The Ethics of Unmasking

Despite how lawmakers and law enforcement in certain places treat them, masks are neutral things. They can be used to facilitate crime, of course, but they can also be used to bring justice, to fight power that is unethically used. Or they can be used neutrally, to give us some space to explore new behaviors or new identities separated from the continuity of the rest of our lives.

That’s what masks do, of course. While you’re wearing a mask, you’re free the burden of being the person you’ve always been. A masked person doesn’t feel the social pressure of what “everyone already knows” about them. They can explore different behaviors, different preferences, different levels of risk without violating anyone’s expectations. They can shed history that has resulted in trust, and they can shed history that has resulted in wariness.

Conversely, a person who wears a mask while behaving in ways they normally would not doesn’t change the way anyone who knows them without the mask views them. They are insulated from the consequences of their actions, for better or for worse. Those around them only see part of the person they’re dealing with and aren’t likely to accidentally uncover the rest.

Because masks are neutral, there is no one common thing to be said about the ethics of wearing masks. The same is true for the ethics of unmasking.

There are circumstances in which unmasking someone, tying all of their behavior and circumstances to one single identity is clearly unethical. It adds no good to the world. It stops the good that someone does while masked. It causes direct harm to the person unmasked or indirect harm by preventing others from adopting a mask even for good reasons. Consistent identity has no inherent moral imperative of its own to offset any of that.

There are cases in which unmasking is clearly the ethical course of action. When we uncover the identity of a serial killer, no one worries that we’ve done something wrong. We protect people who would be hurt. We meet our societal imperative to regulate extreme, non-consensual behavior. We end a gross, unjustified power imbalance. Everyone is satisfied except the person unmasked.

Obviously, most cases are not so clear-cut. People who use a mask for a single purpose are relatively rare. They may act in both pro-social and anti-social ways behind the same mask. They may face risks we agree are unaceeptable without the mask while still being abusive with the mask. We may do some damage to the social contract in unmasking someone who is using their mask to damage that same social contract. We don’t always get to make tidy decisions.

Obviously, I’m refering to the discussions and debates about “doxxing” people who harass and abuse others online while sitting behind a pseudonym. There has been a lot of simplistic rule-making in these discussions, and frankly, it annoys me, almost as much as taking a concept like doxxing (which refers to a shared invasion of privacy) and applying it in a way that suggests that those who have been abused have any obligation to protect their abusers’ information.

That is what these recent arguments boil down to. No one disagrees that a pseudonym is a valuable property. Very few people disagree that people who use a pseudonym should be able to comfortably use that pseudonym for normal online interactions without being afraid the mask will be ripped off. Nobody disagrees that some people will not hesitate to get behind others’ masks for bad reasons.

Tiny origami paper mask sitting in someone's palm.

What do we do with an abuser’s mask in the palm of our hand?

What is in dispute is, when someone is abused by a person using a pseudonym, what responsibility does the abused have to the tool of pseudonymity as a whole and to everyone who uses it. The scenario in question is this:

  • A pseudonymous person engages in social behavior that is clearly outside of community standards.
  • For whatever reason (the abuser provides personal information on purpose or carelessly, the abused does some research to see whether they need to be worried about the person abusing them, a third-party looks into the situation and passes information along) the person being abused finds out what identity the abuser’s pseudonym is protecting.
  • The person being abused faces a decision about whether to continue to protect that identity or to make it public.

In this situation, the abused typically faces a few standard arguments why they should not make the abuser’s hidden identity known to everyone. Thinking them through, I’m not sure I find any of them convincing.

This is just about punishment/revenge.

There are two things about this argument that bother me. The first is that it simply isn’t true. While any individual may be motivated by revenge to out their abuser, there are good reasons to do so. Our society tends to view abusive behavior as something personal that happens between two individuals, but this is a distorted picture. It’s possible that someone may abuse just one target over the course of their life, but that doesn’t seem to be common. Abusive behavior is a way of dealing with people abusers don’t like or can’t cope with, or sometimes, people they simply think they can get away with abusing. Someone who abuses one person will likely abuse another.

There is value to the abused knowing who is abusing them and knowing that they’ve abused others. It helps the abused understand that they didn’t invite the abuse. It helps to track patterns of abuse and to understand the degree of threat the abused is facing. Being able to establish a pattern helps when the abused goes looking for help.

All of these things are easier to do when all of the abuser’s behavior is tied to one central identity. The entire point of a pseudonym is that it permits separation of identities and isolates behavior in one realm from behavior in another. Lifting the mask allows everyone to see what they’re dealing with.

The other thing I object to about this argument is the assumption that punishment is a bad thing. Arbitrary punishment is bad, of course. Being arbitrary, it accomplishes nothing. Tying social consequences to social behavior, however, is how we function together. Isolating people from the just consequences of their actions is not a benefit to us.

There may be unintended consequences to the person behind the pseudonym.

I absolutely agree that outing someone as an abuser in a particular context may out them as some other identity that we typically consider to be deserving of protection. In the cases under consideration, this typically means outing someone as an atheist, although it could also be anything else that person has revealed using the same pseudonym.

I don’t agree that this possibility creates an obligation in the abused to refrain from outing their abuser. At best, I would say it creates an obligation on the part of the person who feels abused to give serious thought as to whether the behavior in questions crosses a threshold that clearly constitutes abuse.

Once that threshold is crossed, however, asking the abused to be responsible for their abuser–or demanding it–is behavior I find repellent. The abused don’t ask for abuse. They aren’t given an opportunity to reject that responsibility by opting out of being abused. Requiring them to act in their abusers best interest or to consider that interest in protecting themselves and others is tying them more tightly to their abusers in ways I consider frankly unethical.

This creates a precedent for outing pseudonyms./This is stooping to their level.

People with pseudonyms are already being outed. In fact, that’s one form the abuse in this community/these movements has taken. I understand the impulse to try to put this behavior entirely off limits. I simply don’t agree with it. When there are societal benefits to denying people the ability to misuse the tool of pseudonymity, when there are benefits to abusers’ targets to knowing their abusers’ identities, I can’t say that this behavior should never be used.

Nor can I agree that it constitutes the same behavior when done for good reasons as when done for bad reasons. Are we “stooping to the level” of a kidnapper if we hold a criminal until the police show up? Are we “stooping to the level” of a thief if we take something sharp away from people we have good reason to believe mean to do themselves or others harm? I’ll step out on a limb, here, and say, “No.”

We need to get more sophisticated on the ethics of unmasking pseudonyms. Too many of us live too much of our lives online to allow for slogans and black-and-white decrees to stand in for effective management of our online communities. If we have the ability to collectively agree that a comment consisting of nothing but a word followed by an asterix means that the poster is correcting prior spelling, we can manage to talk about when it’s appropriate to out pseudonymous users rather than simply asserting that it always is or always isn’t.

So, where does all that leave us on the question of outing?

Image: Detail of “little face” by Joel Cooper. Some rights reserved.

Comments

  1. says

    This is similar to what I’ve been thinking lately too, Stephanie. We were talking about this over at Ophelia’s, and I finally boiled my stance down to something like this:

    1) In general, we should start from the presumption that people may have a good reason for pseudonymity. Thus pseudonymity should not be breached without good cause.

    2) When people behave abusively under a pseudonym, they forfeit this automatic presumption in their favor, and thereby become legitimately subject to naming and shaming by their targets, unless they can present a good reason why naming and shaming would cause them harm inappropriately disproportionate to the harm caused by their own behavior.

