A Few Words On Reddit, Gawker, and Anonymity

Law, Politics & Current Events

Perhaps you've heard of neither Gawker nor Reddit. That would make you (a) isolated from internet culture and (b) quite arguably lucky.

But if you've heard of either of them, then you've probably heard about the internet-drama swirling around them in the last week. Here's the bullet: Reddit is a content-sharing site that's a microcosm of the internet. It has everything from funny cat pictures to the President of the United States answering political questions to bitter arguments about video game characters. Like the internet it mirrors, it also has a lot of crazy and creepy people and sub-forums devoted to their tastes. In the past, Reddit has been criticized for hosting child pornography and various "creeper" forums devoted to pictures of unwitting women and children taken in public.

Recently the Gawker family of blogs has started to report on and criticize Reddit's creeper subculture and Reddit's inconsistently tolerant attitude towards it. This criticism culminated in a Gawker post revealing the real-world name of a Reddit figure known as Violentacrez, a self-described troll associated with what Gawker calls "an unending fountain of racism, porn, gore, misogyny, incest, and exotic abominations," and with subforums like "Jailbait," which was about what you'd expect.

Gawker's actions — and the actions of some Reddit subcultures that oppose the creepers — has created substantial internet drama, including — and I'm not making this up — a broad movement by many Reddit moderators to ban links to Gawker.

I have a few criticisms of the ensuing drama.

Private Is Not the Same As Public: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution limits the actions of the government. It does not limit the actions of private individuals. If you're an ass on the internet, and a journalist (or "journalist") or angry nutball researches the traces you've left on the internet and reveals your true identity, your First Amendment rights have not been violated.

Though law is always slow to catch up to technology, there are gradually emerging legal norms limiting the ability of the government and the courts to use official compulsion to reveal your identity. That's a good thing, even if the doctrine is developing too slowly, particularly when it's law enforcement demanding the information. But there's no coherent legal theory preventing private individuals from outing you based on what you've revealed online.

Speech Is Not Censorship: Put another way, as we often say here, speech is not tyranny. Freedom of speech does not (and cannot, under any coherent legal or philosophical approach) involve freedom from criticism. Free speech does not mean "I have a right to say whatever I want without social consequences." That point is worth emphasizing because there seems to be a significant Reddit subculture that stubbornly denies it, and views criticism as despicable and a violation of free speech norms. These people are silly.

There's a Reddit subforum called Shit Reddit Says — "SRS" for short — devoted to linking to and criticizing Redditors acting like bigots and sex offenders on other subforums. Recently SRS has been associated with efforts to call out and apply social pressure against Reddit subcultures devoted to things like child porn and creepers. That effort, and SRS's mission of calling out ashattery, makes some Redditors angry to the point of unbalanced self-parody — they feel that Reddit is a place to act however you want without social consequences. (That doesn't surprise me; as I've argued before, some people become completely unbalanced when criticized about how they act, especially if the criticism has anything to do with race, gender, etc.)

The anti-SRS "Reddit should be a place where you're not called out for being a choad" sentiment leads to ridiculous behavior. Take this self-serious change.org petition against SRS, later mercilessly lampooned here. Or take this thread in which a Reddit moderator gets some Redditor support for his proposal that he be allowed to take over SRS to prevent harm to the Reddit community — a moderator whose qualifications include operating forums like /r/ImGoingToHellForThis, /r/spacedicks, /r/Gore, /r/beatingwomen, /r/StruggleFucking, /r/picsofdeadkids, and /r/rapingwomen. "The subs he moderates have nothing to do with the issue at hand, or his experience as being a moderator," says a commenter defending the moderator. "None of those subs break Reddiquette and it's a moot point bringing this up."

Creepers and pedophiles and bigots make up only a tiny minority of Redditors; people angry that they are being criticized make up only a slightly larger minority. Comments from Reddit administrators in the wake of the child pornography outcry has made clear that Reddit wants to be a free speech site that permits everything that the law does not prohibit. That's fine. I'd defend Reddit's freedom to publish what the law allows. But Redditors need not be taken seriously to the extent they believe they have a protected right to be free of criticism and ridicule and inquiry. You can argue all you want that forums like — oh, say, the /r/BeatingWomen subreddit — should be free to thrive without criticism. Moderators can indulge your feelings by banning critics. Moderators can decide to ban links to Gawker on the theory that if you take pictures of children in public and post them for the sexual pleasure of misfit neckbeards, you have a right to privacy that should prevent anyone from identifying you. But Reddit administrators and moderators and Redditors can't stop everyone else from calling out their conduct and their oddly inconsistent philosophy. Private individuals decrying, ridiculing, and even using their skills to identify Redditors are using a classic "more speech" remedy to speech they don't like. It's a feature, not a bug, of free speech.

Look, it's just swell that you read the Cliff's Notes on Nietzche and now you think you're some sort of ubermensch who has transcended the social norms of mere insects concerning your rape fantasies and crotch-shots of twelve-year-olds. I'm sure everyone in your subforum is very impressed. But we're not required to take you seriously or refrain from criticism. We're allowed to call you out, or even to point and laugh.

In this particular context, some Redditors assert that speech will be chilled if outing becomes common. "What if you could get outed just because someone disagrees with you?" they ask. This, too, is a speech problem with a more-speech remedy. People who out anonymous posters for petty or frivolous reasons will be treated as frivolous and petty by the community — and should be. When National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan outed blogger Publius in a fit of partisan petulance, he was widely condemned and eventually apologized. If enough people disagree with Violentacrez' private employer firing him, that private employer could face boycotts or bad publicity. (I am not a Texas lawyer and offer no opinion on whether his firing could have violated some Texas law.)

Ashattery Is Not A Zero-Sum Game: Put another way, in a fight between Frick and Frack, we can recognize that Frick is an asshole without diminishing our ability to recognize that Frack is an asshole. Is Gawker hypocritical when it expresses outrage about creepers? Yes. Gawker is, in fact, full of people who are relentlessly creepifying about women and kids and sex. Our ability to recognize that is not diminished by recognizing, and calling out, that Reddit has bustling pedophile, creeper, and bigot communities worthy of contempt. We can think both things at once.

Let me put it this way: I would not let the moderators and fans of the Reddit creeper forums around my daughters; I'd worry they would sexually assault the girls. I don't worry about Gawker writers and editors molesting my girls. However, if my girls were molested, I'd expect Gawker writers and editors to try to find ways to monetize it, use it to drive traffic, come up with banal, weakly ironic hipster-douchebag quips about it, pay witnesses to offer lurid details about it, and try to find clumsy and demi-literate ways to connect it to politicians they don't like.

The Internet Is Not Private: You're a fool if you think it is. The internet makes it easier, not harder, to figure out who you are, because the internet preserves your activities and allows your critics to crowdsource efforts to identify you.

As a result, the internet is the great leveler that restores anonymous modernity to something like a traditional small town. If you act like a dick in a small town, everyone knows it pretty quickly, and treats you accordingly. For decades or centuries, as we urbanized and anonymized and traveled, it became easier to be a dick without social consequence. The internet restores the status quo: your actions may have social consequences equivalent to what they would have been if you had acted out in the public square of a small town. I've written about this phenomenon before in the context of Vancouver rioters and Hermon Raju and Alex Kochno and Paul Christoforo.

Is this a bad thing? That's a question I've been struggling with for years. To the extent that I think that it's bad, it may just be because I disagree with the consequences that the marketplace of ideas produces in a particular case. If "Violentacrez" had said and did everything he did in public under his own name, I'd have no problem with the marketplace of ideas producing social consequences. So why, exactly, should Violentacrez expect to have a protected right to be free of those consequences? Put another way — why should someone who devotes himself to upsetting people, and who promotes creeper forums, not be treated like someone who devotes himself to upsetting people and promotes creeper forums?

Edited 10/17 to add: Gawker reports on a Reddit memo about their position on some of these issues.

Edited again: I have a follow-up post.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

143 Comments

136 Comments

  1. Timid Athiest  •  Oct 16, 2012 @8:39 am

    It's funny how attaching your name to something changes how people view it. If the man isn't ashamed of what he's done then he shouldn't be upset by being outed. Oh sure the excuse is always that there are some who just don't understand free speech and how he has to hide his real identity or he'll get harassed and abused. Unlike victims of his obvious desire to promote rape and violence against anyone that isn't a cis white dude, the consequences of his outing are minor.

  2. Nicholas Weaver  •  Oct 16, 2012 @8:45 am

    Well put. A few comments.

    Penny Arcade did a good expression of how some people react to the anonymity + audience that something like Reddit provides.

    Also, the Reddit hypocracy is amusingly astonishing. By their logic, its OK to post creepy photographs of women taken without their consent (and a photo is most definitely personally identifying), but identifying those who take and post these photos is a huge breach of the rules.

    Finally, I wonder what Conde Nast/Advance Publications, Inc. really thinks about this. Especially their lawyers. When you own the operation, you do end up having to accept at least some responsibility when you explicitly allow slime like Violentacrez to operate with impunity. They would probably (rightly) win if some of the women who had their pictures posted in Violentacrez's little playground on Reddit sued Conde Nast.

    But it wouldn't necessarily be an easy case, since there is now a large paper trail on how Reddit the company has supported Violentacrez the sleazebag and his subforums within Reddit. It is certainly one that wouldn't be dismissable before the headaches of discovery.

  3. TJIC  •  Oct 16, 2012 @8:47 am

    Good post.

    The thing that worries me about the Internet and its reputation forming abilities is that it combines the small town aspect ("everyone knows the dirt on everyone else") with a complete lack of forgiveness or forgetting.

    In a small town, I might steal an apple pie from a window at age 12, or even do something really horrible like kick a dog when I'm 16, and when I'm 36 everyone in town, yes, technically knows these facts, but they're overwhelmed by the facts that I've been helping run a boy scout troop for 10 years, or contributing to the food kitchen, or at the very least giving some of the surplus from my garden to Poor Widow Jones down the block.

    Memories are fragile, contextual, and fade.

    Translate this to the internet, and 10 years of work at the food pantry never make it to the front page of Google. For the rest of their lives Charles Carreon is going to be "that guy who sued The Oatmeal", Karen Owen is going to be "that slut who slept with all the Duke athletes", etc.

    I stand by all of my internet "fame" and own it, but I'm quite glad that the stupid thing I wrote in a high school yearbook, the embarrassing pass I made at a grad student, the self-aggrandizing ranting that could have been captured and uploaded to Youtube (had their been a youtube in 1993), the college skinny-dipping, etc. aren't preserved for the next 30,000 years of human civilization as the top google hits for my name.

    One nice thing about a small town, above and beyond the fact that memories fade and opinions are tempered with time, is that you can LEAVE the small town and start over.

    On the internet no one knows you're a dog…unless you upload a JPG. Then everyone knows you're a dog forever and ever and ever.

  4. TJIC  •  Oct 16, 2012 @8:51 am

    @Timid Athiest:

    > If the man isn't ashamed of what he's done then he shouldn't be upset by being outed.

    I think that one can be non-ashamed of what one has done and yet not enjoy losing one's job and one's healthcare.

    Your argument can be used equally well by someone vengefully outting gay folks who are not yet ready to be open about their orientation. "Well, if you didn't want the world to know you're gay, you shouldn't have gone to the gay bar when I was lurking across the street with my night-vision digital camera".

    I think that a simple blanket that says that we have to present only one coherent face to the entire universe, equally acceptable both to our friends, our bosses, and our grandmothers" is overly restrictive.

  5. Pierce Nichols  •  Oct 16, 2012 @8:52 am

    Chen's first article identified Reddit as a feudal organization, and he was absolutely spot on. The paid Reddit staff is microscopic for a site of such size and diversity, and they distribute power as compensation to various people (collectively, the moderators) who help them run the place. It's the same system medieval princes deployed, and it addresses the same issues… and it has the same problems.

    Specifically, feudalism tend to be very hospitable to a certain type of antisocial personality that sucks up to anyone they perceive as above them and abuses anyone below. VA is such a person, and many medieval knights were as well. And beneficiaries of feudal systems react *VERY* badly to the suggestion that perhaps their fellow worthies ought to be reined in for the good of the peons.

  6. Shawn  •  Oct 16, 2012 @8:53 am

    I am a moderator on Reddit. Luckily the subs I moderate have very clearly defined uses and are pretty clear cut on whats allowed and what is not.

    That being said, I have seen some real censorious douchebags on that site. At least weekly I have a message from some user, asking for me to ban another because they called them names and got butthurt.

    Conversely we have also had our fair share of 'trolls' that come just to mess with people, and get their rocks off by causing outrage and strife. Due to the fact that our community actually collects and disperses real life money, this can be a bad thing, but they really have been so few and far between that it's not even a real issue, after the troll is banned.

    The main problem I see with Reddit is that it is such a vast and diverse community, the likes of which the internet has not seen yet, and there are a few bad apples that are casting a negative light on the rest.

    The problem also lies with the 'press' as they like to lump all of Reddit into one group… There would be great public outcry if they did this for any other social media site (Eg: like Facebook).

    Just some thoughts from someone who spends waaaay too much time on Reddit!

  7. Matthew  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:07 am

    *asshattery

  8. Richard  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:08 am

    If the man isn't ashamed of what he's done then he shouldn't be upset by being outed.

    I'm reminded of what the governnments say when they bring in the ludicrously intrusive survellance bills: "If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about."

    There is a reason that the right to privacy is one of the fundamental constitutional rights. You do not waive that right by simply posting on the Internet. You should have the right to express your opinions anonymously on the internet, without the fear that your boss, who has differing views, will find out about the post and fire you.

    On the other hand, this douchebag was getting his rocks off violating other people's right to privacy, in many of the most intimate ways possible. I have no sympathy for him when his own privacy is invaded.

