Crash Override Draft Leak
The Crash Override Draft Leak is a leak of Zoe Quinn's book, Crash Override, named for the anti-harassment platform of the same name, posted to Pastebin on August 30th, 2017. The leak shows several chapters before they were edited, including Quinn's notes on each. These notes show that Quinn cares more about potential damage to her image than she does about actually helping people using Crash Override, taking serious issue with a number of her critics and mentioning several of them by name (Mundane Matt, and Internet Aristocrat, respectively). She mentions her restraining order against her ex-boyfriend, Eron Gjoni, but also fails to mention that the case was appealed and Quinn vacated the order because she potentially perjured herself.
Even more interesting is the forward provided by our mysterious leaker, who appears to be an affiliate of Crash Override Network. Not only does this leaker contribute by establishing themselves as someone in the logs and claiming the logs are legitimate, but they give their own story about how Zoe Quinn did little, if anything, to help the people she was allegedly supposed to, and bilked her friends for thousands of hours of work pro-bono.
A Short Introduction
I am a victim of online abuse, but I am a victim of lies. At one time, Zoe Quinn and Crash Override Network gave me a sense of agency and made me feel like I had a way to fight back against my harassers. When I worked together with her, Zoe promised to protect and suppport people like me. But, eventually, I realized how ruthless Zoe is, and how deeply she exploited the vulnerable trans and queer people around her to achieve her goals. This has been eating at me for a very long time, but I can't remain silent any longer. It is time for me to speak truth to power.
Despite the promises that Zoe made, we were exploited for the thousands of hours of work we put in behind the scenes to get her exposure. The longer I was involved with CON, the more I realized that if anyone got in Zoe's way, they quickly found themselves alienated from their in-group and on the receiving end of even more harassment.
It took me too long to figure out what the a lot of people already knew. The chatroom logs that were leaked from CON last year are real (you can read them here: http://archive.is/eBVCb ). They reflect what I experienced: Little is done to help actual victims of internet abuse, depending on how much Zoe thinks that she can benefit from it. Most of the time, the chatroom discussion was focused on attacking people that Zoe didn't like, including former allies that had earned Zoe's ire.
Which brings me to why I am writing this: Below you will find an early draft of Zoe's book. Unlike the book Zoe is publishing this fall, this rough draft was mostly written by Zoe herself. The notes that Zoe has left to herself on each unfinished page ooze with cynicism, and show how Zoe really feels about the half-truths and tall tales she weaves about herself.
If you care about addressing actual issues of online harassment, please don't support this person or her group. While tons of folks have lifted her up as a paragon of good in the very real and very important fight against abuse, Zoe is actually an abuser and exploiter of vulnerable people.
Literally Who Wrote This
An Interesting And Informative Subtitle Written In My Voice
By Zoe Quinn
1. About The Book 2. About The Author 3. Sample Chapter 4. Narrative Chapter Outline
a. Home Page b. Don’t Read The Comments c. All My Exes Live in .Txts d. Troll Food e. Fancy Wigs And Talking Skulls f. The Art Of Ruining Someone’s Life Without Ever Leaving Your House g. Viral h. The New Culture Wars i. “Free” “Speech” j. CSI: Cops Struggle with Internet k. August Never Ends l. Show Cause m. Crash Override n. All My Hexes Land On Exes o. Soul Food p. Fart Jokes and Ethical Quandaries q. Defense Against The Dark Arts r. Static s. Casualties Of The Culture Wars t. Freeze Peach u. Law And Order: SJW v. August Isn’t The End
About the Book
Many people know what going through a nasty breakup is like, but how many can truly sympathize with finding out it’s being made into the premise of a Law and Order: SVU episode? How do you feel when Seth Rogan publicly mocks Adam Baldwin for naming the hate group spawned by your ex boyfriend to torment you? Who do you commiserate with as allegations about your sex life explode into a full blown online culture war with folks like Joss Whedon, Stephen Colbert, and Felicia Day on one side, and Christina Hoff Summers, literal neonazis, and the lead singer of forgettable 90’s nu-metal band Disturbed on the other side?
Shockingly, it’s more people than you’d think. Even if other cases don’t tend to reach this level of mainstream consciousness, the underlying mechanics are the same. Advertisers have understood this quirk of the internet for years, attempting to create “viral” marketing campaigns to capitalize on it. What people don’t seem to realize is that it’s not just ads or cat videos that work this way. The system is predictable enough that sometimes anonymous groups of strangers recreationally create hoaxes convincing people that an iOS update has made their phone waterproof. In my case, it was spreading misinformation and abuse in a game of broken telephone designed to try to push me to suicide. We know that successful viral marketing can be a game changer for a company, but what happens when hatred goes viral?
The advent of the internet has changed the way many people live almost as much as the industrial revolution, and is only becoming more intertwined with our day to day lives. Twitter has become a major part of news reporting, proliferation of social media keeps us connected to friends and family regardless of physical location, and folks like me run the majority of our businesses online. Why, then, has the conversation and understanding of online culture in mainstream consciousness advanced so little beyond the days of AOL and Geocities? Why does “internet culture” continue to be misunderstood and devalued even as it’s impact on culture at large grows? Why, in 2015 when the president of the united states tweets, do we still tell ourselves that the internet is a magical alternate universe where nothing matters and is completely separate from the rest of our lives?