    3) It is the responsibility of an abusive pseud to make the case for protecting their pseudonymity, not the responsibility of their targets to go search out any possible reason to not expose the pseud. The only responsibility of any person considering exposing an abusive pseud is to take seriously any evidence *presented to them* which gives good reasons to protect the pseud. This does not necessarily translate into a responsibility to actually protect the pseud [e.g. a gay person being stalked by a closeted ex-lover has no obligation to protect their stalker from being outed when the stalkee files for a restraining order].

    Any thoughts on this?

    Also, one other point which, although you referenced it in your post, I’d like to see emphasized a little more: A big part of the reason why it is often valuable not merely for the *targets* of an abusive pseudonym to know the abuser’s real name, but also for those names to be publicized, is that it allows other potential future targets to protect themselves as well, both on an individual level and at the level of the community being able to eject the abusive persons from its midst. I haven’t (yet) been a target of serious harassment, because I’m not a big name. But I sure as hell want to know who to be wary of, and I also want to know that my community would support me if I *did* become a target.

  2. says

    Anne, I think I would disagree with you that the abused person has a responsibility to protect the abuser even if informed of those circumstances. Why would we tell the abused person they had to sit there and continue to take damage when the person abusing them doesn’t? Why is their responsibility to do anything but protect themselves and other targets in this situation they were forced into?

  3. says

    Stephanie @2, that’s not what I was trying to convey at all, so I’m sorry if that’s what it sounded like I was saying. I thought my last sentence in the blockquote was specifically rejecting that interpretation, but maybe it wasn’t clear enough.

    More in a second, but I’m having trouble formulating the rest of my thoughts concisely and I wanted to get that out there as quickly as possible.

  4. says

    Yes! I can’t see doxxing as a necessarily immoral act, but one that depends on circumstances.

    Anne makes the point that an abuser may have other, not abuse related, valid reasons for privacy. Perhaps they fear being exposed as an atheist in the Bible Belt and losing their job or even their children. In that case, it’s extremely stupid of them to be giving the power of exposure to someone they have abused! But stupidity is not a crime, and just possibly a victim might decide to be magnanimous. Possibly. No obligation.

  5. carlie says

    Are there other ways to deal with it and get the desired effect of making the person stop? Can the person’s IP provider be contacted and asked to stop them that way? Do they still even have conduct policies in their terms of service? Can the email provider they’ve registered an account with be notified? I’m wondering if there are behind the scenes options that are easy to do and effective.

  6. says

    Anne, no hurry. I’m interested in hashing this out well, not necessarily now. This conversation has been going on for a few years in various forms.

  7. says

    Okay, let me clarify my initial comment like so:

    The only reason I suggested that there might exist some ethical responsibilities when one is considering outing a perceived harasser is because I was trying to address the ethical issue of outing in its most general possible form, and thus wanted to cover edge cases, not because I think that those responsibilities apply in any of the actual cases we’ve seen in the atheist/skeptic community to date.

    For example, Skep Tickle apparently decided that it would be easier to suffer the oh-so-dire consequences of completely outing *herself* than it would have been to make a cogent argument in her own defense. That’s not exactly the action of somebody who’s going to be harmed by IRL name/pseudonym linkage in a way that’s hugely out of proportion to the harm she was doing to others.

    So please imagine the parts of my comment that you found objectionable as fine-print footnotes, present only for technical accuracy, not because I’m trying to imply they should be the primary focus for the people in our community who are dealing with harassment.

  8. says

    carlie, ISPs can sometimes be contacted, and some (generally small) portion of those may take action. Is that a reason not to unmask someone, and on what grounds if it is?

  9. Sal says

    Community standards are awfully hard to define objectively. Is that what you really want to hang your hat on to justify the outing of Skep Tickle? And, who gets to define the community standards? You? What if someone defines it differently? Would you stand by all your recent behavior? Or could you fall victim to someone else’s community standards? Would you really want your professional name (which I am led to understand is different that Zvan) out in the public domain? Bloom would be off the rose then, wouldn’t it?

  10. says

    Also, I guess I should note that the reason I tend to prefer to caveat against weird edge cases is that they often seem to be the favorite toys of those who defend harassers. ‘Cause, y’know, Thomas Paine published Common Sense anonymously, and anyone who outed him, no matter how good their personal reasons for disliking him, would’ve gone down in history as a tool of tyranny, therefore…

  11. zhuge, le homme blanc qui ne sait rien mais voudrait says

    I think that what you say makes a good deal of sense. There is no need to protect the harassers. The harm of “outing” that we are protecting against is that of being exposed as being a member of a marginalized group to people who do not know such, not exposing one’s opinions or general jackassery. I mean, in effect, we don’t generally seem to mind in real life so much when people are unmasked for almost identical behaviour(creepy letters, harassing pictures, phone calls, etc.) So I fail to see why the interent ought to be any different.

  12. susans says

    Sowing, reaping, consequences. Those who chose to abuse and harass should have no expectation of hiding behind anonymity. That gives them the same protection as those who commit domestic violence without fear of arrest because their victims will not complain to the police. Hyperbole? Maybe, but these repeat offenders count on the cover of darkness to bully and insult, and are apparently immune to pleas to behave with respect and dignity.

  13. latsot says

    A person’s right to anonymity is like their right to free speech: it is limited. We all give up portions of our right to anonymity in exchange for things. In the case of citizenship, we don’t have much of a choice. For example, we can’t refuse to identify ourselves to the government for the purposes of taxation, but we consume the benefits of that enforced restriction of anonymity. In other cases, we surrender anonymity deliberately in exchange for some perceived benefit. For example, we might give our email address to a website that promises to enter us into a prize draw.

    One of the reasons this topic is complicated is that we’re all really bad at deciding whether we’ve made a good deal when we surrender private information and there’s an asymmetry: once the cat is out of the bag there’s no putting it back in.

    So given that we are bad at understanding the consequences of sharing private information, most of us are not as anonymous as we like to think. Anyone can go and find information about most of us if they really want to unless we’ve been especially careful. So what we’re really talking about is whether or not we should pretend that this isn’t true. We’re talking about whether we should be obliged to uphold a social convention.

    It’s polite to listen when people talk and as a bonus, we might just learn something. It’s polite to respect other people’s choices about revealing personal and especially identifying information. There’s a largely unspoken understanding about how to behave in typical relationships. These social conventions are useful, but they can be abused. You can abuse your right to free speech by inciting violence or hatred. You can abuse your right to anonymity by being a dickhead.

    The point is that when a relationship becomes abusive, the social conventions no longer protect everyone: they only protect the abuser. I know some people who were sexually abused as children. Even when the secret came out, the families hushed it up. The abuser even showed up at family gatherings – and the children were expected to be there too – and nobody outed the abuser in public. Nobody said “that man over there, yes, him, he sexually abused my child.” Well why not? I sure as shit would have done it without a second thought. The convention about not spilling the beans can only possibly protect the abuser in this case assuming – as in this case – guilt had been properly established.

    The same goes for people who are abusive online. This is not a typical relationship and so should not be governed by normal social conventions. It’s perfectly fine to point at someone and say “that man over there, yes, him, he sent me torrents of abuse.” Insisting on applying the social conventions used in a non-abusive relationship can only protect the abuser.

    This can be put in a more succinct way: at the heart of anonymity is the right to not stand out in a crowd. Abusive behaviour makes you stand out so you’ve already forfeit your right to anonymity.

    I was recently accused of doxxing when I called an online abuser by his real name. This person has maintained a number of pseudonyms for years, which he uses to hurl abuse at people in anonymous safety. However, his identity was outed years ago and is common knowledge. Type any of his pseudonyms into google and the first half dozen hits will tell you his real name. It’s not a secret. I didn’t give it a thought: I wasn’t trying to reveal his name to anyone who didn’t already know it, I was just calling him by his real, well-known name. And yet, he went *crazy*. The only reason I can think of for this is that he wanted to try to preserve his perceived right to engage in abusive behaviour without consequences.

