UniteBlue is a now just Twitter account—but not much else.

Upsetting absolutely no one who ever knew how scammy, spammy, and often nasty a group it was, the follow-back scheme known as "#UniteBlue" was shut down by Twitter in June of 2015. Twitter revoked its API (programmatic) access for numerous policy violations, and its founder, Zach Green, decided he wanted to go back to college, while his father (and partner), Adam Green moved on to new adventures in programming.

But because many of UniteBlue's logos are still displayed over thousands of people's avatars (most of whom don't know how to remove them);  because the Uniteblue hashtag is still frequently used; and because someone continue to tweet from the old @Uniteblue Twitter account, many progressives on Twitter believe the organization still exists, and that it and its logos still have some tangible significance. But they don't.

Unfortunately, consistent with the way that some people in the project had treated many progressives from the start, neither the founders, nor whatever staff-ish remnants of the effort remained behind ever bothered to publicly explain that the endeavor was essentially defunct, nor did they help anyone to remove all those "twibbon" emblems that it had so rudely plastered all over the Twitter avatars of thousands of former UniteBlue members.

Below  is one such twibbon, plucked at random from my Twitter stream (the particular user shown has absolutely no relevance to this discussion). Without a website, project or narrative to be tied to, the logo just lingers around Twitter as a ghost of its former self, which was never anything all that useful to begin with.

It's no secret that I always disliked the whole UniteBlue concept, for reasons I've discussed in my timeline ad nauseam. I'd like to recap a few of them here, mostly because I am tired of telling the story to those who ask privately. I'm equally tired of seeing that clunky #UniteBlue logo plastered all all over the nice faces of my friends and followers. It meant little once, and it means less than nothing now. Or at least, it means nothing very good. It's just time for it to go.

That doesn't mean that all friends, chat rooms, or other projects and collaborations associated with it need to go. Just the logo-adorned Twibbon that so many users still have on their avatars. It just instills suspicion in some (like me), while almost always misleading new users into thinking it represents some meaningful service that they should know more about.

The Brief Back Story On #Uniteblue

While many (self-serving actors) have revised its history over time, to many of us who were paying attention, UniteBlue was always a thinly-veiled Twitter follow-back scheme with pretensions of grandeur. It got its start when a sly character named Simon had somehow finessed (duped?) a well known Twitter progressive, @EileenLeft out of control of her famous @ConnectTheLeft account, changing its name to @UniteBlue, then promoted the rebranded identity to her many loyal followers (which were now @UniteBlue's followers). Eileen remains furious to  this very day about this abuse of her name, her idea, her followers, and her many efforts on behalf of Twitter progressives.

The all new @Uniteblue's initial pitch to Eileen's followers, and anyone else noticing, was a very deceptive core premise; that it would protect them from right wing "spam block hit squads, itself a fraudulent premise concocted by a paranoid right wing operative named @toddjkincannon.

Todd first developed the idea to protect right wing trolls on Twitter from liberals who were allegedly out to get their accounts suspended. He called this sham the #TGDN, which stood for the Twitter Gulag Defense Network. Seriously. Legendary media and Twitter troll, @MichelleMalkin, picked his dumb idea and quickly made it a BFD on her new "Twitchy.com" site, a service designed to monetize the spreading of conservative propaganda, and the daily irritation of liberals.

Enter Zack Green (@140Elect) and his father, Adam Green, who had been developing a website that "Simon's" efforts were ultimately meant to benefit.  They  seized on Kincannon's "fear factor" strategy as a way to market their still vague and poorly formed UniteBlue idea to progressives on Twitter. But it always seemed to be little more than a stealthy way to harvest Liberal account names that may have been sold, or used by Republican organizations for political counter-intelligence purposes, while simultaneously providing an impressive-looking Twitter platform that the senior Green could boast about to prospective clients of his programming and social media marketing consultancy. The progressive blogger Kevin Knauss writes:

While the protection racket got it initial notice (especially when they glommed onto my #StopRush.net colleagues who really WERE being attacked), Green and his father—fresh off their other social media projects working for Republicans—tried to reform it as a nonprofit; one that wasn't very well documented… or funded.  A wide array of suspicions, accusations, and assorted dramas then plagued the operation until things really went south; it was discovered that one of its board members, Bill Talley (aka@political_bill), was a (soon-to-be) convicted child-sex offender.

