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May 31, 2013 7:22 PM   Subscribe

I found this thread to be of note in light of the recent MetaTalk thread about the deleted FPP regarding the "sociopath law professor".

What is the policy regarding these sorts of threads? Is there some guideline for deciding when it is appropriate to have an FPP of "identify the anonymous blogger/author"? I noted that some commenters were actually delighting in playing Columbo using the alleged author's Facebook page, while others have expressed their distaste for the attempted outing.
posted by Tanizaki to Etiquette/Policy at 7:22 PM (89 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Like pretty much all of Metafilter, there is not a hard and fast guideline. Things like notability, potential harm, credibility, and community reaction all go in to a decision about deletion of something like that. I'm happy to discuss it, but this appears to be yet again a situation where you want the sort of rules we just don't have here.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:29 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


That other MeTa thread is still open.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:31 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I noted that some commenters were actually delighting in playing Columbo

No, Banacek. Because I really dig the turtleneck/sport coat combo.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:42 PM on May 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


I didn't participate but if I did I would want to be Jim Rockford, please.
posted by payoto at 7:43 PM on May 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm the robot from Riptide.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:48 PM on May 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


I want to be Tuppence! Actually, I just Francesca Annis' hair. Or, you know, her wigs.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:48 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I criticized the outing but didn't flag the FPP. Generally speaking, once something hits major news outlets, I figure it's fair game for MetaFilter. That doesn't necessarily make it good, just fair.

Having said that, I'll backtrack a bit: It's possible in this case that "Richard" was stealing Holloway's photos to create a false lead. Eventually, that's what we'll discover about one of these outings—and when that happens, I do think any existing MetaFilter thread should be deleted. I don't think it will be, but it should.
posted by cribcage at 7:53 PM on May 31, 2013


I thought the same thing Tanizaki did. Of course I do not think the initial FPP should have been deleted based on the "outing" of its target. I happen to agree with this heavily favorite post in the earlier Metatalk thread.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:53 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just here for the miso gist.
posted by zarq at 7:55 PM on May 31, 2013 [19 favorites]


I would be happy for both threads to remain open.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:03 PM on May 31, 2013


This is a lot more credible than the other thread and waaaay lower stakes. If this guy is or is not a fashion blogger isnt going to make or break his political career. It's gossip, and it's fun, so makes sense not to delete it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:09 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also calling attention to the suspect aspects of this fashion subculture is facinating. I will never be a prep for many reasons but it's interesting to hear about how they do.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:10 PM on May 31, 2013


My feeling about this is that the "elected official" part makes it actually newsworthy. Random person posts weird blog and is outed -- maybe not so good for metafilter. State Representative posts weird blog and is outed -- much more worthwhile, in my opinion. It's similar to the fact that news of a video of some random dude smoking crack would be bad for metafilter, but Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack . . . well, not just good for metafilter, but GREAT.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 8:11 PM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Frobenius, I would agree if it weren't for the fact that in the other case, the "random person" had published a book and appeared on television. That's not just someone writing a weird blog -- that's someone engaged in a PR campaign, and she gave up some level of privacy when she did that.

If the other one was an example of doxxing, I genuinely do not understand how this one is not an example of doxxing, other than the elected official angle, which is a very slim thing to hang a difference on.
posted by Etrigan at 8:14 PM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Keep both or delete both. Looking for justifications as to why not to ... well, one can always find some reason. Perhaps best not to.
posted by adipocere at 8:15 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jesus, why shouldn't whoever the blogger is be left alone to do their weird-ass blog in their spare time regardless of what they do for a living? Do you go around wearing a giant neon nametag while doing whatever weird-ass stuff you do on your day off?
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:30 PM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes. I even have cards.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:37 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought that's what instagram was for?
posted by The Whelk at 8:51 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


They’ve been spending most their lives / Living in a pastime paradise
They've been spending most their lives / Living in a pastime paradise
They've been wasting most their time / Glorifying days long gone behind
They've been wasting most their days / In remembrance of ignorance oldest praise

etc
posted by peeedro at 8:52 PM on May 31, 2013


In that previous MeTa thread and in the thread linked here there's the repeated argument that public figures aren't entitled to pseudonymity. But those arguments presuppose that these are correct identifications!

