Encyclopedia Dramatica (often abbreviated ED and æ) is a satirical website, consisting of a wiki that uses MediaWiki software. Launched on December 10, 2004, it lampoons encyclopedia topics and current events, especially those related or relevant to contemporary Internet culture. It often serves as a repository of information and a means of discussion for the internet subculture known as Anonymous. This not safe/suitable for work (NSFW) internet site celebrates a subversive “trolling culture”,and documents Internet memes, culture, and events, such as mass organized pranks, trolling events, “raids”, large-scale failures of Internet security, and criticism of Internet communities which are accused of self-censorship in order to garner prestige or positive coverage from traditional and established media outlets.
Journalist Julian Dibbell described Encyclopædia Dramatica as the site “where the vast parallel universe of Anonymous in-jokes, catchphrases, and obsessions is lovingly annotated, and you will discover an elaborate trolling culture: Flamingly racist and sexist content lurks throughout, all of it calculated to offend.” Ninemsn described Encyclopædia Dramatica as:
“Wikipedia’s evil twin. It’s a site where almost every article is biased, offensive, unsourced, and without the faintest trace of political correctness. A search through its archives will reveal animated images of people committing suicide, articles glorifying extreme racism and sexism, and a seemingly endless supply of twisted, shocking views on just about every major human tragedy in history.”
On April 14, 2011, the original URL of the site was redirected to a new website named ‘Oh Internet’ that bore little resemblance to Encyclopedia Dramatica. Parts of the ED community harshly criticized the changes. On the night of the Encyclopedia Dramatica shutdown, regular ED visitors bombarded the ‘Oh Internet’ Facebook wall with hate messages. The Web Ecology Project made a downloadable archive of former Encyclopedia Dramatica content. Fan-made torrents and several mirrors of the original site were subsequently generated, before the wiki located at encyclopediadramatica.rs (formerly encyclopediadramatica.ch, encyclopediadramatica.es, and encyclopediadramatica.se) emerged as the only one still active.
Encyclopædia Dramatica was founded in 2004 by Sherrod DeGrippo, also known by the online pseudonym “Girlvinyl”. DeGrippo found LiveJournal (LJ Drama) in 2000 and became enthralled by the behavior of some of its members:
People were accessible and it was bidirectional. Voyeurs and exhibitionists were able to interact in a way that was normalized. That’s why I started ED. It was mostly just personalities that were just so nuts and fascinating.
She became involved in the LJdrama community, which covered stories on LiveJournal gossip. When the community was banned from LiveJournal, they created their own website. In 2002, two LiveJournal users, Joshua Williams (aka mediacrat) and Andrewpants, became intimately involved with each other. After they broke off their relationship, LJdrama decided to document the resulting drama. Unflattering photographs of Williams were spread on the web, and Williams considered this to be harassment. He threatened legal action, traveled to Portland, Oregon, in order to speak to LiveJournal’s abuse team, and reported the alleged harassment to a local TV news station. DeGrippo created Encyclopedia Dramatica in order to “house some information from livejournal and some drama about hackers Theo DeRaadt and Darren Reed.”
Encyclopedia Dramatica characterized itself as being “In the spirit of Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary.” The New York Times Magazine recognized the wiki as “an online compendium of troll humor and troll lore” that it labeled a “troll archive”. C’t, a European magazine for IT professionals, noted the site’s role in introducing newcomers to the culture of 4chan’s /b/, a notorious Internet imageboard. Encyclopædia Dramatica defines trolling in terms of doing things “for the lulz” (for laughs), a phrase that it qualifies as “a catchall explanation for any trolling you do.”
The targets of this trolling come from “every pocket of the Web”, to include not only the non-corporeal aspects of Internet phenomena, (e.g. online catchphrases, fan pages, forums, and viral phenomena), but also real people (e.g. amateur celebrities, identifiable internet drama participants and even Encyclopædia Dramatica’s own forum members). These are derided in a manner described variously as “coarse”, “offensive”, “obscene”, “irreverent, obtuse, politically incorrect”, “crude but hilarious”, and “crude and abusive”. The material is presented to appear comprehensive, with extensive use of shock-value prose, drawings, photographs, and the like. The emotional responses are then added to the articles, often in similarly derogatory or inflammatory manner, with the purpose of provoking further emotional response. Adherents of the practice assert that visitors to the website “shouldn’t take anything said on Dramatica seriously.”