    As far as I’m concerned, he’d already forfeit his right to anonymity by abusing countless people over many years. I had no particular intention of outing him in this case, but I wouldn’t have hesitated to do so if I did intend to.

  14. says

    Well Eliza Sutton is outed here by Maxwell Smart without as much as a whimper, so you have to wonder how much of a big deal it is. http://heathen-hub.com/blog.php?bt=9266

    Steersman is there whining about being banned here so not able to join in. I’ve not bothered commenting over there as Tim Skellet randomly deletes comments with no warning or reason. I assume I’m banned but who knows. Now for years of obsessing over Tim and the “Free from thought” Hub for their terrible censorship… Not.

  15. D. C. Sessions says

    I usually start by identifying extremes that are generally agreed upon and working towards the boundary. For instance:

    * Mabus. Could, potentially, have had all sorts of real-life consequences (well, assuming that he had a real life — but I don’t think that’s relevant.) I think we can all agree on that case for unmasking.

    * Me. Obviously different ;-) but sometimes I’m involved in a discussion where my real-life obligations to my employer come into play. The policy is, approximately, “we don’t care what you do online but don’t involve us in it.” Which mostly isn’t an issue unless we’re discussing goings-on in the industry, where for better or worse I (at least used to be) a public figure.

    Note that the second case is not, precisely, about protecting my own anonymity. It’s about keeping uninvolved third parties uninvolved. For those considering the ethics of outing pseudonyms, bear this factor in mind.

  16. says

    latsot, I really like your analysis.

    oolon, the thing that’s really weird to me about Skep Tickle’s comments there is how she seems to completely fail to understand that the only one who’s actually making it easy for her clients to Google her IRL name and find out about her atheist activities (not to mention her harassing activities) is *her* (and apparently now her buddy “Maxwell Smart”). It seems to me like a very good example of latsot’s point that people are really kind of bad at analyzing their choices to release private information.

    I can certainly empathize with the fear someone like Skep Tickle might feel at the possibility of having their dots connected. I’d be lying if I said the possibility of having it happen to me doesn’t disturb me too, if only because I know the extremes to which certain internet subcultures are sometimes willing to take such things. And of course, one never thinks one’s *own* behavior is abusive — it’s always the other person — so nobody ever thinks they deserve the consequences of such dot-connecting. But there’s got to be *some* limits to what any community can be expected to put up with. We don’t refrain from sending criminals to jail when their behavior warrants it, either, no matter how understandable their desires to avoid it might be.

    And as for Steersman’s whining about being banned from commenting in certain places, well, seems to me that’s yet another one of those things that one can bring upon oneself by participating in abusive behavior. Again, I know how annoying it is to feel one has been banned unjustly, but that doesn’t mean banning should never happen. Poor him.

  17. latsot says

    Note that the second case is not, precisely, about protecting my own anonymity. It’s about keeping uninvolved third parties uninvolved.

    That’s an important point, thanks for making it. I’d argue that it IS a personal anonymity issue, though. Revealing relationships with people/things/organisations/etc. obviously compromises your own anonymity as well as that of others. For example, if you talk about your employers, people might be able to pin down your identity. On the other hand, protecting other parties from your own views or activities is a matter of not standing out in that crowd. But then… what if there’s an emergency and it would help if people could identify you or people who might be in your location?

    So I think you’re right: the decisions we make about anonymity have consequences for others. We should think about these things whenever we make decisions about registering or logging in to online services and – increasingly – whenever we just walk around with phones or in front of CCTV cameras.

    The problem is that it’s too complicated and time consuming to really do that. We need to find better ways to conceptualise privacy and to control how and why and when we expose information about ourselves.

  18. Harry Henderson says

    Anne, the fact that Skep Tickle left clues to her identity on line doesn’t make her outing right any more than Justin Vacula publishing Surly Amy’s address just because it was publicly available in some government business database. Both were wrong.

  19. latsot says

    Anne:

    if only because I know the extremes to which certain internet subcultures are sometimes willing to take such things.

    Yes indeed. This is a point Ophelia and others have made: a couple of years ago, hardly anyone who was a feminist in the atheist/skeptic arena would likely have worried too much about protecting their anonymity. There was no need to be frightened. It was just people saying and doing what they cared about. Now there ARE reasons for individuals to be scared and for communities to batten down the hatches and we all know where that threatening miasma comes from.

    More accurately, communities, societies and people have probably stayed the same. What’s changed is that women are increasingly saying they’re not satisfied with the way things are. And all of a sudden they have to protect their anonymity. How unsurprising.

  20. D. C. Sessions says

    For example, if you talk about your employers, people might be able to pin down your identity.

    Of course. Anyone who actually gives a damn has figured out my two main ‘nyms (this one is my legal name) long ago. It’s really not hard; I’m sure I drop breadcrumbs all over the place. Stephanie, for instance, knows one of them simply because it’s one of my mail addresses and I own the freaking domain. Others similarly.

    However, I really don’t care. As long as I’m not going around conspicuously identifying my employer, they’re OK. If someone has to actually look me up, it’s no different from having my name on a letter to the editor back in the old days when print was the only newspaper there was.

    At that point, my employer’s (or for that matter my family’s) response to complaints is going to be about the same as Orac’s employer when someone complained to his Ultra Secret Real Life Identity: roughly “what a doofus.” Because, you know, I really don’t do things online that I don’t want my real-life associates knowing about (don’t extrapolate that — I’m well aware that it’s not a rule that everyone can afford to apply, and not because they’re doing anything wrong.)

  21. latsot says

    However, I really don’t care. As long as I’m not going around conspicuously identifying my employer, they’re OK. If someone has to actually look me up, it’s no different from having my name on a letter to the editor back in the old days when print was the only newspaper there was.

    But this is changing, of course. It’s getting easier to mash data about us from all over the place together. Nobody really needs to go out and look for links between bits of data any more. And you can’t – currently – control how or whether that happens.

    Here’s an example: I don’t mind CCTV because it might help catch baddies. But I *do* mind CCTV coupled with realtime face recognition software because the only possible use of that technology is to fit people up with crimes based on arbitrary things. Fuck means or motive, the computer says they were there! Nobody else we suspect was there…. You get the idea.

    So all I’m proposing is that we all get a better handle of our data.

    There might be some stuff you can do to control some of this stuff, if you want to. But if you don’t want to it doesn’t mean either that you’re right or that other people won’t ever want to.

  22. says

    Sal, I do in fact stand behind all of my recent behavior, and you, it appears, can be led to understand anything people in the slime pit make up.

  23. says

    Harry, Eliza left more than clues to her identity. She left her identity in the hands of people she was abusing, period. That’s why I recommended her for Nugent’s dialogue. I gave him several suggestions for people who presumably had some interest in the health of the secular and skeptical movements because they were involved in organizations. I suggested her, Damion Reinhardt, Peter Ferguson, Russell Blackford–people with a stake in this. She was the only one who deigned to participate.

    Then she made claims that Ophelia had done something wrong. Refuting those claims required small amounts of information that Eliza had given to us by giving us her identity, information she wasn’t disclosing in claiming that Ophelia had done something wrong. What exactly was wrong with that? Be precise. Refute the post above as necessary to make your argument, because ignoring it as you’re doing now will be obvious. Tell us why Ophelia had any obligation to keep those comments apart and those names apart. Tell us why I had any obligation to keep from mentioning that someone who is serving on an atheist organization board is not being gung ho about protecting their identity.

