Gawker, Reddit, Free Speech and Such
Posted on October 16, 2012 Posted by John Scalzi 356 Comments
I’ve been watching with some interest the drama surrounding Gawker writer Adrian Chen revealing Reddit user/celeb/moderator/troll Violentacrez’s real life identity (Michael Brutsch), which among other things resulted in Brutsch losing his job, presumably because Brutsch’s employer was not 100% comfortable employing someone who spent his days moderating online forums with titles like “Chokeabitch” and bragged about the time his 19-year-old stepdaughter performed oral sex on him. It also resulted in Reddit globally banning links from Gawker (since rescinded, although forum moderators (“subredditors”) can choose to block links within their forums — and do), and various bannings due to discussion of the drama.
Wrapped up in all of this are various chest beatings about free speech and whether someone’s online anonymity is sacred, even if he is a creep, the culture of Reddit in particular and the Internet in general, and in a larger sense where the rights of one individual — say, a creepy middle-aged dude — begin to impinge on others — say, young women who don’t believe that merely being in public is an invitation to be sexually degraded. This is all interesting stuff, to be sure, and naturally I have a few thoughts on these topics. In no particular order:
1. The “free speech” aspect of this is largely nonsense. Reddit is not a public utility or a public square; it’s a privately owned space on the Internet. From a legal and (United States) constitutional point of view, people who post on Reddit have no “free speech” privileges; they have what speech privileges Reddit itself chooses to provide them, and to tolerate. Reddit chooses to tolerate creepiness and general obnoxiousness for reasons of its own, in other words, and not because there’s a legal or constitutional reason for it.
Personally speaking, when everything is boiled down to the marrow, I think the reason Reddit tolerates the creepy forums has to do with money more than anything else. Reddit allows all those creepy subreddits because its business model is built on memberships and visits, and the dudes who visit these subreddits are almost certainly enthusiastic members and visitors. This is a perfectly valid reason, in the sense of “valid” meaning “allowing people to be creepy isn’t inherently illegal, and we make money because of it, so we’ll let it happen.” But while it makes sense that the folks at Reddit are either actively or passively allowing “we’re making money allowing creeps to get their creep on” to be muddled with “we’re standing up for the principles of free speech,” it doesn’t mean anyone else needs be confused by this.
If someone bleats to you about any of this being a “free speech” issue, you can safely mark them as either ignorant or pernicious — probably ignorant, as the understanding of what “free speech” means in a constitutional sense here in the US is, shall we say, highly constrained in the general population. Additionally and independently, the sort of person who who says “free speech” when they mean “I like doing creepy things to other people without their consent and you can’t stop me so fuck you ha ha ha ha” is pretty clearly a mouth-breathing asshole who in the larger moral landscape deserves a bat across the bridge of the nose and probably knows it. Which is why — unsurprisingly — so many of them choose to be anonymous and/or use pseudonyms on Reddit while they get their creep on.
On the subject of anonymity:
2. Anonymity/pseudonymity is not inherently evil or wrong. Astute observers will note that on this very site I allow both anonymous and pseudonymous postings, because sometimes you want to say something you wouldn’t normally say with your name attached and/or because you have personal/business reasons to want not to have a trail of comments lead back to you. Perfectly reasonable and perfectly acceptable, and as I moderate this site pretty attentively, anyone who decides to use the cloak of anonymity to be an assbag will get their words malleted into oblivion in any event.
It’s not anonymity or pseudonymity that’s the issue. The issue is people being assholes while anonymous because they don’t believe it’s ever going to get back to them. This is a separate issue from anonymity/pseudonymity. Someone who is anonymous shouldn’t be assumed to be an assbag, any more than someone who uses their real name should be assumed to be a kind and decent human being. In both cases, it’s what they say that should be the guide.
3. If at this point in Internet history you think you’re really anonymous/pseudonymous on the Internet, or that you have a right to anonymity/pseudonymity on the Internet, you’re kind of stupid. Yes, stupid, and there’s no other way to put it. I remember back in 1998 and people with pseudonymous online diaries freaking out because they ranted about a family member or boss online, and then that person found out, and as a result the diarist was fired and/or had very awkward Thanksgivings for several years. And you know what? Even back in 1998, when the Web was still reasonably new, while one could be sympathetic, in the back of the head there was always well, what did you expect? It’s not that hard to find things out. Something will give you away sooner or later. Here in 2012, if you’re going to make an argument to me that anonymity truly exists on the Web, I’m going to want you to follow up with an explanation of how the Easter Bunny is riding unicorns on Mars with Kurt Cobain.
I find it difficult to believe that Redditors don’t understand that anonymity online is merely a facade; indeed it’s probably one of the reasons that revealing the identity of pseudonymous Redditors is looked on as such a huge betrayal. That said, anyone who goes to Reddit and truly believes that a site-standard ethos of “don’t reveal our members’ identities” fully protects them from being revealed or allows them to revel in obnoxious and/or creepy behavior without fear of discovery, they’re kind of dumb. I won’t say that they deserve what they get — maybe they do, maybe they don’t — but I will say they shouldn’t be terribly surprised.
Now, you might argue that someone has a right to pseudonymity or anonymity online, and depending on your argument, I might even agree with you (hint: such an argument doesn’t involve posting sexualized pictures of minors or the unconsenting). But I would also agree with you that it would be cool if the Mars rover beamed back a picture of Kurt and Peter Cottontail jamming on “Pennyroyal Tea” while their unicorns kept the time on tambourine. Back here in the real world, you should get used to the idea neither is happening soon.
Speaking of the real world:
4. Reddit is not the Internet, the Internet is not Reddit, and in neither place is one obliged to privilege anonymity/pseudonymity. It seems like a lot of the angst emanating from Reddit regarding this event is based on a presumed community standard of not outing anonymous or pseudonymous Reddit users. However,
leaving aside the fact that this “community standard” is found neither in the Rules of Reddit nor its “Reddiquette” document (Update: Redditors have pointed out that I missed places where a ban on outing personal information this was noted, which is a fair call; I was looking for statements relating specifically to anonymity/pseudonymity and focused on those words), just because something is a community standard does not mean one is obliged to follow it in all ways at all times, and if the “community standard” is doing real harm or is being used as a shield to allow people to act badly without consequence, then it’s a reasonable question of whether this “standard” is to be allowed to stand unchallenged.
In any event, an argument that those outside the community are bound to its standards is a tough one to make outside of that community. Am I, John Scalzi, enjoined by Reddit “community standards” on my own site? Not in the least, and if anyone suggested I was, I would point and laugh at them. Am I when I am on Reddit, signed into my Reddit account (“Scalzi,” which, I would note, is not particularly anonymous/pseudonymous)? Well, I’m enjoined by the actual rules (seeing as I have no right to free speech as understood by the US Constitution while I am there), and generally would try to abide by established local practices. But there are rules and then there are guidelines, and I don’t need to believe that the latter has the force of the former.
In the case of Adrian Chen, the Gawker writer who revealed Violentacrez’s real-life identity, I think he’s perfectly justified in doing so. Whether certain denizens of Reddit like it or not, Chen was practicing journalism, and writing a story of a figure of note (and of notoriety) on one of the largest and most influential sites on the Internet. They may believe that Mr. Brutsch should have an expectation not to have his real life identity revealed on Gawker, but the question to ask here is “why?” Why should that be the expectation? How does an expectation of pseudonymity on a Web site logically extend to an expectation of pseudonymity in the real world? How does one who beats his chest for the right of free speech on a Web site (where in fact he has no free speech rights) and to have that right to free speech include the posting of pictures of women who did not consent to have their pictures taken or posted then turn around and criticize Gawker for pursuing an actually and legitimately constitutionally protected exercise of the free press, involving a man who has no legal or ethical presumption of anonymity or pseudonymity in the real world? How do you square one with the other? Well, you can’t, or at least I can’t; I have no doubt some of the folks at Reddit can guide that particular camel through the eye of the needle.
But they would be wrong. Mr. Brutsch’s actions are newsworthy, and it’s neither libel nor defamation for Gawker to correctly attribute his actions to him, whether or not he ever expected them to be attached to his real life identity. If they don’t think so, I heartily encourage them to take up a collection for Mr. Brutsch so he can sue Gawker. I know what the result would be, but I think the path to getting there might be instructive to some Redditors.
Or maybe (and hopefully) they already know they don’t have a legal or ethical leg to stand on, which is why they eventually fall back on well, this just isn’t done and then ban Gawker links on Reddit. Which, of course, is their right. That is, so long as the people actually running Reddit believe it is.
Update 10/18: A follow up post.
A couple of quick notes:
1. This piece should not be read as a blanket condemnation of Reddit, which I visit on a regular basis and on which I have done interviews. Nor should it been as a blanket condemnation of everyone who identifies as a “Redditor,” because, come on, that’s silly. Reddit is generally fine but has squicky corners to it and some squicky people. Kind of like the Internet in general.
2. As this piece has the potential of bringing in all sorts of new people, including those from Reddit (presuming it is not banned, that is, on various subreddits), I would encourage new folks to stop by the Site Disclaimer and Comment Policy page before commenting. Those comments that do not align with my community standards they will be touched by the Mallet of Loving Correction. So please play nice. Thank you.
Really? People think there’s anonymity on the WWWeb? We knew it was gone forever on FIDOnet, and once gone, it’s not coming back.
It’s been a long time since the only business law class I ever took, but I believe that people who deliberately put themselves in the public eye (“figures of note” as you say) have a higher bar for proving invasion of privacy. A quick glance through Wikipedia seems to confirm, but that hardly counts as a legal opinion.
Well, there’s always Tor, if you really want to be anonymous.
I think the pseudonymity angle adds an interesting spin on things, i.e., does being well-known pseudoymously but not in real life make one a public figure? However, in this case this would be aside the point, as no one including Mr. Brutsch, appears to contend he is not “Violentacrez” or that he did not do what Gawker reports him as doing.
The internet is a stage onto which some people like to project the contents of their unconscious minds. Trouble is, some of that stuff’s pretty grotty. But you can’t really complain if somebody collects a big bag of your own shit, which you put out there, and he dumps it on your doorstep, saying, in front of all the neighbors, “I think this is yours.”
All in all, you’re better off keeping your unconscious to yourself, especially the really grotty parts.
This whole subject has been bugging me, and you’ve articulated some of my nebulous concerns. So thanks for that.
I think the real issue here – which of course the chest-beaters would rather not have brought up – is “responsibility”. These guys want to be able to indulge themselves without being held responsible for the indulgence. Whether it’s bitching out a co-worker behind their back or sexualizing unsuspecting, underage people, no one likes to be confronted with their own reprehensible actions.
My 2 cents.
I’m a straight-up free-speech absolutist, and not one of those “because it’s the First Amendment” types but “because it’s right and the First Amendment is one more way to protect it.” And I don’t see anyone’s free speech impinged on here; I see Brutsch using his, Adrian Chen using his, and then lots and lots of people using theirs. Nobody was told to shut up; one guy simply received a flood of negative messages that he (and his employers) couldn’t handle. Many people persist, for decades, in saying and writing things that other people don’t like, and, you know, as long as they all can, without having to get a permit before or go to jail after, you’ve got free speech. If somebody shouts something you don’t like, shout back. You can have free speech or safe spaces, but not both. What Our Boy Brutsch just discovered was that “no safe space” includes “no safe space for creeps.”
Well said, sir.
My identity online is one of those things I’m wary of, especially since I have personal views that don’t always square with the stated views of my employers, a private company.
Despite that, in many ways I can’t help how much of my mind I let loose online. At the very least, I know that if questioned on it I have firm reasons for what I say and do. My actions are mine, as is the responsibility I must take for them, and I can and will defend them.
I can’t imagine treating it any other way. Thinking you can say or do something indefensible on moral or ethical grounds online and not be responsible for it is moronic.
By the way, I would love to see Stats of Loving Correction Hammering after all is said and done.
>> I won’t say that they deserve what they get — maybe they do, maybe they don’t — but I will say they shouldn’t be terribly surprised.>>
Anyone depending on the argument that they deserve to be treated with respect, etiquette and consideration while they’re refusing to treat others with respect, etiquette and consideration is at least a little confused.
If they have a right to act like assholes, then others have the right to serve them gander sauce, I’d say.
The thing that gets me… *Really* gets me is that no one is disputing the facts of the matter.
The only argument being made is “I’m not antisemitic/wife-beating/pedophile… I only played one on the internet and my very real enemies I’ve legitimately earned through my actions would like to make my real life uncomfortable.”
Which… isn’t terribly compelling to me.
The summary of my position as a regular of both reddit and this blog is as such:
Violentacrez did some pretty shady things, and doesn’t sound like anyone I’d like to be around. However, the people touting the revealing of his identity as some form of “[Vigilante] Internet Justice” are the ones that worry me the most. There’s plenty of times these kind of events end up with the wrong person, and almost as many times where it becomes a misguided witchunt. The idea of this becoming a group’s go-to solution for stopping someone they don’t agree with, frankly, terrifies me. Yes, it could be argued VA had it coming. Yeah, there’s nothing strictly illegal about releasing his personal info into the wild. But I hope to God that revealing someone stays a rare and newsworthy event, and is never considered commonplace.
(Sidenote: I find it ironic that, by giving my full name instead of the handle I use across steam, twitter, gmail, etc… This comment becomes orphaned from my online identity, as most people don’t know my name)
As usual, you cut right to the chase and untangle the various issues involved succinctly and with an eye toward common sense.
The only thing I have a problem with is that folks everywhere are up in arms about this particular story, but very few people are talking about the real victims — the people that these jerks harass.
Thought experiment: Violentwhatever posts his crap _elsewhere on the internet_, doing his best to obscure his identity. Would Redditors hesitate one second to launch a campaign against him and out him? NFW. And the sound of mutual back-patting would be deafening. I’m glad Redditors have Reddit, just as I was glad AOLers had that swamp. We should encourage them to ban the whole friggin’ internet from their lovely little garden of self-regard.
I’m thinking right to privacy in terms of his right, or at least his expectation, that he’ll be anonymous. Isn’t that one reason to by anonymous on the internet, to maintain your privacy? So you don’t have to have your friends and family (and employer!) know what you’re doing. I know that when I choose to be anonymous on the internet, it’s because I want whatever I’m doing to remain private. Mind you, for me it’s more of an embarrassment factor than a skeevy factor. :) Your mileage may vary, of course.
Reblogged this on Note To Self and commented:
Also known as “Actions have Consequences, Dickweed”. Or perhaps “You Don’t Get to Take a Shit Then Expect Us to Clean It Up Because ZOMG FREE SPEECH”.
And I’m not so stupid as to think that someone couldn’t find out what I’m doing if they wanted.
I can’t help but be cognizant of the misogyny that runs rampant through so many of these Internet wars. Maybe that’s because I am a woman, although I don’t think that identification as a female person is either necessary or sufficient to notice it. This and elevator-gate have really worked out to be great interwebz litmus tests.
“[T]he Easter Bunny is riding unicorns on Mars with Kurt Cobain.” This really needs to be the next Scalzi novel.
When it comes down to it, the internet is the modern, e-peen version of the Wild West: pretty much anything goes. You pays your money, you takes your chances. I use a nickname–not precisely a pseudonym, as this nickname is a long-standing one in real life for me–as a minor buffer, something expected only to keep the casual nosiness out. Sort of like locking your windows: while it won’t stop a determined intruder, it goes a longish way towards deterring the casual offender-of-opportunity sorts. If someone busts through it to find my meat identity, no real loss. That being said, Mr. Assaultinghectares is reaping what he has sown and I shall cry no tears whatsoever for him, nor shall I be troubled by the faux question of privacy here.
In other words, well said, Mr. Scalzi.
I think there is a big misunderstanding some people (creepy reddit users) about freedom of speech and freedom of consequences. Everybody in the US has freedom of speech (although as John notes not necessarily on privately owned sites), but you don’t get to avoid the consequences of people calling you on what you say…
This story highlights a tough line to draw: when is it OK to fire someone for something they say outside of work? Brutsch seems like an easy case – what he said seems to indicate personality traits that few employers would want. But other examples are more complicated: For example, what about an advocate for same-sex marriage? I’d keep him/her; others wouldn’t.
Like I said – it’s a tough line. I have no idea where it should be.
I saw the story on Gawker this morning. Had two thoghts about it. First, this sick fuck actually does this. Second, well say goodbye to your job dipshit.
I am happily completely unfamiliar with any of this man’s slime, so I will refrain from further comment.
Hope this isn’t another late night with the idiots for you John.
I also point out that the legal concepts of being a “public figure” or “quasi-public figure” and self-disclosure exist, and limit to what extent someone can maintain a a legal expectation of privacy.
For instance, Mister Scalzi President of SFWA is a Quasi-Public figure, and has no legal expectation of privacy about his role as President of SFWA. Mister Scalzi Published Author, has no legal expectation of privacy about the things he does on public book tours. Mister Scalzi Private Citizen has an expectation of privacy about if he tapes bacon to his cat, until he posts photos of bacon taped to his cat to the internet. Should Mister Scalzi ever decide to run for and be elected President of the United States, he becomes a fully public figure, and loses the right to personal privacy. However, his family would retain their right to privacy.
Mister Brutsch gave up expectations to privacy when he took on a role as a quasi-public figure in representing Reddit as an authority. Mister Brutsch gave up expectations to privacy when he self-disclosed facts about sexual relations with his 19 year old step daughter and engaged in curating collections of ‘up skirt photos’ of non-consenting minors, which would lead to rational enquiry into his identity. Mister Brutsch had no legal expectation to privacy to provide him some special insulation from the repercussions of these.
What Mister Brutsch did not understand is the internet is not your lawyer or doctor or psychiatrist, and has no client confidentiality.
It is ridiculous that this assbag should think his anonymity should be protected when we as a society do nothing about all the assbags who manage to work out the identities of even anonymous feminist bloggers (for example, I’m sure many other kinds of bloggers get similar) and send them explicit rape and death threats that contain their home address. Fuck you, dude.
Have you even been to Reddit? The “whole friggin’ internet” is their lovely little garden.
Wait a minute. Did you just tell me that Reddit is *making money* off photos of non-consenting women and children? Do I smell a class action suit here?
The idea that you have an expectation of anonymity on the internet when you have to provide your name and billing information to gain access to said internet seems a trifle naive from the chair I’m sitting in.
@~~Silk: Reddit makes money off of people visiting their site, just as many community sites do. So in that sense, yes. But really they make money by providing tools for people to construct their own little communities (subreddits) that intersect in a sort of nightmarish structure like a Venn diagram as drawn by M.C. Escher.
I’ve been following this closely and it always weirds me out when people scream freedom of speech with utter conviction as if their behaviour is totally keeping within the letter of the law. And I always thought ‘that can’t be right’, and of course it turns out not to be. I think ‘freedom of speech’ is one of the most misinterpreted terms in the US lexicon.
That being said I fully support peoples inalienable right to be creepy, horrible people and post topics to reddit with titles like DeadJailbait, deliberately offend people for fun and tear shreds of people who voice the tiniest objection. The caveat being you shouldn’t rely on perceived anonymity and the perceived balls it gives you, if your conviction against censorship and for the freedom of expression is so great you should at least have the cojones to stand by your convictions instead of hiding behind them and a fake name. Because if you don’t it’s like a giant red sign that says deep down some where in my horrible, sticky mind there’s a place where I know this is all kind of wrong. Wheaton’s Law says don’t be a dick, but a sublaw to that should be, at the very least own your dickishness.
“Free speech” (in the commonly-used misunderstanding that Scalzi alludes to at the end of point 1) also means other people get to have “free speech”, and tell you you are a creep who they don’t want working for them.
I had not known until this post what the scumball’s employer was. Turns out they’re predators as well, just on poor people instead of young women.
And this is why I love Whatever. I was thinking all of this last night when I was reading it on Gawker, but you write so much purtier.
When you post something on “the internet” you are posting it on a machine that belongs to someone else. There can be no expectation of privacy or anonymity in that case. Because we write on machines that are under our control it is all too easy to forget that.
Considering how many blogs I comment on under the name “Hershele Ostropoler” I’m not sure it counts as a pseudonym.
Certainly I tend to behave as though it is connected with my wallet name (as opposed to the second handle I use on some blogs, which I make more of an effort to keep separate). In places like Twitter and FB where I do use my wallet name or some variation thereof, I interact with people who know Hershele!me as though they could reasonably be expected to know who I am.
(I use it so a Google search on my wallet name doesn’t immediately reveal my political opinions to people of unknown motives, but I’m willing to be honest with people who ask me point-blank about my politics.)
““[T]he Easter Bunny is riding unicorns on Mars with Kurt Cobain.” This really needs to be the next Scalzi novel.”
I’m envisioning a velvet painting auctioned off for whatever cause John designates, myself.
My favorite little moment of the story is the guy’ sleazy offsite behavior got him fired from his job at… a payday loan company. Actually, he told his boss about the article and the boss didn’t think it was going to be a problem. Then the internet dumped on his head and Mr. Brutsch discovered that it is possible to be considered morally unfit to work at a payday loan company.
“Ya know, ya build up this great little corner of the internet with perfectly legal no-consent racist underage porn, and then some douchebag teacher has to go and ruin the whole setup by posting upskirts of his students. Don’t people have standards these days?”
What’s eerie to me is how this dovetails with the Amanda Todd suicide, and Anonymous’s “unveiling” of the guy who may or may not (due process!) have been involved in her bullying:
While everyone’s focused on Gawker/Reddit/Chen/Brutsch, it is entirely possible that a hacker group either fingered the guy who made a 15 year old want to kill herself, or completely ruined an innocent man’s life.
I’m relatively certain, having read Chen’s article, that he got the right guy, and my sentiments align with yours — anyone who thinks anonymity on the internet is real is kidding themselves.
But (and this is a question I often ask myself when reading journalist exposes), what if they had it all wrong? What then? This isn’t me actually looking for answers, it’s just a thought experiment I like to play. In your comments. For funsies.
This was the first thing I read about the situation:
I liked the points Lindsay Beyerstein makes in the article about legal sanctions and social sanctions and their respective uses and characteristics.
Excerpt: “In practice, our legal freedom to speak our minds is constrained by our accountability to the people around us. They know who we are, they know where we live, they will kick us under the table when we get out of line. In real life, we only have one body connected to one name, and we’ve got to weigh the satisfaction of speaking our minds against the long term effects on our reputations and relationships. This is a pretty elegant system, albeit an imperfect one. It puts the ‘society’ in ‘free society.’ In real life, we have the legal right to say pretty much whatever we want, but we are enmeshed in a network of social checks and balances that keep us accountable for our speech. Nobody can force us to shut up, but lots of people can make their displeasure known to us. It’s a good balance that allows people to share ideas freely without rending the fabric of the community.”
And: “On the internet, we need a network of social checks and balances akin to the one we enjoy in the real world. A lot of people are uncomfortable with this idea because they fear that the principle will be abused to out innocent people. No doubt that’s true. But unless you want to argue that nobody should ever be outed for any reason, you’re faced with the difficult task of articulating when it’s appropriate to lift the veil. That’s the nature of informal social controls, they get applied by regular people, with varying degrees of fairness and accuracy. People need to understand the nature of online pseudonymity and decide whether they want to put themselves out there.”
Also: “Online pseudonymity is largely a social courtesy.” Ms. Beyerstein speaks strongly about the importance of maintaining the norm of respect for pseudonymity and at the same time argues that there are situations in which the norm can and should be set aside, and she thinks this is one of them and explains why.
And there’s more. All much better thought out and expressed than anything I would be able to come up with myself, so I’m putting the link and some quotes out here in lieu of half-baked comments of my own.
This sort of thing always reminds me of a rule: If you do not want something read/viewed, DO NOT PUT IT ON THE INTERNET, no matter how “perfect” your security. That is what diaries are for, if you must. And frankly, if you don’t want something read, just don’t write it down, period.
Second, I think we should have the right to attempt to remain anonymous/pseudonymous online. The internet has become a powerful tool for empowering the traditionally silenced voices to speak up and out without having to fear (as much) for their lives/safety/reputations/jobs. If we strip away all anonymity from the internet, we risk silencing those very important voices again (I’m thinking of people like sex-workers, gays in Iran, women in Pakistan, etc). But just because you’re pseudonymous/anonymous doesn’t mean you should get to be a raging jerkwad with impunity either.
I guess I’m sort of looking for a middle-ground, where people are still free to speak up and out on touchy/risky issues, but can still be held accountable for anti-social douchewittery.
A couple of thoughts. Much of what Mr. Brutsch was doing made me think of the Whatever post on creeping. Reading the story outing Violentacrez increased my sympathy for the victims of creeping. Which brings me to my second thought. Mr. Brutsch sounds a lot like Larry Flint with out the guts. Larry owned his creep and got rich selling it. A creep who paid a high price for what he sold but a creep none the less. They both work the first amendment to protect their right to be slimeballs. It seems Mr Brutsch would like to expand the 1st to include anonymity. A silly idea if you ask me. I am not even much of a proponent of anonymous sources. But that’s another topic.
My problem is not with his exercise of free speech. You are correct in that it is not being denied him. My problem is with him being fired for non-work related activities. Yes he has the legal right, but does he have the moral. I’m a firm believer in Just Cause laws. An employer has tremendous power over workers, especially anyone living check to check.
“‘“[T]he Easter Bunny is riding unicorns on Mars with Kurt Cobain.” This really needs to be the next Scalzi novel.’
“I’m envisioning a velvet painting auctioned off for whatever cause John designates, myself.”
Oh, yes, *please*. *grin*
Also, echoing many others, well said, Mr. Scalzi.
And I’ve been “glinda” – which I’ve been called in RL all of my life – or “glinda_w” online for… gah. 17 or 18 years, now. Facebook and WordPress, however, ended up with my RL initials and last name. The local BBS I started out on, 19 years ago – well, it was local, we had parties, we weren’t anonymous. When that connected to the Internet, I didn’t really expect privacy. I’m not shouting “this is my name, this is where I live”, but I *know* I’m not anonymous.
I don’t have much to add. I just wanted to say “bravo” to you, Scalzi. Speaking freely, even in the commonly misunderstood definition, does not exempt you from the consequences of that speech. Mr. Brutsch said things behind a mask that would have gotten him fired. It is not a violation of free speech to have that mask removed and allow the consequences to do their thing.
As I understand it, the photos posted were taken in public places where the subjects had no expectation of privacy, so there’s no legal case. (Legal liability for public photography would cause significant issues).
I don’t mind Brutsch getting outed and losing his job – he easily fits in the “contemptible asshat” folder – but, well, broken clock is right twice a day and all. Remember the “outing” of George Zimmerman’s location that got the wrong George Zimmerman? I don’t really expect outing to be used intelligently most of the time.
I have no problem with his being fired over this. The company I work for would quite happily fire me if I were connected to that kind of asshattery online. The stated social media policy where I work is pretty clear- do anything online that is contrary to the code of ethics and the consequences can be up to and including immediate termination with cause.
Cole Wardell @ 10/16 19:58:
I actualy do have a similar concern: how many people have to agree what you’re doing is bad before this becomes ok? I mean, there’s pretty broad agreement that what VA did was horrible, but there are a lot of things that are more controversial than upskirts and incest. We don’t want to break the pseudonymity of everyone.
1. The “free speech” aspect of this is largely nonsense. Reddit is not a public utility or a public square; it’s a privately owned space on the Internet. From a legal and (United States) constitutional point of view, people who post on Reddit have no “free speech” privileges; they have what speech privileges Reddit itself chooses to provide them, and to tolerate.
Yup. Any forum moderator can recite that one in their sleep, along with “Freedom of speech means you’re free to go start a site of your own. It doesn’t mean you’re free to do whatever you want on this one.” That’s because internet habitues who can pick up new memes at practically the speed of light are strangely resistant to understanding the concept, so we have to repeat it over and over again.
2. Anonymity/pseudonymity is not inherently evil or wrong. … It’s not anonymity or pseudonymity that’s the issue. The issue is people being assholes while anonymous because they don’t believe it’s ever going to get back to them.
I’d say the real issue is people being assholes. Their erroneous assumption of anonymity encourages but doesn’t cause it. We’ve all seen people being assholes under their real names.
In this case, I’d say there’s also the abusive/voyeuristic angle of having power over one’s victim but remaining invisible to them, while they have no privacy at all. It’s a known kink. Some of the people who are upset about Violentacrez being identified as Michael Brutsch liked that anonymous aspect of the status quo ante. I’m not sorry that their rock has been tipped over.
3. If at this point in Internet history you think you’re really anonymous/pseudonymous on the Internet, or that you have a right to anonymity/pseudonymity on the Internet, you’re kind of stupid.
Hoo boy. Been telling people that for years. If you haven’t been outed (that you know of), it’s because nobody’s cared enough to do it — and the amount of caring required keeps going down.
Long term, if you don’t carelessly out yourself when someone’s watching, the social graph will do it for you. Saved message bases are static. They don’t get more wily and sophisticated while they sit. The technology used to analyze them does. Who’s saving old message bases? No one knows. No one’s been keeping track.
Nominal #4: So, what’s the morality of outing people less obviously culpable than Violentacrez/Michael Brutsch?
It’s troubling. Too many states have “employment at will” laws, like the one (Texas) where Michael Brutsch lives. Employees can be fired for anything, including what they say on their own time on their own accounts. That’s been going on for a while now. Workers need more protection, if real freedom of speech is going to mean anything.
However, even if such protections were already in place, Michael Brutsch would still be out of a job.
Re the “public figure” issue, y’all are thinking of the standard in defamation cases.
Re the firing, we’re not talking about something he did in private, but about public actions that included disseminating sexualized pictures of women (and teenagers) taken without their consent or, often, knowledge. Tell me, anyone think keeping such a person on staff would be a smart business move? Do you think female co-workers would be thrilled to work with him? How about customers; do you want to take the chance that the next downblouse photo of a fifteen-year-old is going to be taken in the lobby of your company? If so, you must really like the thought of getting your clock cleaned in a lawsuit.
I think what Adrian did is a step down a path towards having a responsible community on the internet, where one’s words and actions might actually bring consequence. When I stumble into creeper material and see the alternating outrage and risible ‘defenses’, I believe that a soupçon of recognition that someone may hold you – personally – to what you post makes an enormous difference. An article, like the law, is a blunt tool, but it has a certain power that helps us to evolve as humans and communities.
Fundamentally, I want everyone to think deeply and critically about what they say and do. It seems the only thing that will enable us to go forward. Failure to do so should have consequences.
PS About firing him: I can’t find fault for them in doing so. Failing to do so could affect their business as the reputation of their employees affects the reputation of the company.
“My problem is not with his exercise of free speech. You are correct in that it is not being denied him. My problem is with him being fired for non-work related activities. Yes he has the legal right, but does he have the moral. I’m a firm believer in Just Cause laws. An employer has tremendous power over workers, especially anyone living check to check.”
Would you hire him? Knowing what we know, why should his employer continue to employ him? Because “employers” as a general class have to employ jerks if they’re only jerks on their off-time? I’m not sure I follow your logic.
John, that was one of the best-written essays on internet free speech/anonymity I’ve read. And I’ve read a lot. This is the bit I liked best:
“Why should that be the expectation? How does an expectation of pseudonymity on a Web site logically extend to an expectation of pseudonymity in the real world? How does one who beats his chest for the right of free speech on a Web site (where in fact he has no free speech rights) and to have that right to free speech include the posting of pictures of women who did not consent to have their pictures taken or posted then turn around and criticize Gawker for pursuing an actually and legitimately constitutionally protected exercise of the free press, involving a man who has no legal or ethical presumption of anonymity or pseudonymity in the real world? ”
As a civil libertarian, I’m more than fine with this. Asshole shot his mouth off; asshole got shunned by society. The only way I would consider it even better is if he couldn’t get a meal and eventually starved to death or lived off roadkill, but, sadly, grocers and other vendors of calories must still serve him. But hey, it’s a start.
