Background: NYU has two main newspapers — the print Washington Square News and the digital NYU Local. NYU Secrets is a Facebook page where anonymous “secret” updates were posted, written by members of the NYU community. The page is curated by an anonymous administrator, and given that NYU is a decentralized, campus-less university, the NYU Secrets page did serve as something of a community.
Today NYU Local This Is The Man Behind NYU Secrets:
The founder and administrator of NYU Secrets is senior Aristotelis “Aristo” Orginos. A frequent Redditor, Orginos also participates in the Men’s Rights movement.
Outside his duties as administrator, Orignos posts in the Reddit group r/mensrights. The men’s rights movement argues that men are oppressed and disadvantaged by women, a view that lends itself to bitter misogyny in some circles and has led the Southern Poverty Law Center to describe the movement as a hate group.
The discussion that the NYU Local article prompted has centered on two main areas: whether the admin being an MRA makes him a bad fit for NYUS admin, and whether or not the journalist had any right to out his identity. I’m more interested in the latter question, because it has to do with journalism ethics.
The NYU Secrets page, which has 30,000 likes, is a public page. The identity of the admin, who periodically would comment on secrets and make announcements, was of much interest and debate. To my knowledge, the page isn’t sanctioned by NYU but the administration has been known to follow the page and look into particular secrets. Considering that the topic of cheating on finals comes up, this doesn’t surprise me.
But the NYUS admin has no fundamental right to privacy. Whether or not his identity remained a secret seemed largely contingent on how good his operating security was. I’m sure I’m not the only one who did some digging to find his identity and satisfy my curiosity. It’s the classic game of cat-and-mouse — the admin wanted to remain anonymous, the NYU Local journalist wanted to find out his identity. Hackers and infosec types play these sorts of games all the time.
The NYU Secrets guy has no fundamental right to keep his identity anonymous. The journalist owes him nothing, and certainly has no responsibility not to publish. Questions of whether or not the journalist should have done it is a totally different question, but even there I’m leaning towards the school of thought that says, hey, they had a good story and they’re rightfully getting attention for it.
In debating this on Facebook the afternoon, I was asked why I held the above views considering I’m so privacy-conscious. Of course people don’t have a fundamental right to privacy — it’d be a different question if the journalist posted the contents of the admin’s e-mails, or his medical records. Those are details the NYU Secrets guy, since he’s a private citizen, does have a fundamental right to keep private.
To briefly touch on whether a supporter of such an odious movement deserves to edit a page famed for diversity and inclusion, I largely agree with the NYU Local journalist:
“But the fundamental problem with a college secrets page remains the same: in filtering the voices of a diverse student population through a single anonymous administrator, the results are necessarily limited by what that anonymous administrator (in this case, a white man) chooses to publish. We’re drawn in by the illusion of vox populi, the voice of the people, when in fact what we see is “10-20%” of that voice, as curated by one person with their own biases — intentional or not.”