Gawker, Reddit, Free Speech and Such: It’s not anonymity or pseudonymity that’s the issue. The issue is people being assholes while anonymous because they don’t believe it’s ever going to get back to them….
If at this point in Internet history you think you’re really anonymous/pseudonymous on the Internet, or that you have a right to anonymity/pseudonymity on the Internet, you’re kind of stupid. Yes, stupid, and there’s no other way to put it. I remember back in 1998 and people with pseudonymous online diaries freaking out because they ranted about a family member or boss online, and then that person found out, and as a result the diarist was fired and/or had very awkward Thanksgivings for several years. And you know what? Even back in 1998, when the Web was still reasonably new, while one could be sympathetic, in the back of the head there was always well, what did you expect?… Here in 2012, if you’re going to make an argument to me that anonymity truly exists on the Web, I’m going to want you to follow up with an explanation of how the Easter Bunny is riding unicorns on Mars with Kurt Cobain….
[A]nyone who goes to Reddit and truly believes that a site-standard ethos of “don’t reveal our members’ identities” fully protects them from being revealed or allows them to revel in obnoxious and/or creepy behavior without fear of discovery… [is] kind of dumb… they shouldn’t be terribly surprised. Now, you might argue that someone has a right to pseudonymity or anonymity online, and depending on your argument, I might even agree with you (hint: such an argument doesn’t involve posting sexualized pictures of minors or the unconsenting). But I would also agree with you that it would be cool if the Mars rover beamed back a picture of Kurt and Peter Cottontail jamming on “Pennyroyal Tea” while their unicorns kept the time on tambourine.
Back here in the real world, you should get used to the idea neither is happening soon.
Speaking of the real world….
[J]ust because something is a community standard does not mean one is obliged to follow it in all ways at all times, and if the “community standard” is doing real harm or is being used as a shield to allow people to act badly without consequence, then it’s a reasonable question of whether this “standard” is to be allowed to stand unchallenged.
In any event, an argument that those outside the community are bound to its standards is a tough one to make outside of that community. Am I, John Scalzi, enjoined by Reddit “community standards” on my own site? Not in the least, and if anyone suggested I was, I would point and laugh at them….
In the case of Adrian Chen, the Gawker writer who revealed Violentacrez’s real-life identity… Chen was practicing journalism, and writing a story of a figure of note (and of notoriety) on one of the largest and most influential sites on the Internet. They may believe that Mr. Brutsch should have an expectation not to have his real life identity revealed on Gawker, but the question to ask here is “why?” Why should that be the expectation? How does an expectation of pseudonymity on a Web site logically extend to an expectation of pseudonymity in the real world? How does one who beats his chest for the right of free speech on a Web site (where in fact he has no free speech rights) and to have that right to free speech include the posting of pictures of women who did not consent to have their pictures taken or posted then turn around and criticize Gawker for pursuing an actually and legitimately constitutionally protected exercise of the free press, involving a man who has no legal or ethical presumption of anonymity or pseudonymity in the real world?
How do you square one with the other?
Well, you can’t, or at least I can’t; I have no doubt some of the folks at Reddit can guide that particular camel through the eye of the needle. But they would be wrong…