Tsu is a social network you’ve probably been spammed by already, and if you haven’t, just sit tight, you will be. Being billed as some libertarian echo chamber to compete with Facebook, Tsu reportedly pays users a cut of the advertising revenue they make from content the users post. This can be a very attractive narrative, since we know that Facebook is making billions of dollars, and screwing users up down and sideways. Could be nice to get in on that action, eh?
Well, as attractive as that may sound, they have created a really perverse incentive. They also give users a cut of the revenue from everyone they recruit to the site. “Hey, capitalism, markets man, what don’t you understand Mr. Ancap?”
I understand markets just fine, I also understand affiliate spam.
How Is Tsu Affiliate Spam?
Imagine your friends started sending you private messages with AdSense ads, Amazon affiliate links, and discount coupons for porn and Viagra. You’ll probably never have to deal with this, because even pornographers and shady online pharmacies have some common decency when it comes to affiliate advertising. Spam is viewed very negatively on the internet, and I know a thing or two about this, because I spent years as the abuse admin for a major Internet Service Provider (ISP) in New York.
If we allowed people to spam from our network, even to host a website that was being spammed by other networks, our entire IP address blocks would be thrown into blacklists from which it can be very hard to get removed. Check out SpamHaus, and SPEWS (Spam Prevention Early Warning System, now defunct) to see what I’m talking about. These were completely voluntary services, market based systems which allowed ISP’s, if they chose, to use their lists as blacklists for their users. They were VERY popular, especially with email providers. The market pressure to use them was huge, because if you didn’t use them, then you would be passing spam for spammers, and you yourself would get labeled as a spammer, and blocked by all the networks that did use them. It was simple freedom of association, a response to extremely negative public opinion against unsolicited advertising.
While we did not personally subscribe to SPEWS or SpamHaus, we did take them under advisement when screening new clients. We thought their tactics were a bit heavy handed, but they did provide some useful information. We took all spam complaints very seriously, and gave up many thousands of dollars in business to remove spammers from our networks, to prevent the loss of many thousands of dollars more that we would have lost by getting our entire network voluntarily blackballed from the rest of the internet.
Unfortunately, Tsu doesn’t have the common decency of a pornographer or shady online pharmacy, and so I’m choosing the same freedom of disassociation we took with spammers in the datacenter I used to work at. They are actively encouraging users to “invite” new users to the system through their profile pages. Anybody who joins through their profile pages, will earn the recruiter a cut of the revenue that user generates from their content. When you’re a high profile person like myself, this means you get inundated with messages from friends and fans who think they are going to get a big payday from getting me to join. It’s fucking ridiculous, and when I realized they were trying to get money out of me, I became furious. This is affiliate spam, and nothing more.
If you did this with any other affiliate program, they would ban you. Amazon.com won’t even give you an affiliate link if you say you want to use it for social media. You have to have a real website and original content. You can’t post AdSense ads to Facebook, and if you have a page with linkbait and AdSense ads and not much else, you’ll get your AdSense account banned. No respectable affiliate program would allow their users to do this, but Tsu is actively encouraging it.
And let’s not pretend this is some alternative to Facebook.
Firstly, I don’t use Facebook for the echo chamber of libertarian handshaking and ass kissing. I use Facebook so users will share content before the eyes of people who are not libertarians. I’m absolutely fucking furious with Facebook’s bullshit policies. I regularly get banned from the network, sometimes for 30 days at a clip, and often for doing nothing that violated Facebook’s terms. I just made enemies with some relentless liberal trolls who literally report every post I make until something sticks. Most of these worthless pieces of shit call themselves libertarians, so the last thing I really need is a social network for libertarians. I need a place to reach people who aren’t libertarians, so they become libertarians, and we can grow the movement.
Now, some might say it’s a place where libertarians can communicate and spread content even when Facebook bans them, and there’s some merit to wanting something like that. This already exists, on Diaspora. I’ve actively tried to recruit users to Diaspora with little success. Tsu has created a powerful incentive to recruit users, at the expense of becoming spammers.
But Tsu is no Diaspora. Tsu is centrally managed, Diaspora is decentralized so it is literally impossible to remove a person from the network. If they don’t want you on one pod, you just pick up your account and move it to another, or start your own. Even Diaspora lacks what social networking really needs, which is a totally peer to peer system, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.
Tsu is no such step in any such direction. It’s a social network run by people who may or may not call themselves libertarians. This seems to appeal to a lot of people who think libertarians will make better stewards of their data, but it is still a centralized system. The moment Tsu becomes big enough to care about losing what they have, the moment their profits are threatened by the content a user posts, they will become every bit as bad as Facebook. Don’t believe me? We’ve already seen this with organizations like the Free State Project, and CopBlock.org. Those people banned me from their outlets because of things I wrote on my own website, and they did so in a really public and dishonest way. Why? Because they had built capital in their brand, and the content I posted threatened their mainstream credibility, which is what most people secretly (or not so secretly) want. Don’t even get me started on Reason Magazine, Students for Liberty, the Cato Institute, Libertarianism.org, or any number of other “libertarian” outfits funded by the Koch Brothers.
You might say that the folks at Tsu are stand up guys, that they wouldn’t give into corporate funding. Well, I don’t know about that first of all, and they already managed to raise $7 million to get this thing started somehow. But if they can’t even resist the temptation to spam that shady online pharmacies have the nerve to prevent, then how are they going to stand up to millions of dollars being thrown at them when some wealthy benefactor just wants them to tone things down a bit?
No Fucking Thank You. Stop spamming me, you fucking degenerates.
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