TOR, Reddit, and Jessi Slaughter

Because reddit does not utilize an IP-rerouter like TOR, Randall was able to look up catsrule24’s IP address and “backtrace” it.

The Cyber Police “backtracing” meme I overlayed on top of Randall’s monologue here references Jessi Slaughter (aka Jessica Leonhardt): a notorious 11-year-old viral star who was infamously interrupted while taping one of her YouTube rants by her father, Gene Leonhardt. Mr. Leonhardt began yelling at the camera (presumably at Jessi’s critics and “haters”) for bullying his daughter. He was not concerned about her (lack of) protecting her privacy and whereabouts on the Web. 4chan/Anonymous later hosted a raid on her house in retaliation because they could, legitimately, backtrace her.

Obviously the meme stands as one of the more satirical commentaries on internet privacy and anonymity, albeit with heavy connotations since Jessi was claiming to have been taken advantage of/raped by Dahvie Vanity, the lead singer of the electropop “scemo” outfit, Blood on the Dance Floor (which she later recanted). There were also numerous physical threats against her by cyberbullies on YouTube, tumblr, reddit, and 4chan. Here is a good summary and analysis of what happened and what memes were created:

As a note, it is not routine protocol to be able to “backtrace” comments from YouTube. And you certainly don’t need advanced software or a maze of servers like TOR to protect yourself from it. As social media critic Joe Manna says in the above article, even the average YouTube user is not likely to believe Leonhardt could do this.

The original video of Jessi’s meltdown and her dad’s escalation of the cyber police terror level:

Sadly the father, Gene Leonhardt, died a little over a year after this all happened–of a heart attack–in August 2011. There were reports that he had abused Jessi, punched her and gave her a bloodied lip, and that she had to be put in foster care. The case remains unsolved.

Is this an example of where poking fun on reddit, 4chan, and YouTube have gone too far? Did cyberbullying lead to uglier consequences (that will never be the same) for Jessi and her father? What role could a platform like TOR play in disguising reddit commenters’ locations? What would it mean for those like Jessi (who was actually backtraced) and her hater-bullies alike? Would it end up protecting those who better understood the Web (the trolls) and systematically make it easier to ostracize the bullied with less understanding of online culture?

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