Assertion: We have a right to know that this representative is writing this pseudonymous blog. Sure, assuming that he's actually the author. What if he's not? Assertion: We have a right to know that such-and-such law professor is the pseudonymous author of an autobiography about being a loathsome sociopath who does terrible things to other people. Sure, assuming that such-and-such is actually the author. What if she's not?

These arguments about the public's right to know the identity of someone presume that the identification offered is correct. But it's not always correct.

Presenting the arguments against these posts as "doxxing" is a red herring. There's a relationship, but where usually the concerns about doxxing center on a presumed right to privacy of identity in spaces like MeFi, the concerns in these cases are about misidentifications and the harm that can happen to those misidentified.

In this fashion blog / state representative case, I happen to agree that the harm of a misidentification is relatively small. I see this case as something that can be argued either way. Identifying someone as a self-professed sociopath, not so much.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:02 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always find these (MeTa) posts fascinating for the aspect of "Look at the giant spotlight I want to put on this person's privates that I think it is rude to be ogling." Wouldn't flagging, emailing and using the contact form be more in line with a goal of actually trying to protect the person's privacy?

I don't spend much time on the Blue. I would have seen neither of these posts on the blue if attention had not been called to it on MeTa. This just strikes me as hypocritical and "you can't get there from here." It seems like the worst way possible to try to protect soneone's privacy.
posted by Michele in California at 9:03 PM on May 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I do not think this MeTa expresses an opinion one way or the other on the post.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:15 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm just pausing to imagine a Metafilter where posts were kept based on their abstract conformity to policies, guidelines, and binding precedents (as articulated in one-line deletion notices), rather than based on whether the human beings who moderate the site think a particular post is a good fit right now.

Ha! Oh man, that would suck. It would be like watching the US Senate try to collectively edit a poetry journal.

But come to think of it, what would really suck is if you thought Metafilter was moderated that way, and then you had to see your hopes crushed every. single. day.
posted by jhc at 9:19 PM on May 31, 2013 [25 favorites]


I felt the "sociopath law professor" deletion was dubious, but chalked it up to, "if that's MeFi policy, then that's what it is." The only difference I see that might justify the "sociopath law professor" FPP was that the person was discussing a personal psychiatric/medical condition, whereas there is no "right to privacy" when it comes to your bad taste in clothing and being tacky, which the author of wasp101 suffered from.

The "public politician" angle doesn't fly with me because I don't really think a state representative from NC "counts" as a public figure outside of NC.
posted by deanc at 9:23 PM on May 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh man, that would suck. It would be like watching the US Senate try to collectively edit a poetry journal.

Hah! Yes, exactly. Well put.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:32 PM on May 31, 2013


It may not "express an opinion" regarding this fpp, but it certainly compares it to one which was deleted for doxxing and inquires if there is a clear guideline for when to delete a post that outs someone. Rules exist for a reason. Anti-doxxing rules are about protecting the privacy of an individual. If there is zero interest in that aspect of it, then I can't really comprehend what the point is. Trying to insist on some kind of arbitrary uniformity is kind of like insisting everyone have the same haircut with no actual purpose behind it.

So it seems either the OP is concerned about the privacy of the person being outed, in which case this is a terrible way to try to look out for their privacy, or they have some agenda that I likely would feel was not legitimate. Humans are still trying to figure out how this newfangled internets thang works. We make plenty of mistakes along the way. I am operating on the assumption that this post was made in good faith, thus the inference that it is rooted in concern about the person being outed. (Years ago, I was taught that it was good manners and good practice to try to give voiceless, faceless words on the Internet the most charitable reading possible and assume the person means well, even if it sounds a little rough around the edges.)
posted by Michele in California at 10:19 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think empaths response to the woo MeTa applies here as well,

Jesus christ dude give it a rest

Metafilter does not work this way, metafilter should not work this way. This seems to be perfectly fine to everyone except a certain category of people who seem to love rules-lawyering, which seems to include you. This isn't the first time you've jumped in to go "AHA! You guys said foo before, but now you're saying/doing bar despite that!" as if it was some gross injustice or failure of the system either in being fair and balanced or just absolutely and totally. It's not even that this specific question is being brought up, but it's that you are asking it. You specifically seem to have a hobby horse to ride with this kind of stuff on here.

