It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is Out

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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:51 am

48 hours inside the Internet’s ‘most toxic’ community
By Caitlin Dewey
March 26, 2015

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A screenshot from a Reddit 404 page. (Reddit)

Reddit, the front-page of the Internet, hasn’t exactly had a banner year.

In August, it served as an early incubator for the Gamergate movement, which would go on wreck the lives of several innocent women and baffle America’s non-gaming populace. Not long after, it became the main distribution center for a trove of controversial stolen celebrity nude photos, including at least one of the gymnast McKayla Maroney when she was underage. To further salt the site’s wounds, a widely-publicized report released earlier this month accused the site of hosting hate groups. Reddit is, the Southern Poverty Law Center claimed, “the most hateful space on the Internet.”

… and the Internet can be a pretty hateful place.

As hardcore Redditors (and the site’s corporate owners) have pointed out, this criticism isn’t always entirely fair. Reddit is like a microcosm of the Internet itself: It’s so vast and labyrinthine and lawless that pretty much anything, good or bad, can make its home there. (“Reddit is the Mos Eisley spaceport of the Internet,” Slate’s Jacob Brogan wrote Wednesday. “A hive of scum and villainy that can carry you to the stars, if you ask around in the right places.”)

[Move over, Reddit: Tumblr is the new front page of the Internet]


So two weeks ago, Ben Bell — a data scientist at the language-processing firm Idibon — set out to quantify exactly which Reddit communities were the proverbial worst. Using both language-processing software and a team of human annotators, whom you can read about in more depth here, he identified the forums where personal attacks and bigoted language were the most frequent.

At the top of the pack, ranked No. 1 for toxicity, was /r/S***RedditSays: a forum with some 64,000 members, devoted, counter-intuitively, to shaming racism, misogyny, homophobia and “toxic privilege” in the larger Reddit community.

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“Take a second to think about how unwelcoming this site is for some groups,” the community’s moderators explain in its FAQ. “SRS lets those groups know that there is in fact a faction of vocal dissenters and that they aren’t alone.”

Determined to see how dark the so-called “darkest depth of the Interwebs” could possibly be, I spent 48 hours lurking in SRS and logging every conversation that bubbled up in it. The community is pretty strictly regulated: You can only post literal quotes from other Redditors, and only for the purpose of making fun of them. So the average SRS thread consists of an unsavory quote from elsewhere on Reddit, and then a long string of negative responses. Like:

Reddit: Rape victims lie frequently for “monetary gain.”

SRS: “How stupid do you have to be?”

Reddit: drops a casual racial slur while talking about ISIS.

SRS: “Terrorism is meant to polarize groups, and Reddit happily helps out with that.”

Reddit: “Grad school made me racist … There’s a reason [racial] stereotypes exist.”

SRS: “If you self-identify as racist, you must have a sad existence.”


As should be fairly clear, SRS isn’t the actual source of bigotry or vitriol on Reddit: It’s just a mirror of it, a concentrated reaction to the casual bias and stereotyping that play out in other corners of the site. In fact, when SRS began, it was intended more lightheartedly: a place to gather silly or stupid comments, the same way other variants of the “s*** people say” meme do. But over time, the Guardian reported earlier this month, it became an “enclave within the site for people who have deep concerns about the main community.”

Those concerns, judging by the comments SRS has flagged in the past week, most frequently relate to sexism, racism and religious bias. And SRS has not hesitated to voice its concerns forcefully: “we have found that fighting fire with fire is substantially more gratifying” than discussion, they wrote. (Bell says his report did control for context, so SRS was rated toxic for the tone of its discussion, and not the controversial topics.) A common refrain, in response to virtually any kind of post, is “f*** Reddit” or “f*** Redditors.”

Bigotry on Reddit

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The more time I spent in SRS, however, the more I realized that this is not Reddit’s fight — a fact that one moderator acknowledged explicitly in a recent interview. SRS is the most toxic place on the Internet only insofar as this debate over inclusion, diversity and “social justice” remains the most toxic debate in our culture; a debate that has, in the past year, winded around #YesAllWomen, erupted into the inferno that was Gamergate, and has reared its head with every new police shooting and rape allegation.