Articles at Encyclopædia Dramatica are particularly critical of MySpace as well as users on YouTube, LiveJournal, DeviantART, and Wikipedia. In The New York Times Magazine, journalist Jonathan Dee described it as a “snarky Wikipedia anti-fansite”. Shaun Davies of Australia’s Nine Network called it “Wikipedia’s bastard child, a compendium of internet trends and culture which lampoons every subject it touches.” The site “is run like Wikipedia, but its style is the opposite; most of its information is biased and opinionated, not to mention racist, homophobic, and spiteful, but on the upside its snide attitude makes it spot-on about most Internet memes it covers.” This coverage of Internet jargon and memes had been acknowledged in the New Statesman, on Language Log, in C’t magazine, and in Wired magazine.
According to Sherrod DeGrippo,
As long as something wasn’t submitted as illegal or an abuse complaint, I didn’t even see it. Wikis are something that you either closely, closely monitor and manage, or you just let it go.
On December 8, 2010, Encyclopædia Dramatica deleted its article on Operation Payback. On the same day, Facebook deleted its Operation Payback page, and Twitter suspended Operation Payback’s account.An anonymous source told Gawker that the Encyclopedia Dramatica article was deleted as the result of court orders.
Garrett E. Moore, the operator of a fork of Encyclopædia Dramatica located at encyclopediadramatica.se (encyclopediadramatica.ch at the time), told an interviewer for The Daily Dot:
People take themselves too seriously, they can’t laugh at anything. We make fun of everything. I make fun of skinny white computer nerds, but I am one.
When asked about “abusive content”, Moore stated that he removes it when he sees it, then further explained:
I’m not going to leave a 14 year old girl’s address up on a page cause some dipshit got mad at her and made an article. But if you dress up like a fox and wear diapers and then take pictures of it? That’s fair game, sir.
In a later interview with The Daily Dot, Moore defended his community’s belief in free speech.
In January 2013, a video game created by EDF user “gizmo01942” came to the attention of the media. The game, Bullet To The Head Of The NRA was controversial because the player could take aim and shoot at members of the National Rifle Association. In February, 2015, Muhammad Sex Simulator 2015, another video game by the same EDF user, attracted further controversy because of the then-recent Charlie Hebdoshootings.
The website received mainstream media attention after Jason Fortuny used Encyclopædia Dramatica to post photographs, e-mails and phone numbers from 176 responses to a Craigslist advertisement he posted in 2006, in which he posed as a woman seeking sexual encounters with dominant men. The incident was addressed in a blog hosted at Wired News, where the blogger proposes that Encyclopædia Dramatica may be the “world’s lamest wiki”.
In 2006, “a well-known band of trolls” emailed Encyclopædia Dramatica’s creator, DeGrippo, demanding edits to the protected (i.e. locked) article describing them. After she refused to do so, the trolls ordered taxis, pizzas, escort services and sent death threats and threats of rape to DeGrippo’s apartment.
Encyclopædia Dramatica became a “favourite target for critics, who accuse Anonymous of propagating hate,” for allowing alleged members of the group to sometimes use the website as a platform. Through this association, Encyclopædia Dramatica received incidental coverage when actions by members of Anonymous led to the arrest of an alleged pedophile, when they demonstrated against Scientology in London;when a member of the group broke into the e-mail account of former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, and when a member of Anonymous claimed credit for an attack on the virtual Second Lifeheadquarters of former presidential candidate John Edwards. The convergence of Encyclopædia Dramatica with the anti-Scientology campaign of Project Chanology was noted by technology journalist Julian Dibbell.
On December 16, 2008, Encyclopædia Dramatica won the People’s Choice Winners category for favorite wiki in Mashable’s 2nd Annual Open Web Awards, with wikiHow as the runner-up and Wikipedia coming in 3rd.