Growing up alongside the internet made me aware of the positive impact it can have on people’s lives. The internet is directly responsible for some of the strongest friendships that I have ever had, it’s empowered me to have a career in tech without ever obtaining a degree, and it’s what allowed me to create and distribute an award-winning game that made development history and has been played by over 2 million people. Becoming the target of a viral campaign of mob harassment highlighted all of the ways in which the infrastructure, both online and off, completely fails people. Watching misinformation about me grow into baseless claims that will follow me for the rest of my career showed me how a lack of internet literacy combined with openly malicious people can spread misinformation like wildfire that can trip up even Fortune 500 companies. These failures made the lack of basic understanding of the way the internet works underscored - how can people fix problems inherent in a system if they don’t even understand how the system works to begin with?
My answer was to create Crash Override: a network of people like me who had been failed when the worst of the internet came calling for our heads. We are painfully familiar with the ways online life clashes with the rest of the world, and the holes you fall into when you need help. Sometimes this means thwarting hackers, putting out guides on information security, or preventing attempted murder-by-cop. Sometimes people just need to talk to someone who actually understands the all-consuming despair of having your life hijacked while people in positions of power at best don’t know how to help, or at worst tell you to just give up a huge part of your life. Our end goal is to no longer need to do that, to no longer exist.
But we can’t do it alone. We’re a band-aid on a gunshot. Internet literacy needs to become widespread, especially before overbroad legislation can threaten to destroy the empowering effect along with those using that to hurt people.
This book aims to give the world at large a Soylent Green moment. The internet is made of people, for better or worse - people like me. I want to use the absurd story of how the internet gave me everything I have and how it subsequently took it away to put a human face on internet culture, to use it as a lens to view how online and offline infrastructure has lagged behind tech, to show the importance and impact the internet has on so many people’s lives, and offer a path forward to making it better.
I want to tell my story and the stories of others in the first half, to give you a perspective on the nature of the beast that only a first-hand account can, and to lay out all of the issues by telling my story. The second half of the book will mirror the first half through the stories of those we’ve helped with Crash Override Network, to tackle and address all of the difficulties raised in the first half of the book.
I want to show you how and why this has happened, and ways to make sure that it never happens again.
The Author and the Market
In 2011, Zoe Quinn decided that life as a rent-a-cop in upstate New York was destroying her. She moved to Canada with two suitcases and a cat, determined to pursue a career in photography, which somehow turned into a career as a game developer.
Today—just four years later—Quinn is one of the most critically-acclaimed, widely-recognized indie developers in the industry, with 55,000 Twitter followers, over 100,000 regular blog readers, and cheerleaders in some of the highest echelons of entertainment and tech journalism. Prior to the #GamerGate explosion, her work was covered favorably in such outlets as Forbes, Wired, the Wall Street Journal, Kotaku, Paste, and GiantBomb. Since August, even more mainstream media have taken note, including MSNBC, the New Yorker, the New York Times, Vice, Playboy, BusinessWeek, and BoingBoing, and the UK’s BBC, Guardian, and Telegraph.
http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/zoe-quinns-depression-quest http://www.wired.com/2015/01/gamergate-anti-harassment-network/ http://kotaku.com/woman-puts-deus-ex-on-computer-chip-in-her-hand-1573033542
Zoe herself has published writing in national venues like Cracked, BoingBoing, and GiantBomb. An original essay on making games that deal with mental health will appear in The State of Play: Sixteen Voices on Video Games, coming this fall from Seven Stories Press. Quinn’s most famous game, Depression Quest [www.depressionquest.com], included nearly 40,000 words of her original writing and has been played nearly 2 million times. Other games she’s worked on include Framed, Jazzpunk, and Fez. She is also the author of “Jeff Goldblum Staring Contest,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
Over her career, Quinn has befriended many of the most prominent people in tech and nerd culture. Other people who regularly support her on their social media channels and could be called upon to provide a blurb or other publicity help include:
Joss Whedon, creator of “Buffy” and “Firefly” Felicia Day, star of Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog Wil “Wesley Crusher” Wheaton (2.8 million Twitter followers) Graham Linehan, writer of UK sitcoms Father Ted, Black Books, and The IT Crowd Tim Schafer, legendary game developer who designed pretty much every LucasArts game you might have played in the 90’s (243,000 Twitter followers) Chris Kluwe, ex-Minnesota Viking Kathy Sierra, popular game developer and tech writer/fellow mob harassment victim Arthur Chu, “Jeopardy” champion turned Twitter personality Anita Sarkeesian, feminist media critic and fellow GamerGate victim Mara Wilson, child actor turned Twitter celebrity (174,000 followers) Andy Baio, founder of the XOXO festival Markus “Notch” Persson, creator of Minecraft (2 million Twitter followers)
In the past, Quinn has worked as a recreational beekeeper, riot grrrl guitarist, pin-up girl, Etsy shop-owning jewelry designer, voice actor, GameStop employee (for one month), and stripper (for two days). When not fleeing a mob of anonymous harassers intent on destroying her life, she enjoys building robots.
Sample Excerpt: Introduction
This was me, about 5 minutes before my ex boyfriend called a mob down on me that would result in my eventual homelessness, career destruction, near suicide, and ongoing feud with TV’s Adam Baldwin.
The night of August 15th, I was at a bar with friends when I first caught a whiff of the impending shitstorm. My new partner Alex and I had made a stopover in San Francisco to see friends on our way up to volunteer at a camp for disabled children in Seattle. It was the last chance we had to see people for a while, since we were due to move to the south of France shortly after. He was starting his new job, and I was following him there to continue making weird little games that I had turned into a sustainable full time career, and to see if this relationship that we’d started one week prior had legs. It was risky, it was romantic, it was like the end of a poorly written romantic comedy, and it was something I was looking forward to.