  9. Nicholas Weaver  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:11 am

    Shawn: Part of the problem is that Violentacrez is not simply a reddit user, but there is a good paper trail that he was specifically supported by the site owners. So the tarring of Reddit users with the brush is not fair. But the tarring of Reddit the site is.

  10. Jess  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:12 am

    @TJIC – exactly. I also worry about the permanence of content on the internet and how it gets propagated to other sites and even if you had a legal reason to require someone to remove content, once it’s spread, good luck trying to put that genie back in the bottle.

    The way I look at it is if I’m in public and someone takes my picture there’s nothing I can really do or say about them posting it someplace. If it’s my friends I tell them to please not post it on Facebook or other public sites with my name, etc. More to the point I make it a point to avoid ending up in any pictures.

    Now if someone takes my picture while I’m in public and posts it publicly but then also posts alongside it identifying information such as my name, address, phone, etc. then I’d be not only be concerned, I'd want it removed for security reasons. I’m not sure how or even if this situation could be addressed legally.

    Then there is the third situation – which you always hope never happens – someone takes a picture of you (perhaps in a state of undress, etc.) while you are in a private location with expectations of privacy (ex. bathroom, dressing room, your own house, etc.) and posts it. While there are legal remedies for this situation, I see virtually no way to successfully track and close down every instance where that image may have been downloaded, copied, etc.

    As far as my own posting on the internet, I generally don't post anything I'd be embarassed about if my identity became public. On the other hand I've also taken precautions – my older cousin has set up a proxy so my IP address comes across the same as the proxy he set up for himself and someone attempting to locate me would have a very difficult time. Maybe not impossible just very difficult.

  11. frymaster  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:20 am

    It's an obscure point, but the main issue redditors have with SRS is that, wide-eyed politician-esque denials of the SRS moderators to the contrary, the effective aim of the place is to target people's posts or comments for downvoting by the SRS subscribers. This _IS_ against the reddit rules. As is revealing personal information about people – which the post was on Gawker, the information in it is believed to have been supplied by SRS. This is the crux of many people's complaints about this subreddit.

    I say this as a reader of some of reddit's tech subreddits, and of some of their "cute animal" ones, who wishes many of the "shock" subreddits, especially ones actively or passively encouraging the illegal generation of content, would go away.

  12. Shawn  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:23 am

    @Nicholas: I am at work and didn't have the time to click on all the links in Ken's post, but which site claims to have a 'paper trail' where the owners of Reddit supported him? If it's only because he is a 'Moderator' of a 'subreddit' that really means nothing, as all you have to do to Moderate one, is create it yourself, by filling out a form, or have another Mod add you to the list. It really requires no official support from Reddit Admin.

  13. Pierce Nichols  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:25 am

    I think the alleged permanence of reputation on the Internet is hugely overstated. For example, when I ego surf on Google, the oldest item is about eight years old, and that's been true for a number of years, with older items dropping away after a decade or so. Link rot and the death of old sites are the major causes, I think. People who have done epically awful or stupid things may have to live with that reputation for a long time, possibly forever… but not necessarily.

    To take your small town example, if someone with an awful reputation on the net really mends their ways and manages to get lots of other people to write about how they're a decent person and so on, it will push older items out of search engines.

  14. rmv  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:31 am

    @Richard

    The Constitution is supposed to protect us from government-snooping, not private snooping.

    Big difference.

  15. David  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:36 am

    Shawn, Violentacrez has (had?) a personal relationship with the site admins far beyond what a typical subreddit moderator would. Maybe not quite to the level of "friends," but they chat regularly through IRC/Twitter (he and others have posted IRC logs, and Twitter contact is of course public), and the admins consulted him on policy stuff during the whole child-porn incident earlier this year, including a pre-announcement warning that they were banning "jailbait" postings on the site.

  16. Richard  •  Oct 16, 2012 @10:01 am

    @rmv

    Yes, sorry; I worded that very poorly. I understand that the Constitution only applies to what the government can and cannot do. However, the presence in the Constitution indicates that people have an expectation of privacy.

    I'm not saying that it is illegal for private people to "out" someone for something innocuous that they post. What I was trying to say (and clearly failing) is that if someone posts anonymously, they should be able to do so, in most cases, with the expectation that their identity will remain hidden.

    More to the point, if someone posts something anonymously, and their identity is revealed by someone who thinks that "there is no expectation to anonymity on the Internet," it could do them irreparable harm, whether or not they have done anything wrong. Based on their sexual orientation, their religious views, or their political beliefs, they could lose their job, their well-being, or even their life.

    My main point is that "If the man isn't ashamed of what he's done then he shouldn't be upset by being outed" is not the right attitude to take, and that governments have used this view to justify intrusive laws in the past (and probably are doing so in the present).

  17. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @10:04 am

    @frymaster:

    It's an obscure point, but the main issue redditors have with SRS is that, wide-eyed politician-esque denials of the SRS moderators to the contrary, the effective aim of the place is to target people's posts or comments for downvoting by the SRS subscribers. This _IS_ against the reddit rules.

    I understand — hence that quote about "Reddiquette."

    Reddit is perfectly free to have a ruleset that says "it's fine to post [for instance] overtly racist posts; however, it's not fine to organize to downvote those posts." And everyone else is perfectly free to comment on that dichotomy.

    As is revealing personal information about people – which the post was on Gawker, the information in it is believed to have been supplied by SRS. This is the crux of many people's complaints about this subreddit.

    Okay. The accusation is that they provided personal information — gleaned from his public postings. Right? Again, Reddit is free to condemn that, and the public is free to draw conclusions from the condemnation.

  18. Kalika Gold  •  Oct 16, 2012 @10:13 am

    All true. Agree 100%. However Chen picked on one moderator of Creepshots for no reason – VA never posted a single pic to Creepshots. Gawker should now out all other mods of creepshots and mods and creators of all other similar forums. If they want to stop people posting pics, out the posters. It's unfair to target one person who didn't even create Creepshots. Chen offered no rationale for choosing VA over all the other creeps, mods, creators and posters of such subreddits. It's a bit odd to be outed simply for moderating, and odd to be outed for Jailbait which is no longer newsworthy as it closed down years ago. It's like modding creepshots wasn't a big enough story on its own (its not) so Chen had to drag up the past to justify ruining VA's life. I like your legal slant, it's the first I've seen on this issue. And all VA's enablers really piss me off with their victim-blaming. I wish they'd shut up. Yeah, IMO what Chen did was worse than what VA did as VA never posted anyone's identity or ruined someone's life, he just posted non-ID'd, clothed, public domain photos that aren't porn or illegal. But that doesn't mean we can forget what VA did. He's a bad person and so is Chen; they're both jerks so deal with it.

  19. EH  •  Oct 16, 2012 @10:21 am

    Nicholas Weaver: is a picture of an ass in yoga pants "personally identifying?"

  20. rmv  •  Oct 16, 2012 @10:23 am

    @Richard

    I must disagree. Posting on Reddit is an action performed by someone. They do not need to post on Reddit. As Ken had said numerous times, they are actively participating in the marketplace of ideas, and that invites critique.

    If a failure to maintain anonymity is due to breach of contract on the part of the webhost provider/website owner, that's one thing, but a public posting is a public posting.

  21. VacuousMinx  •  Oct 16, 2012 @10:28 am

    he just posted non-ID'd, clothed, public domain photos that aren't porn or illegal.

    How do you know that all those photos were in the public domain? VA said somewhere that he pulled some of the photos from 4chan, other posters pulled photos from Facebook. Unless they were accompanied by explicit statements that they were public domain, they required permission to repost.

    Moreover, Reddit is part of Conde Nast and as such a commercial site. Posting those girls' and women's photos may require a model release under those conditions.

  22. TJIC  •  Oct 16, 2012 @10:29 am

    @Shawn:

    > I have seen some real censorious douchebags on that site. At least weekly I have a message from some user, asking for me to ban another because they called them names and got butthurt.

    Huh. I had no idea Cry Dctrw or Trs Nlsn Hydn posted there!

  23. Josh C  •  Oct 16, 2012 @10:33 am

    The tenth ammendment says you have a right to anonymity. Done!

    But less tritely, if you believe people inherently have certain natural and inalienable rights, why would you believe that the failure of a document which explicitly describes only interactions with and within the federal government to describe rights in interpersonal dealings in any way abbrogates those rights?

  24. David  •  Oct 16, 2012 @10:35 am

    “Jailbait which is no longer newsworthy as it closed down years ago.”

    Years ago, February, whatever.

  25. Nicholas Weaver  •  Oct 16, 2012 @10:37 am

    EH: If you don't strip out any geotags, quite possibly.

    Shawn: The original Gawker outing of VA included a lot of documentation on VA's unique position and effective tacit support of the site administrators, and that VA was in many ways "the devil you know" from the site operators' viewpoint.

    Violentacrez was a troll, but he was a well-connected troll. He told me he was close with a number of early Reddit employees—many of whom have now moved on—chatting with them on IRC or sometimes even on the phone. A few years ago, while Jailbait was still going strong, Reddit's administrators gave him a special one-of-a-kind "pimp hat" badge to honor his contributions to the site, which he proudly displayed on his profile. Brutsch said he was even in the final running for a job as a customer support representative at Reddit last year.

    During the Jailbait controversy, Erik Martin, the site's General Manager, reached out to Violentacrez beforehand to warn him that they were going to have to shut down his prized possession, according to a chat conversation Violentacrez leaked at the time.

    "Want to give you a heads up," Martin wrote. "We're making a policy change regarding jailbait type content. Don't really have a choice."

    (Martin did not respond to requests for comment.)

    Violentacrez's privileged position came from the fact that for years he had helped administrators deal with the massive seedy side of Reddit, acting almost as an unpaid staff member. Reddit administrators essentially handed off the oversight of the site's NSFW side to Violentacrez, according to former Reddit lead programer Chris Slowe (a.k.a. Keysersosa), who worked at Reddit from 2005 to the end of 2010. When Violentacrez first joined the site and started filling it with filth, administrators were wary and they often clashed. But eventually administrators and Violentacrez came to an uneasy truce, according to Slowe. For all his unpleasantness, they realized that Violentacrez was an excellent community moderator and could be counted on to keep the administrators abreast of any illegal content he came across.

    "Once we came to terms he was actually pretty helpful. He would come to us with things that we hadn't noticed," said Slowe. "At the time there was only four of us working so that was a great resource for us to have."

    Administrators realized it was easier to outsource the policing of questionable content to Violentacrez than to dirty their hands themselves, or ostracize him and risk even worse things happening without their knowledge. The devil you know. So even as Jailbait flourished and became an ever-more-integral part of Reddit's traffic and culture—in 2008 it won the most votes in a "subreddit of the year" poll—administrators looked the other way. "We just stayed out of there and let him do his thing and we knew at least he was getting rid of a lot of stuff that wasn't particularly legal," Slowe said. "I know I didn't want it to be my job."

    This is why the owners of Reddit need to worry and call their lawyers: VA wasn't just a run of the mill troll, he was effectively a supported and endorsed troll. Reddit's owners needs to worry if those featured in VA's subreddits find out who they are.

    And I'm pretty sure some lovely troll-media douchebags (*cough* Gawker *cough*, *cough* Anderson Cooper *cough*) or troll-laywers look for metadata and interview various women who got featured on JailBait or Creepshots or elsewhere in Reddit without their consent.

  26. Adrian's chin  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:03 am

    By all means, people who do this, who aren't media elites, should be tracked down and punished. Incidentally:

    gawker.com/upskirt/

  27. Shawn  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:08 am

    @Nicholas: Thanks for that! I was unaware of that level of relationship there. I have only been on reddit just over a year, and never went anywhere near 'jailbait' or pretty much any NSFW Content.

  28. Richard  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:15 am

    @rmv
    Again, I am not saying that "outing" someone is illegal.

    I'm just saying it's wrong to, say, expose thishandleisreallyanonymouslol, who is openly gay online, to be 18 year old Generic Irani Name from Iran, where his homosexuality could get him into serious trouble or killed. This guy was betting his life on the idea that his identity would not get out, and if it does, he's screwed. Even if he has "nothing to be ashamed of."

    If you participate online, regardless of the community, and state that you wish to remain anonymous, your wish should not be disregarded without good reason (e.g. facilitating the posting of voyeuristic pictures).

  29. Luke  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:18 am

    @Richard

    if someone posts something anonymously, and their identity is revealed by someone who thinks that "there is no expectation to anonymity on the Internet," it could do them irreparable harm, whether or not they have done anything wrong.

    If someone outs someone else on the internet, they are also putting their own actions at risk of public scorn. The Gawker/Violentacrez is a great example of this: Gawker outed someone doing things that the average person would find reprehensible and is still getting a lot of push back for it. If he were outed over who he was voting for, or posting pictures of kittens, that outcry would be even worse.

    Just as Reddit/Violentacrez are not above criticism, neither is Gawker. It's a solution of more speech, not less.

  30. Richard  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:26 am

    @Luke:
    I'm not arguing that they should not be free to do so. I'm not arguing for the restriction of free speech.

    Once again, I'm saying that "If the man isn't ashamed of what he's done then he shouldn't be upset by being outed" is a bad attitude.

    And the fact that the person/group who outed them is facing public scorn is probably small comfort, when you're talking to someone who has been outed and faces consequences that are a lot more serious, despite having done nothing wrong.

  31. rmv  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:33 am

    @Richard

    I apologize, I think I'm misunderstanding your position. Are you making a distinction between online interactions and real-life interactions? That there is something inherently different between the two?

    If so, I disagree that there is a difference other than the medium/particulars/magnitude.

