A Joke Gone Too Far?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

One of my favorite bloggers, Avatar, posted something yesterday that got me thinking. I'm not sure if y'all have heard about this, but it raises some interesting questions about privacy. You can find the full story here, here, here, here, here, and here. But, for the lazy readers, I'll break it down for you.

From waxy.org:

Jason Fortuny's Craigslist Experiment
On Monday, a Seattle web developer named Jason Fortuny started his own Craigslist experiment. The goal: "Posing as a submissive woman looking for an aggressive dom, how many responses can we get in 24 hours?"He took the text and photo from a sexually explicit ad (warning: not safe for work) in another area, reposted it to Craigslist Seattle, and waited for the responses to roll in. Like Simon's experiment, the response was immediate. He wrote, "178 responses, with 145 photos of men in various states of undress. Responses include full e-mail addresses (both personal and business addresses), names, and in some cases IM screen names and telephone numbers."In a staggering move, he then published every single response, unedited and uncensored, with all photos and personal information to Encyclopedia Dramatica (kinda like Wikipedia for web fads and Internet drama). Read the responses (warning: sexually explicit material).Instantly, commenters on the LiveJournal thread started identifying the men. Dissenters emailed the guys to let them know they were scammed. Several of them were married, which has led to what will likely be the first of many separations. One couple in an open marriage begged that their information be removed, as their religious family and friends weren't aware of their lifestyle. Another spotted a fellow Microsoft employee, based on their e-mail address. And it's really just the beginning, since the major search engines haven't indexed these pages yet. After that, who knows? Divorces, firings, lawsuits, and the assorted hell that come from having your personal sex life listed as the first search result for your name.Possibly the strangest thing about this sex baiting prank is that the man behind it is unabashedly open about his own identity. A graphic artist in Kirkland, Washington, Jason has repeatedly posted his contact information, including home phone, address, and photos. He's already received one threat of physical violence. Is he oblivious to the danger, or does he just not care? Since his stated interest is "pushing people's buttons," I'm guessing the latter. (See update: Jason's been removing contact information from his sites, so some of these links are now broken.)
I took a look at the Encyclopedia Dramatica post, and yes, every single email he received was posted- un-edited. Some of these men sent emails with their real names, telephone numbers, and IM screen names. Some of them even responded to the ad from their work email accounts.
Now these men are attempting to get the posts pulled. So the debate is whether or not this is a legal issue. On one hand, this "experiment" is not only cruel, but it could ruin these men's lives. On the other hand, every single one of these men volunteered that information. They sent pictures of themselves (some nude), along with some very explicit descriptions of what they wanted to do to the "woman" posting the ad, as well as their telephone numbers, full names, and IM screennames.
I'm not going to get into whether or not it was morally wrong of Jason Fortuny to post all of the responses, or whether or not the men involved deserved the humiliation, but there's no question that his "experiment" was in poor taste. Where the question lies is whether or not he should be forced to shut down the site. The men volunteered their personal information, but they didn't consent to have that information posted.
Your thoughts?
**and guys, the next time you respond to a Craigslist ad, please think about guys like this one, who (I'm pretty sure) responded from his work email (along with many others). Be a little more discrete.
***note- because of the amount of traffic, the pictures on Encyclopedia Dramatica are not loading....too bad, since some of them are pretty damn juicy.


JoJo 9/13/2006 07:22:00 PM  

eewww...BTW, how stupid can some people be?

AlienCG 9/13/2006 07:39:00 PM  

That's cruel. I love it, but I would never do anything like that to anyone.

I-66 9/14/2006 06:55:00 AM  

It seems a bit extreme to post all of the information in the public domain. Yes, many of the involved are idiots for responding from work e-mails or providing all of their personal info to a complete stranger under the assumption that it's legit but that doesn't mean they deserve to have their lives wrecked by a lack of common sense (which, let's face it, isn't as common as it should be).

I think there isn't a visible line between this guy's "experiment" and him wanting to humiliate the involved. He's probably not the sharpest tool in the shed himself since he has his identity all out there too - I don't think he realizes the magnitude to which one would seek revenge for being embarassed nationally. If it was really an experiment and only that, he should not have to publish all the information.

