Racism and internet vigilantism

I don't know about the other states, but in Michigan all it would take is 2 unwanted contacts to turn one of those postings into a felony.

750.411s Posting message
through electronic medium;
prohibitions; penalty; exceptions;
definitions.
Sec. 411s.
(1) A person shall not post a
message through the use of any
medium of communication,
including the internet or a
computer, computer program,
computer system, or computer
network, or other electronic
medium of communication,
without the victim's consent, if
all of the following apply:
(a) The person knows or has
reason to know that posting the
message could cause 2 or more
separate noncontinuous acts of
unconsented contact with the
victim.
(b) Posting the message is
intended to cause conduct that
would make the victim feel
terrorized, frightened,
intimidated, threatened,
harassed, or molested.
(c) Conduct arising from posting
the message would cause a
reasonable person to suffer
emotional distress and to feel
terrorized, frightened,
intimidated, threatened,
harassed, or molested.
(d) Conduct arising from posting
the message causes the victim
to suffer emotional distress and
to feel terrorized, frightened,
intimidated, threatened,
harassed, or molested.

www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(ugby1y554kjq2relkasidm45))/mileg.aspx?page=getobject&objectname=mcl-750-411s

Of course it would automatically get the second charge of using a computer to commit a crime (another felony).

Demyx wrote:
Jonman wrote:

Honestly, if it was complied from data that's publicly accessible, then yes, yes I would. Don't want your information made public? Then don't make it public.

What if my internet-unsavvy mom or grandma is the one who posted my public info? What if a vengeful ex-boyfriend posted it? What if I was just 13 years old and no one taught me any better?

Fair enough, that refutes my 'don't want it public' point above. So maybe the lesson is that we should all be assuming that our information is always public, because as you rightly point out, it could well be without our knowledge.

Or maybe the lesson is that we all need to be a little more aware. I google my own name every year or so just to check what comes up, for that very reason. I occasionally log out of FB, log back in with a dummy account and look for myself to see what's publicly searchable about me.

Demyx wrote:
Jonman wrote:

I guess I'm missing the link between folk having their publicly available information collated in one place, and them being harassed at home, work or school. Are there any reports of harassment as a result of this tumblr?

What's the purpose of posting these comments alongside things like drivers' licenses if it isn't an invitation for harassment?

There are plenty of tumblrs devoted to cataloging terrible things people say online without that information.

How about demonstrating that these people are grade-A idiots? As Momgamer said - "who's dumb enough to put a picture of their driver's license on FB?" Or maybe simply because it gave the creator of a tumblr a warm fuzzy feeling? How do you propose we infer their intent?

It's a "Name & Shame" campaign, nothing more. Of course, it could be argued that name-and-shame is itself a harassment technique....

Jonman wrote:

Fair enough, that refutes my 'don't want it public' point above. So maybe the lesson is that we should all be assuming that our information is always public, because as you rightly point out, it could well be without our knowledge.

Or maybe the lesson is that we all need to be a little more aware. I google my own name every year or so just to check what comes up, for that very reason. I occasionally log out of FB, log back in with a dummy account and look for myself to see what's publicly searchable about me.

Yes, I know that, and you know that, but a high school kid who was never taught probably doesn't know that, and it's a little harsh to just be like "well, thems the breaks!"

Demyx wrote:

How about demonstrating that these people are grade-A idiots? As Momgamer said - "who's dumb enough to put a picture of their driver's license on FB?" Or maybe simply because it gave the creator of a tumblr a warm fuzzy feeling? How do you propose we infer their intent?

It's a "Name & Shame" campaign, nothing more. Of course, it could be argued that name-and-shame is itself a harassment technique....

Do I know their intent for sure? No, I'm not in their heads, but I've seen this sort of thing plenty of times before and I'm not going to pretend that there's an equal chance that they posted that information so people can mail them candy.

Demyx wrote:
Jonman wrote:

Fair enough, that refutes my 'don't want it public' point above. So maybe the lesson is that we should all be assuming that our information is always public, because as you rightly point out, it could well be without our knowledge.