In Real Life, an employer can find a reason to fire anyone for cause, even if they can’t fire them for the cause they really want to, so the question is moot.
The US Constitution guarantees United States citizens the right to speech free from prosecution by the United States government and any of its representatives and agencies. Nothing more. Nothing less. Larry Flint has right to sell his smut because he does it through his own business. Brutsch has no such right protected on Reddit.
@ James B Franks
Any employer who gets sued successfully under Just Cause laws is a moron who failed to make sure the proximate cause was something “Just”.
Which begs the question of who is culpable, the person who publishes the wrong address or the mob that takes justice into their own hands…or both?
@ Teresa Nielsen Hayden
O ye, of little faith :)
As I tell other people, ECHALON isn’t a technology, it’s a promise.
Doesn’t and won’t work. Texas does have laws against firing people for race, sexual orientation and even non-innate characteristics like religious practice, but people here and everywhere still get canned. Everybody does something firable as long as the employer is savvy enough to keep paper trails.
I think people were thinking more along the lines of someone who gets fired for going to a political rally, or a gay marriage demonstration. Or something less cut-and-dry between political persuasions, such as say abortion. The question is, how do you establish a criteria that isn’t subjective or political?
Too many states have “employment at will” laws
Every state has these laws. You are, by law, an “at-will” employee unless
– you have a contract or employment agreement to the contrary
– you are a member of a union and your collective bargaining agreement limits this
– the reason you were fired is specifically forbidden by law (e.g., race).
A lot of people really believe that it’s illegal to fire people for “unfair” reasons, or that it’s already illegal to fire someone because they’re gay. Not so.
@ Gulliver “The question is, how do you establish a criteria that isn’t subjective or political?”
Why is that the question? Why does “I believe that this action was on the whole the right thing to do.” obligate one to give a response to “Please elaborate an objective rule that will correctly decide all such future cases.”?
“I think people were thinking more along the lines of someone who gets fired for going to a political rally, or a gay marriage demonstration. Or something less cut-and-dry between political persuasions, such as say abortion. The question is, how do you establish a criteria that isn’t subjective or political?”
In my opinion, by using the stated moral and ethical standards of the employer. If they say they believe in the fair and equal treatment of all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations then they and their employees should be held to that standard. If they then fire an employee who was seen at a local gay marriage rally, on their own free time, then they should face consequences. At the same time, if they continue to employ someone that clearly violates their standards of morality or ethics they should also face consequences; for example, criticism in newspapers/TV, loss of business, public rejection etc.
As for free speech, I’ve noted myself that way too many people seem not to understand it. That it’s about being free to say something and being protected from Government censure and prosecution, not from social consequences.
This is sketchy. To fire someone for cause, and therefore avoid paying unemployment on them, you have to provide a work-related cause. So if being openly gay was a job impediment, say working for an anti-gay-rights nonprofit, then yes, you could fire them for cause. I seem to recall a news article about a lawsuit related to something similar, but I can’t remember where I saw it.
As for free speech, I’ve noted myself that way too many people seem not to understand it.
They use it the way a six-year-old uses “That’s unfair!” In other words, it means “I don’t wanna” and pretty much nothing else.
@strech: “Expectation of privacy” is a standard applied to criminal cases regarding warrantless searches. It doesn’t apply in civil cases. And an up skirt photo of a minor in a public place is illegal in most places in the U.S. Posting it might potentially open reddit to child pornography charges. Finally, I believe that a woman does have an expectation that people aren’t looking up her skirt in public.
Your essay is accurate and honest.
As a resident of Vancouver I have found the Amanda Todd case to be exceptionally troubling. Amanda Todd was not bullied but stalked.
I know anonymity doesn’t exist online.
On occasion I use my boyfriend’s computer or phone so people will think I’m a man. When I do this I am not harassed.
Thank you for your common sense and your ability to succintly express how I feel about the subgroups on Redditt.
Thank you so much for saying this.
I watched this play out on reddit and I think you are 100% right. I can’t even conceive how someone could argue otherwise, and as everyone who follows the political threads around here knows, I’m not generally in agreement with the majority of people who frequent your site. Well said.
@ Marc G.
Sorry I missed this. It doesn’t obligate one, but legal courts must apply the law equally to all, or its law of attainder, which is explicitly forbidden by the US Constitution. Ah, I think I see the confusion. I didn’t mean subjective to the case, I meant subjective to the prevailing political inclinations of the time or place. That’s the difference between a limited democratic republic and a direct democracy.
On a tangential note, it’s possible to create protected castes where specific characteristics are given legitimacy, or it’s possible to create clear rights and responsibilities that everyone has to follow regardless of who or what they are or choose to believe. I find the latter preferable and believe it’s more effective at combating discrimination since it’s less reliant on the court of public opinion catching up with right and wrong. That’s why I’m a civil libertarian.
The biggest story in all this is that Gawker did journalism.
I’m not in any way going to say that Brutsch does not deserve to face consequences for his actions. In the free world everyone is entitled to speak their mind without threat of governmental retaliation. Social retaliation is, however, what prevents people from expressing thoughts that are best described as marginal-and-likely-to-cause-discomfort-in-others. Most folks are able to keep their junk in the closet, and if they choose to open the door do so only to their most intimate companions.
What does distress me is that social retribution can be far more devastating than criminal justice. Brutsch is now forever linked to the vast quantity of damning material he posted/moderated/gestated. It’s entirely possible that he will not be able to secure employment, particularly given the field he is qualified to work in, ever again. Unlike a convicted felon, he will not receive any support that would allow him to reform/reintegrate. He’ll be on his own, without even the company health insurance that he likely depended on to cover the care of a disabled spouse.
There is a reason that the rule of law came into existence – it was to curtail the brutality of mob justice, to insure that those who broke the law were made to atone for their actions in an objectively fair manner. And later, it became the responsibility of progressive government to not only enact justice, but to actively make an effort to assist lawbreakers in mending their ways so that they could become productive members of society.
While we rejoice in the schadenfreude pie that’s currently being baked, please take a moment and contemplate the repercussions of Teh Intewebz version of a good-ol’-hanging. Brutsch may or may not have actually broken the law, but it would probably be better for him if he had. He’d have received a trial by a jury of peers, moderated by a judge with (one hopes) the wisdom and experience to see beyond the gut-level-aggro that he’d inspired. He’d have gotten (again one hopes) a fair and reasonable butt-kicking, and after paying his dues been given the opportunity to start anew.
What is the penalty for being a pernicious asshat creep on the web? If we’re to take the current responses at face value, it’s the destruction of that person’s entire life, and the collateral destruction of their spouse and offspring’s lives by association. No appeal. No opportunity to atone.
As much as I may loath Brutsch as an individual, I cannot find it within myself to believe that anyone deserves to be left swinging in the wind. We are the Internet, and we fall on the heads of perceived wrongdoers with thunder and lightning. But unlike the lawmakers and governments, we don’t stick around to sort through the rubble after unleashing hell.
Perhaps we should.
Brutsch seemingly didn’t accept that there would be consequences for his actions. But how many folks, gleefully tossing thunderbolts right now, realize that there will be consequences to theirs? If things go badly, there will be blood on our hands.
@Gulliver, you’re kinda mashing up some things here.
Whether a firing means you are eligible for unemployment benefits is far different than whether it was legal to fire you. In California, it’s illegal to fire someone for being gay; in Utah it probably isn’t; but the Utahn might still be able to collect unemployment benefits.
Laws that do not apply equally to all are not “bills of attainder”. A bill of attainder is a law passed by the legislature declaring someone guilty of a crime.. Laws do not have to apply “equally to all”, in any case; they do have to conform to Constitutional requirements like the Equal Protection Clause, but sometimes they will not apply “equally to all” regardless.
Re paper trails, as a lot of employers find out too late when they’re on the wrong end of a lawsuit, a paper trail doesn’t help you when it’s selectively applied; it can actually be evidence of discrimination. An employer who has meticulous records on the hours and performance of the one Catholic employee as ‘justification for cause’ is going to have a problem if that employer never pays attention to, much less disciplines, Protestant employees who show up late and don’t do their work.
“…do you want to take the chance that the next downblouse photo of a fifteen-year-old is going to be taken in the lobby of your company?”
THIS x inifinity
One of the creepiest parts of the predditors tumblr was how many of the men were quoted as saying that the pictures they took were of coworkers and customers. I can promise you that I was paying close attention to what companies those were.
Also, elsewhere people have speculated that Brutsch may have used company equipment to engage in these actions, and possibly have done so on company time. Considering how prolific he was, this seems incredibly likely.
@Teresa Nielsen Hayden
“In this case, I’d say there’s also the abusive/voyeuristic angle of having power over one’s victim but remaining invisible to them, while they have no privacy at all. It’s a known kink. Some of the people who are upset about Violentacrez being identified as Michael Brutsch liked that anonymous aspect of the status quo ante. I’m not sorry that their rock has been tipped over.”
Yes. And thank you for putting you verbalizing exactly why this story has gotten under my skin the way it has. As someone who was the victim of a voyeur at the oh so sophisticated age of 12, I have absolutely no sympathy for the plight of abusers – and overwhelmingly adult abusers at that – who are worried that their actions may become linked to their legal names.
Regarding courts and laws versus public opinion: did we do away with “jury of one’s peers” while I wasn’t looking?
Workers need more protection, if real freedom of speech is going to mean anything.
But that was Scalzi’s whole point. You have complete freedom of speech. You do not have freedom from the consequences of what you say.
It is one thing to vocally support another candidate and to speak civilly about that support.
It is another thing to talk about breaking the law and expecting no consequences.
This whole thing is really up my pet issue alley. May have to write something on my own blog about it tomorrow.
Long story short, however: Outing people for what they do outside of work can’t be taken as a one-size-fits-all ethical issue. Such actions tend to have disproportionately negative consequences on people who already suffer oppression. I.e., the firing of a teacher because someone connected her name with the pseudonym under which she writes naughty fanfic. As in real-world justice, intarweebs mob justice only rarely hits people who truly deserve it if they’re part of the ruling class. And it is for this reason that one can never make a blanket statement about whether handing someone a bag of their pseudonymously-generated dodginess is ethical or not. In some cases, it’s the only justice a truly horrible person will get, because more-official paths to justice will turn up exactly bupkis. In other cases, though, it can be used as a tool BY horrible people for the purposes of being horrible.
In other words, the power of intarweebs mob rage is a lot like the power of a deadly weapon. In the right hands, it’s often the only source of defense. In the wrong, it can be a source of great misery. The trick is to make sure the people who truly need it have access while cutting off access to those who will misuse it.
How that’s done? No clue.
@Nick, let me see if I am following your argument. Individuals choosing to shun a serial, unrepentant, public doucheclock is just like dragging a guy out and hanging him by the neck until he is dead. Can you, uh, walk through that?
After all, we’re not talking about someone hacking Brutsch’s email or scanning in his private journal or reprinting a letter he wrote to his girlfriend thirty years ago. This wasn’t an angry person disagreeing with that one guy on the Internet and deciding to ruin his life. Brutsch was a very public, active, loud participant on Reddit who apparently told many people ‘off-line’ who he really was. So the problem is, what, that he said things he knew would upset people and people are, in fact, upset?
Your comment that criminal charges would be better isn’t just overdramatic nonsense; it’s profoundly ignorant. Go talk to someone who’s actually faced criminal charges and prattle at them about how much better it was than just having some people dislike them. Find with a conviction on their record and ask them just how simple it is to “start anew” and how many employers are thrilled to hire someone with a conviction (particularly a felony conviction). Oh, and be sure to tell them how much better it is to have a probation officer, or to be behind bars, or to pay for restitution than to have some people on the Internet pissed at them for being a jerk.
BTW – I can’t tell if it’s simply tone-deafness or really subtle trolling, but you do realize you just looked at a guy who gleefully ran subreddits like “N——jailbait” and suggested he was being lynched?
With your kind permission, I’d like to repost this on another WordPress site for a class I’m enrolled in at Boise State University. The course is titled, “Digital History” and is mainly concerned with the presentation of history, as a humanity, in the digital realm. Your insights in this piece could generate some useful discussion topics, would you mind?
Not all immoral actions are illegal. But even with legal-but-immoral actions, most people in society do the right thing. However:
– Some people do the right thing because it’s the right thing and they don’t like hurting people.
– Others do the right thing because they’re cowards. They don’t give a damn whether what they do is the right or wrong, good or wicked, kind or malicious, but they know that they’ll lose too much if people find out they did the wrong thing.
The most depressing aspect of all of this is just how many of us are the second kind of person.
Thanks for writing this, John. This is why I read Whatever.
It’s not just convicted felons who find it impossible to start over. Merely being charged with a crime can be enough for an individual to lose his/her job and to not be able to find a new one, even if the case never goes to trial.
“What does distress me is that social retribution can be far more devastating than criminal justice.”
I’m sure this is news to the women and girls who have been violated and persecuted by Brutsch and the abusers he enabled.
“I can’t tell if it’s simply tone-deafness or really subtle trolling, but you do realize you just looked at a guy who gleefully ran subreddits like “N——jailbait” and suggested he was being lynched?”
He also said all this roughly a week after Amanda Todd killed herself after having been exploited, stalked, and harassed for years. First by an adult predator and then – when she started refusing to give the predator what he wanted – by her peer group after the predator shared the child porn he pressured her into making as retribution.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think that the solution to situations like this is more silence and lack of retribution (social or otherwise) for abusers. Especially adult abusers. Especially adults who abuse children.
What gets me is that Brutsch remained, and remains, completely unrepentant. He doesn’t think what he did was wrong. He thought it was funny and harmless, or at least, he didn’t care about the harm he did. No excuses, no apologies, no ass-covering. Even when faced with the journalist who was going to out him, he trundled on down to his boss and said, “Oh, hey, you’re going to have to fire me.”
I just… what? What is that? I’m more used to these guys backpedalling faster than the eye can follow. Instead it feels like he’s the symptom of some different strain.
If you *really* need to be anonymous on the internet, then it is possible. But it involves a lot more than a pseudonymous login on reddit!
The particular points are: don’t use an internet connection that’s traceable to you while using your anonymous account – go to a cybercafe and pay cash.
Scrub the exif data from your pictures. Think about what you write; don’t use in-jokes that people you know will recognise.
You will need to tell a few people (at the least, if you want to make money, you’ll need a lawyer and an accountant). Keep that number as small as possible.
Don’t cheat on your taxes. They have better investigators.
And that’s just for someone who risks public embarassment. If you’re risking something really important (like your life, because you’re a dissident in Iran) then this isn’t good enough.
I’ve had that talk – with a convicted murderer who wanted desperately to make up for what he’d done. A young man who’d made a terrible mistake and knew it, and had served his time. A fellow who accepted that he’d have to live with the consequences of his acts for the rest of his life. And at that time he was in the midst of turning his life around with the aid of others. He was my classmate, and I wish I’d done more to help. He did OK in the end – and a big part of that was because we forgave him.
Now, I don’t object to justice – I was pretty clear on that. What I object to is mob justice – the ease with which folks proclaim “he needed killing”. Justice needs to be meted out in reasonable apportion to the perceived crime. Honestly, is moderating questionably-themed forums equivalent to murder, and if we’re willing to give a murderer a second chance, then who are we to justify crucifying a fucked up asshat who will consequently never be a productive part of our society?
I am NOT defending Brutsch – I am defending the right that everyone should have… The right to a fair and just review of their actions by a group of peers and a wise, guiding hand in the face of social transgressions. People fuck up. Their fuck-ups are generally not as far reaching as folks initially assume. Internet fuck-ups are particularly overrated these days.
I don’t expect you’ll have a reasonable response to this, Mythago, because it’s fairly apparent that you’re yet another deliberately contrary troll. And what I doubt you’ll understand is that, on the day you’re outed and find the Internet falling on your head, that I’ll be one of the folks who will keep a level head and remind everyone that you’re going to need a hand to get back on your feet.
A rather disturbing trend I’ve noted is lionizing Gawker over all of this. Getting rid of this crap and exposing the people behind it is good, but there isn’t a great deal of daylight betweeen creepy reditors and Gawker’s actions. Among other things they used to have a stalker function to crowdsource celebrity movements until they were shamed out of it, and posted a munch of uncensored pictures of a woman being raped until they were shamed into blurring her.
This is basically the internet version of Darth Vader throwing the Emperor down the pit.
@Nick, did you tell that convicted murderer how lucky he was to have gone through the criminal justice system instead of having to face an Internet pile-on? That is, after all, what you suggested would be the case for Brutsch.
And yes, you really are defending him. You minimize his actions as a mere “fuck up” – as if it were a split second of bad judgment – and suggest that reactions to it are “overrated”. Would you say that to Brutsch’s stepdaughter, who he purports to ‘out’ as far as having oral sex with her stepfather? Would you say that to the teenage girls who had their pictures posted on Reddit without their knowledge or permission? Or the families of dead teenagers? Or real victims of racism or violence or anti-Semitism who Brutsch relentlessly trolled?
Your classmate, by the way, was already in a state of having understood his wrongdoing and having tried to improve his life. He wasn’t whining about how he’d gotten sent to jail or saying he missed not being able to kill people anymore, or that the victim’s family was being unfair to him because the conviction ended up hurting his family. (You don’t mention whether they forgave him, interestingly; it’s very kind of you and your classmates to give the guy another chance, but I’m thinking that the real forgiveness is something between him and the people he hurt.)
This isn’t about approving of death threats or harassment for Brutsch; that is always wrong. This is about recognizing that he did some really shitty things that he thought he could get away with because his buddies would protect his identity – and, by the way, he doesn’t regret those shitty things (unlike your classmate) but in fact actively regrets he can’t do them any more (again, unlike your classmate). And because of that, there are plenty of people, socially and professionally, who want nothing to do with him. You analogize this to a lynching for reasons that make no sense and you refuse to explain.
While I doubt you’ll understand this, Nick, it’s entirely possible that someday, despite your exalted status that prevents you from empathizing with the people Brutsch attacked, you might have somebody actually treat you in a vicious way that causes you real harm, and there will be plenty of people who will blame you for it and suggest that you have no right to hold the perpetrator to any kind of account. If, god forbid, that day comes, I promise I’ll be one of the folks keeping a level head and reminding everyone that you have as much human worth as anyone harassing you for the lulz.
Thanks for the insight into this, John. It is something I have been telling folks for some time. Like Hardeson [sic] from Leverage says, “It’s cute how you think your information is still private.”
I have noticed that many people who say questionable things online seem to get the idea that Free Speech means that no one can do anything about what they say. I am not expert, but I don’t see any constitutional protection against people reacting to what you say (aside from illegal reactions, like assault, murder and the like). Free Speech goes both ways.
Meaning, if I am a asshat online, my boss find out and fires me, then everyone was exercising their rights. Mine to be a asshat and his to fire asshats he doesn’t want associated with his business. Most employment is “at will” and employers don’t really even need a reason to let you go,
I hope I made sense. It is late, and I might not have said it the way I thought it. It’s the internet, so it will likely be misunderstood anyway. /sigh
It was fine for him to out him on Gawker. Contrawise, it would not be okay to out him on Reddit, as the community standards are against outing people there.
Might seem a bit contradictory, but remember moderators have banhammers in Reddit, too, and we’re all free to police our own playgrounds however we want.
Mythago: you are awesome. And I’ll just second your point about the difference between facing criminal charges, on the one hand, and public condemnation, on the other. I work in the criminal-justice system and have seen over and over again how criminal prosecution is life-destroying (I’m not saying that consequence is undeserved, just pointing out that it exists.) And, who says convicted criminals don’t ALSO face the same kind of public condemnation that this guy is facing?
“and, by the way, he doesn’t regret those shitty things (unlike your classmate) but in fact actively regrets he can’t do them any more (again, unlike your classmate). And because of that, there are plenty of people, socially and professionally, who want nothing to do with him.”
* nods *
This is, not surprisingly, reminding me of another conversation about contrition, rehabilitation, forgiveness, and redemption – one that has taken place over the last year in different internet circles. Which may or may not have to do with the actions of a person whose initials are HS, and the various websites that still publish his words.
There seems to be an unhealthy desire among many people to skip past the first two parts – contrition and rehabilitation – and pressure everyone other that the person who “fucked-up” to move onto the forgiveness part. As most people that have been victims of abuse know, this is a tactic routinely employed by abusers (and their enablers) in order to downplay the damage caused, help retain the social status they often need to continue abusing, and pressure victims to remain in situations where they will be still be accessible to the abuser.
Internet pile-ons may have serious drawbacks, but preventing abusers from skipping ahead to the redemption stage of their personal story is not one of them.
“This story highlights a tough line to draw: when is it OK to fire someone for something they say outside of work? Brutsch seems like an easy case – what he said seems to indicate personality traits that few employers would want. But other examples are more complicated: For example, what about an advocate for same-sex marriage? I’d keep him/her; others wouldn’t.”
You raise a good point. My take on it leans toward the rights of the employer to employ who he or she wants. I work for a small, private, church-affiliated university, and the conditions of employment spelled out in my contract include an off-campus morals clause (this is the first contract I’ve ever signed that includes one). I am not allowed to drink (in public), dance (in public), or engage in intimate relations outside the bounds of heterosexual matrimony (I assume also in public), if I want to remain employed by this institution. We have been warned verbally about advocating positions contrary to the institutional line; for example, during a wet/dry referrendum, we were advised it would be looked upon very dimly if any of our names appeared on a petition supporting the sale of alcohol. Note that we weren’t told which way we had to vote, but rather how we were expected to act in public as employees–and thus representatives–of the university
This could be taken as the university trying to curtail our free speech rights, and I will admit, I resented the rather ham-fisted manner in which the wet/dry warning was delivered. But at the same time, my employment with this institution is voluntary. I read the contract before I signed it and decided I could live with these conditions in return for the paycheck I get every month. Ultimately, it is their dime being spent for my services, and I do not have any “right” to be employed by the university. If I feel strongly enough about an issue contrary to the school’s position, I should be willing to take the hit for public advocacy thereof, in the same way that if the university adopts a policy I cannot abide with, I can send in my letter of resignation spelling out why I will not work for an entity that supports such a position. In essence, they can rent me, but they don’t own me.
And for those who might say I am fooling myself, that my employer DOES own me because I am dependent on the almighty paycheck and benefit package, I spent a year on the academic beach after a one-year contract down in Texas was not renewed due to the fact that I did not suit the institutional climate (they weren’t bad people, it’s just that we disagreed on a number of issues; I bear them no ill will). I took my stuff and my savings, moved to a cheaper area, and took my PhD to a minimum wage job part-time at a bookstore to pay for rent, groceries, and COBRA, and immediately started job hunting. I didn’t compromise my views and lost the job because of it, but that didn’t mean I had to go live in a cardboard box down by the river.
And now, ladies and gents, I have to go to work.
“I don’t expect you’ll have a reasonable response to this, Mythago, because it’s fairly apparent that you’re yet another deliberately contrary troll.”
Oh, Nick. Of all the people that you could have attempted this sort of lazy rhetorical tactic on here on Whatever, you have to pick Mythago, who based on a decade’s worth of comments here is known by many, including myself (your host) to be neither deliberately contrary nor a troll, but rather someone with the personal and professional means to pick apart poor arguments and expose their weaknesses, with as often as not a bit of attitude on the side. So, no, it’s not “fairly apparent” she’s a deliberately contrary troll, least of all to me, and it’s my opinion that actually counts here.
In point of fact, there was nothing in Mythago’s response that merited the label of troll. She asked a cogent question (two, actually), and disagreed with your assertions. That she did so with a bit of snark is par for the course around here, and it’s worth noting that when she called your comment “profoundly ignorant,” she focused on your assertion, not on you as a person. Your response was to attack her on a personal level, and in doing so attempt to pre-empt the legitimacy of any future responses from her, and also to draw the conversation away from the legitimate questions concerning the thread.
Which is to say, Nick, that between you and Mythago here, it’s certainly “fairly apparent” that one of you is being that bad actor here. It’s just not the person you think it is.
I will note Mythago’s follow-up response to you includes a personal smack across the head that echoes the one you attempted to land on her, which I’m going to allow, if only for the sake of rhetorical assonance (and note, if you will, how hers is better formally composed than yours). That said, if after this point the both of you will aspire to keep your comments out of the personal sphere, the happier I will be.
Wow, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen mythago described as a troll. Been visiting Whatever for almost a decade, and mythago is consistently one of the most sensible, rational commentators here. Sorry, Nick, you’ll have to try another tack to avoid dealing with the point.
I was thinking exactly the same thing. Mythago is probably one of the most level headed, smartest people on here. It is perhaps Nick who is trying to hide his troll.
“I believe in freedom. Not many people do, although they will, of course, protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be completely without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based.”
–Havelock Vetinari (via Sir Terry Pratchett of course).
I have no problem with Brustch exercising his most basic freedom, to freely take the consequences. A little uncomfortable about someone getting fired over that; I’ve spent years campaigning for employment rights for all, even creepers (the trouble about rights for all is that it has to include nasty folk as well as nice folk). I gather, though, that he bragged about doing the same crap at work, which thankfully makes it a little more black and white. As long as he was fired for specifically bragging about taking creep shots at work, and was given a fair hearing to defend himself, thus bringing his employer into disrepute then that would happily constitute gross misconduct for a sweet firing. I don’t like the more general principle that people can be fired because an employer just doesn’t like their off-the-clock activities, because that principle is a slope that is too slippery and too much of the planet is skiing down it with gay abandon. As long as Brutsch was sacked for his misconduct involving work though, I’m fine with him losing his job.
From what I’ve read he spent an awful lot of time moderating and posting on his sub-reddits, one could extrapolate from that that he could have occasional logged in at work, if only to read something. It is also possible that some of the things he posted were related to his place of work, that would easily give his employer grounds for instant termination (assuming they needed them). I also don’t believe that anyone who is so worried about anonymity as he claims to be would wear a t-shirt with his custom avatar on it to public gatherings where he also used his real name.
I’ve had a random stranger threaten to post unflattering picture of me online so he could get people to laugh at me and I’m glad there will be some accountability for that sort of behaviour.
Also are all the posters yelling ‘freedom of speech’ actually from America or are they international and would the things they post be breaking the law in the country they reside in?
Also thank you for laying these arguments out in an easy to understand format, makes it much easier than trying to find the right thing to say when people start defending their right to be anonymous asshats.
It is trivial to keep yourself anonymous on the internet. Google ‘IP Proxy’ or ‘IP Scrambler’. You can buy a piece of software that will give you random IP addresses. So when you surf the web or post, the random IP addresses are what gets logged. The police can still find you because they can subpoena your ISP, go through the logs and trace the fake IPs back to you. However, hackers, etc… won’t have anything they can use to find you. Most of these hackers are mistake hitters. They get in by finding a flaw (a mistake) that they can exploit. This is the not The Matrix and they are not Neo.
I work in software development. I am not a hacking expert, however, I have to go to security meetings, etc… and I can see what they look for to make our stuff more secure. Even when your credit card data gets stolen, it is due to incompetence on from the vendor and not something brilliant that the hackers do. I had my credit card data stolen and got a call from my credit card company twice in the last 2 years to get my credit card info changed. They wouldn’t tell me the vendors either time.
I used to post using my real name on the technical forums (programming, computer related) for years. I used these to learn new things. I used to ask and answer vast numbers of questions. It was literally like free training. I have a unique name so if someone was to google my name they would find thousands of technical forum posts by me. I started using handles due to forum trolls. When you ask questions alot of times the trolls come out to tell you, that you are stupid. Then they link to previous psots you make and ruin your thread to tell you how stupid you are. You get this alot in technical forum. Many of these trolls actually use their real name. They think it makes them seem smart. I found it to be more effective and efficient to use a variety of handles for posting on technical forums so that people think questions are from different people. I am rather curious about technical stuff and I like to ask questions. I find it to be a very effective way to learn new things.
I don’t use my real name anywhere anymore in part due to the trolls and in part due to me having to pass a background check for any job I take. This is for government contracting or private sector. I don’t want to have to deal with a security guy asking me why I am posting such and such. It could be used against me and some tech guy with no personality can decide I don’t know anything. On some of the forums, the long time people (I have used them since 2000), know who I am from my handle.
I also just don’t want to have to deal with stuff that may come up in a background check. If I post my political opinions it could cost me a job if someone does not like them. I do alot of contracting and I job hop alot. In the technical profession switching jobs is a very effective way to increase your income. Plus alot of the work tends to be short term (6 months to 3 years). It is just easier for me to not use my real name. Especially since it is a unique name.
I have actually had interviews where people know who I am from forums. So it can help too.
fyi.. if anyone here codes or does technical work or knows someone who is, the technical forums are outstanding places to learn things. It really is like free training.
Isn’t it illegal to post sexual pictures of underage boys and girls? How come the police did not come after him? They could subpoena reddit for his IP address since these are logged. Then trace that to the ISP. Then subpoena the ISP to get the name of the person who made the posts.
I don’t use reddit or gawker. So I don’t know how they work, but I would think this would be illegal.
One other note about being anonymous on the internet. One of the keys is not doing things to make people want to find you. You can use the IP scrambler and different handles, but if you get as notorious as this guy alot of people will come looking for you. The key is to not give people enough of a reason to come looking for you. What is particularly surprising is that this guy is a programmer. You would think he would know this. Especially since he works for a financial services company. Financial companies have alot of security regulations they have to follow and will typically have security people in the IT department. You have to clear what you are doing with them. You generally have to undergo a background check to do financial work due to the government regulations and the kind of data you get access to. These are not security clearance background checks,. You won’t get a polygraph, but you should have enough common sense to know that if you get outed for this kind of thing, you are fired. From the company’s stand point, you are a loose cannon. They can’t afford to risk that you might steal someones credit card, bank account number, etc… (yeah its encrypted, but if you have access you can steal it… its why they limit access). Or you could just take contact info and sell it to spammers. They don’t want that either.
This guys stupidity boggles my mind given that he is technical and works for a financial company. I have had more drug tests, criminal/financial background checks, and neighbors interviewed asking them if I was crazy than I can count.
“It is trivial to keep yourself anonymous on the internet.”
It’s trivial to read the Internet anonymously. The moment one begins to write and enter into discussions on the Web, one begins to leave clues as to who one really is.
@saruby – Expectation of privacy is also used for civil cases in terms of recording people in public, including photographs. Yes, it wouldn’t cover upskirts; the comment I was responding to didn’t mention them.
That’s an interesting contract.
BTW, as John just noted, it’s easy to leave clues to your off-line identity – even without the link from your handle, that anti-dancing provision would have narrowed the school to one associated with the Baptists, and probably the Southern Baptist Convention.
Freedom for employers to require a contract like that depends on freedom of employees to have a choice and to be able move elsewhere. If everybody required a contract like that, freedom of speech (especially in the form of interpretive dance) would vanish. That would be a step too far.
But where should the line be before we reach that last step? I don’t know. I do know that anyone who gives an absolute answer hasn’t thought it through.
Although this has been fairly well hashed out by now, both by our host and various commenters, I would still like to add my two cents.
I have posted on this website before using a pseudonym, and I do so because I work in a field where anything I post on the internet that is tracked back to me could potentially be used against me in a variety of settings, including court. However, I am not ignorant enough to assume that it could not be tracked back to me by an enterprising person anyway, which is why I do NOT post anything even anonymously that could be used to impugn me in any way. That includes not only this website but all others as well. I have read countless blogs, websites, wikipedia pages, etc., that include gross errors in their analysis of my field of expertise, and I never, ever try to correct or comment on them because it is not worth the risk of potential harassment or cross examination on anything I have ever written. The worst thing that can be stated about me by anyone who tracks my comments down is “well, you wrote that during office hours, so shouldn’t you have been spending your time more productively?”
