Trolls. No, not this kind of troll. This kind.
Last week, Gawker’s Adrien Chen revealed the real-life identity of one of the most notoriously famous, (and creepy), internet trolls of Reddit.
Formerly known publicly only by his Reddit username, “Violentacrez,” Chen wrote a lengthy profile about the man behind the screen — the father, computer programmer, and cat-lover, Michael Brutsch.
Brutsch’s activity on Reddit has recently served as an example of the double-edged sword of anonymity on the internet. He was infamous for posting content from the underbelly of the internet (in categories including porn, racism, misogyny, incest, and violence) onto Reddit. On the other hand, he was an ally of Reddit in moderating even worse, or in some cases illegal, content. But even more so, he was (and still is) a purveyor of freedom of expression and anonymity on the internet.
Since the article was released four days ago, there has been some clamoring within the Reddit community. Chen’s article, along with all other Gawker articles, were banned by the site’s moderators. Reddit then noted that this move was a mistake and lifted the ban.
With one of the biggest trolls on the internet being ousted, the anonymity of other trolls and users are also at threat of being revealed (some have already been unmasked). The images and content Brutsch (and many other trolls) post definitely can be deemed offensive, violating, and threatening to most of the general public. But in the early days of the internet, conversation was based in anonymity. Forums, chat rooms, and even blogs had usernames instead of “real” names like those that are now required on Facebook and Google+.
Anonymity is something Reddit users still prize — all 3.5 million of them. They claim it’s where they can broach taboo and radical topics, and users have argued that the site is a form of “thought experiment” severed from real-life.
Which brings us to the following questions: With heavier moderation on the internet, would we be taking away a vital element that originally made it so special, anonymity? Or has harassment overshadowed this notion?
But mostly, will the days of being anonymous on the internet soon be gone as the online-life veers closer to real-life?
It’s most definitely a controversial topic. We want to hear your thoughts below.
[Image found on Tumblr]