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The internet's biggest troll has been outed.
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JohnSchwan



Joined: 05 Dec 2005
Posts: 667
Location: Baton Rouge, LA/MA
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Also, this guy posted racist shit repeatedly, and we're meant to defend it as merely for the lulz, right? Trolls gonna troll. Except you're too smart to actually believe that there weren't people reading all of his racist postings and agreeing 100%. So would it be alright to out this guy if you found out that his bullshit inspired even one member of a minority group to be seriously injured or killed?
Post Tue Oct 16, 2012 12:41 pm
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Captiv8



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
Posts: 8501
Location: Third Coast
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futuristxen wrote:
the mean wrote:
I could never get with the idea that someone had a right to be a creep online without any repercussions. The internets are real life just as any other form of communication is.

No matter how many words futurist writes about it.


So I mean, you'd be okay with anti-abortion groups that published the names and addresses of abortion doctors to their list of crazies?

Or you'd be fine if an LGBT person was outted IRL because of their postings on the internet and because they lived in the wrong part of the country they suffered repercussions from that?

Mob justice isn't justice. And just because in this situation it's super easy to feel right about destroying this guy's life--doesn't mean that the next time it happens you will feel so right. There should be a line between disagreeing with what someone is about and what they do--and the extent you will go to attack them and ruin their life.


Can't we just treat this like what it is? Brutsch got trolled, hard, in real life. That's it. And he deserved it.

The two examples you listed above aren't the same thing, at all. Could they happen? Sure. But if they did (and I'm sure they have) the people doing the outing would be in the wrong because the would be pushing a moral agenda and attacking someone for not being in line with said agenda. Pro/anti-abortion is a belief. Being LBGT isn't even a choice. Outing people for those things is unwarranted, unmerited, and otherwise wholly wrong. Brutsch, on the other hand, chose to post racist, sexist, borderline illicit, distasteful, insensitive, bigoted, and otherwise disturbing content online, or he enabled others to do the same. There is no parallel here with the two scenarios you describe above.

You're choosing to draw a line in the sand with a very poor example. I don't think you're going to get anyone to sympathize with Brutsch here. I don't know what else to say that illustrates how outing Brutsch and outing a person who's done nothing wrong (and I don't mean illegal) are totally different.
Post Tue Oct 16, 2012 2:37 pm
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Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
Posts: 1995
Location: Saint Louis Park, MN
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Anonymity on the Internet has always been fragile. Pseudonymity on the Internet is doubly fragile. This is an inherent problem with the enabling technologies of the Internet and solving it is beyond the reach of most users given most standard use cases. The fact that this guy's pseudonymity was so easily breached is not especially newsworthy.

There has always been a double-standard when it comes to acceptable behavior for anonymous/pseudonymous Internet users versus those same behaviors in association with users operating under personally identifiable names. This guy was deliberately engaging in behaviors allowed by one side of the double-standard and condemned by the other side of it--and by all accounts, was choosing content because of where it fell on that line. The fact that the breach of his pseudonymity could (and probably will) result in real-life consequences for him is not especially newsworthy.

For these reasons I agree that the article which "outed" this guy was more of a hit piece than an example of clear journalistic merit.

The thing is, hit pieces like this are also a standard part of our anonymous/pseudonymous Internet culture. The Gawker blog post is one example of it, but it's functionally not very different than groups like Anonymous publishing the "dox" (personally identifiable information) of their enemies. That stuff isn't newsworthy either--but the communities who post that sort of data do so because they believe that doing so is in the public interest--or in their own personal interest.

To the extent that it's possible for anyone to be fair game for this kind of a hit, this guy is obviously fair game.

There are really two separate topics at debate here:
1. Whether or not the double-standard regarding tolerance of this behavior should be considered harmful.
2. Whether or not exposing personally identifiable information about anonymous or pseudonymous figures is ever acceptable.

My take on the first question is that the double-standard is undoubtedly harmful, has helped to perpetuate and legitimize a lot of stuff we should be trying to stamp out, and has caused real pain and despair for real people who didn't deserve it. The ability to use anonymity and pseudonymity for these purposes is an emergent property of the Internet as a force for thoughtful public dissent against power and authority. People exploit these systems to propagate hateful and shocking material, whether out of a genuine interest in that material, or out of trolling and similar bad-faith motives. We can't close those channels of communication without threatening the use of those channels for more legitimate purposes, and we can't respond to bad-faith trolls as if they were acting in good faith because of the classic asymmetrical-warfare problem of cures worse than the disease--but neither should we celebrate those uses of anonymous systems. We can celebrate the chilling effect that outing this guy has on other people like this guy without embracing the chilling effect that Iran's crackdowns in 2009 had on the Sea of Green protests.

My take on the second point is that these revelations are an occupational hazard for people who engage in anonymous and pseudonymous Internet activity--and, to a lesser extent, for anyone who has an expectation of pre-Internet privacy in a post-Internet world. Whether we think this is a good characteristic of the system or not, there's no real way to stop it from happening without completely overhauling the architecture in favor of centralized control. That said: even if there we all agreed that we should try to stop or discourage these hit-piece takedowns from happening, futuristxen is still making a slippery slope argument here. It's perfectly consistent to support the takedown that this thread was started to discuss, but oppose the anti-abortion and anti-gay disclosures she's citing as examples--as well as opposing even more critical cases like exposing the identities of police informants, government/corporate whistle-blowers, etc.