So as you can imagine, I have no sympathy for idiot boy and his loss of employment. The belief that a person can post anything anywhere and believe that there are no consequences is laughable. The idea that Nick or anyone else would defend this character is even more absurd. If Bil Maher had been fired for his non-anonymous comments on HBO and never been able to find employment again, would you feel sorry for him? Glen Beck? Dr. Laura? The Dixie Chicks? Those were all people that received huge amounts of criticism for individual comments, some of them suffering financial losses because of the comments, and here you are defending someone who did not make a single comment but spent a lot of time making such statements and moderating other assbags doing the like. What is the difference, except that this guy thought he was doing so anonymously, and they at least did it under their own names? Is it the fact that he (unlike them) is not independently wealthy? I am far from wealthy, and trust me, the idea that any comment could get tracked back to me and be examined by my employers affects what I post (whether at work or not) tremendously. Personal responsibility always applies, as well as personal consequences.
I was TOTALLY with you, John, except for one thing you posted”
“Personally speaking, when everything is boiled down to the marrow, I think the reason Reddit tolerates the creepy forums has to do with money more than anything else.”
Maybe I have too high an opinion of my fellow human being (and, fwiw, when I die, I really wouldn’t mind if “He had too high an opinion of everyone” is my epitaph), but I tend to think that it’s less about money and more about a belief that a hands off space is one that will grow in unexpected ways toward something good. And if the only way to get to that space is to allow and ignore some spaces that are creepy, so be it. I really do think Reddit thought it was doing the right thing in just letting everyone speak his or her mind.
My problem with Reddit on this is simply that this isn’t, IMHO, “creepy.” There’s a difference between creepy — the guy who follows a woman around too much at a party or con — and abusive. You covered this distinction well once before, so I know you understand it, probably better than I. What Reddit tolerated in forums where photos were posted without consent and threats against women were both implicit and explicit wasn’t creepiness. It was abuse. Creepy is bad. Abusive is dangerous.
I get how that happens. “Hey, we want everyone to speak out here!” becomes, “Hey, we shouldn’t ever edit or make distinctions.” And it’s lazy, too. “Oh, and it’s not our problem. We’re just providing a forum” is not a good excuse for hosting a white supremacy teach in, a terror plot, or even, in the case of Mary Suratt, a plot to overthrow the U.S. government while assassinating the President and Secretary of State. But it’s attractive to a bunch of people who want to build a new virtual city, but really don’t want to know what’s in the alleys.
As I say, I don’t think you’re wrong. I just think you’re ascribing a bit of avarice as motivation when simple laziness would do. That breaks my first rule of politics, first expressed some 25+ years ago, when I was an itty bitty legislative aid: Never ascribe to stupidity and venality what can be adequately explained by stupidity alone.
(PS: About 10 years ago, when I realized that anonymity was unlikely on the internet, I changed all of my user IDs and signatures to readily apparent versions of my name. If I’m going to have to own what I say, mizewell be proud and loud about it.)
WAY off topic:
I moderate this site pretty attentively, anyone who decides to use the cloak of anonymity to be an assbag will get their words malleted into oblivion in any event.
The Action/RPG Torchlight 2 gives a nod to your moderative malletry with a unique weapon said to have been wielded by the legendary “old man warrior Scalzius”
Back to the matter at hand:
It’s not anonymity or pseudonymity that’s the issue. The issue is people being assholes while anonymous because they don’t believe it’s ever going to get back to them. This is a separate issue from anonymity/pseudonymity.
I agree it is an issue of character or the lack thereof. Far too often I see discussions that take place behind the veil of “anonymity” degenerate into the flinging of barbs that one would hope would not be said were the combatants facing one another in the flesh. What makes me shake my virtual head is the mentality that some individual has the “”right” to say whatever they wish, and if you or I are offended by their exercise of that right, it is somehow our fault.
Here on this site, comments are moderated by your yardstick of offensiveness. If a commenter strays outside the measure of that yardstick and gets malleted, the problem does not lie with you. it is not a question of your character, but that of the commenter. I am dumbstruck by the notion that an individual has the right to spew verbal mayhem wherever they wish and everyone else needs to just suck it up and deal with it.
I am over 50, and don’t think I have the right to act like a 2 year old anymore . . . but perhaps that is just the cranky old man in me.
This really highlighted some of the problems I have with Reddit. It might be a great community, but it has a giant cesspool. “Well, only the people that want to hang out at the cesspool do.” Well, I can smell you cesspool from here and it stinks. Thus, I will not be joining reddit.
This “hands off” attitude towards violence against women/rape/racism/sexual assault is incomprehensible to me. Letting it fester in a corner is not ok with me. I find it equally troubling that more people in the community were upset about the anonymity issue (“We have community standards”) but violence/rape/sexual assault/racism? Have at it!
I also don’t understand the general troll attitude of “people are too sensitive so I’m going to be horrible and vile” i.e. Person makes rape (racist, violence, etc) jokes, calls those who are upset “too sensitive”. Maybe don’t be a shitbag and you won’t have a problem with the collision of internet and real life.
Aw you guys :) (Though I am perfectly capable of being wrong on the Internet, and hope if I am, y’all will feel free to order me clue with toast and a side of Mallet.)
@Guess, as I understand it, the photos were carefully vetted to make sure that they didn’t cross the line into illegality; no nudes, for example. It’s not actually illegal to take pictures of people in public places, cf blogs like the one that makes fun of Wal-Mart patrons. Creepy, but not necessarily illegal. Which was part of the trolling fun, of course: ha ha, I can do these things and you can’t stop me.
A well written article that uses references and actually relies on sound legal theory: there may be hope for the human race yet!
Thanks for getting this out there.
Doing”creepy things” is not against the law… It might be distasteful to the precious politically correct, but not to others.
The real problem is puffed-up amateur ‘moderators’ who set themselves up as judge and jury, and censor material based on their own political and social beliefs. Social sites and online newspapers do themselves no favours by delegating censorship to idiots who have no authority and no experience other than their own inflated self-worth as upholders of societies ‘values’.
As always, a visit to Whatever makes me think.
As someone whose blog was recently outed – and outed is a strong word since I never made any great secret of it – by an ironically anonymous letter to the editor, the dynamics of accountability in this situation intrigue me. I’m a candidate for a local board of education seat, of which I have already served three years, and an anonymous letter writer implied that I am morally corrupt, immature and should not be allowed anywhere near children. My response to this “outing” was to acknowledge – on my blog and FB site – that I take responsibility for and stand by my online activities, whichever way the wind blows on the election end. Of course I had to call the Anonymous writer on his own lack of character for not standing behind his words. Luckily I don’t draw enough venom from people to have made that such a big deal in out little burgh but my blog could have an impact on the election outcome. I know it, accept it and will move on accordingly. I have also not ventured anywhere near the moral turpidtude that this Redditor dude has wallowed in, so you know, not an apples to apples comparison in any way.
What’s missing, as has been said in more eloquent comments here, is the lack of accountability by the Redditor in question, who laments his lack of porn posting, and how the overall outrage by the Reddit community is all about the doxing of this dude and there is no outrage for the people that were exploited without being aware.
This saddens me on a level I can’t quite find words for yet.
Not sure what the big deal is, another internet pisswar, *of course* no-one can expect anonymity under attention on the internet. Hard to imagine this Brutsch character didn’t know this going in, but if he didn’t, he does now. It’s really not worth commenting on.
What is worth it, though, are your remarks on the whole thing, which attempt to conflate your own self-styled reasonable expectations for behavior into moral or ethical law.
The idea that anything posted on Reddit is not in fact protected under the First Amendment is about as trivial as the fact that anonymity on the internet doesn’t really exist. Pointing to the fact doesn’t make you look any more sage than you already might.
Instead of doing that, and harrumphing loudly in our general direction as you do, you might ask whether it is a reasonable thing for Reddit to impose a terms of service in part *modeled* on the first amendment. Beyond the largely irrelevant and childish Gawker-Reddit pisswar, this is the central issue.
Look, we’re sure you’re a good guy, Mr. Scalzi. We know you like kittens, and you probably always open the door for the ladies in your party (unless I’ve missed something in the politically correct zeitgeist as I often do, and that gracious act is now seen as demeaning. Then of course I’m sure you don’t indulge in such uncouth behavior). But the central tenet of the First Amendment, and the central tenet of any philosophies which for good or ill might draw from that little paragraph, is that *unpopular* speech must be protected. And certainly trolling is unpopular.
I got a sense from Mr. Chen’s story that even he, who had decided that this act of revenge on Mr. Brutsch was required, didn’t find Brutsch to be quite the scoundrel he had expected. But in any event, positing the lowest possible depths of character for the guy, you have to understand: scumbags have moral and ethical rights, too. Maybe not as many as they might believe, but rights, too.
I know that it must feel righteous legislating informally from your pulpit using the standards of political correctness you’ve developed, but you have to understand that this self-righteous arbiter you’ve developed represents an extremely slippery slope. In your view of things, only the “good” people get to enjoy the benefits of free speech, and who gets to decide who’s good? Why, of course: you and your Whatever posse do.
It is always the hope of the totalitarian state that the moral among its citizenry won’t object to the tightening noose of repression simply because they feel it’s not they who ever compromise themselves in the eye of the law. Yet the state in such cases invariably represses all in the end.
Maybe comparing the internet to a potential police state seems a bit extreme, and maybe granted, but the point is be aware of whose free speech rights you would in fact compromise. They are your own.
I understand that the internet may in fact be a little too perfect a laboratory for free speech to suit the squeamish among us. I am in fact one of the squeamish.
But instead of pontificating in such a way that the Blessed Light of Decent Behavior reflects back upon you and yours, I think the best way to comment might have been to react in the 4chanish way and just enjoyed the pisswar, you know, for the lulz.
Theyis and BW and Bookewyrme. Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Dave, Robert Peyton, … crypticmirror …
The moral to violentacrez/Michael Brutsch story is a simple one: don’t do anything in private that you’d be ashamed to admit to in public. To anyone. At any time. Without exceptions.
Yes, Free Speech in the USA keeps one from being hammered by the government. No Free Speech will not save you from the court of popular opinion and/or social ostracism and/or shunning and/or being pointed to and laughed at. Or having rotten fruit thrown at you IRL or virtually. “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of speaking” indeed.
Halfway through the Brutsch loosing his job article (which I read first) all I could think is Brutsch should read Scalzi’s post about when you are or are not on the internet. I have to add one caveat: The Internet is like living in a small town. Just because it’s a virtual town, with a self-selecting population, inhabited by people from around the country/globe doesn’t make The Internet any less Small Town. Having grown up in one, I recognize Small Town when I see one and Reddit has all the hallmarks. Adrien Chen’s article demonstrates this quite well: people in charge using massive amounts of volunteerism to make things work, letting something morally or legally offensive slide as long as the person being offensive contributes positively to the community as a whole, ousting a formerly tolerated individual once the offensive/helpful balance shifts to More Harmful Than Good, a percentage rallying around a beloved figure no matter what their offenses are out of basic loyalty founded on past kindnesses, knowing who is really responsible for what but not saying because that would upset the status quo, ratting someone out because “then they’ll get what’s coming to them.” Finally, we come to the two biggest things, Small Towns are known for: Nothing is private. Nobody Forgets Anything – Ever – and they will use it for you or against you forever after.
Which is why I have the rule: don’t do anything in private that you’re afraid to admit to in public. Because sooner or later, everything becomes public. Especially on the internet. Anonymity and psuedonymity may give the impression of privacy. However, no one wears a costume 24/7/365.25.
“But in any event, positing the lowest possible depths of character for the guy, you have to understand: scumbags have moral and ethical rights, too. Maybe not as many as they might believe, but rights, too.”
Yeah, Violentacrzes the same rights as the rest of us, along with the same consequences. I’m confused as to how other people exercising their right to free speech critizcising, “piling on,” and condemning this guy in any way violates his rights.
Someone will say this better than I, so all I have to say in conclusion is “Ginger get the popcorn!”
I am always amazed that the “right to free speech” (of which there actually isn’t any) of posting morally dubious (or not so dubious) pictures supercedes the right of those women not to have photos taken down their shirts or up their skirts or worse. I would take that to be a right to privacy, and even though the photo is taken in public, I’m sure the cleavage and upskirt views were not likely in anyone’s line of sight.
As someone mentionned above, this is a clear case of privilege showing, where women’s bodies are considered public property and worth less than some jerk’s desire to jerk around on the internet.
I think the real reason for all this is they are afraid someone will decide to come for them. They have convinced themselves (who knows how) that reddit is truly anonymous.
This has been shattered, and it gives them a sad.
You sure took a lot of typing to say that you don’t think this is anything worth a lot of typing. Try practicing what you preach next time, as it took me a couple of swings through it to winkle out your point. And while I delight that you seem to believe the points I make are too trivial for discussion, I regret to say the levels of stupidity I’ve seem emanating from certain corners on the matter suggest otherwise. I celebrate your understanding of these issues; I wish others had the same level of understanding which you assert to have.
That said, you don’t appear to have read what I wrote particularly closely, since I directly addressed the issue of why I believe Reddit promulgates the posting ethos that it does. I’ll note the fact that you appear to believe that Reddit stands as a bastion against the totalitarian state is adorable, and of course just what Reddit would be happy to have you think. This, too, is addressed in the entry, which again you did not appear to have read especially closely.
As to this: “In your view of things, only the ‘good’ people get to enjoy the benefits of free speech,” I invite you to point to where I’ve said any such thing, as opposed to you choosing to believe I’ve said any thing of the sort. As I have actual examples of me defending scumbags’ right to express themselves, I feel pretty safe in suggesting that the problem here is not me saying a thing, but rather you making the sloppy inference that’s what I meant, based on your own set of assumptions and a need to stand up a strawman in order to get on your soapbox.
Finally, the use of the royal “we” and/or the presumption that you speak for anyone else but yourself makes you look like a smug dick. Since you’re actively attempting to paint me with that particular brush, it’d be useful for you not to let that particular brush smear all over you first.
In sum, rastronomicals: Do better than this, please. This is weaksauce.
My thought is that this actually is an illustration of free speech and its consequences. Sure, you’re free to behave creepily on the internet, but your employer is free to fire you as a result.
Are you saying that enforcement of social norms should be handled the same way as our justice system? If so, then I think you don’t understand the role that social norms play in influencing individual behavior.
Social norms are effective as a tool because “punishment” is immediate, and the risk of punishment is greater because due process is not required; on the flip side, it’s easier to escape all but the worst transgressions of social norms by the passage of time or by moving to another community. Laws are a coarser method of enforcing behavior — rather than punishing *all* behavior society considers wrong, laws only punish the most problematic. However, because we consider loss of freedom to be such an extreme form of punishment, we require due process; the result is that this system that fails to punish many transgressors (because of inadequate evidence to convict those who are actually guilty), and that requires a great deal more time to render a decision.
Enforcement of social norms is not “mob justice” simply because there’s no due process; rather, it’s a tool that has been essential to maintaining what we consider “civility.” I think you’d find that society would rapidly become more unpleasant if you eliminated the social norm mode of enforcement.
There’s a great deal of writing on the subject of modes of regulating behavior (some examples I think worth reading are Lawrence Lessig’s Code and Bruce Schneier’s Liars and Outliers) — what I’ve got here is basically a stick figure version of the topic.
I’m OK with the result. I have reservations about the means used to achieve it. I certainly do not want to see this precedent extended beyond the facts of this instance. Extreme cases tend to set very bad precedents.
Anonymity and pseudonymity have value as a defense against majority power and privilege. I think the fact that they are generally respected on the Internet — as a *custom,* not a law or right — is a good thing for a society, even taking into account its potential abuse. (The dystopias of SF are filled with worlds where “being correct” rates above “being free.”) Without such defenses, social pressure and threats of violence or retaliation can be easily used to shut down discussion of important social, scientific, and/or political ideas, just as easily as they can be used to shut down discussions of creep shots or creepy behavior.
There is no redeeming value in who Violentacrez is or what he did. His only value was as a symbol: if the Internet’s custom would protect someone as crass and debased as that, then it would protect *anyone* for *anything* not expressly illegal. Perhaps the line should be drawn somewhere short of of an absolute. But where, then, are we supposed to draw it? Who gets to decide? And could we one day suddenly find ourselves on the far side of the line?
It seemed like folks were talking about a few different things: anti-discrimination laws, just cause laws and at-will-employment laws.
I thought it meant both, that unequal protection under the law was the same as a law that declared specific persons guilty. Thanks for the correction.
I think I worded that very poorly to express the idea I was thinking about, but equal protection under the law was the root of it.
I meant for all employees. Admittedly, I never had a former employee bring suit against me or my former firm for discrimination. But I have had to prove cause on multiple occasions, and the fact that I diligently documented performance saved us considerable expense.
Just on the subject of online anonymity – you’re aware of ToR I’d think, which I see at least one other comment mentions. I don’t want to suggest that the system can’t be broken, only that the combination of resources required to do so (starting from a position where nobody has a reason to be monitoring me, and I take reasonable precautions with my OS) is not in practical reach of anyone who might later want to, including governments.
Totally agree that anyone who expects anonymity “out of the box” is deluding themselves, but if you have any thoughts contrary to the above they’d be interesting to hear – and probably not just to me!
This isn’t a legal argument about free speech. I knew that from the start. But it’s got moral social overtones. People have been ‘outed’ in the past for gathering to do activities that we knew weren’t illegal, but that the majority of local society thought were genuinely scummy. Unfortunetaly, those acts were heoric, harmless, or just not our business in hindsight. I think alot of people’s problem isn’t that Brutsch is a good guy – as Mythago says, his groups obviously trotted right up to the legal line on purpose, because they got off on it. I’d say they wanted to punish the world around them through humiliation, which makes their outing and humiliation even more sweet. I think alot of people’s problems may be guilt for society’s past misdeeds. The thinking is that yeah, everybody knows Brutsch is a morally bankrupt, emotionally violent pervert, but at one time ‘everybody’ knew that gays were morally bankrupt, emotionally violent perverts. Policemen taking pictures of the license plates at civil rights meetings in order to give the attendents a ‘friendly’ call was another instance of outing people who ‘everybody’ knew were morally bankrupt, though not doing anything illegal. We’re hesitant out of a fear of being wrong this time, even when it’s so obvious we’re not. And I would say that Brutsch and his ilk have, until now, successfully abused that hesitation. I can’t speak in absolutes on this one, but I think it’s fair for our feelings to be complicated. Doing the right thing isn’t about feeling good.
Thanks for bringing up the topic. Thinking out my response has actually helped me thrash out why, this time, yanking away anonymity was right.
There is no redeeming value in who Violentacrez is or what he did. His only value was as a symbol: if the Internet’s custom would protect someone as crass and debased as that, then it would protect *anyone* for *anything* not expressly illegal. Perhaps the line should be drawn somewhere short of of an absolute. But where, then, are we supposed to draw it? Who gets to decide? And could we one day suddenly find ourselves on the far side of the line?
The thing is, the “internet” (whomever that might be) didn’t out him. An investigative journalist did. In the course of that investigation, the journalist talked directly to VA and VA asked if his identity secret. In fact, VA offered to out other people and act as a spy in order to keep his identity secret.
There are a few things I haven’t seen anyone, including our gracious host, mention.
1) Anonymous sources are protected by journalists all the time. Many publications have rules about anonymous sources and if and when they can be revealed. Journalists have gone to jail protecting sources. But there are other cases where anonymous sources are revealed. What this tells me is that the right to be anonymous isn’t absolute and at least one group has wrestled with those rights and come up with some standards to address them. This tells me it’s not impossible, although it may not be comfortable.
2) VA knew his behavior would have real world consequences, but he continued it as long as he thought he was protected. He was given (or took) power in a social setting and believed his power was enough to protect him from outing. The fact that he admitted his name to people in real world settings, allowed photos of himself to be taken and posted (albeit with his face blurred / hidden) all point to the idea that he knew what he was doing would have consequences and relied on the social contract to protect his privacy. The exact same social contract he was violating by posting sexualized pictures online.
There are consequences to violating the social contract. But when you’re relying on the social contract itself to protect you from those consequences, you can’t trust that someone else won’t decide to violate that contract. I don’t feel sorry for VA. He paid his money and he took his chances. He lost.
I feel a lot more sorry for those who have had their privacy violated without actually doing anything wrong. Unless you consider being female wrong.
Anonymous, Pseudo-nonymous, or IRL with your true name, say what you want online, but be aware that there will always be those who would take it wrong, and use it against you. Truthfully, it’s not much different than heading out to a bar in another town (not your regular bar), and being an asshat, nobody will now you, but they could find out if who and what you are, and bring it all back to you, if you upset them enough.
Having said that, sometimes it’s worth upsetting some people, if you own your views strongly enough. Not that I condone asshattery, or even any of the ickier bits of this morass of humanity, but they have their right to speak what they wish. I am just surprised that anybody would think they are above dealing with the fallout of their actions, foreseen or not, anticipated or not.
If they did it, and somebody is willing to put it back to them, then they are going to have to own up to it, like it or not. Whining about ‘free speech’ (a joke by any other name) not having consequences is rather like suggesting that ‘Life Should Be Fair’.
Does anybody here still believe that ‘Life Should Be Fair’?
I know that for myself, I realized Life wasn’t fair by about age nine, when the cool kids in town got to hang out at the park all weekend while I worked the farm.
Ok, enough said. Dan.
@Laura, those are excellent points. I have yet to see anyone explain away why Brutsch’s offer to spy on and out other Redditors in exchange for his own privacy.
@rastronomicals, the heart of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment is to protect unpopular speech from the government. It is not about protecting people who say unpopular things from being disliked.
Victoria” ratting someone out because “then they’ll get what’s coming to them”
You say that like it’s a bad thing. But when “what’s coming to them” is “societal pressure not to be a sociopath” then I fail to see the problem.
Davis: Enforcement of social norms is not “mob justice” simply because there’s no due process; rather, it’s a tool that has been essential to maintaining what we consider “civility.” I think you’d find that society would rapidly become more unpleasant if you eliminated the social norm mode of enforcement.
I think I love you.
MasterThief says: There is no redeeming value in who Violentacrez is or what he did. His only value was as a symbol
No redeeming value in stopping a sociopath? Really? The only problem I see is that there are so many of these conscience-less pigs that exposing them all is impossible.
Gable Ratchet: Doing”creepy things” is not against the law… It might be distasteful to the precious politically correct, but not to others.
Please spot the part where ANYONE said doing “creepy things” was against the law. Can’t find one? OK, then. Moving on…
The real problem is puffed-up amateur ‘moderators’ who set themselves up as judge and jury, and censor material based on their own political and social beliefs. Social sites and online newspapers do themselves no favours by delegating censorship to idiots who have no authority and no experience other than their own inflated self-worth as upholders of societies ‘values’.
The moderators here don’t consider themselves upholders of societies values.” They consider themselves upholders of Mr. Scalzi’s values. Don’t like it? Fine – get your own place. [PS: It’s spelled ‘society’s. Your welcome.]
Oh, never mind. Seeing how Mr. Scalzi already reduced you to a quivering mess, it would be mean to pile on.
I had no doubt that you’d disagree with what I wrote. Of course, that’s why I posted it. I was looking for a spirited discussion. And while I certainly was not trying for smugness in the use of the word we, perhaps it did come out that way. Live and learn.
But for you to call me a smug dick, when I at no point had hurled anything remotely as derogatory in your direction truly disappoints. The idea I had always thought is to elevate discourse. I had assumed that you’d understand that though I disagree with your position, it was nothing personal. That’s how the internet works, or how the good parts of it do, at any rate.
You believe I could have done better. I believe the same about you.
I don’t think that is the moral at all. I would argue that the moral would be: Don’t admit in public anything that you would be ashamed to admit to in public, just because you think you are anonymous.
“But for you to call me a smug dick”
I didn’t. I said “the use of the royal ‘we’ and/or the presumption that you speak for anyone else but yourself makes you look like a smug dick.”
Had I wanted to call you a smug dick I would have said “the use of the royal ‘we’ and/or the presumption that you speak for anyone else but yourself makes you a smug dick.”
I didn’t say that, and for a reason.
I agree that the discourse should be elevated. Which is why I pointed out how you were coming across and invited you to do better.
So do better, already.
I’m having trouble encompassing the mindset of: We are all for free speech for people posting naughty photos of minors with racist overtones; but we are against free speech for people who point to those people and complain about them in public.
I think it ties in to the same mindset that wants to protect creepers from social consequence of creeping because the poor creeper my not get to enjoy his cons; but ignores the fact that multiple targets of the creeper don’t get to enjoy their cons.
Why the protection for the bad actors overrides protection for those acted against is beyond my comprehension.
All legalities aside (since they can, given enough subclauses and conditions, fail to see the forest for the trees), what Brutsch, and allegedly, Maxson, and their ilk do is personally infuriating. It’s predatory and taking advantage of minors. It’s wrong from a social perspective and an ethical one.
Likewise, the internet while a platform for a voice, independence and lots of other goodies, is also a vehicle for a whole lot of bad. Overall, I think the good outweighs the bad where the ‘net resides, but only just. If you use the internet, then it’s ‘all bets are off’. You play on the ‘net, you should not be terribly surprised to suffer a little for it as well. It’s the price of a self-regulating medium. There are all kinds here, and it can be a jungle.
But, there is a line, and that’s when it impact’s people’s reputations and their psychological well-being. And what better place to influence that than the worldwide web?
This comes late, but it’s something I want to say:
Mythago has been in the thick of many conversations at Making Light, and has never behaved in a trollish or antisocial fashion. Anyone who thinks Mythago’s a troll has definitely gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick.
@Saffi: Reread MasterThief’s comment. He wasn’t talking about stopping VA, he was talking about VA himself.
“What gets me is that Brutsch remained, and remains, completely unrepentant. He doesn’t think what he did was wrong. He thought it was funny and harmless, or at least, he didn’t care about the harm he did. No excuses, no apologies, no ass-covering.”
I have to disagree. He knew it wasn’t harmless. Go back and look at the article again. His first reaction to being told that Chang knows his identity is to remark on how much you can sweat in a sixty-degree room; i.e., he’s so anxious that he’s broken out in a sweat. He also makes several attempts to bargain with Chang in an attempt to get him to not publish the story.
I suspect the guy’s a sociopath. Whether he is or not, he clearly knew that what he was doing was outside the bounds of acceptable behavior.
Well, in the USA, it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay or having what might be called “pro-gay” views. Likewise, LGBT folk can be denied housing, medical care, etc. If anything, Brutsch is more protected than I am, simply by virtue of being a straight, white, male. He’s spent a decade being gross in public, w/ no blowback, even holding a position of relative power in a space that protects him. For me, this entire episode again illustrates the vast amount of privilege SWMs have, up to and including the so-called “right” to exploit non-SWMs.
I think you’re being quite unfair to the ‘free speech’ angle. Of course you are right that it is in no way a legal or constitutional issue, but there is a public value in having forums like reddit with very lax rules about what people are allowed to say. Theoretically, anyone can just put up their own website and say whatever they want, but in reality sites like reddit enable a lot of speech that just would not have occurred otherwise. Open, neutral forums serve the public interest by providing ‘freedom of speech’ to people who would not otherwise have spoken, or ideas that would not otherwise have been heard.
A legal right to freedom of speech is only as good as the technological meas of exercising that right. A society without reddit, or sites like reddit has less de facto freedom of speech than a society with reddit, even if the right is the same de jure.
@Erik: No, actually, I think Victoria is right. I’ve always been a fan of accountability.
“Theoretically, anyone can just put up their own website and say whatever they want”
I’m curious as to why you put the “theoretically” there, particularly as you are posting on the site of someone who, you know, just put up his own website to say whatever he wants. If the reason you are doing so is to say “Well, no one really does that, and this is why Reddit exists,” I think you may be unintentionally undercutting your argument.
Beyond this, do you really believe that Reddit would continue to allow creepshot forums or the like if at any point in the future it became clear they were an economic hindrance and/or so socially problematic that their presence became embarrassing to the parent company? Reddit is shielded somewhat by the fact that Advance Publications is a private entity and therefore its stock cannot be punished in the market, but I would suggest to you that should Reddit become a drag on the company, and a proximate cause for that are the scummier forums of the site, that will be the crucible of Reddit’s commitment to “free speech.”
Taking downblouse/upskirt/changing room/etc. photos without consent of the subject is illegal. People get busted for it every day; it makes the news. I don’t find exposing these criminal actions ‘revenge’ or ‘vigilantism’.
@Lawrence D’Anna: Mr. Scalzi’s response to you points out that if the ‘freedom of speech’ Reddit claims to champion would hurt it’s bottom line, it’ll modify it’s stance. In fact, it already has by eliminating all of the ‘jailbait’ subreddits after the Anderson Cooper piece on CNN.
I’ll also point out that it blocked Gawker links on it’s entire site for almost an entire day when the story was first published/posted. Why? Why would the first reaction to a very negative piece about a Redditor and infamous user of Reddit be to block it? Because it violated Reddit’s own ‘no doxxing’ rule? Absurd and hypocritical, especially when you know that they allowed images of under age girls ripped from the girls’ Facebook pages on the site without any attempt to obscure faces or identities. This was a knee-jerk attempt at damage control. When it backfired, they swiftly reversed the decision and apologized.
Reddit’s commitment to free speech is only as strong as it’s bottom line.
When I talked about workers needing protection from being fired for things they say online, I wasn’t talking about toxic types like Violentacrez, or about posting things that could genuinely bring one’s employer into disrepute. I’m talking about people being fired for saying things completely unrelated to their job, which their employer happens to dislike. Gays, neopagans, fanfic writers, polyamorists, parents of young children, political activists, pro-union activists, and people who have potentially expensive medical conditions all know about this one. It’s not hard to research your employees’ off-hours activities now. I’m sure someone out there is working on automating it.
What we need are protections for workers who are up against the irrational prejudices of their employers. Until we get that sorted, there’s nothing we can say about the overall rightness or wrongness of outing pseudonymous users.
Gable Ratchet said:
“Doing ‘creepy things’ is not against the law… It might be distasteful to the precious politically correct, but not to others.”
Only asshats use “politically correct” as a term of derogation. They get double demerits if they don’t know what it means, which in most cases they don’t.
“The real problem is puffed-up amateur ‘moderators’ who set themselves up as judge and jury, and censor material based on their own political and social beliefs. Social sites and online newspapers do themselves no favours by delegating censorship to idiots who have no authority and no experience other than their own inflated self-worth as upholders of societies ‘values’.”
Gable Ratchet, I point at you and laugh.
I point and laugh at Rastronomicals, too, especially the comment that begins, “I had no doubt that you’d disagree with what I wrote. Of course, that’s why I posted it. I was looking for a spirited discussion. …”
I’ve quoted it in my online rhetoric wiki under “Flounce.”
John, congratulations on having this entry featured on the front page of Gawker! You are a rock star.
I agree that the “right” to free speech, without regard to consequences, is as badly misunderstood as the constitutional right to bear arms. If you mischievously yell “fire!” in a crowded theater or similar location, in most civilized parts of the world you’re pretty well guaranteed to serve jail time, and quite rightly so, especially if anyone’s injured as a result. As for free speech on the internet, it’s already been pointed out that with extremely rare exceptions, EVERY website is someone’s property, and visiting there you’re in exactly the same situation as visiting someone’s home, you’re bound by their house-rules. As for firearms, everyone seems to ignore the last part of that amendment which specifically grants that right “for the purpose of maintaining a well-organized militia”, as close as I can remember the wording without actually looking it up.