Or maybe the lesson is that we all need to be a little more aware. I google my own name every year or so just to check what comes up, for that very reason. I occasionally log out of FB, log back in with a dummy account and look for myself to see what's publicly searchable about me.

Yes, I know that, and you know that, but a high school kid who was never taught probably doesn't know that, and it's a little harsh to just be like "well, thems the breaks!"

Harsh is neither here nor there. Thems ARE the breaks. Life IS harsh. If you act like an asshole, people will treat you like an asshole, and are likely to respond to your assholery with assholery of their own. Valuable life lesson for a 13 year old.

"No-one told me not to be an asshole in public" isn't a valid defense for said assholery.

When I was a teen, I said some pretty offensive things because I grew up in a household where things like that were commonplace. Thankfully "social media" didn't exist then so none of it is preserved for posterity.

Getting called up at my house by internet vigilantes or getting a torrent of porn and shock images in my inbox, or getting vile rape threats (common things that happen when someone gets their "dox" posted) wouldn't have taught me a thing about what I did wrong. In fact, people who get harassed that way might well take the opposite lesson you want them to learn: "Gee, the people who disagree with me are total immature assholes, guess I picked the right side!"

If they'll do it to racists, what's stopping people from doing the same thing to teens who are gay, or trans, or atheists, or liberals, or libertarians, or any other opinion that is unpopular?

Personally, I'm not wishing that they get beat up. I do hope that they become an embarassment to their social groups and places of work/education. I wouldn't be terribly sad if one of them lost their job, however.

And me? Would you be sad if I lost my job? What if somebody lost their job because somebody falsified information and put it up on one of these sorts of things? What if somebody lost their job because they were identified as a non-racist and their boss was secretly a racist? I mean, WTF?

I do not understand this attitude of "them's the breaks". From my point of view, this is an issue of "There are people who should be protected, and if you wish to protect anybody you must protect everybody."

There's a difference between "the information is out there, if you go through a little bit of effort to dig it up" and "the information is out there on a site dedicated to publishing information about people they disapprove of and wish to see public shame heaped upon."

I can't see how anyone can fail to understand this unless they have [em]never[/em] done anything they've ever been ashamed of, or anything that anyone else could possibly disapprove of.

I don't want you to lose your job because, to my knowledge, you haven't threatened the POTUS with assassination. But words can have power and power has consequences. These people should be educated that it is not right to say some things. They won't be thrown in jail, but that is the only protection their speech should have.

Demyx wrote:
Jonman wrote:

Is it?

If I stand on a busy downtown street corner yelling "hang the nigger in the White House", do I deserve the beatdown that I'm most likely to get?

I don't think people deserve to be beaten for things they say, no matter how strongly I disagree.

I think in that case both you and the person beating you are wrong.

(Unless you mean a verbal "beatdown" in which case yes, you would deserve that.)

Well, this is what it comes down to - who is in the wrong here?

The person doing the beating.

In this case, if I gather up someone's information and say "this person said terrible racist stuff, internet, GET 'EM", I have not beaten anyone. Am I possibly a jerk or douchebag for making it easier for someone to find them and beat them? Probably, yes. But I am not any more or less wrong at that point than the person who said the horribly racist stuff. I think it's an appropriate and acceptable response in light of personal accountability and responsibility.

Hypatian wrote:

And me? Would you be sad if I lost my job? What if somebody lost their job because somebody falsified information and put it up on one of these sorts of things? What if somebody lost their job because they were identified as a non-racist and their boss was secretly a racist? I mean, WTF?

I do not understand this attitude of "them's the breaks". From my point of view, this is an issue of "There are people who should be protected, and if you wish to protect anybody you must protect everybody."

There's a difference between "the information is out there, if you go through a little bit of effort to dig it up" and "the information is out there on a site dedicated to publishing information about people they disapprove of and wish to see public shame heaped upon."