    Make an argument, not just a drive-by comment with a fake name derived from a movie.

  24. says

    D. C., as a commenter, you take responsibility for those third parties. It seems to me that someone being abusive doesn’t suddenly lose any of that responsibility or transfer any of it to the person they’re abusing. So I agree that third parties are a consideration and shouldn’t be forgotten in discussing the topic, but I don’t see where they change any conclusions.

  25. says

    Is that what you really want to hang your hat on to justify the outing of Skep Tickle?

    one’s opinion on the right to pseudonymity aside for a moment, let’s make something very clear: someone whose meatspace name has always been linked to their handles can’t be outed under those handles.

    I still consider it a shit move to refer to someone by a different name than the one they’ve chosen, but “outing” or “doxxing” doesn’t apply.

  26. says

    In fact, I wonder if Sutton has ever raised the tiniest murmur of protest about all the names for people that are other than the ones they have chosen that are in such common use at the slime pit, where she hangs out.

    “Becky” “Stefunny” “Twatson” “Old Cobweb Cunt” “Pruney” –

    I wonder if she’s fine with all of those.

    Well no I don’t, actually, because I already know she is. She tried to defend the place in a comment on my blog last week, so she is fine with it. She pretended to think that some of the material there is just a little bit excessive, but that’s like calling the KKK slightly irritable.

  27. Funny Diva says

    Thanks for this, Stephanie! I think it deserves a permanent bookmark in your sidebar (and on my own browsers).

    And as I’ve pointed out at Ophelia’s blog, it’s not always that the abuser fears re-purcussions due to their _atheist_ activities. It’s that they fear the damage their _professional_ reputation will sustain if their ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR is linked to their real identity. I now KNOW this to be the case for one of the abusers discussed in those threads.

    So, what’s a non-target to do? That’s my dilemma. Not just in light of online abuse, my online presence isn’t that big, and my presence in the atheist/skeptic movement is nonexistant, so, meh. No, in my case, it would be career suicide for me to even hint that that slyme-enabling persona and all its sockpuppets need to _permanently_ disappear (at least from FTBlogs), let alone actually blow the whistle. Best I can do is respond to email from any FTBlogger who doesn’t already know what I’m talking about and wants the Google search terms or easily find-able URLs.

    And, yes, it is possible for both situations–professional damage for them, career suicide for me–to be true simultaneously.

  28. says

    Funny Diva, you do what you can safely, for whatever degree of safety that is. If you can’t say who they are, you can probably still continue to explain why what they’re doing isn’t “disagreement” and is not acceptable. Because it appears that need isn’t going away any time soon. :/

  29. Funny Diva says

    Oolon @14:
    Oh well, never MIND! I clearly have not been keeping up!
    Just goes to show more than one individual can connect the dots independently.
    Her _faculty_ profile is also not difficult to find (someone else can actually post the link if they want to.) I will NOT be patronizing the clinic for which she is on the rota of Attending Physicians. It gives me the willies to think I may have done so already without realizing it, as I actually have used that family of providers at that location for my medical care.

    Oh, and I see you linked to “a blog by gurdur”. Quelle Suprise. Is it OK with you if I don’t read the whole thing? It looks like more of the same, piled higher and deeper!

  30. Funny Diva says

    Thanks, Stephanie.

    You’re right that the need won’t go away any time soon. Because we’re dealing with such a swarm of ‘pitizens. It’s like a whole herd of hydras.
    I’ll settle for SkepTickle/SkepTixx and her sockpuppets shutting the f*ck up from now on. If Dr Sutton wants to keep talking shit about Ophelia and others, if she wants to keep supporting the activities of the slymepit, she can do it under her own name, with her own colleagues aware of what she does outside of clinic.

    And I’ll still recommend Camp Quest Seattle to my friends with school-age kids (in fact, I did so this morning).

    PS: Gurdur obviously also saw my comments over at Ophelia’s. He says something like welllll, the comment about paranoia was misguided, but…blah blah blah Ophelia.
    But I suppose I should thank Gurdur for giving Mr Nugent yet ANOTHER reason to listen to what Stephanie and Ophelia and Rebecca have been saying about having this so-called dialogue. If only for the irony that the intent was, no doubt, to convince him to keep IGNORING what you all have been saying about this so-called dialogue.

  31. Harry Henderson says

    Here is the thing, Stephanie, Skep made a choice to separate her online and her meatspace identities for reasons related to the fact that she is charged with providing critical healthcare and not wanting to cause concern amongst her patients who might be (unjustly) distrustful of an atheist. Even when her real name was out there as on the board of an atheist org, care was taken to firewall the name from the actual person.

    In all this effort to justify Ophelia’s behavior post hoc, i haven’t seen you be bothered to even discuss Skeps reasons for wanting to remain pseudonymous or to consider the problems it might introduce into her chosen career as a caregiver. If you have,i’ll gladly apologize.

    Though I don’t expect you’ll ever let this comment see the light of day, I’d be more interested in you reconciling the propriety of the outing of Skep with the splash damage it is likely to cause. Was damaging her effectiveness as a caregiver really worth it?

  32. says

    I agree with #9.

    Actions have consequences. If you drive drunk, you might get fired from your job — so don’t drive drunk.

    If you abuse your kids, you might be ostracized from the community and get fired from your job — so don’t abuse your kids.

    If you rape someone, you might get jail time and a lifetime on a sexual predator’s list — so don’t rape anyone.

    And on and on. It’s a general rule — actions have consequences. Seems to me that Eliza and others like her are trying to engage in consequence-free inappropriate behavior.

    I can’t logically justify hiding someone’s identity if they’re engaging in clearly abusive, anti-human-rights behavior. I think you owe it to the next person who is likely to be abused (specifically because the current instance is unpunished/maybe even rewarded in its own way).

    If they want to play in their own sandbox and snigger at their own little jokes; well that’s disgusting but I guess it’s unavoidable.

    But when you go to someone else’s place and shit all over the floor — expect to be called on it. By name.

    Shine a light on the cockroaches. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

  33. says

    Harry, you seem to have missed this part:

    Refuting those claims required small amounts of information that Eliza had given to us by giving us her identity, information she wasn’t disclosing in claiming that Ophelia had done something wrong. What exactly was wrong with that? Be precise. Refute the post above as necessary to make your argument, because ignoring it as you’re doing now will be obvious. Tell us why Ophelia had any obligation to keep those comments apart and those names apart. Tell us why I had any obligation to keep from mentioning that someone who is serving on an atheist organization board is not being gung ho about protecting their identity.

    Eliza made a choice to be an abusive ass to people she had given the information that she now claims will hurt blah, blah, blah. Even if those claims are true, why is it my obligation or Ophelia’s to put up with having shit talked about us instead of hers to not talk shit in the first place? Answer the actual question posed about why any of this guilt is mine instead of 100% Eliza’s if you want to try to guilt me.

  34. says

    damn, that’s twice today I’ve done that.

    reply was meant to refer back to 12 susans, not 9.

    there goes my numerical dyslexia, I guess.

  35. says

    @32: So if Eliza was a pedophile running an internet kiddie porn site under a pseudonym, you’re perfectly OK with not outing her because it would ruin her pediatrician practice?

    Um…no. Again, actions = consequences. Actions in internet space are actions in “real” space. Just because it’s a long-distance medium that does not mean the internet is somehow divorced from the “real world”. It’s not. It’s as real as it gets. Harassment and abuse on the internet is exactly and precisely the same as harassment and abuse in any other medium.

