Violentacrez, “free speech,” and people’s bodies

If you haven’t been following the battle taking place between Reddit and Gawker–over people’s right to anonymously post damaging photos of children, and other people’s right to unmask those anonymous shitheads–you can get the backstory from Adrian Chen. For a quick overview of Reddit’s response, and the backlash from its own users, see this Reddit thread.

This may seem like a minor pissing match between two online nerdhavens, but in a way, it’s a truly epic battle being played out before our eyes, over how the Internet gives people power, and how people who abuse that power can be held responsible. The arguments unfolding around the drama also make visible which parties will use concepts like free speech to protect truly harmful, antisocial behavior. I want to mention two pieces that I found helpful in understanding the emotions and the context of the fight.

Lili Loofbourow presents a very nice unpacking of the gender issues at play on her blog Excremental Virtue:

The implication is that privacy resides in your name, not in your body. If you’re a man with the luxury to think this way, your body is understood as a sort of irrelevant accessory to your name, the thing that really matters.

And Joel Johnson has a good explication of the cultural development that Reddit is undergoing, mostly against its will, and how it might best move forward:

I’ve learned that empathy and graciousness are almost always the brighter path, which is why I hold hope that the people who make up the community at Reddit will recognize that they can choose how they define themselves as a community by choosing what sort of behavior they want to endorse.

I expect to read a lot more about this. But just for the record, I’m glad that there is now one less anonymous troll in the world.