I can't see how anyone can fail to understand this unless they have [em]never[/em] done anything they've ever been ashamed of, or anything that anyone else could possibly disapprove of.

Protect them from what? Defamation? There's libel laws for that. Assault and/or harassment? There's laws for that too.

The consequences of their public actions? Not so much.

If you're fired because your boss finds out that you hold opposing political views, how is it different that he read them online from overhearing you talking in the breakroom? Neither event was intended for his ears, right?

Bloo Driver wrote:

Well, this is what it comes down to - who is in the wrong here?

The person doing the beating.

In this case, if I gather up someone's information and say "this person said terrible racist stuff, internet, GET 'EM", I have not beaten anyone. Am I possibly a jerk or douchebag for making it easier for someone to find them and beat them? Probably, yes. But I am not any more or less wrong at that point than the person who said the horribly racist stuff. I think it's an appropriate and acceptable response in light of personal accountability and responsibility.

Ohio Revised Code wrote:

2917.01 Inciting to violence.
(A) No person shall knowingly engage in conduct designed to urge or incite another to commit any offense of violence, when either of the following apply:

(1) The conduct takes place under circumstances that create a clear and present danger that any offense of violence will be committed;

(2) The conduct proximately results in the commission of any offense of violence.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of inciting to violence. If the offense of violence that the other person is being urged or incited to commit is a misdemeanor, inciting to violence is a misdemeanor of the first degree. If the offense of violence that the other person is being urged or incited to commit is a felony, inciting to violence is a felony of the third degree.

Effective Date: 07-01-1996

Depends where you live whether you're liable.

Whether you're responsible? If you expect the outcome to be a beating, then you're responsible. You knowingly made a choice that would result in that outcome, you don't get to shrug it off. (Since we don't get to know what people actually think, laws are usually based on whether "any reasonable person" would expect it. But actual ethical responsibility... well, [em]you[/em] know whether you knew.)

(And before we get into the whole sh*t-storm of "wait, but isn't the person who beat them up the one who's responsible?": Yes, they are *too*. Responsibility doesn't get used up. It's your fault you set it up to happen. It's their fault they did it. It's the original actor's fault that they did something to invite it. Nobody gets away clean. Unless, of course, they choose [em]not[/em] to be an asshole, by not saying sh*t in the first place, by not inciting a reaction against the sh*t-talker, or by not beating the sh*t-talker.)

Jonman wrote:

If you're fired because your boss finds out that you hold opposing political views, how is it different that he read them online from overhearing you talking in the breakroom? Neither event was intended for his ears, right?

Sure. The question is whether it's okay for someone to spend very little effort at no risk to themselves (and not sharing their personal information, mind you) to drastically increase the exposure of somebody else's behavior and personal information. I would argue that no, it is not okay, and that somebody who's actually trying to act in a moral and upright manner should have no part of any such activity. Take action against the offender yourself, in your own name. Don't just passive-aggressively post their sh*t anonymously on the Internet so that the mob can take care of it for you.

Hypatian wrote:
Jonman wrote:

If you're fired because your boss finds out that you hold opposing political views, how is it different that he read them online from overhearing you talking in the breakroom? Neither event was intended for his ears, right?

Sure. The question is whether it's okay for someone to spend very little effort at no risk to themselves (and not sharing their personal information, mind you) to drastically increase the exposure of somebody else's behavior and personal information. I would argue that no, it is not okay, and that somebody who's actually trying to act in a moral and upright manner should have no part of any such activity. Take action against the offender yourself, in your own name. Don't just passive-aggressively post their sh*t anonymously on the Internet so that the mob can take care of it for you.

"drastically increase" is highly arguable. I would almost suggest that a tumblr is actually a lot *less* visible/exposed than FB or Twitter in the first place.

I'm not sure that I agree that in this instance, shining a light on intolerance isn't actually the moral and upright thing to do. Isn't standing up to racism and intolerance the moral thing to do, even if done passive-aggressively?

