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Creepshots

The outing of Reddit’s “Violentacrez” is all over the place. He’s one of Reddit’s most loathsome users (members? denizens? occupants? what’s the right word?), and Adrian Chen outed him on Gawker as one Michael Brutsch, who works at a Texas financial services company  as a programmer.

Loathsome how?

His speciality is distributing images of scantily-clad underage girls, but as Violentacrez he also issued an unending fountain of racism, porn, gore, misogyny, incest, and exotic abominations yet unnamed, all on the sprawling online community Reddit. At the time I called Brutsch, his latest project was moderating a new section of Reddit where users posted covert photos they had taken of women in public, usually close-ups of their asses or breasts, for a voyeuristic sexual thrill. It was called “Creepshots.”

Oh. That’s how.

There’s more.

Reddit’s laissez-faire attitude towards offensive speech has led to a vast underbelly that rivals anything on the notorious cesspool 4chan. And with Jailbait, Violentacrez decided to create a safe space for people sexually attracted to underage girls to share their photo stashes. I would call these people pedophiles; the Jailbait subreddit called them “ephebophiles.” Jailbait was the online equivalent of systematized street harassment. Users posted snapshots of tween and teenage girls, often in bikinis and skirts. Many of these were lifted from their Facebook accounts and thrown in front of Jailbait’s 20,000 horny subscribers.

Violentacrez and his fellow moderators worked hard to make sure every girl on jailbait was underage, diligently deleting any photos whose subjects seemed older than 16 or 17. Violentacrez himself posted hundreds of photos. Jailbait became one of Reddit’s most popular subreddits, generating millions of pageviews a month. “Jailbait” was for a time the second biggest search term bringing traffic to Reddit, after “Reddit.” Eventually, Jailbait landed on CNN, where Anderson Cooper called out Reddit for hosting it, and Violentacrez for creating it. The ensuing outcry led Reddit administrators to reluctantly ban Jailbait, and all sexually suggestive content featuring minors.

Oh gee – killjoys. Meanies. Prudes, cunts, bitchez. How dare anyone intefere with people stalking and endangering underage girls.

Since Brutsch stumbled on Reddit from a link on the internet culture blog Boing Boing in 2007, he has pushed the boundaries of Reddit’s free-speech culture. He has done this mostly through creating offensive subreddits to troll sensitive users. Some of the sections Violentacrez created or moderated were called:

  • Chokeabitch
  • Niggerjailbait
  • Rapebait
  • Hitler
  • Jewmerica
  • Misogyny
  • Incest

No Genocidebait? That would be hilarious.

Violentacrez explained his trolling philosophy to the internet culture website the Daily Dot in August of 2011. He had sparked yet another controversy by posting a graphic image of a partially clothed woman being brutally beaten by a large man, in “beatingwomen,” a subreddit dedicated to glorifying violence against women. A Redditor had called out the picture in a post, and it was voted to the front page.

“People take things way too seriously around here,” Violentacrez said. ” I was not surprised by the outrage of the person who made the post, because I see it all the time. What was surprising was the community support for it. Most posts that complain about these things never do very well, and are quickly buried or deleted. I think it’s interesting how many people defend my right to act the way I do, while decrying my posts themselves.”

A troll exploits social dynamics like computer hackers exploit security loopholes, and Violentacrez calmly exploited the Reddit hive mind’s powerful outrage machine and free speech values at the same time.

It was this pattern, repeated to various degrees dozens of times, that made Violentacrez an unlikely hero to many of the white male geeks who make up Reddit’s hard core. They saw Violentacrez as a champion in the fight against the oppressive schoolmarms…

Yup. I’ve written about the “schoolmarm” hatefigure before. My angry reaction to being called that was what got me instantly and permanently banned from the Talking Philosophy blog…and that was three years ago, before the hot new trend of unabashed misogyny landed in theaters near us.

He wasn’t happy about being outed.

He asked a number of times if there was anything he could do to keep me from outing him. He offered to act as a mole for me, to be my “sockpuppet” on Reddit. “I’m like the spy who’s found out,” he said. “I’ll do anything. If you want me to stop posting, delete whatever I posted, whatever. I am at your mercy because I really can’t think of anything worse that could possibly happen. It’s not like I do anything illegal.”

The women in all those “creepshots” didn’t want to be outed. The underage girls in all those photos didn’t want to be outed. Brutsch didn’t worry about them or what they wanted. It’s fine to do it to them, but he begs and pleads not to have it done to him. Miserable fucking bastard.

H/t Beatrice Pteryxx.

Comments

  1. dzd says

    Personally, I think it’s shameful of Gawker to call violentacrez a “troll” in the headline, instead of the sexual predator and enabler of sexual predators that he is.

