Adrian Chen

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Adrian Chen
Adrian Chen at The Influencers in 2017
Adrian Chen at The Influencers in 2017
Born (1984-11-23) November 23, 1984 (age 36)

Adrian Chen (traditional Chinese: 陳力宇; simplified Chinese: 陈力宇; pinyin: Chén Lìyǔ;[1] born November 23, 1984) is an American blogger, and former staff writer at The New Yorker. Chen joined Gawker in November 2009 as a night shift editor, graduating from an internship position at Slate,[2] and has written extensively on Internet culture, especially virtual communities such as 4chan and Reddit. Chen is the creator of The Pamphlette, a "humor publication" for Reed College students on a piece of letter-size paper.[3] He has written for The New York Times,[4] New York magazine,[5] Wired,[6] and other publications.

In October 2012, Chen exposed the real name and details of Violentacrez (a moderator of several Reddit Jailbait communities), a Texas Internet developer, who was subsequently fired from his job.[7] This led to all links to Gawker being temporarily banned from Reddit.[8] In September 2012, Chen acquiesced to demands from Anonymous and posted images of himself dressed in a tutu with a shoe perched on his head. The images had been demanded in exchange for interviews regarding an alleged leak of Apple iPhone and iPad user data from an FBI laptop.[9][10][11][12]

In 2016, he became a staff writer for The New Yorker.[13] He left the magazine in July 2018.[14]

Personal background[edit]

Chen was born to Harry Chen and Anne Lezak.[15] His father Harry is ethnic Chinese[16] and religiously Christian and his mother Anne is Jewish.[17] He has two sisters Alyssa and Laurel.[15] His father Dr. Harry L. Chen, M.D. is an emergency medicine physician[18][19][20] and former Vermont Health Commissioner.[21][22] His maternal grandfather was Sidney I. Lezak,[23] former U.S. Attorney for Oregon for more than 20 years.[24][25]

Investigative reporting[edit]

Silk Road[edit]

In June 2011, Chen wrote an exposé of Silk Road, a Darknet market which facilitated online drug purchases.[26] Following publication of the article, Chen was interviewed about Silk Road on NPR's All Things Considered.[27] As a result of Chen's investigation, United States Senators Charles Schumer and Joe Manchin publicly called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to shut the site down.[28][29][30]


In February 2012, Chen interviewed a freelancer from oDesk, an outsourcing firm hired to enforce Facebook's content guidelines.[31] The article included the guidelines provided by oDesk.[31][32][33][34]


In October 2012, Chen uncovered the background of Michael Brutsch, a moderator who oversaw several controversial Reddit forums such as r/creepshots and r/jailbait, under the username 'Violentacrez'. He arranged a phone interview with Brutsch during which Brutsch mentioned he had a disabled wife and pleaded for him to keep his identity secret. Though Chen claimed this "did shake [him] a bit",[35] he published an article revealing his name, location, and workplace on Gawker. The next day, Brutsch was fired from his job. This release of personally identifiable information prompted several subreddits to ban all Gawker link submissions from their site.[8][36] When Chen's article was published it became banned site-wide, which Reddit general manager Erik Martin said was a mistake. "The sitewide ban of the recent Adrien Chen (sic) article was a mistake on our part and was fixed this morning. Mods are still free to do what they want in their subreddits".[37] Chen claims that apart from Reddit, response to his story had been "overwhelmingly positive", telling The Guardian, "I thought there would be more of a backlash about the story, but people really are willing to accept that anonymity is not a given on the internet and if people use pseudonyms to publish sexualised images of women without their consent, and of underage girls, then there's not really a legitimate claim to privacy".[38] For his article revealing Brutsch, Chen received a Mirror Award for Best Profile in the category of Traditional/Legacy or Digital Media.[39]

The public outpouring of hostility towards Brutsch following the exposé prompted commentators such as Danah Boyd at Wired and Michelle Star of CNET to question the morality of outing as a way to enforce societal standards online.[40][41] Several commentators have expressed concern that the public shaming of Brutsch may serve as an example to others, legitimizing online vigilantism and exposing individuals such as Brutsch to mass retribution.[40][41] Mez Breeze has suggested in The Next Web that, in outing Brutsch, Chen engaged in a type of trolling, making Brutsch "the victim of unwanted bullying and substantial negative attention" as a result of the exposé.[42]