I’ve been active as a moderator for a number of online groups for years, and of course was in the usual position of constantly having to point out that “free speech doesn’t apply here”. At one time I was flattered by being invited to become a mod for a huge peer-support group, formerly run by Mass. General Hospital and later taken over privately by its founder, because they felt I’d acquired a reputation as a “voice of reason” when flaming broke out. I declined with regret because flaming was quite common and I didn’t want peace-keeping, rather than assistance with postings, to occupy most of my time there. The flaming sometimes went so far as threats to damage the servers, and I was amazed that the owners declined to call in law enforcement for that.
As for anonymity, I personally take a medium approach to that. Obviously I don’t want to publicize my full name, address, or phone number (they can, however, be found online if you know where to look), but the “MikeB” part of my user-name is my real first name (informally) and last initial, plus Cda for Canada. I didn’t use the hyphen at first, but added it after finding that in a lot of places, many people assumed the “BC” part implied I was out west.
As for my location, I openly give it as southern Ontario when asked. And in groups where I feel socially comfortable, I’ll refer to the heart of Mennonite country, or to Oktoberfest, which pretty well pins down the city.
The other good point that’s been brought up is that rights must be irrevocably joined to responsibility for consequences (my “fire” comment above is an excellent case in point). I’m terrible at matching up famous quotes to their auhors/originators, but my favorite pertinent one is the one about “your ‘right’ to swing your fist ends where my nose begins”.
I guess what i mean is that posting to reddit has much lower transaction costs than putting up your own site. Reddit ‘supplies’ free speech at a lower price than personal websites, so more people ‘buy’ it by posting to reddit, when they otherwise might not have said anything at all. That seems like a civic good to me, even if some of those speakers are creeps, or trolls, or creepy trolls. Not every speaker that benefits from reddit’s low transaction costs (and lax rules) is viloentacrez.
I suspect that the dominant reason reddit tolerates scummy subreddits is not some high-minded commitment to free speech, or the direct ad revenue from those subreddits. I think they do it to preserve their brand identity as a neutral platform. I think they also do it to avoid having pay anyone to enforce the rules. And if the whole thing becomes so embarrassing to the parent company that they change the rules? Well it’s their website and they have a perfect right to do whatever they want on it. They have no obligation to provide civic goods, they do it for their own reasons. If the users don’t mind the rule-change then they stay, and if they do mind then some other site is bound to pick up the slack.
I’m going to go along with Erik rather than Victoria as to the moral of the story. Furthermore, I don’t believe that we should never do anything in private that we wouldn’t be ashamed to admit to in public. I think it blurs the distinction between private and public if we have to police our private lives that thoroughly. I would be ashamed to admit in public how long it takes me to get around to cleaning my bathroom, for example, but I don’t think it’s important that I clean my bathroom often enough that the public would approve. I don’t think we should live our lives as if we would be okay with hidden cameras are trained on ourevery move and microphones capturing our every word. If I bitch about my boss to my co-workers, I should probably choose wisely which co-worker(s) to commiserate with, but I think it’s not only unrealistic but repugnant to think that we should never bitch about our boss or a family member or otherwise say anything to anyone that we would be ashamed of if it were made public. There is a place for private speech and private action, and if there weren’t, I think it would be a harsh world. Should nobody masturbate to porn except those who don’t mind admitting it in public? Should we never drink directly from the milk carton or pick our noses? We’re already getting closer to the world of Orwell’s 1984 than I would like. This idea that we should make sure our every private act must meet a public standard strikes me as going way too far toward that world.
Usually when one of the Whatever posts get featured on a Gawker site, we get a bunch of Gawker readers coming here to tell John why he’s wrong. (The Kotaku repost of why straight white male is playing on the easy setting and its follow-up may be the best examples.) Given the Gawker vs. Reddit nature of this post, will we see the same influx?
“I guess what i mean is that posting to reddit has much lower transaction costs than putting up your own site.”
Mmmm… I don’t know about “much lower.” It’s not terribly difficult to create a site these days; there are host providers who will do it all for you and all you have to do it start using it, and most of the costs involved at this point are not any more on an annual basis than a Reddit Gold account. This is me quibbling, mind you.
Lovely, John. Another brilliant post.
Silk: “Wait a minute. Did you just tell me that Reddit is *making money* off photos of non-consenting women and children? Do I smell a class action suit here?”
Very possibly, but I’d tread carefully. I believe we’d like to keep the internet as free as possible, and law suits against the owners of web sites might be a dangerous precedent, however tempting it may be in this case.
I think Nick makes some points worth thinking about. What happens to the particular asshat in question isn’t something I care about; what he’s done to his victims is of more concern. But, like Nick, I worry about the potential to permanently ruin someone’s life for something that, if translated into terms of legality, would be worth 5-10. In other words, I’m not worried about this specific case, but the general causes me some concern. No idea what to do about it.
As for getting fired, well, if I did what Brutsch did, I’d get fired. And I’m self-employed.
Reddit is a business. It is right and proper that they change their stance according to their bottom line. However, a business’s brand is worth a lot, and reddit’s brand says things like ‘free speech’ and ‘neutral platform’. You can expect them to try protect their brand. On the other hand they probably don’t want ‘creepy’ to be associated with their brand. Unfortunately for them, anything they do to fight ‘creepy’ will also tarnish their ‘neutrality’, so they’re in a bit of a pickle.
“I suspect that the dominant reason reddit tolerates scummy subreddits is not some high-minded commitment to free speech, or the direct ad revenue from those subreddits. I think they do it to preserve their brand identity as a neutral platform. I think they also do it to avoid having pay anyone to enforce the rules…”
I think you’re getting closer here, especially that last sentence. In my experience, the quality of posts of a forum is directly tied to its moderation. I was a member of a site that used to have a more expensive form of moderation, and replaced it with a cheaper one. Almost overnight the quality of posting went downhill, and the amount of troll posts increased. No doubt, as Davis suggested earlier, this is some form of social values being managed or not managed.
Mind you, this is an assumption on my part as I do not know Reddit from a hole in the ground, but I suspect they might have looked at a cheap solution and seen it as a feature instead of a bug.
When in doubt, ask WWHVD (What Would Havelock Vetinari Do).
I’ve found it interesting how many interweb denizens seem to assume he got the ax because they couldn’t handle the hate mail. Not letting him go would open them to lawsuits by the employees he harassed online; and while every company looks after its public image, sexual harassment lawsuits are a more immediate and tangible concern. Why the hell should they have to go bankrupt just because he used anonymity as a license to harass coworkers?
I’m fine with it as long as employers and other private contract-guarantors are required to spell out the terms of employment up front in clear terms without weasel words.
Scalzi is mostly correct about anonymity. You can set the walls pretty damn high if you follow every rule detailed in the link provided by Richard Gadsden (and then a few), but nothing is bulletproof, and most people either don’t care that much or, as is often the case of minors, lack the know-how to put up serious barriers. But Brutsch didn’t even take basic precautions. The guy as good as flaunted his ability to escape repercussions. It was only a matter of time until one of the confidants he used to fan his own dirtbag ego decided he’d crossed whatever gray line they deemed beyond the pale the sleaze-redditors used to protect themselves from facing the consequences of their harassment.
Proxies can be tracked.
Tor is free and, ironically, based on the brainchild of the USAF.
Onion routing is a little more complicated than that, and was invented specifically to secure communications through unsecure exchange servers and to defeat traffic analysis. Ordinary proxies are considerably less secure. Stunnel and similar tunneling services can be used in combination with Tor to make it pretty much impossible to know the content of a message, even if you manage to track it to its source. But, as you say, most crackers don’t rely on packet sniffing or TCP/IP exploits directly, but on social engineering, rootkits, Trojans and keyloggers. The basic touchstone of cracking is the same as police investigation: sooner or later, humans make mistakes.
A bank that did that would find it very hard to get vendors to accept their credit lines.
For many people just being a member of a marginalized group is reason enough [see: being X on the internet].
Michael Brutsch wasn’t and isn’t ashamed, he just doesn’t want to face the consequences. In other words, he’s afraid. But the trouble with a blanket injunction of don’t do anything in private that you’d be afraid to admit to in public is that such fear is often well-founded simply for saying things that no one should have to fear saying – for example, someone talking about being bullied or raped or any of the other myriad things for which hordes of anonymous asshats will blame the victim.
What I find amusing is that his devotees are still willing to support him after he offered to serve their heads on a silver platter to cover his own ass. Adrian Chen expresses surprise that Brutsch didn’t do more backpedaling during their phone conversation. But Brutsch did backpedal in exactly the way he hoped (in vain) might save him, by turning Gawker’s evidence. That he didn’t lose his cool when confronted simply demonstrates how prepossessing his sociopathy is; he behaved in a manner consistent with pursuing his last best hope to escape consequences.
Um, MasterThief said: There is no redeeming value in who Violentacrez is or what he did. Violentacrez isn’t the one stopping a sociopath, he is the sociopath.
Again, there is a difference between being ashamed and being afraid. Someone who is ashamed that they masturbate has deeper issues of cognitive dissonance. But someone who is afraid of admitting publically to masturbating has a healthy fear of society’s puritanical hypocrisy.
@ John Scalzi
At the risk of quibbling myself, a user can only post what their hosting service allows. WordPress doesn’t censor you, but they could change the terms of service. And yes, you can go elsewhere, but the same will still apply there as well. Bandwidth isn’t a zero-cost commodity, even for someone with their own server. ISPs in Canada and other countries can and have cut off customers who they merely thought might be doing something they could be blamed for enabling.
Mind you, I basically agree with you, but, as someone mentioned above, free speech is only as good as the tech it runs on. Or, more generally, free speech is only as free as the medium.
(1) ” it’s neither libel nor defamation for Gawker to correctly attribute his actions to him” — approximately true in the USA, because a comprehensive discussion of what is and is not libel or slander is difficult, because the definition differs between different states, and whether one is or is not “The Press” is hazy for bloggers;
(2) Approximately, to be defamation in the USA, one must prove: (a) It is false, or “with a reckless disregard for the truth”; (b) it is taken as “fact” and not as “opinion”; (c) it does actual financial damage (which being fired from a paying job can do).
(3) European and Commonwealth jurisdictions hold to a theory that every publication of a defamation gives rise to a separate claim, so that a defamation on the Internet could be sued on in any country in which it was read, while American law only allows one claim for the primary publication.
(4) Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 generally immunizes from liability parties that create forums on the Internet in which defamation occurs from liability for statements published by third parties. This has the effect of precluding all liability for statements made by persons on the Internet whose identity cannot be determined.
(5) IANAL. My son is an attorney, and was an Adjunct Professor teaching Advanced Business Law since he turned 22. If you want HIS opinion, you’ll have to pay. Me, I’m an ex-Paralegal who specilized in researching and writing Appellate Court and Supreme Court writs, briefs, and motion. Now I’ll get back to writing Science Fiction, which makes much more sense.
“I think you’re being quite unfair to the ‘free speech’ angle. Of course you are right that it is in no way a legal or constitutional issue, but there is a public value in having forums like reddit with very lax rules about what people are allowed to say. Theoretically, anyone can just put up their own website and say whatever they want, but in reality sites like reddit enable a lot of speech that just would not have occurred otherwise. Open, neutral forums serve the public interest by providing ‘freedom of speech’ to people who would not otherwise have spoken, or ideas that would not otherwise have been heard.
A legal right to freedom of speech is only as good as the technological meas of exercising that right. A society without reddit, or sites like reddit has less de facto freedom of speech than a society with reddit, even if the right is the same de jure.”
Nah. There are plenty of neutral sites that don’t host steaming cesspits of vileness. If Reddit cared that much about their discourse, they wouldn’t farm out vast subreddit territories to anyone who’s willing to ride herd on them. Chang was spot-on when he called the practice feudal.
You know why sites like Reddit don’t supervise their own conversations? It’s because moderation is more expensive than letting the users run riot. You have to pay someone to moderate a site on a regular basis. If you can’t or won’t pay money, you have to pay something else, which usually works out to be power over the users and/or forum. If you give that away and then don’t supervise the supervisors, you don’t give a damn about the discourse.
Real moderation is what enables online speech. The internet loses far more conversations to jerks and trolls than it ever loses to moderators. The reason you can consistently find long, thoughtful comment threads at Making Light or The Whatever or Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog at The Atlantic is that we police the hell out of our sites in order to maintain a civil discourse.
I’ve been moderating conversations for decades. I can tell you right now that just the titles of some of Violentacrez’ subreddits were enough to convince whole sub-populations of users that Reddit is not a safe or welcoming forum space. If you can’t see why, google on “three words you can’t say on Boing Boing.” Click through to the longer explanation.
There’s a lot of good in Reddit, but they’re doing what’s cheap and easy. Don’t mistake it for a high-minded commitment to a free, civil, and impartial public discourse.
OK, this is bugging me and Whatever is probably a good place to get links/pointers.
I’m having a hard time understanding why many folks are so freaked out by people secretly taking pictures of them in public.
I’m NOT saying they shouldn’t be, or don’t have a right to be, or are lying about it, or should just suck it up. I just don’t understand WHY. Worse, from the general discussion around this particular issue, Everyone Else Just Knows.
Any links or explanations would be appreciated.
Abuse is OK too. I seem to be missing something obvious and important.
Just so you know, you’re absolutely wrong in your assertion at the top of point #4, where you say:
“It seems like a lot of the angst emanating from Reddit regarding this event is based on a presumed community standard of not outing anonymous or pseudonymous Reddit users. However, leaving aside the fact that this “community standard” is found neither in the Rules of Reddit nor its “Reddiquette” document,…”
There are 5 rules of Reddit. ONLY FIVE. And the third one clearly states “DON’T POST PERSONAL INFORMATION” with a sub-rule specifying “NOT OK: Posting the full name, employer, or other real-life details of another redditor.”
Come on man, there are only 5 rules. Its not like you had a long list of rules or TOS to look through. Just five of them.
Also, if you look at the Reddiquette page again, under the “PLEASE DON’T” section, the fourth bullet point down clearly states “[please don’t] Post someone’s personal information, or post links to personal information. This includes links to public Facebook pages and screenshots of Facebook pages with the names still legible. We all get outraged by the ignorant things people say and do online, but witch hunts and vigilantism hurt innocent people too often, and such posts or comments will be removed. Users posting personal info are subject to an immediate account deletion. If you see a user posting personal info, please contact the admins.”
I don’t disagree with a majority of what you’ve said, but you seriously lose credibility when you’re blatantly wrong about something as simple as one of only 5 rules, and one of the top 5 prohibited things under the reddiquitte page. I know you’re trying to make a point, but make sure that the facts support your claims before you do.
why many folks are so freaked out by people secretly taking pictures of them in public.
Let’s rephrase: taking secret photos and posting them in public so men (mostly) can wank to them.
Does that explain things?
@Lawrence d’Anna, I see what you are saying but I think you are a bit off the mark. The cries of “free speech” don’t mean “open forums”, they mean “speech with no consequences.” Reddit has some very specific limits on speech; things that would get Reddit into legal and financial trouble, and anything deemed to ID a reddit user. If I am forbidden on Reddit to say “here is a photo of John Scalzi” that is censoring speech, yes? But it is a level of censorship that is acceptable to Reddit, because the false promise of anonymous speech gives the site value.
(As an aside, I would bet there are some VERY awkward conversations going on right now at Reddit management: one of their most trusted mods tried to throw then under the bus, by offering to secretly report on and dox other Reddit users in return for anonymity.)
Re class-action suits: likely not a good fit. Class actions are really intended for an identifiable category of people who more or less have the same claims such that individual cases are pretty identical and hard to differentiate, and when damages are so tiny that only a crusader would sue. (For example, everybody who bought a particular product in 2011 was overcharged $3.)
Re private/public, this has nothing to do with something he did in private. Posts to Reddit are not private. If somebody hacked his chat log or stole his diary or filmed him at home, that would be a different issue. He assumed the Reddit community would keep his public behavior disconnected from his legal name. Apparently there is always someone who needs to be reminded that there is no omertá on the Internet. (And that you can’t always save yourself by turning stoolie.)
Gulliver, that’s why I said, “masturbating to porn” and not just “masturbating.” I think there are people who wouldn’t be ashamed of saying they masturbate but would be ashamed to admit they use porn. Whether or not they ought to be ashamed is another issue.
And the public is a very big entity. One might not be ashamed to admit masturbating to porn to friends (i’ve certainly had friends allude to it) but ashamed to admit it to Mom, Dad, Granny, and Aunt Sarah, for instance. However, I appreciate your distinction between shame and fear, and I think fear is probably the bigger problem when we think of having our private actions made public. I also still think it’s okay to have things we’re ashamed of and to not want them publicized.
So, Brutsch got the internet equivalent of being mugged while stumbling drunk down an alleyway, and that’s OK because he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Hmmm…
Maybe my morality doesn’t fit the times, but something just seems off. It could be because I think Gawker is somewhere between the Weekly World News and Foxnews on the credibility scale (more about the motives, rather than accuracy). Or it could be because I think that while retaliation between organizations, or by an individual against an organization is perfectly acceptable, I also think that retaliation between individuals or by an organization against an individual is somehow fundamentally unfair and wrong. It’s that place where asymmetric warfare meets fierce individualism. I think that Reddit dumping all Gawker links is fineP (they broke “the rules”), but would be outraged if they did the same thing to Scalzi, or Chen.
Anonymity/Pseudonymity is important. It’s about respect. It’s same reason why you use a female pronoun when referring to a male-to-female transgender person. Or use someones ridiculously hyphenated last name. It’s how they ask to be treated. Yes Mr. scuzzy troll-y pants AKA Brutsch worked hard at ensuring that people wouldn’t respect him. And you should protect yourself understanding that there are jerks out there that won’t respect you, but that still makes Gawker a jerk, just less jerky than Mr. Brutsch.
I agree Reddit’s commitment with “free speech” doesn’t have anything to do with the 1st amendment, tho that is probably where they got the principle. It is still is a guiding principle of their site, that on Reddit you are free to say anything provided it isn’t illegal, and they have every right to enforce that principle. Personally there is something wonderful about “pure” freedom. Freedom + anonymity. You get slimeballs. People who think that not illegal means “should be encouraged”. But you also get a lot of fun. But I do have to say that those those scare quote around free speech annoy me. Mocking someone’s principles is kinda yucky.
And what Gawker did, it’s just seems yucky as well. Tho that isn’t unusual for them.
Fair enough, and I’ve updated.
“So, Brutsch got the internet equivalent of being mugged while stumbling drunk down an alleyway, and that’s OK because he shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”
That’s almost entirely an incorrect assessment of what happened.
@Teresa Nielsen Hayden
I don’t think it’s as simple as ‘moderation good, anarchy bad’. The Internet is a big place and there’s room for both. There’s worthwhile stuff on reddit that you wouldn’t find on a more ‘serious’, or highly moderated site. On the other hand, there are great benefits to moderation as well, as you point out. Even within reddit, some subreddits are well moderated, some are anarchy, and some are moderated by vile scumbags. Reddit chooses to delegate the moderation to users (for cost reasons as you say, and brand reasons too), and that seems like a reasonable niche for the to occupy. Other sites will make other choices. In the end, whatever sites or communities produce the most interesting discussion will be the ones people pay attention too. Let a thousand flowers bloom.
“Let’s rephrase: taking secret photos and posting them in public so men (mostly) can wank to them.
Does that explain things?”
1. I don’t get how wanking is an imposition. It’s a private thing someone else is doing somewhere else and AFAICT, there is no associated danger to you.
2. I am quite sure that the wanking happens even without pictures.
Is it the fact that it’s public (exposure) for you and private (self-gratification) for them? I can see how that might overlap with fear of stalking, which makes a lot of sense to me.
“So if being openly gay was a job impediment, say working for an anti-gay-rights nonprofit, then yes, you could fire them for cause. I seem to recall a news article about a lawsuit related to something similar, but I can’t remember where I saw it.”
There was a religiously affiliated university in Georgia that was sued last summer over exactly this – firing a professor because she was gay. I don’t think the case has gone all the way through yet. But the university will probably win.
“So, Brutsch got the internet equivalent of having his legs pulled out from under him while he was walking down the street ripping women’s clothes off, and that’s OK because he shouldn’t have been touching the women in the first place. Hmmm…”
I fixed your post for you.
@martin: Many of the “people” in question were children. For example, high school students whose teacher used his mobile to surreptitiously take upskirt photos of them during class.
@roguecyber, can you expand on your “lot of fun” comment? In Brutsch’s case, the fun was getting to harass and upset people withou any consequences for that behavior. But perhaps I am being unfair and you meant something else.
The whole “Free speech is an ideal” responses over there fail to take into account one thing…
You’re free to say what you want… you just aren’t free from the repercussions of what you say.
Too many people think “free” means that whatever falls out of your mouth gets a free pass. It doesn’t. You have to have the conviction to stand by what you say and let the chips fall where they may.
roguecyber: So, Brutsch got the internet equivalent of being mugged while stumbling drunk down an alleyway, and that’s OK because he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Hmmm…
Well. No. Not really.
The internet equivalent of being mugged while stumbling drunk down an alleyway is having your credit card information stolen because you tried to buy something from a website with clear signs of being dodgy. It’s unfortunate, it’s financial, and it’s still illegal for someone to do it to you, even if people say in exasperation that you should’ve been more careful.
Brutsch got the internet equivalent of standing on a street corner shouting slurs at passersby while wearing a mask, and someone showing up and saying, “Hey, I recognize that shirt you’re wearing. You’re the guy who works across the street!” He was doing something deeply unpleasant but not illegal; people responded by explaining who was doing unpleasant things.
Comparing someone’s aggressive hate campaign against hundreds of other people with “stumbling drunk,” and comparing them being identified with exactly what they did to “being mugged”, is an extremely poor metaphor. Unless you wish to claim that posting horrible things deliberately and proudly for a long time is very much like having one’s judgment impaired by drugs. Or is that you wish to claim that having someone called out for doing exactly what they did is like having their wallet stolen? Because when someone says a cruel thing, and someone else says “That is the person who said that cruel thing,” that is somehow…like…being robbed? Of…their ability to say cruel things in public without being called on it?
I think your metaphor needs some work.
@roguecyber “So, Brutsch got the internet equivalent of being mugged while stumbling drunk down an alleyway”
No he didn’t. He got called out for saying vicious crap in public. He’s not the victim here. He’s the victimizer.
I love how people get all high-minded about how awful Gawker is while ignoring the actual facts in the article: http://boingboing.net/2012/10/16/violentacrez-expose-should-be.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
Thanks for making the correction.
“I guess what i mean is that posting to Reddit has much lower transaction costs than putting up your own site. Reddit ‘supplies’ free speech at a lower price than personal websites, so more people ‘buy’ it by posting to Reddit, when they otherwise might not have said anything at all. That seems like a civic good to me, even if some of those speakers are creeps, or trolls, or creepy trolls. Not every speaker that benefits from Reddit’s low transaction costs (and lax rules) is Violentacrez.”
I agree that Reddit offers users a lower transaction cost, but what they’re getting isn’t the forum; it’s an audience they couldn’t attract on their own. I also agree that it’s a significant public good to have spaces dedicated to general conversation. Just having everyone post their own comments on their own Facebook page wouldn’t amount to a conversation.
The thing is, a forum is a social environment. Communication is a shared activity. You can either have perfect and absolute freedom of speech, or you can have the company of your fellow hominids. You can’t have both.
All else follows from that.
Not at all. When you make an error, you correct it. I’ll note the Gawker version has likewise been updated.
@Martin: As a woman, the only way that I can answer this is from the perspective of gender, which is works in this case as the pictures being posted are/were almost entirely of women. Leaving aside the upskirt pictures, because I really hope you understand why that’s a problem, I think it’s a question of respect and safety in public places.
I was waiting for a bus a couple of years ago by the side of a fairly busy street. Two men were in a car stopped at the light in front of me. The passenger rolled down the window, leered at me, pulled out a cell phone, very deliberatly aimed, and took a picture of me while the driver laughed at my obvious discomfort. Then the light changed and the drove off. I was in my mid-twenties at the time and was deeply upset by the experience. I tried to find the picture online, but gave it up, because I knew that finding that picture posted online, perhaps with comments about my appearance, would be even more upsetting. If I’d found a picture but hadn’t known that someone was taking it, it would have been just as bad.
Why, you ask? Because although those men weren’t doing anything illegal, they were disrespecting me, and they made me feel unsafe by reminding me that there are men out there who don’t care about the feelings of women, who will treat me as if my body is the only relevant part of me, and that they have the right to do what they want with that body because I’m not really a person and my feelings don’t matter.
That’s why it’s a problem.
“There are 5 rules of Reddit. ONLY FIVE. And the third one clearly states ‘DON’T POST PERSONAL INFORMATION’ with a sub-rule specifying ‘NOT OK: Posting the full name, employer, or other real-life details of another redditor.'”
So what’s the problem? Chang didn’t post that information on Reddit. He published it on Gawker.
NG07928 was actually commenting on the fact that I inaccurately said such information was not covered in the rules or guidelines of Reddit. It was not a comment on Adrian Chen’s piece.
To elaborate slightly, the reason why I would still have been upset if those men had taken the picture secretly is that those points about respect and safety apply whether I know what happened or not. It’s naive to think that none of those women on reddit found out what had happened. And even if they didn’t, the act of treating women like anonymous sex toys without their consent is disgusting whether the women in question knows about it or not.
You don’t have to have a perfect grasp of their internal experience to understand that they find it upsetting, demeaning, and unacceptable. The thing to do is acknowledge their reaction, and then pursue a closer understanding of the experience behind it.
Fair enough. I try not to, but there are things I don’t discuss with my parents. Some things are private. As Charles Forbid explains to the world-dominating computer Colossus, humans have a psychological need for privacy. I’m not sure that’s the same as shame, but arguing the point would be splitting nanofibers.
In what universe does your employer deciding not to continue associating with you once it’s come out that you’ve been anonymously sexually harassing other people in the building and elsewhere constitute mugging. If you’re trolling, you’re impressively incompetent at it.
That sounds familiar. Thanks.
@ John Scalzi & NG07928
More seriously, I love blogs where the proprietor can admit an error and the commenter who points it out can thank him for correcting it :)
Well said. As an addendum, I think it’s not the fact of recording an image that is problematic. If a guy was taking a photo of his buddy and you happened to be in the background, am I correct in thinking that it wouldn’t be degrading? Now I’m not about to advocate laws restricting public photography, but I’m 100% for outing assholes who use it as a means to harass and bully.
You’re right. I mistook his direction. Thanks for setting me straight.
Your point 1 is wrong in two key ways.
1. Reddit isn’t a free speech website because it has to be and it’s not pretending that that’s it’s reason. It’s never said “our hands are tied”. It’s said “we like free speech.” All that stuff about how they aren’t bound to allow free speech is non sequitur and a little chilling, to be honest. Free speech as a value seems to be less and less important as a value. Sure the government can’t stop you, but the rest of us will most certainly be happy to destroy you.
2. It’s not about the money in exactly the way you say. It probably costs them money because it makes advertisers skittish. It’s really more of a complex web of things including a general appreciation for the value of free expression, but more importantly a desire to manage the site’s content as little as possible because it’s a royal pain in the ass.
Reddit wants you to think of it like Blogger or the internet itself. As a platform. An organizer of stuff. Moderating content creates problems of both substantive and procedural consistency for them. First, Where does one draw the line on substance? Must Reddit become Wal-mart level sanitized? There’s lots to offend everyone on there now. Have a look at /r/atheism. A lot of blasphemy there that is important but very controversial and sometimes tasteless speech. Should it all go? Second, when anyone can create a subreddit, it’s impossible to monitor it. So either enforcement would be highly inconsistent, or the whole structure of the site would need to change.
So that’s what’s really going on.
From BoingBoing: Brutch’s public activities — he maintained a hugely popular ‘jailbait’ forum which sexualized children; boasted of sexually exploiting his own step-daughter; and participated in a ‘creepshots’ forum that preyed on unsuspecting girls
from roguecyber: Brutsch got the internet equivalent of being mugged while stumbling drunk down an alleyway, and that’s OK because he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Hmmm…
Serious question #1: What would you say the ‘jailbait’ and ‘creepshot’ girls got?
roguecyber: I also think that retaliation between individuals or by an organization against an individual is somehow fundamentally unfair and wrong. It’s that place where asymmetric warfare meets fierce individualism.
Serious question #2: Asymmetric warfare: A forum encouraging people to find ‘jailbait’ and ‘creepshots’ versus individual victims. Do you think those forums use of asymmetric warfare against its victims is fundamentally unfair and wrong?
roguecyber: Anonymity/Pseudonymity is important. It’s about respect.
Serious question #3: How do you define “respect” as it applies to underage girls being the victim of ‘jailbait’ and women in general being the victim of ‘creepshots’?
“Many of the “people” in question were children. For example, high school students whose teacher used his mobile to surreptitiously take upskirt photos of them during class.”
I get why people don’t like upskirts – there is an assumption of privacy there that is being violated.
I can also see being pissed at teachers publishing school pics outside of school contexts, at least a little. Again there are social mores.
But publicly taken pix of children … again I only sort of get it. Yes, kids need more protections. Yes, people who get off on kids are creepy as hell. But … I guess I don’t get why it is important what someone you don’t know does somewhere else in such a way that you will never be harmed and won’t know. So either I’m wrong about there being no threat or I don’t properly understand why I need to care about what creeps are doing elsewhere in private.
Is it the fact they they are publicly getting off to said images? I’m beginning to think this is about the asymmetry – being associated with wanking is socially condemned, and the images are public, and the wankers are no (or a least less so).
Corey: It appears that Reddit has established that it wants to protect certain types of free speech. Yes on creepy pictures: no on actual child porn. Yes on pictures of dead teenage girls: no on posting the names of people putting up those pictures.
Gawker has chosen to protect certain different types of free speech. I don’t know whether or not they post a lot of pictures of dead children, but they do seem to be okay with posting the names of people who do. That is also free speech. Free speech which Reddit explicitly does not allow. So I think it’s pretty fair to point out that “we like free speech” is not something they’re taking all the way either. They’re drawing the line in different places than other people are.
I mean… you can argue against putting someone’s real name online for a wealth of reasons, but “because speech should be free!” is the exact opposite of the problem with it. Putting out that person’s real name was an act of Free Speech too. It’s just a type of free speech that Reddit dislikes.
…and, hell, I misspelled your name, Cory. Sorry about that! I should copy-paste instead of retyping.
It was very rude and socially unacceptable for them to take your picture in that way, However I do not understand why you repeatedly invoke ‘safety’. How was your safety put in peril by somebody rudely taking your picture?
“You don’t have to have a perfect grasp of their internal experience to understand that they find it upsetting, demeaning, and unacceptable. The thing to do is acknowledge their reaction, and then pursue a closer understanding of the experience behind it.”
OK, I fail at communication again. I thought that’s what I was doing.
Here’s a thought experiment. A mobster posts a picture of you Photoshopped into some cement shoes with a caption Can you breath underwater?
Would that bother you?
“It’s never said ‘our hands are tied’. It’s said ‘we like free speech.'”
I know it’s what Reddit’s said. I’ve also noted why I don’t believe anyone outside of Reddit need feel obliged to believe that Reddit’s claim is 100% sincere.
“It’s not about the money in exactly the way you say. It probably costs them money because it makes advertisers skittish.”
I don’t know that I would agree with that; I think there are any number of advertisers who would be happy to get ads in front of the sort of fellows who partake of upshots. If you doubt this, please note how ad-heavy porn sites are.
Please note that in none of this have I suggested Reddit must change its practices. I just don’t believe its practices are deeply rooted in a fundamental love of “free speech.”
Gulliver, I think Martin gets it. OTOH, you probably didn’t see his last comment when you posted that.