In-between jokes with friends, I checked my phone just in time to see the start of where that dream died. A friend sent me the following messages.
“Yo” “I know you probably stopped caring about your [Something Awful] account ages ago but you just got helldumped something fierce” “Basically, a guy regged to post a 5k+ words wall of text and pictures about dating you.”
Internet to English translation: someone had paid 10 bucks to register and post private information and personal details about me on Something Awful, a comedy website and message board that I’d been a part of for about a decade. “Helldump” had been a section of these forums meant for exposing other members who had done something messed up or been generally embarrassing people, but had been taken off the site for years due to being considered too shitty even for a place that had a subforum called “Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse”.
Naturally, I responded the only way one can to such news.
“What the fuck?”
Given that such a post was considered poor taste by the home of the subforum “Fuck You And Die”, an eagle-eyed moderator had pulled it down almost instantly and it was unavailable even in the archives. Unsure of who would do something like this, or what the post even said, I reached out to a moderator asking for details and tried to laugh it off over drinks with friends.
That’s when my phone started to buzz. And buzz. And buzz.
Imagine someone standing on a beach right as a city-destroying tsunami is about to hit, looking up at the wave that will inevitably wipe out everything right before it crashes. Imagine the look on their face.
That was the look on my face.
You might be familiar with what happened next. The story has appeared everywhere from the New Yorker and New York Times to MSNBC, Nightline, Slate, Salon, Wired, and the UK’s Guardian, BBC, and Telegraph. My attacker—an unstable ex-boyfriend, as it turns out—published his rant not just in the Games section on SA, but on multiple other boards tied to my career who all universally banned it, finally settling for a dedicated WordPress blog. “TheZoePost” was more than 8,000 words long, but it could just as easily have been edited down to one:
My ex carefully planned his rollout to ensure maximum damage to my reputation and career, by his own admission in the months to follow. It was written as a sick spin on edutainment, with chapter titles like “The Cum Collage Might Not Be Entirely Accurate”, posted pictures of us, half truths, patently false accusations, and names of other people close to me. He spun up these insane trains of thought and disgusting jokes about me, complete with it’s own meme - “Five Guys Burgers And Fries” from his claim that I had cheated on him with five men. He wrapped it all up in a neat little bow, and posted it in the places most likely to hurt me, knowing that a stranger from the internet had shown up at my house before in a threatening manner.
See, it’s not a fabulous time to be a woman working in games, doubly so if you’re at all vocal about that fact. For example, in 2012, feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian set up a kickstarter to expand her series of video critiques to include games, alongside the other media she had been doing videos of for quite some time. Some would see that as a great sign of games joining the pantheon of mainstream media, but what happened instead was a prime example of the ongoing culture war within games that had been coming to a head, between the ever-expanding diversity in both the games being produced and the people who make and play them, and a vocal minority consumer-base desperately clinging onto the cheetos-and-mountain-dew exclusionary identity of “hardcore gamer” who had been muttering “fuckin casuals” under their breath for the last few years as games culture expanded and flourished in spite of them.
Though an extreme example, this sort of thing had been common and irritating asshole background radiation - I had come up against it as a player growing up, and later on as a developer. I am no stranger to my own share of death and rape threats. In December of 2013, a forum for depressed, over 30 male virgins calling themselves “wizards” discovered my game Depression Quest and decided that women cannot have depression and started sending me creepy messages and calling my phone. Even on the night that I had finished and started exhibiting my first game, I had at least one person tell me that they thought it was weird that a girl was programming, and I still get met with this sort of “bear is driving? how can that BE” attitude even now.
My ex knew all this, of course, and still enthusiastically played the role of Creep Throat, stoking the fires by popping onto the boards and chatrooms where they were openly plotting to stalk and threaten me to give them more information on me and other people they should target. They now had a witch to burn, a cause to fight, and a person to take out all their frustrations with people they had perceived as outsiders invading a territory they’d thought belonged to them out on.
He had kicked off what would later be known by culture at large as GamerGate.
Since that night, Creep Throat’s revenge has evolved and mutated into a thousand implausible ways that Alex and I have had a front row seat to. It started purely as a campaign to ruin my life - baseless accusations of my success being entirely due to sleeping with members of the games press started springing up, giving the hate mob a more PR friendly cause to say they were rallying behind: “ethics in games journalism”.
Nevermind the fact that I am not a games journalist. Nevermind the fact that their focus was squarely on me, and not any journalists. Nevermind the fact that the reviews they had claimed to be so offended by literally never existed in the first place.
Nevertheless revenge mixed with anonymous internet message board culture and morphed into a righteous crusade, fuelled by my still-cheerleading ex saying “harassment is bad” out of one side of his mouth and “here’s her old account names also she’s a fat slut get her” out of the other. I was subjected to the standard avenues of attacks from online anonymous mob behavior: the mob dug up and started to distribute my address, phone number, and information on my family, nude photos of me were discovered and sent to my colleagues and father, chatrooms sprung up where they gleefully discussed how to get me to kill myself or how they would rape me, all of my accounts were flooded constantly with threats and repetition of my ex’s abusive “five guys” meme, subreddits were created to stalk me, and pizzas were sent to a poor woman who had the same name as me using my hacked Domino’s account.
I had no idea what to do with any of this.This post from my ex wasn't like the world finding out the president participated in a Hollywood orgy and wound up giving the nuclear launch codes to Gary Busey due to an accidental pants switch. They talked like they were exposing the Watergate scandal -- but instead of the president, it's just a woman they've never heard of supposedly doin' it with some other people they've also never heard of.