PropOrNot is a group that seeks to expose what it calls Russian propaganda and published a list of websites they called "bona-fide ‘useful idiots’" of the Russian government based on methodology they called "a combination of manual and automated analysis, including analysis of content, timing, technical indicators, and other reporting".[43] Chen was critical of The Washington Post's decision to put the story on its front page. He wrote in an article titled "The Propaganda About Russian Propaganda": "The story topped the Post’s most-read list, and was shared widely by prominent journalists and politicians on Twitter. ... But a close look at the report showed that it was a mess."[44] Looking more carefully into their methodology, Chen argued that PropOrNot's criteria for establishing propaganda were so broad that they could have included "not only Russian state-controlled media organizations, such as Russia Today, but nearly every news outlet in the world, including the Post itself" on their list.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Adrian Chen [@AdrianChen] (19 October 2016). "My dad sent me my Chinese name for some reason. Extremely accurate:" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  2. ^ Chen, Adrian (9 November 2009). "Please Join Me in Welcoming Myself". Gawker. Archived from the original on 2013-09-09. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  3. ^ "The Pamphlette, Vol. 1, Issue 1" (PDF). Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  4. ^ Chen, Adrian (27 November 2013). "Much Ado About Bitcoin". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  5. ^ Chen, Adrian (25 January 2014). "Romanian Hacker Guccifer Skewered and Glorified The Power Elite". New York Magazine. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  6. ^ Chen, Adrian (16 April 2013). "Goatse and the Rise of the Web's Gross Out Culture". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  7. ^ Hess, Amanda (15 October 2012). "Gawker Outed Reddit's Most Notorious Troll. Why Isn't Law Enforcement Doing the Same?". Slate. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  8. ^ a b Oremus, Will (11 Oct 2012). "Reddit Moderators Ban Gawker in Solidarity With Creepy Porn Purveyor". Slate. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  9. ^ Chen, Adrian (4 September 2012). "Anonymous Demands to See Gawker Writer in Ballet Tutu For More Information on Massive FBI Hack". Gawker Media. Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  10. ^ Douglas, Nick (5 September 2012). "Adrian Chen Will Play Your Internet Game, You Rogue". Slacktory. Archived from the original on 2 February 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  11. ^ Lennard, Natasha (4 September 2012). "Hackers release Apple data". Salon. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  12. ^ Cooper, Charles (4 September 2012). "Gawker writer dons pink tutu in response to Anonymous demand". CNet. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  13. ^ "Adrian Chen". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
  14. ^ Adrian Chen [@AdrianChen] (2 July 2018). "This is also my last piece as a staff writer at the New Yorker. Sad to leave so many brilliant colleagues, but I'm very excited for my next project: I'm working on a book about gamers, based partly on this article, to be published at some point before End Times by Random House" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ Adrian Chen [@AdrianChen] (17 May 2017). "@aanatuaa no, my dad's Chinese American" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  17. ^ Adrian Chen [@AdrianChen] (25 November 2015). "@DavidADorsey i guess i'm agnostic too. my mom is jewish, my dad christian. didn't grow up religious at all" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  18. ^ "Harry L Chen - Profile by Zocdoc". Zocdoc.
  19. ^ "Harry L. Chen: Executive Profile & Biography - Bloomberg".
  20. ^ "Commissioner Harry Chen, Vermont Department of Health". CCTV Center for Media and Democracy. 27 September 2011.
  21. ^ Hallenbeck, Terri. "Vermont Health Commissioner Chen Will Not Seek Reappointment".
  22. ^ Ledbetter, Stewart (4 March 2017). "Vermont Health Commissioner steps down, looks to new adventure".
  23. ^ Adrian Chen [@AdrianChen] (17 January 2013). "@mickeylindsay sidney Lezak" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  24. ^ Turner, Wallace; Times, Special to the New York (6 December 1981). "Oregon's U.s. Attorney Since '61 Leaving Job" – via
  25. ^ Adrian Chen [@AdrianChen] (17 January 2013). "My grandfather was Oregon's U.S. Attorney for 20 yrs + he was most proud of his exercise of discretion. He went easy on Vietnam resisters" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  26. ^ Adrian Chen (1 June 2011). "The Underground Website Where You Can Buy Any Drug Imaginable". Gawker. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  27. ^ NPR Staff (12 June 2011). "Silk Road: Not Your Father's" (Broadcast radio segment). All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 5 November 2011. The e-commerce website Silk Road is being called the of illegal drugs.
  28. ^ Charles E. Schumer; Joe Manchin (6 June 2011). "Manchin Urges Federal Law Enforcement to Shut Down Online Black Market for Illegal Drugs". Press Releases - Newsroom - Joe Manchin, United States Senator, West Virginia. Archived from the original (Press release) on 2012-05-08. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  29. ^ "Schumer Pushes to Shut Down Online Drug Marketplace". NBC New York. Associated Press. 5 June 2011. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
  30. ^ Slattery, Brennon (10 June 2011). "U.S. Senators Want to Shut Down Bitcoins, Currency of Internet Drug Trade". PC World. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  31. ^ a b Chen, Adrian (16 February 2012). "Inside Facebook's Outsourced Anti-Porn and Gore Brigade, Where 'Camel Toes' are More Offensive Than 'Crushed Heads'". Gawker Media. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  32. ^ Chen, Adrian (16 February 2012). "Facebook Releases New Content Guidelines, Now Allows Bodily Fluids". Gawker Media. Archived from the original on 10 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  33. ^ Hill, Kashmir (22 February 2012). "How Facebook Outsources Its Nudity Patrol". Forbes. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  34. ^ Popkin, Helen A. S. "How Facebook keeps the porn, gore and hate out of your News Feed". MSNBC. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  35. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-05-30. Retrieved 2014-06-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. ^ Hill, Kashmir (15 Oct 2012). "Why The Internet Cool Kids Think Gawker Outing Reddit's Violentacrez Is The 'Best Story About The Web' This Year". Forbes. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
  37. ^ Notopolous, Katie (13 Oct 2012). "Leaked Reddit Chat Logs Reveal Moderators". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  38. ^ Swash, Rosie (19 Oct 2012). "A new internet age? Web users turn on 'trolls'". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  39. ^ O'Shea, Chris (5 June 2013). "The 2013 Mirror Award Winners". FishbowlNY. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  40. ^ a b Boyd, Danah (29 October 2012). "Truth, Lies, and 'Doxxing': The Real Moral of the Gawker/Reddit Story". Wired. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  41. ^ a b Starr, Michelle (17 October 2012). "Gawker, Reddit's Violentacrez and the internet vigilantes". CNET. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  42. ^ Breeze, Mez (27 October 2012). "The problems with anonymous trolls and accountability in the digital age". The Next Web. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  43. ^ Nelson, Steven (November 29, 2016). "Publications Called Russian-Propaganda Distributors Consider Suing Anonymous 'Experts'". U.S. News & World Report.
  44. ^ a b Chen, Adrian (December 1, 2016). "The Propaganda About Russian Propaganda". The New Yorker.