitter. There are biases built into the system to promote people who are "popular."

This is the part that I wanted to highlight. When Daniel Gallagher appeared in the thread and replied with a joke about MalwareTech's popularity that particular tweet became visible to the likely thousands of people who follow both MalwareTech and himself. My tweets, and any replies from that point forward, would not be visible to their followers, but their replies to the thread would.
He did not, unfortunately, test this theory.
Isn't MalwareTechBlog just the best?

You can see the imbalance here. While I was looped into the entire thread by virtue of Twitter's changes to how threading functions, none of my additions made it to the majority of MalwareTech's or Gallagher's followers. Many of them likely were not aware of how the thread started or what it was about. Regardless those people felt the need to chip in their support for good ol' MalwareTechBlog and their stellar research that provides valuable things to the community.

This continued for a while.

Nobody had ill-intent here, but because of my lack of a platform not only were my comments and additions suppressed but Twitter felt the need to really highlight how valuable MalwareTech's contributions to the community were. My notifications were filled with retweets and likes and support for MalwareTech from people who didn't follow me and likely didn't know I was a part of the conversation. And they certainly didn't know how the thread started.

I said that I wasn't here to complain about MalwareTechBlog and I'm not. But this is a prime example of how smaller voices get drowned out on Twitter, and why large voices in the community stay loud. People like MalwareTechBlog are high-profile enough that Twitter gives their voice priority, and being high profile means they are more likely to be noticed by their high-profile peers like SwiftonSecurity and subsequently highlighted. It creates a social media snowball effect that perpetuate their visibility in their circles.

This isn't a fault of them, it is a fault of the system. If you have been shoved down the hill to start your snowball chances are you have no reason to examine the system feeding your growth. As often as I muse about how hard social media is I do understand the playbook. Once the system favors you, you have the ability to do what SwiftonSecurity did to me and promote those quieter voices that other people don't get to see. I didn't get 550 followers because I talked to every single one and rubbed shoulders, I got 550 followers because someone highlighted what I was doing. More importantly they did so while letting me speak for myself rather than speaking for me.

If you have a platform you can make the choice to use to help other people in your community, or you can do nothing with it. One option is not better than the other, or more right. Using your platform to boost the voices of other people carries with it the responsibility of doing so with integrity. After all you wouldn't want to support and give a platform to shitty people.

Edit: Slightly better spacing on some images.


  1. It could certainly be argued that other platforms are guilty of the same thing, i.e Youtube ranking users with high subscriber count/partner status over less relevant users in the context of a search for a niche topic, etc.

    Well thought out post though.


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