Despite all this insanity, people still bought into the idea that UniteBlue's daily DM spamming for liberal causes, and its very dubious fund raising campaigns (that never raised any money), were somehow making a valuable contribution to a progressivism on Twitter. They weren't. They were at best, like a tacky fraternity with questionable rituals, and at worst, a scam with a stealthy commercial motive that never really panned out.

Most serious liberals I knew either ignored it, or were openly hostile to it.  Despite the occasional innocent who didn't know better (who was often a friend or family member of a Uniteblue booster), most serious politicians and operatives avoided it like the proverbial bad penny.  None of this was known to the mostly clueless rank and file #Uniteblue member, who only cared that, almost by magic, were automatically (via the Twitter API) getting up to 2000 followers for every little effort, but who had to also follow that many back to get them. Often, many of these followers were spam or bot, accounts, but many others were right wing operatives who could infiltrate the organization simply by tweeting a coded phrase like "Join @UniteBlue."  These trolls would spam the #uniteblue tag so much that it quickly became all but worthless as a useful hashtag, utterly overwhelmed by noise, insults, corny memes, and rampant misinformation.

But for the average unsuspecting progressive on Twitter, none of these negatives were plainly in evidence, and the free followers were an ego boost for themselves and their new associates. And as with many clubs (and cults), even very bad ones, friendships and alliances were made that became more important than whatever the founder's intentions were at the outset.

While users may not have been phased, the skeptical (like me), were often viciously attacked on nearly a daily basis for openly expressing our doubts, and for sharing things we'd learned about the seemingly dubious #Uniteblue enterprise. Twitter and the web are still littered with carnage from the many battles that ensued with certain hard core #UniteBlue "supporters," many of whom exhibited behaviors that often seemed pathological, and which bordered on criminal harassment. A Twitter search using "#UniteBlue"—and any "epithet or insult" you can think of—between 2013 and 2015 will probably illustrate this point.

By Mid-2013, UniteBlue did indeed unite a few thousand people by introducing them to each other. It also popularized a #uniteblue hashtag that was used a lot because both UniteBlue members and bots were tweeting it 24/7.  But for the larger progressive Twitterverse. it was like a fragmentation grenade dropped into its epicenter. Thousands of other friendships—many years in the making—were obliterated in a matter of months, and much of the acrimony and divisiveness that it caused still lingers to this very day. Naturally, to both its hard core users (and bullies), and its mostly innocent members who weren't part of the drama, it was just a fun club of feisty liberals trying to make some change. Many of them still maintain this posture. They probably always will.

But it wasn't particularly useful, and it sure wasn't fun for its many victims.  And even taken at face value, "identifying" as #UniteBlue was always a bad idea anyway.  Whenever political tribes "fly their colors," it just invites infiltrators and ratfuckers to easily spot the tribe members, game them, and generally cast doubts upon anything they try to do. And that #UniteBlue logo on their "twibbon" just made it easy to identify outspoken Liberals who could then be duped into arguing with right wing operatives, just so their propaganda "discussions" would be retweeted to thousands of their followers.  (A search for #uniteblue and browsing the results will prove that point quickly.)  It was common to see trolls from BreitbartNews and other right wing organs either spamming the #uniteblue tag, or arguing intensely with anyone using it.  The noise level was often deafening at times. And then there were the #StandwithRand Paul Libertarians, and later, the aggressive Bernie Sanders supporters (the  "Berniebros") who used the residual popularity of the tag to this very day.

So all in all, it was no loss to progressivism when this terrible idea, which was implemented poorly, had gone south.  Now if only more people would know that it did, the remnants of it might finally vanish from Twitter forever.  To this day, I still will not RT most people using the Uniteblue twibbon as their avatar, nor will many progressives I know. We just don't trust it or anyone using it. So if you're one of those, and were wondering why some of us rarely retweet you, now you know. It wasn't personal.

So if you don't have any special attachment to that moribund twibbon, it, I'd suggest you lose it. As early as right now.

Note: it should be said that whoever is now using the @Uniteblue Twitter account is not doing any visible harm that I can see, and neither do they seem to be perpetuating the organization anymore. But they don't do anything to suggest that the operation is mostly defunct, either. I have no grudge or complaint against whoever runs the account. They just seems to be a legacy of the old project that enjoys a high follower count, and which is, at least ostensibly, progressive by nature.

Just Say No!

It is entirely possible that "Simon," Zack, and Adam always had the best of intentions. I personally have my own reasons to doubt that, but I'm willing to admit the possibility exists, or at least, as with many things, the truth is somewhere in the middle of two extremes. Regardless of intent, they had some success in organizing thousands of users, and props for that, but it was all with very little ultimate impact. 