So yea, Jesus christ dude, give it a rest.
posted by emptythought at 10:26 PM on May 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


Wouldn't flagging, emailing and using the contact form be more in line with a goal of actually trying to protect the person's privacy?

If your paramount goal is to protect one individual's privacy, maybe. But flags and the contact form are a direct line to the moderators, and if they disagree with you, then you've exhausted that option. One function of MetaTalk is to open the discussion wider, to see whether other members agree with you and possibly persuade the moderators to change their minds. Which does happen.

So yea, Jesus christ dude, give it a rest.

Without expressing any opinion on your substantive point about the OP having a hobby horse, I'd say that although it wasn't precisely clear to me what you were hoping to accomplish with your MetaTalk thread earlier this week, comments like this do seem to be inconsistent with it.
posted by cribcage at 10:34 PM on May 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


The post didn't out anyone. Someone else did all that work.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:35 PM on May 31, 2013


The post didn't out anyone. Someone else did all that work.

My understanding was that they did most of the work, but there were still gaps to be filled in.

Frankly I find any thread about breaking someone's anonymity distasteful. There are situations where I agree it should be done, but the bar is very high. People choose to be anonymous for their own reasons and it doesn't become us to sit around and gossip about it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:50 PM on May 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


it's ok if it's a republican politician, but not ok if it's an academic.
posted by planet at 11:51 PM on May 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


What makes it not okay is the "sociopath who treats people badly" part. In the case of the republican politician, that's redundant.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:08 AM on June 1, 2013


Do you go around wearing a giant neon nametag while doing whatever weird-ass stuff you do on your day off?

Hell no! I make commentary about it here!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:11 AM on June 1, 2013


Hahaha, Tanizaki, I like your choice of title. It almost startled me for a second and I kind of wanted to look over my shoulder. "Does Tanizaki know who I am??"
posted by cairdeas at 3:58 AM on June 1, 2013


I do not think this MeTa expresses an opinion one way or the other on the post.

Sure it does. "I noted that some commenters were actually delighting in playing Columbo using the alleged author's Facebook page, while others have expressed their distaste for the attempted outing.

The language used expresses surprise that people are "actually delighting in playing Columbo" while others are expressing distaste.
posted by zarq at 5:00 AM on June 1, 2013


It's not even that this specific question is being brought up, but it's that you are asking it

I know that the OP has a history here, but this is actually a pretty crappy way to judge substantive questions about this site. You fancy the ad hominem I guess.

Given the previous deletion and some of the conflicting sentiments expressed in the current Holloway thread, I think this is a perfectly reasonable discussion to have here.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:04 AM on June 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


No it's totally ok. MetaTalk is Ad Hominem central. It's where you are perfectly ok calling fellow members "assholes" and "dicks" even if you are a mod. Thunderdome with cliques.

Come to MeTa to get your H8 on.
posted by spitbull at 5:18 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


You sound insane.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:21 AM on June 1, 2013


Deary me. I don't think the Thunderdome featured a battle of snitty little comments typed furiously on the internet.
posted by h00py at 5:21 AM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hard to get funding for that.
posted by h00py at 5:24 AM on June 1, 2013


Heeeeeyyyy, my post graduated to metatalk! I'm excited.

I tried really hard to phrase that whole FPP in a non judgmental, report-the-facts fashion, despite any personal glee I may or may not have felt about the situation. To me if a story is on the local CBS station, it has risen above sketchy internet detective status and has become an actual thing.
posted by something something at 6:22 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Surely Anonymous could find out and publish the details online? Aren't they experts at this stuff?
posted by marienbad at 6:39 AM on June 1, 2013


I googled the BYU woman again. I still don't know if it's her but I am more inclined to think the identification is correct than I was a week ago. If the identification is correct there is nothing wrong with the post or the comments (or the deletion--that is a judgment call.) If the identification is false then the post (that one and this one) are a little crass.