    In fact, the internet is more potent than other media because it has instant worldwide reach, it has permanence (try taking back a comment you’ve made and see how long it’ll take for someone to find it), and it also can specifically reach its target.

    The internet is real. Let’s stop this fucking bullshit about “cyber” being “not worldly”.

    If she had been sending anonymous letters instead, would your opinion differ? Why? Because it’s a federal crime? Cyberstalking and cyberharassment are also crimes.

    BTW: Who are you really?

  36. Funny Diva says

    Oh, and iirc
    Surly Amy wasn’t actually talking trash or slinging shit about the person who outed her under any reasonable person’s definitions of trash talking and shit slinging. IIRC she actually _was_ disagreeing with someone’s public statements.
    But there’s the problem, innit? “reasonable” person. I’m sure at least one person who supports that particular doxxing believes themselves to be one.

    Am I remembering this remotely correctly?

  37. says

    Though I don’t expect you’ll ever let this comment see the light of day, I’d be more interested in you reconciling the propriety of the outing of Skep with the splash damage it is likely to cause. Was damaging her effectiveness as a caregiver really worth it?

    Errr the damage according to Eliza herself is if her name appears in a blog post that comes up on the first page of Google, or similarly highly I assume. So in the absence of that ranking the damage is not yet done. I’ll refer to her as Eliza not Eliza S****n from here on…. Not that its likely to Google bomb her.

    People in the community knowing her IRL identity is not an issue, at least not according to what I’ve seen of Eliza’s concerns. She is worried about Christian patients finding out who she is.

    Finally I linked to the person to “dox” her, Maxwell Smart. I assume he wrote that at Eliza’s request given the lack of reaction to the first mention of her full name.

  38. Funny Diva says

    Harry Henderson attempts to argue that it would be a bad thing if patients could choose to not visit a doctor who’s an atheist because that makes them uncomfortable.

    Uh, yeah…NO. Patients are not ONLY customers, but in a very personal, vulnerable position with regards to their provider.

    If I found out one of MY providers was actively supporting Catholic Health Directives or other sorts of religion-based violations of MY right to healthcare, I would have a PERFECT right to change providers, and to tell the clinic or other umbrella organization exactly why.

    I don’t believe for a moment that SkepTickle is more ashamed of having her atheist activities known than she is of being known as a member of the Slime Pit. I just don’t. Does. Not. Compute. Her support of Camp Quest is done under her own name, for instance.

  39. Funny Diva says

    Oolon @38

    She actually outs HERSELF by name and profession in the comments of that post.
    GAME OVER.
    except it’s not. Certainly not the post-game whining.

    Also, I’m really, really sorry there are a lot of Christians who’d be uncomfortable seeing a doctor who is an atheist. I like to think my own discomfort with having a doctor who is an active god-botherer and campaigner against my right to make my own reproductive choices is more fact based. But we all have a right to choose our doctor, certainly in this particular “market”.

    Also: the way to make more believers comfortable with doctors who are atheists is to NOT be an abuser and supporter of the slime pit. That’s the sort of crap that gives all of us atheists a black eye, and rightly so.

    Splash Damage: how the f*ck does it work, ‘pitters?

    tl;dr
    Atheist? Concerned about how atheists are perceived by believers and others? Great: DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE.
    Want to be an atheist? Want to be an asshole? FINE. I think you’re wrong. It’s also not MY responsibility to shield you or atheism from your assholery.
    Don’t think what you’re doing qualifies as assholery? FINE. Own it and move on. I think you’re wrong. And I have a perfect right to say so. And if you’re wrong and/or dishonest enough, I have a perfect right to say exactly WHY.

  40. Harry Henderson says

    So, Stephanie, I noticed that you didn’t answer the question about Skep’s motivation for remaining pseudonymous or the fact that her outing may have implications to people not party to this little dust-up. Good choice, as there really is no good way for you to answer it. Funny Diva @ 39 seems okay with splash damage though, but she has probably used her mind reading skills to suss out just what damage will occur, so all good!

    Kevin. @ 36, you understand that child pornography is illegal, but saying mean things on the Internet isn’t, right? I mean otherwise Ophelia would have reported Skep to the legal authorities, rather than taking ‘justice’ into her own hands.

  41. says

    Actually, Harry, the issue of third parties was discussed upthread. I’ll just add my answer there to things you aren’t bothering to address while trying to suggest any of this is my responsibility.

    Now it’s time for you to put up or shut up. Make the argument you’ve been asked to make three times (why the consequences of my refuting Eliza’s argument that Ophelia did something wrong with information that Eliza provided to me is my responsibility) or go away. Your next comment will be that argument or it won’t be posted.

  42. carlie says

    Thanks for the info, Stephanie. I was just trying to think of multiple ways to shut down harassment streams.

  43. D. C. Sessions says

    D. C., as a commenter, you take responsibility for those third parties. It seems to me that someone being abusive doesn’t suddenly lose any of that responsibility or transfer any of it to the person they’re abusing.D. C., as a commenter, you take responsibility for those third parties. It seems to me that someone being abusive doesn’t suddenly lose any of that responsibility or transfer any of it to the person they’re abusing.

    Yup, but I’m admittedly in a very mild situation. I’m generally careful to not post anything online that I wouldn’t want sent to my neighbors, family, or co-workers with my name attached. Which is a luxury I’m well aware not everyone shares.

    Of course, more would share it if they asked themselves first whether they would be willing to do something if their names were attached — before they do it.

    Sometimes it seems that a key type of “online abuse” is the attempt to transform “things I would sign my name to” into “things I’m afraid to do for fear of reprisal.” Which is why we consider it abuse (well, that and the tactics.)

    Then again, in the alternate universe of privilege things like rape threats, stalking, complaints to someone’s employer, etc. were openly accepted with no need of anonymity. So in a way, our campaign to make those activities “things I’m afraid to do for fear of consequences” could be seen as symmetrical. Strange universe, that.

    Is this a side-effect of changing cultural norms?

  44. Harry Henderson says

    Actually, Harry, the issue of third parties was discussed upthread.

    Actually, the issue of unintended consequences to the targeted individual was discussed in your OP. The subject of consequences to uninvolved third parties was not discussed in the OP or any of your subsequent comments. Other of your commenters seem all hunky-dory with splash damage. Should I assume that you agree with them that splash damage is A-Ok so long as the cause is righteous?

    I’ll just add my answer there to things you are bothering to address while trying to suggest any of this is my responsibility.

    Now it’s time for you to put up or shut up. Make the argument you’ve been asked to make three times (why the consequences of my refuting Eliza’s argument that Ophelia did something wrong with information that Eliza provided to me is my responsibility) or go away. Your next comment will be that argument or it won’t be posted.

    Well, I guess that solves the mystery over the extent of Ophelia’s sleuthing skills. You have just admitted that Ophelia acted on the information that was provided to you by Skep. But, to answer your question, no it isn’t your responsibility. The doxxing of Skep is 100% Ophelia’s responsibility. She’s an adult and makes her own decisions.

    Your issues are two-fold. First, you betrayed a trust. Skep participated in Nugent’s talks in good faith, as did you. You may think that is just fine to break that trust and dishonor that good faith, but you have sent a clear message to anyone who is not already squarely in your camp that you cannot be trusted with sensitive information. Second, your apparent lack of concern for splash damage will also serve to marginalize you from fence sitters or anyone new to the atheist community. When they look at you they will see someone gleefully willing to assume power over the lives of people you have never met, and are not involved, in order to further your agenda.

