Max Read was the first Gawker writer to point out reddit’s big fusking problem.
What is fusking? Well, Fusking is extracting images from a webpage, usually a free photoserver.
What is Reddit? It is currently the biggest news sharing social media site on the web where users submit content and discuss it. Think coffee shop with a bulletin board posted over with news clippings.
What is Gawker? It’s a tabloid news site. Think rest room stall graphiti except more insane.
Gawker broke the nude-photo-fusking-on-Reddit on August 8, 2012, explaining how the crafty fuskers in one particular “subreddit” (an area of reddit devoted to a particular topic) were harvesting nude images which women had posted of themselves on Photobucket, where they assumed the images would be private. Of course, if the user actually set her album to private, the image will not show on Reddit, and the subreddit’s fusking users would not be able to see it–but that is beside the point apparently.
Photobucket’s administrators did not put up with the association of their name with this shady fusking practice. A takedown notice was sent, and the subreddit was removed. Problem solved, right?
Well, no. Not exactly. The users figured out that the effective objection was the use of Photobucket’s name. The sub returned, with a new name excluding the word Photobucket, and the practice of surreptitious posting from photobucket albums continued, though now with a new rule dictating the posters go the “no fusking” way. The difference? Well, possibly none, really. How would the moderators actually know, unless they are told?
While many individuals may immediately shake their heads and point out that anyone who cares whether nude images of themselves might leak onto the open web and be seen by others could and should simply refrain from creating them and sharing them online, for a short time, Gawker’s writers decided the practice was a big fusking deal… at least enough for a second story, within which the CEO of Photobucket is quoted as stating that some 50 private accounts had been fusking violated. While Reddit isn’t directly blamed for that, the statement is placed in conjunction with the only mention the new sub’s No Fusking rule.
Needless to say, the outrage against this fusking invasion of privacy was huge, with Reddit’s feminist activists taking… uh…project… uh…
Nothing. Nada. Kaput. There was no specific project, little effort, bare outrage. In a conspicuous inaction I think I’ll call Fusk You, Photobuckettes, the femosphere seems to have gone strangely silent on the sub… and nothing was done about its existence.
So what were the Feminist Thought Police of Reddit working on that was more important than addressing the surreptitious pilfering of private nude photos for public display? What was a bigger deal than that? What idea was more upsetting to the denizens of the “fempire?”
For that we have to go back in time a bit… to an article posted by Jezebel’s Katie J.M. Baker.
(Don’t know what Jezebel is? It’s tabloid Gawker’s feminist Armada.)
The article laments the ability of individuals with camera phones to photograph (clothed) people in public places and share those photos on reddit without anyone’s permission. While it is grudgingly acknowledged in the fifth paragraph that the activities of the subreddit’s photographers weren’t illegal, Baker spends the rest of the article decrying the practice with emphasis on images focusing on body parts, and shots from “strategic angles” which show undergarments… kinda like those shown in Gawker writer Maureen O’Connor’s Upskirt post chronicling the deliberate and accidental nudity of Lindsay Lohan… because apparently, it’s only okay when Gawker does it.
Since r/creepshots is down, there is no way to judge for yourself how benign or pervy these photos are, right? I mean, you can’t see any of them, so how would you know? Well, you can see one. Jezebel was kind enough to highlight teen_in_grocery_store in a post, and clicking on it still leads to the imgur file..
Oh, the horror, that one’s exposed legs might be seen by people when one wanders through areas open to the public while wearing shorts! Such an abuse must not be tolerated. To arms! To arms! Er, or legs. Whatever.
Inspired by Jezebel’s feminist myth-making, the subreddit Shit Reddit Says(r/srs) created Project Panda to target subreddits that post shots of women in public.
If Jezebel is Gawker’s feminist Armada, r/srs is Jezebel’s Marines. Except replace honor, integrity and duty with self-righteousness, double standards and white-knighting. Plus a fat bird for a symbol. Apt, since all they do is drop flying turds. They also title themselves the “fempire.”
