Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Exposing Deadspin: A recap

1.  A Deadspin writer named Timothy Burke gets banned from posting on Reddit.  He doesn't know the reason.

2.  He goes on Twitter and claims it's a plot by Reddit to protect pedophiles.  He does this repeatedly.

3.  I investigate on his behalf, and I clear up the misinformation for him:  He was banned for spamming 150 of his own articles without ever participating on the site otherwise.

4.  He keeps posting his own articles under different aliases.

5.  Somebody calls him out for being a spammer.

6.  He denies being a spammer and says there is a vendetta against Deadspin.

7.  I step in and proceed to tear him a new one:

8.  Redditors applaud.  The Deadspin employee is exposed as a liar and douche.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Was a Gawker writer fired for posting child porn?

On Friday, October 12th, Gawker published a story which revealed the identity of an internet troll known as Violentacrez.

Violentacrez, whose real name is Michael Brutsch, was a moderator on the website Reddit.  He was associated with several NSFW forums, two of which--Jailbait and Creepshots--seemingly catered to would-be pedophiles and would-be sexual predators.

A lot of fellow moderators felt this article broke community rules that were meant to protect Redditors' online anonymity.  (For a detailed summary of the drama between Gawker and Reddit, I recommend this Quora answer.)  News sites quickly cast the battle as one between anonymous internet creeps and the people who wished to expose them.  Many sites used headlines to mark a clear stance, such as when The Atlantic Wire baldly declared, "Redditors Stand Up to Gawker to Protect Child Pornography."

Something else occurred during that week, however, which received very little notice.  On October 11th, Louis Peitzman, an evenings and weekend editor who had worked for Gawker since January, wrote on his Twitter:  "I'm out at Gawker, effective immediately.  Thank you to those of you who have read and supported my work there.  It's been stressful but fun."  No reason was given and no official announcement was made on the website.  Usually when a writer leaves amicably there will be a farewell post.  I began looking for a possible reason why Louis had left, and soon found one.

One day earlier, on October 10th, Louis had written this post about an unverified photo that allegedly showed Justin Bieber posing nude in a full-frontal position.  As of this writing, the post has received over 216,000 pageviews.  Louis spent the post comparing the body in the picture with what was publicly known about the 18-year-old Bieber.  In the comments section, several readers expressed concern over the material:

"I hope Gawker confirmed that whomever posed for this pic is not underage."

Cherith Cutestory:
"Is posting a naked photo of someone who seems to be quite young without confirming age really such a good idea?  And if it is Justin and it is even just a year old that is child porn."

"The shaven pubes add more to the pre-pubescent body "child porn"y aspect of this.  I know he's 18 but other than his junk, it doesn't seem like the kid has hit puberty fully yet."

"I feel like a pedophile just for clicking on this article."

Jane, you ignorant slut. (Adah):
"He's 18 now, right?  I'm not going to jail for even clicking on this article?"

"Not concerned that it might be him and that it might have been taken before he was 18?"

Kimber Bakke:
"Ahhh yes, this purported photo brings the hebophile out in the best of us!"

"CP on Gawker?  Wait until reddit finds out about this."

Later, Louis had to issue an update:
As many commenters have pointed out, the bellybuttons do not match, so we can say conclusively that the naked guy is not Justin Bieber.  Because some people were concerned about the age of the person in the nude photo, it has been removed.  
The next day Louis was gone from Gawker.  Was the Justin Bieber post the reason, or am I just being susceptible to the old 'post hoc' fallacy?

Normally I wouldn't think that posting an X-rated image could get somebody fired from Gawker; they've produced much worse content in the past.  [See the links below.]  But I keep thinking about the timing of that week.  The Violentacrez exposé which was posted on Friday afternoon didn't just appear out of the blue.  In fact, there had been plenty of hype and anticipation about the article building for days prior to its publication, thanks mostly to the preemptive boycott of Gawker links made by several Reddit moderators.  In other words, the people in charge at Gawker and Reddit knew that a shitstorm was brewing.  Gawker was getting ready to present themselves as the heroes in the battle against internet pedophiles.  Maybe the higher-ups feared what could happen if one of their writers faced scrutiny for posting anonymous teenage porn.  (Of course, I don't know that last part for certain.)

