Exposing Internet Creeps

Adrian Chen is fucking awesome. And I have very little sympathy for cries about “privacy” from people who make it their primary hobby to violate the privacy of others. Sorry, but the internet is not, in fact, 100% anonymous. Just because you are online doesn’t mean you’re not interacting in the world. And “free speech” does not actually mean “the freedom to say whatever I want, no matter how awful, with zero pushback.” Content note on that link and the rest of this post: Violence, misogyny, sexual assault, racism, and just about anything else foul you can think of.

The background: Reddit, one of the largest online communities in the world, has a series of sub-Reddits on topics ranging from Apples to Zombies. A frequent Reddit user is Violentacrez, who posts some of the most disturbing and obnoxious shit on the internet. Boards he created or moderated include:

Chokeabitch
Niggerjailbait
Rapebait
Hitler
Jewmerica
Misogyny
Incest

Violentacrez also told Redditors about the time he had oral sex with his 19-year-old step daughter (he claims it was “consensual,” but I suspect we’re dealing with someone who doesn’t understand what that word means). He has a penchant for underage girls, and many of the boards he creates, moderates and frequents have to do with “jailbait,” with users posting photos of underage girls for wank material. The photos aren’t technically child porn, but they’re posted without the knowledge/permission of the “jailbait.” After some bad press, the Jailbait board was shut down.

Still up, though, was the “Creepshots” board, where dudes would take photos of unsuspecting women and post them for masturbatory fodder. Think things like ass shots, up-skirt shots, etc etc — all taken of women in public, without their consent. One of the creepshots photographers was a substitute teacher photographing his students. Finally, a female Redditor was fed up, and she started posting the identities of the dudes who were posting the creepshots.

Outrage ensued. How DARE this woman out these men online? How DARE she post their real identities when they are just posting (easily identifiable) photos of women? After all, those women were out in public looking like women — they couldn’t have any reasonable expectation of privacy! And posting the photos was LEGAL, said legions of angry dudes.

Well. Outing someone’s identity is legal too, says an angry feminist blogger.

But you’re infringing on my FREE SPEECH!, say legions of angry dudes.

You don’t understand what free speech means, says an angry feminist blogger.

Here’s what free speech means: It means you get to say pretty much whatever you want without the government coming in, shutting you down, and/or arresting you. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, you can say something offensive or vile and the police aren’t going to drag you away in handcuffs. However, the thing with free speech is that other people have it too. So if you say something vile that other people don’t like, those other people can in turn criticize you and say vile things back that you don’t like. And if we’re arguing that “free speech” extends into the right to take photos of random women on the street and post them on Reddit, then certainly “free speech” extends into the right to say “Hey FYI guys, the person posting under the name Violentacrez is actually a gross dude named Michael Brutsch.”

And yes, the person posting under the name Violentacrez is actually a gross dude named Michael Brutsch.

And he and his supporters are whining right now because he was outed and that’s so unfair, and he has a family, and his wife is sick and he needs to not get fired from his job. And that is all very sad, and I am sorry that his wife is ill. But (a) I’m unclear on how Michael Brutsch was even able to do his job given the amount of time he spent on Reddit, and (b) the content that he put on Reddit sounds like it would make him a serious liability to his company. This is a man who brags about his boner for under-age girls. Who created an entire board dedicated to the glorification of beating women (posting images of women being beaten up), then created another board dedicated to pictures of dead underage girls.

Excuse me if I feel zero sympathy for this particular person.

Now, if the government were coming in and arresting Michael Brutsch for his distaste for “Jewmerica,” I would be the first person standing up for his right to speak freely without government censure. But “free speech” is not the same as “speech with zero consequences.” If you walk up to your boss and tell her she’s a motherfucker, free speech is not a defense when you get fired. If you fantasize about killing your boss on your facebook page and she finds out, neither “free speech” nor “privacy” are defenses when you get fired.

Violentacrez and a bunch of other creeps put a bunch of disgusting stuff on the internet — stuff that actually harmed other people, that was intended to humiliate and violate women. That was the draw — the humiliation and the exploitation. And now they’re bent out of shape that their own assumption of anonymity isn’t quite so, and there are other people on the internet who would very much like to humiliate and shame them.

Online anonymity has its place — there are reasons why we don’t require that comment accounts here are tied to Facebook and a real identity. We have had, over the years, full-time anonymous bloggers in this space. Anonymity, or pseudonymity, gives people a space to speak more honestly than they would be able to if they were writing under their own names. By virtue of this being a feminist space, we talk about issues (abortion, same-sex marriage, religion) that are highly controversial in certain places; we want readers who may live and work in very conservative areas to be able to engage freely here without worrying about their boss or future employer or parent googling their name and finding them. We also talk about highly personal issues here (sexual assault, abortion, mental health, gender identity, sexual orientation), and we want our readers to be able to share anecdotes and tidbits of information without feeling like they’re outing their personal history to the world. I write under my real, very unusual full name; there are a great many things I don’t write about and don’t discuss because of that fact, and many things, especially about my personal life, that I obscure. For me, that’s an obvious and necessary choice, and I think there’s more value, personally, in writing under my real name — things like accountability and trust. But for a lot of other people, there’s more value and more honesty in telling their stories under a pseudonym. So this isn’t a screed against anonymous internet postings.

It is a screed against using the cover of anonymity for the sole purpose of doing harm. There was no greater moral purpose to Violentacrez’s postings; there was no purpose at all other than to make people angry and to violate women and girls. He said he posted explicitly to “rile people up.” Well, he riled them up enough to out him, and now he’s crying foul.

There are real victims to this culture of anonymity and the humiliation of women. But they aren’t the creeps posting the photos.

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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191 Responses to Exposing Internet Creeps

  1. Marni says:

    Sigh. If only she had started a trend, and other sites would do the same.

    • TomSims says:

      With freedom comes responsibility and the guy described is clearly an asshole. The fact that a poster, any poster, can have his/her real name exposed while thinking they are anonymous, is disturbing. Who is to moderate who gets exposed and who doesn’t? With that capability, anyone can come to this site or any site and expose whomever they choose. Does anyone else see the slippery slope here?

      • Jadey says:

        I think the point is no one can or should expect anonymity. It’s just not reasonable. I participate here pseudononymously with the understanding that I could have my identity revealed and that guides what I share and how I share it. It’s the only realistic way to participate online – none of us can expect anonymity, even people I personally would want to protect.

        There’s no slope, really. Only people with enormous access to resources would even have a shot at protecting themselves, and they’re probably well aware that the best protection is never to go online themselves at all.

      • TomSims says:

        I don’t disagree with your overall reply , but tracking down your real name or location is called stalking and is a felony in most states. And only law enforcement with a warrant can trace IP numbers legally.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        Tom, stalking is completely irrelevant to the discussion since even if we accept your definition, that’s not what happened her. Also, if you can find a legal definition that cites finding your “real name or location by tracing your IP address” as stalking, I’d very much like to see it. Thanks.

      • StarStorm says:

        Ahahaha, no. If you’re actually anonymous on the web, it means noone cares enough to go digging for you.

      • doberman says:

        Eh? Not really true.

        Of course it depends what you’re doing on the web, but if all you’re doing is posting comments on blogs or maybe writing on your own Blogspot/Wordpress site, then you can be completely anonymous.

      • LotusBecca says:

        As far as I’m aware, if you are using an IP address (which everyone is), it can ultimately be traced to a physical location. A physical location where you physically are. Making it pretty easy to find you if one has the technology to trace IP addresses and the resources to track you down.

  2. miga says:

    Agreed. Chen is a stone-cold BAMF for writing that article. And now Brutsch actually has to own up to the vile things he’s done. Boo. Fucking. Hoo.

    • miga says:

      It also reminds me of the outcry over the “is anyone up” asshole, Hunter Moore. Hopefully that guy will go the way of Moore and keep his misogyny (and more) to himself.

    • amblingalong says:

      OK. I don’t want to be an asshole and I think you generally are pretty cool. However, IMO this particular expression

      BAMF

      (that is, bad-ass mother-fucker) is kinda problematic.

      Just my two cents.

      • Jill says:

        Maybe I’m missing something, but why is calling someone a “bad-ass motherfucker” problematic?

      • doberman says:

        I’m guessing because it’s appropriating black culture or something? Because that’s something black people stereotypically say.

      • amblingalong says:

        I don’t know, maybe I’m way off the mark here, but the term ‘motherfucker’ gets me. Why does fucking someone’s mother make you bad-ass/a jerk (depending on whether it’s used as a compliment or insult)? Sorry if this is inarticulate- I’m trying to put words to something I haven’t written about before- but it seems to carry a couple embedded assumptions, one of which is that the act of fucking someone’s mother is inherently transgressive/extreme/unusual. Specifically when it’s used as an insult, but also more generally, it seems to subsume the mother’s existence into her male child’s/the man who’s fucking her; you’re an asshole/extreme/bad-ass not because you had sex with a lady, but because that lady was someone’s (a dude’s) mother.

        Lastly, I guess I’m generally uncomfortable with any language in which the people someone has sex with is used to describe them either pejoratively or admiringly. Like, if ‘cheerleader-fucker’ became a new term for a particularly awesome man, I’d have a problem with it for the same reason.