This isn't a debate about what the law should allow or disallow. We have to tolerate grave necessary-evil situations there because justice is supposed to be blind. This is a debate about what we, as Internet citizens (or whatever) should personally condone. Contemptible free speech should be protected by law against government interference, but held in contempt by the individuals who hear it. I can (and, IMO, should) applaud this Gawker outing of an asshole while reserving the right to express outrage and contempt at some of the other scenarios futuristxen raised as examples.

There's also a third question I'm interested in raising here: Say the Gawker blogger had uncovered this guy's identity but decided to keep it secret. Using the threat of exposure to make the guy stop would have been wrong--or possibly even illegal (i.e., blackmail or extortion). Assuming the only choices are to out or not to out: would keeping the guy's identity secret make the blogger complicit in the "trolling" behavior? Are the staff at Reddit complicit in that behavior for having not exerted stronger editorial control?

EDIT: I should be clear that I hadn't heard of this guy or any of his sub-reddits before this post. I am not a reddit user.
Post Tue Oct 16, 2012 3:17 pm
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outpatient



Joined: 07 Jul 2005
Posts: 475
Location: haggis and scotch eggs
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I'm with futurist on this. the mob is always wrong, even when it's right.

to be outraged at someone's actions is to say that there are hurtful and immoral things which people shouldn't do, and moderating a sketchy jailbait subreddit is one of them, but then so is this bloodlust and this relish for a (likely eternal) tarring-and-feathering.

my first reaction was "fuck this guy" too, but it's not something I'm proud of. being able to identify something bad and jeer from the stands doesn't vindicate a lack of compassion. I can feel sorry for the people that have been upset/exploited over his antics and also feel sorry that this guy's family will suffer because he won't ever work again.
Post Tue Oct 16, 2012 4:06 pm
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Captiv8



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
Posts: 8501
Location: Third Coast
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If convicted sex offenders can get jobs, Brutsch can too. He won't get a job anywhere he would like, that's true, but that's a consequence of his actions. His paypal account will help pick up some of the slack. Given his computer skills, he can also work from home. He can move, get his name changed, whatever. These are the things he has to deal with now. I'm not saying what Gawker did was right, and I'm not interested in a lesser of two evils kind of debate. All I know for sure is that the chickens came home to rest and they shat all over Brutsch. Time to clean up.
Post Tue Oct 16, 2012 4:40 pm
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Mark in Minnesota



Joined: 02 Jan 2004
Posts: 1995
Location: Saint Louis Park, MN
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I don't think this is an argument about whether or not mob dynamics are a good thing. Mob dynamics are a functional reality of the Internet and this guy always stood a risk of having to deal with a real-life backlash for his online behavior. I don't believe for a minute that he'll never be able to work again--or even that he'll be stuck working minimum wage given his skill-set--but even if I did think those things: this man's wounds are self-inflicted, entirely avoidable, and utterly predictable.

This is someone who spent years deliberately building infamy under a pseudonym, hoping that the pseudonym would never fail in a way which allowed that infamy to contaminate the rest of his life. It was a foolish thing to do, and now he gets to own the consequences of it whether he deserves them or not. I feel the same way about people who take an unnecessary ass-kicking after leading the police on a high-speed pursuit. This doesn't mean I'm condoning the disproportionate responses here any more than it means I condone the ass-kickings there.

Actions have consequences. This isn't always fair or just or right, but I tend to reserve the full measure of my compassion for people who weren't doing anything wrong.
Post Tue Oct 16, 2012 5:12 pm
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mlanifesto



Joined: 16 Apr 2006
Posts: 354
Location: UK>Head Like a Fucking Orange County>San Francisco
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This whole thing is a mind fuck.

The payday loan/pawn shop company Brutsch worked for, fired him. He was too immoral to milk the desperate and the needy for the last pennies they have?

Gawker has a sub directory dedicated to up-skirts, http://gawker.com/upskirts, and was complaining about his creep-shots.

All then the "free speech" warriors at reddit blocking gawker for publishing something true.

Gulags for everyone.
Post Tue Oct 16, 2012 10:37 pm
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Jack



Joined: 10 Dec 2007
Posts: 678
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so speaking about mob justice, anyone follow the whole amanda todd suicide story? I just heard about this and know very little about it but its interesting.

1) Story: http://abcnews.go.com/International/bullied-teen-amanda-todd-leaves-chilling-youtube-video/story?id=17463266#.UH9ay8VuTEY

2) anonymous outs (post info on a guy) a dude as the alleged super bully: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dFMiLDx6wNU

3) Yea wrong guy: http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/10/17/amanda_todd_suicide_did_anonymous_dox_the_wrong_guy.html

4) Now anonymous accues someone else: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1273047--amanda-todd-online-group-anonymous-now-accuses-u-s-man-of-tormenting-amanda-todd
Post Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:31 pm
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