Culture Fail: Online Harassment vs. Freedom of Speech

On October 12th, Adrian Chen, a writer for the online news site Gawker, revealed the identity of Violentacrez, a highly influential Redditor. Revered by many and hated by more, Violentacrez is Michael Brutsch, 49, a father and husband, and a Texas financial firm employee until his outing got him fired. Brutsch created and moderated content on hundreds of subreddits, including those entitled creepshots, rapebait, deadjailbait, beatingwomen, and many more, none of which Reddit considered illegal or worth shutting down. Was Chen’s actions against Brutsch a violation of Brutsch’s freedom of expression? Opinions are divided, even within the Advocate, on this very question…

Expression isn’t free in a world where offensive speech has consequences

By William Tatum

In this nation we rhetorically value many things, chief amongst those values is our inherent right to freedom of expression and belief. The right to freely express oneself, or to have beliefs that differ from the norm, has been consistently checked by a legally undefined belief that one also has a right to never be offended.

Last week the online tabloid Gawker, Doxeda user of Reddit, Violentacrez, who was a moderator/creator of numerous less than savory, but 100% legal, subreddits.

The right to anonymity is one that many, including this writer, feel is equal to the freedom of expression. While this writer does not in any way agree with beliefs espoused by this Redditor, this writer nonetheless believes in the necessity of individuals to be allowed to express themselves freely without fear of reprisal.

An example of the need for anonymity when expressing views that are potentially offensive is found in our societies reaction to “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. The poems spawned calls for Ginsberg’s arrest and prosecution for obscenity. Howl, by today’s standards, is almost mundane and yet not 40 years ago people were calling for the arrest and execution of the author.

Expression isn’t free in a world where offensive speech has consequences. The culture fail isn’t Violentacrez, it is the people who think their right to never be offended trumps another’s right to expression.

Revealing Violentacrez’ identity had nothing to do with free speech

By Genevieve Weber

The outing of Michael Brutsch has nothing to do with free speech, although some consider the revealing of his identity an infringement of this “unassailable truth”—which free speech is not, by the way (threaten the President and you’ll see what I mean). If Brutsch and those like him were just speaking, his words would be disgusting, but hey, “freedom of speech.” But on the contrary, it’s not just talking—under any offline circumstances, much of what people like Brutsch do on these subreddits would be considered blatant—and illegal—sexual harassment (or regular harassment for that matter), pedophilia, misogyny… the list goes on. So why should they get away with it online? Well, they shouldn’t.

There’s absolutely no reason that people like Brutsch should feel they can anonymously post photos online—think creepshots—they’ve personally taken of women, without their knowledge or consent, to be treated like pieces of meat. This should be illegal. And it’s frankly terrifying—how many of these people are stalkers?

Those who attack this doxxing—revealing the identity of an anonymous internet-user—are hypocritical. If Brutsch and others can so blatantly violate another human’s privacy, then their own personal information is not publicly off-limits. Fair is fair. When it’s a photo of your daughter or sister or wife on these websites, you’ll sure as hell want to know who posted it, too.



–        Gawker’s article revealing the identity of Reddit’s Violentacrez


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