  2. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    Nope, wasn’t me. I read it in the Lounge at Pharyngula, linked by trinioler.

  3. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    dzd ,

    Yeah, the lack of legal repercussions or even acknowledgment that people have been involved in illegal activities (instead of just trolling) is leaving me a bit stunned. There is surely something illegal about spreading these photos online… right? Right? Please someone tell me there is.
    It’s not like he can say that he didn’t know that the photos are illegal material, the whole point of creepshots is that the “model” doesn’t know she is being one. And then there is also photos of underage girls.

  4. Susie says

    What makes a photo into a creepshot? Is it any photo of a person that was obtained without their consent?

  5. ibbica says

    What makes a photo into a creepshot? Is it any photo of a person that was obtained without their consent?

    Not quite. There are such things as journalistic and candid photography that involve taking pictures that are not “creepshots”. And there are photos originally taken with the subject’s knowledge and consent, but that are lifted out of context by others and spread around as “creepshots”.

    Photographers of any stripe are not legally required to talk to their subjects, and are legally free to take photographs of anyone in public space. In my mind, it becomes ‘creepy’ when people taking pictures demonstrate a lack of empathy for their subjects.

  6. says

    That was a nice piece of investigative journalism. Yay for Freedom of the Press. Without Freedom of the Press we would not really have Free Speech.

  7. says

    I’d also say ‘troll’ underplays what he does, did anyone else think it weird his whole family is involved? He was not worried about being ‘outed’ for bragging he had oral sex with his step-daughter or any of the other stuff to his wife or son. They are both on there using variations of his nym and know what he does and says!

    I see a reality tv-show in the making, meet the troll family.

  8. Cam says

    There is surely something illegal about spreading these photos online… right? Right? Please someone tell me there is.

    I really do not know — I’m no lawyer, and I’m not even in Texas, Brutsch’s home state. But there are bits of the Texas Penal Code that are intriguing.

    CHAPTER 21. SEXUAL OFFENSES [...]
    Sec. 21.15. IMPROPER PHOTOGRAPHY OR VISUAL RECORDING. [...]
    (b) A person commits an offense if the person:
    (1) photographs or by videotape or other electronic
    means records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual
    image of another at a location that is not a
    bathroom or private dressing room:
    (A) without the other person’s consent; and
    (B) with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual
    desire of any person;

    [(2) is pretty much the same, but for bathrooms and dressing rooms]

    (3) knowing the character and content of the
    photograph, recording, broadcast, or transmission,
    promotes a photograph, recording, broadcast, or
    transmission described by Subdivision (1) or (2).
    (c) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.

    I’d assumed that creepshots were legal, but now I am not so sure.

  9. says

    Thanks Pteryxx!

    @ 9 – It’s interesting, though, that GoogleEarth blurs the faces of people caught in streetview. They apparently go to considerable trouble to avoid taking creepshots.

  10. says

    Aha, I crossposted with Cam.

    Right. The trouble GoogleEarth goes to kind of makes me think it is illegal, or maybe borderline and they want to avoid potential litigation.

  11. danielross says

    No, it isn’t illegal. Google blurs faces out of a combination of ethical concern and sensitivity to public opinion. There was a huge public pressure campaign to get them to add the feature after Streetview launched without it, for about the reasons you’d expect– unintended creepshots and a potential tool for stalkers.

  12. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    THIS IS NOT ABOUT FREE SPEECH!!!

    Khm. Excuse me. I’m starting to get a bit of an extreme reaction when I read words “free speech”. They are rarely used appropriately.

    Thanks for linking to that Guardian article, Maureen Brian.

    I wish journalists wouldn’t frame things like this as “free speech row”, or at least made it clear that one side is wrongly using free speech as an excuse.

  13. says

    @ 16 – ah, that rings a bell now. I wasn’t paying much attention to GoogleEarth at first. It took me awhile to try it out and realize what a great tool and toy it is.

  14. says

    Oh good god – reading that Guardian article. She – the reporter is a she! – calls it “adult content”…Noooooooooooo. “Adult” would be fucking. There’s nothing “adult” about nonconsensual photography of women’s tits and bums!

    Damn it. Why can’t people get this right. Sex is one thing, and various kinds of coercive sexual aggression is another.

  15. leni says

    Wow. What a fucking scumbag. Though I must admit I wish I could see more of him begging not be outed.

    It’s amusing.

  16. Armored Scrum Object says

    I think danielross #16 has it on Street View. The worst legal conclusion I was able to find reported is that they had to pay a couple $1 for one of the drivers (accidentally?) trespassing by driving on their private road/driveway. The couple had claimed all kinds of damages based on the value of the property being diminished and mental anguish and the like, but the court threw all of that out and said that only the trespassing claim was valid.