My point in writing all this was not to stir up old battles but to make it clear that the legacy of Uniteblue isn't something much worth preserving, given that without its website, directory, and follow-back ladder technology, its very existence just confuses people as to its reason for being at all. It's now basically a #hashtag. Just not a particularly good one, as it really doesn't say anything to anyone about anything. Few people actually search for it—or ever follow it. It's just 10 characters taking up precious tweet space, more by force of habit than anything else. I am often asked "what is it for and why do I need it?"  I always reply, "nothing, and you don't. No one does." If you really feel your Tweets need a generic tag, use the more established #p2, #topprog, #dem, #femm, #lgbt, #liberal, or some other shorter signifier that says "this is of interest to some or all progressives."

Despite any value it may have brought to a few, Uniteblue didn't really unite anything. Nor was it every likely to. There are no good shortcuts or magical solutions to liberal organizing. Good projects aren't made solely with a hashtag and a twibbon.  They need thoughtful missions, dedicated people, and transparent policies and procedures.

And uniting "blue" was never a great idea anyway. Twitter is an international service. And "blue" represents conservatism, not liberalism, in many countries outside the United States. And as for uniting Democrats? Just take a look at how divisive the #Uniteblue tag is today, overrun by supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton throwing a never ending stream of insults and epithets at one another—much to the delight of conservatives everywhere.

If you're still using that Uniteblue avatar, I hope I've given you enough background and reasons for dropping it. If so, my work is done here. I really don't care if anyone follows the @uniteblue account, or uses the #uniteblue tag. And I certainly don't mean to impugn friendships, or imply that anyone who chats using #Uniteblue (or related tags) should stop.  Finally, I realize the #tag has taken on a new—and much more literal—meaning following a very contentious Democratic primary battle. (I still find it trite, but it's a trite that works a bit better now.)

I mostly wanted to explain the history, and encourage people from using that now pointless twibbon. It prevents me (and others) from trusting the user of it. They are almost universally unaware of the baggage it carries, and that the entire UniteBlue service has been dead for a year. It gains them absolutely nothing, but potentially costs them a lot in terms of credibility and/or trust.

Thanks for the interest, and your time.

References

There have been many articles and posts written about UniteBlue. I've lost my old file of them, but I will gradually re-find them and post them here. If you know some, please post them as comments to this post and I will place them in the list below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I said yesterday I was (mostly) staying out of this #Uniteblue crap from now on, but since this is an extension of something that I caused to happen, I need to comment. So I have.

Once again, the ever shape shifting UniteBlue project has taken my advice, and formed a Nonprofit. As usual, they have announced this with great fanfare, and also as usual, provided not a single really relevant detail. Since this "progressive" enterprise's website never publishes any comment but those which gush about it (but allow no criticisms whatever), I am forced to post my comment to them below:

Dear Greens,

Anyone can file a nonprofit corporation. What matters is the business relationship between @UniteBlue and your @140dev.@140elect companies.  

Obviously, you stated at the start you wanted to make money, so the Nonprofit will now serve as your marketing "front end" driving traffic and clients to your businesses. You can get away with that, but not without honestly and openly describing the relationships from the start so that "members" know what they are getting into.

Until you do, this is all fluff meant to make you look like a serious not-for-profit enterprise. Again, you've already stated elsewhere in your evolving history that you're not; you're in this to make money. 

Be honest with people, or they will eat you alive.

I know you are not likely to post this (as you haven't posted any others), so I will blog it on my own site, as I did with my last reply.

A lot of noise is filling the Twittersphere about the "UniteBlue" idea.  I've posed some questions, as have others, and @eileenLeft has alleged some skulduggery about @SayethSimon.  

As usual, #p2 trolls, whacks and  just people not particularly fair minded have jumped on any new criticism of anything they have decided to like as if someone just shot their pony through the nutsack.  Such people don't serve progressive interests well, in my view, but others find them interesting and entertaining, so in the name of diversity, I ignore most of their incessant blithering and bleating.  I am sure this post will be like chum in the water for the hatriots and acrimony trolls. But then, almost anything I say, write or tweet usually is. So there's that.