    I could care less whether your credibility is damaged by your betrayal of a confidence and cavalier attitude towards the lives of third parties. Frankly, I don’t even care if you publish my comment or not. Unlike you, I am not offering up post hoc justifications to the peanut gallery. It doesn’t matter whether my comment is sent directly to the bit bucket. The intended audience has already seen it.

  45. susans says

    I won’t go to Catholic hospitals because they sometimes let women die because they are Catholic hospitals. That doesn’t mean I won’t see a Christian doctor, but I do want that kind of information about healthcare providers.

  46. spectator says

    Does the letter you penned to bully Ron Lindsay under your nym deserve to be unmasked? What about what you’re collaboration with Ophelia to dox and bully Skep tickle? Would you stand by these words using your real name? Is Skep tickle under any obligation to protect your anonymity since you gleeful pile on the deplorable actions of Ophelia?

  47. Shari says

    er, spectator? Stephanie isn’t anonymous. Skep tickle is engaged in harassing anonymously. Stephanie writes activist letters using her actual name to effect. What activism is Skep tickle engaging in that isn’t talking smack about people?

  48. says

    Actually, the issue of unintended consequences to the targeted individual was discussed in your OP. The subject of consequences to uninvolved third parties was not discussed in the OP or any of your subsequent comments.

    Actually, the issue of consequences to third parties was brought up by D. C. in comment 15. It was then quoted and discussed by latsot in comment 17. D. C. mentioned it again in comment 20. I addressed how it fit with the original post in comment 24. D. C. responded in comment 44. Did you have anything to add that isn’t the transparently wrong, “You’re talking about this and hashing it out in a methodical way because you don’t care!”

    Well, I guess that solves the mystery over the extent of Ophelia’s sleuthing skills. You have just admitted that Ophelia acted on the information that was provided to you by Skep.

    No, I said Eliza had given me the information. I said I used that information to refute Eliza’s argument that Ophelia had done anything wrong. That wasn’t required to solve any “mystery” because there were none. There has been no mystery about how Ophelia knew who Eliza was for a week. That real email address that Ophelia used to contact Eliza contains her name.

    But, to answer your question, no it isn’t your responsibility. The doxxing of Skep is 100% Ophelia’s responsibility. She’s an adult and makes her own decisions.

    Well, no, considering that no one “doxxed” anyone. This is explained in the post you’re commenting on. Ophelia is responsible for the information she revealed, but you still haven’t explained why no longer keeping Eliza’s secrets for her is a problem.

    Your issues are two-fold. First, you betrayed a trust. Skep participated in Nugent’s talks in good faith, as did you. You may think that is just fine to break that trust and dishonor that good faith, but you have sent a clear message to anyone who is not already squarely in your camp that you cannot be trusted with sensitive information.

    This is as close to a good argument as you’ve come. Too bad it’s predicated on nonsense. I already told you in comment 23 that I knew who Eliza was before the dialogue started and recommended her to Nugent based on that identity. Why on Earth would you repeat that nonsense again in this same comment thread?

    Second, your apparent lack of concern for splash damage will also serve to marginalize you from fence sitters or anyone new to the atheist community. When they look at you they will see someone gleefully willing to assume power over the lives of people you have never met, and are not involved, in order to further your agenda.

    Oh, I have a great deal of concern for uninvolved third parties. I think it’s reprehensible for people who have others to protect to break the social contract in this way and put them at risk. I think it’s a very ugly thing indeed for someone to tell the person they’re abusing, “You have to choose between putting up with abuse from me and risking my innocent hostages.”

    Don’t you?

  49. says

    @spectator – is your avatar really a picture of PZ with the words “big brother is watching”? Or are my eyes deceiving me?

    And, if it is: are you a fucking 9 year old or something?

  50. says

    Are there other ways to deal with it and get the desired effect of making the person stop? Can the person’s IP provider be contacted and asked to stop them that way? Do they still even have conduct policies in their terms of service? Can the email provider they’ve registered an account with be notified? I’m wondering if there are behind the scenes options that are easy to do and effective

    There are a large variety of options for burning through anonymity to get to someone’s identity. You will not be able to use any of the channels available to law enforcement or the intelligence community unless you are law enforcement/IC or an agent working on their behalf. That still leaves a great deal.

    I’m going to ‘out’ a few techniques, but none of the nifty ones. These are all well known and any hacker worth a pinch of dust will know them. Which means that the ‘pitters (being apparently rank amateurs) will probably not be exercising good trade-craft.
    There’s straightforward detective work like correlating posting times to a schedule and making geographic inferences about time-zones and therefore locations. One can also infer employment status (i.e: do they go into huge spates of postings, Mabus-style or do they post at specific break-times?) Then there is a basic technique of maintaining a knowledge-base of everything that the target drops about themself, and who they appear friendly with, then performing a correlation between known people and unknowns – i.e.: if ‘nym A is friends with ‘nym B and you can pop ‘nym A’s identity you may get ‘nym B from watching ‘nym A’s facebook page. One can argue (and most do) that straight up detective work is not immoral since it’s not crossing any boundaries into non-public information.
    Then there’s an entire class of semi-sneaky tricks that involve trapping the identity somehow (this is called ‘social engineering’ in some communities) One example would be to do something like, saaaaaaay, post a picture of PZ’s head on a goat on my website, embed a link to it in a posting here, and when people view it, I now have all the information that the browser coughs up in my web server logs – and that’s a tremendous amount indeed. One could argue that’s not immoral or intrusive since the person’s browser offers up that information and, well, they looked at the picture. There are vastly better and sneaker techniques than that one, which I won’t describe.
    And last but never least is straightforward hacking. Most websites built on freely available code have various vulnerabilities that can be exploited. For example, there are ways you can invisibly embed an image, or hijack someone’s credentials by exploiting a flaw in a browser or javascript engine, and – poof – then you’re the target and you can exploit their account. Or you can send the person a message to sucker them into going to a website you own that checks their origin address or ID and – if they’re the target – gives them a trojan horse download. Or you do it to ‘nym A who is a friend of your target and then impersonate ‘nym A. Or even just a fake email from ‘nym A that gets the target to go to a selected web link.
    This stuff is boringly straightforward once you give an expert the target, unless the target has high tradecraft. The guys online who sell kidporn – those guys have good tradecraft. The guys online who are selling DDOS attacks against russian mafia owned gambling sites – those guys have good tradecraft or they wind up in a dumpster, in four largeish pieces.

    I sit on the sidelines watching this bullshit and I have to admit it’s sorely tempting to show these idiots what a real doxxing looks like. But I wear a white hat. Out of curiosity, I just looked at what the slymepit runs on and it appears to be phpbb. LOL. There are so many holes in that piece of shit a newbie hacker could fly a 747 through one without hitting a wingtip. Puh-leeze.

    Sucks being a good guy, it limits your options.

  51. says

    I guess the point I was trying to make is that none of the stuff that’s going on is really anonymous. And virtually any of it can be “outed” at any time, including retroactively. The harrassers’ anonymity is being safeguarded only by the unwillingness of the good guys to adopt the methods of the harrassers. But I doubt they’re going to fall all over themselves thanking anyone for that.

  52. Funny Diva says

    Marcus Ranum

    Your points are well taken.
    But for form’s sake, as it were, none of those techniques that you “out” at #53 was even remotely required in the case of SkepTickle (oh, that’s DOCTOR SkepTickle to me, I’m sure…). Since she outed HERSELF and all, in that comment thread at the post oolon linked somewhere upthread.

    All that’s been happening around here, IMO, has been some very low-key, very small group version of crowd sourcing with some average google-fu and dot-connecting. Not really rocket surgery.

