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Oct 17 2012

Scalzi on Brutsch

The philosophical primate recommended John Scalzi’s article on Redditt and Brutsch and “free speech” and creepy woman-hating shit, and sure enough.

If someone bleats to you about any of this being a “free speech” issue, you can safely mark them as either ignorant or pernicious — probably ignorant, as the understanding of what “free speech” means in a constitutional sense here in the US is, shall we say, highly constrained in the general population. Additionally and independently, the sort of person who who says “free speech” when they mean “I like doing creepy things to other people without their consent and you can’t stop me so fuck you ha ha ha ha” is pretty clearly a mouth-breathing asshole who in the larger moral landscape deserves a bat across the bridge of the nose and probably knows it. Which is why — unsurprisingly — so many of them choose to be anonymous and/or use pseudonyms on Reddit while they get their creep on.

We’ve been getting the “you can’t stop them so fuck you ha ha ha ha” line right here all afternoon. It’s less disgusting than you can’t stop me, but it’s still very damn irritating. Yes I know I can’t stop you, but that doesn’t mean it’s an admirable or non-stupid thing to do.

In the case of Adrian Chen, the Gawker writer who revealed Violentacrez’s real-life identity, I think he’s perfectly justified in doing so. Whether certain denizens of Reddit like it or not, Chen was practicing journalism, and writing a story of a figure of note (and of notoriety) on one of the largest and most influential sites on the Internet. They may believe that Mr. Brutsch should have an expectation not to have his real life identity revealed on Gawker, but the question to ask here is “why?” Why should that be the expectation? How does an expectation of pseudonymity on a Web site logically extend to an expectation of pseudonymity in the real world? How does one who beats his chest for the right of free speech on a Web site (where in fact he has no free speech rights) and to have that right to free speech include the posting of pictures of women who did not consent to have their pictures taken or posted then turn around and criticize Gawker for pursuing an actually and legitimately constitutionally protected exercise of the free press, involving a man who has no legal or ethical presumption of anonymity or pseudonymity in the real world? How do you square one with the other?

Yes but women who have legs and tits and bums and genitals are sluts and deserve to have their pictures taken and posted without their consent. That’s how it works.

 

22 comments

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  1. 1
    24fps

    What strikes me as odd is that anyone has an expectation of privacy or pseudonymity on the internet. I tend to post under a pseudonym but I don’t think for one second that I couldn’t be found out – and on sites I’ve frequented as a poster for a long time I expect that it wouldn’t be that hard to find out who I am.

  2. 2
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    “Free speech!” has largely become the cry of the idiotic, the ignorant, and the scum among us. Overused, misused, and used where no such right (or moral principle) exists. It has a lot in common with the cry of “Socialism!” in some regards.

    J’accuse! Censorat! Socialisme!
    or
    Free Speech: I’ve got mine, so fuck you.

  3. 3
    sqlrob

    @F:

    It actually can, and does go lower. The ones that cry “Free Speach”(sic) tend to be real scum.

  4. 4
    jhendrix

    Part of my posting here was for clarity on the issue. Many posters here assumed things weren’t free speech that are. You yourself did that in your “The tasteful Redditt” post.

    I’ve stated in other threads on FtB on this topic (it is one that I’m interested in) that I fully support the outing of Brutsch. His real identity was as public as all of the pictures he perverted into enjoyment for creepers. He learned the real hard way that “free speech” cuts both ways. Reddit is being inconsistent in its free speech rule application by having a rule against “outing” members. They should be called out on it so they change.

    There main problem with Scalzi’s article, and with some of the proposed solutions is the idea that the internet isn’t anonymous and that you can identify people.

    He’s correct in that it’s largely not anonymous for most people using it, but it most certainly can be for almost anyone using it as long as they stick to “legal content”.

    All it takes is either this outing, or a few more big ones, and then every single scumbag sub-reddit or website will have a wiki detailing how to go through the technical steps (I will avoid a list) to make sure that you are anonymous so long as you stay within legal content.

    The other problem with the article is that not everyone who says “free speech” is “ignorant or pernicious”. The internet is a venue for speech, and there is no guaranteed “internet public space equivalent” for any and all kind of legal speech. Because of this, internet venue’s that have a policy of “all legal speech is permitted” are important/valuable if we’re going to consider the internet a universal tool to express oneself.

    What makes this problem so hard is the fact that legal free speech needs to be absolute in order to function, and we’re dealing with a medium that can guarantee anonymity for legal free speech.

