October 16, 2012
Reddit Beatdown: Unmasking The Troll
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
“Free Speech” is a tricky issue made even more so by people who continually test its boundaries, seemingly for no other reason than the thrill of an argument. What was once probably a measure taken to ensure citizens could question authority and worship how they saw fit has now turned into a matter of defending controversial subject matter on the Internet.Take, for instance, the latest issue with Reddit and “the notorious internet troll ℠Violentacrez.”
For the uninitiated, Reddit (a mashup of Read and Edit) is a community which hails itself as the official “Front Page of the Internet.” Anything from news stories to popular memes often go viral as a result of Reddit users sharing and “up voting” this content. While the community has some very useful features, such as AMAs (Ask Me Anything) wherein celebrities and public figures (such as President Obama) can speak directly with users, there´s also a shady side to the community filled with what could be considered – at best – “questionable” content.
Michael Brutsch, AKA ViolentAcrez, was responsible for much of this questionable content.
Reddit users can create their own forums with which to share their own content, stories, pictures and the like. From here, a story can earn enough up votes to be broadcast on a larger platform. These forums are called “subreddits” and can cover any topic or subject. Mr. Brutsch was responsible for creating many of these subreddits, spanning the gamut from Jailbait to Creepshot and even Picsofdeadjailbait.
Creepshot, for instance, hosted “questionable” pictures of women which had been taken without the woman´s consent. Jailbait featured pictures of teenage girls in a number of outfits and positions, though Brutsch says he adamantly refused to allow any pictures which could be considered child pornography. In a phone interview with Gawker´s Adrian Chen, Brutsch says the pictures of Jailbait were nothing worse than what was displayed on Brittney Spears´ “Hit Me Baby” video.
Not surprisingly, these subreddits attracted a lot of attention from the community and the media as well, with Anderson Cooper calling out Reddit for hosting such material in 2011.
Although Reddit originally told CNN´s Anderson Cooper that restricting the site would violate everything they stand for, they eventually banned Jailbait as well as any sexually suggestive content involving minors.
Even after this incident, or maybe because of it, Brutsch continued to push the boundaries of “free speech” while creating and moderating some even more controversial subreddits, including a subreddit dedicated to pictures of women being beaten. According to the Gawker piece, Brutsch even became well liked by the Reddit home office and had even been allegedly offered a job as a customer support representative for the company. At one point, this violent troll had even been largely in charge of moderating the less-savory NSFW content posted on the site.
As news began to leak about the Gawker story which would reveal the true identity of ViolentAcrez, Reddit posted a site-wide ban on any links coming from Gawker, an ironic decision from a Web site who claims to fight for freedom of speech.
"We volunteer our time on Reddit to make it a better place for the users, and should not be harassed and threatened for that. We should all be afraid of the threat of having our personal information investigated and spread around the internet if someone disagrees with you,” wrote a representative for the moderators on Reddit.
Adrian Chen unmasked ViolentAcrez as Michael Brutsch, a 49-year old programmer who lives in Arlington, Texas with his disabled wife, 2 dogs and 7 cats. Brutsch claims he´s never done anything wrong, even as he would upload porn while sitting next to his wife in bed while she uploaded cute videos of animals.
"My wife is disabled. I got a home and a mortgage, and if this hits the fan, I believe this will affect negatively on my employment," said Brutsch, begging Chen to not print his real name.
"I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time."
According to a new post in one of his subreddits, another Reddit user claims Brutsh has just lost his job at the financial services company he worked for in Texas. “Now his family has no health insurance and must support his ill wife on limited savings” reads the post, which urges anyone who has ever pleasured themselves to an image he posted to consider donating money.
Links following to reddit.com/user/violentacrez now generate a "Page Not Found" error.