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.

225.ms_.independence
The Fourth of July Can Be Dangerous!
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
Taylor Swift, Apple, streaming music, royalties
Taylor Swift vs. Apple: A Girl Power Moment for Our Daughters
Frances McDormand on aging, aging in Hollywood, Uma Thurman plastic surgery
Frances McDormand is My New Hero After Saying ‘This is What 57 Really Looks Like’
white people talking about race
Just a White Girl From the Suburbs
Fourth of July, Independence Day, Confederate flag, Southern rights vs. others rights, carrying guns in Starbucks, health care, political disagreement
Freedom Rider: Declaring My Independence From Selectiveness and Snark
whiny parents, parenting, guilt, motherhood guilt, parenting complaints, make whiny parents stop complaining, helicopter parents, extreme parenting
Hey Whiny Parents, Get Over Yourselves!
firing employees for reproductive choices, ware on women, workplace discrimination, religious employers no birth control, losing your job for birth control
The Casual Feminist: MYO Damn B on Repro Choices
Hillary Clinton, Selina Meyer, VEEP, Hillary e-mails, who said it Hillary or Selina
Hillary Clinton or Selina Meyer: Who Said It?
Hillary Clinton 2016, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama
Hillary Seemed Like Such a Good Listener
Ben Carson, Ben Carson 2016 presidential race
Dr. Ben Carson: Not Right for 2016
Hillary Clinton should ditch Bill, Hillary should leave Blii Clinton, Does Hillary Clinton need to leave Bill to win White House
Saying Hillary Clinton Should Ditch Bill is Really Asking This — “Why Does She Stay?”
225.ms_.independence
The Fourth of July Can Be Dangerous!
women's soccer, world cup, FIFA, women's sports, feminism, Title IX
My Feminism is Fueled by Sports
Clementa Pinckney funeral, Charleston massacre, Pinckney family, race in America
In Charleston, a Rare – and Perhaps Transformational — Public Glimpse of Private Faith
white people talking about race
Just a White Girl From the Suburbs
white people talking about race
Just a White Girl From the Suburbs
remove Confederate flag, South Carolina, Charleston, Nikki Haley, racism
The Trouble with “Heritage, Not Hate.”
alizagraying_edited-1
I Am Not My Gray Hair. My Hair Is Not Me.
Father's Day, fathers and daughters, families
Father’s Day: A Day for Other People
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
CNN The Seventies, The Seventies, 1970, The Pill, Sexual Revolution
“Lay, Lady, Lay”: Sex and The Pill in The Seventies

Get our new weekly email
Broadly Speaking

featuring our best words for the week + an exclusive longread