    In all honesty, maybe that’s what needs to change, in cases like the internet where anonymity can be assured by an individual, we shouldn’t have public venues that allow all legal free speech. Since combining freedom from the consequences of your speech can be dangerous and harmful to individuals.

    The alternative is raising our daughters (I’m a month out from having one) in a world where they shouldn’t post any pictures of themselves to the internet, which has a whole separate set of negative consequences all on its own.

  5. 5
    Stacy

    We’ve been getting the “you can’t stop them so fuck you ha ha ha ha” line right here all afternoon. It’s less disgusting than you can’t stop me, but it’s still very damn irritating

    I haven’t read any “so fuck you ha ha ha ha” comments here on B&W.

    I understand your frustration with the ignorant idiots who cry “FREE SPEECH!!” when somebody criticizes them or when you or any other blogger bans them from commenting. (I think you know that–I’ve gone out of my way to point and laugh at them when they show up here. That kind of rank, narcissistic stupidity really gets my goat–and I can only imagine what it does to somebody who actually gets targeted by assholes who think like that.) But the people who’ve been discussing the ins and outs of the legal aspects of this Reddit thing here haven’t been doing that.

    I think everyone here is on the same page regarding Brutsch, his victims, and the appropriateness of outing him, and the hypocrisy of Reddit’s response.

  6. 6
    Stacy

    I mean, except for the trolls. The Inept Band of Haters.

  7. 7
    Fin

    I have altered my position on this considerably in recent months. It seems to me that “free speech” entails a responsibility for the speech that you make.

    So, I think, if the speech that you make is liable to cause harm to anyone but yourself, then any claim to anonymity is problematic.

    There’s three types of speech that I can think of, and only one of those three requires anonymity. The first is mundane every day speech – most of the things I post on the internet, I post anonymously, but then, those things aren’t likely to cause harm, so the anonymity is not required. The second case is where the speech is likely to cause harm to yourself, so political dissidents and the like, for their safety, require anonymity. The third case is where the speech is likely to cause harm to others – in this case, no claim to anonymity can be sustained.

    Now, the demarcation between these types of speech probably isn’t always clear: For example, the political dissident might state something which puts others at risk, or my innocent jokes on the internet might be interpreted in such a way by some psychotic as instructions to kill, however, there are fairly clear, direct links between the particular content of speech and particular actions which are harmful.

    I think, in all honesty, that “creepshots” and the like are directly harmful (to the women in question, but also to those who participate in such a culture) – so it becomes a case of not “suppressing” speech, but “attributing” it.

    I used to be much more hardline about this, and consider anonymity to be a right that required a clear, legal reason to be violated, and now I think not quite the reverse but close to: Anonymity is not a right, and needs a clear, legal reason to be supported.

  8. 8
    Emily Isalwaysright

    Free speech IS worth defending. But I think perhaps the discourse has been muddied by those who equate “free speech” with “absolutist free speech.”

    Anyway, in this case the point is moot, because “creepshots” are not examples of “speech”. I think they are more akin to sexual harassment or violation. People have a right to their own body, which means they have the right to control how it is presented in public. Talk of free speech in this context is a red herring.

  9. 9
    jhendrix

    Emily,

    I don’t disagree with your assertion that people have a right to their own body.

    The problem with “creepshots” gets around that in two ways:

    1.) Pictures posted online by the person themselves. Pictures of themselves in a bikini on the beach with their friends, publicly posted on Facebook/imgur/flickr/etc. The moment that is done, it’s by necessity public since the photos owner made it publicly available online.

    2.) The whole public space photography issue. So long as someone didn’t have an expectation of privacy, pictures can be legally taken and then shared with others.

    #2 carries some nuance on what can be done to prevent such things (the definition of expectation of privacy). What’s really problematic is that Brutsch himself primarily engaged in #1.

    I really don’t know what the solution could possibly be to prevent what happens. The creepers are threading the needle so finely on what’s legal.

  10. 10
    Bernard Bumner

    What makes this problem so hard is the fact that legal free speech needs to be absolute in order to function, and we’re dealing with a medium that can guarantee anonymity for legal free speech.

    This is simply untrue. Even the US does not have anything resembling absolute free speech. You already understand the reasons for the limits:

    Since combining freedom from the consequences of your speech can be dangerous and harmful to individuals.

    Where it is more harmful to allow than to restrict, the law often restricts. As private, political individuals we can choose to go further than the law does.