        Anyways, maybe I’m way off base here; I didn’t realize this wasn’t as universally accepted a no-no as, say, “son of a bitch,” or I would have explained my reasoning earlier. Incidentally, I think ‘motherfucker’ s problematic for basically the same reason ‘son of a bitch’ is.

        Lastly, I’m a dude (if it isn’t obvious) so I’m obviously willing to accept I’m just missing something essential about what makes language misogynistic. Sorry if that’s the case.

      • moviemaedchen says:

        @amblingalong: I also have some reservations about the term, actually, along the lines of what you mention. I’m kind of glad you brought it up, so thanks.

      • amblingalong says:

        Oh, and one more thing- the term originally was used exclusively as an insult, and directly referred to incest (the idea being the target of the insulted fucked their own mother). So from the perspective of survivors of incest/rape/sexual child abuse, I think it’s a particularly horrifying thing to attack someone with.

      • amblingalong says:

        Oh, and one more thing- the term originally was used exclusively as an insult, and directly referred to incest (the idea being the target of the insulted fucked their own mother). So from the perspective of survivors of incest/rape/sexual child abuse, I think it’s a particularly horrifying thing to attack someone with.

      • petpluto says:

        I think ‘motherfucker’ s problematic for basically the same reason ‘son of a bitch’ is.

        I agree with amblingalong on this. I’m not saying I don’t ever use these terms myself (I do, just like my go to curse for some reason is “bastard”). But it has always seemed odd to me that all of these curse words are directly correlated to the women in the subjects’ lives.

      • What would the internet be without people who are painfully literal and/or refuse to accept that language evolves, and thus every word’s meaning is strictly a matter of its etymology? Well, it would be less frustrating, of course. Reading Shakespeare or, god forbid, Chaucer, has got to be hard if language doesn’t, in your opinion, evolve.

      • amblingalong says:

        What would the internet be without people who are painfully literal and/or refuse to accept that language evolves, and thus every word’s meaning is strictly a matter of its etymology? Well, it would be less frustrating, of course. Reading Shakespeare or, god forbid, Chaucer, has got to be hard if language doesn’t, in your opinion, evolve.

        Just to be clear, then, you’re ok with talking about how ‘lame’ things are that you don’t like, then? I mean, basically nobody mentally connects that with actual disability. For that matter, I doubt many people who call timid people ‘pussies’ are visualizing genitalia; in fact, I’d bet most people talking about how thing X they don’t like ‘is so gay’ aren’t literally stating they think that thing X is affiliated with homosexuality.

        So yeah, I can accept language evolves, Amanda, but convincing me that this axiomatically demonstrates I should be OK with any word so long as the people using it have changes the context is going to be pretty difficult.

        Jesus fucking Christ, this is feminism 101.

      • What would the internet be without people who are painfully literal and/or refuse to accept that language evolves, and thus every word’s meaning is strictly a matter of its etymology?

        Well, if you think words exist without any context, or simply get whatever context people want to paste on them in order to deny any derogatory past meaning, I guess you’d be fine with being called the B or the C word or something equally misogynistic and disgusting, as long as someone gave you an alternative meaning for it and then claimed that they totally interpret it that way? I sure as fuck wouldn’t, and would be rushing to your defense if you were, but maybe I’m not as edgay a feminist as you.

      • amblingalong says:

        Oh wait, you were the one talking about how people claiming marital rape are often just using the accusation as a way of controlling their spouses, weren’t you, Amanda? Fuck it, I’m sorry I even bothered responding to you.

      • Angel H. says:

        I’m guessing because it’s appropriating black culture or something? Because that’s something black people stereotypically say.

        Da fuq?

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        I’m guessing because it’s appropriating black culture or something? Because that’s something black people stereotypically say.

        Da fuq?

        right?

      • Fat Steve says:

        I find the term ‘bad-ass’ problematic, especially as mine’s looking a bit lumpy nowadays because I haven’t been exercising much.

      • miga says:

        I’m guessing because it’s appropriating black culture or something? Because that’s something black people stereotypically say.

        Da fuq?

        right?

        It’s news to this black person.

      • evil fizz says:

        Specifically when it’s used as an insult, but also more generally, it seems to subsume the mother’s existence into her male child’s/the man who’s fucking her; you’re an asshole/extreme/bad-ass not because you had sex with a lady, but because that lady was someone’s (a dude’s) mother.

        I’ve always thought it was an Oedipal insult and that it was a knock on the kind of asshole who’d sleep with his own mother, not someone else’s mother. It’s also incredibly linguistically satisfying. YMMV.

      • librarygoose says:

        I always thought it meant that too. Which made me wonder why it changed to an awesome person (sometimes), but I assumed that was language being weird.

      • amblingalong says:

        I’ve always thought it was an Oedipal insult and that it was a knock on the kind of asshole who’d sleep with his own mother, not someone else’s mother.

        You do see the problem, though, for people who were victims of incest. AFAIK most people who ‘sleep with’ their mother aren’t doing so by choice.

      • FashionablyEvil says:

        Oddly, I see it used more as a compliment when applied to a person (e.g., as applied to Chen above), and more negative when applied to a thing (“motherfucking toaster burned my English muffin again!”).

        My husband’s family has what they call the MF scale for assembling things like kids’ toys and Ikea furniture–it quantifies how many times you swear during the assembly process. (e.g., “That’s a nice desk.” “Yeah, but it was a 12 MF job to put it together!”)

        So, I guess I can see why someone would be bothered by it, but I file it under “other insults capitalizing on the flexibility of the word ‘fuck.'”

      • miga says:

        0_o. I go away for a few hours and suddenly a big wall of text-fight greets my arrival.

        I get your point though, Amblingalong, thanks for commenting on it and I don’t think it was an assholish thing to say at all. It’s definitely something to think about. :)

      • Clytemnestra's Sister says:

        I had a total 100% change of view of the word “motherfucker” when I was out for a middle aged lady walk with my middle aged lady friend and her 18-month-old daughter, in a park full of similar middle-aged ladies out for walks with their children.

        She told me, “I’m really glad my husband is a motherfucker, otherwise I wouldn’t get any.”

        Language evolves.

      • DP says:

        Oh my fucking god. Can you prove that one person, anywhere in the history of time and space was ‘triggered’ by the use of the word bad-ass motherfucker?

      • Amelia the Lurker says:

        I agree, yeah.

        Also, I always thought that “motherfucker” was STILL an insult, even in BAMF, and that BAMF as a unit is positive while its constituent parts are still negative (remember when “badass” meant “dissolute,” not “awesome”?). Like “you glorious bastard!” “Bastard” isn’t suddenly madepositive, it’s an intensifier. Same for “motherfucker.”

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Let’s see, who could possibly be triggered?

        Any woman who is sick and tired of insults that include some negative representation of women. Lots of those women are “triggered” by “cunt,” “bitch,” “pussy,” “motherfucker,” “cocksucker” (I’m guessing gay men might not like that one, either), “ball-buster,” “don’t get your panties in a knot,” etc.

        But to be counted as “one person, anywhere,” women would have to be considered “people.” A stretch, I know.

      • Oh my fucking god. Can you prove that one person, anywhere in the history of time and space was ‘triggered’ by the use of the word bad-ass motherfucker?

        Or bad motherfucker. For that matter.

  3. FashionablyEvil says:

    By the way, that Guardian article you have linked to is great. On a similar note, Chuck Klosterman writes about the ethics of looking at such photos (in the context of the Kate Middleton photos; it’s the second letter.)

    Middleton is a British public figure, so the legality of this situation is debatable. But legality is not the issue here; something legal can still be unethical. Middleton was photographed without her consent, solely for commercial purposes driven by the prurient content of the images and the private nature of what was captured. Outlets that publish those photos can make no justifiable argument for doing so, beyond the fact that people want to see them. The pictures have no social or cultural value and damage (or at least embarrass) the person involved. Every aspect of this process is unethical, including your participation. Your interest perpetuates the demand for similar photographs and contributes to their economic worth.

    Now, for the sake of transparency, I’m going to be more honest than necessary: I looked at these photographs, too. I knew it was wrong, and I did it anyway. Sometimes that happens. In order to maintain a free society, the legal system must protect the ability of journalists to take and distribute photographs of public figures in public settings. But this is an abuse of that principle, pursued for bad motives (both on their behalf and on ours).

    The only thing that made me feel a little bit bad for Brutsch were the commenters on Gawker who were threatening to go to his home or place of work and harass him. (Yes, I know lots of commenters here will not feel bad about this in the slightest.)

    • samanthab says:

      Well, if you know that “lots of” commenters here would be happy to see the dude harassed, then surely you can offer evidence? I can’t speak for anyone else, but no, I don’t.

      • FashionablyEvil says:

        Well, I was thinking of this thread and some of the other ones about the response to the “Innocence of Muslims” youtube video when I threw that in.

        It would be more accurate to say that about “some commenters” (as opposed to lots). Mostly I wanted to avoid diving down the rabbit hole of the merits of retributive justice.

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  5. William says:

    Anonymity is something you do, not something you are due. If you’re stupid enough to get outed doing something you don’t want the world to know you’ve no one to blame but yourself.

