Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Senseless acts of Internet drama

I’ve been a happy and very productive member of the most popular Steven Universe Amino since March 2017. Amino is an app you can download to share and enjoy content on a specific (or sometimes broader) subject, and people had told me a while back that I should get on the one for Steven Universe. (For obvious reasons.) I quickly found friends, other SU nerds who liked my work or wanted to talk theories, and I had a blast sharing everything I was passionate about. 

I was best known for my epic merchandise posts and my embarrassing love of my favorite character Garnet, I guess, though I was always posting my amateur-but-heartfelt art, my unpolished ukulele covers, my character analysis and theories, my SU food recipes and photos, and even the occasional quiz. 

Posts that seem unusually valuable for some reason get featured on the front page. It's got a big audience (nearly 200,000 members), so people freak out a little when they get a featured post.
My posts got featured all the dang time. 

Like, once a week, almost. I had THIRTY front-page features from March to October.
And lots of younger people looked up to me there, knowing I was older but still into cartoons, saying wonderful inspiring things like they wish I was their mom or they want to be me when they grow up.

Sunday I woke up from a nap with my account banned with no explanation.

Looking up info on bans, I saw that usually you’d get a strike or a warning, or get your posts hidden, before something like a ban would happen, and I’d never done a ding dang thing to even get a warning. But the guidelines did say in rare cases you could get instabanned for illegal activities, sexual/graphic content, or violence.

As a banned member I didn’t even have access to chat functions, so I couldn’t do what the guidelines kept saying to do (“message a staff member!”). I enlisted the help of a really kind friend I’d connected with on Tumblr after meeting there, but we knew there was little hope of helping that way because they also explicitly say there are to be no third party queries.

I eventually figured out how to log out of the Amino and make a new account (shut up, I’m old) and I used the new account to contact one of the Leaders. The Leader was kind enough to reply quickly, but the response itself was pretty horrifying. 

I’d been banned for sending sexual content to another member.

Without warning, the Leader sent me a screencap of what “I” sent someone, and it was a close-up photo of genitalia and a comment inviting the user to sexually engage with said genitalia. Suddenly seeing that on my screen made me feel pretty ill. But the Leader had sent it to me under the impression that it had originated with me, even though I’d already claimed I did not know why I was banned. Yeah so basically the Leader sent me porn.

So, a conversation ensued, and though the Leader was polite enough, I did feel that I was being talked to with full suspicion that I was a liar and had committed this offense. After all, according to the Leader, the reported incident was a live link of the offensive content leading directly to my profile. Which makes me think perhaps someone else accessed my account.

I asked what kind of options I had but the person I spoke with shut all my options down very quickly. No, my reputation, history of celebrated content, and lack of motivation to do such a thing is not relevant. No, my obvious confusion was not good evidence that I hadn’t done this. No, my being asexual doesn’t preclude the sending of graphic content. No, there are no other steps to take to investigate and absolutely zero wiggle room in a case like this. You can’t prove you didn’t do it; therefore, we have to treat you like you did. 

I was told the account would stay banned and there was nothing I could do about it, but that I would just have to use the new account from now on. When I expressed concern that whoever framed me could just track me down and do it again if they hate me, I was told it would be “simple” to just hide my identity. Easier said than done, since my art style’s recognizable, everyone’s seen my merch posts, and some things like cosplay and ukulele covers have me physically in them. But I wasn’t given another choice.

I figured I would still investigate some options, like talking to the broader Amino support to see if they can help me prove those messages did not originate from me, but in the meantime I still love talking to people and sharing content, so I posted a couple things–one little essay on Sunday, and two pieces of art on Monday morning. 

One of the art pieces was immediately featured. 

(See? My content is considered worthwhile and valuable to the community.)
I had been in the process of trying to find my friends and tell them what happened, so I was in a bunch of chats, and then my chats exploded with people confused about the feature since it was clearly the art of a known popular member being posted by some n00b. The comments on the featured post filled up with people asking what happened to me or accusing my new account of art theft. 

When I tried to reply to some of them so they wouldn’t worry it was stolen, I suddenly couldn’t post anymore because THE NEW ACCOUNT HAD ALSO BEEN BANNED. 

So they banned me, featured me, and then banned me again. (???) Seriously, I feel like I have whiplash. 

I don’t know what the second ban was for. It could have been that I wasn’t supposed to be talking about having another account or what happened to it, even though it was true and I wasn’t in the wrong, but it also could have been someone reporting me for art theft or the person who has it out for me framing me again. 

I don’t know why that person hates me or what they have against me to do this.

I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know if I’ll ever get my account back (with its 2000+ followers, 30 featured posts, chat full of conversations I can no longer access, wiki entries with organized book reviews, merchandise inventory, and all the lovely relationships and posts I cultivated). I’m so exhausted from spending my mental energy on trying to save this thing I loved so much that got yanked away from me when I literally did nothing wrong. 

I joined another group called Senior Universe where old people can be SU nerds. The folks there are welcoming but it is small too. I posted a piece of art there as my first post and now it’s featured. Well, some things don’t change. ;) 

I hope to get around to messaging my friends from the original account because I don’t want to lose them or leave them wondering what happened to one of their favorite members. I wish someone could help me.

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