    You recognise that absolute and unfettered free speech is problematic in its potential to cause harm, yet you still struggle to accept the practical intervention which we know to be effective:

    I really don’t know what the solution could possibly be to prevent what happens. The creepers are threading the needle so finely on what’s legal.

    You’ve seen part of the solution, which is to out the creepers whilst making clear that their actions are not socially acceptable and why. The other part of it is for responsible people to stop using Reddit and similarly irresponsible service providers.

    Why are you waiting for the law to set everything right?

  11. 11
    Emily Isalwaysright

    Hmm. Good points.

    What if we view the images one posts of oneself as extensions of one’s body, not as separate from it? In the virtual world, couldn’t we say display of a pic of our body is the same as displaying our body at, say, the beach, or wherever? And if its illegal to take pics of people for sexual purposes without their consent irl, then surely it should be illegal to to take pics of people in the virtual world without their consent?

    But then, I don’t even know if that IS illegal irl – I’m taking in principle. So say if someone is caught taking photos of people at my local pool for sexual purposes (whether public or private) is it against the law (asides from the rules of the swimming pool)? In which countries, if any?

  12. 12
    Emily Isalwaysright

    My last post was directed at jhendrix, sorry for any confusion.

  13. 13
    Emily Isalwaysright

    “Why are you waiting for the law to set everything right?”

    I know that wasn’t directed at me, but are you an anarchist?

  14. 14
    jhendrix

    @Bernard

    You’re correct, “absolute free speech” is a specific term, and I was wrong on that point.

    The problem is that the “creepshots” take legitimate things that we can’t/shouldn’t stop*, and pervert it.

    *Examples include:

    Pictures posted of oneself online where one actually doesn’t have the right to privacy (Facebook).

    Pictures taken publicly where one doesn’t expect the right to privacy.

    In terms of “harm”, the problem, especially with Brutsch, is that it was technical/legal perspective, it was self-inflicted. The girls violated posted their pictures publicly, even if they didn’t realize it, they still did it.

    Second, I fully support “outing” wherever possible.

    The problem I’m pointing out is that after a little bit of “outing”, you won’t be able to out anymore because the technology is available to make it so that the creepers can protect themselves. It takes one smart creeper to put the “how-to” out there, and another to make some browser plugin that lets it all happen so easily that every moron creeper can do it.

    Finally, in terms of stopping people from using reddit or other “irresponsible service providers”, well what if the site does some good along with the bad? Even Scalzi agrees that people will still use Reddit, including himself.

    It’s like a form of privilege – most people don’t care if there’s creepy sub-reddits that they’ll never see (or be affected by), “aww” “funny” and “atheism” are entertaining, so they’ll keep going there.

  15. 15
    jhendrix

    @Emily

    What if we view the images one posts of oneself as extensions of one’s body, not as separate from it? In the virtual world, couldn’t we say display of a pic of our body is the same as displaying our body at, say, the beach, or wherever? And if its illegal to take pics of people for sexual purposes without their consent irl, then surely it should be illegal to to take pics of people in the virtual world without their consent?

    That doesn’t really work. If you post a picture of yourself to the internet, by definition, you’re making it accessible to others.

    If you’re posting it to a website that is providing the hosting to you for free, then it’s 99.9% likely that you’ve agreed to their terms of service, which include them making the photo public unless you specify otherwise. Even if you “limit” access, the people who do have access can take the image and save it, then repost it so long as it’s not for commercial gain.

    Even if we made doing that last part illegal, there’s no way for another hosting place to tell if a photo being uploaded was something that was publicly accessible to the person posting it, or if it was something that was previously restricted in access that is now being posted publicly.

    Sure the owner could possibly request the photo be removed, but the damage would be done.

  16. 16
    Bernard Bumner

    The problem I’m pointing out is that after a little bit of “outing”, you won’t be able to out anymore because the technology is available to make it so that the creepers can protect themselves. It takes one smart creeper to put the “how-to” out there, and another to make some browser plugin that lets it all happen so easily that every moron creeper can do it.

    This is already a problem, and I’m sure that more and more people will move off the www altogether in order to avoid detection whilst committing wrongdoing.

    What is the alternative? Not to take action? It seems to me that in the absence of any real world consequences, there are no disincentives for these abusers to carry on doing what they do.

    It’s like a form of privilege – most people don’t care if there’s creepy sub-reddits that they’ll never see (or be affected by), “aww” “funny” and “atheism” are entertaining, so they’ll keep going there.

    It is precisely privilege.