Shit Redit Says’ list of disapproved subs was fairly long, including everything from subreddits dedicated to candid shots in public areas to subreddits dedicated to specific sports (because women should be encouraged to participate in sports, but dear God, no one should ever watch us compete!). On the list was the subreddit dedicated to the secret harvesting of nude photos from unsuspecting Photobucket users. Also included was the notorious (due to much exaggeration) /r/creepshots. Conspicuously absent from that list was any subreddit dedicated to female voyeurism of males.
In other words, guys… the “fempire” says you can’t look at us, but we’re allowed to creep on you all we want. Nya, nya, nya, dudes. And that’s not sexist at all, right?
Included in the lament was the complaint that some forums “are hidden and invite only which makes it impossible to know how many actually exist.” Oh, poor ShitRedditSays – so disheartened by the knowledge that something you abhor might exist online and you don’t have the opportunity to seek it out whine about seeing it.
Project Panda continued, with SRS (ShitRedditSays) members and the rest of reddit’s self-titled “fempire” compiling lists of disapproved redditors and subreddits, and generally raising a huge fuss over their offense at the knowledge that some people guys might be looking at other people gals without permission. Much attention was garnered by the effort within the gender-attentive parts of the reddit community… so why wasn’t this huge movement mentioned in Jezebel’s initial article?
Simple. The article predates the outrage at r/shitredditsays. The majority of members hadn’t even noticed the voyeur subreddits until after Jezebel ran an article about it. In fact, you can see from Andy Manly’s comment that the first attempt to even address the issue occurred on the same day as the first Jezebel article was published.
Reddit’s administrators did not cater to the whims of the “fempire” by bringing the ban hammer down on everything they wanted gone. In response, r/shitredditsays went into overdrive with a little noticed and highly ineffective campaign against their parent site, complete with efforts to contact media outlets and even Reddit’s advertisers. Another article appeared on Jezabel, this time praising the efforts of r/shitredditsays with the headline “Reddit Users Go Rogue, Revolt Against Sick Child Porn Forums.”
Here, we have our first taste of ego-centric sensationalism in the story: redditors planning to use exaggerated to fictional scare tactics on parents and teachers as a means of attacking disapproved posting by fellow redditors.
Up to this point, the effort was largely about censorship. The SRS outcry over voyeur subreddits included a mix of legitimate complaints and hyperbole. Images of teens in school were protested side by side with photographs of adults. The group tossed around descriptive words in discussion to associate negative connotations with the subreddits they disapprove. Subjective terms and phrases like creepy, sexualized, quazi-pornographic, predatory, and sexually suggestive were applied to photos of clothed people in ordinary circumstances, like this image from one of the demonized subs:
Reality check: Is it illegal for an adult to look at an ordinary, clothed photo of a teen? No. Was posting photos like the above illegal? No. Was the choice by some redditors to take photos at school and post them online something that should have been addressed in this manner? No. That is an issue for school administrators to address with the students directly, an action which would have followed a properly executed awareness campaign, had one been used.
Were there aspects of these subs which deserved Project Panda’s attention?
This was actually worth addressing. As the originator of this post, SpencerTracyMorgan (creep shamer extraordinaire, according to the flair that shows up on r/shitredditsays) says in the text, Weagleweaglewde was in position of power – a teacher, in charge of classrooms. Publishing photos of his students online was an abuse of that power. Those involved in Project Panda were right to hone in on that lead and pursue it.
The situation came to a head when a student at a Georgia high school recognized fellow students, figured out who was posting, and alerted school administrators, leading to the teacher’s subsequent firing as well as a criminal investigation. A rule on r/creepshots was posted stating that no photos of minors were to be posted; only images of adults were acceptable, and violentacrez, an experienced moderator of similar subs, was brought in to ensure the content was limited to legal images which fit within that rule.
That sounds like a victory. The concerned citizens of Reddit addressed a legitimate issue within the community and inspired a shady subreddit to clean up its act. Time to move on to the next target, possibly to address Reddit’s serious fusking problem, right?
Well, no. Not exactly.