@Martin: Wow, you sure minimized that in a hurry. From ‘upskirt photos taken during class’ to ‘school pictures’ in the space of two sentences.
People take these pictures and post them because they get off on the violation. These women or girls don’t know that they’re being sexualized and probably would not be okay with being sexualized in that way if they knew about it. And that’s the point for these guys.
And if internet anonymity doesn’t protect the creeps who take these shots, how will it protect the girls who appear in the pictures? What magic barrier is there to stop these images from showing up on their Facebook pages?
“I’m beginning to think this is about the asymmetry – being associated with wanking is socially condemned, and the images are public, and the wankers are no (or a least less so).”
No, this is about the violation. These guys are getting off to the idea that they’re using people without the consent of those people.
@ Gulliver “As an addendum, I think it’s not the fact of recording an image that is problematic. If a guy was taking a photo of his buddy and you happened to be in the background, am I correct in thinking that it wouldn’t be degrading? Now I’m not about to advocate laws restricting public photography, but I’m 100% for outing assholes who use it as a means to harass and bully.”
No, the recording of the image isn’t problematic, and I wouldn’t be in favor of laws restricting public photography, or even laws restricting the posting of pictures taken in public without permission. That’s what public opinion is for.
@Martin: Posting a picture on a website that is specifically designed to oggle and harass women is not creeps doing something in private. Saying that this is an instance where “you will never be harmed and won’t know” is simply untrue.
And it’s not about wanking exactly either, it’s more about consent and as I said in my earlier post, respect. There are many women who are happy to have pictures taken of them for sexual reasons. Sometimes those pictures are meant for a single person, sometimes for anyone. The point is that the woman consented, and the men (or women) taking the photo respect the women’s right to consent. It’s incredibly frusterating when this kind of argument is simplified to “well, women are hypocritical prudes for making themselves look good then getting mad when men appreciate them for being sexy.” I’m not saying that you did this, but the way I read your comment you seem to be dancing on the edge of it.
Megs:”the act of treating women like anonymous sex toys without their consent is disgusting whether the women in question knows about it or not.”
Maybe I am misunderstanding, but I am under the impression that people wank to the *mental* image of people they see in public spaces all the time. Is this the problem?
Is making it a *physical* image the problem?
Is making it a *publicly distributed* image the problem?
OK, I think I understand the latter. It’s associating you with a sexual context, in public, without consent. Not done.
Perhaps I’m missing something, but regarding all the “We’re for free speech” defense of reddit, why not just offer Brutsch a job? From the original article, it’s clear he drove a lot of traffic to their site and had a close relationship with a lot of their senior staff. If reddit wanted to right an egregious wrong, couldn’t they simply put him on the payroll? Or are they more worried their brand will be permanently defined by his type of posting, right when they’re hoping to capitalize on Obama’s recent Q&A and evolve into something more mainstream?
martin: So either I’m wrong about there being no threat or I don’t properly understand why I need to care about what creeps are doing elsewhere in private.
You don’t see the ‘harm’ in taking pictures of children and posting them on a ‘jailbait’ forum, but you do see the harm in posting information about people doing that.
I’m beginning to think this is about the asymmetry
yes, so am I. Asymmetrical, as in It’s OK for creeps to post pictures of people (children) without their permission, but its not OK for other people to post information about those creeps.
the very definition of asymmetry, wouldn’t you say?
@smoofra: Please reread the third paragraph in Megs’ comment at 4:50. I think she explained it very well.
When the subtext of posting a picture is “I took this without her knowledge or consent, and if she did know she couldn’t stop me from doing it,” then we’re not talking about simply enjoying looking at the female form.
@smoofra: The safety bit is broader than just the men involved. I can only speak for myself, but I know that I feel unsafe when I’m subject to sexual harassment in public, even if it’s “only” the verbal kind. Little things like that add up. Any time that I’m treated like a body rather than a person, I feel unsafe, because if I’m not a person, then you can do anything you want to me and it doesn’t matter.
Or is that you wish to claim that having someone called out for doing exactly what they did is like having their wallet stolen?
“Who steals my purse, steals trash, but he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.” — Othello
Except that Brutsch threw his good name into the sewer, and then freaked out when Chen pointed at it and said, “uh, I think this belongs to you.”
Women’s safety is put in peril by a culture that treats our bodies as public property existing for the sexual gratification of men. Is it a direct link from a picture of me posted for men to get off on to the risk of one man deciding to rape me? No. But it’s an indirect link. And it’s more direct when you get to the responses I’ll meet with after I’ve been raped, about how I shouldn’t have been in that place/dressed like that/asking for it.
I’ll leave my response at that, since otherwise I fear I’ll derail into a discussion of rape culture in ways that aren’t relevant to the Brutsch/Reddit thing. But there are very, very concrete reasons why women (juvenile or adult) feel threatened when men gather en masse to objectify them in this manner.
It was very rude and socially unacceptable for them to take your picture in that way, However I do not understand why you repeatedly invoke ‘safety’. How was your safety put in peril by somebody rudely taking your picture?
Well, for one thing it contributes to a culture of dehumanizing women, which makes the world a less safe place for women to be.
@TNH, yeah, I cross-posted. Trying to refresh before each of my comments, but this thread is growing like wildfire and I’m on my tablet while with the other hand I grade homework for the class I TA.
Or, more to the point, when you’re treated as though your body doesn’t belong to your person?
I’m ever amazed how often perverts and anti-pornography activists alike completely ignore the concept of consent. OTOH, and to echo Marie Brennan, I’d rather not derail the discussion into a discussion of decency, porn, and/or rape culture, so I’ll leave it at that.
@martin: The other problem is the anonymity of the people taking the pictures. I don’t know who might have taken my picture. My co-worker? That guy on the bus I see every day? And so I also don’t know if he is going to violate me in other ways.
The simple act of taking my picture and posting it as wank fodder on the internet is a violation of my integrity and humanity. If he will do that, what else will he do? Will he harass me while I’m trying to get home from work? Will he follow me home? Will he find out my name and phone number? Will he post ads that claim I am a sex worker? Will he induce other people to harass me?
And even if it’s not me in the picture, the mere fact that some men do this and do it so brazenly makes me have to wonder if any of those men see me regularly.
There have been other instances online where men posted pictures of women. There was an incident on a website for law students. Where the male students were taking pictures of, rating, and publishing locations of the female students. Some of the men’s statements were violent, almost all of them were sexual. And this website had specific effects on the women law students. At least on of them lost her internship because of this. I believe one of them dropped out of school. The website in question refused to release any information about the male posters, citing privacy and other concerns. What you end up with is a group of women knowing that some men in their classes and on their campus are saying horrible, hateful, sexual things about them online. Those men are protected from their actions by the website itself. (There was a court case and the identity of the men was revealed eventually… but to the best of my knowledge the woman did not get her internship back and the man suffered no consequences).
It’s intimidating. It’s fear inducing. It can even be crippling level fear. Can I, as a woman, participate in the public sphere? There are, in fact, a lot of men who don’t believe I, or any woman, should be allowed to participate in the public sphere. Creepshots is a way to remind all of us of our place.
And that’s why it’s bad. It’s a form of bullying.
Marie Brennan: That’s a good point. The mugging analogy would come within spitting distance of working if we were discussing someone whose good name had been ruined by association with things they didn’t do in the slightest.
On the photography side of things:
1) If someone takes a picture in public and I’m in the background, I shrug and move on. So be it.
2) If someone takes a picture specifically of me in public, I may find it creepy, but I usually don’t find it a big deal.
3) If someone takes a picture specifically of me in public, and then posts it online in a publicly accessible location with comments about my sexual attractiveness–positive or negative–attached, then I find that a threat. In fact, I find that more threatening than if someone had posted those same things about me while merely attaching it to my name, and not my picture. In both cases, people can use that information to track me down, but attaching it to my picture is a hell of a lot more aggressive when it comes to things men do towards women.
So when I see someone doing that–and encouraging others to do it–having his name attached to his actions? I think he’s been treated more gently and respectfully in the posting of his name than any one of the women whose picture was posted and discussed in that manner.
And if we’re going to talk about how the posting of his name has affected his life and his family’s lives, we probably ought to be ready to talk about how the posting of those pictures has affected the lives of all those people in them, and their families. Especially when you get into the pictures of “dead jailbait”.
@mikes75: as others have noted, Reddit ‘s business model relies on free labor. Moderators work for free in return for status and privileges within Reddit. Brutsch was a very valuable provider of free labor because he did some very crucial tasks – keeping highly illegal material off the site. This was a huge intangible benefit, in that the staff really really didn’t like and didn’t want to sort through creepy subreddits; also, a huge tangible benefit, because Reddit was able to keep creepy subreddits open. Without Brusch, the staff had the option of, essentially, either climbing down into the sewer or bricking it over. With Brusch, somebody who enjoyed the smell of sewer fumes kept the rats out and the pipes clear, and did it for the equivalent of a really good sewer map and an Employee of the Month parking space.
Hiring him wouldn’t make sense unless it was outweighed by the financial benefit of keeping certain Reddits open AND there was no alternative such as tapping a new moderator.
Greg: I never said it wasn’t ok to post V’s stats. I am sorry if I implied that. He was in public as well, and he’s eating the consequences of his actions.
Gulliver: So posting someone’s pic in public, for wanking purposes, if they did not consent, is a threat? I think I’m starting to understand that a little – oh wait – ok, I think I get that. Is it because you never know when one of the people wanking will decide to track the picture back to you and cause you trouble?
Ian: I moved on from the upskirts quickly because *I understand why that is unacceptable.* It’s not that it’s not effed up, especially with kids, it’s that I get it and wanted to discuss other stuff.
Megs & Ian: You both say that it is wrong and disrespectful to wank to a public space image of someone you took without their consent. I’m NOT saying this is hypocritical or prudish, but please elaborate on this point, cuz I’m still fuzzy on it.
Sorry for the response lag everyone. These are requiring thinking. I also gotta run off for a while.
mythago: When the subtext of posting a picture is “I took this without her knowledge or consent, and if she did know she couldn’t stop me from doing it,” then we’re not talking about simply enjoying looking at the female form.
Before this goes completely off the tracks, it should be pointed out that photography is not a crime and for various situations it is: legal to take photos of people without asking.
But likewise, it is legal to reveal the identity of someone’s online pseudonym.
No need to criminalize photography any more than it already has been.
OMG, I am so glad you went off topic, because that is awesome-cakes with a side of nifty-sauce. Thanks for sharing!
Nick: Mythago is a troll? Fail, dude. Massive internet fail. In this particular case, your attempt to label someone else completely rebounded. Better luck next time.
However, in regards to your comments about social norms and “mob justice,” versus due process, I am grateful that some things are left outside of the criminal justice system, as are a whole lot of my fellow gay folks. Social norms change, sometimes extrememly rapidly, e.g. the acceptability of homosexuality. 15 years ago I could not be “out” at work, w/o losing my job. Today, I go to a weekly social, event on company time and property, using various other company resources, to touch base with other LGBTs who work for the company. If the criminal justice system had been involved, we would all still be in jail for being “out” and outside of social norms. I’ll take the ever-evolving social norms for 500, Alex.
Your so-called “mob justice” has an extremely short memory. Since MB has not been lynched, just outed, your reasoning is frail. And, frankly, I hope that the example of his outing helps create a culture in which the exploitation of female bodies becomes less the norm, less socially acceptable. MB should be shunned, and women (of all ages) should have an expectation of safety while walking around and minding their own business.
rastronomicals says: (A bunch of discombobulated Randian gibberish which I won’t bother to quote.)
You seem to be upset that Scalzi wrote the post he did, instead of the post you wanted. Call the WAAHmbulance…
Oh, before I go, thanks for the help everyone. I’m beginning to understand why this isn’t so disconnected from the photo subject as I though it was.
Oh, and Laura? That is seriously effed up. Could I beg a link?
@Martin “Megs & Ian: You both say that it is wrong and disrespectful to wank to a public space image of someone you took without their consent. I’m NOT saying this is hypocritical or prudish, but please elaborate on this point, cuz I’m still fuzzy on it.”
Here ya go – From mythago: “When the subtext of posting a picture is “I took this without her knowledge or consent, and if she did know she couldn’t stop me from doing it,” then we’re not talking about simply enjoying looking at the female form.”
“I took this without her knowledge or consent, and if she did know she couldn’t stop me from doing it,”
That’s what this is about. Seriously, why is the idea of consent so hard to grasp?
“Is it because you never know when one of the people wanking will decide to track the picture back to you and cause you trouble?”
Of course perfect anonymity on the internet is possible. Here’s how:
You first write a message that contains what, and where, you want posted online with your pseudonym and preferred music style.
You then put that message inside an anti-Easter egg. This is an egg that you leave for the the Easter bunny to find, as opposed to regular ones that are the opposite.
The Easter bunny collects the egg, checks the paintwork to identify that you have the right to use the pseudonym and then travels back to his home on the Mars (yellow is one of the thematic colours of Easter, it’s in the low end of the visible spectrum, Mars is “the red planet” and red is also in the low end of the spectrum. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it) where she’ll tell the content of the message, but not who you are, to Cobain.
This happens while both are riding unicorns so no-one can eavesdrop. Unicorns are famous for disturbing both magical and technological spying methods.
Kurt Cobain will then make a song of the message and perform it so the satellites around Earth will pick it up and unwittingly add the comment online, on the correct site and with the pseudonym, completely anonymously.
@Greg – Sorry, but you’re wrong. From Wikipedia; search term ‘upskirt’:
The United States enacted the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004 to punish those who intentionally make an image of an individual’s private areas without consent, when the person knew the subject had an expectation of privacy.
Additionally, many state laws address the issue as well.”
@martin, Google “AutoAdmit”. There weren’t just snide remarks; there was actual stalking and threats if rape.
I am happy to add that the site owner lost a lucrative job offer and some of the twerps involved paid money to settle lawsuits.
When it’s in posted in a public forum, yes, because it implies that they have no right to self-determination, that their body belongs to the poster and company. But that’s far from all Brutsch and the sleaze-redditors do in their sewers. They also Photoshop and caption unlicensed photos to imply rape, violence, child abuse and a smorgasbord of other shit. And anytime someone takes your photo with clear disregard for your consent, they’re demonstrating that your autonomy is irrelevant to them, and that they would just as soon bodily harm you as look at you if they didn’t have to face consequences.
AFAIK, no said there was, though I might have missed something in my skimming.
“While we rejoice in the schadenfreude pie that’s currently being baked, please take a moment and contemplate the repercussions of Teh Intewebz version of a good-ol’-hanging. Brutsch may or may not have actually broken the law, but it would probably be better for him if he had. He’d have received a trial by a jury of peers, moderated by a judge with (one hopes) the wisdom and experience to see beyond the gut-level-aggro that he’d inspired. He’d have gotten (again one hopes) a fair and reasonable butt-kicking, and after paying his dues been given the opportunity to start anew.
What is the penalty for being a pernicious asshat creep on the web? If we’re to take the current responses at face value, it’s the destruction of that person’s entire life, and the collateral destruction of their spouse and offspring’s lives by association. No appeal. No opportunity to atone.”
Except that isn’t true at all. Convicted felons lose their vote, their franchise in the process of our government, sometimes for a few years, sometimes forever. They show up on criminal background checks and sex offender lists, the kind that places like payday loan companies check. They can be divorced with no recourse while in jail and their kids are likely to wind up in foster families. It may seem to us on the Net like everyone in the whole world will remember who this guy is forever. More likely, most hourly employers who even heard about this will have forgotten in a month and the job he’s applying for won’t rate someone spending an hour on Google getting the details.
@Teresa Nielsen Hayden
I don’t know how that qualifying statement doesn’t cover Brutsch – what he was doing was unrelated to his job (I hope). The main difference between him and the people you listed: just about everybody dislikes what he was doing outside of work, the other groups have at least a few supporters.
This is why lawmaking and policy making is hard.
tygerstripes: @Greg – Sorry, but you’re wrong. From Wikipedia; search term ‘upskirt’:
I provided two links with a “Let me google that for you” front end, and you couldn’t even bother to click. Apparently, I’ll have to spell it out for you.
I’ve been getting into amateur photography for a little while now. I’m not sure what your background is.
As I said, yes, you CAN take pictures of people in public without their consent, and this is, as I said, under certain circumstances. The first one being that you’re on public property, the second one being that the person you’re taking a picture of does not have an expectation of privacy where they are. Note, if you hadn’t been so eager to be righteous and had actually clicked the two links I provided, you would have found that “upskirt” pictures violate the expectation of privacy.
So congratulations, you’re both lazy and wrong.
“That’s an interesting contract.”
Yep. It has some other unique clauses in it as well. What it all boils down to is discretion, however; the university isn’t very dictatorial, and they certainly don’t have proctors peering in the windows of my house to see if I’m secretly violating a precept. Pretty much so long as I’m not riding a motorcycle down mainstreet naked I’m okay.
“BTW, as John just noted, it’s easy to leave clues to your off-line identity – even without the link from your handle, that anti-dancing provision would have narrowed the school to one associated with the Baptists, and probably the Southern Baptist Convention.”
The no-drinking proviso nails it firmly to Southern Baptist. I have no illusions as to anonymity on the net. I am a technological neanderthal who makes certain genuflections before the window of the spirits, and if I have performed the rituals correctly, I am rewarded with pretty pictures and words. Ain’t no way I could come up with a way to spoof anyone who actually wanted to know who I am. The choice of name is simply an homage to the last of the “Gor” series I could stomach (barely), not a shield for my alter-ego. As it is, the morals clause gives me a variety of spectacular ways to resign from the university (dancing a jig into the president’s office with a fifth of Jameson’s in one hand, kicking both feet up on his desk, and inviting him to join me in a snort comes to mind).
“Freedom for employers to require a contract like that depends on freedom of employees to have a choice and to be able move elsewhere. If everybody required a contract like that, freedom of speech (especially in the form of interpretive dance) would vanish. That would be a step too far.”
But IS everybody going to have a contract like that? “Still the world is wondrous large, — seven seas from marge to marge, — And it holds a vast of various kinds of man” and all that sort of thing. Perhaps if we lived in a dictatorship run by a dictator who had been traumatized by an Aurthur Murray instructor as a child you might see an edict requiring a “no dance clause” in every contract. We live in a society with enough moral diversity to make that situation unlikely. Anyway, I don’t dance, as it violates one of Newton’s Laws of Motion. (Sorry about the caps above. I’m not shouting, but I don’t know how to make the machine give me italics–see reference to techological neanderthalry.)
“But where should the line be before we reach that last step? I don’t know. I do know that anyone who gives an absolute answer hasn’t thought it through.”
I agree that I don’t know either. And using absolutes to describe any facet of human relations is a losing proposition.
Nice exchanging thoughts with you.
@martin: http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/2008/07/autoadmit is one article, there are LOTS more.
@mythago: Thank you. I was totally blanking on what to use as a google search term.
I had an interesting experience a few years ago. The SO and I went to Folsom street fair where I bought a corset. I put it on and wore it around the fair. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by 250,000 kinky people, it felt relatively safe. Yes, people were looking. Some even asked to take pictures. But everyone was polite and respected personal space and bodily autonomy. We walked 2 blocks over, into SF proper, to grab some food and I felt totally objectified and stared at; it was a little creepy.
The tone of comments here has been slowly ratcheting up for the last couple hours, so let me take a moment to suggest to people they center themselves and take some calming breaths right about now.
Greg: No need to criminalize photography any more than it already has been.
Gulliver: AFAIK, no said there was, though I might have missed something in my skimming
Mythago’s post is here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/10/16/gawker-reddit-free-speech-and-such/#comment-385804
It said, in its entirety: Please reread the third paragraph in Megs’ comment at 4:50. I think she explained it very well. When the subtext of posting a picture is “I took this without her knowledge or consent, and if she did know she couldn’t stop me from doing it,” then we’re not talking about simply enjoying looking at the female form.
Meg’s post is here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/10/16/gawker-reddit-free-speech-and-such/#comment-385773
It’s too long to post, but click to read it. What she described was someone on public property taking a picture of her on public property in a situation not given to an expectation of privacy (standing at a bus stop). Taking that photograph would most likely be legal.
Now, had the photograph been part of a larger pattern of harrassment then that might allow her to at the least get a restraining order against the person harrassing her. I’m not sure, but if it qualified as harrasment, she might be able to possibly file a cirminal complaint. But I’m fuzzy on that part. Since I’m interested only in legal amateur photography, not harrassing, I’m not exactly sure what happens once that line is crossed, but that’s because I’m not interested in crossing that line. I’m just walking around with an SLR taking photos of cool things.
The point being that yes you can take a picture of someone without their permission under certain circumstances. The big example being that you and the person you’re photographing are both on public property. An every day example of this is that just about every time you take a vacation photo, someone would be in your picture and you’d either have to get their permission or risk being arrested. It would be ridiculous. But likewise a picture of someone standing at a bus stop would also likely be legal.
Am I the only person here that has read news stories about people that have had photos of them taken and “repurposed” by unscrupulous web authors? Assuming that I am willing to go with the “no blood, no harm” interpretation, I am not able to assume that anything that is put on the net will not end up elsewhere. The concept of “Victimless” implies that this will not ever happen, and it assuredly will (has).
Laura, you went from a fetish fair to outside a fetish fair, which is a “walking outside” thing…by which I mean there are things you’d be comfortable wearing at home, but not on the street. And you were “at home,” in the sense of being surrounded by people who could be presumed to “understand these things,” and then left it to be gawked at by muggles.
What *IS* meant by “freedom” in freedom of speech? I have definitely heard the sentiment “freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences” a lot lately, and I have to wonder: if the freedom in freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences, what IS it? Because even in the most brutal police state, you are able to speak freely- once. I just can’t think of what you are supposed to be free FROM if not adverse consequences of some given magnitude.
This isn’t directed as to whether free speech applies to reddit, or the internet. Creeps or saints. It’s not even a question about whether free speech is a good thing or not. I just seem to find that there is a surprising lack of consensus on what it means. I definitely don’t think it implies freedom from judgement, but I am not sure that it doesn’t actually mean freedom from consequence.
Ok, I was not clear, I am referring to posts that are made with out a person’s knowledge and with no realistic expectation of their consent….
@everyone who didn’t like my metaphor :) No I was not trolling, several things about this whole situation bug me.
There is very strong undercurrent of “he got what he deserved” or “two wrongs make a right” that I find disturbing. People seem to be saying that it’s OK that gawker did a bad thing because they did it to a bad person. Maybe being a creepy guy is lynch worthy in the internet age, not really my call. I’d be the first to admit I am out of step with the kids today.
The passive aggressiveness bugs me as well. Very NIMBY. Well, his employer has the right to fire creepy guys (I’ll agree that in most states you can find a perfectly legal way to fire just about anyone you want. Not my point). Well, gawker was just exposing this bad guy, so it’s OK the posted his personal details. Well, it’s not really a violation of the 1st amendment so it’s “free speech”, not free speech.
If it’s all actually OK then just say, “If someone does something you don’t like then It’s perfectly fine to post someone personal information and encourage public shaming.” Also if Brutsch was engaging in harassment or child pornography (or inducement to commit a felony) then someone should have contacted the FBI. You can reach them at http://tips.fbi.gov. They are quite responsive.
To fix my metaphor….
Mr. Brutsch did the internet equivalent of being a REALLY bad neighbor. You know the kind. He plays pornography all the time, spies out his window at people, and is generally annoying (and he smells bad too). So you you get a reporter from the local free-ad-supported tabloid to point out where this jerk lives and his employer. And as luck would have it, he gets fired! Go you!
Is that better?
ahuntr, it means freedom from legal sanction or government retribution. In other words, you can’t (under most circumstances) be arrested or targeted for a tax audit (for example) for what you say or write. Also that the government does not exercise PRIOR restraint (that is, there’s no one, under a free speech regime, who vets publications before they go public, or decides what films may be made, etc).
I keep thinking of Anil Dash’s post, “If your website’s full of assholes, it’s your fault”: http://dashes.com/anil/2011/07/if-your-websites-full-of-assholes-its-your-fault.html
Reddit seems to have thrived as a website full of assholes and they’ve built some weird tribal logic to deny responsibility for said assholes.
This reminds me of the tempest over whether the Brits authorities were violating anyone’s free speech by jamming facebook and/or wifi during the last series of riots there. Of course they weren’t, as no one has the RIGHT to use facebook (a private service), their cell phone, or the interwebs in general. Amazing how many people could be so wrong on this. IMNSHO the Brit authorities actually did a damn poor job of limiting criminal activity precisely BECAUSE they were so terrified of doing stuff they clearly SHOULD have been doing to protect the public safety.
roguecyber, there are plenty of people who are somewhat disturbed by that aspect of it, including me. I personally wish there’d been another way for this scum to get his. And for me (not for all) the fact that he was publishing pictures of unconsenting minors means that stopping him was important.
I haven’t read all of the preceding comments; however, it seems that ‘free-speech’ and – increasingly – postings on the Web is this generation’s Nuremberg defense.
Unmasking peoples’ pseudonymity is certainly often done for malicious or petty motive. For instance, there are plenty of people who think that decisions at Wikipedia that go against them justify trying to out the administrators who stopped them, and trying to get people fired by their employers.
Personally, I deliberately did not try to hide my real-life identity; thus, it appears, nobody thought I had any secrets worth hiding and I never got such threats.
I think there are other options for analyzing Reddit’s policies than “They do it for money” or the like. The Geek Social Fallacies cover a lot of it; nerds tend to feel uncomfortable criticizing or ostracizing “one of their own”. Plus, there’s a common belief in absolute freedom of speech among certain nerdy subcultures; when a group is small enough, in-group informal moderation tends to keep things in check, but when it gets larger, ugly things happen.
I’m currently one of the moderators at TV Tropes, which for a long time had a pretty much “anything goes” feel to its forums, but this ended up causing a lot of problems, so we’ve been working towards a more regulated future.
@Xopher thank you. That is precisely the good, succinct, answer I was looking for. Basically it means that the government outsources the consequences of speech to the community, which keeps the government in step with the community. Much appreciated.
@roguecyber: Why do you feel that Brutsch has been “lynched”? Why do you feel that writing about Brutsch’s identity – which he disclosed in public places – is not free speech, either in the First Amendment sense or the Internet sense?
This is not “two wrongs make a right”. This is you arguing that free speech only applies when it does things you like. Nope.
Also still waiting to hear about this “fun” which you identify as a positive result of anonymity.
Not quite. It’s false to equate, on the one hand, a person or group of people expressing their opinion of what someone does and deciding to no longer associate with them to, on the other hand, a government backed up by force of arms restricting the right of someone to express his or her opinion or others to listen to it and associate with him or her. The former is an exercise of liberty; the latter is an infringement of liberty.
If it’s all actually OK then just say, “If someone does something you don’t like then It’s perfectly fine to post someone personal information and encourage public shaming.”
I don’t think any of us are saying that. I know I’m not. But it’s kinda amazing the number of people who are pretending that outing is some sort of heinous thing that never happens and should never happen and that we must all take a public stand against public outing of anonymous / pseudonymous posters.
I don’t think people should be outed necessarily. I do think harassers and bullies should be brave enough to face their victims. In this case, someone decided to remove his protection so his victims knew who their harasser was.
Bad formatting in my previous comment. The first paragraph is a quote from @roguecyber.
@Greg: I was responding to a post asking why people are upset about having their picture taken in public without their consent. a couple of posts later I clarified that I did not support the criminalizaton of this action. Comment threads can get messy, so I wanted to clear that up.
There’s been a lot of conflating ‘wrong’ with ‘illegal’ in this discussion. One might hope it would go without saying, but it is perfectly possible to be opposed to criminalizing behavior while condemning the behavior itself. Part of living in a society is deciding which issues should be handled by the law, and which should be handled through other means. This is an example of those other means, and the more I think on it, the more I think it was handled correctly.
mythago: “This is not “two wrongs make a right”. This is you arguing that free speech only applies when it does things you like. Nope.”
WHOA! Hold up.
I never said I “liked” Brutsch or whatever he may or may not have done.
Just because I think what Gawker did is wrong, does NOT mean that Brutsch isn’t also wrong. If in fact, the stories are correct he committed federal crimes and should be prosecuted. But that’s the problem. Did he do those things? I don’t know. Did anyone go to the FBI? Not that I heard of. Gawker made a big public stink and Brutsch got fired. A big part of my problem is that I don’t trust Gawker. Also I am on reddit at lot and have never seen or hear of this guy, or any of those subreddits. So I wonder, just how bad was this stuff? Is Gawker exaggerating (like usual)? But then, even if everything they said was true is this the right thing to do?
“Also still waiting to hear about this “fun” which you identify as a positive result of anonymity”
Porn. Naughty stories. Political discussions. Arguing on comment threads. Decade long friendships. Those sort of things… Also: Wikileaks. and reddit.
ahuntr, not quite. If people in the community decided to imprison you or burn your house (or your newspaper office) for things you said or wrote, the government would defend you. There are serious limits to the consequences that are allowed. Even members of the government can express their opinions on people’s speech.
One of the things we’re discussing is which side of the line outing (or doxing) is on.
Without reading the entire comment stream (sorry, tl;dr-ish) I have to comment that the victim of Adrian’s piece outed himself from his anonymity by meeting with people in person and identifying himself as his pseudonym. Any expectation of strong anonymity went out the window at that time.
Using Tor or any other kind of anonymizing software would not have helped him. He was an idiot, or at least indiscreet in his choice of confidants. I can’t say he overall impresses me with his sense of judgement, so I guess I’m not surprised.
And this is why, when I was executive director of Tor, I never had nearly so much ethical qualms about jerks using Tor as one might think. Jerks are, in my experience, more often idiots with poor judgement who violate their anonymity and are outed by traditional means.
As a result, Tor gets a sad amount of bad press for being used by jerks violating various laws I like (including those against trafficking and child porn) because people using Tor badly or using it and making other egregious mistakes in their lives like bragging about their heinous behavior with personally identifying details, get caught by authorities.
For some reason, my observation says, democracy activists in the Arab Spring, reporters in war zones, human rights workers in really horrible regimes, and other such folks who use Tor tend to be much more disciplined and canny about their full context of anonymity, on and off line. Many of these people happen to be violating local laws against speaking out against authority, being gay, or what have you — the are violating laws I’m not very fond of. And these people don’t tend to get caught.
It’s really odd how that works out. The second group of people are just smarter and better at deferring ego-boo for safety and longer term rewards. They are working for rewards for a greater context, in general. It seems to give them a perspective that overall prevents them from making as many idiotic mistakes. I am ok with that.
I am no longer involved with the Tor Project as staff (although I do a bit of volunteer work for them, but so could you if you wanted to! ;) and I’m certainly not speaking for the ethical position of the organization — this is just me, the Unitarian Universalist minister’s kid, raised in the family that was steeped in the civil rights movement of the 60s and so on.
I got involved in issues of online privacy when I realized in the early 90s that every piece of presumed ephemera I’d ever written on alt.* on USENET was now indexed and searchable on this new WWW thingy — and I sure as hell was never running for public office. I was active in the CDA fight with EFF in 1996, with the black out and ribbon campaign as head of Oregon Public Networking/Eugene Free Net, and was founding executive director of The Tor Project a decade later.
I don’t want to see freedom of speech compromised, but I want to make one real point about this case, in that the guy did violate his own privacy through lack of discipline and all, but then, it’s GAWKER and they are media whores. Adrian did not do this to uphold decency on the web. He did it for the thrill of the controversy and the page hits. Social engineering jagganath.
Regardless of the legalities or general ethics of the redditor involved, it’s important from my point of view to consider that there are no heroes in this situation. Not at Reddit, not at Gawker, and certainly not among the many people online who are crowing victory over the troll blood. This is not a clean kill, and we’ll be paying for it over time.