When you begin being harassed en masse, you hear a lot of bad advice from people who want to help but are operating on outdated information. Well meaning people with no savvy will tell you to simply go offline, turn off your phone, and hide in a bunker for a few days. Sadly, those of us who do all of our business online can’t simply abandon our jobs and support networks and just wait for harassment to vanish. Even those of who do, it doesn’t help. In the case of Kathy Sierra, when she was targeted in a similar way, went offline for 6 years only to have it follow her offline as well, and when she returned to the web nothing had gotten better. Worse still, with the importance that internet culture plays in culture at large combined with the disproportionate level to which already marginalized groups are targeted suffer from harassment, encouraging people to leave instead of addressing the cause of the problem ensures that we’re losing a lot of important voices from important conversations. Silence only fuels and reinforces the problem with online mobs, and makes it harder to confront and push back against.
Beyond that, the personal toll this takes is tremendous. For the first 5 or so days, I couldn’t sleep. Every time I would start to doze off, I’d be shocked awake from half-asleep nightmares about everyone I loved buying into the mob and abandoning me. With every escalation of harassment, I’d feel a new kind of physically ill.
Even though the standard advice is to not say anything at all, backing down when you know you’re in the right, as if you have something to be ashamed of, has never been my style. It’s less about say something or not, and more about what you say. Suffering in silence only lets it fester and grow without any sort of framing for your supporters, who may be oblivious to the storm you’re weathering.
When you’re silently observing a nightmare like this play out, most of what you see is the hate mob. They gleefully beat you up, high fiving each other after every new indignity. But when you take a bit more control from them, give your side, and do it the justice it deserves, people hear your side and are able to support you. You don’t have to be afraid of it anymore. It gives less power to anyone accusing you of being worse than a hitler sitting on top of another hitler’s shoulders, wearing an overcoat, pretending to be over 21 to get into a bar.
When I broke my silence and stated my case, it gave me back some of the feeling of agency that I’d lost. It was terrifying to do this, especially in a state of constant paranoia and lacking the ability to eat or sleep. It felt like walking on a tightrope that both ends had been set fire to, but it gave me a crucial spark of control back. I was done passively observing this mess unfold, feeling powerless and beat up - I had to do something.
I booted up Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” on youtube and attempted to post my statement at the apex of the first chorus, but misclicked and, very anticlimactically, forced myself to wait for the second time around before successfully posting it.
Once it was out there, my apprehensions lifted from me, and I finally felt like I could face this down. But only half an hour later, they hacked my tumblr and posted my home address and phone number, as well as those of my family. They had even set up an email where anyone could post whatever they wanted to my tumblr (which was linked to my twitter and would be reposted there in front of seventeen thousand people), and in seconds, my social media was inundated with dozens of heinous posts.
Then it started spreading to other people - my family, my friends, and anyone who stood up for me. One of these people was Phil Fish, a fellow game developer and star of Indie Game: The Movie. He had been no stranger to mob harassment after weathering years of it himself, but soon after taking a stand and saying what was happening to me was unacceptable, his site was hacked much in the style that they’d gotten mine, “Five Guys” meme plastered above his SSN, bank information, home address, and contents of his dropbox. This got bigger and bigger until a new class of asshole joined the fray - YouTube personalities who were sexist versions of Perez Hilton, making bank on gossip videos about women they hated and the evils of feminism. They preached their gospel to their built in frothing audience of he-man woman haters, and the environment got even more terrifying and the threats more intense.
One of these videos, made by a personality that was literally a picture of a smug dude in a fancy powdered wig, ended up being tweeted with the very first instance of the #GamerGate hashtag, by none other than Famous Hat Man On Firefly, Adam Baldwin.
Adam fucking Baldwin. From Firefly. I loved Firefly.
Little did I know that was only a small sampling of the insanity to come. Once it finally hit the "real" news, the "movement" was such a confusing mess that some people assumed it had to be about a real issue -- otherwise, how could it have gotten so big? This can't all be about just petty slut-shaming and vague accusations of conflicts of interest that were immediately debunked, can it? But it's not that strange if you're familiar with certain corners of gaming culture -- for example, when the developer of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 tweaked the weapons in multiplayer, some gamers bombarded an employee with death threats against him and his family. Even after Alex and I posted screenshots of the “movement”s origins and detailed efforts to smokescreen their hate campaign, that wasn’t enough to dissuade the information. It was too late - this had become an all out culture war, evidence be damned.
Over the next few months, I’d end up sleeping on friends’ couches because home was no longer safe, watching news of other people in my industry, some who were guilty of nothing more than having met me, being forced to do the same as their attackers claimed simultaneously that none of this never actually happened and that they totally had it coming. I’d watch people plan to drive me to suicide, stalk everyone I had ever known including people from high school and my former employers, and attempt to murder people with police by phoning in fake high-risk tips in the hopes that someone would be shot in the resulting kerfuffle. I’d spend my time fighting back against a near cartoonish rogues gallery of child pornographers, literal nazis, the lead singer of forgettable nu-metal band Disturbed, and a lesser Baldwin. I’d watch a self proclaimed consumer revolt failing to be anything but a mess of revolting consumers, so inept at doing anything other than terrorizing people that even the baby seal they spite-adopted died before the paperwork could go through. I’d be rubbing my temples at the daily conspiracy theories and weird mythos these people would cook up and wholeheartedly believe, that I was controlling all of the media and multiple federal departments through kisses, that I was secretly a Roosevelt heiress dating a millionaire arms dealer’s son, and that we were hiding in Europe to dodge the feds for fictional crimes against a deranged Juice Salesman.