SRS may as well change its name to “s*** society says,” because that’s essentially what it documents: “the casual racism and sexism that is so popular,” and so insurmountable, even in mainstream, offline venues.

By the end of my allotted 48 hours, I was more than ready to log out of SRS permanently. Not because of the combativeness, necessarily, or the shaming or the “toxicity.” But I got worn down by the parade of human nastiness — and the futility of even trying to fight it.

“We are not here to ‘change reddit,'” the forum’s moderators write. “We don’t expect reddit to change. We know most redditors don’t really [care].”

They aren’t just talking about Reddit, though. And that’s a toxic problem, right there.
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:52 am

BLACK HOLE
by Keegan Hankes
March 9, 2015

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


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The most violently racist internet content isn't found on sites like Stormfront and VNN any more.

One section of the Web forum is dedicated to watching black men die, while another is called “CoonTown” and features users wondering if there are any states left that are “nigger free.” One conversation focuses on the state of being “Negro Free,” while another is about how best to bring attention to the assertion that black people are more prone to commit sexual assaults than whites.

But these discussions aren’t happening on Stormfront, which since its founding in 1995 by a former Alabama Klan leader has been the largest hate forum on the Web. They’re taking place on Reddit, a huge online bulletin board recently spun off into its own independent entity from Advance Publications, the parent company of Condé Nast. Reddit has been hailed as the last bastion of free speech on the Internet, an unregulated and vibrant community of users who post whatever they want and rely on the community around them to police their content.

The world of online hate, long dominated by website forums like Stormfront and its smaller neo-Nazi rival Vanguard News Network (VNN), has found a new — and wildly popular — home on the Internet. Reddit boasts the 9th highest Alexa Internet traffic ranking in the United States and the 36th worldwide. Many of Reddit’s racist subreddits are among its most popular.

Reddit is a news site that hosts user-submitted links and discussion, organized into specific communities of interest comprised of “subreddits,” which are ranked by votes from users. If a reader believes content is a constructive contribution, he or she can “upvote” it, pushing the content further up the page. Conversely, if a user thinks that content is either off-topic or is not constructive, it can be “downvoted,” causing it to sink further down the page.

Content on Reddit is “moderated based on quality, not opinion,” according to the working document that dictates community guidelines, called “Reddiquette.” This idea of user-policed communities that contain high-quality, diverse content is part of the ethos Reddit has worked hard to project. “We power awesome communities,” reads the graphic atop its “about” page.

But awesome communities for whom?

The ‘Chimpire’

Along with countless others with entirely different interests, Reddit increasingly is providing a home for anti-black racists — and some of the most virulent and violent propaganda around. In November 2013, a hyper-racist subreddit called “GreatApes” was formed. Users posted epithet-strewn links to “news” stories of dubious origin that riffed on long established stereotypes about the black community. GreatApes was wildly popular and grew quickly, expanding into a much larger Reddit network called “the Chimpire,” which was organized by a user known only by his or her posting name of “Jewish_NeoCon2.”

“We feel it’s time to expand our sphere of influence and lebensraum [the Nazi term for “living space”] on reddit. Thus we have decided to create ‘the Chimpire,’ a network of nigger related subreddits,” Jewish_NeoCon2 wrote at the time. “Want to read people’s experiences with niggers? There now is an affiliated subreddit for it. Want to watch chimp nature documentaries? We got it. Nigger hate facts? IT’S THERE. … Oh yes you bet we got videos of ghetto niggers fighting each other. Nigger drama on reddit? There’s a sub. Sheboons? Gibsmedat.”

Within a year, the Chimpire network had grown to include 46 active subreddits spanning an alarming range of racist topics, including “Teenapers,” “ApeWrangling,” “Detoilet,” and “Chicongo,” along with subreddits for both “TrayvonMartin” and “ferguson,” each of them dealing with the controversial and highly publicized shooting deaths of unarmed black teenagers.

