When Gawker’s Adrian Chen pulled back the veil on Reddit’s most controversial user, violentacrez—responsible for running some of the site’s most lewd and disturbing forums—the 49-year-old said he would probably spend his free time focusing on work or “possibly looking for a job.”
It looks like violentacrez was right. The former moderator—known in real life as Michael Brutsch, of Arlington, Texas—said on Saturday that he was fired from from his position at a financial services company, leaving him and his disabled wife with little savings and no health insurance.
The firing came less than 24 hours after Chen ran his highly-anticipated story featuring a lengthy interview with Brutsch. In it, Brutsch admitted to being violentacrez, a purveyor of pornographic and violent images across subreddits like r/picsofdeadkids, r/nazi, and at one time, r/jailbait, a subreddit which featured sexually charged but non-nude images of underage girls. Brutsch was cordial with Reddit administrators and other influential moderators who looked to him for sage advice on dealing with NSFW (not safe for work) content.
He is also a father and a respected member of his Texas community, who attended Reddit meetups with little concern of ever having his real identity revealed.
"My wife is disabled. I got a home and a mortgage, and if this hits the fan, I believe this will affect negatively on my employment," Brutsch told Chen. "I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time."
Gawker’s article was published at about 5pm ET Friday and was an immediate hit, collecting more than 20,000 views in mere minutes. About 30 minutes after being published, the article was banned across Reddit. The reason, according to Reddit community manager David Croach (Dacvak), was because the article contained private information about a user.
“It smacks of the very same personal conflicts brought up in the article. They're not enforcing a policy, they're defending a friend,” SeraphimAntifa commented.
“I cannot believe that the links in reddit are sanitized. VA agreed to be interviewed and did not deny anything. Chen, whether you like him or not, did the ‘outing’ of VA in a manner that is above-board. He did not misrepresent himself, he verified VA's identity, the article overall is fair,” e_coleslaw commented. “If this was written by a journo who is not hated by reddit with the force of a thousand suns or published in a news outfit that is not Gawker, this would be seen as a totally legit investigation.”
In an interview with Buzzfeed, Reddit general manager Erik Martin admitted that the ban was a mistake.
“The sitewide ban of the recent Adrian Chen article was a mistake on our part and was fixed this morning,” Martin told Buzzfeed Sunday. “Mods are still free to do what they want in their subreddits."
One mod that will be missing in action is violentacrez, who ran about 400 different subreddits at the height of his power. Now, instead of searching for controversial content to proliferate his forums, Brutsch is looking for work.
“I'm eligible [for insurance], but COBRA is very expensive. Who can afford to pay 5 times as much for insurance at the very moment they lose their income? Only rich folks can afford COBRA. I have maybe 3 weeks pay in the bank,” Brutsch wrote on Reddit, using the account mbrutsch.
“I just hope I can hold out a month. My wife hasn't been able to work for over a year, and our savings will last about 3 weeks, not considering the current lack of health insurance.”