Civil Liberties

The Troll vs. the State

The case of Andrew Auernheimer.


Profile of the day: Gawker's Adrian Chen hangs out with Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer, a media manipulator, prison-bound hacker, and "artisanal troll." There "will always be terrible people," Chen concludes,

It was either this or the Goatse pic.

and out of all of the terrible people on the internet Auernheimer is one of the best. The pureness of his awfulness-for-awfulness' sake is something to marvel at. When the law came for him he didn't suddenly pretend to see the light, he doubled-down and sent a sprawling, arrogant email to the Assistant DA signed "hugs and courage to you". Auernheimer can be a bully and a racist but like many trolls he exposes hypocrisies and injustices through his provocation. In his case, he has forced us to put up or shut up when it comes to freedom of speech on the internet.

Because in the end, Auernheimer's case is about free speech. He faces ten years in prison for using information accidentally made publicly available by AT&T to embarrass it. Nothing was harmed but a giant corporation's reputation….No doubt the fact that he was a dick about it—that he has made a career of being a dick about it—has a lot to do with the fact he's going to prison. But if being a dick on the internet was a crime we'd all be headed for the electric chair. Auernheimer plans to appeal his conviction, and when he does it will hopefully help clear up the U.S.'s outdated and vague computer crime laws, which lead to ridiculous penalties like his.