Since Adrian Chen of gawker outed internet troll Violentacrez, aka Michael Brutsch in real life, the reddit community has been up in arms that Chen pillaged its sacrilege of never outing the identity of users on the widely read social media forum. At the same token reddit administrators (principally Erik Martin, the site’s general manager) have been insisting that it users are free to do and say as they like as long as they abide by their guidelines especially as the outlet believes in championing free speech. Which doesn’t sound too bad on the surface but as has been displayed of late, free speech ought to also come with responsibility, something that is next to impossible to achieve when users say and do things which impinges on real life lives outside of their forum behind veiled identities.
Reflects blogger John Scalzi:
Reddit is not a public utility or a public square; it’s a privately owned space on the Internet. From a legal and (United States) constitutional point of view, people who post on Reddit have no “free speech” privileges; they have what speech privileges Reddit itself chooses to provide them, and to tolerate. Reddit chooses to tolerate creepiness and general obnoxiousness for reasons of its own, in other words, and not because there’s a legal or constitutional reason for it.
Hmm, delicious stuff. Yet reddit has all along mandated the idea/or at least the impression that it onto itself is a public utility that one ought to be able to come along and push the envelopes of expression. Not a bad idea if you’re trying to build traffic and make all that ad revenue. But let’s all be clear, reddit is a private vessel. It is run by a private vessel and if the outlet doesn’t like you (cause they sure as hell don’t like this scoundrel) they are free to push you off. Which is another way of saying as a private entity, like you and me reddit is obliged to obey the common laws of the land, which includes not divulging the privacy and pillaging the reputation and sexualizing individual’s, especially minors cause it insists that one should be allowed to say and do whatever one feels like.
But if all the above makes sense to you and me, it sure as hell doesn’t make sense to Reddit CEO Yishan Wong who has vehemently defended reddit’s policies.
Said Wong: “We stand for free speech,”
“This means we are not going to ban distasteful subreddits. We will not ban legal content even if we find it odious or if we personally condemn it.”
Defending the site’s ability to self police (more like abet) Wong also offered the following:
“Even innocent individuals can be accidentally targeted due to mistaken identities – a key difference between online mobs versus with journalists who have a system of professional accountability.”
Professional accountability? Does that include reddit’s cozy relationship with Violentacrez as well who held an insurmountable degree of power (more than one assumes in his own real life, isn’t that always the way bullies operate?) on reddit who was allowed to continue spreading contentious and hazardous images on jailbait as well as his racist bullshit? Ideas, thoughts, and images that would and did have real life repercussions on real life individuals and how they were in fact perceived and treated by others.Of course if one believes they ought to have the right to express that shit, at least out yourself whilst you’re supposedly outing or ridiculing them, which is what most professional journalists are required to do, why should reddit as a private body be any different?
Offers Wong again: “And we believe that while we can prohibit it on our platform, we can only affect the opinion of others outside of reddit via moral suasion and setting an example. From the time when reddit first banned doxxing on its platform, I feel that there has been a change in the general attitude towards doxxing on the internet. It’s still widespread, but we made a clear statement that it was a bad thing, worth exercising restraint over.”
Hmm, interesting stuff here, but if one is talking about general attitudes and moral suasion one ought to include in that discussion legal ramifications of behavior and attitudes that is inciting, condemning, demeaning and sexualizing minors. But then again let’s be honest, money can distort ones ideas of what moral suasion really means…
Then there’s astute point that John Scalzi makes:
I find it difficult to believe that Redditors don’t understand that anonymity online is merely a facade; indeed it’s probably one of the reasons that revealing the identity of pseudonymous Redditors is looked on as such a huge betrayal. That said, anyone who goes to Reddit and truly believes that a site-standard ethos of “don’t reveal our members’ identities” fully protects them from being revealed or allows them to revel in obnoxious and/or creepy behavior without fear of discovery, they’re kind of dumb. I won’t say that they deserve what they get – maybe they do, maybe they don’t – but I will say they shouldn’t be terribly surprised.
Being anonymous is at best an illusion and if one needs an illusion or a guise in order to communicate ideas, thoughts or go on vile rants, so be it but do understand eventually the community and us journalists will come knocking on your door. Loudly.
Then there’s point that John Scalzi adroitly brings to the fore:
However, leaving aside the fact that this “community standard” is found neither in the Rules of Reddit nor its “Reddiquette” document, just because something is a community standard does not mean one is obliged to follow it in all ways at all times, and if the “community standard” is doing real harm or is being used as a shield to allow people to act badly without consequence, then it’s a reasonable question of whether this “standard” is to be allowed to stand unchallenged.
Which is another way of saying just cause them bixches have rules, it doesn’t mean them rules are the right rules for how we all ought to behave in society and appreciate the idea of freedom of speech and moral and legal responsibility that comes along with it.
In the end gawker’s Adrian Chen did the right thing outing Michael Brutsch, cause there was something terribly noxious going on at reddit and it needed to be addressed and it has. The only thing that of course pissed me off is that Adrian Chen beat me and other journalists/bloggers to it. Never mind there’s bound to be another scandal over at reddit sometime in the future or maybe just maybe they might have all learned a few things there, and that includes you Violentacrez.