  32. Dan Weber  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:40 am

    Comments from Reddit administrators in the wake of the child pornography outcry has made clear that Reddit wants to be a free speech site that permits everything that the law does not prohibit

    No, there are two legal things that the Reddit admins don't want anywhere on their site.

    * One is sexualized pictures of kids. Not child porn, which is illegal already of course. They created this rule to shut down /r/jailbait, and VA was butthurt all over reddit because of it.

    * The other is doxxing — that is, posting someone's personal information.

    The reasons for this rule vary, but they are not only because people want to be trolls or creepers without being called out. Other reasons are because moderators (claim to) have received personal threats for their moderation behavior. And they didn't always have the no-doxxing rule; it was created after some very bad incidents (google Saydrah) and vigilante mobs going out to ruin someone's life over something they thought they did (which they often didn't, but that shouldn't matter).

    And if they have the rule, they have to actually have the rule, and that means you can't just link to sites that dox. The reason some redditors (I can't speak for all) want to block Gawker is not because they want to stand up for the creepers, but because the rule against doxxing needs to stand, and Gawker broke that rule.

    I use my real name on Reddit, but I don't moderate anything useful, and I wouldn't want to. I'd have to set up an alt to mod anything. Too many threats.

    The original Gawker outing of VA included a lot of documentation on VA's unique position and

    For what it's worth, VA has denied many of the facts that Chen claims in his article. I'd be very interesting in a primary-sources version of the afore-mentioned paper trail.

  33. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:51 am

    No, there are two legal things that the Reddit admins don't want anywhere on their site.

    * One is sexualized pictures of kids. Not child porn, which is illegal already of course. They created this rule to shut down /r/jailbait, and VA was butthurt all over reddit because of it.

    * The other is doxxing — that is, posting someone's personal information.

    The second seems to be more vigorously enforced than the first.

    Also, with respect to "doxxing" — just so we're clear, we're talking about gathering information that users have willingly published themselves, compiling it, and publishing it. The Gawker post makes it rather clear that the guy was pretty loose with his identity.

    And if they have the rule, they have to actually have the rule, and that means you can't just link to sites that dox.

    I'm not sure how that follows. It seems more impotently retaliatory than anything else to me.

  34. Richard  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:55 am

    @rmv
    No, I don't see an inherent difference.
    Let's bring up a parallel scenario, with the anonymity and audience the Internet would grant.

    Let's say someone wearing a ski mask leans over a public balcony railing, pulls out a megaphone which disguises his voice and cries out "I am gay, and I hate how all you people treat people like me, and that I cannot be myself publicly," then disappears. It's obvious this person does not want to be identified, and why not.

    Do I support the right of people to try and find out who this person is? Sure.

    Do I think that disrespecting his wishes for no good reason other than "he has no right to be anonymous" is morally acceptable? No.

    Okay, you keep nitpicking my examples, so I'll say it again:
    I am arguing against the statement "If [a] man isn't ashamed of what he's done then he shouldn't be upset by being outed."

    Someone can face negative consequences from their identity being revealed (disproportionate to the backlash from "outing" said person), despite that person having done nothing wrong/nothing they are ashamed of.

    My view is that unless there is a good reason to "out" them, someone who wishes to remain anonymous should be allowed to, for that reason.

  35. Hola BackGrinder  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:56 am

    I have been blogging on this from another angle here: bit.ly/Qo92Sf

    I think people like violentacrez should be stopped, but I am very, very leery of vigilante groups starting up on the internet, I give some reasons in my blog post but this is a tough issue to take on from any angle.

  36. rmv  •  Oct 16, 2012 @12:04 pm

    @Richard

    magnitude = relative magnitudes

    p.s. If you're just saying that it really sucks to be outed, I would agree. However, other than voicing your distaste at people being outed, the only other message I see in your initial comment is that the attitude of "If the man isn't ashamed of what he's done then he shouldn't be upset by being outed" can be co-opted by the government and become the "if you got nothing to hide…" nonsense many LEOs and War-on-Terror people seem to like so much.

    However, both seem like non-sequiturs to the discussion about people online getting butthurt about people disliking their views and calling them bad names. If a person (tries to anonymously) scrawls a pro-hitler/anti-gay/pro-brony screed on a bathroom wall, should his wishes to remain anonymous be kept? To me, Meh.

  37. Dan Weber  •  Oct 16, 2012 @12:10 pm

    The second seems to be more vigorously enforced than the first.

    I don't know how you mean that. Do you mean that the existence of the creepshots forums violated that rule? I'm to understand it didn't, despite Chen's deliberate mixing of creepshots with jailbat.

    Now, if you want to say that Reddit should have a rule against posting candid pictures of people against their consent, I'll agree and say that will probably work. I've seen people claim that it would make every news story offtopic but I think the rule could be made to work.

    The Gawker post makes it rather clear that the guy was pretty loose with his identity.

    I don't know how you come to that conclusion. He told a few people at the start of his "life" but apparently clamped down on it.

    I'm sure the fact that some blog accidentally posted that your name was Ken White while you were still in anonymous mode didn't immediately end any claim you had to anonymous blogging here.

    There really hasn't ever been much dispute over what doxxing is. "If someone doesn't want their personal info posted, you don't post it."

    Yes, the "no doxxing rule" protects the creepers, but it also defends the people who have legitimate reasons to keep their identities private on reddit. It doesn't suddenly become "not doxxing" because we don't like the things the person said.

    I'm not sure how that follows.

    Say there is a rule against posting [child porn/racism/warez/doxxing/chinese literature reviews/politics/stolen credit card numbers]. You don't get around that by saying "this isn't [child porn/racism/warez/doxxing/chinese literature reviews/politics/stolen credit card numbers], this is just a hyperlink. What? WHAT? YOU CAN'T POLICE THE INTERNET!"

    This is an amazingly old and obvious rule. I was on a BBS 20 years ago that did the same thing because it's the only logical way to have a rule.

    It seems more impotently retaliatory than anything else to me.

    It may well be. (Just as long as you are not getting your version of events from Chen, who portrayed all his enemies as defending child porn.) People defend the rules for all sorts of reasons, and I'm sure some are seeing it just as an us-versus-them war, as well as some angry because they loved VA, whom I think I only had neutral-to-negative reactions with.

  38. Nicholas Weaver  •  Oct 16, 2012 @12:10 pm

    Dan: Its twofold:

    a: VA himself posted chat logs showing he got warning about the closing of Jailbait ahead of time.

    b: Chen interviewed Chris Slowe for the article.

  39. rmv  •  Oct 16, 2012 @12:13 pm

    @Richard

    Was typing my last comment while you put yours up.

    Gotcha. You're just making a moral argument. It sucks to get internet-outed, so let's not do it to others.

    I would argue, at this point, it really becomes a matter of prevailing/evolving social norms and whether/when it's appropriate to reject/enforce them.

  40. Velkyr  •  Oct 16, 2012 @12:15 pm

    Thanks for this article.

    I'd like to point out that some of us mods dislike SRS not for "going after creeps and pedophiles", but for other reasons (Downvote brigades, one-sided on issues, not willing to embrace or even consider alternative opinions).

    If you are a redditor, and want a full "free speech" sub, try /r/Jokes. We are a self.post only sub dedicated to… well, jokes. Any jokes you want to post, no matter how distasteful, are allowed. Only thing we disallow is links (Unless it's after the content, and as a reference to where you obtained the joke from).

    During the aurura shootings, people were making jokes about it. They weren't removed.

    But "free speech" on reddit is an oxymoron. They claim to have it, but mods will censor you if they don't share your opinion, or users will downvote you into oblivion if you aren't on board with the hive mind.

    That's the one thing SRS does right. They managed to form a community on a site known for having a powerful hivemind, and keeping it safe from the rest of the site, despite most users knowing about it.

  41. Velkyr  •  Oct 16, 2012 @12:22 pm

    @Hola: My only interactions with VA were in moderator subreddits, which he spent a lot of time in helping new mods. I was aware of his NSFW subs, but not which ones.

    VA, while creepy, was a decent person. Should he have lost his job? I'm not sure, as I haven't seen his content outside the moderator subs. Should he have had his name, city, and online profiles posted publicly? Yes and no. People, especially young women, in his area need to know that he's taken pictures of them in the past. But they should also post it on sites that allow such postings.

    For instance, Reddit and Tumblr both have rules against posting personal information. You shouldn't post them on those sites.

    There's also a safety issue. One mod, POTATO_IN_MY_ANUS has said he knows one poster that had his information leaked that was also attacked by a group of people.

    Of course, he has refused to provide any information to corroborate those claims, so take it with a grain of salt. But that could become a reality depending how far this goes.

    At that point, who's responsible? Just the group that attacked him? Or the personal that posted his personal information calling him a sexual predator? I'm sure PopeHat could chime in on that question.

  42. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Oct 16, 2012 @12:27 pm

    "If the man isn't ashamed of what he's done then he shouldn't be upset by being outed."

    The person who said this has never had a valued friend or a beloved relative with whom they disagree on some topic.

  43. Dan Weber  •  Oct 16, 2012 @12:36 pm

    Nicholas, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to gather from those two points. The admins told the mod of one of the most popular subreddits that the subreddit is likely to be closed. What conclusion does that lead you to?

    Also, when nquestioned about primary documents because of a dispute about a version of events, "he also interviewed KeyserSosa" falls rather short.

    You've mentioned Reddit and their lawyers twice now. If there are criminal or civil issues here for reddit, please identify them. Being a douchebag, as all of us here know, isn't illegal.

    (When I say jailbait was popular, I'm not making a value judgment, just an accurate one. If you searched google for "reddit" it shows popular subreddits underneath. "Jailbat" used to be #1. Maybe it was a 4chan google poisoning prank to discredit reddit; if so, it worked. It remained the #1 link even for a few months after jailbait was axed.)

    People, especially young women, in his area need to know that he's taken pictures of them in the past

    He never participated in the forum. The admins of the creep subreddit asked him in to help moderate it.

    One mod, POTATO_IN_MY_ANUS has said he knows one poster that had his information leaked that was also attacked by a group of people.

    I fully expect PIMA is lying about this. (Also, PIMA is a she.) It was the perfect kind of lie for her side to show just how bad doxxing is. I think it's bad, too, but I try to be skeptical of unfounded claims that suddenly make my argument perfect.

  44. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @12:51 pm

    I don't know how you mean that. Do you mean that the existence of the creepshots forums violated that rule? I'm to understand it didn't, despite Chen's deliberate mixing of creepshots with jailbat.

    How are the Reddit admins or mods evaluating the age of the girls on the creeper subreddits, which pop up like mushrooms?

    I'm sure the fact that some blog accidentally posted that your name was Ken White while you were still in anonymous mode didn't immediately end any claim you had to anonymous blogging here.

    I didn't have any "claim" to anonymous blogging. I never asserted a protected right to do so against anyone who wanted to out me.

    There really hasn't ever been much dispute over what doxxing is. "If someone doesn't want their personal info posted, you don't post it."

    If you'd like to define doxxing that way, that's fine. I think some critics of Gawker are playing fast and loose — using "doxxing" to imply use of information that the person didn't already make publicly available online.

    Say there is a rule against posting [child porn/racism/warez/doxxing/chinese literature reviews/politics/stolen credit card numbers]. You don't get around that by saying "this isn't [child porn/racism/warez/doxxing/chinese literature reviews/politics/stolen credit card numbers], this is just a hyperlink. What? WHAT? YOU CAN'T POLICE THE INTERNET!"

    This is an amazingly old and obvious rule. I was on a BBS 20 years ago that did the same thing because it's the only logical way to have a rule.

    As I understand it, the Gawker ban applies to all Gawker Media blogs — including, for instance, Lifehacker and i09 and so on — whether or not the particular blog posted "doxxing."

    But, at least to date, it apparently does not apply to sites that link to Gawker posts, or that report on the outing of VA and use his name.

    I guess I don't see the logic behind it.

  45. Richard  •  Oct 16, 2012 @1:00 pm

    @rmv
    First of all, I don't get the "magnitude = relative magnitudes" remark. Your point was that there is only a difference in magnitude between someone IRL and the Internet. I agreed, and said that I don't support someone being publically outed if they wish to speak anonymously, regardless of the medium they use to speak.

    Second, I'm not just saying that it sucks to be outed.
    I am saying that people, in most cases, should have a moral (note: not legal) responsibility not to out other people because of how much it can suck, and because of the unintended consequences.

    There have been innocent people who have been harassed because their information was posted by mistake (sometimes just because they have a similar name to someone hateful).

    Now, if you're dealing with actual harm occurring (e.g. Predditors), and by outing them you think you can stop the harm, then the actual harm you're preventing outweighs the potential harm you might inflict.

    But if a person is just speaking anonymously, voicing what is perhaps a distasteful view, but is doing no actual harm, then I don't think that they should be outed, for three reasons.
    1) You don't know everything this person has said online, and how something might come back to bite them in the ass. There may be a good reason this person wants to remain anonymous.
    2) As has been said, more speech is better. If anyone who says something distasteful is "outed," the distasteful speech will either be chilled or driven elsewhere where it can fester into something worse, instead of out in the open where it can be ridiculed and argued against. Besides, every idea is distasteful to someone: you might dissuade "good" speech with the "bad."
    3) It's difficult to definitively verify that the information you are releasing is actually that of the person you're trying to out, and not a smoke screen. If you release the wrong information, you might hurt the wrong people, who not only "didn't do anything wrong," they didn't do anything at all.

    Is vandalizing a bathroom stall a good thing to do? Probably not, but it's practically harmless, and (from the bathrooms I've seen) inevitable. But if you expose the vandal, you could be doing him real harm, which, in my opinion, isn't worth it.