    Ethical consumption is something we need to teach from the earliest age. We cannot claim to be on the right side whilst pretending that such egregious examples of irresponsible profiteering are not directly supported by own choices.

    If your favourite restaurant allowed people to paste creepshots in the bathroom stalls, you would act immediately and without hesitation, I’m sure. Even if it was the bathroom you didn’t use.

    It is very strange that we use the distance of the internet to pretend that content hosted on our favourite website is not an issue for us to worry about.

  17. 17
    jhendrix

    This is already a problem, and I’m sure that more and more people will move off the www altogether in order to avoid detection whilst committing wrongdoing.

    What is the alternative? Not to take action? It seems to me that in the absence of any real world consequences, there are no disincentives for these abusers to carry on doing what they do.

    I suppose the only action is to escalate and out those who don’t protect themselves.

    The problem with this approach is that from an escalation perspective the creepers win. So long as this is legal, and companies can make money from having creeper traffic (and other companies can make money from providing anonymizing services, or FOSS anonimizing services exist), there are those who will be able to isolate themselves from consequences.

    If your favourite restaurant allowed people to paste creepshots in the bathroom stalls, you would act immediately and without hesitation, I’m sure. Even if it was the bathroom you didn’t use.

    It is very strange that we use the distance of the internet to pretend that content hosted on our favourite website is not an issue for us to worry about.

    So stop using Reddit? Close down the A+ subreddit? Getting involved in these discussions is making me consider deleting my account there, which is a shame since /r/atheism is a good place.

  18. 18
    Bernard Bumner

    Getting involved in these discussions is making me consider deleting my account there, which is a shame since /r/atheism is a good place.

    And I’ll bet that they serve tempting entrées in your favourite restaurant.

    Take A+ and general atheism discussions somewhere else. Especially those A+ discussions, and tell everyone why.

    A+ is meant to give special consideration to social justice. Let Reddit sink into its own filth if it won’t raise itself up.

  19. 19
    Emily Isalwaysright

    “If you post a picture of yourself to the internet, by definition, you’re making it accessible to others.

    If you’re posting it to a website that is providing the hosting to you for free, then it’s 99.9% likely that you’ve agreed to their terms of service, which include them making the photo public unless you specify otherwise.”

    Jhendrix, I think up to now we have mistakenly viewed personal uploads as akin to publishing. I think we should view it as construction of our virtual selves in the virtual world, which is just an extension of the real world.

    If my body is not “accessible to others” when I walk down the street or go to the pool or go to a nightclub, then it shouldn’t be “accessible to others” in the virtual world.

  20. 20
    24fps

    There is also a matter of context. I’m not sure exactly how it translates to US laws, but here in Canada, if you use someone’s image without permission, there are some circumstances where that’s okay and others where it isn’t. Context comes into play. So if I take someone’s photo off the Internet and put it on a site about how great and amazing and wonderful people are, there is no harm being done. If I put it on a site where the discussion is about criminals, even if I don’t directly say “this person is a criminal” I have created a implication in the context of use.

    The photos Brutsch et al are posting may be “legal” in one or even two senses, but putting underage girls into that context is getting into a much more gray area.

    And again, all anonymity on the Internet is illusory. If you post on sites, you are more than likely leaving enough clues that a little google fu could narrow your identity down to a handful of people relatively easily. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding him or herself.

  21. 21
    screechymonkey

    Brutsch was interviewed on Anderson Cooper tonight. He didn’t come across well (surprise!) despite his efforts to claim that he now recognizes that some things are “inappropriate.”

    “Sadly, I liked making people really mad”

    “I treated Reddit like a game. Apparently I have a gift for pushing buttons.”

    “I am to some degree apologizing for what I did.” (Gee, way to go out on a limb there.)

    At times he refers to Violentacrez in the third person, as a “character” he was playing.

    Apparently Reddit gave him an award, which he brought to the hotel room where he was interviewed, for his “significant contributions” to the site. Reddit says it now “regrets” doing that.

    He tried to argue that hey, any girl who found her picture on jailbait could have asked for it to be taken down. Oh, except for they have a no-delete policy. And, as the interviewer (it wasn’t Anderson) pointed out, “a young girl who’s been humiliated by seeing her picture on this site is supposed to email a guy named ‘violentacrez’ and ask nicely?”

  22. 22
    screechymonkey

    Second part of the interview: he’s not going to do it any more, because the “mystique” of the Violentacrez identity is gone. Oh, and over the past few months, he has come to realize … it’s not entirely clear what.

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