Up until recently, the liberal Twitterati have been faced with a dilemma. By tweeting links of Daily Mail and Sun articles to their followers in order to engage in a collective two minute hate against the idiocy of the tabloid press (and their millions of gullible, easily manipulated readers), they end up sending traffic to the despised article and boosting the tabloid's web traffic and potentially aiding its advertising revenue.
It's even argued that the Mail is intentionally using what's termed 'flame bait' to lure liberals to its site, helping it get 10 million hits more than the Guardian's website each month. This has led to some claiming they'd rather remain in the dark about the content of Daily Mail articles being discussed, because reading them online could make a small contribution to the Mail's swelling coffers.
Now a solution has been found. IstyOsty allows you to link to a cached version of a Daily Mail article (alongside other tabloids) that doesn't display advertising and won't register as a hit on the website or appear on search engines. IstyOsty claims this process is 'entirely legal'.
The website has also been an immediate hit among the Twitterati, who are beginning to childe one another if they link to the actual Daily Mail website. Times columnist Caitlin Moran, for example, was ticked off by TV presenter Lauren Laverne for giving them [the Daily Mail] the 'click through' to an article, prompting Moran to respond: 'Must. Remember. @istyosty.'
When a Twitch Hunt began against Melanie Phillips on Monday for a Mail article she'd penned attacking the BBC, IstyOsty links were widely used with Twitter users imploring others to deprive the 'Daily Fail' of ad revenue. As one Tweet said: 'Dear Twitter, If Melanie Phillips must be linked to, please could it be through the @istyosty safe link? http://is.gd/fQplZD Thanks. :)' Another suggested, 'someone needs to design a WW2-style poster reminding people to use istyosty & not direct-link to the Mail.'
The embracing of IstyOsty on Twitter reveals much about the mindset of the liberals that use it. As one Twitterer put it, 'may I commend istyosty to you? A proxy that enables us to point furiously at evil papers without them getting page hits.'
At first glance, you might think that the IstyOsty strategy is for the 'evil' Daily Mail website and the like to be starved of advertising revenue and being forced to wither away. It would also be understandable to think that in the eyes IstyOsty enthusiasts, the world would be a better place if the Mail and other 'nasty' papers ceased to exist and everyone was forced to read the Guardian by default. (Tellingly a request on its website that IstyOsty also covers the Guardian has so far gone unanswered).
But, here's the rub: In such a world, who would liberals have to 'point furiously' at? Their lives would become dull and empty if there weren't columnists like Melanie Phillips to Twitch Hunt. Even IstyOsty recognises that the Mail plays an important service in allowing liberal Guardian-reading types to feel smug by 'point[ing] out how ignorant they are'.
Of course, their finger-pointing doesn't just stop at the 'ignorance' of writers such as 'Mad Mel', Jan Moir and colleagues. It's also, by extension, aimed at the Mail's 4.7 million readers. The brainwashed, ill-educated, Beta minus drones who inhabit Middle England and read papers such as the Mail not to feel superior, but to actually get news. When, for example, IstyOsty says those who advertise in the Mail are 'companies who should know better', it is implicitly saying that companies shouldn't be spending their cash trying to raise awareness of their products among the poor thickies that read it.
IstyOsty, realistically, is unlikely to make much of dent to the massive number of hits the Daily Mail gets each month. Even if the whole of Islington, Hackney, Haringey and the small handful of other liberal bastions (i.e. the places that voted 'Yes' in the AV referendum), decided to switch to IstyOsty en masse. It's more a way the chattering classes can ensure that the continued success of these 'evil' publications is not done in their name. As well as being a convenient way to differentiate themselves from the dunderheaded tabloid-reading masses.
Using an IstyOsty link is like a 21st century Twitter version of a Masonic handshake. It makes it clear you're one of the Enlightened Ones and not one of them. On the flip side, however, it is an remarkably accurate identifier of members of the contemptuous, intolerant, masses-hating, clique of illiberal liberals who are - worryingly - becoming increasingly influential in shaping British political life today.
Follow Patrick Hayes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/P_Hayes