One thing that I have seen that I had not seen before was the video of the guy who was the special forces op guy hunting Osama Bin Laden at Bora Bora back in 2002. Some TV guy had video of them slapping like a quarter inch of blue goopy makeup on the guy before they put him on camera, frontal close up, purporting to disguise his real identity. One of the arguments that the law professor woman was correctly identified was she was sitting there in front of Doctor Phil. and one or more anonymous commenters on the Above the Law blog claimed "I know it's her".

As for the dressup goofball who cares. Would his voters change their votes if there are news reports of him doing this?

In the case of the woman lawyer she might get her job offer rescinded even if it isn't her because her employer is pretty whack so that one is substantially more dicier if you ask me.
posted by bukvich at 6:43 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I do not think this MeTa expresses an opinion one way or the other on the post.

To be fair, not a lot of metas get opened about things people think are great unless a baby is involved.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:59 AM on June 1, 2013


"In this fashion blog / state representative case, I happen to agree that the harm of a misidentification is relatively small."

"If this guy is or is not a fashion blogger isnt going to make or break his political career."

"As for the dressup goofball who cares."


While many of the comments in that post are focused on the fashion aspect of the blog, the framing of the FPP (and the original blog post) is actually much more serious:
Fashion blog Ivy-Style.com posted an article today hypothetizing that four-term Republican North Carolina State Representative Bryan R. Holloway is the anonymous blogger, known as Richard, responsible for the much criticized WASP 101 fashion blog, widely excoriated around the internet for its frequent racist, sexist, and classist overtones (and for having bad fashion sense, too). (emphasis mine)
I don't have any particular feelings about this outing (for now, at least) but omitting this information from the argument kind of changes the point.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:01 AM on June 1, 2013


Room 641-A the real person's constituents may well vote for the guy precisely because he is a little racist and a little sexist and a little classist and outing him as such causes no damage whatsoever.

The law professor case is a different story. One thing which has not been posted on metafilter is that the real person is an intellectual property lawyer, which opens up a whole 'nother can of worms.

Is she an incompetent intellectual property lawyer who thought she could go on doctor phil and remain anonymous?

Is she a really brilliant intellectual property lawyer playing some sort of N-dimenstional chess with the issues and the other naive participants?
posted by bukvich at 8:14 AM on June 1, 2013


Oh, yes, I'm not comparing it to the lawyer or any other kind of doxxing (or "doxxing"), just that if we're talking about this specific instance, the original intent was about more than simply someone's taste in fashion.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:22 AM on June 1, 2013


I noted that some commenters were actually delighting in playing Columbo

No, Banacek. Because I really dig the turtleneck/sport coat combo. == posted by octobersurprise


Hey!
I was rockin the turtleneck/sport coat combo once (complete with the salt and pepper buzzcut) and the wifey gets this goofy grin and says

"You know? Kinda got a little Banacek thing going on there."

I solved that case about four and a half times.

Course I believe Bush was President then. I honestly couldn't tell you which one.
posted by timsteil at 8:23 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, yes, I'm not comparing it to the lawyer or any other kind of doxxing (or "doxxing"), just that if we're talking about this specific instance, the original intent was about more than simply someone's taste in fashion.

Well, to me, the part that makes it interesting is that lots of people - even the bulk of commenters on the blog itself - have been hating on it for a wide variety of reasons for years. And, I'd guess, that's also why Holloway is afraid to admit he's the author (assuming, of course, that he actually is). It wouldn't be a complete post if it only pointed out that his suits don't fit.
posted by something something at 8:47 AM on June 1, 2013


I think this is a reasonable discussion to have, even again. The thing that weighs on me is that we go to great lengths to allow members the level of anonymity that they wish to have here (whether they use real names versus pseudonyms, etc.), and we insist on protecting this as a very high priority, and don't let members out other members. Perhaps we could treat all people who are the subject of posts with the same level of respect as if they paid $5 to participate here, where the posts and their related links all become extensions of the kinds of discussions we deem appropriate here. If they desire anonymity, we would protect it. If they outed themselves, we could discuss it. I suspect there may be the rare exception to this rule, but it might not be a bad guideline with which to start.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:05 AM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm just here for the miso gist.