Guess @ 9:13 am said that being anonymous on the internet is trivially easy. No, sorry, it’s a lot of work if you want to do it well – go ask Bradley Manning. We spent a lot of time in the cypherpunks movement in the 90s trying to build tools for anonymous speech, and trying to understand potential attacks on those tools, and it’s really hard to be more than moderately anonymous. We wanted to build tools that were good enough that political dissidents could use to discuss things about their governments that would get them thrown in jail or killed, which is a lot harder than building tools that are good enough for gay teenagers to get some advice or find a date without their parents finding out. (The latter’s pretty much possible, but you need to balance the amount of protected traffic against enough background traffic to avoid sticking out, as well as being careful about what you say.)
I ran an anonymous remailer for a year or two during the 90s. Probably 50% of the traffic was people saying “testing, testing, does this thing really work?”, 40% was spam, 9.99% was other abuse, and if I’m lucky maybe 0.01% was worthwhile traffic. I eventually had to close it down because some troll posted flamebait to a gay Usenet group and got the flames they were looking for, including many pointed at my ISP, and similar fates happened to most of the first-generation remailers (either from trolls having fun or from people trying to get the remailers shut down.) There’s better technology out there these days, because we did learn some thing from running them, but it’s still hard to provide a platform for anonymous speech without getting overwhelmed by abuse.
And if you run a website called “creepshots”, I don’t think you get to really complain about anything anybody at a website called “gawker” says about you…
Megs, I wasn’t trying to twist your intentions of your post, just give Gulliver the background for where my post was coming from.
Cops have been the biggest abuser of saying you have to have their permission before you can record them. The DOJ recently pushed back saying no. But private individuals sometimes think you need permission to take their photo too. It might feel squicky sometimes, but it doesn’t always work that way.
@roguecyber: Brustch has not been lynched. He has not been attacked by a mob, beaten, tortured, and murdered. That’s what lynching is. He has been called out for sexually preying on young women, and for saying racist crap, and for generally being a mean-spirited asshat who gets his jollies from other peoples’ pain.
Attaching his name to his actions is nowhere near the level of cruelty you seem to think it is. And there is nothing ‘passive-aggressive’ about making someone own his own words and deeds.
Greg, are you being deliberately obtuse? Mythago’s comment (which you quoted without indicating that the emphasis on “without her knowledge or consent” was yours) was not about criminalizing photography at all. This would have been more clear if you had actually quoted “the entirety of the post” as you claimed, because the post began “@ smoofra”. Smoofra’s post read, in actual entirety:
It was very rude and socially unacceptable for them to take your picture in that way, However I do not understand why you repeatedly invoke ‘safety’. How was your safety put in peril by somebody rudely taking your picture?”
Where, exactly, is the content about criminalizing photography?
Just because Mythago is a lawyer doesn’t mean all of her comments are about legalities.
I won’t say who, but, for an experiment, I choose at random three pseudononymous commenters from this thread who are logged in via their gravatar, but whose gravatar profiles are not publically linked to anything else, and timed myself for how long it took to discover their RL identities using only Google and databases that are not behind a paywall. It took 9 minutes, 4 minutes and 25 minutes respectively…one even had a blog. And I don’t even have access to the emails they logged in with, any of the kind of pictures Brutsch left floating around of himself, or someone who knows them to tell me. I also did myself, took 18 minutes (sorta disappointing, that, hoped my ID would put up a better fight, but I’ve never cared that greatly about anonymity and so haven’t taken the precautions I know I could).
As John says, once you start logging-in to do stuff, your digital self begins leaving a trail. And there exist pay-for-access databases that someone with your identity could use to build a fairly comprehensive dossier, even if you’ve never caught the government’s attention. The best defense is that it’s still pretty hard to accurately automate these sorts of searches, so it still takes human attention, but it’s getting easier every day.
Consequently, I’m with David Brin. If you can’t have privacy, reciprocal transparency is the next best thing.
Robin: are you being deliberately obtuse? … This would have been more clear if you had actually quoted “the entirety of the post”
Speaking of “entirety of post”, my post started with “Before this goes completely off the tracks”, which seems to have gotten dropped as well. Maybe I wasn’t sufficiently clear, but that was my attempt to say “this has NOT gone off the tracks yet, and no one here has actually said photography is illegal, but several people HAVE said they’re upset about being photographed “without permission while in public places”, and that is something that people quite commonly attempt to criminalize, and maybe we could nudge the conversation in a better direction, and clarify a few things rather than demonizing photography..
Now, I admit I used a shorthand version of that, but I certainly wasn’t being deliberately obtuse.
“I also did myself, took 18 minutes”
What’s your secret? People can spend a lifetime figuring out who they’re supposed to be. HEYOH!
More seriously, it’s probably easier to go from a comment to a person than from a person to a comment. And, in the case of protecting yourself from workplace retaliation, it’s probably much easier to obscure your hobbies. Assuming you don’t indulge at your workstation.
@Greg — it is perfectly possible to believe that photography in public spaces, in and of itself, is not and should not be illegal, and to be upset when men take pictures of you, without your permission, solely for their own sexual gratification. It’s like catcalls — no one is saying that all loud noises on public streets should be banned, but catcalls are still upsetting, unpleasant, and part of a larger culture in which women aren’t really people.
Saffi says: You say that like it’s a bad thing. But when “what’s coming to them” is “societal pressure not to be a sociopath” then I fail to see the problem.
Two things: 1) it can be a bad thing to out someone so they’ll “get what’s coming to them”. Good Thing or Bad Thing is dependent on context, histories of the involved, and who is on which side of the issue and whomever the judger identifies with. Individuals that have been on the receiving end “getting what’s coming to them” include non-whites, gays, women, political protestors, etc. Notice a pattern?
2) Having done some research on sociopaths, I believe that one of the defining characteristics is a belief that society’s rules don’t apply to them. Violentacrz knew society’s rules applied to him otherwise he wouldn’t have tried to bargain to keep his anonymity intact. He also used his knowledge of what was/was not acceptable to keep overt pornography off Reddit. In short, he policed his own kind until hubris set in. It’s the old story of the big fish in the little pond going for a swim in the ocean.
Eric @ 2:06 I would argue that the moral would be: Don’t admit in public anything that you would be ashamed to admit to in public, just because you think you are anonymous.
Admitting is public is not the problem. My first example is inspired by the article over at Making Light about Paterno and the Penn State Scandal. Sandusky managed for years to keep his private interests private. People at Penn State went out of their way to ensure nothing would be admitted in public, but the information made it out into the public eye anyway. My second example involves a murder in a small town where the victim was gay and the community is homophobic but tolerant. The victim kept his “outrageous behavior” well away from home and, while at home, was a productive and supportive member of the community. His death was discovered within hours and the murderer apprehended within a day or two because everyone knew where the victim went when he “wanted a bit of company.” Rural American logistics: there weren’t many places where a gay guy could go unremarked within a two hour drive. (The victim also had a routine you could set a clock by. So when he was one minute late for Saturday morning coffee, people noticed. They also called the police within five minutes of the no-show when the victim didn’t answer his phone.)
Small Town fact: when the majority of your entertainment involves watching the neighbors, a lot of stuff gets noticed and then gossiped about. Violentacrz did his best to get all kinds of notice on line while believing his pseudonymity was 1) bullet proof and 2) the same as having a private life.
BW @ 3:50
To follow your example, I freely admit I am a sucky housekeeper. But then I don’t think how badly I keep my house will affect whether or not I keep my job.
And yes, I keep things in my head and away from friends and family and strangers. I’ve chosen who I want to be rather than letting my impulses choose for me. I know my actions have consequences. I also know, thanks to the internet, that whatever I do will follow me for the rest of my life, no matter where I go. It used to be, you could get away from gossip and innuendo by moving a few towns or a few states away. Or emigrate entirely. The internet has effectively put an end to this, and it will only get worse as more and more people use social media and searchable databases to manage their lives and businesses.
Gulliver @ 4:09 don’t do anything in private that you’d be afraid to admit to in public
I accept that edit and will adjust my stance accordingly. Thank you.
That he didn’t lose his cool when confronted simply demonstrates how prepossessing his sociopathy is; he behaved in a manner consistent with pursuing his last best hope to escape consequences.
Although I have to disagree with you on this. I think violentacrz misread Chen’s intent and his “attacked by morality warriors on Reddit” reflexes kicked in. Chen’s article wasn’t that of a crusader. His was more of a “who in t’hell is this asshat and why are people defending him?” I dislike using the sociopathic label on something that can be attributed to general asshattery and/or A Healthy Sense of Entitlement.
Adrian did not do this to uphold decency on the web. He did it for the thrill of the controversy and the page hits.
They aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.
This is not a clean kill, and we’ll be paying for it over time.
Greg: The thing which seemed obtuse to me was not that you brought up the topic of criminalizing photography but that in response to Gulliver asking where it came from you quoted a post which actually did not refer to it at all. It read like you were saying “this post shows that people are talking about criminalizing photography”, as a concrete example. I would like to say that of course one knows you are more intelligent than that, but, bluntly, you have been known to extrapolate rather extensively from short phrases to entire personality profiles. Thus, the question of whether you were doing it a-purpose.
I love this site–everyone here usually takes time to actually think about what they’re saying. The other site I was reading about this issue hardly got started before the “how dare someone out him” contingent got going. Course, I haven’t made it over to the Gawker site yet.
The creepy neighbor metaphor was a bit off. To me, he’s the creepy neighbor who has people over that peek into your windows; KNOWS they peek in your windows; tells them where to stand and is tickled about how upset you’ll be.
Call me shallow–but as someone with sisters, nieces, great-nieces—the idea of getting upset by the problems of some creep (DeadJailBait? Really? That alone is enough.) is a non-starter.
It does get over-deployed. I meant it in the sense of a pathogen trying to avoid social T-cells, but there are probably better terms than sociopath.
@ Harold Osler
It’s been a mixed bag, both on Chen’s article’s comments and the comments on their reprint of Scalzi’s post. As a larger context, Gawker’s content itself is a pretty mixed bag. They’re a lot like HuffPo, a fair share of diamonds in the rough, but there’s a lot of rough and link-bait. As Chris Sears noted way up-thread, investigative journalism isn’t their usual fare, making this article remarkable in that Chen got his detective on. I personally have mixed feelings about Adrian Chen. Sometimes he does good work with his exposés on stuff like Anonymous and oDesk, and this article rises to the level of a public service, but he’s also done his share of crusading with things like Silk Road and Bitcoin.
1) By ‘things you like,’ I didn’t mean Brutsch. I meant your earlier statement in favor of ‘pure freedom’. You are trying to have it both ways, and that doesn’t make sense. If it’s at worst a regrettable, but necessary, side effect that some people’s “fun” will be obnoxious and damaging, that argument applies to Gawker just as much as Brutsch and his creepy subreddits. You really can’t make a consistent argument that free speech, and its sadly regrettable but necessary side effects, include bad things but not repeating the identity of Redditors.
2) What federal crimes do you think Brutsch committed? As has been discussed at length here and elsewhere, Brutsch deliberately kept the subreddits just inside of the legal lines. That was precisely why he was so beloved of the Reddit staff: because he actively weeded illegal content out of subreddits that were natural magnets for it, protecting Reddit from legal trouble and the subreddits themselves from being shut down.
It is not a federal crime to make racist and anti-Semitic jokes, not in the US. It is not a federal crime to post a picture of a 13-year-old girl in a tight T-shirt and jeans and then rant about the sexual acts you fantasize about engaging in with her, or to criticize her figure. It is not illegal to see a woman at a public park, use your camera’s Zoom function to get a full-screen shot of her breasts, and then post that photo on the Internet. It is illegal to post naked pictures of children, and nobody has suggested that Brutsch did that. (It is also not a federal crime to have consensual sex with your 19-year-old stepdaughter.)
If you want to talk about “lynching” and harassment, by the way, calling the FBI to falsely accuse somebody of a crime is way up there on the list of Things You Should Not Do to someone merely because you think he’s a doucheclock.
3) The Gawker article is meticulously detailed and refers to specific facts, including a confirming interview with Brutsch, who posted to Reddit subsequently and is appearing on CNN. To my understanding, he has not disputed the article or claimed Chen misquoted him. Sure, as someone pointed out at TNC’s blog, watching Gawker go after Reddit is about as morally uplifting as watching Darth Vader drop-kick the Emperor down a mine shaft, but “I don’t like Gawker” != “the Gawker article is false”.
4) Just how bad was this stuff? It’s to your credit that you never got near portions of reddit where you would look at groups like “deadjailbait”, but, er, don’t you think the title of the subreddit is kind of a tip-off about the content? In any case, there’s the rest of the Internet that you can rely on rather than Gawker for information. And, as mentioned before, nobody, not Brutsch, not even the CEO of Reddit, claimed that Chen was exaggerating or misstating the nature of those subreddits.
@ Shava Nerad: “Without reading the entire comment stream (sorry, tl;dr-ish) I have to comment that the victim of Adrian’s piece…” Two major mistakes here, in my opinion. First, not reading the thread. That’s always a mistake, especially here. Two, calling Brutsch a victim. He is not a victim. A victim is someone who suffers bad things through no fault or action of his or her own*. Brutsch’s own actions and words are what got him fired from his job, Mr. Chen was merely the flashlight that exposed those actions.
*Excepting activists opposing oppressive laws. They can be victims of the enforcement of those laws. Which doesn’t really matter, since it doesn’t apply to this situation.
Bess: it is perfectly possible to believe that photography in public spaces, in and of itself, is not and should not be illegal, and to be upset when men take pictures of you, without your permission
And it’s not like I just made up some imaginary windmill to tilt at here. The phrase “photography is not a crime” will give you a LOT of google hits because, frankly, a LOT of people do NOT distinguish between photography that should be illegal and photography that makes them upset. As you say, it is PERFECTLY POSSIBLE to make that distinction. But not everyone does it. And a sufficient number of people do NOT do it to the point that photographers have to push back.
My post started with “Before this goes completely off the tracks, it should be pointed out that photography is not a crime and for various situations it is: legal to take photos of people without asking”, which isn’t the same as saying you guys are all criminalizing photography here and need to stop it now.
Robin: It read like you were saying “this post shows that people are talking about criminalizing photography”, as a concrete example.
Good thing I didn’t say that, eh? Mythago said “I took this [picture] without her knowledge or consent, and if she did know she couldn’t stop me from doing it”. But when you’re on public property, you CAN take a picture of someone without their knowledge or consent, and they can’t legally stop you. (with caveats already mentioned). In those cases, photography is not a crime, i.e. taking that picture is legal. That’s all I said. That’s all I intended to say.
It wasn’t about people here were criminalizing photography here, it was about “without her knowledge or consent” and the fact that that is actually completely legal under certain circumstances. If you google “photography is not a crime” and click on any of the sites that explains how photography is not a crime, one of the first things they usually go into is that its legal to take pictures while you’re on public property without the person’s consent. It’s the biggest thing that people get wrong. And its often the first thing that most “photography is not a crime” sites will try to explain.
Posts like this are why I don’t believe you when you say you never really made use of your philosophy degree.
A comment that uses the phrase “politically correct” isn’t automatically worthless, but it starts quite a bit back of the gate.
Davis @ 10/17 12:41
This is a perfect response to anyone who asserts that if there’s no law against something, no one gets to say “boo” when they do it — and to the complementary ilk who call for everything objectionable to be outlawed.
ahuntr @ 10/17 18:58
What does that even mean? As I interpret it, it’s exactly backwards. Where do you think governments come from?
roguecyber @ 10/17 19:31
Wikileaks is hardly a shining example of the protection of secrecy (nor of appropriate conduct in the sexual realm, but I digress)
Your analysis of freedom of speech is ridiculous. The Constitution doesn’t figure into arguments on Reddit about the limits of free speech, at all, and I bet you can’t point to one post that grounded its argument in that way. The question is about Reddit’s community standard for the limits of speech. Should Reddit have limits besides legal limits, and what should they be?
It’s a perfectly legitimate position to argue that Reddit should maintain itself as closely as possible to absolute freedom of speech. I’m not going to make the case here. I’m simply saying that it’s ridiculous to claim such a position is ignorant, when it’s your framing that makes it seem so. Of course every shit bag gets thrown into the lap of someone making the radical case that speech should have no limits. Nobody said it would be easy. Much easier is the task of the moral crusader.
As for anonymity etc. t is perfectly within the rights of Reddit users and Reddit admins to decide for themselves whether they want doxing or not. Whether it is easy or difficult to dox someone, whether or not anonymity is even possible these days, isn’t relevant at all. I don’t know why you wasted so much hot air. The question is not whether anybody has a right to anonymity, but whether Reddit and its users have the right to react to doxing against its members. And clearly they do. Many popular subreddits have banned Gawker and company. And many have not.
By the way, have you checked out gawker.com/upskirt today? There’s a great spread on Lindsay Lohan’s upskirt shots. I don’t suppose you’ll be making a long and dramatic post about hypocrisy. If Reddit is slimy because of creep shots that were completely anonymous, I wonder what that makes Gawker.
Enjoy your ongoing association with Gawker, Mr. Scalzi.
Martin, I don’t know if this will help, but here’s why I don’t like it.
From the theoretical side:
One part of it falls firmly under the heading of Blaming the Victim. The idea is that she wouldn’t show up on a creeper site is she was a Good Girl (for whatever value of “good” you want to assign.) Usually called asymmetrical blame.
Another part of it goes beyond mere objectification and into the area of Women Are Property with all the legal and social and emotional ramifications that comes with it. The act of photographing an unwilling woman from whom you didn’t get permission is very much turning her into an object and not that far from putting her into sexual slavery even if it is in absentia
And finally, the last bit about it that can bother women, is the current nature of social media combined with the ease and cheapness of photography. It used to be that you had to pay up front to see every image you took and that put a lot of casual photographers off. Now, all you have is the initial outlay for the camera or phone. Every reputable photographer gives their subject an option to not be photographed. Not allowing that option puts the photographer firmly in Skeezoid and Creeper territory. Because the assumption is “if they have to sneak a picture, what are they hiding?”
On the personal side
It’s okay to be photographed by friends, family and co-workers because I can tell them “don’t” or “stop” and the person will. Or I can ask them to not post the picture and they will agree. If they don’t, I have the ability to get either an apology or payback. *
If a stranger takes my picture without asking or giving me an opportunity to evade the lens, it’s a lot like having him step into my home and rifle through my things until the photographer finds something to masturbate with or on. Overtly taking photographs without my knowledge or permission puts it firmly in the territory of assault (sexual or otherwise). Only the assault is mental and emotional instead of physical.
Plus, it is an unfortunate sign of the times that a woman is better off assuming that going alone into a strange place will end up with her being assaulted sooner or later, rape optional. So when a stranger takes my photograph without my cooperation, the worst case scenario assumes the photographer is either a serial rapist or a serial killer trolling for a victim.
* although, to be fair, I’m usually the one sneaking pictures of my family and friends. I adore candid shots and will have my camera out and on display so no one can say I ambushed them. I also ask strangers for permission to photograph them. Usually, they’re in costume so they’ll pose. I still remember the days of having to pay for film developing, so I tend to not waste pixels and bytes out of habit so the overwhelming majority of what I photograph are macros, landscapes, architectural details, art shots, and loved ones. Plus, I usually send them jpgs rather than post it on line. The best ones get printed out and framed for the off-line generation.
By the way, have you checked out gawker.com/upskirt today? There’s a great spread on Lindsay Lohan’s upskirt shots.
Yeah, well, celebs who insist on going commando when there are paps about are possibly a SLIGHTLY different kettle of fish on the consent front, but anyway.
What I find interesting about this, is how ViolentAcres’s defenders will complain about VA’s doxxing, but ignore how he was ready to turn stool-pigeon to save his own hide.
Brutsch clearly understood that his actions online would get him fired if he were caught, and he decided to take that risk. He got caught, and he got fired. Comparing that to a lynching is, in my opinion, absurd. The women and girls whose pictures were posted on his “jailbait” and “creepshots” subreddits were not given the opportunity to weigh risks and decide whether or not to proceed. They were simply exposed and potentially humiliated for kicks.
Awesome essay, Mr Scalzi. Thank you.
Victoria: The act of photographing an unwilling woman from whom you didn’t get permission is very much turning her into an object and not that far from putting her into sexual slavery
@ Adrian Smith
Only slightly. I find the notion that people who happen to do something a wide swath of the public finds notable means they deserve fewer considerations and/or rights than the rest to be just a tad rationalizing. And whereas sleazy subreddits are creepier than supermarket tabloids, tabloids have a hell of a lot more readership who aren’t even coy about their vicarious voyeurism.
And then there’s the sleaziod apologists who argue that celebrities are asking for it or that the fact that a few seem to enjoy the paparazzi’s predation implies they all secretly love it, the underage ones especially, no doubt. Setting aside that this is a form of victim-blaming, do the apologists really think the paparazzi, Gawker, Reddit or their consumers/users really give half a shit about whether the celebrities/notables actually appreciate having their privacy ignored? This is just an example of being okay with creeping on popular and powerful members of the community while righteously denouncing creeping on the underdogs, with a side of, it’s fine when we do it because we only harass people we don’t like. So yeah, Gawker is still Darth Vader, even if they’re tossing the Emperor down the shaft.
In other words, you brought in an assertion that was not being seriously made in order to debunk it. That’s a straw man argument, and you don’t get to complain when other posters tell you you’re derailing the thread by doing so.
But, even more important, your focus on your pet issue is, regardless of your intent, in some measure serving to excuse the behavior of the depraved guy who’s taking perfectly legal but still deeply disturbing pictures of adolescent (and pre-adolescent?) children and posting them online for his gratification and the gratification of others who share his depravity. Yes, what Brutsch did is most likely legal, and it seems he went to a lot of trouble to make sure it remained so, but legal =/= right or moral or good, and it’s that latter set of traits the rest of the thread is talking about.
Maybe save your own hobby horse for a less contentious topic next time, and you won’t take so much heat for the metamessage you’re sending.
Finally, for the folks (mostly men, if I may be permitted to judge by usernames) who seem to think taking pictures of ladies in which they are the clear subject, without their permission, is peachy-keen: you’re part of the problem. If you want to take pretty pictures, there’s a sunset approximately once a day, and some of them are quite spectacular, and no one will object when you take a sunset photo and plaster it online. I do recognize it’s harder to rub one out to a sunset, but I’m sure you can find a way.
@ Andrew Hackard
Incidentally, there are plenty of erotic/pornographic pictures of consenting adults to fill the vacancy. Subreddits like Jailbait are about domination† and taboo, not just sexuality.
† The real kind, not the play kind.
Andrew: In other words, you brought in an assertion that was not being seriously made in order to debunk it.
Gulliver says: It does get over-deployed. I meant it in the sense of a pathogen trying to avoid social T-cells, but there are probably better terms than sociopath.
“Asshat” works for me. As do a lot of old fashioned curse words including the one from which “asshat” derived. “Juvenile irresponsibility” and “rabid denial” are also appropriate if one objects to swearing.
Victoria: “…ratting someone out because “then they’ll get what’s coming to them.””
Saffi: “You say that like it’s a bad thing. But when “what’s coming to them” is “societal pressure not to be a sociopath” then I fail to see the problem.”
Victoria: “…it can be a bad thing to out someone so they’ll “get what’s coming to them”. Good Thing or Bad Thing is dependent on context, histories of the involved, and who is on which side of the issue and whomever the judger identifies with.”
Victoria, I suspect you are misunderstanding Saffi’s point. In any case, here’s mine:
Outing Brutsch isn’t an act of retribution, it’s not even, ultimately, about moralizing over his specific actions. It’s an attempt to break the silence that insulates abusers and their enablers. It’s meant to replace the normalization of abuse with awareness of the consequences of certain actions. Brutsch may not be a sociapath in the true sense of the word, but he helped create a platform that rewarded people for mimicking the actions of sociopaths.
It isn’t just anonymity that fueled this, but the ability to create larger than life personas. Divesting Brutsch of his power isn’t about revenge and it’s not even ultimately about him at all, it’s about the victims and not enabling their abuse. Thus “what’s coming to them” is not about outing individuals for the purpose of limited justice. The goal is to force the public to see that actual people are involved here, not just entertaining personas with no substance or responsibilities, and not just nameless, voiceless victims that only exist in pixels.
Making the actors in this little drama real and human to the rest of the public tends to involve making certain details of their lives concrete and accessible – and in this particular case it actually makes a lot more sense to start with the abusers and not the victims. In this sense, “what’s coming to them”, strangely enough, is not so much punishment and demonization as it is humanization. Including, but not limited to, the consequences that come from being flawed and having failed one’s responsibilities to others.
This is what the article attempted to accomplish anyway. Now, what everyone else actually does with this information is another matter entirely.
And then there’s the sleaziod apologists who argue that celebrities are asking for it or that the fact that a few seem to enjoy the paparazzi’s predation implies they all secretly love it, the underage ones especially, no doubt.
Look, I don’t know about the other ones, but while there is much to be sad about in the spectacle of Lohan displaying herself for lack of more substantive ways to stay famous, I’m not convinced the slope we’re standing on is all that slippery. Does admitting that some unfortunates have taken to courting such exposure really imply that the average woman in the street might appreciate a bit of it as well? I mean, some people are capable of astounding leaps of inference, I know, but still.
Greg, please compare:
with your more recent:
In the first, you acknowledge that “[some other words] was my attempt to say…”, thereby noting that what you actually said may not have conveyed the meaning you intended — otherwise it would not be necessary for you to explain it. Since you’ve indicated your comprehension that what you meant to convey may not have actually been what was received, why the patronizing “Good thing I didn’t say that, eh?” Or do you really think that quotation marks always without exception indicate a direct literal quote even when preceded by clear markers such as “it read like…”? I can think of no reason why you’d harp on this otherwise.
Likewise, your latter comment continues:
But you don’t need even to say that much, because the acknowledgement is right there that there is no way to prevent it, legally or otherwise: “she couldn’t stop me from doing it.” I mean, not only has no one else brought up the possibility of making this photography illegal, the post you link to in response to someone else asking you when this came up explicitly notes that that it’s not actionable.
I acknowledge you did not make up an imaginary windmill to tilt at, but even though you didn’t make up the existence of that type of windmill, no one else sees it present in THIS conversation. Sure, “a sufficient number of people do NOT do it to the point that photographers have to push back”, but you’re not pushing back, you’re just pushing. Which might be a valid discussion, but more than a little jarring in this extant conversation which has no lack of people defending poor behavior.
Upon refresh I see that Andrew Hackard has already said much of what I was thinking, but rather than try to winnow out the duplication I’ll just let that stand. But I must note your continued illogic in your response to him in which you indicated this post by Victoria: “The act of photographing an unwilling woman from whom you didn’t get permission is very much turning her into an object and not that far from putting her into sexual slavery.”
That’s STILL not talking about criminalizing photography. It’s saying, you’re using this woman without her consent for your sexual gratification, and doing so with her picture isn’t far from doing so with her presence. Because both are making her into a thing, not a full human like yourself, to be used. I see you all primed with your objection about how if she’s just pixels in a photograph she can’t be a slave, but that’s still missing the point: believing her to be an unperson existing for your gratification. Someone who treats people as things in one context is not at all unlikely to do so in other contexts, and the link between that concept and slavery is not a difficult one to grasp.
Gulliver: I find the notion that people who happen to do something a wide swath of the public finds notable means they deserve fewer considerations and/or rights than the rest to be just a tad rationalizing.
I don’t know if it’s rationalizing, but it is the law. Public figures are treated in a number of ways legally differently from people who are not public figures.
Anonymity isn’t a right. Broadly speaking, it requires a third party to protect the anonymous writer. That may be a publisher, journalist, or other intermediary (with “publisher” equaling “website” for all practical purposes). If one were running something like Wikileaks, contributors would expect the website to protect them, up to and including deleting logs and going to jail to protect sources. Anonymity can and should be protected by these third parties when there is a social good to be achieved, and for publishers and other intermediaries who routinely deal in anonymous writing, I think there’s a reasonable expectation that the third party will be clear about what they will and won’t protect.
Other than that, outing an anonymous writer is itself an act of journalism, i.e. within the boundaries of free speech. It would be morally stinky to, say, out a Middle Eastern democracy activist, but then the party and publisher that posted this kind of news would be held accountable by its readers.
As a cultural norm, I have no problem respecting people’s preference to be anonymous online. Many people could be subject to arbitrary and unfair penalties, like losing a job because they hold religious or political beliefs their employer wouldn’t agree with. However, I personally feel that anyone involved in bullying or exploiting underaged people really are not entitled to very much respect in this regard.
If I may offer an observation I have an itchy feeling our host may soon himself, I think we may have gotten off-track discussing the criminalization of photography. And while I don’t believe the derail was intentional, it hasn’t only been Greg whose taken the detour. Just a friendly thought, feel free to ignore me, I’m no one’s moderator.
@ Adrian Smith
Not in the least. That was my point. *goes back and re-reads what I wrote* I’m pretty sure I was fairly clear on that too. But to reiterate, posting pics of dead underage girls for sexual gratification isn’t on the same level as gleefully wallowing in invading the private lives of famous young women, but the culture that endorses it is the same. It’s hypocritical to say that the consent of celebrities and other notables is optional, but the consent of everyone else is sacrosanct. Consent should be sacrosanct for everyone, or it really is appropriation, and the appropriation of people is slavery. Slavery comes in many degrees and takes many forms, but it’s still slavery. Rape, for example, isn’t the same as holding someone as property from cradle to grave, but it is a form of slavery. And yes, I know lots of people think the word slavery is overused, but I believe in calling a spade a spade, even if some spades are bigger.
Oh, I’m aware of that. And that law is fine in principle, but I do think it can be taken too far, until you wind up with dead princesses. As has been a theme here, just because it isn’t illegal doesn’t mean it’s a good idea or that society is right to encourage it.
The issue is not whether Lohan is “looking” for such exposure or not, it’s the lack of analysis of the forces that brought us….her….whatever…to this point. Which include the fact that Lohan has been subjected to this kind of intrusiveness since she began puberty. If not earlier. Coupled with a intense entitlement among men in particular that they deserve access to pictorial access to celebrities bodies – so long as those celebrities are female.
I swear to fucking god that some of the most asinine, sexist, creepy, and infuriating things my otherwise fairly decent male relatives have ever said to me have been about female celebrities. My brother was practically livid with Natalie Portman when was contemplating a career other than acting. And my own father, who has pretty much never said a creepy thing in his life otherwise, once remarked to me, when Lohan was in her early teens (and I was in my early 20s), that he couldn’t wait to see what she looked like all grown-up. (or some such. I must admit I blocked it out as much as I could.)
So no. You cannot separate all this from the manner in which Lohan seeks attention – or even the fact that she does so in the first place. And you most definitely cannot separate they way that actresses and their bodies are treated by society – especially young and under age actresses – and the way in which society treats women’s bodies overall.
“Perhaps I’m missing something, but regarding all the ‘We’re for free speech’ defense of reddit, why not just offer Brutsch a job? From the original article, it’s clear he drove a lot of traffic to their site and had a close relationship with a lot of their senior staff. If reddit wanted to right an egregious wrong, couldn’t they simply put him on the payroll?”
Because he’s become a liability. I don’t know how you read the original article, but to me it definitely sounded like Brutsch was getting thrown off the back of the sleigh. Besides, if people will start and tend subreddits for free, what you need isn’t someone who tends subreddits; you need someone who can manage people who start and tend subreddits. Judging from Chang’s descriptions of him, Brutsch is not that kind of guy.
“What is the penalty for being a pernicious asshat creep on the web? … Brutsch seemingly didn’t accept that there would be consequences for his actions. But how many folks, gleefully tossing thunderbolts right now, realize that there will be consequences to theirs? If things go badly, there will be blood on our hands.”
