Let’s consider two morally problematic actions:
1. Surreptitiously taking photographs of women, or stealing them from the women’s Facebook pages, and posting them on a forum with the explicit intent of having you and your buddies leer at said women.
2. Unmasking the identity of a person who participates in a forum pseudonymously, against that person’s wishes.
The last few days, since a reporter at Gawker did action (2) to the moderator of a forum dedicated to (1), I have been trying to imagine a reasonable system of ethics under which (1) is acceptable but (2) is not. Indeed, I can’t even come up with a reasonable argument why (2) is worse than (1). Or an explanation, other than misogyny, why a person would think (2) is worse than (1).
Nevertheless, the reaction of much of the Reddit user community has been anger at Gawker for the unmasking, and solidarity with the moderator of a forum titled “Creepshots”.
Personally, I’m inclined to agree with Scott Lemieux: while outing pseudonymous people online is generally a bad thing, this case is probably a reasonable exception.
Also, one of the most stunning revelations in the Gawker story, in my mind, is the relationship between Reddit’s administrators and the guy who was running the “Creepshots” forum.
But Violentacrez has historically had a close relationship with Reddit’s staff, a fact far less well-known than his controversial behavior. [. . .] A few years ago, while Jailbait [a forum dedicated to leering a photos of teenage girls] was still going strong, Reddit’s administrators gave him a special one-of-a-kind “pimp hat” badge to honor his contributions to the site, which he proudly displayed on his profile. Brutsch said he was even in the final running for a job as a customer support representative at Reddit last year.
This is beyond the laissez-faire “we let people post whatever legal content they want” attitude. Seriously, if someone you know runs a forum dedicated to leering at teenage girls, or leering over photos of women taken surreptitiously, you don’t give that person an award. You shun them.