I’d find myself beating my head against a legal system that was ill-equipped to handle the way the world had evolved in the last thirty years. I’d try to navigate the courts only to end up being told that all of this was ok because the internet doesn’t really matter, and that if I wanted to live without this treatment, I should just abandon my career and pray they stop stalking me in real life. I’d end up watching a preview of a Law and Order: SVU episode based on my life and the nightmare it had become, with lines about the cops “leveling up” to protect a fictional simulacrum of me while I lost faith that I’d ever see justice in my own case.
All of this, over a shitty breakup and a video game review that never existed.
But I’d also find and connect with other people who had been in similar places that I had, start looking out for each other and other strangers as they became targets too, and plan on how to keep this from happening to anyone ever again. I end up becoming a beacon for people who had lived through similar campaigns of hatred, and found out that there was a very apparent system causing this to happen, and that the venn diagram of ways that I had been failed and ways that others had been failed was a fucking circle. Together, we’d end up pooling our knowledge and creating a network of people who could actually address the mechanics of online harassment, and help others who found themselves in our place. Our network, Crash Override, would end up helping potential astronauts, internet legends, and even stopping an attempted murder-by-cop.
And I still have Alex. Very early on when it was clear that they were targeting everyone I have ever been close to, I told him to run, to save himself. It had been about a month since we started dating, and though I loved him dearly I couldn’t ask him to stay. He refused, saying that even if they destroyed this new job he could always find another one, but he couldn’t go back in time and do the right thing. He’s stuck by me this entire time, despite GamerGate harassing the studio he was supposed to go work for, despite his family and his family’s employers being targeted as well. All of this, while I haven’t even been the best of partners through this. I’ve had to stop drinking because I am miserable without a filter, I’ve had so many days where all I can do is hyperventilate and despair. I’ve had to make a lot of changes, but his love and support pulls me through every time, and gives me a goal to work for - effectively doing the same for him. We’ve run through hell together, and being able to look back and see him still behind me keeps me going. When we first released chatlogs proving that this was a harassment campaign and hate group, just before I hit post I told him to forgive my tackiness, but that he’d met me at a very weird time in my life, and we kissed as we struck a blow that blew our abusers cover together.
If we hadn’t fought this together every step of the way, I might just be another sad story. The takeaway might have just been a shrug and an aw shucks, but we’ve fought to show that this is endemic of a larger problem. My story is the symptom of a larger cultural sickness that allowed it to happen.
It’s important to know that I am not special here - it’s a fate I share with every other woman that is a high-profile target of online harassment. This is not a fluke or just a story of some shitty things happening to someone: this is how things work. Some might see despair in this systematic abuse, but I see hope and opportunity. Systems are known quantities, systems can be disrupted, the variables can be tweaked and changed until they break down, if we have a decent map and try hard enough to understand how those mechanisms work.
I mean, I’m a game designer for a reason. Game mechanics are systems. This is my home turf.
I’m writing this book and talking about the specific gears of this machine that I’m caught in, in the hope that it spreads. In the hope that we can talk about this and raise awareness of this system’s existence, and finally do something about it. In the hopes that if the machinations of online abuse on this scale are laid bare, and actually TALKED ABOUT, the problem can get in front of enough eyes and brains to figure out what gears to stick monkey wrenches in, to finally cause it to grind to a halt instead of grinding down the people targeted by it. I’m tired of the only people talking about these things being the ones perpetuating it in the first place. I’m tired of longtime abusers being the only ones willing to talk about it because the people that would stand against this sort of thing are worried about making things worse to the point that the ultimate outcome is that good people do nothing. I want to use the power of online community and awareness raising to help crowdsource solutions to the mechanisms of online abuse.
I want people to start talking about how and why these things work, instead of simply looking at the outcome and feeling bad.
I want people to see the human face that sits behind the monitor.
This isn’t written in the hopes that people who have built names on abusing others will suddenly grow an empathy gland and stop. It’s my hope to appeal to those of you who don’t know this goes on, or those who know but don’t know what to do. I know it’s easy to handwave things that happen online as pointless drama, but it’s important to keep in mind that the people targeted do not have the luxury of disengaging or simply walking away any more than someone who has an angry mob outside their house does.. It’s important to realize that GamerGate did not happen in a vacuum, and that it’s far from the first mob to form around ruining someone’s life - there’s even a wiki about it.
When GG started back in August, I was crashing in an old elevator shaft, converted with makeshift floors and a bunk bed. I spent the whole first week there, unable to sleep because the nightmares were so bad and so instantaneous that I would dart awake, hyperventilating, unable to get back to sleep. The setting was so appropriately claustrophobic and suffocating. It’s been 6 months and the nightmares haven’t gone away, the accusations keep flying, the threats continue and my family continues to be targeted. The same wheels of abuse are still turning, 6 months later. I’ve been coming to terms that this is a part of my life now, trying to figure out what to do about it, and how to move forward with so many people trying to wrap themselves around my ankles. It’s been hard to accept that my old life is gone and that I can never get back to it. But I’ve found purpose in the trauma, in trying to stop it from happening again, to use my experience to show how these things are allowed to happen, and to further a dialog on how to actually stop it.
If I can’t go home, maybe I can at least get out of this elevator shaft.
Maybe I can help end August. Maybe you can, too.
