TheBlaze has reported on the seedy side of Reddit before. Although the social news, user-driven website is often the source of viral stories, it also has controversial content, like pornography, some of which has come under fire for showing minors in the past.
Now this dark side of Reddit is in the spotlight again, specifically an individual involved with forums on the site called Creepshots, Rapebait, Incest and Hitler, among others. Creepshots was a section where users posted compromising pictures of women without their knowledge. For example, a picture taken sneakily up a woman's skirt. This section was moderated by the Redditor -- as Reddit users are often called -- Violentacrez. The identity of Violentacrez was exposed by Gawker last week as a man named Michael Brutsch. Even more recently, Brutsch is reported to have lost his job for his involvement on some of these controversial sections of the site.
This is the photo that Gawker's Adrian Chen received from someone that is believed to have led him to the identity of Violentacrez, or Michael Brutsch. (Image: Gawker)
Who is Violentacrez?
Gawker's Adrian Chen wrote that he first heard of Violentacrez/Brutsch more than a year ago. Here's how he mildly describes some of the 49-year-old's online activities:
If you are capable of being offended, Brutsch has almost certainly done something that would offend you, then did his best to rub your face in it. His speciality is distributing images of scantily-clad underage girls, but as Violentacrez he also issued an unending fountain of racism, porn, gore, misogyny, incest, and exotic abominations yet unnamed, all on the sprawling online community Reddit.
More specifically, it is reported that Brutsch was involved in the controversial section on Reddit a year ago called "Jailbait "Here's what Chen alleges about Brutsch's involvement on that forum:
Violentacrez and his fellow moderators worked hard to make sure every girl on jailbait was underage, diligently deleting any photos whose subjects seemed older than 16 or 17. Violentacrez himself posted hundreds of photos. Jailbait became one of Reddit's most popular subreddits, generating millions of pageviews a month. "Jailbait" was for a time the second biggest search term bringing traffic to Reddit, after "Reddit." Eventually, Jailbait landed on CNN, where Anderson Cooper called out Reddit for hosting it, and Violentacrez for creating it. The ensuing outcry led Reddit administrators to reluctantly ban Jailbait, and all sexually suggestive content featuring minors.
Chen goes on to describe calling Brutsch on the phone when he was at work as a developer at a financial services company in Arlington, Texas. He writes that Brutsch admitted to his identity on Reddit as Violentacrez. Chen reports him saying he wasn't a pedophile but also that he wasn't remorseful for any of the content he posted. He also "pleaded" with Chen not to reveal his true name in public.
"My wife is disabled. I got a home and a mortgage, and if this hits the fan, I believe this will affect negatively on my employment," he said, according to Chen. "I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time."
Chen did publish Brutsch's full name, and affect his employment negatively it did. Appearing to post as the user mbrutsch on Reddit, Brutsch informed the Internet that he had lost his job.
"Nothing like living in the US with a disabled wife and no health insurance," Brutsch wrote on a Reddit forum.
The Huffington Post points out that Brutsch set up a PayPal account for those sympathetic to his situation to donate money.
It should be noted that there is no way to officially verify Brutsch is the one posting under the mbrutsch username. Chen reported last week in his explosive post that Brutsch said he was giving up Reddit.
Gawker penalized on Reddit
After outing Brutsch by name, one Reddit community responded by blocking Gawker links from its section. In the Reddit politics community announcement regarding its ban on Gawker links, its moderators state that Chen looking for information regarding Violentacrez's identity was "completely intolerable" as they believed it was something the Gawker reporter simply disagreed with. The moderators wrote, "We should all be afraid of the threat of having our personal information investigated and spread around the internet if someone disagrees with you." For this reason, they chose to "disallow links from the Gawker network until action is taken to correct this serious lack of ethics and integrity."
As was pointed out in a op-ed on The Guardian by a moderator "Rearth," this was not a ban on Gawker links on Reddit as a whole. Communities, or subreddits, can choose to do this. Although Rearth himself says he was against the ban of Gawker links on the community's forum, he writes that "witch-hunting," such as what he believes happened to Brutsch, is a problem:
People have lost jobs, families and even their lives after campaigns started on the internet. Campaigns run without due process or any real justice. Both myself and a number of other mods, together with the admins of reddit, take a very firm stand against witch-hunting. This is the basis for the /r/Politics ban. (Once again, I did not personally agree it was wise.) If laws are broken we are the first people to report this. We do not think it's our job to prevent anyone from ever beingoffended, as that's impossible to police.
Rearth continues to say he doesn't think the r/Politics subreddit will unblock Gawker in the near future.
As for how Chen was able to find out the true identify of Violentacrez, Brutsch writes on Reddit that he believes he was revealed through a picture taken at a Reddit meet-up event. He thinks someone who knew him provided his name.
The New York Times Media Decoder blog reports Brutsch writing on Reddit that he was giving an interview with CNN. The Times contacted CNN spokeswoman Christina Robinson who said he would most likely appear in an interview with Anderson Copper Thursday.
Read more details of Chen's more than 4,500 word "Unmasking Reddit's Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web" here.