    • tinfoil hattie says:

      Mmm. I so agree. That Amanda Todd! Really.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        Can we agree that “getting outed” wasn’t the issue in the Amanda Todd case so much as “being harrassed by everyone in the history of ever”?

  6. Drahill says:

    This case is an example of why the legal question of privacy needs to be revisted. People like Brutsch educate themselves on what exactly invasion of privacy is and is not and use that to do what they feel like. Creepshot was many, many things, but it wasn’t illegal (due to most of the pictures being taken in public, where consent is a non-issue). The law on privacy never accounted for the internet and maybe now is the time that it should try to. Then again, I’m not too high on trying to use legislation to try to hash out such a complex problem.

    • Felicity says:

      As I understand it, the question is not public versus private space, but whether the picture is really an upskirt/downblouse.

      IANAL, but in 2004 the “Video Voyeurism Prevention Act” was passed, which is Federal. “Defines a “private area” as the naked or undergarment clad genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast of an individual,” according to http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/108/s1301, and includes ‘broadcasting’ as well as taking the picture or making the video without consent. According to Jezebel, a lot of the pictures were of women or girls in swimsuits, short shorts, other revealing clothing. Those pictures would be legal (as far as this Federal code goes) but upskirts and downblouses would NOT. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a public park or your bedroom, it’s against Federal law to take an upskirt without your consent. (With the usual “reasonable expectation” proviso. IANAL but I assume this means if you ride a bike down the street in tighty whities, you waive your protections.)

      I know there are state laws too, but I haven’t researched ’em. I just want to make sure other American readers know: if you see someone taking upskirts, you can include the words “Federal law” in your high-volume cuss-out!

      • Drahill says:

        The problem with that law, as its written, from the analyses I’ve seen, is that it only prohibits such images when the woman has a reasonable expectation of privacy (which is a loaded term). Obviously, it protects women who are trying to conceal their private areas and a photographer who goes to unnatural lengths to capture an image (such as a camera on his shoe, like some do). The question is whether wearing clothing that sends itself to revealing images would qualify (such as bending over in a low-cut top or high skirt.

        I also find it interesting personally that the law passed a few years ago and, as far as I know, there hasn’t been a prosecution under it. It makes me believe that the law itself has never been tested and may sadly be toothless. But that remains to be seen.

  7. doberman says:

    I’m curious about the legality. I don’t know much about American law, but surely taking a picture of someone and posting it on the internet without their consent is illegal, isn’t it? Or is this protected under freedom of speech?

    • Josh says:

      doberman, it is completely legal. Think of Flickr: If it was illegal to post pictures of someone to the internet without their knowledge/consent, a huge percentage of the pictures posted to Flickr (or Photobucket, or whichever other photo service you can think of) would themselves be illegal.

      The only part of North America with any kind of law against this is Quebec, where it is a civil offense. I took a journalism and the press course in Quebec, and we were told that newspaper reporters (for instance) there must obtain waivers from anyone appearing in a photo to be published.

      So, nowhere in N. America is it a criminal offense to post pictures of someone without their knowledge/consent, but in Quebec and only there, it is a civil offense.

      • samanthab says:

        No, it depends on where they are. If they’re on private property, then a release is required to use their image. On public property, individuals have very few privacy rights, but I would be very surprised if some of these photos hadn’t taken place on private property. These dudes are ignoring code of decency; why should the default conclusion be that said creepers are following legal codes?

      • Josh says:

        You’re right samanthab. I figured the private/public property distinction went without saying, but I could’ve mentioned it.

      • samanthab says:

        I think the odds are decent that he could be prosecuted for defamation, at least if he labelled the girls sluts, etc. I’m skeptical that he restrained himself as far as that goes. Maybe, but defamation would seem to fit with his m.o. And if the case was weak, eh, would any jury find the dude sympathetic?

      • R J K says:

        I think there are some other Canadian provinces with privacy laws that at least leave open the possibility of a civil cause of action against someone taking creepshots and posting them online. Manitoba’s Privacy Act, for example, creates a general civil cause of action for violation of privacy and provides some examples that do not include taking creepshots (but also don’t seem to close of the possibility of them constituting a violation of privacy).

        Ultimately, I don’t think this is a problem that legislation and the legal system will be able to do much to solve though. The available remedies aren’t–and probably can’t be–particularly helpful.

  8. Norrey says:

    Preach. Free Speech doesn’t mean consequence free speech. If Adrian Chen had done illegal things to obtain the identity of Mr. Brutsch then maybe there could be some room for debate, but he didn’t. Actions have consequences, and it’s not the government’s, or individual’s, or press’s responsibility to shield people from them.

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  10. I always have a strong sense of unease about people who complain about privacy issues. Of all the horrible things in this world to be concerned about, admitting that your hidden information is the most despicable among them is… interesting, to say the least.

    • Josh says:

      I think that’s a little too broad for my liking. There are lots of legitimate reasons to be concerned with privacy.

    • doberman says:

      NintendoLegend do you work for Google or something?

      Your comment is breathtakingly shallow and fails to take into account the multitude of the reasons why someone may value their privacy beyond “I’ve got some sick shit to hide”. In this case, the guy had it coming big time. But except for that, everyone has a right to privacy.

  11. Jadey says:

    Something I’m starting to wonder about more and more is the photography I enjoy looking at, erotic and otherwise (I really like photography and nude subjects are common). Most of it, as far as I know, is not candid or surreptitious – people are posed, in make-up and/or costume, often in studios or set-up locations, and the photography itself is clearly deliberate and thoughtful, not a quick shot to grab a boob pic.

    But the internet makes it so easy to share photos. I’m already aware of the problem of lack of attribution and people sharing pictures without sourcing them, even in little ways, like our gravatar icons (I could not tell you where I found my Radar O’Reilly pic, f’r instance). There’s a thoughtlessness in the way we treat images of people, sharing them and passing them along, facilitated by technology, which plays into this lack of boundaries. Much of the original distribution of these harassing images is deliberately cruel and invasive, and then on top of that the pictures are cached by technology and routinely passed along by less invested observers, carelessly but with no less pain to the person who has now lost all control of their image (literally and metaphorically). I wonder if I have ever admired an image of someone who would be hurt to know it. It’s sickening to think of.

    I am often asked to provide pictures of myself for websites of projects I have worked on or groups I contribute to. Obviously these are not sexual photos, but I still really hate it. Sometimes I find pictures of myself shared which were taken at events I attended, where no permission was asked at all. I’m extremely body-conscious and photophobic, to the point of finding such pictures of myself triggering, especially when they are distributed without my permission because that only compounds the sense of helplessness. I can only imagine how much worse if they had been sexual and shared with malice. I know it’s not illegal, but the violation of boundaries is profound. (For me, at least. I know people who revel in the idea of being physically admired, though they also would not be cool with being exploited the way the creepshots do. But they would happily *consent* to photos being taken and shared in some circumstances, which I never could.)

    • amblingalong says:

      I’m not sure if you already have seen this, but this story really strongly reminded me of what you’re talking about:

      http://www.theblaze.com/stories/hijacked-gay-couple-sues-over-engagement-photo-that-was-used-in-anti-gay-political-ads/

      Obviously the level of malice is different, but still, the way technology enables us to use images of other people without their consent or even their knowledge poses all kinds of thorny questions that I think we’ve only begun to really address.

      • Jadey says:

        I’m even thinking of the Privilege-Denying Dude meme, where the original image was one purchased from a stock image site, but the use of which quickly went beyond not only the actual legal allowance for the photo (purchased for single use, not everyone-on-the-internet use) but also into the realm of associating a real person with a very negative character that went way beyond what that model would realistically have signed on for when originally compensated by the stock photo site (or however that was arranged) and may have been character-damaging for that model if anyone mistook the meme for a reflection on him personally. In that case, a very much *not* PDD stepped up to supply a substitute “smarmy-looking guy” photo to use as the meme-base, which was awesome, but it goes to show just how much new technology and internet culture have impacted the use of personal likenesses in ways I don’t think any of us, morally or legally, are quite ready to cope with.

        (On a side note, that article is interesting, but the comments are so awful I think I must have been hiding out in the nicest parts of the internet lately – I’d forgotten just how miserable people can be!)

      • amblingalong says:

        Oh god, I’m so sorry- I never read comments myself, so I totally didn’t think about checking them before I posted the link. My apologies.

        And yeah, I hadn’t even thought about all those people who are meme-backgrounds now; how awful to wake up one day and learn your face is permanently tagged “obsessive girlfriend” or “lazy college senior” or “racist Irish man.” All real memes, incidentally.

      • king ten butts says:

        re: those comments
        Good grief, they were terrifying. It just goes to show how much the religious right in the US actually has in common with the Taliban. I mean, if the latter were just a little lighter skinned and spoke American English, I imagine the two groups would get along horrendously well. So… thank goodness for racism I guess???

      • umami says:

        Wow, the commenters seem to be actually speaking approvingly of the Taliban when they say stuff like

        (TW)

        This is another good reason for Sharia Law. All these Q_ueers and L_izzies would be stoned to death. After a while they would go back into the closet or be 6 Ft under.

        I would really like to know what they’re thinking. How does the cognitive dissonance not make their heads explode?

        Or have they decided the “Taliban/jihadists/sharia law” is a good thing now?

