Outing of a Different Kind: On Jezebel and Racist Tweets

Image via White House Flickr stream/Pete Souza

A while back I wrote about Gawker‘s outing of Michael Brutsch, the infamous “troll” at Reddit who posted obscene material for fun under the pseudonym “ViolentAcrez.”

Now Gawker‘s sister publication is at it – but with a twist. Jezebel has decided to share some of Election 2012’s greatest hits of racism on Twitter from high school-aged kids – and they actually reported the kids to their schools’ leadership. (Note – this story link and this story link are still up, but they have some really nasty language.) If you’re concerned about clicking the links, suffice it to say there were a lot of people using “the N-word” to describe our recently re-elected President. And worse.

Again, there are some differences here. The people Jezebel pursued made no attempt to hide their identities. They put their racist epithets right next to their names and pictures of their faces. They made these comments publicly on a Twitter feed they have to know anyone can search. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy here. I do note that Jezebel apparently decided not to search for the identities of those who tweeted racist comments under pseudonyms – even though I’m sure it’s not that hard for a decent hacker to get that information. They are on much more solid legal footing when they simply report the obvious facts as opposed to digging for more.

What is reasonable, I think, is to cringe a bit over this. These kids are old enough to know better, but kids make mistakes sometimes, and now they have been publicly branded as racists. Just a few years ago statements like these wouldn’t be immortalized on the Internet. Millions of people read Jezebel every month. I know that if anyone applies for work at my company, particularly to work in social media, we’d check them out on the various social platforms. Maybe do a Google search. Let’s just say this wouldn’t go over well.

The more I think about it, however, the more I think this is what you have to expect in the digital age. You have to own your words. And for these kids, it now seems those words own them.

Cross-posted from David Wescott’s blog, It’s Not a Lecture

  • Mason

    Free speech only grants you the right to speak. It does NOT mean you cannot get in trouble if your speech is used to physically or emotionally harm anyone else, it does NOT mean that your speech cannot be CHALLENGED by someone else’s.

    We all enjoy the fact that the Internet lets us say things behind the magical cloak of anonymity, but if you use that as an excuse to say horrible, RACIST things, like the kids whose tweets got outed on Jezebel, then you deserve whatever punishment and derision you get.

    This is 2012. The color of someone’s skin, or their country of origin, or their religious beliefs or lack thereof, or sexual orientation, or gender, or WHATEVER should matter about as much as the amount of hydrogen atoms in their body. And you can bet that you’ll never see anyone getting derided for only having 1.752 trillion atoms in their hand as opposed to 1.853 trillion or whatever.

Jon Stewart, Sanctuary, Animals, racism
Where the Wild Places Are: Jon Stewart Has the Right Idea
Hillary Clinton likability, Hillary likable enough, Donald Trump, 2016 presidential campaign
Hillary Has to be The Girlfriend, but “The Donald” Can be The Grinch
E.L. Doctorow, George W. Bush
In Praise Of E.L. Doctorow: The Man Who Looked Into GWB’s Eyes and Saw Nothing
Google fiber, high speed internet
I’m Dreaming of an Ultra-Fast Christmas … in July
College suicide, mother's response to New York Times on Campus suicide
A Mother’s Response to The New York Times: Campus Suicide is More Complicated Than You Think
IMG_2603
Flat Francis: Spending a Day with the Pope in New York
passing as white, passing as black, Rachel Dolezal, white woman identifying as black
Little White Lies: Can You Choose Your Race?
Hillary Clinton likability, Hillary likable enough, Donald Trump, 2016 presidential campaign
Hillary Has to be The Girlfriend, but “The Donald” Can be The Grinch
BlogHer BlackLivesMatter
BlogHer Nails What Netroots Nation Fails: #BlackLivesMatter
Hillary Clinton likability, Hillary likable enough, Donald Trump, 2016 presidential campaign
Hillary Has to be The Girlfriend, but “The Donald” Can be The Grinch
E.L. Doctorow, George W. Bush
In Praise Of E.L. Doctorow: The Man Who Looked Into GWB’s Eyes and Saw Nothing
Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter book, A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, naming a child for a president
We Named Our Son After Jimmy Carter
College suicide, mother's response to New York Times on Campus suicide
A Mother’s Response to The New York Times: Campus Suicide is More Complicated Than You Think
Jon Stewart, Sanctuary, Animals, racism
Where the Wild Places Are: Jon Stewart Has the Right Idea
Hillary Clinton likability, Hillary likable enough, Donald Trump, 2016 presidential campaign
Hillary Has to be The Girlfriend, but “The Donald” Can be The Grinch
E.L. Doctorow, George W. Bush
In Praise Of E.L. Doctorow: The Man Who Looked Into GWB’s Eyes and Saw Nothing
dying friends, friendship and death, denial about friend's death
Could I Have Been a Better Friend at the End?
women's lives, planning for the unexpected, Chinese adoption
Cushioning My Landing: When Emotions Collide with Rationality
11069864_385264318326651_7985163416737673298_n
A New York City Feminist on the Camino de Santiago
white people talking about race
Just a White Girl From the Suburbs
marriage equality and Supreme Court, history of gay rights in America
Let’s Celebrate the Supreme Court Decision on Marriage Equality, But Let’s Not Forget the History That Got Us Here
Magic Mike XXL, women's erotica, Women's sex lives, women's fantasies, male gaze, female gaze, feminist and Magic Mike
Magic Mike XXL: Male Strippers, Women’s Fantasies and Why We Should Stop Judging Each Other
National Kissing Day
The Science of Kissing
women's viagra, Viagra, Flibanserin, sexual arousal, women's desire, sex after menopause
That “Little Pink Pill” Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Get our new weekly email
Broadly Speaking

featuring our best words for the week + an exclusive longread