I can't really muster a fuck to give re: doxxification or the latest installment of The Tanizaki Show, but I'm hoping 'miso gist' catches on as an injoke so hard it hurts.

MISO GIST!
posted by jack_mo at 10:16 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I get "miso gist" but I can't for the life of me figure out what "fog leafing" is.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:27 AM on June 1, 2013


I can't for the life of me figure out what "fog leafing" is.

"fig-leafing"
posted by mph at 10:40 AM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, to me, the part that makes it interesting is that lots of people - even the bulk of commenters on the blog itself - have been hating on it for a wide variety of reasons for years.

But just within the context of this MeTa about where we draw the line, I think the difference between an anonymous fashion blog and an elected politician using a fashion blog to say hateful things* and then hiding behind it is a distinction that was getting lost in the discussion about the blog itself.

*Allegedly. (But the speculation isn't what my comment was addressing.)
posted by Room 641-A at 10:44 AM on June 1, 2013


MISO GIST!

I like some miso gist, but it's no Poom!
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:53 AM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Plo-
posted by zarq at 11:18 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


"fig-leafing"

That makes so much sense, in retrospect. Thanks; I learned a thing today!
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:24 AM on June 1, 2013


The "sociopathic law prof" post's deletion reason hints at the difference. It says that the doxxing isn't very well supported, and the post itself only has a couple links.

On the other hand, the WASP 101 post has lots of supporting links, some to reputable news outlets. Another key distinction is the focus. This isn't just "here is a doxxing." It's about the results, i.e. "there was a doxxing and here's what happened."

And for what it's worth, I don't really get this sudden prohibition against all doxxing (not on Metafilter but on the internet in general). It seems to be a result of reddit dogma, and it's not helpful in deciding whether a post is appropriate for Metafilter. Doxxing is not automatically bad, and I'm always surprised to see people taking a hardline stance against it on the blue. Usually the tone of these hardliners is "this is doxxing so therefore it is wrong and bad," which doesn't allow for a lot of nuance. Thankfully the mods aren't taking that stance.
posted by mokin at 11:34 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been to three different Japanese restaurants and I just don't like miso.

"We don't need another hero"
Come on, everybody sing!
"We don't need to know the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay home,
All we want is life beyoooooooooond the Thunderdome!"
posted by IndigoRain at 11:52 AM on June 1, 2013


I'm curious about when doxxing came to mean the same thing as outing. I had been under the impression - perhaps mistakenly - that doxxing was more "that jerk who did the thing we hate, here is his address and work number and where his kids go to school," and less "Anti-gay senator caught in tea room scandal."
posted by rtha at 11:59 AM on June 1, 2013 [22 favorites]


I would guess the line has gotten blurry as it's become easier and easier to find out Every Last Thing about a person just from Googling their real name.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:10 PM on June 1, 2013


And for what it's worth, I don't really get this sudden prohibition against all doxxing (not on Metafilter but on the internet in general).

I think it's a sea change based on changing attitudes about privacy. A generation has grown up with the internet now and they have a different perspective about how things should work.

A lot of us old-timers started at a time when anonymity was practically the default. Sure lots of people used their real names, but it was trivial to cover your tracks if you felt like it. (remember shared lab computers that let you type in the From: address?)

For this generation anonymity is much harder to achieve. Everything is out there, and a patient person can track the connections. If they're to have anonymity then a social contract is required.

As with all social contracts it is okay to break it if the reason is good enough. Perhaps the change you are detecting is that the bar for "good enough" is getting higher all the time.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:14 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


At some point, doxxing is simply reportage, isn't it? At least, if the definition is stretched to include making public things that people - particularly public figures - don't want made public.

For instance, if this dude had been secretly taking money from textile or clothing manufacturers and blogging about their clothes under a pseudonym and also passing legislation that benefitted them, when does doxxing become reporting about that? Does it depend on who's doing it? On what their motives are? On what damage his actions do to the public trust?

