When news broke that the most hated person on the interwebz, revenge porn maven Hunter Moore was arrested, a few thoughts ran through my head. First, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Second, see how they get taken down without creating new crimes just to “get” hated people? Third, maybe this will satisfy those who want to control speech on the internet.
Mike Masnick wrote about Moore’s arrest at Techdirt, and there wasn’t much that I could add.
So, with the news that Hunter Moore was indicted with a co-conspirator under the CFAA today, we feared the worst. After all, the CFAA is already a terribly drafted law, regularly twisted by the DOJ to go after people for ordinary computing activities. However, in looking over the details of the indictment, we can at least breathe an initial sigh of relief (well, and disgust at the two individuals), as it details what appears to be Moore’s “co-conspirator” Charles Evens (also known as Gary) hacking into emails accounts to get access to nude photos, and then giving them to Moore. Moore gives Evens a bunch of money for this, at times calling him an employee, and urging him to break into more email accounts and to obtain more nude photos.
If proven true (and, admittedly, we’re only seeing the DOJ’s account here), this is the kind of thing that the CFAA was supposed to be used for.
The CFAA was the wrong law to go after Lori Drew or Weev, but this was straightout hacking, breaking into other people’s email accounts. A righteous use. A defendant undeserving of too much sympathy. And finally, an indictment everyone can love.
Would this be it, I wondered? Would this be the thing that sucked the wind out of the shrew cries for censoring the internet so that no one’s feelings would ever be hurt again? I can be so naïve.
Rather than quiet the smug and righteous who demand a new crime for every evil, real and perceived, some douche on the internet can devise, and silence the unintended voices as well as a necessary casualty of the war on speech, it did the opposite. It emboldened them.
From Caitlin Dewey at the Washington Post:
But while many people were pleased by Moore’s arrest, it’s important to note that revenge porn itself is often legal … as is much of the Internet’s filthiest filth. And while Moore may be stranded offline in Sacramento County jail, scores of similar characters are still waging campaigns of hatefulness on other blogs, Web sites and Internet forums. In fact, the Internet teems with other candidates for most-hated man.
Dewey then gives her laundry list of people on the internet whose speech she hates. And many are indeed hate-worthy. Others are there because she hates their views, like Roosh V, a misogynist who wants to put women back to their subservient roles from the 1950’s.
Roosh V: While Moore has been accused of incidental misogyny, Roosh V — a D.C. native! — has been far more explicit. Valizadeh owns the website ReturnofKings.com, which advocates for gender roles even ’50s housewives would balk at and bans “women and homosexuals” from commenting. Recent articles include the charming “5 Reasons to Date a Girl With an Eating Disorder,” “Don’t Work for a Female Boss” and “Biology Says People on Welfare Should Die.”
It’s perfectly reasonable to hate his ideas. But Dewey wants to criminalize them, because Hunter Moore.
Matt Forney: Forney, a blogger and member of the Valizadeh school, proudly crowned himself the most-hated man on the Internet after his argument “against female self-esteem” went viral last fall. Forney is a professional Internet troll, and has actually published a book to that effect. Publishing blog posts with titles like “Why Fat Girls Don’t Deserve to Be Loved” is, apparently, a profitable enterprise.
Another despicable woman-hater, but a criminal because his writings hurt your feelings? Dewey goes on to list Westboro Baptist Church’s Fred Phelps, Michael Crook, Don Black, Mark Marek and whosarat.com website owner, Sean Bucci. In every instance, her beef is that she hates their speech. Hates it. And that’s why there must be a crime with which to take them down.
Of course, we all know that freedom of speech has its dark side, both on and off the Internet. But the problem with Internet hate, in particular, is that current law doesn’t quite protect against it — cyberstalking statutes are weak, responsibility is hard to prove, law enforcement doesn’t understand it … the list goes on.
The indictment of Hunter Moore didn’t soothe the anger, show the censors the distinction between criminal conduct and despicable speech. Not even close. There is a big muddle in their minds, where the only thing they know is that everything they hate should be criminal, and that if there isn’t a crime against “hate speech,” defined as speech hated by someone somewhere, there should be. There must be.
Even Hunter Moore, when he was finally arrested, was arrested for hacking and identity theft — offenses that really have nothing to do with the fundamental problems of revenge porn. That doesn’t make his opponents any less happy to see him in jail, of course. But it should serve as warning, too: Other Internet villains are out there, and without stronger laws, they’re just waiting to follow in Moore’s wake.
The witch hunt is on, fueled by the success in bringing down the most hated man on the internet, which proves that the righteous arbiters of good speech and bad are deserving of our devotion. Now comes the appeal to fear, the next Hunter Moore is out there who will destroy our daughter’s self-esteem, call her mean names on Facebook and advocate for her to stay in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. He must be punished for these heretical, hateful ideas.
The use of the male pronoun isn’t accidental. Notice that all the names on Dewey’s list are male? There may be evil women on the internet as well, but they can get to them after all the men are silenced.