There’s blood on my hands already. If I didn’t know that, I’d have no business doing what I do.
Do you really imagine that we aren’t aware that there can be real-world consequences to our online actions?
“I don’t know how that qualifying statement doesn’t cover Brutsch – what he was doing was unrelated to his job (I hope).”
Have you ever managed employees? If his job involved working with other people, what he did was related.
Say I’m his supervisor. I’ve got another employee in the department who’s a person of color. How can I ask them to work side by side with someone who’s publicly known to have run a subreddit titled n—–jailbait? Knowing his attitudes, how am I supposed to adjudicate disputes between Brutsch and employees who are black, or Jewish, or attractive young women? Am I supposed to take his word at face value? Am I being irresponsible if I do?
His dishonesty has to be a problem. There’s also his lack of discretion and propriety. By his own account, he’s surreptitiously taken indecent pictures of female employees at his workplace, posted them in a forum devoted to wank fodder, and publicly admitted that he’s done it. It’s an offense to his co-workers, and it exposed his employer to liability. If he didn’t hesitate to do that, what else might he do?
Your basic American workplace doesn’t need any more sociopaths. It’s already got enough of them in upper management.
“This reminds me of the tempest over whether the Brits authorities were violating anyone’s free speech by jamming facebook and/or wifi during the last series of riots there. Of course they weren’t, as no one has the RIGHT to use facebook (a private service), their cell phone, or the interwebs in general. Amazing how many people could be so wrong on this. IMNSHO the Brit authorities actually did a damn poor job of limiting criminal activity precisely BECAUSE they were so terrified of doing stuff they clearly SHOULD have been doing to protect the public safety.”
Excuse me? Since when do the police have the right to exercise prior restraint over my or anyone else’s communications, without showing reasonable cause, simply because I’m in the vicinity of something they deem to be a disorderly incident?
I’ve been in messy street situations. Jamming the citizenry’s communications would not have kept bad guys from behaving badly. What it would have done was keep the affected citizens from recording and transmitting evidence of police malfeasance, and other information about the developing situation. It would also keep them from contacting friends and partners who’d gotten separated from them in the chaos, and making arrangements to get safely out of the situation.
Why do you guys keep giving away your civil rights?
“I got involved in issues of online privacy when I realized in the early 90s that every piece of presumed ephemera I’d ever written on alt.* on USENET was now indexed and searchable on this new WWW thingy — and I sure as hell was never running for public office.”
There’s the difference. I started out in fanzine fandom, back in the days of mimeography. Because I hung out with fanhistorians and fanzine collectors, I got to see crudzines with early writing by Ray Bradbury, and teenage Harlan Ellison’s out-of-control prose. I read the text of single-copy wall newspapers the young Futurians wrote for their housemates, and an entire run of an apa that was supposed to be strictly private, for contributing members only. Later on I became a literary criticism reference series editor, doing research in the collections at Columbia and NYU, and got to handle original copies of 18th C. literary feudzines that were remarkably similar to (and had roughly the same circulation as) old fanzines.
It taught me that there’s no such thing as ephemera. Nothing you publish can be relied on to go away and never come back. It may; and if you wanted to save a copy, you’ll be sorry if it does. But once it’s out of your hands, it’s out of your control.
You may not see the logic, but as a result of that realization, I’ve always written under my own name, or occasionally under not-very-opaque pseudonyms for specific purposes or effects. I don’t expect them to stand up to sustained scrutiny.
As you yourself have observed, real anonymity takes serious discipline. Most users’ pseudonymity only holds up because nobody cares enough to break it. If they ever become persons of interest, their imaginary security will vanish like a puff of smoke.
Slut-shaming Lohan is particularly aggravating to me because, as meticulously as I avoid celebrity gossip, I recall seeing her in films as a kid and thinking she was a pretty decent actress for any age, and that she had a lot of potential to be one of the greats. What was the paying public yammering for? A look up her skirt or for her boobs to develop. It’s one of the little things that sometimes makes me wonder if the asteroid belt needs to get a better aim on Earth…that is, not huge in and of itself, certainly not on a level with DeadJailbait, but so damn accepted by otherwise good-natured folks. In the end, it’s about dehumanization at a distance. The only qualitative difference between Brutsch and people who treat celebrities as though there’s no person behind the fame is that Brutsch can do it to everyone, even his own stepdaughter, whereas most people get a reality-check when its someone they personally care about.
Sorry to double-post, John, but I thought of something germane after I hit post.
Which, if you think about it, was also the difference between Darth Vader and the Emperor. When it was Skywalker’s own son who’s life was forfeit, he saw the Emperor for what he really was.
Greg: I can think of no reason why you’d harp on this otherwise.
I don’t think I’m harping when people ask me questions and I answer them.
Someone who treats people as things in one context is not at all unlikely to do so in other contexts, and the link between that concept and slavery is not a difficult one to grasp.
I started this by saying “Before this goes completely off the tracks, it should be pointed out that photography is not a crime and for various situations it is: legal to take photos of people without asking.” and have gotten several people objecting to this on grounds that no one suggested photography is criminal. But someone has since compared photography to sexual slavery.
So, tell me, in your opinion, how closely linked is “sexual slavery” and “criminal”?
Most places I know, sexual slavery is a crime.
asking.” [end italics] and
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Not just theirs. They’re giving away yours and mine too.
Gulliver: until you wind up with dead princesses.
not a really good example of bad side effects of that law.
Gulliver: you are quite correct about the derail, and I keep kicking myself for it. But one thing that really riles me is attributing words to people that they didn’t say — I can’t even take it as a joke; it’s simply not funny to me. To see people’s comments being cited as evidence that a particular subdiscussion is needed when those comments show no such thing rubs me the wrong way.
@mythago (first let me thank you for your thoughtful replies)
1) Maybe it is contradictory, but I see two separate incidents of jerkitude both of which are not equally bad. Also when I mentioned “pure freedom” I was referring to the benefits of anonymity, not a complete freedom from the consequences of your speech. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.
2) What’s illegal? Sexually provocative imagery featuring children. It doesn’t actually matter if they have clothes or not. If the imagery only appeals to the prurient interest it is obscene and illegal. I don’t always agree where the DOJ draws the line, but that is the law. Also considering that the guy is in Texas (community standards much?) it wouldn’t be that difficult to get him to plead out. If you don’t agree I would suggest looking into the obscenity prosecutions under the Bush administration. (Specifically the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force) It was mostly a shakedown operation looking for settlements, but they had quite a run until the Obama administration took effect. Girls Gone Wild is one of the more famous examples.
Calling the FBI to report a crime is a civic duty, not harassment.
I agree racist, sexist, homophobic jokes are not illegal. However it does not have to be imagery to be child pornography. I would recommend researching the Red Rose Stories case from 2008.
Did these subreddits rise to that level of obscenity? IDK
3) I stand by my policy of
if pub == Gawker then grainOfSalt()
4) Eh, your probably right on the “was this stuff really that bad” question. It probably was worse.
I just plain don’t like lynch mob mentality (even if the person is deserving). I do admit it’s rather weird that I would have been happier if Brutsch was in legal trouble rather than losing his job over his douchebaggery.
Gulliver: we may have gotten off-track discussing the criminalization of photography. And while I don’t believe the derail was intentional, it hasn’t only been Greg whose taken the detour.
I said “Before this goes completely off the tracks”, before someone comes out and says photography is a crime, here’s some links to explain how it isn’t. The only counter argument seemed to be “but no one is saying that”. And then someone went and compared photography to sexual slavery. So, maybe it’s not a detour now, given that someone compared it to one of the worst criminal activities I can think of?
I think I called it, but whatever.
Because the error has crept in during this thread, and it’s a pet peeve of mine (my legal name so often being mangled): the writer of the Gawker article is Adrian Chen, not Adrian Chang.
Ah, yes, that made quite a stir among libertarians when it hit. And this wasn’t some school or public library trying to ban a book. It was the United States federal government prosecuting someone for writing stories. Not only was it blatant selective enforcement of unconstitutional laws, Karen Fletcher literally faced the prospect of prison time for writing fiction about illegal activities. It makes me so mad I could spit! I hope if there is a hell, it has a special place set aside for officials who practice government censorship, preferably one where they’re subjected to every depredation they ever tried to ban writing or speaking about.
If he was taking pictures of his coworkers and ranting about their sexual attractiveness or lack of same, his employer probably HAD to fire him. I’m pretty sure that in New York and New Jersey they would have to get him out of the workplace the instant they found out if they wanted to avoid lawsuits.
OTOH, Texas. They have barbaric laws on a lot of stuff, so it wouldn’t surprise me if stalking and sexual harassment in the workplace are still considered good clean fun there.
Xopher, was that really necessary? Gulliver and I both hail from Texas, as I’m sure other commenters on this thread do (in fact, I know definitely of one, but I’m not sure that person has revealed that bit of information), and while there are certainly backward cretins in the state government, I think it’s a bit hyperbolic to refer to “barbaric laws” and imply that all or even just many Texans consider criminal activities to be “good clean fun.” There are plenty of good, well-meaning Texans, just as there are plenty of scoundrels and knaves where you hail from. Do I wish the climate* here were different? Absolutely. That change is going to be gradual and take years, probably decades, and it’s going to be painful for many of us. But I do believe we’re working, ever so slowly, to move the state in the right direction.
* Take that however you will. It’s probably right.
@ Xopher Halftongue
No, it’s not. And while I’ll be the first to admit the Texas legal code is not without problems, and I’m fully aware that someone who is gay has good cause to be personally affronted by some of those flaws, it’s kind of irksome to have people imply that we as a people are somehow responsible for this shitbag’s behavior. I know taking potshots at Texas is good northern fun, but let’s not pretend its alone in having fucked-up laws.
Maybe I’m a little oversensitive since last year when some of my fellow Boingers chalked our wildfires up to getting what was coming to us. Anyway, don’t mean to jump on you personally, just a general tone alert.
Andrew: I think it’s a bit hyperbolic to refer to “barbaric laws” [in Texas]
1) Sure, but we’re not really arguing about whether anonymity/pseudonymity should exist; just that it’s not a sacred right, to be preserved even when it’s used to hurt people without consequences. (Link may be NSFW for swears.)
2) I’m familiar with that, and I know that the DOJ (particularly under the previous administration) is not above bringing extremely questionable charges. But it is not true that pictures of under-18s posted as wankfodder are, automatically, obscene. (Girls Gone Wild, as you probably remember, involved actually persuading women to flash their breasts.) Again, the whole reason that Brutsch was so valuable to Reddit was that he was vigilant about making sure nobody screwed up /r/jailbait for everyone by actually posting child porn. And there isn’t anything illegal about the rest of the stuff he posted/modded.
Reporting a crime is a civic duty if you genuinely believe a crime has occurred. Calling the FBI in the hopes that maybe they’ll crawl up the dude’s ass and die for a while, even if in the end what he did is legal? That’s right up there with “let’s publish his home address so people will send him threats”. (And the people who are making death threats, now, they need to have a chat with our friendly federal agents.)
3) Sensible people take the National Enquirer with a grain of salt, and yet, they broke the John Edwards scandal when the ‘regular’ media was sitting around looking at clouds. Skepticism is reasonable. Denial is not. Nor is conflating motive (they just did it because Chen hates Reddit! they’re media whores!) with substance (so they HAVE to be lying!).
On the ‘lynch mob mentality’, dude was profiled in a written article, and before it was published the writer contacted him to confirm the facts and quoted him. This wasn’t a Tweet listing the name and address of the wrong guy. The fact that people are angry or think he had it coming does not make a ‘lynch mob’. And again, FFS, it boggles my mind that term is being used in reference to a guy who gleefully wallowed in vicious racism.
Yo, A very neglected part of the reason why what Brutsch did was wrong, and hence why it’s important and worth it to socially shun him, is fucking misogyny. It actively encourages men to view women as objects and to get off on the idea of violating, of getting past a girl’s (not a woman’s) lack of consent and doing whatever you want to do to her anyway.
“Gosh well, this social power to enforce negative consequences such as shunning and firing COULD be abused!”
Yep. So? In this case it clearly wasn’t. This social power was abused against Amanda Todd and others. Can you explain how shielding Brutsch from the consequences of his actions would have helped Amanda Todd?
jennygadget: The issue is not whether Lohan is “looking” for such exposure or not, it’s the lack of analysis of the forces that brought us….her….whatever…to this point. Which include the fact that Lohan has been subjected to this kind of intrusiveness since she began puberty. If not earlier.
That’s kind of what I was referring to when I said there was a lot to be sad about. So should we consider her a child, so damaged by her experiences that the consent to being photographed that appears to be implicit in her behaviour is meaningless?
@ Sally Strange
Adrian Chen mentioned it in his article.
Not sure, but it seems like it should involve unicorns.
Popehat has a good and lively discussion in two parts(so far). Being specialists in free speech you can get more of the legal angles and the degree to which people just don’t get it. And who doesn’t love it when lawyers cuss like literature sailors.
I feel like I’m giving away the Secret Rituals here, but lawyers routinely swear like….like a bunch of people who really, really swear a lot.
Quoting @RonZ here directly, but he’s far from the only example in this thread — just the one where it caught my brain:
Maybe I have too high an opinion of my fellow human being (and, fwiw, when I die, I really wouldn’t mind if “He had too high an opinion of everyone” is my epitaph), but I tend to think that it’s less about money and more about a belief that a hands off space is one that will grow in unexpected ways toward something good. And if the only way to get to that space is to allow and ignore some spaces that are creepy, so be it. I really do think Reddit thought it was doing the right thing in just letting everyone speak his or her mind.
Ah, yes. This argument again.
Here’s a little imaginary scenario for you. You’re at home, sitting at your computer, posting a lengthy high-minded and in your eyes eloquent defense of the necessity for absolute freedom of speech and freedom from the consequences, when your wife calls you downstairs.
She’s on the couch, hugging your daughter, who is shaking with terror and shame and bawling her eyes out.
Once she’s finally calmed down enough to talk, she tells you that apparently a few days ago while she was getting on the bus one of her classmates snapped a few photos of her rear on his cellphone, ending with a very candid upskirt shot, and posted those pictures to, say, a reddit subforum. Sometime last evening, another of her classmates browsed that forum and recognized her… And this morning, the pictures and her identity in them were all over school — and it wasn’t until lunch that someone told her why all of the boys were leering and occasionally jeering at her and why most of her “friends” were trying to avoid being seen with her.
THEN you can tell her how what happened to her is a terrible thing, and how you sincerely wish it hadn’t happened, but how these sort of things are a tragic but unavoidable consequence of the need to allow them to happen in the name of freedom, because you’re believe that humans are ultimately good people and Very Soon Now people will freely choose to do the right thing and the internet will magically transform into an utopia of free speech where good people will say good things and bad things won’t happen anymore because good people don’t do bad things.
No, go ahead. Tell her. I’ll wait right here while you explain it to her. I’m sure she’s a bright girl and she’ll understand how her violation was tragic but necessary and she’ll smile bravely and not be traumatized at all.
What, not so easy when the victim is someone you care about?
Congratulations, you’ve just discovered that you share a very crucial bit of mindset with violentacrez and reddit’s other defenders: You don’t believe that harm done to people that aren’t you or anyone you care about matters in anything but the abstract.
Violentacrez did what he did to his victims because he thought he could get away with it, and because he didn’t — and from his indignant response to being outed, still doesn’t — think they count as people.
You think his victims’ suffering matters less than your ideals because you also don’t think of them as people. Or at least, not people like you. Not people who matter. You probably don’t do so consciously, it’s just a disconnect you’re barely even aware of.
I know I wasn’t, back when I was twenty years younger and so very much more of an asshole than I am now.
It’s a very, very common failing on the internet, and it’s the source of the huge glaring flaw in a great many otherwise high-minded arguments. It also needs to STOP.
(Edit: For some reason posting — or at least the preview function — eats paragraph breaks no matter what I try. Googling for documentation of wordpress comment formatting doesn’t seem to yield anything useful. Sorry about that.)
Andrew: lemme see if I grok this correctly: at 10:43, you chastize me for not sufficiently respecting the difference between legal versus moral regarding “photography is not a crime”. You remain silent when someone likens photography to “sexual slavery” which is a pretty heinous crime. And then not only do you get bent out of shape for Xopher calling the laws of a state that pushed for the execution of a retarded man “barbaric” (which he made a point of distinguishing the immoral from the illegal) but you go so far as to call it “hyperbole”.
I dont know what dictionary you use, but executing a retarded man is barbaric and saying that is about as moral a stateement one can make without cussing making it the opposite of hyperbole. On the other hand comparing photography to “sexual slavery” when no slavery actually occurs does in fact meet the definition of hyperbole.
I am starting to sense two different sets of rules being enforced by you. rules for people you agree with. and rules for people you dint agree with.
“Your analysis of freedom of speech is ridiculous.”
Well, my analysis of freedom of speech is not what you appear to think it should be, which is an entirely separate subject. You and I don’t disagree that “The Constitution doesn’t figure into arguments on Reddit about the limits of free speech, at all,” although I suspect that you and I come to that conclusion for different reasons. And because we come to that conclusion for differing reasons, your comment “I’m simply saying that it’s ridiculous to claim such a position is ignorant, when it’s your framing that makes it seem so,” isn’t especially valid. Although of course I appreciate that what you’re saying here is, in effect, “How dare you frame your argument that way! I have a perfectly lovely frame over here, and it’s the one that should be used!”
Speaking of framing, your “Much easier is the task of the moral crusader” comment is the second time in this very thread there’s been the implication I’m the sort of person who believes that free speech is only for nice people. I find this amusing. And while you say you’re not going to make the argument about the merits of whether Reddit “should maintain itself as closely as possible to absolute freedom of speech,” this sort of posturing about how much easier it is to be a moral crusader is you making that argument you say you’re not going to make and then trying to slip it through the back door. And, well. As I’ve noted in the article itself, I have an opinion about why Reddit wants to position itself as standing up for the principles of free speech, namely that I don’t believe it has much to do with an actual interest in free speech.
Your “Hrrr, Gawker is slimy too” argument is kindergarden level silliness. I have neither claimed Reddit is all bad nor that Gawker is all good, and whether Gawker itself is hypocritical on the subject of upskirts (and it may be) is neither here nor there regarding the points enumerated in the article.
“Enjoy your ongoing association with Gawker, Mr. Scalzi.”
I’d be delighted to have the entry reprinted on Reddit, of course. I’ll even offer the same terms for it. If Reddit doesn’t take me up on the offer, I doubt it will be because it’s worried about what an association with me might say about it. I can think of at least one person it had a long and fruitful association with who was more, shall we say, morally compromised. His name escapes me at the moment. Perhaps it will come to me later.
Greg, Andrew, Xopher, et al:
You know what, how about we stop this line of discussion right now. You’ve wandered afield.
(Yes, I actually posted two consecutive comments, which you all know I hate to do. I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss this, however.)
Is that a side-effect of: Perhaps some of this is because I’m a lawyer, and lawyers as a group have a culture where drinking absolute fucktons of alcohol is the norm? I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since you said that, and I really can’t believe the shit my brain retains, no offense.
It’s one thing to call a particular law barbaric (which I do quite a lot, and I suspect so does Andrew) and another to suggest that, well, that’s Texas for ya’, where this is probably all regarded as good clean fun. Just because some of the laws of a place are barbaric doesn’t make the people there barbarians because:
a) not everyone has equal power and
b) laws are hard to change and
c) no particular barbaric law implies the necessity of a separate and unrelated barbaric law
Plus, frankly, there are a lot of people (though I don’t for a second believe Xopher is one of them) who see Texas as some sort of Saturday-morning cartoon where we all ride horses to work, wear ten-gallon hats and hang minorities on Sunday. That stereotype gets really old. It’s easy for a lot of folks to gloss over the fact that actual people live in states/countries/eras. It’s something I see all the time from my fellow Americans when one of them writes off the struggles in some other country, say Afghanistan’s wrestling with the Taliban, as just what you expect from Asscrackistan. It’s easy to dump on a place hundreds or thousands of klicks away because it’s easy to forget nowhere is a monoculture.
Sorry, John. I cross-posted with you. I’ll drop it.
You’re up late.
I’m up early, actually.
Well, I’m off to get some shut-eye. I can still snag five solid hours before I have to head to class. G’nite/morning.
John: I’d already said everything I’d planned to say in that discussion. My apologies for contributing to the derailment.
I am rightfully chastised and apologize for my comments – I guess the whole thing just poked me in the worst possible way and I reacted poorly. You are correct – I spoke out of turn and in an abysmal manner. I’m not normally inclined to react so badly, but I let things get the better of me.
What I stand firm on is my belief that retribution for one’s improper actions should be commensurate with the harm that was done, and that justice is best meted out by an impartial judiciary – that’s really all I was trying to say. I am totally in agreement that Brutsch is an unrepentant asshat who deserves to suffer the consequences of his actions (though I am distressed that his spouse and child will likely be collateral damage). He has copped to his transgressions without remorse, which is pretty damning. I don’t wish him well by any stretch, but I must be honest and admit that I am not willing to write off any human as being utterly unredeemable and incapable of change.
Dammit, it’s the mob scares me.
Terrifies me actually.
All it takes these days is an assertive accusation to destroy someone’s life – we’re living it up here in Vancouver right now, as a hacking group “identified” an individual they believed was responsible for the stalking-based suicide of a local teenager. The cops have cleared the implicated person, but the mob hasn’t, and it’s horrifying that someone who is apparently innocent of any wrongdoing is having their life torn apart because Teh Interwebz is considered a more trustworthy source of information than the police.
That’s really what I was reacting to… what upset me… that people can vilify an individual so easily without anything other than the say-so of their peers. Without due process. Without objective assessment. Without a trial.
I am deeply sorry that I wasn’t able to express that clearly, and that my defensiveness towards an accused individual came across as any sort of support for the actions that the individual had acknowledged responsibility for.
I was never defending the asshat – I just wanted to defend the right of anyone accused to a fair and unbiased judgement. It really upsets me that, after all is said and done, everyone thinks the best solution to the issues we’re confronting is to light a torch and burn the castle to the ground.
No worries, Nick.
If you don’t want mob justice to happen on the internet you’re going to have to argue for more laws as well as an entity (your “impartial judiciary”) with the power to enforce them.
It’s one or the other, unless you’re planning to suggest that violentacrez’ victims don’t deserve justice for the harm he did to them because he thought he’d never be held to account for it.
After many attempts at scribbling something more eloquent and verbose, and having subsequently tossed those comments into the pit, I will simply say that I am deeply sorry for being an asshat – I spoke without due consideration and behaved poorly. My sincerest apologies.
As George Carlin said “this Mythago does not represent us.” (And yes that makes Mythago a metaphorical Homer Simpson.) For a variety of reasons lawyers generally do not comment on the law in social media, except under very specific and controlled circumstances. Don’t assume that the sound of crickets you hear means all or most lawyers agree with something she says. We don’t and many times cannot (under our firms’ social media policies and/or the professional rule of ethics) respond, but silence in this case should not imply consent. If I said the exact same things she said in this thread alone, I might be fired and would definitely get a talking to (if these comments were brought to the firm’s attention.) I often agree with her; sometimes I don’t; sometimes I agree on result if not style or basis. But the main point here is I get the sense that lately she has acquired an aura of professional authority on this site. Regardless of whether she is right, wrong or cromulent on any specific topic, I have to assert that her words should not be taken as legal advice, settled legal opinion or representative of the legal profession. (Neither should mine if the occasion arises.)
You may think this comment is unnecessary and that most people already understand this, but there will be a minority here who do not. Also, in the back of your mind a lot of you will accord her words more weight because she has identified herself as an expert. You might also find yourself acting on something you vaguely heard her say and which may turn out to be wrong or not applicable to your situation. (Even lawyers occasionally find themselves following popular legal myths: such as the seven years till declared dead meme.) And as corny as I might seem (and feel right now) I do take the repute of the legal profession and our obligations to serve the public well seriously.
So enjoy her comments in good health, but please verify before you do anything in real life. Night all and stay safe. (Why do I feel like I just turned into Graham Chapman in an army/police uniform?)
I have two issues with your article.
First, if someone wanted to be anonymous while posting something on the internet, so long as they stayed within legal content, they can remain anonymous. Brutsch got outed because he let some people know his real name and put his voice out there.
TOR, proxies, paid/private VPN services to provide anonymity – all of that can be used, and so long as nothing that can generate a legal warrant to access the logs of said proxy/VPN or your ISP, then someone’s identity can’t really be put out there.
Sadly, I think the biggest thing that will come out of this is that the next Brutsch will be far harder to “out”.
The second issue is that I think painting everyone who is concerned over free speech violations as “ignorant or pernicious” is wrong. I support the outing of Brutsch, his identity was as public as the photos he aggregated. But in terms of having a venue for speech, the internet is just a medium, and it’s largely a private one. There is no “public space” where one can say/do whatever they want like there is in meatspace. Part of me values the idea that we can’t always shut down every venue for speech online, since I see it as dangerous to shut down every venue for specific kinds of “legal free speech”.
But on the other hand maybe there shouldn’t be something like that online since ones identity could be protected (when dealing with legal speech), meaning one could be completely insulated from the consequences of their speech, which isn’t what free speech is all about.
“But the main point here is I get the sense that lately she has acquired an aura of professional authority on this site.”
I think it’s more accurate to say she’s recognized as someone having expertise, both in the area of her profession and in the area of commenting. However, I also believe that she would be the first to point out the limits of her expertise, with regard to commenting here.
Likewise I believe in a general sense the comment threads are understood to be conversation, not work product, so all discussions here should be held to the standard of conversation, not work product. Good conversation, generally speaking, but conversation nonetheless.
I think at least part of the problem is people forget that the internet is a PUBLIC PLACE. This confusion of public and private spaces seems to be a somewhat common mistake in these enlightened times – we’ve just been having a rather nasty bit of political mess happening here in Australia because one of our more egregious shock jocks made a very nasty remark at a public function which got reported in the news the next day and caused him heaps of embarassment.
So, here’s how you can tell if you’re in a public space or not:
1) Do you own the environment, in the sense of having paid for it? Your home is a private space (under the rules of law) because you have purchased it and made it your own. A rental property is a private space (under the rules of law) so long as you’re up to date with the rent. An internet space is a private space if you own the domain (as in, you’re the registered host of the domain space), or you own the server (preferably both).
2) If you don’t own the space, are you expected to pay for access to the space directly? A cinema is a public space. A $100-a-ticket fundraising event for a political party is a public space. A paid up LiveJournal or Dreamwidth account is a public space. A university campus is a public space. A schoolground is a public space. These sorts of public spaces can be (and often are) privately owned, but private ownership doesn’t mean it’s private space.
3) If you don’t own the space, are you expected to be paying for access to the space indirectly? A shopping mall is a public space, because people entering the mall are expected to spend money in the stores hosted there. A city square is a public space, because it’s paid for through taxes. A road is a public space because it’s paid for indirectly through taxes. A popular social forum like Facebook, Twitter or Reddit is a public space, because it’s supported via advertising. Again, these sorts of public spaces can be owned by private individuals or private concerns, but that doesn’t stop them from being public spaces.
Generally, it’s safer to presume that anywhere you are in the world which isn’t explicitly marked as private (and where you personally aren’t involved in the business of ensuring that privacy) is public.
Now, what that means is that there’s generally a difference between expected conduct in private places and public places. While private behaviour may breach social norms, and may be permitted to do so without question (provided the social norms aren’t being breached in a manner which causes unconsensual harm to others) for as long as the behaviour remains private, public behaviour is expected to comply with them. If you’re going to breach the public behavioural norms in a public space, you should expect a public response to your behaviour.
Being anonymous or pseudonymous doesn’t exempt you from this expectation.
So, how to go on? Well, the general rule a lot of people follow (and this definitely includes a lot of people who are likely to be discriminated against because of who they are, rather than what they do) is if they don’t want their public behaviour to be negatively commented on, they don’t engage in behaviour which is likely to draw negative comment. Or, to put it in nice, simple geeky terms: “Don’t Do That, Then!”
[Purely personal PS: I’m open online about being female, fat, fortyish, and mentally ill. I know this is going to count against me if I ever go looking for a job. However, the amount of effort required to mask any, let alone all of these, is more than I’m prepared to put in.]
John: Reasonable people might take that view, but I am talking about lawyers <:)
I’m not sure where this “mob” is. The outing was done by a (nominal) journalist, engaged, as John points out, in the pursuit of a story. Do the redditors and gawkers count as mobs? Does only one side count?
@Nick: I can’t help but notice that the only people protected by your principles in the Reddit/Violentacrez case are the abusers.
As for your concern for the guy ‘outed’ in the Amanda Todd case, he has suffered no long-term consequences and people will forget about him in a week. Amanada Todd is still dead.
Victoria: First, thanks for the response. It helps.
“The act of photographing an unwilling woman from whom you didn’t get permission is very much turning her into an object and not that far from putting her into sexual slavery even if it is in absentia”
OK, I still don’t completely get this. Three quick caveats:
1. I’m assuming the above is qualified with “for sexual (or other unwanted) purposes.” (Please correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t see how you could deal with all the CCTV these days[1,2] otherwise.)
2. I get the public exposure issue now. Assume I just want to understand why you are so creeped out by private use of your image that you feel it is neigh on sex slavery.
3. I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel this way, I want to understand why you do, and only if you (or some other helpful soul) doesn’t mind explaining.
Do you make a distinction for folks who make a mental image for sexual purposes? If so, why? If not, going out in public must be painful – how do you deal?
I really don’t get how something that you didn’t know happened can be as bad as enslaving you for sex. If you can expand on this, I would aprreciate it.
 Unless, of course, you live where CCTV is rare.
 To be fair, it is my understanding that CCTV creeping is not uncommon.
 Again, I get it that public exposure of this kind of thing is BAD, because us humans are way too willing to blame the effing victim.
John, I don’t think the fact that Mr. Brutsch is not contesting the claim that he is “Violentacrez” is relevant to Shannon’s point about invasion of privacy.
Some states recognize a tort of “disclosure of private facts”, summarized here http://itlaw.wikia.com/wiki/Public_disclosure_of_private_facts:
The elements of this tort are simply that (a) the matter publicized would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and (b) is not of legitimate concern to the public.
Note that *truth is not a defense* for this tort.
In a state which recognizes this tort, a person who feels themselves to have been injured by it can sue for damages.
I think that, should Mr. Brutsch live in a state which recognizes this tort, (a) would be fairly easy to demonstrate. (b) would end up being the centerpiece of the case.
A lot of states require that people suing over this kind of tort be able to demonstrate actual economic damages, which – again – Mr. Brutsch could easily demonstrate.
@Martin: It’s not a difficult distinction. Sexual fantasies take place entirely inside your head, and are temporary. Creepshots take place in the physical world, and are permanent: Someone has to stalk the woman, get into position to take an upskirt or down-blouse shot of her, get the actual shot without getting caught, and then share it with thousands of other people. It’s an immortalization of victimization.
“Dammit, it’s the mob scares me.”
Yeah, well. The mob scares all of us. This would actually be why so many of us are glad that Chen has done what he has done. Because certain parts of reddit are acting like a mob. Not one out for justice, but one intent on destruction for their own enjoyment. And what Chen just did was pull an Attiticus Finch and start naming names, to diffuse the mob by stripping it of it’s anonymity.
You might get more sympathy for your concern if you showed more awareness that we (for certain values of we) are not the only “mob” around here.
“…and it’s horrifying that someone who is apparently innocent of any wrongdoing is having their life torn apart because Teh Interwebz is considered a more trustworthy source of information than the police.”