The Husband 9/14/2006 09:31:00 AM  

very interesting story. some people have way too much time on their hands.

Johnny 9/14/2006 10:07:00 AM  

I like pushing people's buttons too (some of you know this) but this is far beyong anything I would do. The internet is like anything goes. You do have to be careful what you put in e-mails, especially from work. I've e-mailed bloggers from work, although not with anything explicit in it. And about Craigslist: Most of the female entries for casual encounters are FAKE. The few that aren't problably get like 300 responses, and I certainly would be worried about what would be wrong with a girl that needs to post there to find a man. These guys posting pictures of their anatomy are embarrassing; no girl wants to see that.

Mike V. 9/14/2006 10:59:00 AM  

Very interesting.
I'm not cool with posting stuff online that was emailed to the dude because it's "private" conversation, but like one person in the Yahoo story said:

"It's one of those situations where both sides look bad. ... From an ethical standpoint, this isn't brain surgery."

If you're going to wave your dick around, though, there is a chance that it might get lopped off..

Velvet 9/14/2006 11:28:00 AM  

Craigslist is the lowest of the low of the dating websites. I wouldn't EVER use my real email on CL, even when I'm selling something. I have a fake name, and an email for my fake name, and everyone who wants to reply to Velvet gets a response from "Diane" or "Jackie" or "Stacy." All three not my real name. These guys are total idiots. Do they deserve it? No, because what people's sexual proclivities are is of no concern to the rest of the world, but, they should take the proper identification protection.

minijonb 9/14/2006 12:51:00 PM  

I would think that Jason broke some kind of craigslist rule/copyright/term of use/etc when he copied all that info and posted it to another site... but myabe craigslist doesn't have to care about your privacy at all when you post personal info with them for everyone to see.

Avin 9/14/2006 01:08:00 PM  

Sorry but I find this hysterical. Seems to me that anyone could screw you over with information you volunteer. Sucks for them that it was put out there like that, but its hysterical none the less. Moral of the story is, there's no sex in the Champagne Room...oh wait no, I mean dont send people explicit shit over the net.

Rachel 9/14/2006 03:13:00 PM  

If you provide information about yourself to a stranger you have voluntarily relinquished your privacy.
If Jason had done this and posted that he was a 14 year old girl and was looking for sex and all of these men responded, would people be as outraged at what Jason did? Somehow I doubt it. He would probably be lauded as someone trying to get sex offenders off of the street.
I have no sympathy for anyone involved except for the spouses and families that will be impacted by the poor decisions of these men.

David in DC,  9/14/2006 03:44:00 PM  

The prankster's made a bad moral choice, but I'm having a hard time working up much sympathy for the oafs who wrote back with info that made them so easily identifiable.

The prankster's an ass. The respondents are asses too, stupid ones.

I regret the families that could break up over this, especially those where children are hurt.

But these wives are probably better off knowing and losing their particular oaf now, than not knowing and contracting a disease from him later.

White Dade 9/14/2006 04:29:00 PM  

Kind of a dick move on this guy',s part, not classy at all. but legal. Like many things in life. guys in Seattle are wierd, i reiterate.

Johnny 9/14/2006 06:18:00 PM  

Velvet, if its the lowest of the low, why do you use it?

nicole 9/14/2006 07:45:00 PM  

That's jacked up but I can't see any legal reason for them to take down the site. Like you said, the men volunteered their photos and personal information so that's pretty much on them.

But this Jason character's got some fantastic ass karma coming to him!

Ricardo 9/18/2006 12:49:00 PM  

No I don't see the benefit of doing this as there's nothing to be gained by it wither way. Sure it's a poor choice to go to Craig's list and send replies via a work email but we are talking about sex between consenting adults here. What exactly is he trying to prove here? There's many adults who swap dirty pics. I don't see the need to destroy their lives over. Seems very hypocritical. My advice is to get to really know your cyber friends before swapping or sending pics.

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