    Again, Eliza outed herself by full name and profession in a comment dated June 1, 2013 under her SkepTickle pseudonym. (and here we all still are, careful to not use her full name and professional honorific alongside that ‘nym. how very bullying of us!)

  53. unnullifier says

    @53 – 54 Marcus Ranum:
    I’ve been thinking roughly the same thing since the first time I read about harassers claiming they were “doxxed”. The definition of “doxxing” that I know comes with the understanding that the target of “doxxing” would require a lifetime of credit/identity fraud monitoring and/or–if the target was on the bad side of some criminal element–personal protection.

    The idea of someone’s name being linked with their pseudonym isn’t really “doxxing” to me; it’s not on the same level as “I just got my full name, aliases, addresses, SSN, phone numbers, emails, employers, family members’ info, credit card numbers and more tossed up on PasteBin.” I feel as though the definition has been watered down over the years.

  54. says

    Skep made a choice to separate her online and her meatspace identities

    that’s not accurate. she’s been posting online under her meatspace name. the connection between the handles skep ticke and skeptixx and the meatspace name eliza has been easily connectable at least since october 2012, where posts that connected the two appeared both here and at the pit (screenshot of relevant post; note that she’s not throwing a shitfit over that connection there)

    if she had since then chosen to separate her meatspace and online identities, she should have retired the compromized handles. Again, I think she should be referred to as she choses in each venue for a number of reasons, but not doing so is simply assholish not “outing” or “doxxing”.

    Even when her real name was out there as on the board of an atheist org, care was taken to firewall the name from the actual person.

    it’s not firewalled. her meatspace name is connected to the seattle atheists via a simple google search.

    Look, Skep Tickle took less care of keeping her identities separate than I do, and it wouldn’t count as “doxxing” or “outing” if ppl decided to connect my meatspace name with this handle. it would just be a shit move (and a potential powerplay, but i can’t be assed to get into the psychology of that right now) to start referring to me by meatspace name where i’ve chosen to be referred to as Jadehawk.

    So again: I don’t think ppl should have started randomly referring to Skep Tickle as Eliza, because it’s a shit move. but it is not outing

  55. spectator says

    Didn’t take log for you to dox me either, Stephanie. My only semi-secret is I’m not an atheist. So smearing me to the supposedly “Free-thinking” community (oh the irony) doesn’t matter.

  56. spectator says

    PS. My avatar is used by permission of the creator, Mr. Franc Hoggle. Oh yeah! Stephanie doxxed him, too!

  57. says

    So now I’ve “doxxed” someone who put her commenting handle in her Twitter bio. Uh-huh. Words have no meaning anymore, do they?

    So, spectator, why exactly do I have a responsibility to refrain from pointing out that you’ve said the same ridiculous thing to me in two places, even if you use a different name for each? Show your work here.

  58. spectator says

    You’ve also never admitted that you’re writing under a nym yourself. Or is Zvan your real name?
    Spoiler alert: She won’t answer this question.

  59. says

    You’ve also never admitted that you’re writing under a nym yourself. Or is Zvan your real name?

    Her husband must be in on this as well, since he uses the same last name.

  60. says

    @Spectator … are you spectating because you are a Catholic laughing at the silly atheists?

    BTW your gullibility is showing again. I didn’t unblock you thats a fake oolon :)
    https://twitter.com/laursaurus/status/342028753242820608

    I have unblocked you now though as while testing the block bot it auto-blocked you for me so I’d never heard of you, I have since discovered you are pretty funny. A Catholic slymepitter with more than the usual inability to read, gotta be worth unblocking for.

  61. someguy says

    @oolon

    It’s getting pretty scary. I’ve seen a few theists (dunno if she’s actually one or just being facetious) join in the whole charade. Good evidence to add to the pile that much of this is just knee-jerk anti-feminism and conservatism of various sorts in disguise.

  62. Shari says

    ugh. Giving the rest of us catholics an even WORSE name! @Spectator, she’s using her name. Get over it – yes, she is braver than you are.

  63. says

    @#55 – But for form’s sake, as it were, none of those techniques that you “out” at #53 was even remotely required in the case of SkepTickle

    Oh, I know.

    Everyone who plays online has to realize that their perceived anonymity is just a thin shell that’s very easily penetrated. That should be factored in when considering one’s actions.

    I mean, for fuck’s sake, someone like me’s got access to criminal record databases, loan records, rental records, and credit card histories. And that’s just the legal stuff. Dumbasses who think that SkepTickle’s break in security was ‘doxxing’ need a reality check. This is scriptkid level stuff.

  64. says

    My avatar is used by permission of the creator, Mr. Franc Hoggle

    I didn’t ask its origin, I asked if you were a fucking kindergartner. I mean, seriously, that’s playground level stuff.

  65. says

    My avatar is used by permission of the creator, Mr. Franc Hoggle

    And did Mr. Franc Hoggle use the photograph of PZ Myers by permission of the photographer?

  66. says

    Unnullifier and Marcus Ranum addressed this a bit upthread, but it bears repeating: the morality of the information-revealing (“doxxing” or otherwise) is dependent on the kind of information being revealed. Real names have the potential to cause the person trouble in meatspace, a potential that’s proportional to the degree of danger that exists for said person, the degree of effort they’ve gone to to hide said real name, and how common that real name is. A name like “Lisa Smith” is probably more obscuring than a chosen pseudonym. Real names are an arguable case for revelation–especially when someone’s crossing the line between “pseudonym” and “sock puppet” and “using my real first name to comment and then tying that first name to two different pseudonyms and then tying all that to stuff I do in meatspace.”

    Revealing someone’s credit card numbers, or social security number, or account usernames and passwords I think we can all agree is immoral. Unless that person is a terrorist and the information is revealed to help track them down or freeze their funds, we know that revealing such information is basically certain to cause the person some harm, regardless of their situation.

    And then there’s revealing a person’s home address, which I think ends up being beyond the pale. It carries an implicit threat when you say “I know where you live” to someone you dislike. What possible use could you have for that information than to cause that person trouble at their home, or to incite others to do so? It’s why we have such a visceral reaction to that information being made public even for people who do not live/work pseudonymously, whether it’s abortion doctors or ceramic jewelry producers. Posting someone’s physical address is saying “you’re no longer safe, even at home.” Reprehensible.

    It’s part of why lumping all this under the heading of “doxxing” is so useless. The nature “docs” being “dropped” are relevant to the morality of the situation.

  67. says

    It’s part of why lumping all this under the heading of “doxxing” is so useless. The nature “docs” being “dropped” are relevant to the morality of the situation.

    Tom, exactly. And I think there is no coincidence that while this post specfically talks about attaching someone’s name to their behavior, the people who don’t want that to happen are using the more vague and more threatening term “doxxing”. I don’t think they really want to talk about stable identities and reputations.

  68. says

    And the ‘doxxing’ – or what is asserted to be that, since both Marcus Ranum and unnullifier above point out that real doxxing is quite different and with much greater consequences – is only being used as a tactic. The game is bad faith argumentation, and the purpose of the game is:

    DARVO
    Harassment covers a wide range of offensive behaviour. It is commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset. In the legal sense, it is behaviour which is found threatening or disturbing.
    DARVO is an acronym to describe a common strategy of abusers: Deny the abuse, then Attack the victim for attempting to make them accountable for their offense, thereby Reversing Victim and Offender.

    This doxxing claim is nothing more than an attempt to reverse the victim of abuse – Ophelia having been abused by Skep tickle – into being the ‘Offender’ who has outed her identity. This is laughably contradicted by fact that the abuser outed herself. Cheap bullying by abusers.