  46. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @1:03 pm

    @Dan Webber:

    Also, for what it's worth, I guess I can't reconcile the Reddit attitude towards creeperism (it's public, no expectation of privacy, free speech) with the attitude on outing (the identity is private even if you've published information online revealing it, you have an expectation of privacy even if you've revealed it online, etc.).

  47. Richard  •  Oct 16, 2012 @1:05 pm

    @rmv
    … And I just did the same thing.

  48. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @1:07 pm

    Second, I'm not just saying that it sucks to be outed.
    I am saying that people, in most cases, should have a moral (note: not legal) responsibility not to out other people because of how much it can suck, and because of the unintended consequences.

    I don't dispute that outing — like any expression — has a moral component.

    I'm saying that if Reddit cares about the moral component of outing but not the moral component of other speech, it shouldn't expect to be taken seriously.

  49. rmv  •  Oct 16, 2012 @1:08 pm

    @Richard

    "magnitude = relative magnitudes" was my clarifying that I meant to type "relative magnitudes"

    The bathroom thing was only meant as a (admittedly) terrible illustrative point about real life anonymity and whether anyone who seeks anonymity should be granted anonymity(assuming normal, non-dangerous circumstances). I'm, for the most part, ambivalent about it.

    I didn't mean to come off as glib, patronising, or rude(if it read that way to you) about the "sucks to be outed". Was making a "tl;dr"-type of summation of your position.

    Everything else falls into the "matter of prevailing/evolving social norms and whether/when it's appropriate to reject/enforce them."
    A topic, while interesting, can go down a very, very deep rabbit hole.

  50. Dan Weber  •  Oct 16, 2012 @1:10 pm

    How are the Reddit admins or mods evaluating the age of the girls on the creeper subreddits, which pop up like mushrooms?

    I'm guessing the same way they evaluate them in /r/nsfw or /r/gonewild.

    It seems they are stamping down on all the new ones, though. I think creepyshots and creepershots were follow-ups that both got the ax almost immediatley, but I'm not going to check while at work. There is one new one that is only showing pictures of guys, which I think is meant as some kind of commentary. I'm not sure how many levels of sarcasm are in that, though.

    As I understand it, the Gawker ban applies to all Gawker Media blogs

    Yes. It is punitive, so I guess it was retaliatory, like you were saying originally. Sorry. It might be retaliatory for "a legitimate government reddit-mod interest," which is probably where I should have tried to pivot. (Also, there is one subreddit that is allowing only Gawker posts now.)

  51. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @1:18 pm

    (Also, there is one subreddit that is allowing only Gawker posts now.)

    Well played.

  52. Dan Weber  •  Oct 16, 2012 @1:19 pm

    I guess I can't reconcile the Reddit attitude towards creeperism (it's public, no expectation of privacy, free speech) with the attitude on outing (the identity is private even if you've published information online revealing it, you have an expectation of privacy even if you've revealed it online, etc.).

    Well, you can draw a line between those. The people being "creeped" are anonymous. In general no one knows who owns that butt (although one person got her teacher fired for posting a pic of her there, which I don't think anyone complained about), while doxxing is, by definition, tied to the person.

    If you want to argue that, as a general concept of respecting people, both candid shots and doxxing should be banned, I'd agree.

    Historically, reddit has accumulated its bans by bad indicents. They have tried to make them as narrow as possible to fix the old problem. Jailbait and doxxing would probably have been O.K. in reddit's first year. It's probably time for Reddit to accumulate another ban on candid photos. It will take some work to figure out just what this means but I'm pretty confident the rule could work despite some protestors saying it would end any picture of any person.

  53. mojo  •  Oct 16, 2012 @1:57 pm

    If you put too many rats in a cage, they start gnawing on each other.

  54. Jules  •  Oct 16, 2012 @1:58 pm

    If you publish identifying information and then are a jerk on the internet, you have no expectation of privacy just because you don't post under your full name.

  55. Richard  •  Oct 16, 2012 @2:08 pm

    @Ken:
    Yeah, that quote is in the context of a side-discussion about outing people in general. Not so much about the hypocrisy of Redditors.

    @rmv:
    Got it.
    I think that anonymity, like most rights, should be granted until/unless the person proves they don't deserve it. After all, you don't know why they choose to be anonymous. You can guess, and that guess may be right, it may even be usually right, but you don't know for certain.

    I understand; it just seemed like too much of an oversimplification: Having your wallpaper changed to state you have a virus "sucks." Being outed can be much worse; I wanted to make it clear that because of this, I think the moral norm should be respecting the wish for anonymity. So not glib, patronizing or rude; I would say "trivializing" would be what I felt at the time.

    And as you said, discussing in depth how social norms should evolve/be enforced would be getting excessively off-topic.

  56. Gigs  •  Oct 16, 2012 @2:25 pm

    Calling Reddit a free speech site is a little off point, I think. Just like most forums, reddit is broken down into smaller 'subs' that cater towards particular interests. Within those subs, self appointed moderators (IE, whoever created the sub + whoever that person wants to be a mod, no admin interference) can run that sub however they want. Some subs are akin to anarchy (/r/funny), while others are heavily moderated and anything not specifically helpful to the topic at hand are deleted (/r/askscience). Just because 'everything goes' within Reddit, that isn't enough to make a case that they think 'everything goes' outside Reddit too.

    Just like Ken has a "not in my living room" policy for comments, I think Reddit can have the same mindset. Say I let some local business post campaign ads on my front lawn. I support most of the ads and feel like the neighborhood as a whole benefits from said ads. But then say I find out that they have been also spying in my windows to gather dirt on my family and publish it in the ads on my lawn. Regardless of what dirt they found, I'm going to be pissed that they would take advantage of me like that. Sure, I could have closed the windows, and sure my family shouldn't have been doing anything wrong, but I'm still going to rip those ads up and forbid the business from ever coming near my property again.

    This is essentially what Gawker did. Reddit has a clear "do not post personal information" rule, and from what I have seen that is one of the most stringently enforced rules. Why shouldn't Reddit staff and Reddit as a whole be angered when Gawker posts personal details about a user? Why shouldn't Reddit be able to take the measure of blocking gawker articles? Articles that gawker gets paid on a per-view basis, I might add.

    Tl;dr Gawker is allowed to post personal user info, Reddit is allowed to block Gawker from profiting off their site, and internet users should never post any personal details if they want to be anonymous.

  57. Mike G.  •  Oct 16, 2012 @2:27 pm

    Never having visited Reddit and not being a lawyer, but being an avid photographer, it seems to me that if a person is out in public, then they have no explicit right to privacy as far as being photographed goes. That being said, when I take candid photos of street scenes, I do my best not to make the picture seem like it's focused on any one particular individual. And If I want to take a picture of a particular individual, I ask their permission first. Always a good idea, especially if one accidentally takes a picture of someone who doesn't want their pic to be published in the public domain. DAMHIKT

    You do know that any store you go into now has video cameras and you are being photographed continuously without your permission, right? In fact, when you drive through most intersections in just about any town, you are being photographed as well as your car.

  58. Dan Weber  •  Oct 16, 2012 @2:46 pm

    Mike, the issue isn't that what was going on was illegal. (Well, a few people keep on talking about how these people need to call their lawyers, but I think they are just scare-mongering.)

  59. Grifter  •  Oct 16, 2012 @2:55 pm

    I have always kept only a glancing familiarity with Reddit; I had a suspicion that if I ever started appreciating the narwhal's midnight baconing, I would get lost down a rabbit-hole, and I already waste enough of my free time on the internet; I think I'd seen the logo before, but I don't recollect hearing the SN.

    What's weird to me, though, is that there was a blog by that name (but spelled correctly), written ostensibly by a woman that went defunct awhile ago. The combination of words is strange enough that I am curious is there's a link between the two.

  60. Lowen  •  Oct 16, 2012 @2:59 pm

    The SRS brigade want's to use social pressure to limit or ban speech, which though legal, they find offensive and detrimental to their view of what society should be.

    The Mods banning Gawker links want to use social pressure to limit or ban speech, which though legal, they find offensive and detrimental to their view of what society should be.

    A tempest in a teapot.

  61. Mike G.  •  Oct 16, 2012 @3:10 pm

    Dan, I got the issue I think. I guess I was just voicing my opinion of what is proper etiquette as far as taking pictures of people in the public domain.

    As far as the pictures being taken on the roads and highways, I did fight that one and win, even though it ended up costing me three times what the fine was. http://thatmrgguy.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/i-fought-the-law-and-i-won/

  62. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @3:12 pm

    Why shouldn't Reddit staff and Reddit as a whole be angered when Gawker posts personal details about a user? Why shouldn't Reddit be able to take the measure of blocking gawker articles?

    Sure they can! And the world can look at what makes them angry, and at what doesn't make them angry, and draw conclusions.

  63. Texas "Murderer" Slim  •  Oct 16, 2012 @3:41 pm

    The fact that you used the term "neckbeards" lends context to your post that you'd probably be better without.

  64. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @3:48 pm

    The fact that you used the term "neckbeards" lends context to your post that you'd probably be better without.

    I'd be better freely expressing my opinion of the subculture that participates and glorifies in creeper subforums.

    Also: Redditor "I_RAPE_PEOPLE_II takes a strong and principled stand for decency.

  65. Christopher  •  Oct 16, 2012 @3:54 pm

    I think people can be a bit glib with this distinction between government censorship and private censorship.

    For one thing, there's the fact that the vast majority of mass communication is owned and operated by a very few large corporations. A small cadre of people can have a very disproportionate effect on what the rest of us see, hear and say to an audience of more than our immediate friends and family (The MPAA, for example).

    Second, people can face very severe real-world consequences for their actions. Violentacrez was apparently fired from his job. To say that the solution to not having health insurance is "more speech" is not really serious.

    While these issues are distinct from government censorship, and if you agree they're problems they'd require different solutions, they're still major issues, they're related to our ability to speak our minds, and I feel like a lot of people dismiss them too easily.

    All that being said, Violentacrez does seem to have posted, and moderated subreddits that posted personally identifying information about other people.

    In general no one knows who owns that butt (although one person got her teacher fired for posting a pic of her there, which I don't think anyone complained about)

    I mean, doesn't the parenthetical there contradict the first part of the sentence? Yes, in theory something like creepshots could be so rigorously modded that it was completely scrubbed of all identifying information, but in practice, it seems like it wasn't.

    If you're going to have a blanket, draconian prohibition on outing personal information, I don't see how you can also be perfectly accepting of these gross candid photo subreddits.

  66. Grifter  •  Oct 16, 2012 @3:55 pm

    Well, it's less that you used the term neckbeards, and more the redundant addition of "misfit". (Unless, I suppose, you meant misfits within the neckbeard tribe, which, now that I think of it, makes sense: young apes flinging poop rather than flinging the dignified Unix/Linux kernel compiles of their elders).

  67. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @4:02 pm

    I think people can be a bit glib with this distinction between government censorship and private censorship.

    For one thing, there's the fact that the vast majority of mass communication is owned and operated by a very few large corporations. A small cadre of people can have a very disproportionate effect on what the rest of us see, hear and say to an audience of more than our immediate friends and family (The MPAA, for example).

    Second, people can face very severe real-world consequences for their actions. Violentacrez was apparently fired from his job. To say that the solution to not having health insurance is "more speech" is not really serious.

    But the distinction between public and private action is not merely philosophical; it's foundational to our entire First Amendment jurisprudence. Without it our entire theory of free speech collapses.

    Put another way: if you abandon the distinction, how do you plan to weigh the free speech rights of Violentacrez to be a poorly-disguised choad against the free speech rights of his critics to out him?

  68. Christopher  •  Oct 16, 2012 @4:45 pm

    Put another way: if you abandon the distinction, how do you plan to weigh the free speech rights of Violentacrez to be a poorly-disguised choad against the free speech rights of his critics to out him?

    Sorry, I worded that poorly. I don't think it's desirable or even really possible to abandon the distinction between public and private speech issues.

    What I do think is that, despite being distinct issues, public and private restrictions on speech are related, because they're both restrictions on speech.

    And private speech restrictions (For example, the fact that your boss can fire you for being gross in your off hours) can have really serious consequences that I don't think are really fully addressed by the maxim "The solution to speech is more speech".

    "The solution to a lack of health insurance is more speech" doesn't really work, is what I'm saying.

  69. BNT  •  Oct 16, 2012 @5:24 pm

    And private speech restrictions (For example, the fact that your boss can fire you for being gross in your off hours) can have really serious consequences that I don't think are really fully addressed by the maxim "The solution to speech is more speech".

    I don't know whether you consider it "fully" addressed, but it is addressed; not just by more speech, but by natural consequences.

    As soon as the story broke, the company that employed Violentacrez had two choices. They could fire him: this would send the message that they considered it acceptable to fire an employee for what that employee does in his off time. This could come back to bite them. It could cost them customers and missed networking opportunities. It could cause good employees to quit and good potential employees to never apply.

    Alternately, they could not fire him. This would send the message that they think it's acceptable to employ a guy who, by most people's standards, is a serious creep. This could cause all the exact same problems as the first choice, plus a few additional ones. How do their employees feel about having to work with this guy? Is this going to come up when a female employee alleges there is a hostile work environment? Do they have to send him home on Take Your Daughter to Work Day?

    And, whichever way the company chooses, people are free to use more speech to criticize the company's choice and encourage others not to do business with it.

  70. PhilG  •  Oct 16, 2012 @6:43 pm

    Free speech does not mean "I have a right to say whatever I want without social consequences."

    Moderators can decide to ban links to Gawker on the theory that if you take pictures of children in public and post them for the sexual pleasure of misfit neckbeards, you have a right to privacy that should prevent anyone from identifying you.