Anyway, as he should have, UniteBlue's founder Zach Green responded to some of this dust-up with some much needed clarification about UniteBlue. This was all good. Unfortunately, he also went on to mischaracterize some valid criticism, questions, and observations about connections to his past clients as  "smears." They were not. At least none that I saw were. If discussing your lack of apparent lack transparency, or some of your past commercial clients is "smearing" you, you're just in the wrong line of work.  I sincerely hope he will update his post and soften some of that criticism of his critics. That tone may play well to his membership faithful, but it won't to too many others, nor to future commercial or nonprofit clients. They can be very senstive about appearances.

 

What follows is my reply to Zach Green's  post. I don't know if he'll post it, but from what I've seen of his character thus far, I think that he will.

Update:  He never published this, nor did he publish the comments of most other critics. So net net, his post was a puff piece meant to bullshit everyone and make excuses for an unethical launch using other people's work. I was disappointed. I expected more. 

Note: there are a few grammatical edits and typo edits made here that were not in the original comment.


Zach, thank you for finally making a public statement about this. And FAQ was long overdue, in my view. I don’t assume you are speaking directly to me in your post, but as you touch on many things I did in our tweet exchange, let me respond as if you had.

As I tweeted to you the other day, respectful responses to criticism and questions only make you and your projects stronger. I am adamant about fairness, and if things said about you and/or UniteBlue (UB) are untrue, I’ll be the first to help set the record straight. I have before, and I will again.

As it stands now, this statement from you serves as a public record, and you have made numerous assertions that can and will be checked out by people much smarter than me.  I assume they will check-out as you have represented them. In the meantime, permit me a few responses and comments to your words. 

To begin with, regardless of how this all pans out, your rather cavalier response to questions  like “Are you making money?" read as if such questions are of trivial  consequence, a tone which just does not serve you well. If you were building a better word processor for progressives, no one would much care.  But the buzz you are generating (and nurturing) about UB is much more aspirational in tone.  

Both you and your more engaged members speak almost reverentially of  UB as a nascent "movement" with clear political goals, objectives, and implications for Progressives. Goals and objectives which you admitted to me are not all that clearly articulated, nor yet presented anywhere coherently. A marketing-oriented “About” document on your site is not the best way to describe a serious idea aimed at social change. In fact, this FAQ, written as a defensive instrument, is the clearest discussion of the questions and issues that your project presents which I, or anyone else I have spoken with has yet seen. 

When any commercial business aspires to be an instrument of social change, it gets into territory that it often didn’t initially prepare for. Only the naive or delusional would suggest that motives, money, credibility,  and veracity are unimportant to a fledgling political project of the sort that UB purports to become.  Not being prepared, nor having good answers for obvious questions can and has been a fatal mistake for many efforts of this sort.  Change.org and other success stories were armed and ready for such questions from their very first press release and yet even they still run afoul of many people who feel deceived by the shifting ground on which their business model was based. UB does not have their backstory, players, or resources. It has to be even more careful. 

Had it been me, I would have formed a non-profit, built a solid board of advisors, and fully disclosed that it had a favored-nations agreement with 140dev.com to use its technology. That’s just how it’s done in the major leagues, these days. Your project would then be at least partially accountable to people outside your immediate business interests.

So yes, UB should have been more careful about its launch posture, in my opinion, but what’s done is done—at least thus far. Even so, I think more discussion of what I see as unforced errors may be instructive here.  

You repeat again in your FAQ that your boilerplate “privacy” document has some particular illuminative value that shines some light on your veracity and credibility with respect to your downstream ambitions. It does not. You admit it was acquired from the web, yet when I showed you what was in it, you didn’t even know it permitted precisely the use of email addresses which  you implied that it did not. I asked you directly, not if you would ‘rent’ your email lists to anyone, but rather, whether you would send product or service mailings that were of interest to your clients (a very big distinction). 

As I noted in my tweets to you, your privacy  document clearly said you reserve the right to do just that. You have yet to clarify explicitly what you will and won’t do with your access to your members, either via the twitter API, or the emails and other information you are acquiring.  You need to do that, and be much less evasive about such questions in the future or they can come back to haunt you.

As for your overall operational model, I wish you had reached out to more of the Twitter community 8 months ago. As a long standing member of the #p2 community,  I have watched many ideas for community sites, filters and directories come and go. I have seen almost your exact model in several forms proposed, and expressed the same qualms about them that Karoli has in her blog post which I will cite here:

http://www.drumsnwhistles.com/2013/02/26/this-uniteblue-scuffle-is-twitters-fault-and-they-could-fix-it-if-they-felt-like-it/

Who is UniteBlue,  many have a right to ask, to rule on who is and isn’t a “top progressive?” By itself, the idea is offensive to many, but as Karoli implicitly suggests, you also take on the role of arbiter of who is not one, and even who is not a progressive at all.  It would probably take me about one day to embed a dozen or more conservative trolls into your “validated progressives list, and you would have absolutely no way to prevent it.  You’ve already found many already, but they were just fails in your software, and not the work of professional false flag operatives,or other kinds of black-op thugs, goons, spies and trolls.

