One of the good things to come out of the /r/jailbait and /r/creepshots mess is that I discovered the work of Zeynep Tufekci. She is a sociologist who studies “the interaction between technology and social, cultural and political dynamics”. She has one of the best posts on the “free speech” question that I’ve seen so far.
First, let’s point out that defenders of “absolute free speech” actually do understand that speech has power—and are more than ready to ban it to protect themselves. If you were following the story, you know that this all became a public brouhaha after Adrien Chen exposed the real name and location of the main editor of “creepshot” forum in an article in Gawker. All of a sudden, defense of “free speech” became a secondary concern for Reddit management and they banned linking to Gawker from the site. Leaked text of Reddit moderator chats discussing the situation make it very clear that even those who don’t think Gawker should be banned agree that the Gawker reporter did an awful thing. This deep hypocrisy in Reddit’s position that posting names of child predators [as it is predation to post pictures of minors for sexual exploitation] should be banned, but child predation should be protected by Reddit as “free speech” is so blatantly obvious that one could almost stop there (or read this great post by Lili Loofbourow.
Rather, let’s look at this as a good example for why “free speech” as an absolute value for any community that is not balanced by any other concern is at best an abdication of responsibility, and at worst an attempt to exercise power over vulnerable populations.
It’s a wonderfully chewy post. Go read the whole thing.
The reason Tufekci came to my attention, however, was a couple of tweets that I agree with but think miss an important part of this story. [Read more…]