  69. spectator says

    @Shari “ugh. Giving the rest of us catholics an even WORSE name! @Spectator, she’s using her name. Get over it – yes, she is braver than you are.”
    Yes, my Twitter bio says I’m Catholic, which I didn’t reveal here.
    Anyway, peace be with you!

    As long as I’m outed as a Catholic, guess what else I am!
    I’m a Eucharistic Minister in my parish. That means I help serve the Host and Precious Blood (wafer and wine).
    I can’t help but think about how the atheist movement has literally been ripped apart because, in part, due to a desperation to attract a sufficiently diverse membership. It’s essentially because you have to avoid looking like the Tea Party in terms of demographics. Even here in American suburbia, less than 50% of the people coming up to receive Communion are white. That’s definitely something atheists must be horribly envious of. I expect somebody will provide a Christophobic and dismissive rationalization for why this is the case. But facts are facts.

    If you are this horrible to each other, though, how do you realistically expect to welcome people who don’t even look like you. Do you even really have “the truth” going for you now?

    Not that I’ve let you get under my skin, you realize I’ll have to pray for you, right? (Sorry if you consider saying that trolling).
    One thing that seems to be true lately is Karma. But you free-thinkers probably don’t believe in that do you?

  70. spectator says

    “I have unblocked you now though as while testing the block bot it auto-blocked you for me so I’d never heard of you, I have since discovered you are pretty funny. A Catholic slymepitter with more than the usual inability to read, gotta be worth unblocking for.”
    Awh!
    Thanks, oolon!!!! I’m touched ;)

  71. says

    spectator, still not explaining why I shouldn’t tell the world that you tweeted the same thing at me that you posted here, I see. Your Catholicism and how you feel about atheists is a derail. Discuss the topic (see the title of the post if you need a refresher) or go away.

  72. Forbidden Snowflake says

    You’ve also never admitted that you’re writing under a nym yourself. Or is Zvan your real name?

    That means I help serve the Host and Precious Blood (wafer and wine).

    One thing that seems to be true lately is Karma.

    Wow. The list of silly things spectator believes in simply does not end!

  73. Forbidden Snowflake says

    But seriously, it’s wonderful that your church permits you to humbly assist the man in charge in his important task. Definitely a paragon of equality for the atheists to aspire to.

  74. Shari says

    Spectator, are you kidding me?

    “Does the letter you penned to bully Ron Lindsay under your nym deserve to be unmasked?”

    what does that mean? I lived with her both before and after she became a Zvan – that’s her name, not her nym!! Her letter was not masked, it’s open – I do not understand you.

    “What about what you’re collaboration with Ophelia to dox and bully Skep tickle?”

    Skep was ‘doxxed’ -by your definition – by Maxwell Smart – already pointed out more than once – here and at Butterflies and wheels.
    Are you blind or just ‘pretending to not know’ – otherwise known as bearing False Witness (even an terrible catholic like me knows that!)

    “Would you stand by these words using your real name?”

    Asked and answered.

    “Is Skep tickle under any obligation to protect your anonymity since you gleeful pile on the deplorable actions of Ophelia?”

    Well, if Stephanie were anonymous that would be a real question. Since she has real-world consequences – photoshops, smear campaigns, threats, and harassment – all because she uses her own name to be an activist. you should talk to her first-hand about the definition of deplorable.

    You are a minister, huh.

    World class wisdom you’ve shown here.

    I come to Steph’s blog and Ophelia’s because of friendship, the writing, support of feminism, and humanitarian issues. I come because if I can see where, how, and why misogyny hurts communities in these discussions, i can better address it when I see in my faith community.

    Looks like you are here to stir the pot, and give shout-outs to Franc Hoggle.

    You shall be known by the company you keep…… No wonder you are commenting anonymously – between Skep Tickle and Frank Hoggle, i’d want anonymity too.

  75. says

    Anne makes the point that an abuser may have other, not abuse related, valid reasons for privacy.

    Tough fucking shit. People who already know they have powerful enemies should not go out of their way to make even more enemies unless they really have to. State your piece and speak truth to power as appropriate — but don’t be a lying asshole and make hateful jokes and rape-threats and then expect us to respect your legitimate interests.

    I sympathize with people who act decent while asking others not to out them to people who they have good reason believe will harm them. I do NOT sympathize with people who know they could be hurt or persecuted and still try to bully others in the hope that they’ll never be exposed. If you want others to respect your needs, you’d damn well better respect theirs.

  76. says

    I can’t help but think about how the atheist movement has literally been ripped apart because, in part, due to a desperation to attract a sufficiently diverse membership.

    So it’s the atheists’ fault for making themselves known outside their original circle of friends? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a follower of a bigoted backward religion would try to blame his opponents for getting uppity and not staying quietly in their place.

    Tell me, Spectator, do you say the same thing to Christians who get persecuted by Muslims?

  77. says

    Sorry to wander off — I had to do a bit of traveling — but it looks like I was essentially superfluous anyway. :D

    Just one small comment, though, on Harry Henderson’s nonsense:

    Anne, the fact that Skep Tickle left clues to her identity on line doesn’t make her outing right any more than Justin Vacula publishing Surly Amy’s address just because it was publicly available in some government business database. Both were wrong.

    Harry, whoever you actually are, you don’t seem to have gotten my point. Skep Tickle claims that the reason that she was so upset about what Ophelia revealed (ST’s real first name and her role as a board member of an atheist organization) was that she was worried about her theist clients finding out that she’s an atheist. Can you actually provide a reasonable chain of events involving Ophelia’s comments which would be likely to result in the eventuality Skep Tickle claims to fear?

    On the other hand, the information Skep Tickle *herself* and her friend Maxwell Smart posted contains ST’s real name, real profession, and real location. If that blog post at Gurdur’s gets picked up by search engines, it significantly increases the likelihood of ST’s theist clients finding out that she’s an atheist by casual searches on her real name, especially now that all the hue and cry by ST’s friends has boosted the signal on that post. This is what I was referring to when I highlighted her actions as “a very good example of latsot’s point that people are really kind of bad at analyzing their choices to release private information.”

    Ophelia merely put the atheist and skeptic community on notice about what one of our supposed leaders was getting up to behind a pseudonym. But Skep Tickle *herself* is the one who posted her own information in a way that’s likely (according to her) to cause her professional problems.

  78. says

    Sal #9:

    And, who gets to define the community standards?

    This is oldish, but I seriously want to get this annoying as fuck playing-ignorant dogwhistle out of the way.

    Who defines the community standards? The community, of course, and if you want to be a part of that community you have to live up to those standards. You already do, they’re called laws, and they came about because we as a society agreed that we shouldn’t let people, say, murder one another as they please.

    And, really, you should know this. All this question is is a cheap trick, a way to scream I DO WHAT I WANT! NO ONE TELLS ME WHAT TO DO! DON’T TREAD ON ME!!!, only under an amazingly thin ‘skeptical’ veil of questioning the ‘objectivity’ of community standards.

    To paraphrase Richard Feynman: you’re saying “it’s not objective” but you mean “I don’t believe it, it’s too crazy, it’s the kind of thing I’m just…I’m not going to accept it”. If you want to be a part of our community, you have to accept it, because upholding basic human decency for everyone is the way our community works. We’ve talked to people from all sorts of different groups, listened to their concerns, and figured out that this is how to be decent to a person, any person. You don’t like it? Go somewhere else. To another community, where the rules are simpler, philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically ‘easy’ for you.

  79. says

    And, who gets to define the community standards?

    If you’re questioning community standards, why not question whether privacy and anonymity are part of those standards as well?

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