On Friday Gawker writer Adrien Chen posted this fascinating, well-written, and well-reported piece titled "Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web," profiling the 49-year-old married father from Texas who used Reddit, an online community with millions of users and "lurkers," to post racist, misogynistic, and highly-controversial articles and photos.
Brutsch was the creator and/or moderator of hundreds of "subreddits" (smaller communities within Reddit), some of them with titles like Chokeabitch, Rapebait, Jewmerica, Jailbait, Beatingwomen, and even Picsofdeadjailbait. Yeah. Pictures of dead, underage girls. "I just like riling people up in my spare time," he told Chen.
The Gawker piece came just days after an anonymous person or group started the Tumblr blog called Predditors (which, after the Gawker piece, was protected by password but appears to be live again). Predditors posts the personal information of Reddit users who are known to submit photos to the subreddit Creepshots, a (now defunct) subreddit where users would share pictures they took of women's butts, breasts, or bodies without consent, titling them things like "Juicy ass in tight jean shorts," "Lady at McDonald's with a fat ass," and "Hottie in a bikini ordering a drink."
Like Chen, this Tumblr didn't hack anyone's computer to find this information—it's all public, and fairly easy to get to with just a little digging. The creators of the blog simply used the Reddit user's comment history to gather things like their full name, location, school, or place of employment, as well as their Facebook or Twitter accounts. As you could imagine, some Redditors freaked out, crying about their right to privacy. (I suppose the women who were just in line at McDonald's or trying to get a drink on the beach aren't worthy of the same privacy.)
Reddit banned the posting of Predditors (and a Jezebel post that pointed it out), claiming it gave away private information, which is the one thing you can't post on Reddit. But here's the thing: You are not anonymous on the internet. This isn't breaching anyone's right to privacy, it's the outcome of mistaken entitlement.
If you're going to troll, purposefully stir the pot, and/or post photos of women that were taken without consent or racist garbage, the internet never agreed you wouldn't be called out. Free speech gives you the right to speak freely, but it doesn't give you the right to speak freely behind a pseudonym without any negative outcomes for your words or actions.
While those posting in Reddit's controversial subreddits might feel like it's a sacred, tight community, where they'd be protected, it's their own fault for not realizing the obvious fact: It's still very public. And frankly, it's quite surprising that someone hasn't publicly suffered the consequences of trolling, the way Brutsch did, much sooner. Brutsch bore the brunt of the very harsh but necessary lesson that everyone needs to keep in mind: Don't say or do anything you don't want to be caught saying or doing.
Even though a number of Redditors want to blame Chen for Brutsch's demise (and a number of subreddits are still banning that Gawker article from being shared), Brutsch knows this is his own fault. He's the one who posted racist, misogynistic, and borderline-illegal content, and he admitted (or claims) he did it not because he really is a misogynistic, racist creep, but because he "likes to rile people up." He was trolling.
Certainly this fan-hitting shitstorm won't stop all the trolls in the world. In fact, it might make some of them act smarter when it comes to keeping their identity a secret, but it certainly will make a number of them think twice before clicking the mouse or hitting enter. Brutsch himself has at least learned that much.
Under a different Reddit username, his real name, Brutsch has been answering questions over the past few days. (Oddly, he refers to Violentacres in third person, claiming "VA was a character I played on Reddit.") Both those who support him and those who despise him have chimed in (the supporters even started a fundraiser for him, since he lost his job, healthcare, and claims to have no savings), and when one user asked what others should do in order to avoid meeting the same potentially life-ruing fate, Brutsch simply said: "Be nice."