Depends who you're worried about the information being exposed to. Let's say you're in the mood to f*ck up the life of someone in category X. How hard is it to trawl the Internet to find people in category X, then find their personal info, then make a few prank phone calls, fake subscriptions, other general harassing stuff? How likely is it that by the time you've actually gotten that all together, you've realized that this is kind of a bad idea and/or passed out from drink?

In contrast:

How hard is it for one person to say "Hmm, this guy I stumbled across is kind of a dick" and put them on a list?
How hard is it for another to say "Oh, lol, I found out about this guy easy!" and put more info up?
How hard is it for a third to come by in a mood and say "I'm going subscribe five of these jerks on this list to receive Jack Chick tracts!" or "I'm going to call their workplace and foam at the mouth for a few minutes!"

And, of course, the first person might know the guy and doesn't have to think about confronting him in person. And the last person probably doesn't know the guy and doesn't have to think about them *as* a person.

The barriers to bad behavior? They're a wee bit lower at this point, compared to doing it the old fashioned way. It doesn't matter whether that list is on 4chan, flickr, or some marketing database. Acting on people en masse is easier once you have a list.

Jonman wrote:
Demyx wrote:
Jonman wrote:

Fair enough, that refutes my 'don't want it public' point above. So maybe the lesson is that we should all be assuming that our information is always public, because as you rightly point out, it could well be without our knowledge.

Or maybe the lesson is that we all need to be a little more aware. I google my own name every year or so just to check what comes up, for that very reason. I occasionally log out of FB, log back in with a dummy account and look for myself to see what's publicly searchable about me.

Yes, I know that, and you know that, but a high school kid who was never taught probably doesn't know that, and it's a little harsh to just be like "well, thems the breaks!"

Harsh is neither here nor there. Thems ARE the breaks. Life IS harsh. If you act like an asshole, people will treat you like an asshole, and are likely to respond to your assholery with assholery of their own. Valuable life lesson for a 13 year old.

"No-one told me not to be an asshole in public" isn't a valid defense for said assholery.

Simple solution: if life really is that unvaryingly harsh, let the next guy teach the lesson. If assholery is that likely a response to assholery...don't be a hero. Let someone else teach that life lesson, and just walk away. Let someone else cast the first stone if you're so certain you've got an angry mob behind you.

The best part of my solution? If it turns out there isn't an angry mob in back of you, then guess what: turned out life isn't so harsh.

"But hold on now Cheeze" you might say: "maybe life would have been harsh if everyone hadn't of waited for someone else to cast the first stone."

To which my reply would be: "exactly--now think about that for a while."

Jonman wrote:

I'm not sure that I agree that in this instance, shining a light on intolerance isn't actually the moral and upright thing to do. Isn't standing up to racism and intolerance the moral thing to do, even if done passive-aggressively?

Sure, but it seems to me that there's a difference between saying "look at this guy's tweets, he's an asshole" and saying "look at this guy's tweets, also here's where he lives and here's where he goes to school". One's a public shaming, and one's an implied threat.

Also, if you [em]do[/em] want to reject such behavior: Consider doing it in a way that [em]isn't[/em] passive-aggressive and classless. Don't post somebody to a list. Don't pull somebody off a list and give them grief. When [em]you[/em] see someone do something, speak up and say "Hey, that's not at all cool." That's what people ought to do. The list? The list just serves as a way to get other random Internet people to get outraged. (And that's still reasonably okay, if you are just pointing people at the original message in-place.) The list with extra personal info? What, exactly, is that good for [em]except[/em] going too far?

Hell—if you want to, stalk them yourself and contact their employer and stuff and let them know that their employee has caused you to have a reduced impression of their business, etc. You'll probably spend some time doing due diligence here to make sure that it's the right person and the right boss. (Which you might not if you're the guy who picks up the phone to froth at the top five hits on the list of the day.)

One of the main challenges of the web is anonymity. Any knuckle dragger can get a facebook or twitter account and post some of the most vile stuff imaginable. The penalty for that should be exposing them and that's where it should end.

Simply having it be pointed out that you're a racist asshole seems like a suitable sentence.