I don't the answers to those questions, but there does seem to be an increasingly blurry line between "doxxing" and "reporting" and I do worry a little that a collective distaste for the first spills over onto the latter.
posted by rtha at 12:19 PM on June 1, 2013


there does seem to be an increasingly blurry line between "doxxing" and "reporting" and I do worry a little that a collective distaste for the first spills over onto the latter.

And I worry about the opposite. Somebody in the thread opined that people should know "everything" about their elected representatives. It's easy to set up a hypothetical we'll all get behind, like a legislator taking kickbacks. That's not the difficult scenario. The difficulty arises when we start playing Six Degrees and analyzing the ripple-effect ways that somebody's anonymous blog about his random hobby might theoretically create bias on tangentially related issues. That's the road advocated by people who want to know "everything," and I think it's nutty and harmful.

Doxxing is not automatically bad

It's a weird term that people are using in different ways. If it means "outing," then I agree with you; there are situations where it's genuinely newsworthy and constructive. If it involves public release of personal documents, home addresses and telephone numbers, etc., then it's harder to find any positive value. To the extent that doxxing is vigilantism, it is automatically bad. (As a rule.)

The thing that weighs on me is that we go to great lengths to allow members the level of anonymity that they wish to have here

I don't usually click through to people's profiles, but in these conversations I sometimes do. It's amusing, for instance, to see somebody using an anonymous handle to argue that another person doesn't deserve privacy. It's relevant information. Also, when things get heated sometimes I'll see a particularly nasty comment and click to see if the person is anonymous. I'd like to say they usually are, but the truth is I think it's about 50/50.
posted by cribcage at 1:08 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's amusing, for instance, to see somebody using an anonymous handle to argue that another person doesn't deserve privacy.

You caught me, I' actually Dick Cheney. And you wouldn't believe the files I have on you!

You enjoy overripe radishes in finnish saunas, right?
posted by Dumsnill at 1:29 PM on June 1, 2013


It's relevant information.

I think we've gone waaaay overboard in paranoia over "doxxing". There's a significant difference between "outing" the name and address of, say, the accuser in a rape trial (which is a big no no) and trying to figure out the author of most books written under a pseudonym or the like. And too many people don't seem to be able to draw that distinction.

For what it's worth my name and address are trivially available on Metafilter. So far no one has murdered me. So far.
posted by Justinian at 2:01 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I agree there's a distinction between traditional doxxing and outing. Posting the names, addresses, and phone numbers of people so they can be harassed is vile. So in that case, I'm definitely against doxxing, and I'd even say it's never a good thing.

The subjects of this MeTa aren't traditional doxxing, but still people call it doxxing and thus leap to the "doxxing is never a good thing" argument. Again, it seems really dogmatic and thought-terminating. It bothers me because it doesn't seem like part of a changing attitude about privacy, it's more like people taking this automatic stance against something without really questioning why they're against it in the first place.

Using the term "doxxing" complicates things unnecessarily. It brings out the anti-doxx sentiment even when it doesn't apply. The sociopathic law professor wasn't deleted because it was doxxing. It was deleted because it was a thin post. That it was referred to as doxxing in the MetaTalk thread is unfortunate because now some people believe that Metafilter is anti-doxxing (in the newer "anti-outing of anonymous people" definition), which isn't the case.
posted by mokin at 2:21 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's the road advocated by people who want to know "everything," and I think it's nutty and harmful.

But, at least implicitly, you're making another argument here, also. You're suggesting that if some public figure is "outed" for something as innocuous as being the author of a silly fashion blog by a third party, then it is incumbent on us, here, to neither recognize that or even speak of it. Given the likely consequences of this "outing," that's an abundance of caution that seems excessive, even nutty.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:47 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The line between outing and doxxing gets blurred by people's zeal in finding evidence ("playing Columbo"). It's not enough to conclude that the state representative is the blogger; everybody wants to uncover a new piece of evidence, and that hole leads ever deeper.

it is incumbent on us, here, to neither recognize that or even speak of it.

No. See above.
posted by cribcage at 2:51 PM on June 1, 2013


Posting the names, addresses, and phone numbers of people so they can be harassed is vile.