On Monday, October 15th, I sent Louis this e-mail:
Hi Louis,
I'm writing a post on Reddit in which I enumerate [some of] Gawker's past transgressions.  (e.g, The iPhone incident.)
As part of that, I'll mention Gawker has been a little lax about putting child pornography on their own site, such as when they posted a photo of 17-year-old rapper Chief Keef receiving a blowjob, and when you recently linked to the photo of, and spent a post describing the naked body of a Bieber-lookalike.   
Based on your sudden departure, and you referencing a "storm cloud" on Twitter, I hope you don't find it ridiculous speculation that you may have been let go for accidentally linking to child pornography on Gawker.  
If you say that that wasn't the case, then I'll leave your name out of it.  And if you feel you can't comment, I can still leave your name out of it.    
Furthermore, if you want to offer your take on the Justin Bieber post, you may.  (It is not the type of controversy which I followed past the post itself.)  
I appreciate any clarification

He replied:
Hi there,  
All I'm going to say is that my Twitter (including the "storm cloud" tweet) is a combination of jokes and navel-gazing. That particular tweet was about being moody, and the fact that it started pouring while I was on a walk. But I have not tweeted anything about my departure from Gawker aside from the post announcing that I would no longer be writing there.  
No comment on anything else. I'd prefer to be left out of it entirely, but whatever you choose to include is your prerogative.  

At no point either in our exchange or on his Twitter feed did Louis expressly state that he was fired from Gawker.  Possibly he may have quit due to some behind-the-scenes argument.  But, at the same time, he didn't dispute my guess that he was fired, or that the reason had to do with his Justin Bieber post.

There was one tweet which Louis sent to Max Read on the afternoon of the 11th, and which he later deleted.  It simply said, "Am I fired?"  Louis sent it a minute after Max had made a joke about layoffs in the wake of the Reddit boycott.  So on the surface it doesn't seem very significant.  Louis's only other Gawker-related remarks since then have been a joke(?) about having Gawker PTSD, and a farewell message to MauryCompson, a frequent commenter.

Louis seems like a stand-up guy, and I don't want what's posted here to be interpreted as a slight against him.  Even if he was careless about disseminating porn, I wouldn't pin the blame for that on him.  Rather, I would blame the bosses who encourages their staff to post more and more salacious material under the trappings of news:  In this case, Nick Denton and Gawker's current editor-in-chief, A.J. Daulerio.

There's an old saying which explains the distinction between an opera and a musical.  Simply put, an opera is any show that gets presented inside of an opera house.  Gawker is considered a news site, and so they can print whatever gossip or smut they want and claim that it's news.  After all, if it weren't news, then how did it get presented on a news site?

This is a site that makes its name by publishing nude photos of British royalty, sex footage of celebrities, sex footage of strangers, dick photos of adults and dick photos of minors. Gawker doesn't want to clean up the internet or make it a better place.  They want to pull the strings.  And as long as they're considered journalists, they can get away with publishing smut because they can justify it as being "newsworthy" or "of interest to the public."  When your ethical standards are based on hazy and undefined terms, you can do whatever you want.



A general rule of the internet is that any time a scandalous headline is posed as a question, the answer will be "No."  This situation is no different.  A day after Louis Peitzman and Gawker parted ways, a one-off commenter named ausdemschoenenlaendle gave the URL for a man's profile page on XTube. And that man is the source for the supposed Bieber picture.  The original photo was uploaded on April 27th, 2010.  The man's profile lists his age at 21, meaning (if he's telling the truth) that the photo was definitely showing an adult.

Of the 100,000+ unique visitors who have clicked on the Bieber post, perhaps just a tiny, tiny fraction know where the mysterious photo actually came from.  To date, ausdemschoenenlaendle's comment has zero replies, and it's not among the first wave of comments that would be visible to readers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stay classy, Max Read

The post I alluded to on Sunday should be finished within the next 12-24 hours.  Maybe even sooner. In the meantime, I'll share my all-time favorite Max Read tweet:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Chief Keef incident

[Edit: I originally wrote this post to provide some more context for my e-mail conversation with Louis Peitzman.]