    Google seems to actually be facing stickier consequences for their Wi-Fi mapping activities, which are somewhat counterintuitively construed as wiretapping.

    @Ophelia #19: I don’t think it’s possible to really use “adult content” properly. It’s a vacuous, weaselly pseudo-category, much beloved of online service providers who routinely ban it while also reserving the right to decide what qualifies under that description after the fact (one of the many ways in which TOS/AUP texts tend to amount to “we’ll kick you off if we feel like it”).

  17. mickll says

    I think it’s brilliant that Adrien Chen helped unmask this monster and helped force a long-overdue change it Reddit’s policies, but I think credit is also due to the unpaid citizen activists who used their own time and resources to get Reddit to put a stop to this exploitative crap.

    http://www.somethingawful.com/d/news/reddit-bins-kiddies.php
    http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3466025
    http://www.reddit.com/r/shitredditsays
    http://www.reddit.com/r/ShitRedditSays/comments/1006qd/meta_project_panda_the_fuckredditbomb/

    So, raise a glass to the men and women who devoted their own time and resources to squelch this sort of evil shit on Reddit. Cheers!

  18. chrislawson says

    Even 4chan has strong anti-paedophile policies and expects its moderators to delete underage threads (even those that are not openly pornographic) and ban users who post that crap. Given 4chan’s rather blasé attitude towards other social transgressions, I can only assume that the board-runners are trying to protect themselves from criminal prosecution.

  19. bryanfeir says

    With regards to Google StreetView:

    My understanding is that the fuzzing of people’s faces comes more from Google operating in multiple countries, many of which have much stricter privacy laws in the U.S. In other words, the candid shots may not be illegal in the U.S., but Google has been accused of violating privacy regs in Canada and the E.U., and the fuzzing of faces was mostly a response to actions from other countries with different laws.

  20. chakolate says

    FYI, Michael Brutsch of Arlington, Texas, works (or at least he did work) for First Cash Financial Services, also of Arlington, Texas, which is a payday loan company. Interestingly enough, their stock took a small nosedive on the 12th, and Michael has posted his resume, here: http://www.mbrutsch.com/ .

    So many thoughts going around my head here – all about slimy companies hiring sleezy people.

  21. says

    I really don’t understand, and don’t think I every will, the career troll. This guy is an outlier but there are lots and lots of dudes that do this on a much smaller scale but just as frequently. I do not respond well to antagonism and the mindset of the troll is so far what I would consider myself capable of I cannot tolerate the behavior. To see such a notorious and heinous troll squashed is some powerful schadenfreude.

  22. 24fps says

    I’m a documentary filmmaker kin Canada, and we often deal with shots of people who just happen to be where we are shooting. I don’t know if the US has anything similar in their legal requirements (ours are stiffer, so I haven’t had to learn the difference when our shows go south), but if a person is easily identifiable, we usually need to have a release to use the shot. There’s also the matter of context – if my narration is saying something controversial and I’ve covered that narration with a shot of someone who may find the association of their image and my words offensive or injurious to their reputation, they can sue me. It wouldn’t be strictly illegal for me to do that, but my insurer doesn’t like that I’ve exposed myself to liability and will not cover me. Insurance being required by my broadcaster/client, I don’t take the risk.

    I wonder if the parents of the kids in this scumbag’s photos could take him and the website to court? You certainly could in Canada.

  23. A Hermit says

    It’s not a free speech issue; at least not in theway the trolls like to pretend it is. Reddit is not obligated to host anything it’s owners find offensive. So when Reddit’s administrators choose to host content like “Jailbait” they aren’t fighting for free speech, they are endorsing the content.

    But freedom of speech also includes the right to not be forced to endorse or advocate for a position one disagrees with. People like Brutsch and his supporters, who seem to want to force others to enable their vicious, hateful behaviour are violating that element of free speech rights.

  24. SRS didn't do this says

    I wanted to respond to the comment above that insinuates that we should be giving credit to the SRS community at reddit.

    SRS has been ACTIVELY AGAINST the release of people’s identifying info, and their “redditbomb” initiative was based on the idea of alerting media outlets and reddit advertisers to the existence of the variance offensive sections of the site.

    Even being supportive of the people doing the “doxxing” or praising Chen for writing the article and releasing Violentacrez’s real name is enough to get you banned and harassed by SRS mods.

    And yet, as soon as the Gawker article came out and they saw the huge amount of press it was getting, they started acting as if it was due to THEIR effort.

    The doxxing is what did this, not SRS snarking and complaining.

  25. says

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

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

  26. Jenora Feuer says

    I liked the comment at Slacktivist today on this. After noting that Brutsch had recently been fired, and from where, Fred added:

    Yes, Brutsch is that sleazy — so skin-crawlingly awful that he got fired by a payday lender worried that being associated with him might damage its reputation.

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