Yes. That is what doxxing is, especially the address and phone number part. The law professor post is not doxxing, the post we're talking about here is not doxxing. This is an example of doxxing; I haven't checked, but I'm pretty sure it was talked about here at the time when it happened.
posted by cairdeas at 3:16 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


So as it relates to this discussion, cribcage, you're opposed to seeking the identity of the blogger, but satisfied that the blogger's identity can be discussed here once it's discovered unless it's a falsely attributed identity, the evidence for determing you frown on looking for. Does that about sum it up?
posted by octobersurprise at 3:20 PM on June 1, 2013


For what it's worth my name and address are trivially available on Metafilter. So far no one has murdered me. So far.

Talk about selection bias.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:40 PM on June 1, 2013


I can't for the life of me figure out what "fog leafing" is.
"fig-leafing"


That’s not nearly as interesting. I’m going to stick with fog leafing.
posted by bongo_x at 4:06 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fog leafing sounds like one of those coy phrases that fantasy writers invent so they can be all yeah, and after the battle all the dwarves pulled out their chillums and sparked up some primo verde without offending their square readership.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:31 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


"So as it relates to this discussion, cribcage, you're opposed to seeking the identity of the blogger, but satisfied that the blogger's identity can be discussed here once it's discovered unless it's a falsely attributed identity, the evidence for determining you frown on looking for. Does that about sum it up?"

But cribcage didn't quite say that. I just checked. It was SpacemanStix who proposed treating all subjects of posts the way we treat members, but cribcage didn't advocate this. All cribcage did was to question the idea that the public has the "right" to know "everything" about elected officials.

And, honestly, while I remain ambivalent about this, I started moving away from that default American position during the Lewinski nonsense as I began questioning the presumption that politicians' sex lives were a matter of public import. I think it can be, it sheds light on dishonesty and hypocrisy, but I don't like the presumption that public figures, even politicians, don't really have privacy.

There's a chicken-and-egg situation involved in this particular case. Assuming that the blogger isn't the politician, then I'm hard pressed to see any justification for anyone sleuthing his identity — that's perilously close to genuine doxxing. Does no one here have a pseudonymous blog? So there's only an arguably valid rationale when we assume that the blogger is the politician. How does this happen? It shouldn't really happen because someone decided to investigate the identity of a hapless fashion blogger. But it could happen because readers just recognized him as the politician.

At that point it's not about the identity of the blogger, it's about whether the politician is the blogger. This is a distinction that I feel almost no one is making and, just writing it, I sense that many will think it's nonsensical. But it makes perfect sense if you don't assume, a priori, that these two people are one and the same. The rationale for connecting these two identities is different depending upon which direction you're coming from. Even if they turn out to be the same person.

Starting from the politician's side, is there a legitimate interest in establishing that he's the fashion blogger? Maybe. Some people think so, some people don't. Is there unjust harm that he will suffer if he's not, in fact, the blogger? Maybe. Maybe not. I, personally, think that if there's harm, it will be very small. And it arguably is balanced by the public-interest side.

In the sociopath's case, the variables have different values. In contrast to the fashion blogger, there's definitely a legitimate interest in checking the credibility of the author's story, and that involves researching what can be discovered about the author's real identity. And, apart from the credibility issue (which, it's important to note, doesn't require that a researcher disclose the author's actual identity, just that the author has the history that she claims to have), is there a public interest in knowing the actual identity of the sociopath? Well, considering that she self-identifies as a sociopath who does bad things to other people, I'd argue that the answer is "yes".

And coming from the other direction, is there a legitimate interest in establishing that the law professor is the author of a pseudonymous autobiography of a sociopath? Here, too, there's a pretty strong interest — the same as it was from the other direction, but with regard to specific people (students, colleagues, employer, friends).

So far, this makes for a strong case that identifying the sociopath as the professor is justified. Except ... some of those same strong factors work against this with regard to the unjust harm that would accrue to the law professor were the identification false. Because it's pretty darn bad to wrongly identify someone as that sociopath.