    So Moderators definitely weren't banning links to Gawker because it was a social consequence of something a Gawker writer did? I'm having trouble understanding how what Gawker did is an acceptable social consequence but what Reddit moderators do is only to protect the privacy of "neckbeards" and not also a social consequence.

    I also really hate that you used "neckbeards" to refer to any group of people even if you think it somehow only applies to the group you reference.

  71. Dan Weber  •  Oct 16, 2012 @6:56 pm

    There is a very real difference between public censorship and private censorship, but the latter can definitely happen. Just because it's not as serious doesn't mean it should be ignored.

    (And I don't think VA is necessarily being privately censored. Although he claims to have stalkers who will harass any employer he gets, he can probably work around that.)

  72. Arachne  •  Oct 16, 2012 @7:54 pm

    If he was fired, it might not have been for creepiness. I';ve known some payday loan franchise owners who would consider creepiness an asset when it came to collections. OTOH He might have been spending business time on his private activities. Or it could be that he was hanging on to the job by his fingernails and this was the last straw.

  73. BLM4L  •  Oct 16, 2012 @8:37 pm

    I don't think this post is all that helpful. This is like an infinite regression of free speech support. You have the right to say X, the right to out someone for saying X, the right to criticize someone for outing someone for saying X, and on and on forever. I don't think it adds a lot to point out that Gawker and Reddit are private entities unrestrained by the 1st Amendment.

    As to the general point, I would say that there is an norm against outing anonymous bloggers and forum commentators, at least in ordinary circumstances (crimes are different).

    These norms are familiar. There are norms, say, against identifying the names of children in court opinions involving custody disputes, or against identifying rape victims in newspaper reports. I would say that, more relevantly, there is an norm against outing an anonymous pamphleteer taking a controversial political stand.

    And remember the reason for this. In a polarized and politicized world, taking a controversial stand can be important as both an alarm and a venting point. No one wants to live in a panopticon, and our sanity and expression would be poorer if we did.

    I don't really have an opinion on the Reddit/Gawker thing 'cause I'm not familiar with it.

  74. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:03 pm

    There is a very real difference between public censorship and private censorship, but the latter can definitely happen. Just because it's not as serious doesn't mean it should be ignored.

    I think the term "private censorship" is usually inherently tricky.

    Say Texas has no rule barring employers from hiring or firing based on private expression. Say that VR had showed up for his interview and said his favorite hobbies were moderating forums called "niggerjailbait" and "Jewmerica." The business decides not to hire him. Is that private censorship? Or is it the business exercising its own freedom of association?

  75. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:05 pm

    I also really hate that you used "neckbeards" to refer to any group of people even if you think it somehow only applies to the group you reference.

    Sincere question: is "neckbeard" a slur for a traditionally despised group of which I am not aware? I thought it a fairly generic insult suggesting slovenliness and social dysfunction — which I associate with creepers and creeper fans.

  76. Ken  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:09 pm

    And remember the reason for this. In a polarized and politicized world, taking a controversial stand can be important as both an alarm and a venting point. No one wants to live in a panopticon, and our sanity and expression would be poorer if we did.

    I like slippery slope arguments as much as the next First Amendment advocate. But let's not twist the circumstances. Violentacrez is not a political dissident. He's a devoted troll who enjoys facilitating bigotry and creeping.

    If Violentacrez were outed for, say, opposing the war in Afghanistan, I expect that there would be a much more uniform outcry against him. That's how the marketplace of ideas works.

  77. Lizard  •  Oct 16, 2012 @9:10 pm

    @BLM4L: There IS an infinite regression of free speech support. That's the point. That's how it works. If you don't approve of outing people, there are plenty of ways to show your disapproval — and ways for people to show THEIR disapproval of YOUR disapproval, and so on.

    You condemn polarization, yet you want to "pick sides" in free speech and say that one side CAN speak and their critics CANNOT.

    Certainly, there are social norms. Social norms should not be enforced by law. The role of law is to protect individual rights, not to determine the "right" way for people to exercise those rights, or favor one set of evolving norms over another by putting the power of the State behind them.

    You DO have a right to post anonymously on the Internet — as far as I know, no law in the United States mandates you provide your name, address, etc. Individual sites may vary in their policies, but that's their right.

    You don't have a right to compel people not to speak the truth. Outside of narrowly defined exceptions (such as, I am told by TV cop shows, lawyers and their clients), stating true facts is not generally a crime, unless you've contractually agreed not to disclose information. There's no "right" for one citizen to be "protected" from another citizen finding out who they are when they post material in a public forum. You can take steps to make this hard to do — and that's your right. However, if the steps fail, well, sucks to be you.

    As Ken notes, there's a constant point/counterpoint, judge/be judged phenomenon. If someone is "outed" whom the consensus morality feels is entitled to their privacy, then, the person outing them is judged harshly. If someone is "outed" whom the consensus morality feels deserves to be, the reverse. Then there's the backlash, and the counter backlash, and we've all seen this play before.

    Freedom of speech means you don't get fined, imprisoned, or shot for saying something someone finds offensive. It does not protect you from people deciding you're an asshole and refusing to associate with you. As of the last time I checked (I admit, I could be wrong) the law protects your right to wear a mask or otherwise conceal your features when you attend a protest or march, whether you're a goddamn hippie protesting the WTO or a goddamn Klansman protesting the Emancipation Proclamation. It does not, however, offer any punishment to anyone who chooses to "name and shame". I've got a right to go into a porn store to buy porn (this is in some nightmare world where the Internet is dead, obviously… who pays for porn anymore?), and someone else has a right to stand outside the porn store with a camera. And *I* have the right to photograph the people standing outside the porn store. And so on, and so on, and so on.

    Action and reaction. Cause and effect. Give and take. Ebb and flow. Rocky and Bullwinkle. That's how it works.

  78. Rich Rostrom  •  Oct 16, 2012 @11:45 pm

    Anonymity is justifiable in two circumstances:

    1) The person's actions or speech incur risk of violent or other extreme retaliation. (Other extreme retaliation: I anonymously report the criminal act of Bobby Richdaddy. If Mr. Richdaddy finds out who talked, he'l tell the local bank to tell the local factory to fire me and every member of my family, or else their credit will be stopped.)

    2) A person who is famous in one context wants to participate in another context without the baggage. Say, a celebrity who wants to play in an MMORG.

    Otherwise: no.

  79. Kevin  •  Oct 17, 2012 @12:43 am

    @Ken

    Reddit is perfectly free to have a ruleset that says "it's fine to post [for instance] overtly racist posts; however, it's not fine to organize to downvote those posts." And everyone else is perfectly free to comment on that dichotomy.

    I think you're misreading the situation a bit regarding SRS and their "downvote brigade" nature – you seem to be under the impression that the only reason redditors don't like SRS is because they criticize them, and redditors think they should be able to act creepy and not get called out on it. But nobody has a problem with being criticized, or being downvoted…. it's the GAMING of the voting system that's the problem.

    I'm not sure if it's the case anymore, but at various times in the past they've been caught running vote bots. But even when they're not EXPLICITLY cheating like that, running an organized downvote brigade breaks the mechanics of reddit's voting system, and it has nothing to do with wanting to be able to be free from criticism. Reddit is composed of lots of different subreddits (topic-specific communities), but they all share the same voting/karma system, and anyone is free to vote in anyone else's subreddit… so kind of like with open primaries, it allows the people from say /r/Liberal to invade /r/Conservative and cast disruptive votes.

    With SRS in particular though, it's much more insidious than that. It's not just the "creepy" stuff they go after…. they send the goon squad after anybody who fails to conform to their extremely narrow, extremely radical, extremely leftist agenda. They claim to be fighting racism, sexism and bigotry, but they define all of those things roughly as "being a white male, and/or holding political views anywhere to the right of Che Guevara".

    I actually don't have any problem with the "outing" of Violentacrez, so long as there were no shenanigans involved in how they obtained the information. I just want to make sure you and your readers don't come away from the incident with the impression that the SRS gang are the white knights in the story.

  80. Mercury  •  Oct 17, 2012 @3:33 am

    Being selective about what content shall and shall not appear on a private publication is technically called *editing* not censorship.

  81. lingben  •  Oct 17, 2012 @3:40 am

    Popehat, no shame in being ignorant of the whole picture. Allow me to clarify a bit:

    SRS is an organized, external group of users linked to SomethingAweful whose sole purpose is to destroy reddit. Their method may seem benevolent – the removal of /r/jailbait and other seedy subreddits, however the way they go about doing that and their ultimate goal should give anyone pause. For starters, to remove /r/jailbait they broke the law by posting questionable pictures themselves when moderators were not around to remove them quickly. They also consistently break reddit's own rules.

    In contrast, neither /r/creepshots nor /r/jailbait broke any laws.

    You don't have to look very far to see SRS for what they really are. Here they are frothing at the mouth over the happiness of a divorced father being reunited with his daughter and reddit's joyful response. Anyone who doesn't join them in their jeremiad is banned. Screenshot

    Here's a breakdown of SRS for those interested

  82. lingben  •  Oct 17, 2012 @3:52 am

    What does SRS really want?

    darwinspeed: "Death to reddit."

    screenshot

  83. lingben  •  Oct 17, 2012 @3:53 am
  84. Kat  •  Oct 17, 2012 @5:43 am

    "Your argument can be used equally well by someone vengefully outting gay folks who are not yet ready to be open about their orientation."

    The difference here being that someone's sexual orientation is a protected status, that their sexual preference hurts no one, and that sexual preference is a state of being that is not inherently immoral. Can someone who is gay do terrible things? Yes. But simply being gay is not wrong in and of itself. It isn't right to out someone as gay because the social reaction does not remotely fit what is being reported.

    Comparing something like that to being outed for distributing sexually harassing pictures of unwilling people is strange. One is a crime that harms people and the other is not.

    By using the protection of one to justify protecting the other, you are basically strongly suggesting that both are equal or close enough to equal to be treated the same.

  85. Christopher  •  Oct 17, 2012 @5:45 am

    The business decides not to hire him. Is that private censorship? Or is it the business exercising its own freedom of association?

    Kind of both, I guess? Technically, in that situation, word could get around about the fact that he's a huge creepazoid and he could become an unemployable pariah.

    If all the local businesses decide that you're unemployable, from their perspective they're choosing not to associate themselves with an unsavory character. From your perspective, you're now homeless and eating out of a garbage can.

    I think it's actually a really thorny problem, because on the one hand, private entities clearly have more of a right to restrict speech than the government does. But on the other, their ability to do so has consequences that aren't adequately addressed just through more speech.

  86. Clay  •  Oct 17, 2012 @5:59 am

    I think "asshattery" has two S's.

  87. JdL  •  Oct 17, 2012 @6:05 am

    When this brouhaha broke, I tracked down one of the spin-off groups at Reddit, and found nothing to get excited about (from a privacy standpoint). These are not "up-skirt" photos which violate expected privacy; rather, they're shots of women showing exactly what they choose to show. The captions are appreciative and what I'd call respectful: "Lovely lady wearing shorts", "Epic lady enjoying the sun", etc.

    Ken, you've made clear that you're personally disgusted by the existence of sites which display such photos. I'm striving unsuccessfully to understand why. However, I completely agree that it's legally ok to expose the identities of people, provided that doing so does not violate a contractual agreement.

  88. Clay  •  Oct 17, 2012 @6:10 am

    @TJIC. I think you underestimate the ability of the internet to forgive and forget in the same way that a small town does. In 3 weeks, most of us will go to the polls and vote for either a crack user or a dog abuser to become the next ruler of the Free World. And most of us will do it with enthusiasm and confidence that, despite the candidate's previous misdeeds, he is now a good choice to run this country's executive branch.

    Heck, even Michael Vick has been pretty much forgiven.

  89. M.  •  Oct 17, 2012 @6:31 am

    @Clay: The animal lovers, of whom there are many on the Internet, have definitely not forgiven Michael Vick.

  90. Richard  •  Oct 17, 2012 @6:37 am

    Anonymity is justifiable in two circumstances:

    1) The person's actions or speech incur risk of violent or other extreme retaliation. (Other extreme retaliation: I anonymously report the criminal act of Bobby Richdaddy. If Mr. Richdaddy finds out who talked, he'l tell the local bank to tell the local factory to fire me and every member of my family, or else their credit will be stopped.)

    2) A person who is famous in one context wants to participate in another context without the baggage. Say, a celebrity who wants to play in an MMORG.

    Otherwise: no.

    But how do you determine 2) without piercing the veil of anonymity in the first place?
    How do you find out 1) before the person is outed and the retaliation has already occurred?

    If you know nothing about the person and their situation (due to them being, you know, anonymous), how do you know they don't have a good reason to be anonymous?

  91. Dan Weber  •  Oct 17, 2012 @6:57 am

    The business decides not to hire him. Is that private censorship?

    If it were just an individual decision of the business, I wouldn't worry at all.

    However, what if the company were willing to hire him, but there was a pressure group out to boycott any employer who hired him? What if they were doing anonymous harassment instead of boycotting? You might not care about this guy, and fair enough. But you can definitely imagine someone being in a tiny minority that you sympathize with where their ability to earn a living is compromised.

    You are right that this is very tricky. It's certainly entirely legal for someone to make a private decision to buy/not-buy/employ/not-employ. We can't solve this through laws.

    I think, as a "social policy," social opprobrium needs to be limited to the immediate party. If you don't like a company or person, feel free to not associate with them and tell others of your plan to encourage them. But once you go to the next step — boycotting people who engage in business with your despised person — you very quickly get into an Archduke Ferdinand situation where everyone has to choose a side, and if one side has most of the money they win the social argument, and they could be locked into victory because no one dare speak out.

  92. Ken  •  Oct 17, 2012 @7:11 am

    @DanWebber:

    If it were just an individual decision of the business, I wouldn't worry at all.