    • LotusBecca says:

      I don’t know if I agree that people have some sort of right to control the distribution of their likeness or determine what their image is used for. Imagine you were to overhear a person saying something, and then you wrote it down, and the person’s statement became widely distributed without their agreeing to it. I think this clearly would not be a violation of privacy. The person said something around you; you happened to overhear it; you disseminated it. Of course, it would be different if you were their therapist or friend or priest or something, but it would be totally fine if you were just a random observer.

      I don’t see why it should be any different with a photographic image of someone. The photograph is not them. It’s just a recording of a particular aspect of them at a particular time in the past. . .just like writing down a quote of something they said. And just like a person could alter or fabricate a quote, with modern Photoshop technologies a person can alter or fabricate an image. So a photo bears a very tenuous link to the reality it supposedly represents. I think viewing people as having rights over their own image buys into an idea that photos of a person actually represent that person. That’s an idea I frankly think is dehumanizing and objectifying (there’s a lot more to a person than how they externally look for a mere second of their lives) and is the product of an image-conscious culture and a culture with an almost mystical reverence for “advanced” technology. I think all of us would be better suited if we were more skeptical of the reliability of photographic images, which are definitely NOT reality. This becomes especially important in our digital age where photographs are ubiquotous and easy to manipulate.

      (BTW. . .here I’m just talking about distributing photographs of people without them agreeing to it. I’m definitely not defending upskirt photos or closeups of women’s breasts. . .those are creepy for the same reason leering at a someone in public is creepy. The camera doesn’t change the underlying invasion of privacy.)

  12. Erin says:

    Agreed. Adrien Chen is awesome. I don’t actually have anything useful to add, and I refuse to read the comments and potentially ruin my day, so I’ll just leave it at that.

    • eteokretan says:

      From what I read, he has all sorts of creepy people who love him in all his creepiness. I hope they don’t give him enough money to effectively retire.

      Actually, I don’t think that will happen. He might get a bit at first, but it won’t continue long term.

      And I agree: barf.

    • Clytemnestra's Sister says:

      I’m curious to know the circumstances of the firing. Whether it was a “we no longer have an opening for you” or whether he was being a moderator for a porn subreddit while on company time.

      If it’s the latter? He’s even more of an idiot than I thought.

      • jennygadget says:

        Considering the amount of time that he likely would have had to spend online in order to do everything the article says, I’m guessing it’s the latter.

        Or, well, that when they saw the article, his employers were all “We have to get him out of here. What’s the easiest way? The one least likely to open us up to a lawsuit? hmmm….I wonder if he used company resources to do any of this….”

      • Caperton says:

        To my knowledge, Texas is an employ-at-will state, and so they could fire him on the grounds of not liking the cut of his jib.

  13. number9 says:

    I love how this creep’s defenders on reddit are whining that he did nothing illegal, and yet in the same breath are railing against Chen’s alleged “doxing” of Brutsch. He most certainly did not “dox” Brutsch, as he did not hack his account information to find out his real identity (one of Brutsch buddies on reddit provided his name) and he did not release any info that wasn’t already publicly available from Brustch own words and website. Good on Chen for going ahead with the story.

    I also find it absolutely sickening that the pro-Violentacrez faction of reddit have managed to dehumanize women to the extent that they don’t think that photos constitute “personal information.” When someone brings up the fact that the women who had their photos posted to one of the subreddits he moderated could be identified from their photos, all they can say is “that’s not illegal.” And yet note how upset they are about “identifiable/personal information” when it comes to the publication of his name. It just really says something about the extent to which even the worst man can be seen as a sympathetic figure while the women are denied their basic humanity, because of course just by being female in public they have given up their right to their own bodies.

    There was one commenter on Gawker who kept saying over and over that she has been afraid every time she steps outside her front door ever since she found out that one of the photo-taking scumbags unmasked by the predditors Tumblr lived 30 minutes away from her. That is a fucking tragedy. What’s happening to Brutsch is just a beautiful illustration of the social consequences of free speech.

    Of course, unmasking this creep is really just the tip of the iceberg. I think Adrian Chen pointed out on twitter that pretty much everything in those subreddits is against the TOS. And, of course, the admins were more than happy to squash that free speech they are so fond of by banning links to the Gawker article, while doing nothing about all the gross content. So it’s really up to reddit to clean up the cesspool.

    • Combray says:

      I also find it absolutely sickening that the pro-Violentacrez faction of reddit have managed to dehumanize women to the extent that they don’t think that photos constitute “personal information.”

      Exactly, especially considering this part of Chen’s article:

      He helped organize IRL meet-ups, where he showed up in a t-shirt with his zombie logo on it, and told everyone there to call him “VA.” Attendees agreed to blur his face in any resulting pictures before posting them to Reddit.

      Apparently, photos are personal information when it’s convenient for him.

    • SamLL says:

      The hypocrisy really is breathtaking and you lay it out, along with the horrible sexism, very clearly.

  14. Pingback: Creepy Old Men Are Stealing Pictures From Your Daughter’s Facebook Profile and Posting them on Reddit. Consider Yourself Warned. | Jenny Rae Armstrong

  15. WestEndGirl says:

    Now, if the government were coming in and arresting Michael Brutsch for his distaste for “Jewmerica,” I would be the first person standing up for his right to speak freely without government censure.

    I’m interested Jill, do you not think that such hate speech contributes towards an environment which promotes hatred and violent acts towards Jews, as an ethno-religious group, in the same way as you describe towards women? Jewish communities have to live with levels of security that would be unthinkable for other groups as a result of such conspiracy theorising and hate speech.

    Certainly, I’m glad I live in the UK where hate speech inciting hatred and violence towards protected groups such as GLBTQ, Jewish, Sikh, disabled people etc is a criminal offence.

    • Jill says:

      Huh? I do think that such hatespeech contributes toward an environment which promotes hatred toward whatever group — Jews, women, whoever. I think that Brutsch’s misogyny boards, like his boards about Jews, should not be censored by the government. I also think that directly inciting violence should be a criminal offense (which it is here). But I don’t think that a misogyny board or an anti-Semitic board is directly inciting violence. I agree it’s a tough line to draw, but yeah. I hate the content of Brutsch’s boards; I don’t think he should be arrested for it.

      • WestEndGirl says:

        As I say Jill, I’m glad I live in the UK where hate speech is prosecutable! And the sky doesn’t fall in and it’s not a police state, just a little safer from White supremacists and the like.

      • Jill says:

        Yeah, fair enough! Different cultural contexts, etc.

      • Anon21 says:

        It’s also a country with a weaker free speech culture overall. Not a police state, and maybe you could have the anti-hate speech stuff without the ridiculously lax libel laws, but I guess I’ll just chime in on the “glad to live in the U.S., where government officials don’t get to pass on what ideas are acceptable” side.

      • amblingalong says:

        Yeah, actually, while there are plenty of things I disagree with US legal norms about, the strength of it’s free speech protections isn’t one of them. The UK’s speech laws frequently let rich and powerful interests dictate what news can and cannot be published.

      • kungfulola says:

        Same here in Canada. Hate speech and incitements to violence are not protected. The only people who complain about our semi-free speech are insufferable windbag Ezra Levant and that pamphleting loser homophobe; Bill “Whatbrain?” Whatcott. If our minimal limitations on speech make lowlife scum like that uncomfortable, I chalk it up as a win. I have been living here for thirty-two years and have never witnessed a Martin Niemöller “… then they came for me” moment. I love that my country holds that we have a responsibility to create a more just society with our words, and enshrines that in law.

      • PM says:

        Can you quantify “safer from White supremacists”? Do you have any statistics?

      • EG says:

        It’s also a country with a weaker free speech culture overall. Not a police state, and maybe you could have the anti-hate speech stuff without the ridiculously lax libel laws, but I guess I’ll just chime in on the “glad to live in the U.S., where government officials don’t get to pass on what ideas are acceptable” side.

        Agreed. Doesn’t the UK still have anti-blasphemy laws too, or am I misremembering?

      • Fat Steve says:

        Can you quantify “safer from White supremacists”? Do you have any statistics?

        Two seats in the European parliament….oh wait, you said ‘safer.’

      • Anon21 says:

        Agreed. Doesn’t the UK still have anti-blasphemy laws too, or am I misremembering?

        I don’t know the answer to that. I will say, though, that in practice “hate speech” laws often shade into anti-blasphemy territory when vigorous criticism of religious practice and belief is perceived by minority religious adherents as an attack on their identity and community.

      • steve says:

        Jill I respect your opinion but I have to disagree.

        If websites that promoted misogyny were shutdown I would have no problem with it as long as progressive feminist websites that promote tolerance and equality like this one are left alone. Hate speech against women is toxic to a progressive culture and should not be tolerated as free speech. It can and does lead to violence against women.

        The constitution was written by white men to protect the rights and dominance of white men. It is old and outdated. We need to update. We need a new constitution written by a progressive feminist government that protects women and minorities more. It would be historical move to signal the end of patriarchy and white male supremacy. Imagine it!

      • amblingalong says:

        If websites that promoted misogyny were shutdown I would have no problem with it as long as progressive feminist websites that promote tolerance and equality like this one are left alone.

