A 21-year-old Manchester man has been arrested for a crime every woman who writes online knows well: "malicious communication." In this case, the man is suspected of harassing UK feminist advocate and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez, who was threatened with hundreds of tweets promising rape and death thanks to her work on a successful campaign to get Jane Austen on the 10 pound note.
Some weeks you just want to burn down the whole Internet, and—well, until yesterday's torrent of hilarious post-debate memes, anyway—this has undoubtedly been one of those weeks.
Last Friday afternoon, as you might have heard, or read, or absorbed via social-media osmosis, Gawker's Adrian Chen posted a long, suspenseful post that unmasked a guy named Michael Brutsch, a 49-year-old Texan who for years has been one of Reddit's most prolific and most disturbing contributors. Known online as ViolentAcrez, Brutsch created "subreddits," or forums, with titles like "Incest," "Chokeabitch," "Rapebait," and "PicsofDeadJailbait," and oh so many more, and was one of the main curators of the lately notorious "Creepshots" forums, in which dudes post photos of women taken surreptitiously in public, in order to perv out on both the photos themselves and their nonconsensual provenance.
This isn't a Douchebag Decree about Michael Brutsch, however.
If you watched the second US presidential debate last night I've got four words for you: "binders full of women." (If you didn't watch the debate, here are a few more words for you: In response to a question about equal pay for women, Romney told moderator Candy Crowley that while he was governor of Massachusetts, he sought qualified women for his administration by going to "a number of women's groups asking, 'Can you help us find folks?' and they brought us whole binders full of women." Yeah.)
SXSW Interactive had an overwhelming amount of panels, conversations, and sessions that covered more tech talk you could shake a joystick at. Here's a quick round-up of three panels I saw, including Internet drama from a feminist perspective, the brainstorming behind Bedsider.org, and how female entrepreneurs fare in the tech world.
"I know what racial oppression feels like... my ancestors were Irish." "Assuming I have male privilege.... is sexist." If you missed out on the short-lived but prolific Tumblr page of Privilege Denying Dude (a series of images that used a stock photo of a white dude sandwiched with all-too-familiar privilege-denying text, like that seen here)—you missed the beginning of a genius appropriation of a popular meme (or internet trend) that shoveled smarm back in the face of the privileged cluelessness that litters YouTube and social-justice blog comment threads alike (not to mention IRL). What started as a simple trend went viral, with thousands of submissions (all with their own unique manifestation of privilege!) coming in . But due to a terms of violation with the image used, Tumblr shut down the site last Friday.
One of my secret favorite things about the internet is the abundance of fan and homemade videos. I can spend hours watching low-budget versions of musical routines, celebrity reaction videos, and home movies featuring animals. As you may know, I am also a self-taught student of the Twilight craze, so fan-made Twilight videos are like the frosting on my internet cake. There are SO MANY. Here is one that I watched yesterday:
If you are at all a frequent user of Facebook, you have probably seen a number of your friends "donate their status to ____" or join "One Million Strong Against ______." Heck, if you are one of my Facebook friends, I probably invited you to join my pro-Katie Couric group. While there are obvious networking benefits for activists using Facebook, has the website taken the bite out of civil disobedience?
We were under attack. It was late on an August night. I was trying not to come down with a cold and just about to go to bed. But I was also guest-blogging at Feministe that week, so I logged on to check my e-mail and moderate comments one last time before I turned in. I was already overwhelmed. Between writing timely posts, separating the trolls and spammers from the innocents in the moderation filter, and trying to maintain a civil debate between polarized commenters on my threads, I was marveling that anyone could do this week in and week out and still keep a day job.
Then I got word that a loosely organized cybermob known as Anonymous was attempting to crash feminist sites, including Feministe, flooding comments sections with misogynist rants and threatening feminist bloggers with rape and other violence. This had happened before, but never with such organized force. Privately, we worried about our safety and strategized about how to defend our sites and ourselves. Publicly, we decried these attacks in blog after blog. We knew our attackers wanted to silence us, and we refused to give them that satisfaction.
It turned out that we were wrong. Wrong about what their goals were and wrong about what our response should have been.