Then, last November, Reddit’s most racist community evolved once again, adding the subreddit called CoonTown in the aftermath of a dispute between several top moderators at GreatApes. In just four days, CoonTown had reached 1,000 subscribers. And its popularity continues to grow.

According to Reddit Metrics, as of Jan. 6, there were 552,829 subreddits. CoonTown, with its 3,287 subscribers, ranked 6,279th, placing it in the top 2% of subreddits. It is the 680th fastest-growing subreddit on the site despite — or because of — violently racist material including a large number of threads dedicated to videos of black-on-black violence.

These gruesome videos show black men being hit in the head repeatedly with a hammer, burned alive, and killed in a variety of other ways. The subreddit’s banner features a cartoon of a black man hanging, complete with a Klansman in the background. One fairly typical user, “Bustatruggalo” applauded the graphic violence as “[v]ery educational and entertaining.” He or she continued on a separate thread: “I almost feel bad for letting an image like this fill me with an overwhelming amount of joy. Almost….”

Others, like user “natchil,” were looking for still more. “Where is watchjewsdie?” this user wondered.

'Remember the Human'

There are some limits. “No calls for violence,” the CoonTown subreddit’s description reads. “It’s prohibited by Reddit’s site-wide rules.”

Everything up to violence, however, is very much there, including the horrific content found on other Chimpire subreddits like “WatchNiggersDie” — content which is rarely, if ever, matched on forums like Stormfront and VNN, which worry about being shut down or driving off potential allies.

That’s despite the Reddiquette section’s first rule, which implores Reddit users to “Remember the human.” “When you communicate online, all you see is a computer screen,” it says. “When talking to someone you might want to ask yourself ‘Would I say it to the person’s face?’ or ‘Would I get jumped if I said this to a buddy?’”

If Reddit’s rules seem relaxed, that’s because they are meant to be. Still, although users are asked to “remember the human,” there is little humanity in the way the subjects of subreddits like CoonTown are treated.

In June 2013, however, after an extended, public controversy, Reddit did ban the subreddit “Niggers” when large numbers of its denizens began overrunning another subreddit, “BlackGirls,” with racist posts that were apparently not being policed by its moderators. “Brigading” — when large groups of people from one subreddit gang up to downvote comments on another subreddit that they don’t normally visit — is prohibited by Reddit. Users of the Niggers subreddit also engaged in “vote manipulation,” which falsely raises the popularity of a post by soliciting like-minded users to blindly upvote it. After repeated warnings and “shadow-banning,” or making a user’s posts invisible to everyone but the author, the subreddit was finally banned. According to Jewish_NeoCon2, more than a few former members of the Niggers subreddit have now taken up residence at CoonTown.

A Reluctance to Intervene

Reddit was recently spun off into its own independent entity from Advance Publications, the parent company of mass media giant Condé Nast, which also owns Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and 20 other print and online publications that reach an estimated 95 million consumers (Advance Publications is still a majority shareholder in Reddit). The site’s goal, according to Wong, is to pay its own way and its primary engine for accomplishing that is through ads, a premium subscription option, and the Reddit gift exchange.

Racist websites and organizations do sometimes benefit from racist subreddits like the Chimpire. That’s because subreddit users often post links to other racist sites, and those links drive traffic to those other sites, which in turn typically sell merchandise in addition to pushing racist ideology and recruiting.

It’s hard to dispute that Reddit does offer a venue for remarkably lively and unbridled conversation, and that dissident commentary that might not be tolerated elsewhere finds a welcome home there. Richard Spencer, a racist ideologue who heads the National Policy Institute, held an “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit last November, and although his views are widely regarded as loathsome, he was calm and understated in his discussion of far-right European politics. Unlike in WatchNiggersDie, there were no links to videos of brutal killings or other visual images meant to degrade the humanity of minorities.