On September 16th, teenage rapper Chief Keef posted a photo to Instagram that showed him receiving a blowjob from an unnamed girl.  He got kicked off Instagram as a result.  Several websites reported the incident, while at the same time mentioning that they couldn't post the photo for obvious reasons.

Gawker ran a story about it, along with the picture in question.  Apparently someone soon realized that a photo of a 17-year-old boy receiving a blowjob constituted child porn, and the story was erased. You can find a non-working link over on Gossip File, as well as on a few scattered twitter accounts like this one.

It's good Gawker caught their own mistake.  Unfortunately, they would make a similar mistake the next month, too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More to come...

There will be several new posts over the next week.
Stay tuned!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A man and his pencil

I didn't have an official photo of Mobutu in Sunday's post.  For posterity, therefore, here is Jeb Lund a.k.a. Mobutu Sese Seko.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Finding Mobutu

Most people reading this are probably familiar with Gawker Media properties.  They're the collection of news and gossip sites run by Nick Denton.

Recently they've positioned themselves as the morality police of the web.  If you say something deemed racist or sexist, or if you act like a troll, they'll plaster your personal information online for everyone to see, and generally make you look bad on any future Google searches.  They even did this with the Horse_ebooks guy, even though his only infraction was having a popular twitter account.

Now mothers everywhere are telling their little kids, "Eat your vegetables, or else Gawker is going to expose you."

Well I'm not the least bit intimidated by Gawker.  Their "morality" is corrupt.  And I want to give them a taste of their own medicine.

The only Gawker writer who avoids revealing his true name is Mobutu Sese Seko.  Mobutu runs the website Et tu, Mr. Destructo?.  He has operated it for four years, and back in February he was hired to be Gawker's "screaming conscience," which means he's their main political columnist.

Mobutu, if you're reading this, prepare to get--as the trolls like to say--butthurt.

I went to Mobutu's blog, and looked at who'd left the earliest comments beginning in 2008.  Two of the earliest comments were left by Cory Harris and Christian Lund.  As luck would have it, Cory Harris and Christian Lund both have public Facebook profiles and their friends lists are visible.  They aren't friends with each other, but they share a mutual friend:  Jeb Tennyson Lund.

Mobutu mentions that he is married (Jeb Lund is married) and that he attended a small liberal arts college in Florida (Jeb Lund attended New College of Florida).  What sealed the deal was a 2008 interview from Metal Hammer with Robert Schober, who at the time had just directed a music video for Metallica.  In it, Schober says:  "I was able to create an entire viral campaign with a blog about the cold war and propaganda films (written by Mr Destructo author Jeb Lund), produce fake news stories, and even had Kirk do a vlog on youtube about ‘finding’ these films when they were touring in Russia."

I'm not surprised a Gawker writer made his start by producing fake news stories.

So...What sort of writer was Jeb Lund before becoming Mobutu?  It turns out he was a professional wrestling columnist.  He wrote extensively for the wrestling website Online Onslaught, providing Raw and Smackdown recaps and PPV predictions.  Above all, Jeb enjoyed unloading his screaming conscience onto WWE's youngest star, Randy Orton.  He would call Orton an "effete water-headed mutant shit-heel," and a "human toadstool," among other things.  (Bear in mind, Jeb was around 27 then.)

I actually have nothing against professional wrestling; it's kind of like a ballet in which the performers occasionally fall onto thumbtacks.  But quite a few commenters on Gawker have wondered whether "Mobutu" was the pseudonym for some established celebrity, and the answer is clearly no.  If Nick Denton truly wants to create a society where everyone's secrets are known--as he explained in a recent panel--then he should welcome having Mobutu Sese Seko's identity be known.  For him to claim anything else would be a double-standard.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


"No Stairway??  Denied!"

That quote went through my head as I read the following message from the mods at The Straight Dope:

You have been banned for the following reason:
We're not here to provide recruits for your board war
Date the ban will be lifted: Never

Board wars?  Recruitment?

I had no such intentions.  I merely wanted a public space to talk about Gawker columnist Mobutu Sese Seko's identity.  But it's clear that a lot of the internet's most popular message boards aren't in the business of creating drama with one another.  It seems I'd have to register my own space.