Unmasking Reddit's Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web
Eric Barker stashed this in reddit
Only 10% of Reddit's are active?!
Today, there are about 10,000 active subreddits out of nearly 100,000 total, spanning a dizzying array of topics from funny pictures, to Power Rangers, to pooping.
"Every three months, or maybe six, it happens: A new section of Reddit gets attention for being gross, immoral, or, most commonly, creepy."
"Therein lies the problem: As a unified community, Reddit can attract the President. As a platform, it allows the posting of photos of murders and animal sex. As a community, it can to fight SOPA or raise money for charity. As a platform, it provides a gathering place for men who like looking at sexualized photos of underaged teenagers, and believe that "Men's Rights" are the foremost problem facing America today. Twitter and Tumblr have these problems too — the President has accounts on both, as do vile posters of almost every stripe — but on Reddit, where the existence of a frontpage and well-organized communities can give at least the impression of top-down endorsement, the contrast is more jarring."
Testing freedom of speech for its own sake seems... Juvenile.
Unlike Jailbait, which apparently sprung from a sincere interest, many of Violentacrez's most offensive subreddits were created just to enrage other Reddit users.
Is that the essence of trolling? Sophomoric antics?
Though much is made of the millions of users who submit content to Reddit, it's Reddit's over 20,000 volunteer mods who are the real secret behind its success.
It's fascinating that he would do anything to avoid 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."
"My wife is disabled. I got a home and a mortgage, and if this hits the fan, I believe this will affect negatively on my employment," he said. "I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time."
The anonymity of the Internet really does make otherwise civil people... Inhumane.
This logic is pretty fucked up:
At Web communities like Reddit, which thrive because users are free to say and do anything they want, doxing is a severe crime, both to users and the site's staff. It's far worse than offensive speech like racism and homophobia or, yes, even posting surreptitiously snapped photos of innocent women for creeps to perv over. Why? Because doxing undermines the community's structural integrity: Reddit simply would not exist as we know it if users weren't operating under the freedom of a flexible identity. So redditors aren't banning Gawker to protect violentacrez, they're doing it to protect themselves.
Under Reddit logic, outing Violentacrez is worse than anonymously posting creepshots of innocent women, because doing so would undermine Reddit's role as a safe place for people to anonymously post creepshots of innocent women.
Nick Denton writes that he believes in anonymity: http://gawker.com/5905319
We're believers in anonymity, obviously. Our burner accounts within this discussion environment are intended to leave little trace.
And as the price of an open society one should accept abusive speech under the protection of the law and internet anonymity.
But even defenders of internet freedom can be allowed a frisson of satisfaction when an anonymous troll such as Violentacrez gives himself away. (With the assistance here of Adrian Chen.)
The absence of anonymity doesn't level the playing field. It disproportionately benefits those with access to the most information. The government, Google and Facebook benefit a lot more from lack of anonymity than I ever will because they will always know a lot more about me than I will ever know about them.
Without anonymity it becomes almost impossible to safely post unpopular speech. And if you're not protecting unpopular speech, what's the point of saying you're protecting free speech?
Without anonymity how do you encourage whistleblowing?
How can you casually look for another job?
How can you get advice on dealing with a problematic boss or employer?
How can you get advice and counseling on dealing with or leaving an abusive spouse?
How can you seek advice on a serious or controversial medical condition?
How can you criticize the government -- both domestically and in regimes where it's *far* more dangerous to be a dissident?
And the list goes on and on and on...
Trying to abolish anonymity is naive and stupid.
And yet, there is no peace of mind when you publish "anonymously" on Twitter, Tumblr, Quora, or now Reddit, that you won't someday be "outed".
That's a problem in real life too but the Internet gives people a great advantage in terms of collective action, personal information distribution, scale, etc.
When people's lives are good they quickly forget how important anonymity can be for those in conditions that are far more trying. It's childlike to think you can just say what you like and not be punished (formally or informally) because you're "right."
There's a great line in the movie COPLAND: "Being right is not a bulletproof vest."
That IS a great line.
Ultimately, anonymity makes people more willing to say things, but it's not a bulletproof vest.
Never say anything anonymously unless you're okay with it someday being attributed to you.
The outing of this troll has led to massive Reddit shut down of Gawker links: http://pandawhale.com/convo/7635/reddit-mods-have-to-destroy-freedom-of-expression-and-openness-in-order-to-save-it
That's right, Reddit mods are now suppressing freedom of speech.
And they have no sense of irony about it, either.