Jezebel’s post on the successful removal of the creep-shot teacher was more of a complaint about the continued existence of the forum. As if the distinction of legality were irrelevant, author Erin Gloria Ryan blazed past the victory into a feminist rant insinuating that the admonition that public places are public equals an assertion that women are public property.
And what was the response of reddit’s feminist population to the change at r/creepshots? Was there a decision to celebrate the victory and move on to another subreddit, where further attention may be needed?
And of course, on October 10, another Jezebel post was published to cheer “Samantha,” (not her real name) guaranteed to steer traffic to her thread.
Shut down creepshots… because now, it was no longer about real predatory behavior, no longer about images of underage girls. It was about control, and about punishing redditors for publishing content which “Samantha” and other reddit feminists do not approve, regardless of whether or not it was actually criminal. Baker’s post also introduced a new element to the story – a direct threat to one of the subreddit’s moderators – in a link to what appears to be a forwarded message containing a threat and demands.
Also linked in the article was a shitredditsays meta post reminding users that doxxing is bad and lamenting their sub’s bad public relations problem.
Coincidentally, that same day, SRS celebrated the takeover of r/violentacrez, calling it “the Fempire’s new sub dedicated to calling out reddit’s many pedos and pedo apologists.”
This combination made it very difficult for other redditors to accept the story that r/shitredditsays had nothing to do with the doxxing threat, or later the doxxing of violentacrez, even after we learned that the blackmail image was from a message sent to another mod, not violentacrez.
On October 12, Adrian Chen published a post on Gawker disclosing violentacrez’s real name, the type of business for which he worked, and the state in which he lives. The post sensationalized and expanded every negative characteristic Chen could attribute to violentacrez, even going so far as to pair the image of his face in a red monotone alongside the zombified version of the reddit alien which violentacrez has been selling on t-shirts. The post was a combined biography and indictment of the persona and history of Reddit’s violentacrez, with potshots taken at not just him, but also at reddit’s administrators, and the overall moderation system.
Chen also described knowing the effect his decision was going to have on the life of the man behind violentacrez, stating that Brutsch told him that he’d lose his job, and that his wife was disabled. He pointed out that his enemies would “start attaching lies to his name because they simply don’t like his views.” Chen admits in the article that the conversation shook him up. However, it didn’t stop him from going through with the dox. Buried in the depths of the article, near the end, he excuses his damaging, personal attack on Brutsch with references to creepshots and a questionable age reference, as if claiming an altruistic motive for the act.
Given Gawker’s propensity for similar behavior, I highly doubt that is the case.
On October 15th, Chen published another post, in which he briefly reiterated his assertions about Brutsch, gloated over the fact that his original post had, in fact, resulted in job loss for Brutsch, and then went on to whine about the choice of a number of subreddit moderators to boycott Gawker over the dox.
On October 16th, Chen published another post containing a statement to reddit’s moderators and administrators from Reddit CEO Yishan Wong, interspersed with some of Chen’s own thoughts.
The New Thought Police
According to the post, Wong’s entire take on the issue revolves around the use of the term “free speech” to justify inaction on all points in the controversy (outside of that which keeps Reddit on the acceptable side of the law.) The administrators are expected to not ban what Wong refers to as “distasteful content,” meaning that regardless of the stated motives of Gawker’s writers and Reddit’s “fempire,” in the long run, their efforts (and in particular, the choice to dox) have accomplished nothing. Even with the violentacrez persona gone, there will continue to be content on reddit which the “fempire” finds offensive.
Except, well, that isn’t entirely the case. The administrators have banned some distasteful content. Subreddits begun to replace r/creepshots have all disappeared within days of their creation, even though the content is not illegal, but merely distasteful. It appears that contrary to Wong’s statement, at least some content is being censored on that basis. However, voyeur and porn subs with women as the target audience are still all up and running.