Narrative Chapter Summary
Partially due to the inherently weird and wonderful nature of the internet, I’d like to propose an unconventional design for this book - the first part will discuss the experiences, challenges, and human moments of being targeted by online hate, using my story and the stories of others who have dealt with similar campaigns as a narrative lens to examine these issues as well as providing relevant historical and cultural data to illustrate a larger picture. Then, the second half of the book will use my experiences working with Crash Override Network and the data gathered by our cases to focus on how to tackle the complex issues and concerns raised by the testimony in the first half of the book. One facet of online harassment will be raised by a chapter in part one, and then addressed by a symmetrical chapter in part two, all threaded together with the narratives of people targeted by online hate, with anecdotes, raw data, and bad jokes in between.
Home Page See above introduction
This chapter aims to grab the readers’ attention, give them some idea of who I am and how ridiculous this gets. Ideally, I want to entice them to wade through the complicated, nearly unbelievable story of what happened, so that we can get to the part where we’re fighting back and have some hope.
Don’t Read The Comments “Whenever people ask me where I’m from, I tell them I’m from the internet.
It sounds silly, I know, but there’s no better answer that I can provide. While spending months on the road traveling between different game conferences, moving between countries and cities, and generally being prone to fits of stereotypical artist wanderlust so often I haven’t bothered with a desktop computer (or desk, for that matter) in years, it’s been the place I come back to. It’s where I most often see my world wide network of friends, where I’ve often met them in the first place, and occasionally the *only* place I see them at all. It’s the place I work, dragging my laptop from coffee shop to bar to park, coding and writing and releasing what I create to a network of people I wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach and meet and love. It was where I first found myself, growing up as a lonely nerd in a mountain town whose world felt so small and claustrophobic that it felt like a godsend to be able to finally touch the world at large through a lousy connection in my bedroom. It even has some of the trappings of a city - we may not have a sports team, but we have our own dialects, in-jokes, and at least half a dozen famous cats for mascots.
Home is where my laptop is.
Like any city, it’s full of people just like me. While a lot of people only visit for news, email, or to see how the argument between their least favorite cousins are playing out on Facebook, more and more people live a significant part of their personal and professional lives online. It’s practically mandatory to have some kind of online presence to run a business, we often use Netflix over cable, and Barack Obama’s campaign aggressively used social media to help get elected in 2008. There are a variety of different parts of the internet to spend your time in, but it’s less and less common to find people who live purely offline in the year we use “google” as a verb.
And like all places, it also has some bad parts of town.
You’ve probably seen glimpses of it at the bottom of a news article. The report could have been on a local man saving a box of kittens from a burning building, but the comments section will accuse him of hating dogs, setting the building on fire in the first place, and secretly being Barack Obama’s kenyan uncle.
Now imagine if it was a local woman. As Katherine Cross, online academic, puts it: ‘...By now stories of prejudicial harassment online—whether racial, anti-LGBT, sexist, or some mélange of the above—are legion and public, with a legacy stretching back through the length of the internet’s relatively short lifetime (Nakamura, 2000; Kafai et. al., 2008; Citron, 2009; Cross, 2013a). A growing body of social scientific literature supports the idea that online space is specifically hostile to women (Jenkins, 1998; Ballard & Lineberger, 1999; Norris, 2004; Meyer & Cukier, 2006; Kuznekoff & Rose, 2012)...’
As a queer woman making unconventional games in an industry that isn’t exactly known for being great about gender, I can tell you she’s absolutely right. What I’ve lovingly referred to as ‘sexist background radiation’ has been a part of my career, right from the moment I showed the public my first game and had a player refuse to believe that I coded it.”
Here, we give the reader some background on the current state of the internet, the importance of it to the daily lives of millions of people, and get them on what is likely familiar ground - almost anyone who has read a news article online knows that the comments are awful, and a lot of people have caught whiffs of marginalized people being treated poorly online.
I share my experiences as a woman working in tech, the role online community has played in my life and relationships, including meeting the love of my life on twitter. I talk about the blurring line between online and offline life, how relationships forged online are very real, and how this is a stark contrast with how culture at large treats the internet as a magical alternate reality where nothing you do matters. The internet is treated as a mobius strip of unreality - real when it’s convenient, and virtual when it’s not.
The hope is to set the stage for what’s about to happen, let the reader get to know me a bit, and show that this simply did not come out of nowhere - what has happened to myself and others can happen to almost anyone in this environment.
All My Exes Live In .Txts
“We had finally given up on finding karaoke and chosen an outdoors bar so we could smoke and be loud together. I had a half smoked cigarette up my nose and was holding a really weird facial expression behind a friend to mess with him when he turned to look at me when a moderator from the board the message was posted on had gotten back to me. The moderator told me who had posted it, and I felt sick. Eron? Really? Was this because I finally walked away? I had no idea what it had said, but I started to figure it out as soon as my phone blew up with messages calling me a whore and screaming “Five Guys Burgers And Fries” at me. The post was gone, right?
No, it wasn’t. Having been banned from two forums, both having to do with my career of games, both forums he knew would have an impact on my career or personal life, Eron didn’t take the hint. He’d set up a wordpress blog, complete with disgusting chapter titles like “The Cum Collage Might Not Be Entirely Accurate”, posted pictures of us, half truths, patently false accusations, and names of other people close to me. He spun up these insane tinfoil-hat theories and disgusting jokes about me, complete with a meme - calling me Five Guys Burgers And Fries from his manifesto’s claim that I had cheated on him with five men. He wrapped it all up in a neat little bow, and posted it in the places he knew were most likely to hurt me.