    However, what if the company were willing to hire him, but there was a pressure group out to boycott any employer who hired him? What if they were doing anonymous harassment instead of boycotting? You might not care about this guy, and fair enough. But you can definitely imagine someone being in a tiny minority that you sympathize with where their ability to earn a living is compromised.

    This is kind of like saying "but what if other people were speaking persuasively?"

    Sure, you can criticize boycotts from a free speech perspective, at least philosophically (not, I think, legally). My friend and law school classmate David French made an eloquent case from a conservative perspective yesterday.

    But I'm not sure where that leaves us. Boycotts are protected by the First Amendment, and ought to be, so it's not a legal question. Philosophically, I think the best response to "objectionable" (read: censorious, bigoted, etc.) boycotts is more speech. Conservatives tried that with Chick-Fil-A, and got a lot of press over it. We'll see how the marketplace of ideas deals with that in the long term.

    Fundamentally, I'm suspicious of arguments that amount to "people can't be trusted to react to this information reasonably." I think it's antithetical to our concept of free speech. I recognize and understand the concern that "outing" can lead to intolerant responses we don't like. But I think the only solution is re-dedicating ourselves to being part of the marketplace of ideas that calls those responses out.

  93. Ken  •  Oct 17, 2012 @7:16 am

    I think it's actually a really thorny problem, because on the one hand, private entities clearly have more of a right to restrict speech than the government does. But on the other, their ability to do so has consequences that aren't adequately addressed just through more speech.

    But should those consequences be addressable in a free society?

    If I dedicate myself to being a huge asshole — to being a bigot who loves to rile people up — is it a "problem" that my behavior has social, as opposed to legal, consequences? Why should I expect to be insulated from the natural social consequences of my behavior?

  94. Ken  •  Oct 17, 2012 @7:18 am

    @lingben: So, because one person on SRS posts "death to Reddit," that's the goal of the entire SRS community?

    I thought the whole critique of SRS was that it falsely uses the words of a few individuals to paint, unfairly, entire subreddits or even all of Reddit.

  95. Ken  •  Oct 17, 2012 @7:26 am

    @Kevin:

    I think you're misreading the situation a bit regarding SRS and their "downvote brigade" nature – you seem to be under the impression that the only reason redditors don't like SRS is because they criticize them, and redditors think they should be able to act creepy and not get called out on it. But nobody has a problem with being criticized, or being downvoted…. it's the GAMING of the voting system that's the problem.

    I'm not sure if it's the case anymore, but at various times in the past they've been caught running vote bots. But even when they're not EXPLICITLY cheating like that, running an organized downvote brigade breaks the mechanics of reddit's voting system, and it has nothing to do with wanting to be able to be free from criticism. Reddit is composed of lots of different subreddits (topic-specific communities), but they all share the same voting/karma system, and anyone is free to vote in anyone else's subreddit… so kind of like with open primaries, it allows the people from say /r/Liberal to invade /r/Conservative and cast disruptive votes.

    Using bots is one thing. Organized speech is another. Reddit can run its site any way it wants, and that includes "no getting people together to go downvote a comment you don't like." But though Reddit has the right to do that, Reddit doesn't have the right to be taken seriously if it does. Reddit created a mechanism for reacting to speech. Getting upset that some methods of using that mechanism are too effective strikes me as extremely silly. "Everyone go downvote or upvote this comment" is just a variation on classic more-speech remedies like "everyone post a comment objecting to this issue on this thread" or "everyone write this business" or "everyone sign this petition."

    It comes back to my central critique: some subcultures of Reddit (if not the admins themselves) want to be champions of free speech, but really only seem to be champions of certain types of speech they like. Saying "you can post bigoted comments, but you can't organize people to come downvote the bigoted comment" is a very particular view of speech, and one that is fair game for comment.

    With SRS in particular though, it's much more insidious than that. It's not just the "creepy" stuff they go after…. they send the goon squad after anybody who fails to conform to their extremely narrow, extremely radical, extremely leftist agenda. They claim to be fighting racism, sexism and bigotry, but they define all of those things roughly as "being a white male, and/or holding political views anywhere to the right of Che Guevara".

    By "send their goon squad", you mean that they use words and downvotes, right? Also, if they have narrow ideology, and if they are somehow inconsistent, how does this distinguish them from anyone else? How is the more speech remedy — like criticizing them when they act that way — insufficient? Reddit seems to be chock-full of people expressing butthurt over SRS.

    I just want to make sure you and your readers don't come away from the incident with the impression that the SRS gang are the white knights in the story.

    I wouldn't say I view them as "white knights." However, I view attitudes toward them as very revealing of certain subculture attitudes on Reddit.

  96. PhilG  •  Oct 17, 2012 @7:31 am

    Sincere question: is "neckbeard" a slur for a traditionally despised group of which I am not aware? I thought it a fairly generic insult suggesting slovenliness and social dysfunction — which I associate with creepers and creeper fans.

    I think you nailed my issue right there, it's a generic term which you are using because you associate with a disliked less-than-generic group. But now people see you use it, mostly think of it as a generic term for ew dirty internet nerds and now ew dirty internet nerds become people who are also perverts. I don't like that it's even became a generally acceptable word for ew dirty internet nerds, it's derogatory and reinforces a negative stereotype that gets applied to a much wider audience than people who actually fit the generic definition.

    I feel the same way about people using the word geek. I enjoy electronics and software development, I do not now nor have I ever enjoyed biting the heads off of live chickens.

  97. Dan Weber  •  Oct 17, 2012 @7:37 am

    I absolutely agreed boycotts are legal. And you can't morally force someone to participate in a transaction, so it would be immoral to make them illegal.

    I wasn't criticizing boycotts; I was criticizing the "with us or against us" secondary boycotts against those who do business with the first party. It's like a high school gaggle: "you can't be friends with us because you are friends with Becky." (Incidentally, the reddit SRS drama also reminds me of high school. On all sides.)

    Moral but deeply unpopular viewpoints shouldn't make you homeless. That's why I believe the social guideline should be "be extremely wary when you extend your boycott out another layer."

    This hardly needs to be a universal position; if, say, 20% of society agrees with me on this, I rest easy.

  98. Jess  •  Oct 17, 2012 @7:39 am

    How ironic is it that there are now all kinds of for fee services geared towards helping you remove all of your information from online.

  99. C. S. P. Schofield  •  Oct 17, 2012 @7:43 am

    I have mixed feelings about all this. On the one hand 'outing' has always struck me as the behavior of a cad. If somebody wants to keep a secret, and isn't hurting anyone, I'm inclined to leave him alone.

    If he IS hurting someone, that's different.

    On the other hand, if you insist on behaving in a way that mort people find disturbing for some reason, I'm not sure you have grounds for a peeve if the public is disturbed. I feel this way about Oscar Wilde (what on EARTH lead him to sue Queensbury!?!?). I feel that way about people who shit on police cars. I feel that way about idiots who advocate violence against women.

    The internet gives false feelings of both anonymity and being transitory. What you say on the internet is going to be around for people to drag up, barring extraordinary measures. And who you are is usually not all that hard to figure out. So, if you behave in a way that annoys people, it is likely to come back and bite you.

    Isn't that called Karma?

  100. Lizard  •  Oct 17, 2012 @7:43 am

    To the various people posting "anonymity is justifiable for X" or "You can't reveal that someone is Y", or other variants, do you mean either:
    a)Your personal moral code or reading of current shared values says these actions are morally wrong, and good people should not do them.

    Or

    b)These actions either are, or should be, illegal in the United States and these laws would be/are permitted by the Constitution and current jurisprudence on the First Amendment.

    (It may be a mix, of course; someone might mean 'a' for one case and 'b' for the other.)

    I'm mostly interested in those who mean 'b'. I'm aware of very few situations where making a TRUE statement in public is a criminal act, or likely to be. (For example, I'm going to assume that revealing the name and address of someone in witness protection is criminal. Various non-disclosure contracts carry civil penalties. I don't know if it's illegal to reveal the names of underage criminal defendants; I know most news sources don't do it, but that's not the same as it being a crime. Etc.)

    For example, it may be rude, offensive, and crude to "out" someone who is gay but doesn't wish to be known that way, but it's NOT a crime — if the statement is true. (For those who say, "Well, it should be!", does that also apply to, say, Republicans who vote for anti-gay legislation but who are secretly gay? If there's an exception for them, for who else?)

    It may be annoying to try to play WoW anonymously, only to be "outed" ("Hey, Bar-Rack The Obliterater… that's Mitt Romney's character!"), but, again, it's not a crime.

    Actions can be immoral, unethical, offensive, crude, mean, heartless, disturbing, etc… and not be crimes. The scope of the law must be narrowly limited. It it's a crime to out, say, a good and decent person who prefers to keep his homosexuality a secret due to his community or fears of how his friends will react, then it's a crime to out a conservative who exploits anti-gay fears to bolster his career while secretly being gay. ("How do Congressmen use bookmarks?" "They don't, they just bend over the pages!" Who else here is old enough to remember that joke?)

  101. Ken  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:00 am

    Here's a hypothetical for people who oppose outing:

    Poster Paul posts under a pseudonym. He discusses many issues, including his feelings as being a gay man in a small conservative town.

    Asshole Alan might hate gays, or might just like watching the world burn. Asshole Alan figures out Poster Paul's identity from his posts, and sends emails to various people in his small town outing him.

    Watcher Warren sees this. He figures out Asshole Alan's identity using information Asshole Alan has posted. He reveals that identity, which is discovered by Asshole Alan's acquaintances and business associates, who begin shunning Asshole Alan.

    Are Watcher Warren's actions morally wrong? Are the consequences to Asshole Alan objectionable?

  102. Dan Weber  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:06 am

    On downvote brigades:

    Reddit doesn't have a mechanism between for making sure only "citizens" can vote.

    Imagine your community of 500 was having a vote about abortion or gay marriage or chicken burgers. Then a few thousand people from the next door city show up to vote.

    Imagine your college of 800 students is having a debate about a controversial topic, and 1000 students from the next door college show up to shout at the top of their lungs whenever one side starts talking.

    You don't solve those issues with "more speech" or "more shouting." You need to have polls open only to your citizens, or be able to remove people who scream when the person they don't like is talking.

    Reddit doesn't have a way to do this. If people can read the subreddit, they can vote in the subreddit.

    I'm wary of "technical solutions for social problems," but reddit might need to make it so only subscribers can vote and give the local mods control over subscriptions.

    (You can make a subreddit private so outsiders cannot vote, but they also cannot read so it's hard to grow a community or attract new voices of disagreement.)

  103. BNT  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:12 am

    You might not care about this guy, and fair enough. But you can definitely imagine someone being in a tiny minority that you sympathize with where their ability to earn a living is compromised.

    There's absolutely the potential for a tyranny-of-the-majority type situation. But the counterbalancing factor, in America, is an appreciation of individualism. A lot of people would be disgusted if a company blatantly discriminated against a religion or a political group, even if that group is a tiny minority. Put another way, discriminating against a minority, even a tiny one, offends not only the minority but the many people who view such discrimination as wrong.

    "Troll" is something most people are okay with discriminating against. Not because it's a minority, but because, well, who wants to work with someone whose hobby is "angering people for kicks"? Throw "enabling bigotry, misogyny, and creepiness" in there and it's not a matter of holding socially unpopular views, but a matter of engaging in public, socially unacceptable behavior.

  104. Earle  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:19 am

    @Lizard,

    /* raises hand */ I remember that joke, took a sec to realize you didn't mean browser bookmarks.

    It looks like we're due for an update to the third/second/first person joke on stubbornness, but replace it with butthurt. (Interesting paranthetical, Firefox spell-check doesn't like 'butthurt'. I predict it will be accepted by spell-check within five years :-)

  105. PhilG  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:20 am

    @Ken yes. Of course, that is the point. So much of this argument gets wrapped up in the "/r/jailbait is wrong so anything that happens to him is ok" mentality that people seem incapable of understanding that the "don't doxx" is the start and end of the rule.

    How is the more speech remedy — like criticizing them when they act that way — insufficient? Reddit seems to be chock-full of people expressing butthurt over SRS.

    More speech is an ideological solution to a theoretical angry mob deciding to attack you. It does not usually prevent the damage an actual angry mob has done to you.
    Say, for example, a group of people decide to downvote every post a user makes. Sure, people can complain and point out the fact that they are essentially censoring that user, but that doesn't somehow undo what has happened to the user. In fact, it is unlikely to stop the organized downvoting of that user. So the remedy is to what? Not stop the original organization but instead foster a separate group to organize and counter the first? That is mob rule. Letting rival gangs blast each other into oblivion is the path of least resistance for people in charge but is generally seen as socially unacceptable.

  106. Waldo  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:29 am

    "Watcher Warren sees this. He figures out Asshole Alan's identity using information Asshole Alan has posted."

    I'm curious why you limit your hypothetical to "information Asshole Alan has posted." Would it make any difference if the information used to identify Asshole Alan came from a source other than what Asshole Alan posted on the internet? For example, suppose one of Asshole Alan's friends that he had told in confidence told you his real life identity? What if Asshole Alan posted that he was going to a social at a particular time and place and you staked the place out and followed him back to his house and then used property tax records to identify him? What if someone secretly took a picture of Asshole Alan's car and you had a police buddy run his license through DMV records to find the registered owner?

    I really haven't thought all this through, but my initial thought is that if it's morally right to out Asshole Alan, then it's pretty much irrelevant whether the information used to out Asshole Alan came from stuff he posted on the internet or otherwise. Of course, some means may be objectionable in and of themselves (like getting your cop friend to run his plates is presumably illegal). I'm just curious about this because you have implicitly limited your analysis a few times to outing based on information posted by Asshole Alan (or asshole Violentacrez) and that doesn't strike me as a logical limiting point.

