Is Gawker to Blame For Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook Stalker?

By Nicholas Jackson

Mark Zuckerberg has a stalker. TMZ, as far as I can tell, was the first to break the news on Monday that the Facebook founder and CEO had obtained a restraining order to protect himself from Pradeep Manukonda, 31. "According to the legal docs," TMZ reported, "Facebook security ... intercepted Pradeep at Mark's home on January 24 just as he was about to walk up the front steps."

"Following someone around with a camera and publicizing his address on the Internet defies belief."

That's 11 days after Valleywag, the Gawker sub-property (don't call it a blog) that reports on Silicon Valley personalities, ran a collection of photographs of Zuckerberg's house. I'm sure it was a big traffic generator. I remember viewing it at the time it was published and thinking, "That's going to go through the roof. It might break the Internet." I clicked through a few of the images, unimpressed with "Mark's" digs and moved on to something else after approximately 15 seconds. I didn't even get to the second, deeper thought, the one that TechCrunch's Paul Carr reached the first time Valleywag ran photos of the Zuckerberg manse: Why haven't these been published before? And what might it lead to?

When Valleywag ran photos of Zuckerberg's last house back in July 2010 under the headline "Mark Zuckerberg's Age of Privacy Is Over," Carr responded: "GO FUCK YOURSELF. ... Even if you accept that Facebook's handling of user privacy was a misstep (which I don't entirely), to argue that it's analogous to following someone around with a camera all week and publicizing his home address on the Internet just defies belief."

A harsh response from Carr, but perhaps a justified one. Zuckerberg moved into a new house down the street with additional security. Now we know why. Valleywag's tipsters found him again, the collection ran -- complete with home address clearly visible in the first picture -- and Manukonda started sending messages. On January 28, Zuckerberg even received flowers at his home with a hand-written note.

Was it the Valleywag photographs that led Manukonda to Zuckerberg? We don't know. Should Valleywag have refrained from publishing the images? That's the interesting question. I can't say with any certainty that I wouldn't have run them -- at the very least, I would have been tempted. They might have made their way to this page as a quick hit blog post; I wouldn't have thought through the implications until someone else pointed them out. Is that excusable? Probably not, but it's better than making the same mistake twice.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/02/is-gawker-to-blame-for-mark-zuckerbergs-facebook-stalker/70971/