Ok, no. Let’s be clear here. His life isn’t getting torn apart because people trust the internet more than the police. His life is getting torn apart because people are scared and so they are latching onto a simple solution and not caring if it’s the right one or not. To a large extent people just need to grow up and get a handle on the fact that this is problem that doesn’t have a simple solution. But, on the other hand, what also would help would be if society as a whole, if reddit and Facebook in particular, stopped acting like this wasn’t problem and actually did something to address it. Because then it would be less likely to fester to the point that it has, and people’s fears would be less likely to fester as well.
Regarding Lohan, No. of course not. And I don’t know if you are trying to be infuriating or not, but if you are, well done you. Because one of the quickest ways to piss me off is to act as though considering how things got to where they are is the same as treating adult women as children.
Your original question was:
“Does admitting that some unfortunates have taken to courting such exposure really imply that the average woman in the street might appreciate a bit of it as well?”
Well, it depends on who is listening, yes? It certainly implies it in the minds of the assholes at creepshots. It implies it in the minds of a lot of their defenders and enablers. It implies it in the minds of all the guys who catcall. And again, their defenders and enablers.
As for the rest of us – why is this even a topic we are concerned with? My point is not that Lohan’s experiences forever render her an infant, it’s that I’m confused why – absent of critiquing culture – anyone cares that Lohan may have wanted a particular shot taken of her. (or may not, I doubt it’s a neverchanging decision) Does this change the fact that the photographers are not always clear on if they have consent, but take the picture anyway because they don’t care? Does this change how or why the public is eager for such photos? And doesn’t care how they are obtained?
Part of the reason why certain ways in which this topic is discussed does imply that that “average woman in the street might appreciate a bit of it as well” is because simply talking about women “courting such exposure” versus talking about specific incidents in which consent was clearly given implies a blanket consent. Phrasing Lohan’s actions in that way does not imply that she is full person who has a right to make decisions about her body and change her mind. And this kind of attitude? The idea of blanket consent based on a woman’s occasional actions versus verbal consent that is specific to a situation? That is definitely part of – and perpetuation of – rape culture.
I would suspect rather strongly that Mr. Brutsch’s case in this regard would be compromised by the fact that his actions took place in a publicly-accessible Web site, i.e., Reddit. Mr. Brutsch was not fiddling about in his basement, out of view of the world; he was an active moderator of one of the largest web sites on the planet. The only “private fact” in this case as far as I can see was Mr. Brutsch’s identity, and it’s trivially easy to show that Mr. Brutsch’s identity was not all that private. Even if it were, the fact in itself is not particularly offensive.
Or to put it more bluntly, Mr. Brutsch saying on Reddit that he had oral sex with his 19-year-old stepdaughter in an “Ask Me Anything” thread is certainly highly offensive to a reasonable person, but making the argument that it is a “private fact” is not a very good one.
But I am not a lawyer, and as I said, I invite Redditors and others to take up a collection for Mr. Brutsch so he may attempt to sue the pants of Gawker Media. We’ll see how it goes for him.
“I really think this is beside the point, and has little to no bearing on whether the creepshots forums should exist.”
Who said it does?
Likewise, given I am expressing a personal opinion on my own site, it’s not only not beside the point, it is in fact its own point.
> Likewise I believe in a general sense the comment threads are understood to be conversation, not work product, so all discussions here should be held to the standard of conversation, not work product.
That seems like a wise reminder, and lawyers who comment here would be wise to point to it from time to time. :)
@Nick: I think we’ve all had those moments of getting a button hit and reacting poorly, even when we’re right, but not all of us are decent enough people to step up as you just did. Kudos to you, sir, and from here on out it never happened, as far as I am concerned.
However, I also believe that she would be the first to point out the limits of her expertise, with regard to commenting here.
I guess this would make me the *second* to point it out….
@PrivateIron, you know as well as I do that lawyers opine on the law and legal issues all the time in social media – on comments, on news sites, on “blawgs”. Go over to Popehat or Lawyers, Guns and Money or The Volokh Conspiracy or Lowering the Bar or Simple Justice if you think that lawyers never, ever “comment in the law on social media”. (Heck, I am far from the only lawyer who comments here.)
What is correct – and I wholeheartedly agree with you on this – is that it is a whole bucket of wrong, and also pretty stupid, to offer a legal opinion or to talk about privileged matters, like one’s clients or their cases. I don’t do that, and won’t, not only because it would be stupid (and in the case of privilege, a planet-sized ethical and moral violation), but because nobody is paying me to evaluate a case and offer my professional opinion of it. Commenting here is a good use of my free time. It would be a terrible use of my paid time. No offense, John.
Now, it sounds like what you’re saying is this Mythago character is getting too darn big for her britches and thinks she’s mighty special around here and she’s sure not the only lawyer in this here blog, and she’s a god-dang liberal so don’t think we all agree with her just because she’s got a fancy jay dee. Well, okay! You are certainly entitled to say that, or to point out (correctly) that lawyer != ALWAYS RIGHT, even on matters related to the law. I just think it’s a bit silly to wrap it in harrumphing about Bringing Disrepute to the Noble Profession.
@Martin: Because you asked for a “helpful soul” here’s my advice, and it’s the last one because I think this is going too far afield. Your responses to my and other posts last night give the impression that you are either 1) trolling by dragging this from “why are women upset about secret photos posted on the internet” to “so is it bad for me to imagine you while I’m wanking”, or 2) truly ignorant on the subject of male privilege.
If 2) is the case, I think you should start by reading (or rereading) our host’s excellent post on why straight white male is the lowest difficulty setting. If, after reading that, you don’t understand why it applies to this case, I’d recommend heading to google and reading more about it until you get it. Note that you don’t have to agree with any of these opinions, but if, as you insist, you really just don’t understand the issue here, I think that spending some time reading up on a perspective that a number of people in this thread have been trying to communicate to you would be helpful.
Martin: Creepshots and creepshooters impinge on my safety because a creep in my immediate physical vicinity – close enough to get a shot of my tits and/or fanny (in both the UK and US sense of the word) – is taking actions in the real world because he gets off on my confusion/fear/powerlessness to set my own physical boundaries.
Note – the creep is not getting off on my physical appearance. This creep is getting off on my lack of consent, on violating my physical boundaries, on my fear and anger. It makes him hard.
And he is someone close. In my space. In touching distance. A colleague, a teacher, a neighbour, a health worker, that guy who’s always fiddling with his iphone on the 21.29 train back to the suburbs…
Does this help you understand why creepshots and creepers make women feel unsafe in public places?
@mythago: It was kind of you not to suggest @PrivateIron (OR ANYONE ELSE) check out the comments on Above the Law. Now there’s a spot that “Bring[s] Disrepute to the Noble Profession.”
Also, *high five from a legal (mostly) lurker*
@Megs: THANK YOU for the reminder. They are not engaging in hyperbole when they say ‘comments are hidden for your protection’ and you have to affirmatively go open them up. A more wretched hive of scum and villainy, etc.
(For those not unfortunate enough to have visited, imagine a subreddit focused on legal gossip, whose participants are privileged 20something law students and/or young associates, whose primary interests are “bragging about how my law school is awesome and every else’s is a cesspool” and “getting starting salaries at the BigLaw job I want to go up to $190K.”)
Megpie: the internet is a PUBLIC PLACE … A shopping mall is a public space, because people entering the mall are expected to spend money in the stores hosted there. A city square is a public space, because it’s paid for through taxes. A road is a public space because it’s paid for indirectly through taxes. A popular social forum like Facebook, Twitter or Reddit is a public space, because it’s supported via advertising.
Well, if by “public” you mean you have a right to free speech, a right ot access, a right to assemble, then no, that’s not quite right.
public: city square, public road, public sidewalk,
private: mall, movie theater, paid concert venue, bar, dance club
The internet mostly operates as private property, but our usual experience of private property is that our actions there are generaly veiled to one extent or another. The internet is private property, but everything is almost entirely exposed, and basically recorded for later viewing by anyone else.
I can think of no physical space that is as intrusive as the internet. It would be like a social club that just about anyone can walk into, that records everything that anyone does, and those recordings are available for playback to anyone who wants to see them.
But public/private and exposed/veiled are orthognal.
We’re used to public=>exposed, private=>veiled, but the internet is pretty much private=>exposed.
@Gulliver: I know we’re wandering here, but it is an eternal question in the legal profession as to whether the elevated tendencies toward substance abuse, depression and other Ungood Things are a result of the stress of the profession, or are simply a higher risk of the personality type that leads one to become a lawyer. (Obviously, I am talking about general attributes of the group, here; please understand that I’m not saying “most lawyers are miserable drunks who can’t finish a sentence without referring to a body part”. But in my state, anyway, there’s a reason that the mandatory continuing education requirement specifically dictates one of the subjects you must take is on prevention of substance abuse, and the ‘assistance hotline’ is printed right on the back of our bar card.)
OK, I’m communicating badly, again.
I get why upskirts etc. bother folks. A well-established expectation of privacy is violated.
I get (now) why the public postings are freaking bad. That pre-law site thing is awful.
I even get how this has to be a privilege thing. I’m not seeing something that is clearly obvious, so I’m either an idiot or privileged. Ok, probably “AND.”
The areas I’m still fuzzy on are triggering people though, and that’s understandable since this is a sensitive issue. I’ll look for more answers elsewhere/elsewhen.
Thanks for all the help.
Jennygadget: I was by no means trying to be infuriating, this is not the place, I was trying to find out why what I was seeing as Lohan’s consent to being photographed in those circumstances was something else, and the only reason I could think of was if she wasn’t responsible for her actions, hence a child. I was slightly chived at (what I saw as) Gulliver’s implication that Mr Brutsch and I were qualitative soul brothers differing only in the degree of our misogyny, but I (thought I) was doing my best not to take it out on you.
Part of the reason why certain ways in which this topic is discussed does imply that that “average woman in the street might appreciate a bit of it as well” is because simply talking about women “courting such exposure” versus talking about specific incidents in which consent was clearly given implies a blanket consent.
I’m afraid you’re losing me here. Surely I don’t need specialised euphemisms to describe what Lohan is doing without giving aid and comfort to the creepy hordes?
@Rens: I agree with your conclusions; I’m not comfortable with how you got there. Quere: Is the “what if this was your daughter?” method really how we ought to be make determinations like this? This is not a rhetorical question. I ask because I believe that, for example, the reason the victim is not permitted to set punishment in court is because the victim cannot be relied on to limit his response to justice, rather than vengeance. It would seem like the same method should apply here, but I may be missing something.
To be more specific: if one of my daughters were a victim such as you described, I’d be ballistic and out for blood. But I question whether that is a valid argument about how to handle such perpetrators.
That said, in this case, I can’t see any reason to be worried about what happens to Mr. Butsch. I’m certainly not staying up nights about it.
You already are using euphamisms. This is my point. You are also treating actions as the same as verbal consent. Which they are not. To review:
“Yeah, well, celebs who insist on going commando when there are paps about are possibly a SLIGHTLY different kettle of fish on the consent front, but anyway.”
Why do you phrase it as “insist?” It’s a choice, surely. “Insist” implies else entirely though. More importantly, the fact that Lohan is aware of what may happen, and that may have something to do with why she makes the choices she does, doesn’t change the fact that the photographers are taking the photos without knowing for certain if she approves of what they are doing. Or, for that matter, caring either way in any case.
“Look, I don’t know about the other ones, but while there is much to be sad about in the spectacle of Lohan displaying herself for lack of more substantive ways to stay famous, I’m not convinced the slope we’re standing on is all that slippery. Does admitting that some unfortunates have taken to courting such exposure really imply that the average woman in the street might appreciate a bit of it as well? I mean, some people are capable of astounding leaps of inference, I know, but still.”
Again, I take issue with your choice of words. What, exactly, is Lohan “courting?” and how the fuck would you know what she wants? Can you read minds?
Also, I would like to point out that you are the one who keeps casting an adult woman as someone to be pitied, merely for the choices she has made. (if you meant that it’s sad she is in the bind that she is in, you might want to be more explicit about that, and also refrain from referring to her as an “unfortunate”.) You are also completely misunderstanding the argument. We are not discussing a slipperly slope. We are discussing how rape culture actually functions. It’s not a matter of how often rape happens. It’s not a matter of how often creeper creep. It’s not even a matter of worrying that if thing A is considered ok, then thing B will be considered ok too. It’s how sexual assault, sexual harassment, performative femininity, and the lack of discussion surrounding these things all interact. And the way that people treat consent as if it is merely a fetish or something too complicated to be sure about.
There is a simple way to be certain if Lohan wants people taking pictures of her crotch: ask her. Arguing that the non-verbal actions she takes places her in a different category, in terms of the need for explicit consent, than “the average woman in the street” is arguing that “the average woman in the street might appreciate a bit of it as well.” Because that’s what creating categories of women that are less deserving of rights does: make all women vulnerable to being placed in that category depending on the whim of culture and abusers.
The point is not that abusers hear your words specifically suddenly decide that it’s ok to treat all women that way. The point is that abusers hear that same sentiment – frequently, often, and from respected and powerful memebers of society – and use it to determine which categories of women they can get away with abusing. Arguing that any such category of women exists does put all women at risk. Not in the way that gay sex will lead to bestiality, but in the way that free speech applies to everyone, not just people you agree with.
Adela says, in re Popehat et al, “And who doesn’t love it when lawyers cuss like literature sailors.”
… rowing across the wine-dark seas, mountaintops blue in the twilight, their captain tied to the mast, screaming that “These aren’t the Sirens you’re looking for, row! Row! Otherwise we are lost!” …
@ Adrian Smith
I didn’t mean you personally. I meant that it’s not all peachy keen when Gawker panders to disregard for consent, even though Reddit takes disregard to a whole other level. I don’t take your objection to that comparison as evidence that you personally enjoy violating people’s consent, but I do think that the permissive attitude prevalent in society is why whole markets never question the propriety of buying what the paparazzi and their ilk are selling. I’ve got class to teach, but I wanted to clear that up, because I’m not indicting you, I’m criticizing the social more you seemed to be defending.
Also, although the prying into Lohan’s private life did begin when she was a minor, my point was that even if some celebrities do consent – I’m not sure Lohan ever explicitly has (and find the idea that she asks for it by giving them a good angle to be highly problematic), though I’ll concede that I don’t follow celebrity gossip, so maybe I’m wrong on that score – that doesn’t give photographers moral lease to invade every notable’s and celebrity’s private life. The consent of a few does not equal the consent of all, most especially when “celebrity” comes from whatever the times decide to take an obsessive interest in, because that adds up to, well Lohan and some others encourage it, so that means we get to pry into whoever we like as long as the court of public opinion deems them “public figures”…yeah, no.
I’ll just add that though I regard the unmasking of Brutsch and similar harassers/abusers as a public good, I regard the people sending him death threats to be no better than he and, indeed, they are his soul cousins.
jennygadget: You are also completely misunderstanding the argument. … We are discussing how rape culture actually functions. … the way that people treat consent as if it is merely a fetish or something too complicated to be sure about
If I were on public property, I could take a picture of you without your consent. You can’t make the problem be all about “consent” and then mangle when consent is and is not required. Turning it into a part of “rape culture” is just… weird.
And no, it’s consent is not “merely a fetish”. Not requiring consent has a common sense basis: Next time you go on vacation to Rome, try getting everyone’s permission before you take a picture of the Coliseum. Next time you’re in a bar, club, etc with friends, and you decide to whip out your cellphone camera, try getting eveyrone who is in the background to give permission before you click the photo.
And you can’t talk about photographing someone famous without acknowledging that famous people are treated quite differently legally in America. The expectation of privacy of a famous person isn’t the same as some unknown John Doe. Photography of famous people is handled differently legally. I think there are differences in libel/slander law too, but I can’t recall and its not directly related to photography, but is related to famous/not-famous differences as well.
And strawmanning it into “something too complicated to be sure about” is likewise… weird. It’s not that complicated. But it does have a basis in law and you need to know the law
Does admitting that some unfortunates have taken to courting such exposure really imply that the average woman in the street might appreciate a bit of it as well?
It doesn’t matter what it “implies” because the law already handles it. The answer is “no”. Famous don’t have much of an expectaion of privacy. Non-famous people have more of an expecation than famous people, but not a total expectation of it, so if you’re in the Grand Canyon national park, you might end up on someone else’s vacation photos and there’s nothing you can do about it.
If photography is part of a larger behavior of harrassment, then harrassment laws might give you certain recourse against the person specifically harassing you.
If the photograher is on public property, but they’re using a telephoto lense to zoom into your private property to get a picture of you where you would normally have an expectatoin of privace, then the law might give you certain recourse to stop that photo being published.
But “consent” isn’t automatically required.
If you want, you might think of it as a kind of photographic version of “fair use”. I don’t need Scalzi’s permission to use text from “Old Man’s War” to critique it or to teach about it or review it. Those uses are “Fair Use”. It’s just too much to give an author that total amount fo control over their text. And there are lots of debates and court fights to decide what is and is not fair use, and it changes over time. But it’s always there.
Likewise, photographing someone on public property without their permission is sort of like “fair use”. There’s been court battles over what is and is not allowed photography. And it’s been changing over time. But so far, most people realize that requireing total consent of everyone, all the time, everywhere, before you take a photo is just impossible.
Mythago, I have never considered you a liberal, particularly compared to me. You do alright until you start making up stories about the people you interact with here. And you seem to do it a lot. I bent over backwards to leave the content of your comments out of it. I said quite truthfully that I often agree with you. (I changed “assumed” to “acquired” for starters cause I actually care about not mischaracterizing you or anyone else if I can help it.)
One point you seem to dismiss: a lot of people, well not people, lawyers are constrained in what they can say on the Interwebz. So pity us for our chains that we cannot prove our mettle in fair joinder of arms.
Interesting analogous incident in this morning’s Yahoo News (from Reuters, if I remember my setup correctly).
Apparently a youngish woman posted on her Facebook page a photo of an undercover police officer and identified him as such, in retribution for his having testified in the drug trial of her boyfriend resulting in his conviction. She was then arrested under felony charges (some variation of Revenge, IIRC).
The two most interesting things about this are:
(1) The photo originally came from the officer’s own Facebook page, probably with the aid of face-recognition utilities. Not having access to Facebook myself (wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole, or even an 11-foot Slovak), I have no idea if there were any clues on his page as to his professional identity.
(2) The news article points out that there’s already much controversy about the validity of the charges against her, and how likely it is or isn’t that it will even get to court. Apparently the specific alleged offense requires that the perp have committed “non-legal” actions in the process, and while her actions were unquestionably highly reprehensible, their legality is wide open to argument. I would have thought something along the lines of Obstruction of Justice would have a much better chance of success, but they apparently want to prioritize the dangers the officer will now face.
The article ends on an interesting note: Law-enforcement and similar agencies will have to learn that the internet has drastically changed how the world works.
The discussion is about placing Lohan in a different ethical category than other women, and the morality of photgraphers treating her differently than other women – based on her actions, not her explicit verbal consent, or even her status as a Public Person. (If Adrian Smith had wanted to focus on Lohan’s status as a celebrity, he could have done so. Instead he focused on her actions and framed them as “courting” and the like.) It was not about the actual legalities of taking her photograph. So I really don’t know what you are going on about.
In any case, the fact that you are quick to focus on legalities when others are talking about ethics – and then also claim that it is other people that are limiting the conversation – that has been duly noted. (and judging by others’ comments, by more people than just me)
[Deleted because it went well over the line of personal rudeness. Don’t do that again, Ian — JS]
My apologies. I realized after I cooled down a bit that it was over the top. Thanks for killing the post.
jennygadget: The discussion is about …
I assumed it was about this, since this is what you replied to: “Yeah, well, celebs who insist on going commando when there are paps about are possibly a SLIGHTLY different kettle of fish on the consent front, but anyway.”
If Adrian Smith had wanted to focus on Lohan’s status as a celebrity, he could have done so. Instead he focused on her actions and framed them as “courting” and the like.)
I took her actions, her “courting”, to include doing whatever it takes to become famous, at which point her status changes from a legal perspective. That’s how I read it.
If you want to read it as Lohan was thrusting her crotch towards photographers to stay in the tabloids, well, even for a non-famous person, that action might qualify as forfeiting an expectation of privacy.
I could go to Mardi Gras and take pictures of people walking in the streets without their consent. I can’t stick a camera up a womans dress or down her shirt, but I can get pictures from “normal” angles. If a not-famous woman is on the street during Mardi Gras and she’s running around topless collecting those bead necklaces in public, then that probably forfeits the expectation of privacy not to take pictures of her breasts.
you are quick to focus on legalities when others are talking about ethics – and then also claim that it is other people that are limiting the conversation
I have been focusing on this notion throughout the thread that “consent to be photographed” is an ethical requirement all the time. I believe someone likened being photographed without consent to “sexual slavery”. Someone else may have suggested that taking their picture is “stealing their soul”… or maybe that was a different conversation.
Anyways, saying you’r focusing purely on the ethics of photography, not the legality doesn’t mean that its suddenly open season to invoke phrases like “sexual slavery” and “rape culture”. Ethics isn’t simply how you feel about something. I’ve been pointing out that it is legal to take pictures without consent under certain circumstances, but I’ve been doing so because I think it is ethical to do so under certain circumstances.
I know this isn’t my place to say it, but Greg and jennygadget can you please let it go? It seems that it’s just a re-tread of topics you both have already run into the ground, exhaustively.
I don’t intend to step on your toes, Mr. Scalzi, it’s just that I’m a little weary of the treadmill nature of the discussion about the legality, morality, and ethical properties of public photography. I’ll completely understand if this earns me a Hammering.
So MB worked for a payday loan company? And they fired him for being a scumbag? The irony is exhilarating.
I close with a koan (and apologies to uldihaa if this reignites the more repetitive arguments in the thread): If someone takes a non-consensual picture of you, and no one realizes it’s you, has your privacy been violated?
can you please let it go?
Sure. It was supposed to be a single “hey could we please not go here?” post. And then we went there, anways…
@privateiron I would think that if you’re going to accuse mythago of lying, you might wanttohave examples.
Rushing to judgment is nothing new, and you’re absolutely right that it’s mob mentality. But I would hope you can tell the difference, and trust us to tell the difference, between a witch hunt and an investigative journalist (even if that isn’t Chen’s usually hat) unmasking someone who gets their kicks harassing and abusing little girls.
Mythago is someone I respect for her level-headedness and contributive attitude. She also happens to know a lot more about the law than I do. So while I don’t take her’s, or anyone else’s commenting on a blog thread, as expert advice (with the exception of John when discussing publishing and SF/F, because then he’s doing so in a professional capacity), I do recognize that when she says I’ve misunderstood something about the law, it at least means I need to do more research. If I were her client and this were her office, the expectations would be different all around.
I just had this impression of lawyers standing on a court bench singing Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, but I know you all aren’t quite that boisterous :D
I composed a lengthy reply, but I’m omitting it out of deference to the community; please don’t take this as ignoring you.
I’m not going to delve into whether what she did was wrong, but I would hope most people can grasp the distinction between random underage girls (or any private citizen) and government officials performing their public duties.
You’re hardly the arbiter of when it is appropriate to use those phrases or whether they are over-the-top as you disparagingly suggest. This entire affair has been about rape culture, long before you made your inital let’s make sure not to talk about this topic which I personally think is really important to talk about and will make sure to say how important it is at length while claiming I didn’t want to talk about it post. I know from previous posts of yours that you think use of the term is overblown hysteria, especially from your unique male viewpoint of having a friend who was falsely accused of rape, but your opinion on the concept and its applicability to a discussion whose origin is so clearly rooted in it (Brutsch’s actions) is far from universal.
David @ 10/18 18:34
That would be unethical. But rest assured, the lurkers support him in e-mail.
Actually Mr. Brutsch has plenty of opportunity to atone. He could take sensitivity classes, do some kind of appropriate volunteer work, start a blog about his path to enlightenment, acknowledge that distributing hate and pornography is not a good thing to do. It seems to me that people who acknowledge that they are wrong and take sincere steps to correct their error are often forgiven by a wide swath of people.
“Freedom of speech” means the government cannot prosecute you and put you in jail for expressing your views.
In the context of a website, remember that the right of a free press belongs to the publisher, the website. The publisher/website is also free to engage in any mutually agreeable contracts with its contributors. As private parties, people sending material to a publication/website can have no expectation of their content being published, or of any other aspects of a relationship, except as mutually agreed by both parties. The publisher’s right of freedom of speech includes the right to not say or publish things it does not like or does not agree with.
It is an act of free speech to post someone’s identity. It’s journalism.
Mr. Chen is also responsible for the consequences of his actions. He may be shunned or criticized by people who believe that anonymity is sacred. If an employer considers his action to be sufficiently egregious, he could lose his job.
Respecting online anonymity is exactly about respect. It’s not a right. Mr. Chen appears to have felt that Mr. Brutsch should be held accountable for his actions. Now the various communities can hold both of them accountable for what they’ve done. Think about it. What if Brutsch had simply posted his content from a handle easily associated with his legal/public name? Who would have stopped him? The question here is not whether he’s free to speak or not, he was and still is free to say whatever he likes, regardless of his identity.
Mr. Brutsch is free from prosecution for what he has said. He may or may not be free from prosecution for harassing his victims. If he believes he has been wrongfully dismissed from his job, he’s free to sue his employer. (Those of you who think anybody can be fired at the drop of a hat have obviously never had the management training instructing managers to be careful not to fire anyone without cause and to minimize the employer’s exposure to lawsuits.)
I don’t see how privacy is an issue here. I wish everyone, up to including politicians and actors, were entitled to privacy for their non-public lives and actions. However, everyone should be reasonably accountable for their public actions and statements; there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for what one does in public. It’s not reasonable to post photos of someone shopping or what they do at home. It is entirely legitimate to talk about a politician’s policies or public spending, an actor’s acting, a blogger’s blog, and so forth.
I suppose one of the reasons I subscribe to this blog is that I learn things I don’t get from other channels. I’d never heard of “doxing” before, What I’ve learned here about Reddit does not encourage me to spend any time there. And it would not surprise me if someone created a website “asshatdoxing.info” as a forum for meta discussion about what some people say online.
And if one wants to hang out in an online community where creepy photos or anonymous trolling are considered normal, one may do so. it’s a free Internet. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to not listen; one can simply not waste time looking at websites one doesn’t like or agree with.
@PrivateIron, while I freely admit to indulging in snark, I do intend to argue in good faith. I hope your chains are long enough that – if you perceive that I seem to be acting unfairly – you will call me out. (And yes, I’m familiar with constraints on what one can and can’t say on the Internet. You can imagine what I would be saying about certain jurists were I not an officer of the court.)
I actually appreciate that you don’t necessarily consider me a liberal. That seems to be the label given where political positions have shuffled in recent years, alas.
@Herschele, to be fair, it was a different poster who played the Lurker Army card.
The word liberal is subjective nearly to the point of meaninglessness. You strike me as liberal on some issues and conservative on others, like me (albeit not on exactly the same things).
Somehow this song seems appropriate:
Marie Brennan: I stand corrected. Thank you for making a fuss about it.
Greg, I think you missed my point (in your comment time-stamped 11.47am).
The point I was making wasn’t about the ownership of the spaces. The point I was making was about the standard of behaviour expected in these places. When we’re in a public place, we’re expected to be performing our public behaviours. Our public set of behaviours are the ones which require us to comply more stringently with what is defined as socially normative behaviour. So, for example, when we’re in a public place, we’re largely expected to be wearing clothing which covers our genital area (and for women, our breasts). If we’re wearing less than that, we can expect a degree of social sanction, ranging from “point and stare” through things like “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”, up to “arrest for public indecency” depending on who or where we are, and how extremely we’re breaching the social rules.
Similarly, when we’re in a public place, we’re expected to recognise that our behaviour is visible to other people, and particularly to other people who don’t know us. Who aren’t going to automatically give us a pass (because we’re well-behaved the rest of the time) for our occasional slip-ups. Who are going to expect us to comply with the social rules and mores one hundred percent of the time, because those social rules and mores are designed to make our society function. The public as a whole is a harsher judge than our friends.
So, back to the point I was making: when we’re participating in online behaviour, our behaviour is public, no matter how chummy we are with the people we’re interacting with. So it behoves all of us to remember this, and keep our public faces on, even in private email, or private messaging (another area which has been in the news here in Australia recently).
While it seems to be the case that Mr. Brutsch did not break any laws, I think it’s quite a stretch to call him “innocent of any wrongdoing.” He’s not having his life torn apart because he’s a paragon of virtue, he’s having it torn apart because he’s a scumbag and has been one for years.
I can see objecting to what’s been done to him on principle. But calling him “innocent” (except in a technical, legal sense with respect to a specific crime) is patently absurd.
A question quite likely induced by too little sleep, but do we really need some kind of absolute rule about ‘doxxing’ someone? Why can’t we just take it on a case-by-case basis? Admittedly this will place a burden on internet society to think, rather than just ‘obey’, and that burden is quite likely to be too much.
I’m asking because it seems on of the major points of discussion has been ‘to dox, or not to dox’.
Gulliver: I’ve got class to teach, but I wanted to clear that up, because I’m not indicting you, I’m criticizing the social more you seemed to be defending.
Maybe “failing to question” would be more to the point, I hadn’t really noticed it until you and jennygadget pointed it out.
jennygadget: Thanks, that’s a lot clearer, I was indeed misunderstanding the argument.
I apologize for any unnecessary negativity I added to the discussion. I was in hospital twice last month and lost a lot of blood from my head (not a joke.) I really should not be let out without a minder. When I can breath properly again, I will probably stop saying reckless things, by which I mean I will probably stop commenting.
Mythago, to quote the smarmiest man in Westoros: We only make peace with our enemies; that’s why they call it making peace. Not to overstate the conflict here, but to echo the sentiment. (Though not the situation, as I recall that did not end well at all.)
uldihaa: do we really need some kind of absolute rule about ‘doxxing’ someone?
I’ve been pondering the “what if someone outed a gay man who was using reddit to talk with other gay men anonymously because he didn’t feel safe coming out publicly where he lived?” question for a while. And I think it’s the same question as yours. And I think that the generic form of the question might actually be phrased this way:
If journalists used their powers of journalism for evil, should we outlaw journalists and journalism?
Which I think both captures the question and frames it in a way that answers the question for most people. I think most people would say that Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press are too important to outlaw. And yes, the objective actions described as “journalism” can be used for good and for things we don’t approve of. But I think that overall, most people would say Freedom of Press is too important to try and say that “All journalism is bad”.
Quite a few people seemed ready to outlaw the whole thing when Daniel Ellsberg published the Pentagon Papers. And a similar vein today wants to try to say that Wikileaks isn’t free speech or free press. But for the most part, I think freedom of press still has enough respect that most people can see that it isn’t the “press” or “journalism” that’s the problem. It’s that sometimes its used for evil.
The evil of outing a gay man in a newspaper isn’t “free press”, it’s bigotry.
Just a quick correction to my last comment — the news article I mentioned (about the undercover officer), upon re-checking, wasn’t from Yahoo but from Sophos’ “Naked Security” newsletter, which goes out on what seems to be an irregular schedule 3 or 4 times a week. I’ll post a link, if anyone’s interested (it’s free).
Great article, the only problem is I had never heard of Reddit before reading this. Now I’m hooked I blame you.
I’m conflicted because I have condemned doxxing. I guess what I was really condemning was harassment, but the doxxing was both part of and done to facilitate the harassment. I believe Brutsch was a participant, though that could be a case of me conflating a number of people who display markedly similar attitudes.
And with all respect to the people who use pseudonyms but don’t feel their wallet names need to be protected — and being somewhat in that camp myself — often people have reasons for using pseudonyms, and they have a right (though I can be convinced it’s not an absolute right) to decide whether those reasons are sufficient.