  107. Nicholas Weaver  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:32 am

    The reason why I bring up the danger that Conde Nast's parent faces with lawyers is because the women involved may be far less anonymous than one might think, and there are plenty of sleazy lawyers and reporters out there would would happily exploit this. (Yes, Net Negative Sum Douchebaggery. This is the way of the world)

    Geotagging (the tendency for cellphone cameras and other sources to record where the photo was taken) plus the ability to search for identical copies of the same image elsewhere on the web could easily deanonymize some of the women featured in JailBait, Creepshots, and all the other places the Predditors lurk. [1] [2]

    So all the hypothetical sleazy reporter or lawyer needs to do is get an archive capture of one or more of these reddits, fire off a few searches and do metadata examining on the images, and find a couple dozen women who ended up on these reddit subforums, and then find one willing to talk on record.

    Voila, another "good" article to keep things in the news cycle. "I Was Victimized by Reddit" should be good for another few hundred thousand gawker pageviews…

    Combined with the seeming approval of Reddit's management (Having Chris Slowe quoted on the record), that these forums represent a significant profit center for Reddit (after all, these are popular reddits which therefore sell adds), and the deep pockets which own Reddit (it was Advance Publications owns Conde Nast owns Reddit, its now directly Advance Publications owns Reddit, oopppsss, one less corporate veil to pierce), and you can just hear the ambulance-chasing class action laywers' thundering herd as the race to file first is now on, with visions of a quicky settlement without injunctive relief, giving every "victim" a free 6 month subscription to Vogue, the named plaintiff $50K, and $10M for the lawyers in fees.

    [1] When the press gets involved, this happens. E.g. it was only a few users who were actually deanonymizable in the AOL Search Data Release, but that was enough to trigger a huge lawsuit, a media firestorm, etc.

    [2] One of my research areas is privacy, and I have colleagues who are specifically working on multimedia image retrieval. Images are far more identifying than you might think.

  108. Richard  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:38 am

    @Lizard:

    To the various people posting "anonymity is justifiable for X" or "You can't reveal that someone is Y", or other variants, do you mean either:
    a)Your personal moral code or reading of current shared values says these actions are morally wrong, and good people should not do them.

    Or

    b)These actions either are, or should be, illegal in the United States and these laws would be/are permitted by the Constitution and current jurisprudence on the First Amendment.

    I'm an a) person myself. I might cite the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but that's just me pointing and saying "Look, these things are important and should be respected!" rather than "Look! You're not allowed to do these things!"

    @Ken:
    I think that Warren should do some research before revealing Alan's identity, to make sure that he wouldn't be putting him in obvious, real danger by outing Alan.
    However, barring finding any real danger, I think that Alan showed a profound disrespect for Paul's wish for anonymity, and thus should not expect people to respect Alan's own wish for the same.

    In short, to quote a cliché, I think turnabout is fair play (in most circumstances).

  109. Ken  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:42 am

    I'm curious why you limit your hypothetical to "information Asshole Alan has posted.

    To narrow the issues. And because it seems that VR was outed based on his own voluntary conduct, not by, say, a false flag operation.

  110. PhilG  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:42 am

    @Richard

    In short, to quote a cliché, I think turnabout is fair play (in most circumstances).

    Two wrongs make a right?

  111. Joe Pullen  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:50 am

    I’d have to say I’d have a similar answer to Richards in regards to questions posed by Lizard and Ken.

    @Nicholas – regarding your work on the privacy side. I came across a post on Reddit that caught my eye. Personally I think the guy is either on crack or partially cracked up. I can poke quite a few holes in his rant but thought you might enjoy it. Quote below word for word – including all the miss spellings.

    @Re: Craigslist has your IP address – From Super-IT Guy

    To all the supposedly technologically sophisticated IT chimps out there, it is painfully obvious most of you are nothing but script kiddies who have NO UNDERSTANDING of the underlying architecture of the Internet.
    DHCP, Static IP, TCP/IP and SSL are all terms for a software layer that allows disparate operating systems and applications to communicate with each other at a level that is independent of the underlying hardware infrastructure.

    See the following for a technical overview of the hardware and software layers that allows the Internet to work the way it does:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asynchronous_Transfer_Mode
    And ONCE AND FOR ALL I will outline to those IDIOTS who think that Web Surf Anonymizers, Proxy Server and IP address hiding via DHCP will hide your physical location…

    YOU ARE TOTALLY FUCKING WRONG ABOUT THAT!!!!!!
    DO YOU NOT REALIZE THAT AT THE HARDWARE LAYERS i.e. ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) SONET, Fibre, Ethernet have packet tags that AT THE BASE HARDWARE LEVEL allow me to identify with ABSOLUTE PRECISION the physical address of a a sending and receiving router based upon a UNIQUE HARDWARE SPECDIFIC identifier burned right into the chips of routers located at Telecom companies, your business/home router and your computer's ethernet card.

    A MAC address (Media Access Control) identification is sent along at the hardware level to other compatible devices so that these devices can communicate in order to negotiate a higher-level software-based communication protocol (i.e. TCP/IP) which allows operatings systems such as Windows and your web browser software to talk to other applications anywhere on Earth.

    AND TO GET TO THE POINT: Just because you change your IP address does NOT MEAN you are hidden from outsiders….If I know what type of router is being used at the Telco/Cable company and your Business type/Home router…I can then query those routers using hardware based debug tools and the HCL (Hardware Command Language) to get me the MAC address (which is Unique) or the Router Identification Code and use THAT to pinpoint with absolute accuracy what DESK you are sending any emails/nasty letters or lurid photos from, be it your office desk or the computer from your kid's bedroom!

    AND using the laws of physics and timing signals that are in the microsecond and higher in accuracy, I can PHYSICALLY CALCULATE THE DISTANCE from ANY telco router to your computer's ethernet card and thus do a hardware debug-based ping operation to figure out which outlet was used to send any email/pictures, etc from THEN I can match distance/time to any MAC addresses that were logged within a specified time period.

    Your IP Address and Anonymous Web Surfing schemes won't work because I can Physically TRACK that ATM/Sonet packet from your office CISCO Router at 1400, 1075 West Georgia all the way to that proxy server in Finland and then BACK to Craigs List servers in San Francisco because you IDIOTS AREN'T HARDWARE ENGINEERS and know NOTHING about how the Internet actually works at its most basic level and YOU don't know that I can correlate ATM/Sonet Packets to Mac Addresses to IP addresses sent at specific Dates and Times and pinpoint the actual desk or computer that lurid email/photo/message came from using hardware debug methods.

    Gawd!!!! It bugs the shit hell outa me that some chimps just don't have the brains to understand that your digital life is NOT HIDDEN from those who have the engineering expertise to delve into your lives.

    I can give a whole lecture about how I can monitor and surveil your ENTIRE life without you having a clue that I'm doiung it…and there would be nothing you could do about it unless you had extensive and expensive access to powerful countersurveilllance gear that is TEMPEST certified LIKE WHAT I HAVE IN MY BASEMENT or at the very least have a Faraday Cage surrounding your computer!!!!!!!

  112. Jon  •  Oct 17, 2012 @9:04 am

    @frymaster @ken @anyone else interested in SRS

    Frymaster, you have no evidence of any of your claims.

    1. SRS is not a downvote brigade. Their primary purpose is to just point out shit that reddit says. Do you have any evidence that they also downvote? I have evidence that SRS is not, statistically speaking, a downvote brigade:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/bigbangtheory/comments/11eubt/nice_decoration_is_this_new/c6m8lvz

    http://www.reddit.com/r/blog/comments/117ckb/introducing_three_new_hires/c6k9ob6

    2. If you read Chen's article, you see that he acquired everything from public information. Micheal Brutsch attended reddit meetups under his real identity, so there were actually numerous redditors who already knew it.

  113. Nicholas Weaver  •  Oct 17, 2012 @9:13 am

    Joe: That's bogusish…

    Your IP address can trace who the account holder is, but ONLY with the cooperation of the ISP or some outside vendor which provides this information (e.g. Google does, because of the web cookies involved can be tied to IP address & fingerprints, but they don't sell this information).

    Querying for the MAC on the cable modem/DSL modem should not happen, as any ISP with a clue will block SNMP or other mechanisms that would allow someone outside the ISP's network to interact with this equipment. And the MAC address on your computer is not revealed outside the local network on either IPv4 OR IPv6 (with IPv6, the lower 64 bits MAY be your MAC address, but just about everything randomizes it now).

    Which means tracking someone through IP addresses requires ISP cooperation or cooperation of some other big data aggregator which has a way of binding IP address to PII at a given point in time. And some ISPs [1] deliberately make it so they can't actually do this at all.

    [1] Some ISPs use a carrier grade NAT for IPv4, so a lot of people share the same IP address. And for at least some of these, they configure the NAT to deliberately NOT log this information.

  114. Joe Pullen  •  Oct 17, 2012 @9:22 am

    @Nicholas – "That's bogusish" – I know ;-)

  115. Richard  •  Oct 17, 2012 @9:23 am

    @PhilG:

    Two wrongs make a right?

    No, but three rights make a left. :D

    Is it a "wrong" if the person himself doesn't consider it so?
    Alan didn't seem to think it "wrong" when he published Paul's information; why, then, is it "wrong" when Warren does the same to him?

    Also, there is a clear difference of intentions.
    Alan must know that when he reveals the identity of someone who is likely to be discriminated against based on sexual orientation (especially in an area prone to such discrimination), bad things are probably going to happen to Paul. He is, in effect, saying, "Here is a target."

    When Warren reveals Alan's identity, the consequences to Alan are much less certain, and probably much less severe than the ones Paul is facing. Warren is, in effect, saying, "Here is an asshat."

    So it's not a matter of "two wrongs make a right," because what is being done to Alan may not be wrong by his own moral code, and even if it is a wrong, it is a much lesser wrong than what has been done to Paul.

    IMO, it's just a matter of allowing someone to face the social consequence of his actions.

  116. Mercury  •  Oct 17, 2012 @9:48 am

    RE: Posters, Watchers and Assholes

    I think it’s worth keeping in mind the difference between 'anonymous' and 'pseudonymous' as they are not quite the same thing. The former concerns a lack of identity, the later a specific, alternate identity. Writing under a pseudonym has quite a bit of tradition all it’s own spanning the Federalist Papers, the original Spectator and the Economist “newspaper”. The Reddit blogger Violentacrez is operated under a pseudonym which implies, among other things, that he desires to build various forms of capital (reputation/following/brand) attached to that name. He could have posted all his crazy material under whatever the Reddit’s anonymous default setting is or via a multitude of seemingly unconnected names…but he didn’t. In other words, it’s as much about him as the message and not simply his declared desire to “rile people up” which he could have done anonymously.

    Of course there are ways to mix and match one’s real, pseudo- and anonymous identities. In one of the earlier Larry David episodes an “anonymous” donor of some big hospital wing or something ends up generating more goodwill and adulation than other named benefactors (like Larry who is pissed) because it’s an open secret who this “anonymous” really is.

    But the point here (aside from the fact that any and all anonymity is rapidly vanishing from the face of the Earth regardless of….anything) is that a pseudonymous blogger who by his own admission posts stuff just to piss people off (and not apparently to advance some political, social or other agenda) does not have the same reasonable expectation of privacy (practically if not legally or morally) as others who wish to have their (legal) activities remain separate from their identities. Also: actions….consequences.

  117. Lizard  •  Oct 17, 2012 @9:54 am

    @Ken: My individual values tell me to condemn Asshole Alan and cheer Watcher Warren for executing a little virtual vigilante justice.

    My legal take, to the extent I understand the law, is that neither committed a crime, nor would I want laws that would make either or both actions a crime.

    I am heavily distrustful of those who can't distinguish between "what people SHOULD do" and "what people should be COMPELLED to do (or not do) by law". Obviously, there's a connection between law and morality, but law is an extreme measure. It should be reserved for things that justify the use of deadly force — because every law, at the final extremes of disobedience, is backed by lethal force. (I litter; someone hands me a citation to pay a fine. I choose not to pay it; they try to garnish my wages. I work for cash only, they can't do that. I get a summons to appear as a scofflaw. I ignore it. Eventually, a cop stops me for something else, discovers my history, tries to arrest me. I resist. Bang. I'm dead. That's EVERY law, at the extreme. Laws must be written and proposed with this in mind.)

  118. Ken  •  Oct 17, 2012 @9:55 am

    See updates.

  119. Lizard  •  Oct 17, 2012 @10:10 am

    @BNT: I think we intuitively (well, most of us) grasp the distinction between "I don't want to work with blacks" and "I don't want to work with child molesters". We recognize that discrimination on the basis of collective identity that doesn't imply any particular behavior or values tends to be unjustified, and discrimination against a collective *defined by their actions* may be justified or unjustified, depending on those actions. In other words, being a member of the collective "bank robbers" requires you to have ROBBED A BANK. Discriminating against hiring bank robbers for, say, night watchmen is not irrational or immoral. In the case of the reddit guy, any reaction to his actions is a REACTION TO HIS ACTIONS, not irrational prejudice against a group.

  120. Timid Athiest  •  Oct 17, 2012 @10:31 am

    C. S. P. Schofield • Oct 16, 2012 @12:27 pm

    "If the man isn't ashamed of what he's done then he shouldn't be upset by being outed."

    The person who said this has never had a valued friend or a beloved relative with whom they disagree on some topic.

    First, what does this have to do with VC being outed? I made a statement about ONE person. Why would you assume I apply this to anyone else?

