If you’re here, odds are you know what Gamergate is. If not, you can find out more about it here and here (this one is good). In brief, Gamergate has been a strange movement to target/expose/doxx/threaten people who are seen as threatening the integrity of the gaming community and its attached journalistic circles. Funnily enough, those people seem to be primarily women and those who dare suggest that the portrayal of women/LGBTQ+/PoC is a relevant concern when discussing video gaming. It’s largely already been said, but the actions taken by Gamergaters or on behalf of Gamergate have had some pretty scary results. But, if you’ll bear with me for a little bit, I’ll tell you about how some of these targets are fighting back.
If you’ve been following along these past couple months, you’ll recall that Brianna Wu had to leave her home after someone told her that “I’ve got a K-bar and I’m coming to your house so I can shove it up your ugly feminist cunt.” (I assume that this is the Ka-Bar to which they are referring.) You’ll also recall that Zoe Quinn had to leave her home after a stream of insults, rape threats, and death threats. You’ll further recall that Anita Sarkeesian was forced to leave her home after threats were made against her and her completely relevant parents. Which is obviously conducive to getting people external to gaming culture and media to view gaming as a space worthy of consideration that is characterized by integrity. Yeah.
I could detail here my myriad objections to the premise of Gamergate, but I’ve already done so. In a turn of events simultaneously troubling and predictable, Gamergaters have taken the rather large weight of media articles which decry their actions and question their motives as evidence of a “Quinnspiracy” against them, or something idiotic like that. What part of this occurred after October 14th has been dubbed MediaGate by some. That is right around when reporting about Brianna Wu, her making fun of Gamergate, and the threats made against her hit its stride. It really is truly disgusting behavior, but these women aren’t taking this lying down.
An aside—I’d like to unilaterally declare the “-gate” suffix dead. It could not sound more stupid. Anyway, Brianna, Zoe, and Anita are obviously not the only people who have been doxxed and threatened for reasons passing understanding. Truly, the verbal abuse and intimidation of women in online gaming circles is a virtual tradition.
If you can believe it, this harassment has recently reached new levels. Web developer Israel Galvez was recently the victim of a swatting attempt, after being identified as an opponent of Gamergate. In case you’re wondering, “swatting” is the attempt to have emergency services, particularly police armed response teams, to the home or business of a target. It’s important to note that SWAT teams do, in fact, kill people and damage property, before dismissing this as a harmless prank. Former Gamergate ally Grace Lynn, who has since come to oppose the movement, was also “swatted”, with police reporting that officers were sent to that home after a man claimed he had hostages.
Of course, that’s all quite disheartening. But there is some positive news on the horizon re: Gamergate. After doing so unofficially for sometime, Zoe Quinn has consolidated her efforts and those of her associates into a single location that provides resources to targets of online harassment. That website is CrashOverrideNetwork.com. In their own words:
Crash Override is a support network and assistance group for victims and targets of unique forms of online harassment, composed entirely of experience survivors.
Working with Alex Lifschitz, this network consists of lawyers, advocates, PR wonks, and white hat hackers. The website describes a reactive-preventative model for helping victims of online abuse, which eschews any sort of retaliatory techniques. Rather, they focus on providing information on doxxing and harassment, like that detailed on their Tumblr, providing crisis counseling, and working in community outreach. Crash Override has a “get in touch” e-mail link, which presumably goes to their “private network of agents… on-call to assist and support victims”. Having worked in a similar field, as a rape/sexual assault crisis counselor, I can tell you that setting up and maintaining any kind of on-call requires a fair number of person hours.
Now, this is making good on claims that Quinn made back in September of 2014, such as in this interview with Bustle. She claimed that, in addition to providing support, one of her goals “was also to let these people know that we’re watching. And there’s only going to be more of us, and we’re going to get better at it.” That’s a little ominous, though not necessarily incongruous with the stated goals of the website. Maybe someone should be keeping these doxxing jerkoffs on their toes.
Galvez credits Crash Override with helping her through this incident:
The creators are “quite cognizant” of the challenges that they face in terms of “the likelihood of false-positives, trolls, and harassers brigading [them] as we launch in the current environment”. That said, it is exciting to know that they’ve hit the ground running with this project. According to The Mary Sue, Quinn and Lifschitz are running the project out of pocket for the time being. I’m unsure of what their goals are in terms of expansion, but that may change.
Even without Gamergate, this kind of network ought to be valuable, given that we live in the era of cyberbullying so virulent that people are killing themselves. These kinds of attacks often piggyback off of physical-world assaults and trauma, and can be that much more harmful. Ultimately, I’m glad that there are resources like this are out there, even if I’d like a more detailed understanding of how they accomplish their goals. If you’re interested in more tools that can help with existing on the internet with Gamergaters, you could check Randi Harper’s Good Game Autoblocker. Stay safe out there.