[Full disclosure: I spent the last week on the Internet 2012 Bus Tour with some of the Reddit admins. They did not ask me to write this, and I would have written this even without having been on the tour last week. Also, I'm not going to do him the favor of linking to the article. If you want to read it yourself, you can look it up.]
Last week, word leaked that you would be posting an article on Gawker DOXing — or publishing the “documents” and personal information of someone on the Internet — a Reddit user named Violentacrez.
The Reddit community reacted violently, as you knew would happen. Moderators banned Gawker submissions to 70+ subreddits, it spawned a wave of outrage and many media articles drawing more attention to your cause.
On Friday, after fanning the fires and building hype, you posted your article. I just finished reading it, and sure enough… you DOX’d the hell out of Violentacrez.
This is unacceptable.
You clearly think you are justified in doing this, and in your article you say: “To [Redditors], the DOXing of Vilentacrez [...] is an assault on the very structure of Reddit itself.”
Then you quote The Daily Dot, who says “Redditors aren’t banning Gawker to protect violentacrez, they’re doing it to protect themselves.”
You don’t get it, dude.
It’s not that DOXing isn’t okay because it’s “an assault on the structure of Reddit.”
DOXing isn’t okay because you’re publishing someone’s personal information online, purposely creating a angry vigilante mob, and throwing them to the wolves.
I don’t understand how you can justify that as being acceptable.
And then I kept reading.
You also wrote about his wife, whose username you link to. And his son, whose username you also link to.
So you weren’t content just DOXing Violentacrez. You also chose to DOX his whole family. What was his wife guilty of? Apparently to you, Adrian, running a Fibromyalgia support subreddit, having diabetes, playing Kingdom of Camelot, and posting to /r/aww – a subreddit of cute animal pictures and videos – is a crime worthy of punishment.
Earlier in the article, you confront Violentacrez on Gchat. He figures out you knew who he was, and you “panicked a bit” and called him. You comment that you “didn’t have time to properly steel yourself for a tough conversation.”
Boo freaking whoo.
“Journalistically” (and I use that word lightly), I can only imagine that line is there to let the reader create some shred of a thread of empathy with you – you didn’t have time to get yourself ready to call the person who’s life you were about to ruin. Sorry chief, but for you my heart turns cold.
Because Adrian, here’s the thing.
I agree with you.
I think the content Violentacrez was posting and the subreddit’s he created are bad. I think they’re unhealthy. Should the rules be changed to prohibit that content and ban Violentacrez? Maybe. Should those subreddit’s be removed? Probably.
But here’s the thing. You are not a judge, and you are not a jury. Neither am I. If you had removed all references to Violentacrez’s real name and location, this could have been a very powerful article encouraging Reddit to clamp down and add more rules about what content is acceptable and what content isn’t.
But you didn’t. You did some investigative journalism into someone who does some (read: a lot of) immoral things but broke no law. And once you had confirmed your facts (at least you did that), you decided that the guilty must be punished, and you DOX’d him.
And now this entire situation is uncontrollable. You created a mob, pointed them in the right direction, and are you now expecting to wash your hands of this and go to sleep soundly at night?
Even if what he did was morally wrong, you have ABSOLUTELY no right to do what you did. Fighting evil with evil will only beget more evil. You are not an agent of the Government, and no one gave you the authority to play Judge, Jury, and Executioner.
P.S. And as for you, Gawker. I don’t even want to TALK to you about letting Adrian post this. Your “journalistic integrity” was questionable to begin with, but the only way I can think that you might justify this is for the pageviews. Which makes me sick.
Editor’s note: We’ve updated the post to more clearly define the word DOXing. Thanks for all of the comments below.
Zachary Cohn is a Seattle geek who works at Startup Weekend. Follow him on Twitter @zacharycohn.