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Oh, the Hypocrisy! (When Gawker Became the Cyberpolice)

In July of 2010, I happened across an article about the effects of the release of the personal information of an eleven year old girl by the users of 4Chan's /b/ message board. I still remember the author's castigation of the perpetrators, titling his work "How the internet beat up an 11-year-old girl," clearly showing his disdain for the way these cruel, vicious monsters had gone after their rival.

Their crime? Well, at the time, I'd never seen a name for it, and one wasn't given by the author. Instead, he wrote:

The Internet started picking on Jessi Slaughter relentlessly. But it was more than just mocking: People started circulating Jessi's real name, phone number, address and links to all her social networking accounts.
Doxing. According to TermWiki, doxing is "gathering and publicly posting the personal information of an internet user online." Doxing is generally done for harassment purposes, as was the case in this story. According to the author, it was pretty bad.   
Someone prank called her. According to Encyclopedia Dramatica, pranksters spammed her Facebook and MySpace accounts, had pizzas delivered to her house and were considering sending call girls off Craigslist to the address. (Encyclopedia Dramatica currently has a three part section on "How to troll" Jessi: 1) "There are pics of her holding her boobs" 2) "Tell her to kill herself" 3) "Tell her dad that we are going to beat her up.") Slaughter's information and videos also shot through tumblr, aided by the blogging platform's reblogging system.
The story described how the situation escalated when the girl's father made a youtube video in reply to the group harassing his family. Unfamiliar with the any area of the internet, and angry beyond measure (as any parent would be, considering some of the material sent to his house and his daughter's email account) he was inarticulate to the point of senselessness. Needless to say, the video coined memes.   

The author went on to dispense parenting advice that would be useful only to people to whom it would already be obvious - those with common sense. He then castigated Tumbler as a community for their participation in the sharing of the girl's personal information, and finally pointed out that the attack had, after all, been leveled against a kid.

An update written just a few days later further documented the harassment which had resulted from the Doxing of Jessi Slaughter, including the fact that it had resulted in the child being
temporarily placed in a safehouse under police protection, and temporarily barred from internet use, and also in police investigation of some of the harassment.

I read every part of the story. I ranted about the stupidity of parents letting an eleven year old surf the 'net unsupervised. I shook my head at the low to which /b/ had sunk, that they would consider an eleven year old worthy of an organized attack. I raged over the stalkerish, creepy act of sharing a private citizen's personal information over the internet. And it struck me that this author was doing everyone a great service, by reporting on the dangers of having one's identity and whereabouts posted in a public forum. 

So who should we thank for this great exposé on the value of maintaining one's internet anonymity? Who should we thank for showing us the villainous nature of doxing? Who has clearly demonstrated that he knows damned well what far reaching and catastrophic effects to one's life can come from having one's personal identity exposed to the meatgrinder that is the internet? Who is this bastion of public concern and journalistic integrity?

Oh, that would be one Adrian Chen of Gawker, who recently doxed a man for the clearly heinous crime of being intensely unpopular... and male. Adrian Chen, who clearly demonstrated over two years ago that he knew how pervasive and punishing the effect of publishing that information could be. Adrian Chen, who knew he was endangering the subject of his story, exposing him to the possibility of anything from harassment to assault, to being fired from his job. Adrian Chen, whose actions just led to the removal of the supporting income of not just the guy he didn't like, but an entire family, including a disabled woman, which is ironic as hell considering his choice was made after reading complaints from self-identified feminists on reddit who should at the very least feel protective of her

That's right. Doxing is wrong, unless you're a Gawker reporter with a warped and historically blind sense of self-righteousness. And picking on the young and helpless just for being associated with someone you don't like is wrong... unless you're a Gawker reporter with an inflated sense of social justice.

Way to go, ace. You just walked in your own shit.


Unknown said...

Right. Because outing a middle aged pedophile piece of shit and and calling an 11 year old girl a slut and shaming her with the full force of the internet are the same thing.
Oh wait, no they aren't. It seems you dun goofed.

Hannah Wallen said...

@Sam Lunny

Your comment misrepresents the overall conclusion of the post. Based on the wording, I suspect more that you didn't get it than any deliberate dishonesty, so for your benefit, I'll explain.

This is not a post about whether or not violentacrez was an innocent man. It is not a comparison of his life and character to that of a child. It is a statement on the hypocrisy inherent in Chen's behavior in this incident; two years ago, Chen wrote about the damage which doxing did to an entire family. He demonstrated full knowledge of the potential repercussions of publishing someone's personally identifying information in a well-read forum. He provided the perfect example of the wrongness of sicking the general public on an individual like his own personal pack of attack dogs for no better reason than one's own dislike or disapproval of that person.

It is irrelevant whether or not you approve the behavior of violentacrez. The bare-bones, stripped down reality of this story is that his "crime" was looking at people in public places, and helping others to stay within the boundaries of the law while looking at people in public places. There is no injury from his actions, only the fact that some people - and not even the ones directly involved - were offended. With all of the spin and psychobabble cut out of the discussion, the real, bottom line story is that Chen claims justification in his character-and-privacy assassination of violentacrez because people were offended. That's a bullshit excuse for taking out one's aggressions on a target.

It is not the private citizen's right to arbitrarily hand out whatever punishment he feels like handing out just because he's offended by someone else's actions. The fact is that Chen did something he knew ahead of time would do terrible damage to violentacrez's life, and the lives of anyone who depended on him. He was in possession of that information - the knowledge of the potential and likely effects of his actions.

In retaliation against an individual for nothing more than being strongly disliked, Chen knowingly and willfully set into motion the mechanics of the process to remove his target's supporting income and consign him - and anyone dependent upon him - to poverty.

Chen knowingly and willfully inflicted poverty upon violentacrez and his wife, ostensibly as punishment for his role in facilitating the ability of people to look at other people. Chen's choice to dox violentacrez was a massive overreaction in my opinion, and one which is entirely hypocritical considering Chen's pretense of altruism in this action, and the comparison of it to his previous writing on the topic of doxing.

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