        Can you guarantee the people deciding which websites to shut down will draw the line in the exact same place you do?

        …really?

      • EG says:

        We need a new constitution written by a progressive feminist government that protects women and minorities more.

        Free speech does protect women and minorities. The first item stopped at the border after Canada’s anti-porn law, based heavily on Catherine McKinnon’s advice, went into effect, was lesbian feminist erotica.

        Free speech lets me burn the flag and suspend a crucifix in urine. I’m not going to give up the theoretical protection of my right to insult the dominant religion and the state in the name of fighting hate speech.

      • kungfulola says:

        I’m not going to give up the theoretical protection of my right to insult the dominant religion and the state in the name of fighting hate speech.

        I am honestly not trying to be a huge douche, but as I said above, there are real-world governments which have limitations on speech, where the slope is not actually that slippery.

        I just can’t wrap my head around the bogeyman that USians conjure when this subject comes up.

        Just sayin’. *shrug*

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        I just can’t wrap my head around the bogeyman that USians conjure when this subject comes up.

        It’s conjured up from history. I mean, just from my own, so much as looking cross eyed at the US government got your entire village burned to the fucking ground and everyone in it murdered. So yeah, not too interested in giving up something so many fought and died for. Up until the 1980’s, speaking out against the US government or white people or Christianity got Indian kid in Indian schools beaten and murdered. So that bogeyman is quite real to some of us.

      • EG says:

        there are real-world governments which have limitations on speech, where the slope is not actually that slippery.

        And there are real-world governments that have limitations on speech where the slope really is that slippery. That’s not a gamble I’m prepared to take.

        I’m not making up the Canda example, by the way. In 1992 the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in favor of the anti-porn law, and Pat Califia wrote that “the Butler decision has had almost no visible impact on the straight-porn industry. Instead, it has been used to impede the circulation of gay literature…The first obscenity case under Butler was a prosecution of Glad Day Bookstore, a gay business in Toronto, for selling the lesbian S/M magazine, Bad Attitude. Madonna’s Sex, however, heated up Canadian cash registers with impunity.”

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        I hear ya, steve, and I often think about this. We are so quick to defend the Constituiton as the best structure ever, without remembering that it was written by, for, and about white men – most of them wealthy, to boot.

      • EG says:

        Actually, I don’t much care about the constitution. Agreeing with one or two elements of it is not actually the same thing as calling it the greatest structure ever.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        EG, if it isn’t about you, it isn’t about you, remember? “We” is a general, overall, standard category. I didn’t call out anyone by name. I am making a general, opinion-based comment. Responding to steve.

      • EG says:

        So, given that I’m one of the main anti-anti-hate-speech law arguers on this sub-thread (how I hate nested comments; they make it super-hard for me to keep track of who’s saying what where), if it’s not about me…whom is it about? Because I don’t see anyone on this thread proclaiming the Constitution to be the bestest basis for a government of all time.

      • EG says:

        Who. Who. Not “whom.”

      • doberman says:

        Wait… shouldn’t it indeed be “whom”? “About” is a preposition after all.

      • EG says:

        1) Doberman, the verb “to be” does not take the accusative as its object. It takes the nominative. It’s just a weird verb.

        2) Hattie, you know what? I’m just in a pissy mood lately and I got snippy and over-reacted. I’m sorry. Forget I said it. Your comment was totally harmless and did not merit me being bitchy about it.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        it’s not about me…whom is it about? Because I don’t see anyone on this thread proclaiming the Constitution to be the bestest basis for a government of all time.

        Well, let’s see. The rest of the whole world, maybe? Perhaps even people who don’t read this blog?

        It was an idle comment expressing my own opinion and thoughts generally agreeing with something steve wrote. Not a challenge to a duel. Not a demand for lawyerly credentials. Just a comment. Expressing my opinion.

      • EG says:

        Hattie, I’m sorry. I made an apology before you commented, but it went into moderation and I didn’t realize. Anyway, it basically says that I completely over-reacted to your comment, which is obviously innocent, and I’m sorry about that. So I’m hoping this version makes it through.

    • Fat Steve says:

      Certainly, I’m glad I live in the UK where hate speech inciting hatred and violence towards protected groups such as GLBTQ, Jewish, Sikh, disabled people etc is a criminal offence.

      Yes, how fantastic that the BNP now couches it’s white supremacist views in more politically correct terminology. It helped them get over a million votes in the last general election.

      • Bunny says:

        Yeah, I have to disagree here.

        The BNP didn’t get a million votes by duping people into thinking they’re not racist – EVERYONE knows they are. They got a million votes because, I’m ashamed to say, our country has a serious problem with racism. Our laws, with their different approach to free speech, are just an attempt at a balancing act.

        I know the newspapers and what have you that cry about political correctness make it look like no one openly admits the full on racism thing, but people really do.

        It’s horrific the things some people will say out loud if they think you’re “one of them”. I’m outwardly straight, cis, white and blonde with an Essex accent and mannerisms that mark me as working class. All the bigots assume I’ll agree with them. They really do come crawling out the woodwork.

        I’ll also say that the only people I have EVER heard railing against our lack of protected free speech have been doing so in the context of expressing upset against “political correctness gone mad”. The most recent time our speech laws were used that I can recall, it was to ban ex-gay therapy ads from appearing on London buses.

      • WestEndGirl says:

        Oh Steve Steve Steve, if you’re going to try to attack the UK for its allegedly rampant support for White supremacist parties, try getting the figures correct. The BNP won a total of 563,743 – 1.9% of the votes cast, failing to win any seats. It very much strikes me, given the continuing popularity of the racist, homophobic and misogynist Republican party and the rise of the Tea Party movement within it, that USians have absolutely *nothing* to crow about on this topic.

        In addition, commenting to EG, amblingalong and the like, any vestigial laws relating to blasphemy were fully abolished in 2008. As regards to libel/slander laws – it is very much the case that the rich and powerful can use the laws to their own interests.

        It’s very useful then, that the laws on hate speech, harassment and inciting violence are entirely separate to the libel/slander laws including the problematic burden of proof on the defendant issue. Most cases regarding hate speech have been supported by Legal Aid or done pro bono because the recipients of such hate speech are typically less privileged.

        As to this:

        Free speech lets me burn the flag and suspend a crucifix in urine. I’m not going to give up the theoretical protection of my right to insult the dominant religion and the state in the name of fighting hate speech.

        Under current UK law, all of the above are fine too. So it’s not an either or, it’s just as Kungfulola so aptly puts it: “we have a responsibility to create a more just society with our words, and enshrine that in law”

        More importantly, the law in the UK works on a case by case basis and there are numerous hate speech cases which have not come to prosecution or people are acquitted. It’s also why the law regarding religious hatred specifically states:

        Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.

        But I guess it’s just easier to create strawmen and lionise free speech in the US, than to actually look at the facts of free speech in the UK.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Oh Steve Steve Steve, if you’re going to try to attack the UK for its allegedly rampant support for White supremacist parties, try getting the figures correct. The BNP won a total of 563,743 – 1.9% of the votes cast, failing to win any seats. It very much strikes me, given the continuing popularity of the racist, homophobic and misogynist Republican party and the rise of the Tea Party movement within it, that USians have absolutely *nothing* to crow about on this topic.

        Sorry, over half a million people voted for the BNP. Excuse me for not having the election results from that nightmare election close to hand.

        But the idea that the BNP has not tried to re-brand itself as a non racist party is ridiculous, even more so the idea that their public face is as racist as the party faithful are privately. I debated Nick Griffin on the radio prior to the European election (where I do believe they got even more votes) and not only did he start out by insisting he wasn’t racist, he took great pains to tell me how they had a councillor that was Jewish. Having done my research I pointed out to him that she was only Jewish by heritage, having converted to CofE when she got married, so the fact that he refers to her as Jewish is racist, and the fact that he thinks that would carry any truck withme because I am of Jewish heritage is also racist. The segment descended into a farce when he tried to give me a terrible analogy asking how I would feel if 10000 Somalians showed up in my apartment, at which point, I had to cut him off and ended the interview because I knew I would risk my job if I swore at him.
        After the show we were bombarded with racist and anti-semitic comments on our message board, mostly from the same IP, which clearly belonged to one of the BNP members who had called in. Couple of years later, I saw the very same dude had just been elected to the council in Dudley.

      • EG says:

        That’s very nice for you. However, burning the flag and suspending the cross in urine–as well as the Mapplethorpe photographs–are not things I have made up. They are actual acts that have actually been attacked in the US, and have been defended on the basis of our freedom of speech. So maybe you should do a little research into what free speech means in the US before you go around assuming that your laws would work here.

        any vestigial laws relating to blasphemy were fully abolished in 2008.

        Ooooh, 2008, how progressive. However could I have thought they were still around?

        it’s just as Kungfulola so aptly puts it: “we have a responsibility to create a more just society with our words, and enshrine that in law”

        No, I actually don’t agree with that. Nobody has the obligation to use words to create somebody else’s notion of a just world, and I have no interest in mobilizing the coercive power of the state to regulate anybody else’s use of words.

        So:

        1) I’d like to see some evidence that your anti-hate-speech laws create a safer world, and/or curb the effects of racism/homophobia/misogyny/etc..

