If There Is One Lesson To Be Learned from the Last Few Weeks of the Internet, It's 'Don't Meticulously Craft an Online Persona of Being a Total Asshole'

No one mourns a troll. This is the thing about Shashank Tripathi, the anonymous Twitter user outed by Buzzfeed's Jack Stuef on Tuesday morning after a night creating and spreading false rumors on Twitter. I tend to agree with Heidi Moore: the responsibility for the dissemination of those rumors lies with the journalists who retweeted or reported them, not with Tripathi, who has no personal or professional obligation to tell the truth on Twitter, no matter how influential his followers are. A lot of journalists and outlets reported false things on Monday, including CNN and Reuters* and Andrew Kaczynski, the Buzzfeed writer who initially called Tripathi out. Tripathi never claimed to be a journalist or a credible source; in fact, he was always clear that he was the opposite: a troll.

But if that gets him off the hook, it also damns him. It might be unfair that Tripathi ended up being the scapegoat for an embarrassingly credulous Twitter media crowd, but it's hard to feel sympathetic. If you meticulously construct a "total asshole" persona online, you're going to piss people off; when you piss people off, they're going to go after you. There's no real defense when someone puts two and two together and connects your online assholedom to your offline life.

So it is with Tripathi, and so it was with Michael Brutsch, a.k.a. Violentacrez, the Reddit troll outed by our own Adrian Chen a couple weeks ago. Even if you take Brutsch at his word - he wasn't actually a racist, sexist creep, just a troll - he himself admitted that his goal was to get a rise out of people. Brutsch got a rise out of someone. So did Tripathi. No one mourns a troll: it's very difficult to feel sorry for someone who achieved his goals. - Max

* Reuters reporter Anthony DeRose writes that a Reuters report about trapped ConEd workers - denied by ConEd - was correct: "[T]hat report wasn't incorrect[;] we have photos and reports from the workers[. W]e stand by our story[.]"