In December 2008, a message on Encyclopædia Dramatica asked for donations and claimed that the website was under attack and had lost its advertisers.
In January 2010, the Encyclopædia Dramatica article Aboriginal was removed from the search engine results of Google Australia, after a lawyer filed a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission saying its content was racist. A search on terms related to the article produced a message that one of the results has been removed after a legal request relating to Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act (RDA). The publicity surrounding this served to raise the profile of the site. In March 2010, it was reported that the Australian Human Rights Commission had notified the site by e-mail that according to Australian law, the article Aboriginal could be in breach of Sections 18C and 18D of its RDA.
In late August 2010, activist and Wikipedia critic Daniel Brandt requested the deletion of an article about him from Encyclopedia Dramatica, and Brandt came to believe that Sherrod DeGrippo chose to ignore his request. As a result, Brandt aided a friend of his in starting a blog that was critical of Encyclopedia Dramatica. The blog hosted the personal information of staff members from encyclopediadramatica.com, and its anonymous publisher asserted that the blog was run by a watchdog group focused on “the misdeeds of the people associated with the old and new Encyclopedia Dramatica.” The site’s maintainer also claimed to have consoled and advised some people who felt that they had been harmed by ED. EncyclopediaDramatica.ch accused Brandt of authoring the blog. Brandt denied operating the blog and insisted that he was only a “researcher and advisor” for those managing the blog, whose identity was not known to him. Garrett E. Moore described it as a “stalker blog” and contended that Brandt had pressured DeGrippo into closing EncyclopediaDramatica.com, although DeGrippo has not confirmed such claims. In May 2011, Moore published Brandt’s contact information on an IRC channel, and Brandt began to receive email spam. Brandt responded by contacting the workplace of Moore’s fiancée. According to an administrator from encyclopediadramatica.ch, a complaint was lodged, and it resulted in the temporary removal of encyclopediadramatica.ch’s article on Daniel Brandt.
DeGrippo reportedly “came to hate” Encyclopædia Dramatica. She had hoped that ED would return to its roots and focus on LiveJournal drama. On April 14, 2011, the URL encyclopediadramatica.com was redirected to “Oh Internet”, an entirely different safe-for-work website that DeGrippo had created. The name “Oh Internet” is meant to convey “Oh, Internet, you are so crazy!” DeGrippo stated that “Shock for shock’s sake is old at this point […] .” Some regular users of Encyclopædia Dramatica were displeased by the change and attacked the website’s official Facebook fan page with “hate messages and pornography”.
In a question and answer session at the ROFLCon summit in October 2011, DeGrippo was asked why Encyclopædia Dramatica was closed and replaced with Oh Internet. She replied: “We were unable to stop the degradation of the content. It just kept getting longer and longer and dumber and dumber and less and less coherent over time.” She also explained why she had not released the site as an archive, saying that she “didn’t want to”, and suggesting that this would have made her personally responsible for any DMCAand privacy violations that it contained. She also stated that hosting Encyclopædia Dramatica caused her to have troubles involving the FBI. Oh Internet has been offline since late 2013.
Succession of domains
Ryan Cleary hosted a fork of Encyclopædia Dramatica at encyclopediadramatica.ch Members of this project gathered text and images from Google’s web cache and other backups, and a script was created to upload cached information. On June 21, 2011, Scotland Yard arrested Ryan Cleary based on alleged connections to online attacks on Sony. The arrest temporarily disrupted operation of the wiki, but other members were able to resume Cleary’s duties. Garrett E. Moore later became the fork’s owner. Moore reported difficulties in securing a host for the website.
On March 19, 2012, encyclopediadramatica.ch was shut down for a short time due to a “DNS block”. On March 21, 2012, the site moved to a Swedish domain name, at encyclopediadramatica.se, instead of a domain in Switzerland as before. The site’s Facebook account later addressed the block, stating that it was because “we didn’t keep up our end of the nic.ch user agreement contract stating that we had to keep a mailing address and phone number in Switzerland.” In September 2013, the site changed its domain to encyclopediadramatica.es. In October 2014, the site returned to the .se domain. In March 2017, the site changed its domain to encyclopediadramatica.rs.
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