        2) Even if they do, I don’t consider such laws desirable, because I have no faith that anybody in power will use such laws in the best interests of the powerless and because I find the use of state power in the manner to be morally reprehensible.

        3) You are not taking into account what the US political climate is around free speech.

      • SunlessNick says:

        You are not taking into account what the US political climate is around free speech.

        Perhaps it would behoove you to do the same for the UK before arguing that political correctness is helping to bring neo-Nazi parties into power.

        Specifically, Europeans shared a continent with the effects of runaway hate speech, something you were spared. As such, we’re more prone to recognising hate speech as an attempt to bring about harm, and less prone to regarding it as a special snowflake of harm that deserves an air of legitimacy.

        Or in slippery-slope terms, speech is a slope that slips both ways.

      • Donna L says:

        Europeans shared a continent with the effects of runaway hate speech, something you were spared.

        Godwin! But are you sure that the USA was “spared” those consequences? I realize that 400,000 USA military deaths don’t compare to the military and civilian casualties suffered by many European countries, but casualties in the UK don’t really compare to that either — in fact, military casualties in the UK were about 100,000 less than those in the USA, even though obviously the total population was smaller as well.

        Not to mention that I wouldn’t be too sure if I were you that EG’s own extended family was “spared” anything at all. Mine certainly wasn’t. Whether one is talking about extended or immediate family. (In fact, my mother was in London for the first 4 years of the war, including the Blitz.)

        In any event, I strongly disagree with the notion that what happened in Europe was the consequence only of runaway hate speech, rather than the actual conduct that accompanied it all along.

        And I’m as dubious as EG about trusting those who administer prohibitions against hate speech to regulate only the speech that you dislike, and all of the speech you dislike, no matter what government happens to be in power. Even as things now stand, there’s plenty of hate speech that continues to go on in the UK. For example, there’s certainly no shortage whatsoever of transphobic hate speech, which is far more prevalent among UK feminists than it is here in the US. Regardless of venue denials, there are still plenty of progressive media outlets available for it, including The Guardian.

      • Bunny says:

        Donna L

        The US certainly lived through the war, but your direct experiences of it – especially for civilians – were very, very different to ours.

        That said, I don’t know how relevant that is to this discussion. But there is a HUGE difference between the US experience of fighting that war and the experiences of people living in countries that either were invaded, or existed under the threat of direct invasion, bombing, starvation and the like.

        That isn’t to denigrate your contribution to winning the war at all – we needed you, absolutely – but our experiences were not the same.

        ***

        Anyway, I don’t know if this would be an appropriate thing to say in this discussion, but please try to keep in mind our perspective when commenting, as an American, on how the UK and Europe should deal with our free speech and such.

        You have to remember that from our perspective, the US has been somewhat aggressively pushing your culture onto the rest of the world. Telling us what is “wrong” with our country can make us defensive, when coming from people who don’t, really, actually know the full ins and outs of it.

        And we do actually like our lack of a death penalty, our more secular attitude to life despite living in a technical theocracy, our comprehensive sexual education, NHS, labour laws that protect workers and regulate working hours, maternity leave and such and, yes, our different approach to free speech. It works for us.

        It’s not perfect, there are things to fix, but we don’t necessarily need to fix our problems by copying the US.

      • Donna L says:

        The US certainly lived through the war, but your direct experiences of it – especially for civilians – were very, very different to ours

        Since you’re addressing me, please don’t include me in that “yours.” I have a feeling that neither of us was alive during the War, or had direct experiences of it. And if you’re talking about the cultural and historical and familial influences that affect one’s viewpoint about such matters, half of my family — the half that has affected my outlook far more — wasn’t even in the USA during most of the War, as I pointed out above. They were in England as refugees, or in France as refugees or deportees (in and out of concentration camps), or still in Germany, or being murdered in Poland and Lithuania. My mother grew up in Berlin and was 10 when Hitler came to power. Don’t assume that people who live in the USA now have families that have lived here since the Mayflower.

        In other words, I suspect that your “experiences” were very, very different from mine. And mine lead me to prefer the US approach to free speech. We will have to agree to disagree.

      • EG says:

        Perhaps it would behoove you to do the same for the UK before arguing that political correctness is helping to bring neo-Nazi parties into power.

        Since I didn’t argue that, I don’t see the relevance of your comment. I realize that Fat Steve and I are both witty, charming, and gorgeous, but we’re not actually the same person.

      • EG says:

        And, given that WEG started the whole matter by expressing the superiority of the the UK way of handling the issue, I really don’t think you have much grounds for telling me not to judge the UK.

      • SunlessNick says:

        Godwin! But are you sure that the USA was “spared” those consequences?

        It’s sharing the continent (and thus the complicity of your own culture in the 1930’s memescape) that I was talking about being spared. And it wasn’t really the Nazis I was talking about, but the hateful cultural climate that led to them, and others like them, being elected by people no worse than you or me – it wasn’t limits on racist speech that allowed that to happen.

        In any case, my point is that just as you can make slippery slope arguments about limiting hate speech becoming limits on other speech, you can also make them about protecting hate speech adding legitimacy to the hate expressed therein and the harm it attempts to bring about and so leading to more extreme hate speech and harm. The second slope is a mostly non-starter to a US audience, but not to a European one.

        Since I didn’t argue that, I don’t see the relevance of your comment. I realize that Fat Steve and I are both witty, charming, and gorgeous, but we’re not actually the same person.

        My apologies then. I mixed up who said what.

        And, given that WEG started the whole matter by expressing the superiority of the the UK way of handling the issue, I really don’t think you have much grounds for telling me not to judge the UK.

        But I have every right to reply to an exhortation to learn about US political culture with a similar exhortation to you. Which is what I actually said.

        But I’ll leave it there.

      • EG says:

        But I have every right to reply to an exhortation to learn about US political culture with a similar exhortation to you. Which is what I actually said.

        You have every right, of course. Whether it makes any sense to do so is another question altogether.

        the hateful cultural climate that led to them, and others like them, being elected by people no worse than you or me – it wasn’t limits on racist speech that allowed that to happen.

        And…that happened because there was too much freedom of speech? Let me note that Fascists consolidated their power and did the harm they did through extreme hate not through the ballot box, but through violence. And you can rest assured that I am of the opinion that fascist violence should be illegal.

        Do you have any evidence at all that banning hate speech keeps fascists from taking power?

      • doberman says:

        But the UK has better humour.

      • DonnaL says:

        being elected by people no worse than you or me

        Speak for yourself. I don’t buy for a moment that a lot of people who voted for Hitler in 1933 were just decent folk, innocent dupes of hate speech, and there really weren’t so many genuine Nazis, blah blah blah. Don’t forget, my family lived there at the time.

      • SunlessNick says:

        Do you have any evidence at all that banning hate speech keeps fascists from taking power?

        Seeing as you asked a direct question… Circumstantially, in that every fascist regime that’s come to power via the people (rather than via a coup) has done so by riding hate train. And yes, the engine and wheels of that train may have been violence, but the fuel was propoganda, ie speech. Of course that doesn’t prove that restricting that particular fuel will always stop the train from moving, but it’s enough to call into question the treatment as an axiom that protecting it is better.

        I don’t buy for a moment that a lot of people who voted for Hitler in 1933 were just decent folk, innocent dupes of hate speech, and there really weren’t so many genuine Nazis, blah blah blah.

        Nor do I. However, neither were the German people (or the people of other Axis nations) in a special and unique category of evil. “It could have happened here” was not meant as an exhortation to beware the threat of an invasion.

        And there I’ll make my second attempt to leave it alone. Especially since this is going far off topic.

      • EG says:

        Circumstantially, in that every fascist regime that’s come to power via the people (rather than via a coup) has done so by riding hate train. And yes, the engine and wheels of that train may have been violence, but the fuel was propoganda, ie speech. Of course that doesn’t prove that restricting that particular fuel will always stop the train from moving, but it’s enough to call into question the treatment as an axiom that protecting it is better.

        That’s…not evidence. Every regime that’s come to power “via the people” has done so through speech. There’s nothing special about hate speech in that respect. The question isn’t whether or not fascists use speech. The question is whether or not banning what certain posters here keep insisting is a small sliver of speech will do anything to stop them from gaining power. Are you really under the impression that fascists are so stupid incompetent that if they are prevented from saying outright that Jews, or whomever they wish to target this time, are to blame for all the world’s ills that they won’t be able to get that message across? Unless you are going to ban fascists from speaking and make your laws so broad as to ban a variety of speech, which UK posters here keep assuring me is simply not a danger, you’re going to have to grapple with fascist ideologies being available for public consumption.

  16. dc says:

    Nothing like living in the US with a disabled wife and no health insurance, Brutsch wrote on Reddit after he lost his job.

    (actually,my friend is disabled and has govt services and support and is also married.so at least his WIFE will be supported…or she can get govt assistance if he lost his job, if for some reason she doesn’t already have them.)

    • amblingalong says:

      Ok, so Brutsch is clearly a horrible person, but I actually don’t particularly want to criticize that quote, because (as much as it pains me to say it) I think he’s entirely 100% right. Support for disabled people sucks, and health care for those without insurance sucks. Can we find something else he wrote to attack? It’s not like we’re short on options.