He left it in the places most likely to be found by the people who had shown up to my house, to the people who had sent me rape threats. He had known I’d been in danger before, and he knew how internet culture operated. It was clear - he was out for blood.
He was screaming “whore” a that would hear that as a cry to arms.
These parts of the internet are less than kind to women, much less ones with any sexuality exposed. Sometimes it’s because you were Internetting While Female and held views they disagreed with. Sometimes all you have to do is be pretty and in a space that is dominated by conservative nerds - not the stuffy old conservative christian kind, but the newer, younger libertarian atheist kind.
Sometimes all you have to do is date the wrong person.
Marketing, communication, and networking aren’t the only things that have evolved with the internet - domestic violence has found new and sinister ways to manifest as well. It’s common to see people leaking the personal information of exes anonymously on websites like 4chan, trying to rile up a mob into going after their target for them. There is an established market in Revenge Porn, or pornography that is distributed without the consent of the person in the images or videos, to hurt or intimidate them after a breakup, and it’s becoming more and more common. A recent survey of a national sample of adults revealed that approximately 10 percent of ex-partners have threatened to post sexually explicit photos online and about 60 percent of them follow through on that threat (McAfee, 2013).”
Now that the reader is a bit more familiar with my world and can more easily understand the weight of what happened to me, I want that boot to fall.
In this chapter, I tell the story of my abusive ex boyfriend creating a website specifically engineered to destroy my life and career, called TheZoePost, and put it in the hands of the people most likely to try to hurt me. I want to detail exactly how TheZoePost was engineered to destroy my life, taking advantage of the systems and environment present that we went over in the last chapter.
The results of his actions were instant - I had actually heard about the website from other people sending me messages about how much of a whore I was before I ever saw the post itself. He gleefully took questions from the mob, doing repeated Q&A sessions with the torch-and-pitchfork crowd, eventually joining in and calling hotels he thought I had stayed at to feed them more information on me.
I’ll also use this chapter to detail what it’s like to be the victim of an abusive ex boyfriend using the internet to continue to hurt someone, and through sharing my story hope to humanize people who are targeted in such a way. Here, I’ll also discuss the case of Holly Jacobs, founder of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, who had been the victim of “revenge porn”, or sexualized images leaked without consent, at the hands of an ex boyfriend, as well as other ways in which Domestic Violence manifests in the digital age.
“If there’s one piece of advice that gets passed around to anyone who has been screamed at on the internet, it’s gotta be ‘Don’t Feed The Trolls’. Trolling is an activity as old as the internet itself, though the definition has been warped to apply to everything from outright hate speech and threats, to someone just being a jackass for laughs. To get out my cane and shake it a bit here, when I was growing up, trolling looked like this:
bloodninja: Baby, I been havin a tough night so treat me nice aight? BritneySpears14: Aight. bloodninja: Slip out of those pants baby, yeah. BritneySpears14: I slip out of my pants, just for you, bloodninja. bloodninja: Oh yeah, aight. Aight, I put on my robe and wizard hat. BritneySpears14: Oh, I like to play dress up. bloodninja: Me too baby. BritneySpears14: I kiss you softly on your chest. bloodninja: I cast Lvl. 3 Eroticism. You turn into a real beautiful woman. BritneySpears14: Hey... bloodninja: I meditate to regain my mana, before casting Lvl. 8 Cock of the Infinite. BritneySpears14: Funny I still don't see it. bloodninja: I spend my mana reserves to cast Mighty F*ck of the Beyondness. BritneySpears14: You are the worst cyber partner ever. This is ridiculous. bloodninja: Don't f*ck with me bitch, I'm the mightiest sorcerer of the lands. bloodninja: I steal yo soul and cast Lightning Lvl. 1,000,000 Your body explodes into a fine bloody mist, because you are only a Lvl. 2 Druid. BritneySpears14: Don't ever message me again you piece of ****. bloodninja: Robots are trying to drill my brain but my lightning shield inflicts DOA attack, leaving the robots as flaming piles of metal. bloodninja: King Arthur congratulates me for destroying Dr. Robotnik's evil army of Robot Socialist Republics. The cold war ends. Reagan steals my accomplishments and makes like it was cause of him. bloodninja: You still there baby? I think it's getting hard now. bloodninja: Baby?
What passes for modern day “trolling” looks more like this:
This is from 4chan, a messageboard where users are anonymous by default, and one of those ‘bad neighborhoods’ I mentioned. 4chan is spin-off of a Japanese messageboard called 2channel, which is as notorious as it is for creating cat memes as it is bullying people to suicide. 2channel, due to it’s lack of accountability by keeping all of it’s users anonymized and without their own screen names or pseudonyms, naturally gave rise to numerous abusive uses of the platform alongside the positive aspects of protecting would-be whistleblowers and allowing people to discuss taboo topics like mental health and sexuality. The boards are abundant with slander, hate speech, nationalism, and any other unchecked terribleness you would not typically mention at the dinner table. Though the site has a rule stating they will delete illegal activity due to Japanese law, the mods are slow to actually follow their own terms of service to the point that it feels like the limp disclaimers on bootleg DVDs. Users openly discuss their hatred of other ethnicities, specifically Chinese and Korean people, repeating slurs and talking about wanting to kill them. Users who speak out against that sort of behavior are often called bakachon (バカチョン, "Stupid Korean"). The site is known commonly as a foothold for conservative politics, nationalists, and patriotists referred to as "internet right-wing" (ネット右翼 netto uyoku). One of the other things 2channel is best known for is it’s large amount of porn and sexually explicit discussion, often intersecting with hate speech.