Both cases end up being marginal, but for different reasons. Which is when we consider things like how much evidence there is and how credible that evidence is. Also, just as matter of practical realism, how widely this has already been reported (as mass-media reporting arguably makes the question moot).

In my opinion, the evidence and credibility with the sociopath were not that great, it was far from widely reported, and therefore because the possible harm of misidentification is so large, the balance tipped against the post.

But with the blogger, the evidence is stronger and the harm of misidentification much less. So the balance tipped in favor of the post.

All these issues are extreme when we consider the marathon bombers and the various identifications. Legitimate public interest was extremely high. Illegitimate sleuthing of random dark-skinned persons was also very high. Harm of misidentification was very high. Amount of evidence, credibility of sources, and how much a possible identification had already been widely reported were all extremely important given these two extreme contradictory interests.

People seem to want a categorical statement, a universal rule, when instead the best we have is a kind of formula, which was basically restless_nomad's immediate response to this post. Each case has to be evaluated separately. Because each is different.

Finally, I strongly agree with what Tell Me No Lies wrote. I've been saying for years that the natural and inevitable solution to privacy issues in this information age is changing social mores — just because something can be known doesn't mean that it should be known and I agree with TMNL that what we're seeing is a burgeoning ethos of respecting privacy absent a good excuse to violate it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:39 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ugh, this feels like some of you want to move drastically towards a wikipedia-esque rules lawyering demand for sourcing, verifiability, and no-original research. I don't care if the New York Times or Washington Post already revealed who a blogger or author is or not, we can talk about it if we feel like talking about it. Or theorize. Or guess.
posted by Justinian at 5:50 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


So if I happen to know your real name, it's okay if I we theorize and talk about the possibility that you're the author of the Confessions of a Serial Killer blog?

These considerations matter because discussions here matter, more than they would, say, on the MetaFilter Chat server. This is a pretty public space, exposed to many more people than merely those involved in the discussions. Sourcing, verifiability, and possible harm are important. That doesn't mean "rule lawyering", it just means judgment and consideration of the relevant issues and applying that judgment to individual cases. Like, you know, how it's always been done here.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:22 PM on June 1, 2013


I agree judgment and consideration should be applied to individual cases. That's exactly what I'm arguing for. But there are people who want the rules to be black and white: no "doxxing". There is no judgment involved in such a rule.
posted by Justinian at 6:47 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, feel free to speculate. Maybe I wrote the blog. Maybe I'm the trad idiot with the awful clothes. I also might be Spartacus.
posted by Justinian at 6:48 PM on June 1, 2013


Hi Spartacus!
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:01 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, I'm Spartacus.
posted by mokin at 8:42 PM on June 1, 2013


Girls, girls, you're both Spartacus.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:38 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't know how a reddit rule migrated over here anyway.
posted by empath at 3:53 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is no judgment involved in such a rule.

Which is why we are not, in any way, considering one.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:22 AM on June 2, 2013


Without expressing any opinion on your substantive point about the OP having a hobby horse, I'd say that although it wasn't precisely clear to me what you were hoping to accomplish with your MetaTalk thread earlier this week, comments like this do seem to be inconsistent with it.

I fail to see how calling someone out is being an asshole.(if that's the meta you mean) This may or may not be hair splitting, but I really just don't see it here. I realize you can be an asshole in the process of calling someone one, but I feel like I'm trying to walk what I talk at least in spirit here.

I also feel that ignoring the hobby horse part is ignoring the major reason I even bothered to post that, but oh well...
posted by emptythought at 11:46 AM on June 2, 2013


Which is why we are not, in any way, considering one.

I assumed not, but I thought I'd weigh in on the topic of the thread anyway. Because if you post it, they will come.
posted by Justinian at 12:33 PM on June 2, 2013


So it's been a day and a half, and the OP hasn't commented back in this thread since posting it. Is the post worth keeping open?
posted by zarq at 1:49 PM on June 2, 2013


We do not close MeTas without specific reasons. This one isn't going sideways and can die a nice peaceful death of neglect, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:52 PM on June 2, 2013


Ok. Was just curious.
posted by zarq at 1:56 PM on June 2, 2013


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