Artillery Row


The browser extension “Shinigami Eyes” colour codes names on the wrong side of history

This week I had the audacity to suggest on Twitter that antisemitism remains a problem within some on the Left, and it led me down an extraordinary and terrifying rabbit-hole. Welcome to the online world of Shinigami Eyes.

Shinigami Eyes uses algorithms to decide your fate

I received a notification from one Twitter user alerting another to the fact that “Shinigami Eyes shows [me] as a transphobe”’ with a link to the webpage Confused, I clicked on the link and made a startling discovery. Shinigami Eyes is a browser add-on that highlights supposed “transphobic” and “trans-friendly” people, businesses and organisations. Unbeknownst to members of the public, users who enable this function are invited to colour code others in either red or green — red meaning “danger” and green meaning “safe”. The extension supports Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Medium, Youtube, Wikipedia articles and search engine results. According to Google Chrome, it has over 40,000 current users, and the extension is also supported via Firefox and Android.

Essentially, this is a database of people who are being recorded for their views without their knowledge or consent. Shinigami Eyes uses a combination of user contributions and algorithms to decide your fate. Anyone who installs it can type your name into a search engine and form an opinion of you based on the colour you’ve been assigned. You have involuntarily joined a database which includes information about you for others to inspect.

According to the website, having “Shinigami Eyes” in manga/anime means “having the ability to see people’s names and remaining lifespan just by looking at them”. Similarly, this extension “allows you to see a person’s trans acceptance orientation just by looking at them”. The creator Lorelai Bailey (formerly known as Wesley) gives the reason for developing the extension as “distrust towards people” and bemoans the difficulties of “dealing with communities that tend to be moderately progressive […] such as the feminist community, the lesbian community and women’s associations”.

Lorelai has previously contributed to the software “Terf Tracker”. Past tweets include: “Perhaps if trans women smacked you in the face with a baseball bat every time you said ignorant hateful shit you would learn” and “punch out a TERF”. Lorelai has also been accused by five individuals of raping and sexually abusing them, including underage minors. Whilst he is now shunned by many members of his own community, Shinigami Eyes continues to thrive.

Some of the app’s followers are people in positions of power

Prior to installing Shinigami Eyes for myself, I decided to head over to its Twitter page. They’re currently followed by 1,664 people. Not a high volume you may argue, but I became concerned nevertheless. Followers include a freelance journalist who has published in a national newspaper, a prominent trans activist, an admissions officer at the University of Bradford, a freelance research and strategist, senator for students at the Labour Party and a woman who the BBC included in their list of “inspirational and influential women for 2016”. Of course, following the page does not necessarily mean these people are active users of Shinigami Eyes, but if they are, that is incredibly worrying. Some of these people are in positions of power with the ability to grant or deny access.

If an admissions officer within HE can decipher an individual’s political or moral persuasion and considers this disagreement to be “a danger”, could that prevent him from allowing a student a place on a university programme? A commissioning editor for a magazine has interacted positively with the page; this is someone who has access to journalists’ private details such as their addresses. If someone in a position of authority uses this feature, they could decide to reject your work purely based on your beliefs and their distaste for them. This is not just odd; it is also a safety risk for people. At a time when many women are threatened for being a “TERF”, the thought of these people having access to our personal information is frightening.

I installed the add-on reluctantly because I had to see the scale of this problem for myself. Sure enough, when I typed my name into the internet I showed red. I stand out like a sore thumb: dangerous because I believe in women’s spaces and our protections, an act akin to violence for some. Twitter was the same. I started furiously typing in people’s names to see their judgment cast by the gender-identity overlords.

It may come as a surprise to some people to find out they’re on the colour-coded “wrong side of history”. Jess Phillips, I’m afraid you are also red. I typed into Google “why is Jess Phillips red? Shinigami Eyes”, and found users having a discussion about the fact that when she reads out a list of murdered women in parliament, she fails to mention trans-women. It looks as if her fate has been sealed whether or not she decides to stand with us appointed TERFS.

The overwhelming majority of people monitored for their opinions are women

The overwhelming majority of people being monitored for their opinions are women. Here is a short list of just some of them: Martina Navratilova, Camilla Tominay, Mary Harrington, Julie Bindel, Janet Street Porter, Sonia Sodha, Jennifer Saunders, Hadley Freeman, Dominique Samuels, Janice Turner and Sarah Ditum.

The list goes on and on. Of course some men make the list, too. Paul Embery and Pope Francis sit side by side on the trans naughty step. Most people are yet to have their colour decided but I’m sure their time will come.

But is this legal? In Norway the nonprofit civil liberties organisation Electronic Frontier Norway (EFN) doesn’t seem to think so. After analysing this computer extension, they found that the classification of people and organisations into friendly or phobic is uploaded to a server in the US. They believe it violates Article 9 of the GDPR which prohibits the registration of people’s political views and philosophical convictions. EFN is concerned that the app is a threat to people’s safety by putting a mark against their name. It could be used to identify targets for online harassment, cyberstalking and physical attacks.

For anyone who still thinks this isn’t a conversation for them, think again. The word “dystopian” gets thrown around often, but this takes it to a whole new level.

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