    Second, how do you know this? Are you one of my valued friends or beloved relative? Have you been monitoring my life since I was a child? Assumptions are a bad thing on the internet.

    I suppose I could have qualified my statement a bit, but honestly it was about one individual, not a blanket statement about people as a whole so I didn't think I needed to.

    The man posted and encouraged upskirt photos of women that were taken without consent as well as encouraged photos of under aged children as well as photos of DEAD under aged children. As I said, it's morally reprehensible. And it's pretty damn obvious he wasn't all too worried about being outed if he linked his own picture and voice to his online handle through various other media. And yet when he was outed he was upset and closed his account. I'm sorry, but he got outed and the only thing that happened was that he voluntarily closed his Reddit account. If that's all that happened he's fucking lucky.

  121. TJIC  •  Oct 17, 2012 @11:04 am

    @Clay:

    > @TJIC. I think you underestimate the ability of the internet to forgive and forget

    Clay,

    I don't think I do.

  122. Ken  •  Oct 17, 2012 @12:05 pm
  123. PhilG  •  Oct 17, 2012 @12:14 pm

    @Richard ahh sweet, sweet moral relativism. So no, in that case everyone is free to do whatever they think is morally "right." But pretty much all organized law breaks down if we are only held accountable to our own morals. What is law if not a codified set of morals that a group of people agree to follow? Whether that is the law of acceptable internet use, the law of reddit or the law of your given state or country.

  124. Kevin  •  Oct 17, 2012 @12:26 pm

    @Ken

    Using bots is one thing. Organized speech is another. Reddit can run its site any way it wants, and that includes "no getting people together to go downvote a comment you don't like." But though Reddit has the right to do that, Reddit doesn't have the right to be taken seriously if it does. Reddit created a mechanism for reacting to speech. Getting upset that some methods of using that mechanism are too effective strikes me as extremely silly.

    Ken, I'm a big fan of yours, but I think you just haven't yet spent enough time on Reddit to appreciate the dynamics of what's going on here. One key thing that I think you're overlooking is that on Reddit, comments below a certain downvote threshold get hidden from view (by default at least)… and THAT'S why SRS runs it's downvote brigade: to HIDE comments they don't like. That's not "more speech", that's much more analogous to spray-painting over a subway poster you don't like.

    I assure you: if you spend enough time on Reddit, you'll eventually come to see that SRS is actually the primary font of censorious twatwafflery (sp?) on Reddit.

    Imagine for a second that you had a comment voting system here at popehat – intended to increase the signal to noise ratio by promoting insightful, substantive comments to the top, while demoting contentless/troll posts. Now imagine that someone like Captain Pastetaster or one of your other "mortal enemies" set up an antiPopehat (heh) blog, linked his readers to all your posts, and encouraged them to go cast "noise votes". Now imagine that this "enemy" blog had significantly higher traffic than yours, enabling its users to completely cancel out the votes cast by your actual regular readers. And by "cancel out" I mean effectively delete from public view any comments they disapprove of.

    Note that I am absolutely not advocating censoring/banning SRS, I'm just trying to explain to you why it is that long-time Redditors have such disdain for SRS. It's not for the reasons you think.

    Ultimately, I think a technical solution is appropriate in the long run: Reddit should adopt a kind of "federated karma" system, in which each subreddit maintains its own internal karma counters, and votes can only be cast in a subreddit using karma earned on that subreddit. This would eliminate the "open primary" effect I mentioned in my last comment (and the enemy-blog-invasion hypothetical posed above), while still allowing for crowdsourced comment moderation.

    tl;dr : SRS can snort my taint.

  125. perlhaqr  •  Oct 17, 2012 @12:46 pm

    In this particular context, some Redditors assert that speech will be chilled if outing becomes common. "What if you could get outed just because someone disagrees with you?" they ask. This, too, is a speech problem with a more-speech remedy.

    Ohhhhhh, I dunno. I mean, ok, it doesn't really apply here, because let's face it, it's hard to claim a guy who moderates a forum explicitly devoted to violating the privacy of women has a right himself to strong anonymity.

    But as someone who has spent an awful lot of time working to provide anonymity tools to the world, I feel compelled to counter this line of yours by pointing out that in a number of places around the world, the penalty for being outed isn't "losing your job", it's "losing your freedom" or even "losing your life".

    Which is a big part of why my initial reaction to this story was so strong, and so negative towards the guy from Gawker. That reaction was wrong, which I realised eventually, but I'm tied pretty instinctually at this point to a world where when people get outed, they go to jail in China for 20 years, or they get executed in Iran.

  126. Ken  •  Oct 17, 2012 @1:08 pm

    But as someone who has spent an awful lot of time working to provide anonymity tools to the world, I feel compelled to counter this line of yours by pointing out that in a number of places around the world, the penalty for being outed isn't "losing your job", it's "losing your freedom" or even "losing your life".

    Which is a big part of why my initial reaction to this story was so strong, and so negative towards the guy from Gawker. That reaction was wrong, which I realised eventually, but I'm tied pretty instinctually at this point to a world where when people get outed, they go to jail in China for 20 years, or they get executed in Iran.

    Sure. So how do you propose to draw the line?

    Here's the thing, and its an idea I should probably put in another post: the more-speech remedy and the marketplace of ideas are the steam control of the First Amendment. People put up with the proposition that "the state can't stop you from saying awful things that hurt people" because they understand that you're free to say awful things right back, and inflict severe social consequences on people like Violentacrez. The minute you start to push the idea that "not only are people protected from state interference in them being awful, they are also protected from the natural and probable social consequences," then the whole free speech thing starts sounding like much worse of a deal to people, and support for it as a concept drops.

    Reddit isn't the government. But to me there's something inherently unappealing about free speech Reddit-style, where you can be a troll who lives to anger people and to facilitate creepshots, but who is protected by Reddit rules from real-world social consequences.

  127. perlhaqr  •  Oct 17, 2012 @2:45 pm

    Sure. So how do you propose to draw the line?

    I don't, actually. Or rather, I don't propose to draw the line for others. I drew it for myself at "This was not subversive political speech for which he would be punished by a government, this was offensive personal speech for which he might be punished by his community." and "Someone who has chosen to violate the privacy of others is in a poor position to protest others violating his privacy."

    Though, to be fair, in retrospect, I'm not sure my comment was really all that useful to the discussion here. It was more "here's this thing that's totally unrelated". Sorry about that.

    Also, Joe Pullen: That whole rant is… just wrong on so many levels.

  128. BNT  •  Oct 17, 2012 @3:41 pm

    @Lizard: Agreed. I had a bit in there about the use of my word "discrimination" but pulled it for length. Usually, we use "discrimination" as shorthand for an undesirable sort of discrimination (irrational, based on stereotypes, etc.) but I was using it in its more basic sense of "discernment + action based on said discernment."

  129. BNT  •  Oct 17, 2012 @4:00 pm

    @perlhaqr: I appreciated your viewpoint, both personally (I occasionally need reminding of all the things I take for granted) and intellectually. Yes, the severity of consequences matters, and the proportionality to the offense.

    Also, if everyone stayed on topic, I think the Internet might collapse due to disuse.

  130. AlphaCentauri  •  Oct 17, 2012 @8:35 pm

    Random thoughts, trying to formulate my reasoning for why I think it was justifiable to doxx ViolentAcrez:

    There is NO absolute anonymity on the internet. Websites get hacked every day. Even the websites of companies and government agencies that specialize in security get hacked. Any information stored on such a site, like un-deleted emails and server logs, is potentially public. Proxy services like Tor may conceal the IP address where you are, but they also allow the owners of exit nodes to collect any unencrypted data. Data like what browser you use may be distinctive enough to help identify you. And no information is more secure than the lowest paid file clerk or the most vengeful disgruntled ex-employee of the hosting company. So if you would not do something if you might get doxxed, don't do it. You cannot take any promise of anonymity as a guarantee, no matter how sincerely offered.

    The corollary is that if you are going to take chances that assume you will remain anonymous, it ought to be for something important. If you reveal state secrets on wikileaks because you sincerely feel it will promote world peace, and you get arrested and go to jail, at least it was for something you really believed in. It's stupid to take chances with your career just for lulz.

    Most of us haven't actually viewed the subforums in question. We don't want to. We feel it would reduce our humanity a little to do so. The people posting there, however, encourage each other to take photos that exploit and dehumanize women and children. They created a little world where their views were the norm. It almost certainly encouraged more people to take such photos and post them and it probably made them feel more like their activities were acceptable. Doxxing their "moderator" — who allowed and encouraged their culture of creepiness to fester, who felt so at home among the other posters that he met them in person — countered that culture by giving them a wake up call. They cannot assume they are anonymous, so maybe they'd better think about whether they can live with the choices they have been making.

    As far as whether it was justified to fire him — how many people could moderate so many subforums and never use their work computer to post? It's unlikley to be entirely a case of judging him for what he does in his personal time.

  131. mythago  •  Oct 18, 2012 @12:36 am

    @Dan Weber: Gawker did not break any rule. The rule applies to posts on Reddit. If Chen had posted his article on Reddit, rather than Gawker, he would indeed have broken a rule, but Gawker is not required to apply Reddit's rules to its own website.

    Regarding the teacher issue, the girl in the photo did not out him. A Redditor who recognized the girl and the classroom deduced from the position of the camera that it was the teacher, announced on Reddit that he was going to report the guy's real identity to the school, and did so. For reasons I don't understand, Reddit supporters seem perfectly OK with this "doxxing", and have raised some frankly bizarre rationalizations for it (my favorite was that there couldn't be an Internet pile-on because the media only found out AFTER the doxxing; no idea how that's supposed to work).

  132. Kayla  •  Oct 19, 2012 @3:20 am

    I'm frankly disturbed by the people who think it is perfectly fine to take a photo of a woman without her consent and post it online. Women are not objects, they do not belong to anyone else. If you want a picture for "Perfectly harmless purposes such as appreciating the female form" them you should ask permission.

    Also I enjoy the idea that "It is okay because the women are anonymous and they'll never know and no-one will ever recognize them" and then the next comment I see is "This guy recognized a girl from his class".. For instance, I have blue hair. It is actually extremely easy to find photos of me that lead to personal profiles just because of that fact. How is it some redditors right to decide whether photos of ME, of MY BODY are put online? Answer: It's not. It's nobodies right but mine.

    Hmmm. Seems like most redditors care more about one man's rights to post whatever he wants, than womens rights to decide anything to do with their bodies.

  133. Jarrod  •  Oct 19, 2012 @4:07 pm

    ahh sweet, sweet moral relativism. So no, in that case everyone is free to do whatever they think is morally "right." But pretty much all organized law breaks down if we are only held accountable to our own morals. What is law if not a codified set of morals that a group of people agree to follow? Whether that is the law of acceptable internet use, the law of reddit or the law of your given state or country.

    Ah, moral relativism. I love how certain parties always trot it out and equate it to anarchy whenever they want to oppose the idea of tolerance or defend a theocracy or what have you. Law is simply a set of rules a society agrees to follow. You can argue that it's based on individual rights, the social contract, divine mandate, pragmatism, moral authority, or some combination of justifications.

    Now, I'm not some fancy big city lawyer, but it seems to me that U.S. law, though arguably rooted in libertarian-ish ideals and a bit of Judeo-Christian morality, isn't precisely concurrent with the moral views of any group in the U.S. Certain Conservative Christians, for example, find both murder and abortion immoral, but lethal self-defense perfectly moral, but our law states only one is illegal. Buddhists on the other hand, may believe that any killing, even to preserve one's own life against violence, is as immoral as murder, while a sociopath may have zero moral reservations against killing, and obey the law only out of self-interest. To me, any system that inherently recognizes a plurality of religions and thoughts and beliefs must also necessarily accept a degree of the hated moral relativism.

    We all agree to live under certain laws in order to keep society running from descending into chaos–beyond that, it should be up to the individual to decide whether he needs to further restrict his own behavior in order to comply with some moral code, and whether he should through words or example convince others to accept and adopt his example.

  134. Grifter  •  Oct 19, 2012 @4:29 pm

    @Kayla:

    It's worth noting that I believe most of these photos were taken in public, where you do not have to "ask permission" to photograph/post a photo of anyone, man or woman.

  135. Iamcuriousblue  •  Oct 21, 2012 @5:36 pm

    "In this particular context, some Redditors assert that speech will be chilled if outing becomes common. "What if you could get outed just because someone disagrees with you?" they ask. This, too, is a speech problem with a more-speech remedy. People who out anonymous posters for petty or frivolous reasons will be treated as frivolous and petty by the community — and should be."

    That's a good point. Because there is an internet subculture of "social justice warriors" personified by the "Atheism+" movement that can barely conceal their glee over the outing of VA, and more importantly, the precedent set by it. While VA was doing something that crossed the line into privacy violation and illegal or borderline illegal behavior toward minors, and hence, should have faced consequences, many internet conflicts are over things that don't rise to nearly that level. Basically, it seems that at least some in the "social justice" crowd want to start using outing as a "social shaming" tactic against "misogynists" and "trolls", though they've long since demonstrated they define this as practically anybody that they deem to have the wrong politics and are too vocal about it.

    Of course, this strikes me as more than a tad McCarthyist, and I've wondered what the best response might be if this becomes widespread. If, for example, somebody calls your employer as an intimidation tactic against the lawful exercise of your free speech rights, does one have the basis for a harassment lawsuit? Especially if this has a detrimental effect on employment. (Not saying it was a wrongful firing in the case of VA, but in a lesser case, it might very well be.) Or does one just out one's outers as a form of tit for tat?

  136. Tim  •  Oct 22, 2012 @10:53 am

    The The Internet Is Not Private – I think it's funny how few people understand this. Anything and everything you do online can be found and most likely traced back to you one way or another.

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