Reddit Moderators Ban Gawker In Solidarity With Creepy Porn Purveyor

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 11 2012 7:57 PM

Reddit Moderators Ban Gawker In Solidarity With Creepy Porn Purveyor

Reddit's homepage may be the front page of the Internet, but some of its forums are unsavory enough that their moderators are terrified of having their real names published.
Reddit's homepage may be the front page of the Internet, but some of its forums are unsavory enough that their moderators are terrified of having their real names published.

Screenshot / Reddit.com

Update, Oct. 12, 6:06 p.m.: Reddit's threats didn't stop Chen from exposing Violentacrez. His story is up now on Gawker, and you can read it here. It's far from vengeful in tone. If anything, Chen paints his subject in a sympathetic light, though he doesn't conceal his disgust for the man's online activities. It's an altogether fascinating, poignant, and troubling piece, and worth reading in full if you have the chance. The reaction on Reddit should be interesting to watch.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

Original post: Reddit, the self-proclaimed front page of the Internet, harbors some pretty unseemly stuff on its back pages, from a now-defunct forum called r/jailbait (sexually suggestive photos of underage girls) to one called r/creepshots (pictures of women taken in public without their knowledge). And some of its users get mighty defensive about their right to post and view these things anonymously.

So when Gawker’s Adrian Chen (a former Slate intern, years ago) told the Reddit member who created those particular subreddits that he planned to write a profile about him—presumably exposing his real-life identity—the site roared with indignation. Most notably, the moderators of r/politics—Reddit's main politics channel—announced on Wednesday that they would ban all Gawker links from their page in retribution. Here’s their full statement:

As some of you may know, a prominent member of Reddit's community, Violentacrez, deleted his account recently. This was as a result of a 'journalist' seeking out his personal information and threatening to publish it, which would have a significant impact on his life. You can read more about it here
As moderators, we feel that this type of behavior is completely intolerable. We volunteer our time on Reddit to make it a better place for the users, and should not be harassed and threatened for that. We should all be afraid of the threat of having our personal information investigated and spread around the internet if someone disagrees with you. Reddit prides itself on having a subreddit for everything, and no matter how much anyone may disapprove of what another user subscribes to, that is never a reason to threaten them.
As a result, the moderators of /r/politics have chosen to disallow links from the Gawker network until action is taken to correct this serious lack of ethics and integrity.
We thank you for your understanding.
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Well, don’t thank me for my understanding, r/politics moderators. Because I find it very difficult indeed to understand how you can be so concerned with Violentacrez’* privacy and so thoroughly unconcerned with the privacy of the young girls and women whose photographs he propagated on the site.

One important note: As BetaBeat’s Jessica Roy points out, these moderators are volunteers, not the administrators or owners of the site itself. In fact, site officials have often weathered backlash from some moderators, including Violentacrez, for cracking down on forums like r/jailbait. (See this Daily Dot post from a year ago for more on the backstory.) But in an email to Roy, Reddit general manager Erik Martin indicated that he wouldn’t try to intervene in the r/politics moderators’ decision to ban Gawker links.  “Moderators are free to moderate their subreddits as they see fit,” he said. “They can ban all usernames that start with the letter g if they want.”

Indignant Reddit users' party line is that the women unwittingly featured in r/creepshots had no expectation of privacy, because they were presumably in public when the photos were taken. Thus, there’s nothing illegal about the photos—whereas Chen’s plan to write a story exposing Violentacrez was blackmail. Or something.

Of course, as The Awl’s Choire Sicha observes, anything you post on the Internet, including Reddit, is essentially public too. And while Reddit is known for its culture of anonymity, there’s nothing to stop inquisitive minds—or journalists—or even “journalists,” to borrow the r/politics moderators’ scare quotes—from tracing a trail of posts and comments to their real-life author. Chen is hardly the only one.

Does Violentacrez deserve to be exposed? Chen clearly thinks so. Many Redditors naturally disagree. Those of us who aren’t familiar with Violentacrez’ oeuvre may have to wait until Chen’s story is published to make up our minds. (A tweet from his Gawker colleague Max Read suggests that he’s working on it as I write this.)

Meanwhile, in challenging the sense of impunity that many on the site hold dear, Chen has already brought to light a lot of self-righteousness and hypocrisy without publishing a word.

*Correction: This post originally misspelled Violentacrez throughout as Violentacres.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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