When a Populist Demagogue Takes Power

Rodrigo Duterte, the newly elected President of the Philippines, has normalized the killings of thousands of people—mostly poor—in a vicious drug war.

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Nov 14, 2016
Length: 38 minutes (9,560 words)


How social media changed the beliefs of a devout member of the Westboro Baptist Church, which pickets the funerals of gay men and of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: The New Yorker
Published: Nov 16, 2015
Length: 42 minutes (10,643 words)

The Agency

Adrian Chen takes a trip to Russia to search for a massive army of internet trolls—who then turn their sights on him.

Published: Jun 4, 2015
Length: 33 minutes (8,452 words)

Meet the Dogged Researchers Who Try to Unmask Haters Online

Adrian Chen talks to journalists and researchers in Sweden who are trying to unmask anonymous commenters who leave hateful messages online. Questions about privacy arise.

Published: Dec 18, 2014
Length: 16 minutes (4,212 words)

Is Livestreaming the Future of Media, or the Future of Activism?

On the livestreamers hitting the streets to bring thousands of online viewers an unedited look at the protests occurring in Ferguson and elsewhere.

Published: Dec 7, 2014
Length: 14 minutes (3,739 words)

The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed

Adrian Chen travels to the Philippines, where he meets the employees who work for content moderation companies that scrub objectionable content from social media sites.

Source: Wired
Published: Oct 23, 2014
Length: 12 minutes (3,169 words)

After 30 Years of Silence, the Original NSA Whistleblower Looks Back

Adrian Chen tracks down Perry Fellwock, also once known as Winslow Peck, whose revelations were shared four decades ago in the radical magazine Ramparts magazine:

We set a new date: Noon on a Friday, at a bench outside the train station in Oceanside. Just as I was about to hang up he stopped me.

“Wait, I don’t think meeting at the train station is a good idea because that seems a little spookish,“ he said. ”I’m not a spook, so I don’t want to do anything spookish. Maybe you could meet me while I’m grocery shopping. What’s a normal thing we can do?”

I tried to think of things a 67-year-old antiques dealer and a 28-year-old journalist might normally do together. Grocery shopping was not high on the list. Fellwock came up with another plan: We would go to a Chinese restaurant near the train station and grab lunch.

Source: Gawker
Published: Nov 12, 2013
Length: 37 minutes (9,268 words)

“Weaponize the Media”: An Anonymous Rapper’s War on Steubenville

The story of the man who led the Anonymous campaign against the Steubenville rapists:

“As KYAnonymous, Lostutter had already won some renown for KnightSec by attacking revenge-porn king Hunter Moore and helping shut down a Westboro Baptist Church protest. But the decision to take on the Steubenville case unleashed more powerful forces than he had ever encountered before: international outrage, legions of vigilante followers, and a glaring media spotlight.

“It was KnightSec that would obtain the video of a Steubenville teen joking about the rape, turning an alcohol-blurred local crime into a visual that cable news could loop like disaster footage, crystallizing public opinion against the offenders. It was also KnightSec that helped create a toxically false, conspiratorial dossier on innocent parties surrounding the case.”

Source: Gawker
Published: Jun 12, 2013
Length: 29 minutes (7,307 words)

Don’t Be a Stranger

On the authenticity of online friendships:

“When someone asks me how I know someone and I say ‘the Internet,’ there is often a subtle pause, as if I had revealed we’d met through a benign but vaguely kinky hobby, like glassblowing class, maybe. The first generation of digital natives are coming of age, but two strangers meeting online is still suspicious (with the exception of dating sites, whose bare utility has blunted most stigma). What’s more, online venues that encourage strangers to form lasting friendships are dying out. Forums and emailing are being replaced by Facebook, which was built on the premise that people would rather carefully populate their online life with just a handful of ‘real’ friends and shut out all the trolls, stalkers, and scammers. Now that distrust of online strangers is embedded in the code of our most popular social network, it is becoming increasingly unlikely for people to interact with anyone online they don’t already know.”

Source: The New Inquiry
Published: Feb 13, 2013
Length: 11 minutes (2,894 words)

The Internet’s Best Terrible Person Goes to Jail

Hacker Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, an infamous Internet troll, has been convicted of computer crimes for his role in a 2010 breach of AT&T’s customer data. But he also has a surprising number of supporters:

“In spite, or maybe because of, his online notoriety, Auernheimer is good at making real-life friends like Nick with the Buick, and the guy with the private jet—people who can help him out. In person, he exudes a downhome country charm that is so disarming you may not realize he’s been expounding very loudly about Jewish-controlled banks and armed revolution against the U.S. government—that is, until the people in the Starbucks around you start flashing you dirty looks. Auernheimer has found a strong support network in New York, comprised of a colorful group of geeks, bohemian hackers and artists who have helped to keep him off the streets by giving him odd programming jobs and letting him crash on their couches. There is some overlap with Occupy Wall Street, which Auernheimer was involved with briefly, during its height last fall. Auernheimer refers to his New York friends as the only family he has. They clearly adore him for all his peculiarities.

“‘On the one hand he can do and say some really appalling things just for the sake of attention,’ says Meredith L. Patterson, a respected computer scientist and developer. ‘But on the other hand when he’s dealing with somebody who he thinks is genuine and not hypocritical, he’s respectful and genuine towards them.’ Patterson recalls how Auernheimer comforted her after a guy ‘decided to get all grabby’ at a hacker conference this past August in Las Vegas. ‘Of all the people in the world, Weev was genuinely sympathetic and supportive,’ she says.”

Source: Gawker
Published: Nov 27, 2012
Length: 24 minutes (6,025 words)