Reddit is often hailed as one of the last bastions of truly free speech, and its owners’ hesitance to jeopardize that status is understandable given the loyal following it has inspired. Reddit has removed content that has been illegally appropriated from commercial interests, such as the revelations that emerged from the November hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The Internet is awash in racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic and other hateful content, but much of it is relatively tame. Subreddits such the Chimpire offer a window on to just how awful some of the darkest corners of the Web really are.
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Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:53 am

Even at a national memorial, no one is safe from ‘creepshots’
By Caitlin Dewey
October 10, 2014

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


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A man who photographed women sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial recently got away with it. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Creepshots, one of the Internet’s many bizarre sexual scourges, are “repellent and disturbing,” a D.C. judge ruled Thursday — but they are not technically illegal.

In case you aren’t familiar with the term (and you might not want to be, FYI), creepshots are essentially just what they sound like: sneaky, surreptitious photos of a person’s, usually a woman’s, private areas, taken without her consent — and often, without her knowledge that the parts in question are even visible. They’re widely considered a genre of so-called “nonconsensual porn” — explicit images or videos traded without permission from the people they depict.

Online, these images enjoy a thriving trade on sites like Reddit, 4chan, AnonIB and even Twitter, where handles like @CreepBK, @SexySights and @Creep_daddy keep up a steady stream of skin-crawling photos. Both Reddit and AnonIB have forums dedicated to these types of photos, specifically; on AnonIB’s creepshot forum, users are currently salivating over a photo of a high-school student bending over to push a Wal-Mart cart as she shops. It’s obvious, from the number and location of the photos, that someone followed her around the store to take them.

“There were some pics of a similar looking girl kicking around the interweb a few years back,” one user wrote. “She was leaning over a barrier at her swimming pool talking to her swim coach … Anyone know the whereabouts?”

Someone else in the forum promptly supplied the photo: It is indeed of a (very young) girl at a swim meet, wearing what look to be swim shorts, watching people in the pool swim.

To many a reasonable observer, the existence of such a photo, and the intentions with which it was taken, seem self-evidently wrong. These are private people, going about their private lives. Why should a quick breeze or a bathing suit expose them to this kind of sustained, humiliating attention?

In the D.C. case, at least, the answer lay in a legal technicality. Voyeurism, a misdemeanor, has a very specific definition: You can’t secretly record someone using the bathroom, changing, having sex, or doing anything else where she has “a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

That reasonable expectation is what many cases hinge on. In this one, the creepshot-er in question, Christopher Hunt Cleveland, took his photos at the Lincoln Memorial as women sat on the steps. He didn’t sneak up under them, or use a peephole, or deploy any other similarly sneaky tricks. Instead, like the photographer who followed the woman in Wal-Mart, or the one who took pictures of the girl at the swim meet, he took pictures of public things, in a public place.

Never mind that leaning over for a moment, or wearing short shorts, does not in any way constitute a consent to be photographed. Never mind that, as U.S. Attorney Akhi Johnson argued, women have a reasonable expectation of privacy just by virtue of wearing clothes.

In purely legal terms, Cleveland’s creepshots don’t meet that standard. And so all charges were dropped against him, even as the stakes for women who visit the memorial were raised. Consider the implications of this for a second: If you were to visit the National Mall this weekend, and someone began taking photos of you or your children, there is nothing you can do about it.

It is “repellent and disturbing,” but it is his right.

There are attempts to change that, of course. In March, after a Massachusetts court ruled that upskirt photos were legal in the state, the legislature quickly pushed through a bill to criminalize it. Creepshots in the Bay State are now punishable by as many as five years in jail or fines up to $5,000. Texas also recently passed a law against photographs taken “with the intent to arouse or gratify” sexual desire, though that was later struck down on First Amendment grounds.

Which means that — in Texas, as in D.C., as in much of the country — women can be photographed, objectified, and have the photos passed around the Web simply for the crime of leaving their houses. Repellent and disturbing, indeed.

Caitlin Dewey is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (tinyletter.com/cdewey)
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