CheezePavilion wrote:

Simple solution: if life really is that unvaryingly harsh, let the next guy teach the lesson. If assholery is that likely a response to assholery...don't be a hero. Let someone else teach that life lesson, and just walk away. Let someone else cast the first stone if you're so certain you've got an angry mob behind you.

Which is precisely what all of us are doing. Someone else taught that life lesson through a Tumblr.

Jonman wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:

Simple solution: if life really is that unvaryingly harsh, let the next guy teach the lesson. If assholery is that likely a response to assholery...don't be a hero. Let someone else teach that life lesson, and just walk away. Let someone else cast the first stone if you're so certain you've got an angry mob behind you.

Which is precisely what all of us are doing. Someone else taught that life lesson through a Tumblr.

Someone else who probably never considered my solution. Someone else who probably just said "life is harsh, so I'll be harsh--if I'm not, someone else will just be harsh anyway."

In other words, what you're saying sends the message to people "go ahead and respond with assholery--if you don't, someone else will." Maybe if people didn't walk around with that idea in their head that "life is harsh" maybe people wouldn't ACT so harshly towards other people. And you know, that just might make the world a much less harsh place.

I guess in the hypothetical, I got away from the reality, so I'll just reiterate: If you put your personal information out on the Internet, and you start engaging in behavior that draws negative attention, I simply refuse to listen to the complaints about non-violent backlash. To me, it's not a "two wrongs make a right" situation, it's a situation where people are still wrongly trying to argue that the Internet somehow doesn't count.

The list certainly makes it easier for more people who would have been otherwise not motivated enough to do something horrid, but to that I give another resounding oh well, outside of the legal guideline.

I dunno, I'm actually a pretty compassionate guy. But I am constantly galled by the notion some people have that there is one excuse or another that they shouldn't be held accountable for what they've said or done. I suppose "accountable" in this case is nebulous - showing up at their house and beating them with a brickbat is certainly not a proportionate response. But that strikes me as hand-wringing over hypotheticals because extremely little of this ends in such a scenario. I think, overall, the likelihood of someone getting beaten over this is, say, about equal to someone getting beaten for it in public. That's not a good thing, but I guess it feels proportionate to the rest of the real world, so I don't get why it's so bad because it's online. I think we just like to freak out about stuff happening online.

Bloo Driver wrote:

If you put your personal information out on the Internet, and you start engaging in behavior that draws negative attention, I simply refuse to listen to the complaints about non-violent backlash.

Racism is hardly the only thing that draws negative attention on the internet. You can also draw a hefty amount of negative attention, as I've tried to point out, by being gay, atheist, feminist, liberal, conservative, Muslim...

The list certainly makes it easier for more people who would have been otherwise not motivated enough to do something horrid, but to that I give another resounding oh well, outside of the legal guideline.

Does this apply to any group that draws negative attention? Or just racists?

I suppose "accountable" in this case is nebulous - showing up at their house and beating them with a brickbat is certainly not a proportionate response.

I don't understand why people think internet vigilantism is an appropriate way of holding people accountable. Are they talking about the same "internet justice" I've seen from places like 4chan and Reddit? Do you think someone's going to learn a profound life lesson about not posting racist garbage because they've been spammed with porn and meme gifs and rape threats?

Demyx wrote:
Bloo Driver wrote:

If you put your personal information out on the Internet, and you start engaging in behavior that draws negative attention, I simply refuse to listen to the complaints about non-violent backlash.

Racism is hardly the only thing that draws negative attention on the internet. You can also draw a hefty amount of negative attention, as I've tried to point out, by being gay, atheist, feminist, liberal, conservative, Muslim...

Yes, obviously I was saying we should mock and hate people for these things.

Or I might have been talking about the actual topic at hand in that tumblr. Who knows?

Demyx wrote:

I don't understand why people think internet vigilantism is an appropriate way of holding people accountable. Are they talking about the same "internet justice" I've seen from places like 4chan and Reddit? Do you think someone's going to learn a profound life lesson about not posting racist garbage because they've been spammed with porn and meme gifs and rape threats?