  17. Chataya says:

    I’ve been following this and the rest of Project PANDA on SRS, and the tears have been delicious.

    The person in charge of the Predditors blog has only been usually commonly available information, information that the creepers in question made publicly available. Basically exactly what creepers had been arguing was their right to do with their fap material.

    Minor point, but jailbait was shut down after it was revealed that the members were exchanging actual child pornography through private messages. No “technically” about it.

  18. dc says:

    Ok, so Brutsch is clearly a horrible person, but I actually don’t particularly want to criticize that quote, because (as much as it pains me to say it) I think he’s entirely 100% right. Support for disabled people sucks, and health care for those without insurance sucks. Can we find something else he wrote to attack? It’s not like we’re short on options.

    attacking?um,stating a fact re her services.
    of course that quote by Brutsch is true.
    but it isnt her fault,its his…..
    am saying she has options thank god
    obviously he wasn’t so concerned for her that he kept her security as a priority,though,over his pervyness.
    I’m sad for his family…..

    • amblingalong says:

      am saying she has options thank god

      Maybe, maybe not. My point is that the the services and government support you mention isn’t universally available, and is inconsistently effective state-by-state as well as city-by-city. I agree with you that he clearly didn’t prioritize her well-being until it was convenient for him, though.

    • Henry says:

      yeah great her and her kid’s options are welfare…great. Face facts the family is a “civilian casualty” here. You have to own up to that when you do something like this. Maybe Gawker can send the wife & kids some of the money they earned from hits over this. I would have outed the asshole too if I were the journalist, but still I find it horrible to dismiss the family’s plight with “they have options”.

      • JK says:

        The Gawker article makes it pretty clear that the wife and kid knew what was going on and supported him, participating on Reddit. Obviously, the son can’t be responsible for what his parents do, but it’s clear that there is a very sick dynamic going on in the whole family, of which the wife was well aware. She is not an innocent bystander.

      • Partial Human says:

        Exactly this. She was active on peddit alongside him, identified herself as his wife on the site, and clearly didn’t give a tuppenny fuck what he was doing.

        She isn’t some poor innocent, not tech-savvy person, whose just had the news “Hey! Your husband gets his kicks on supplying pics of beaten women, dead children, and child porn. Oh, and he gets off on random women being photographed in secret, and used as wankbait. But hey, whaddya expect from a guy who brags openly about fucking his teenage stepdaughter?”

        She knew it all. The kiddy porn, him deleting pics from jailbait if they looked “too old”, the violence, racism, anti-Semitism. She watched as their son was indoctrinated into thinking all of the above was just amazeballs and bragworthy, posting on peddit as “SpawnofVA”

        Gross.

      • Henry says:

        Then screw her too. I feel bad for the kid, it will take ages to deprogram him of that shit, if it can even happen. Spawn of VA indeed. These people shouldn’t even be able to raise cats.

  19. steve says:

    Misogynists have been violating the privacy of feminists for a while now so they have no right to complain. The hate site AVFM has even offered people money to violate the privacy of feminists they don’t like. It’s about time they got a taste of their own medicine.

  20. dc says:

    well i hope his wife can get services.
    (but who even really knows if he’s telling the truth,
    come to think of it.can’t say i actually trust him….)
    & he obviously doesn’t prioritize whatever family he does have.so,yep-really just sad.

  21. dc says:

    http://whoabecca.com/2012/10/12/on-medicaid/

    (….here is one person’s exp.re medicaid)

  22. Stella says:

    Its legal to post an upskirt picture without consent? Really?

  23. Glass says:

    And we know this guy is NOT actually abusing people in real life how? He admits to an incestuous relationship (which is rape IMO because of the parent child power dynamics) then engages in multiple behaviors that would lead any reasonable person to believe they are a reflection of something very evil inside him.

    I’ll probably get boo’ed for this but honestly the cops need to at least chat with his family. Abuse cases that resulted in convictions have started with far less, believe me.

    • I totally agree. The cops need to be on this fucker’s case.

      • Glass says:

        I sent a link to that article to the Arlington, TX Police Dept as I’m sure thousands have already done.

        Censorship is being prosecuted for things one has only said but the things one says can lead to evidence/investigation of real criminal behavior.

    • EG says:

      I’ll probably get boo’ed for this but honestly the cops need to at least chat with his family.

      No argument from me. “I’m in favor of sexually abusing young girls” is the kind of threatening speech that merits a look-see at least.

      • Glass says:

        “I’m in favor of sexually abusing young girls” is the kind of threatening speech that merits being torn apart by alligators.

        Fixed that for you.

      • EG says:

        Thanks! I knew I’d made a mistake, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was…

      • jennygadget says:

        I thought that about the “12 year olds sluts” facebook page as well. It’s not exactly…typical or…healthy…for 19 year old men to that interested in what tween girls (that they don’t know from Eve) are wearing.

    • number9 says:

      Gawker had an update today in which they linked a thread on reddit where VA responds to questions under his “clean” alias. Among other things, he states that 1) he has never posted pictures of what these dudes charmingly call “jailbait” himself and 2) cops would not find any pornographic images of children on his computer. And I bet both of these things are true – he moderated the subreddits, and he enabled the vile behaviors, but I’m sure that he himself was very careful not to do anything that would put him in legal jeopardy. I think he also deleted the comment about his stepdaughter.

      Much as it pains me, I think he’s going to be legally in the clear. But yes, at the very least the cops should have a chat with him, along with a good look at his computer.

      • EG says:

        I think he also deleted the comment about his stepdaughter.

        Meh. Screenshots, the wayback machine. Deleting the comment doesn’t make it never have been. He might have covered his ass adequately…but he might not have. Where there is life, there is hope.

      • FashionablyEvil says:

        It wasn’t just a comment about his stepdaughter. He did a Q&A about it.

    • tinfoil hattie says:

      His step-daughter was 19 at the time, or so he claims, so he skirted a statutory rape charge. He’s still disgusting. Woody Allen comes to mind.

  24. dc says:

    Reddit wants free speech – as long as it agrees with the speaker

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/15/reddit-free-speech-gawker

    • Henry says:

      Hypocrisy is free speech too.

      • Clytemnestra's Sister says:

        So is the absolute truth (e.g., that this person was VA). For that matter, so is Julian Assange releasing thousands of diplomatic cables that, among other things savoury and not, showed that…..the US State department’s policies behind closed doors were remarkably consistent with their public policies.

        The people who are all up in arms about their bro being outed are the same folks who were willing to fight for Assange’s ability to release private information.

        Am I the only one who finds VA’s comments to be puerile? Here is somebody who went out of his way to be an asshole in public, to facilitate in the trading of child porn (e.g. starting the jailbait subreddit, which other users used to find folks with similar interests and trade child porn amongst themselves), who deliberately stirred up the pot and then tried to hide behind the banner of free speech when rightfully called out for being an asshole in public….now crying about having to face the consequences of his actions? It’s like a teenage boy who got caught having a party at his parents’ house, and whining about having the car taken away.

      • Partial Human says:

        Mad respect to you.

        Nothing else to add.

      • Henry says:

        Am I the only one who finds VA’s comments to be puerile?

        No. Everyone finds them to be horrible, except the pedos. The response of certain subreddits like /r/politics is complete hypocrisy. They claim such photos are free speech protected, then complain about Chen’s use of free speech to out this guy. If they want to ban links to the gawker article that’s their hypocritical right. Though I am actively encouraging people to spam the link to gawker on r/politics…which reminds me…time to repost.

    • Stella says:

      Free speech is guaranteed by the governments. A private Forum can curtail free speech however they see fit.

      • doberman says:

        And this is relevant how, exactly?

        What’s being pointed out is that Reddit is being hypocritical. Not that they are violating anyone’s right to free speech.

      • Partial Human says:

        sigh

        The point is, and I cannot see how you’ve read any of the articles or discussions and missed this, but here we go:

        Peddit’s users are. SCREAMING that their right to free speech is being violated. They are claiming that. “Freedom of speech” covers their right to trade wankbait of children, secretly photographed women, dead babies and children, abused girls and women, and racial hatred BUT that concerned parties or victims do not have the right to use freely available info to know who’s doing it.

        Remember, their mighty leader, King of the Creeps, insisted that he was never photographed, or referred to as anything other than his handle.

        Pedditors have made Lord of the Creepy Slimeballs, Julian Assange into a hero, while Chen is reviled.

        They’re gross, exploitative, stunted manbabies who cannot see hypocrisy and corruption if it’s pole-dancing in a neon green morphsuit.

        But then I’m sure an AwesomeUltimateFeministJusticeWarrior like you can see that.

        Innit?

      • doberman says:

        Partial Human I think you misread my comment. I said that Reddit are hypocrites.

        I thought Stella was trying to justify Reddit’s ban of links to Gawker. Perhaps I misread what he or she said. But I think me and you are on the same page on this.

      • amblingalong says:

        Reddit != a subsection of Reddit’s users. Reddit is huge. It is basically a cross-section of the entire Internet. Parts of the Internet are super scummy, and parts are awesome, and the same goes for Reddit.

        Reddit did not ban links to Gawker, certain subreddits did.