Chen also quotes Wong as coming out against the multi-mod boycott of Gawker, with reasons ranging from warning of bad public relations (“gawker exposes creepster; reddit engages in personal vendetta to defend pedophile,” an assessment which glosses over the fact that while creepster may have accurate connotations, pedophile is not a fair description of violentacrez) to the assertion that the ban would have little impact on Gawker’s traffic. Finally, Wong is quoted as further stating reddit’s commitment to free speech, pointing out that “opponents have the right to write about us.” He goes on to say that while reddit’s administrators do consider doxxing a form of violence, and reddit enforces an anti-dox policy on site, “we can only affect the opinion of others outside of reddit via moral suasion and setting an example.” He names journalism as a form of speech that reddit will not ban, and asks that mods explain if they disagree.
I disagree, not that journalism is a form of speech that deserves to be protected, but that Gawker’s content can in any way be defined as journalism following this incident.
This occurred after Gawker hosted feminist blog Jezebel stirred up outrage by falsely inflating and demonizing the nature of subreddits which the writers and their feminist readers disapproved because they involved men looking at women and because women as a group were not in control of that behavior. The resulting brouhaha was rooted in a serious, compelling, and frequently discussed men’s rights issue: The denigration of male sexuality. While not everything within the controversy can apply to every man, the pared down, unvarnished reality is that the basis for targeting creepshots and by extension violentacrez was that the target audience for the sub was men. There was no equal outrage (or any, that I saw) over similar subs with a female target-audience… and while some women of reddit may rationalize with statements as to how the lady-voyeur subreddits are nicer about it, when broken down to the bare truth those subreddits are still voyeur subs… which didn’t even register on Gawker’s radar.
The creepshots controversy was exacerbated and further escalated by feminist redditors both contributing and reacting to the initial posturing, largely within the context of their own sexist attitudes toward men.
Then, Gawker’s Adrian Chen capitalized on that artificially inspired, Gawker-influinced, falsely inflated outrage by deliberately mischaracterizing the content of several of the subs VA modded (including those he did not even create) and associating that mischaracterization with VA’s real name – simultaneously assassinating VA’s reputation and personal privacy and by association, his family’s financial welfare for nothing more than page views, ( 1,393,135, a paltry sum compared to Max Read’s 7,251,262 views from his voyeuristic exploitation of Kate Middleton’s boobs) and the only reason Chen got any support for his actions is that his target was a man. The site used reddit’s true sexism against its own members. The “fempire” and its fans got played big time by Gawker. Baker and Chen used the core ideology of feminism to fuel manufactured indignation over an inflated issue, manipulated them into an outraged frenzy of calls for doxxing. Gawker dramatized that, and then delivered… all to garner page views for ad revenue. And those pharisaical, fractious twits fell for it because they were more eager to be victorious than virtuous.
And while all of the creepshots-themed subreddits with their clothed photos of people in public are down… the “no-fusking” fusking sub is still there.
Whether intended to be so or not, the doxxing of violentacrez and several creepshots subscribers was a direct attack on the speech of redditors by Gawker’s writers. In building, stoking, inflating, and exploiting the controversy over r/creepshots, violentacrez, and the other subs he moderated, culminating with the doxxing articles, Gawker’s writers have communicated to other internet users some very specific threats.
They have told us that they can manipulate public opinion unchecked by fact, because their readers do not bother to look for themselves. They have told us that they can lie about us and be believed, because those among our own fellow redditors who may disagree with us will repeat those lies until the lies become common “knowledge.” They have told us that they can create distorted characterizations of us, and through promotion on their blogs, enforce those characterizations upon our reputations. They have told us they can raise lynch mobs against individuals they do not like.
They have told us that they’re willing to use those capabilities to control our online activity. They have shown us they will use those methods to censor our speech to suit their approval.
Essentially, they have told us that Gawker will now be your content editors; don’t post anything the writers of Gawker disapprove, or you will be attacked, slandered, and publicly sacrificed, just like violentacrez. The site is now in position to act as an Inquisitor Haereticae Pravitatis with Chen waiting to jump into action at the behest of the “fempire’s” hysterical finger-pointing… or the promise of web traffic… whichever comes first.
(Oh, and if you’re wondering, “Shitlord” is what srs calls anyone who disagrees with them or their methods.)