Well, again, it really depends on the response. "internet vigilantism" is a really broad term applied to a lot of actions.

Bloo Driver wrote:

Yes, obviously I was saying we should mock and hate people for these things.

My whole point is that when you're saying "if you draw negative attention to yourself on the internet, don't complain about real life harassment" opens the door to things that I doubt you'd like. Because who defines what sort of behavior makes a person deserve that treatment?

Demyx wrote:
Bloo Driver wrote:

Yes, obviously I was saying we should mock and hate people for these things.

My whole point is that when you're saying "if you draw negative attention to yourself on the internet, don't complain about real life harassment" opens the door to things that I doubt you'd like. Because who defines what sort of behavior makes a person deserve that treatment?

So, we're just going to slide by how I explained the context of where I was talking about this particular instance so you can continue acting like this is a teaching moment? Alrighty.

I'd rather this behavior never really happen, but what we're seeing here is people being mean on the internet and then people being mean on the internet back. Would it be better if folks took the high road? Absolutely. Is it a real issue that it's happening? I can't bring myself to say yes.

Well, when you say "behavior that draws negative attention" it does sound like you're talking in general and not about a specific instance, yeah. If you would've said something like "If you're racist, you deserve to get your personal info posted on this blog" then I would've got that you were talking about only this.

And no, I'm not going to go shed tears over some racist who gets harassed by would-be internet crusaders. I just don't think it helps, either.

I guess I've just read a few too many stories about people who have been rather viciously stalked and harassed because they expressed an unpopular opinion to feel okay with what this blog is doing. Yes, these racist people are horrible, and maybe nothing bad will come of it, but the whole thing (and the fact that so many people seem totally comfortable with it) makes me uneasy.

I do think people making these comments should not get to hide behind anonymity.. but then a lot of these posts don't appear to attempting to be anonymous in the first place.

Semi-related;
Mapping racist Tweets in response to President Obama's re-election

I'm wondering what the consequences are for innocent people who get caught up in this. Who's to say that all that linked public info is accurate?

Then one day you start getting pizzas delivered to your door and harassing phone calls in the middle of the night for no reason and you wonder WTF is going on. It's happened before and it'll happen again...

As for posting their info itself, I disagree with it and pretty much fall on the side of Demyx. You want to fight and challenge these people? Do it in the medium they used in the first place. Yeah, someone's yelling out on the street corner about crazy sh*t - you have the choice to ignore it as crazy or challenge it verbally right there and then. Someone's beating up someone else? You have the choice to ignore it or intervene either through calling for help or physically helping yourself. Someone posts crazy crap on Twitter? You have the choice to ignore it or get involved on twitter.

Don't fight some multi-tiered shadow war where the people you're against have no idea you're opposing them. We're not all that good at seeing the wood for the trees. Who's to say that one day you're doing this and it turns out that you're the one with the crazy...

This is as much vigilantism as Occupy Wall Street was warfare.

Those roving bands of liberals buying up guns and explosives will come to their doors. Now we finally start to blow up Discovery Institutes and Baptist churches.

Or they will get some flames until they have the sense to disable or go private online.

Let me just play devils advocate for a moment - is the real outrage here over the racism or the death threats being leveled against the president? I think it's perfectly reasonable to call into question someone committing treason - aka threatening assassination. On the other hand, inviting the public to harrass and possibly harm or kill perfect strangers for stupid racist comments is just wrong. IMHO this website is essentially inviting open season on anyone posted there. Are comments on Facebook really worth somebody getting a baseball bat to the head or a bullet in the chest over?

And before I get dismissed with "yeah those angry liberals are going to throw lattes at them," I'm not worried about your average law abiding democrat going after these guys. I am worried about another kid at the local high school doing something stupid and blowing his classmate away over this website. Having grown up in the South, I've seen way too many stupid incidents were a racial slur leads to a deadly confrontation between white and black teens.