      • Henry says:

        A lot of reddit users are screaming in the opposite direction too. That the mods should not be banning gawker links over what gawker posts on its site. And here’s a stellar example of the type of community jailbait was:

        http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/a-jailbait-loving-perv-destroyed-amanda-todds-life

  25. Angie unduplicated says:

    The turd on two legs violated others’ right to privacy and then tries to cover himself with that right. Any random photo can be utilized to harass women at work, to blacklist our attempts to find work (been there), to cyberbully. So he’s out of work. Boo hoo. So his wife is allegedly an innocent bystander? Chen’s article documents the turd’s statement that he posted to his subreddits, on his laptop, while his wife was on her laptop, both of them in the same bed. I doubt that either used a privacy screen.
    Adrian Chen and Matt Taibbi prove that real journalism is alive and well.

    • samanthab says:

      Matt Taibbi does a lot of great reporting, but it’s misogynist as hell and rife with grating machismo. If only he’d grow up a bit.

      • Kathleen says:

        word. the worst are his relentless high-fivey football references. “Just because I’m a lefty doesn’t mean I’m not ALL MAN, m’kay?” Print it on a t-shirt and move on already.

  26. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.

    I am completely shocked that people can create boards, comment, and post pictures on completely inappropriate topics. They should not be taking pictures without the subject’s permission. These people should not be posting pictures of underage girls, abused women, and/or dead women. This is horribly offensive and they deserve to reap the consequences.

    Deep down, I still believe that people are inherently good. But it gets harder and harder to maintain that belief everyday.

    • Marksman2010 says:

      Deep down, I still believe that people are inherently good. But it gets harder and harder to maintain that belief everyday.

      Yes it does.

  27. Erin says:

    Jill, you know you’ve written a good article when the only ‘problematic’ thing the commenters can complain about is the use of the term BAMF. :)

  28. Stella says:

    I am completely shocked that people can create boards, comment, and post pictures on completely inappropriate topics. They should not be taking pictures without the subject’s permission. These people should not be posting pictures of underage girls, abused women, and/or dead women. This is horribly offensive and they deserve to reap the consequences.

    Deep down, I still believe that people are inherently good. But it gets harder and harder to maintain that belief everyday.

    Well if you run a picture search a lot of women come up whose pic was potentially posted without consent. And the way somebody explained upskirt shots and the like are illegal

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

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

  30. catfood says:

    Quoted by Chen from the Daily Dot:

    At Web communities like Reddit, which thrive because users are free to say and do anything they want, doxing is a severe crime, both to users and the site’s staff…. Why? Because doxing undermines the community’s structural integrity: Reddit simply would not exist as we know it if users weren’t operating under the freedom of a flexible identity. So redditors aren’t banning Gawker to protect violentacrez, they’re doing it to protect themselves.

    That makes sense to me. I get it. It’s… kind of a good thing.

    But here’s the thing. If that “flexible identity” part of your community is so damn important, then you (collectively) have to watch out for egregious abuses of that flexibility, or… this will keep happening.

    Analogy: Many real-space anarchist communities put a high value on individual integrity; their lack of formal rules is an important part of who they are. Which makes it more important for them to self-regulate and deal effectively with bad behavior.

    Same with reddit. If they love their pseudo-anonymity so much, which nobody owes them in the first place, they should refrain from doing things that justify doxing and other de-anonymizing actions on the part of outsiders.

  31. deadleaf says:

    Something about glass houses and stones…

    I assumed that this would simply make Creep Shot posters better about their vigilance in staying anonymous online but after looking at some of the twitter accounts, apparently people advertise their identity on the site.

    give a stupid person a gun and I suppose its only a matter of time before they blow their own face off.

    Wonder how long it will take until the woman on the mission to out them all gets doxed and /b moves in :/

  32. dc says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Conversation

    (interesting movie on some of these issues.
    also interesting is the “creepshots” the one surveillance dude does in the very beginning of the movie.in 1974!
    wow.creepshooting was alive & well even then.
    also, the protagonist is super private and paranoid & worried about his own space.how ironic…..)

  33. Diablo says:

    I just want to point out that Adrian Chen is not doing this for any motive other than gaining views to his website. Gawker regularly posts the same sort of thing. Heck, right now their front page consists of links to pornography sites illegally hosting the video tapes from the Maine Madame Case.

    To even imply that Chen cares about privacy of people having photos or videos taken against their will is hilarious. His entire website is BASED on doing this exact same thing. The only thing more hilarious is how fans of his will justify this by claiming celebrities and their family (including children) somehow are fair game compared to regular folks.

    Chen is just a more palatable creep.

    • number9 says:

      Chen is not Gawker. He works there. He’s not Denton. And yes, at least the partial motive of journalists is selling copies of their publications or getting pageviews. That’s what pays their salaries. News at 11!

      • Lamech says:

        Yeah, he works there. He contributes to the funding and resources of people who do the exact same thing as he claims to hate. He posted pictures of VA without his consent too. Complete with identifying personal information as well.

        Chen is a hypocritical peep. I’m glad creepshots is shut down. I’m also glad at the backlash Chen and Gawker have gotten.

      • Jill says:

        Posting pictures and identifying information about Violentacrez doesn’t make Chen a hypocrite. That’s a weird definition of hypocrisy you have going there.

        And yes, Chen works for Gawker, and Gawker engages in some seriously fucked-up practices. In Chen’s defense, he has used his platform at Gawker to take on some of the ugliest corners of the internet (this, Anonymous, etc). He’s done it at significant personal expense. I admire him quite a bit.

      • DonnaL says:

        He posted pictures of VA without his consent too.

        You must be kidding.

      • Henry says:

        VA was engaged in newsworthy behavior. Therefore who he was, why he moderated that newsgroup, his motivations etc. were all relevant to the general public. And Chen never posted the guy’s address and only posted his workplace in a story about how he was later fired from his job – again newsworthy.

        Chen should get a better job at a more reputable paper, but that’s not the issue.

    • Athenia says:

      “Gawker regularly posts the same sort of thing.”

      You mean, posting up skirt shots of underage girls and then cries when someone exposes their names?

      • Diablo says:

        I am not defending the actions of the individuals, which lets be completely clear, there are more than just one, who participated in these shameful acts of targeting women for harassment.

        I am find with this idiot VA getting the public shaming he is getting. What annoys me is Chen and Gawker acting like there is a different doing the same thing. They public videos and pictures that are just as bad. They regularly harass celebrities. Now some would make the argument that once you are famous, you lose any form a privacy. I don’t agree with that.

        Furthermore, Chen didn’t do this to clean up the internet. He did this for page views. He, along with Gawker, continue to link the ENTIRE community of Reddit, for the actions of a small group of trolls. They do this on purpose because it generates page views from annoyed Reddit posters. It would be no different than someone claiming that all black people are thugs, just based on a select, notorious group of individuals.

        Gawker also has a long history of using Reddit for material without sourcing. They claim that they are journalists so there is no need to do so. But then they claim journalistic status when its convenient.

        Again…I am NOT defending the actions of VA. He is a reprehensible person and has brought all of this on himself. But if Adrian Chen is the great white male savior of the internet, women are screwed.

      • Marcie says:

        No, but e.g. posting stills of a video showing a rape and only pixalating them weeks later after severe backlash.
        http://jezebel.com/libya-rape-video/

        But I guess that’s ok as long as they “take down” a creep from time to time.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Gawker is a misogynist site. I agree. I’d love to see Chen analyze that.

  34. deadleaf says:

    hm, and now the dude that started the sub reddit is outed with full dox http://gawker.com/creepshots/

  35. E. says:

    I was wondering if anyone here is tech-savvy enough to know an easy way to see if there are leaked pictures of oneself out there?
    I know there is some kind of reverse-search process for photos, but I do not know how to do it.

    • deadleaf says:

      1) http://images.google.com/
      2) create a fake g+ account, add your photo to the avatar, enable “find my face” to see images others have posted of you that google tags
      3) you can query intelligence services (sadly this one takes a bit of tech knowledge usually and I don’t really feel comfortable talking about some of the tricks around some of the cost barriers here)

  36. Pingback: Free Speech does NOT mean Free From Consequences | The Stay-at-Home Feminist Mom

  37. onetinythought says:

    Now, idiot creepazoid has lost his job and is on the news crawl at CNN.

    I feel bad for his wife.

    • I feel bad for his wife.

      I don’t. It would be one thing if she were a truly innocent bystander who was blindsided by her husbands secret depravity, but per the article, she knew exactly what sort of person he was and had no problem with it. If she suffers because of his punishment for behavior that she enabled, that’s just too bad for her.

  38. Ex-Troll says:

    I used to troll the Internet back in the day. My type of trolling involved being an irritant. Some examples of my antics:

    -post as a moronic conservative on a liberal forum
    -do the reverse on conservative forum
    -say how great Jar Jar Binks was on a Star Wars site
    -write about how much more tolerant and progressive Musims are compared to Christians

    …so anything to ruffle the feathers and cause guffaws.

    Compared to violentacrez, I was a clean troll. But looking for reactions the way I did can become addictive. I was not aware of VA until he was outed. So I’ve never seen what he posted. I do have some sympathy for him, but he stared into the abyss far too long that it was inevitable that somebody who hated him enough would have the determination to out him.

    I hope he finds peace with himself. I truly feel sorry for his wife.

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