Since you provide absolutely no insight into your magical process for verification, I can only assume you would be fully prepared to explain why it failed so miserably once I—or someone else—proved that it did. 

And what about your liability? What if one of your validated progressives turns out to be one of the many paid political operatives on the right that I, and my many Progressive friends have been battling with for years?  They would skillfully plant disinformation or outright lies into your streams and it would be a daily struggle to discover, stop, or counteract  them.  As it stands now, they still have to work pretty hard to run such propaganda operations.  Your “validated lists” would make it so simple, they’d take turns doing it daily. I haven’t checked, but I’d bet they already are. 

The @uniteblueLOL account shows they are already well aware of you, and I will bet real money that a lot of them are already busy creating clever ways to game you and your membership. It’s what they do, and it’s why such focused identity groups (and avatar campaigns) like UB have been rejected time and time again by many others.  It’s also why you will have a very hard time getting notable Progressives and celebrities to join you. They aren’t going to risk their cred by taking a flyer on yours, or your super-duper, deluxe progressive identification algorithms.

Now, as to your statements about @ConnectTheLeft and  @SayethSimon, they  are just not supported by any evidence, and are directly contradicted by her version of events; by several witnesses to CTL conference calls; by CTL team members, and by the massive public record called Topsy.com seaches.  

Clearly, someone is lying, and I don’t think it is EileenLeft—or you.  Eileen's well known passion, efforts, and trademarks for CTL would certainly seem to put the burden of evidence on Simon to show that it is she who is lying.  There are virtually no meaningful facts to be found in his “statement of truth”.  There are unsubstantiated claims; claims that seem to project everything Eileen’s team knew to be true about Simon, onto her.  The record indicates otherwise, as far as I’ve been able to tell.

Other people are at work debunking his missive (which I assume will soon be posted here), so I won’t steal their thunder, but when all the smoke dissipates, Simon says  little beyond providing a connnecttheleft.com receipt, which no one contests was his, a @connecttheleft Twitter account  receipt  and some assertions that team members will defend him (but he doesn’t name them). Perhaps he and Eileen should hash this out in a Google hangout to clear the air for good.We can all watch.

Simon’s posturing is not helped by the fact that I asked him several times in private if he did what Eileen had alleged. He took hours to not respond.   A simple "no" would have sufficed. Instead,  we got him claiming credit for something that thousands watched @eileenleft doing every day. His name has rarely if ever publicly came up in connection with CTL, beyond someone enthusiastically supporting it, as many did.

Eileen’s  story is that his only involvement was to rapidly squat on the connecttheleft.com URL, a fact he confirms in his letter, some fervent tweets, and a few drunken conference call rants about his legendary music industry accomplishments. I found this amusing, as to me, he claimed to have been an aspiring web designer. Music never came up. Ever. I don't know him well enough to know what is true and what isn't. But perhaps you do. 

Regardless, whatever Simon said to you about CTL’s origins is in no way an indictment of you or UB. What he allegedly did, if true, as I believe it is based on evidence I have seen is simply disgusting. But you may have felt everything he represented was true, and bear no blame for believing what he claimed was true. Does admitting that  muss UB’s hair a bit? Sure. But so what?  A worthy  project can overcome that. Just say you didn’t know, apologize for lending any credence to his smear, thank her for her contributions, and everyone moves on. 

Finally, having seen many posts and postures, I don’t think either I, nor anyone else has been engaged in “smearing” you or your efforts. They have asked questions, discussed issues, questioned assumptions, and reacted to your tweets and various revelations about a very popular progressive alleging harm to her. That’s just the price anyone pays for conducting their business in the social sphere. It can all be resolved civily and in good faith through public exchanges like these.

As I have said, I don’t agree that UB, as currently constructed, is a very good idea. But progressives often disagree with each other and I am certainly not going to expend any time or bullets attacking you or UB over a difference of opinion. It may well morph into something I could enthusiastically embrace. I’d welcome that. 

Regards,
Matt(a.k.a. Shoq)

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