It’s American counterpart was spawned by a 15-year-old in part of another, more strictly regulated, comedy internet culture forum called Something Awful, in a subsection known as Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse. If that isn’t a dubious enough origin story as is, 4chan took off in part by welcoming users fleeing it’s Japanese predecessor in an outrage over, get this, people posting pictures of real-life women in their pornography boards, when they only wanted to look at fictional animated women instead.
The creation of this board and it’s early days are all still chronicled on Something Awful, a website that I have been a member of for nearly a decade and the initial home for TheZoePost before it was immediately torn down. It’s clear that they had inherited all the same issues that 2channel had along with it’s technical framework, with posters complaining about the excess of gore and child pornography as early as page three of a several hundred page discussion thread. Throughout it’s life cycle, 4chan has been home to the teeming masses who proudly tout the slogan ‘None of us are as cruel as all of us’.
And now they were looking for me.“
This chapter details the first few days after TheZoePost, and how things started to evolve and unfold, to start a discussion on how “trolling” works. “Trolling” is an outdated term - in the early 90s it usually meant doing things like entering a sexy chatroom only to declare that you were a wizard, to subsequently ruin someone’s boner with magic. The term is now poorly applied to all forms of online harassment, but people’s levity has not been updated. People still treat hurling racial slurs and creating websites to defame people with the same degree of seriousness as someone convincing you a robot lives in their house and has only been designed to push people down stairs.
A lot of the mob hate culture originates on anonymous messageboards like 4chan - I want to discuss the history of this board, why this happened, and how I was the perfect target to them, as well as the impact being targeted by one of these communities has on a person. The days following TheZoePost were made nightmarish by the anonymous mobbing nature of being targeted by a massive group of people. They dug up every account I’ve ever had and sent hatemail to it, they bombarded my digital storefront with malicious messages, and made alternate accounts to brigade any community-led voting system against me. This is a common story for anyone who has been targeted by an online mob.
My ex essentially crowdsourced his abuse.
Beyond this, I want to discuss how various communities and websites like Encyclopedia Dramatica have sprung up around recreationally participating in online harassment, often directed at marginalized people. I’d like to discuss the case of Chandler Weston Christian, a man who lives with autism that has an entire website dedicated to stalking everything he does, goading him into dangerous situations, and laughing at his misfortune. Sometimes they target entire groups of people with hoaxes and social engineering, like in the case of the #EndFathersDay hashtag on twitter being manufactured to smear black feminists, or #CutForBeiber being created to encourage women to participate in self-mutilation. I’ll also mention the swedish right-wing site Avpixlat, and how it is prone to mobbing marginalized people just the same as 4chan.
Finally, I want to talk about how useless “Don’t Feed The Trolls” is as advice, when what the trolls want in the first place is your silence. Originally the sentiment was meant to tell people not to keep continuing to have a pointless conversation with a jackass, to not let them waste your time like they’d wanted. But when we tell people to hide, to keep their head down and to be silent, we’re feeding the trolls way more than if we had chosen to stay.
Fancy Wigs And Talking Skulls
“I’ve always had a bit of a distaste for skulls-as-iconography. It always seemed to be too tryhard and reeked of teenager-who-REALLY-doesn’t-want-to-go-to-bed.
I was less than impressed when I saw a Youtube video by some random man calling himself MundaneMatt and hiding behind a picture of one as his digital avatar making the rounds and being brandished by the same people trying to get me to kill myself. The video uncritically repeated all of the gross accusations made by my ex, and then tried to make it about something more, claiming one of the people I was accused of cheating on Eron with had written about my game because I’d slept with him.
Another man, one calling himself Internet Aristocrat and hiding behind a poorly cropped image of a blue-eyed man in a powdered wig this time, took up the cause and made some videos as well, expanding on the skull dude’s accusations and starting to spin up theories about who else’s junk I might have touched. His videos were complete with a mock opening of a spooky tv show about corruption, yelling about sex for favors.
More and more Youtube personalities like this jumped on the bandwagon, essentially creating their own two-minutes hate directed at me instead of Big Brother. Without fail, if you browsed the rest of their videos, they were universally angry at feminists or other progressives. The only content they were producing was of how loudly and visibly they hated this woman or that woman.
Hate is their brand, and they have alarmingly large fanbases ready to eat it up. Some of these people have hundreds of thousands of followers, and dozens of people they’ve sicced them on.
Some of these videos were over an hour long and had decent production value. Serious time and effort had clearly been dumped into lovingly crafting these exposes of my fictional sex life. Charts were made of my network of shadowy kiss conspirators to get good reviews for my free game about mental health, and I was angrily accused of all kinds of breaches of ethical video game journalism.
Somehow, none of them seemed to check if this review they were all so upset about ever existed in the first place.
Somehow, none of them seemed all that concerned with the fact that I am not a journalist.”
Online abuse is a booming cottage industry. This chapter will profile some of them, their role in the lives of those they harass, how they direct the hordes of angry internet jerks looking for an excuse to go after someone, and how they monetize this behavior. One such duo makes $16k a month off a documentary they’re filming by stalking women online, calling it “The Sarkeesian Effect” after their primary target, feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian.
The mobbing that came from the leaderless masses of the internet before all this seemed like it would pass in a few weeks. We had no idea that people who had made an entire career built off of riling up and directing these mobs even existed. Their entry into this mess took things to a whole new level.
Drawing on the information in the previous chapter, I will illustrate how these figureheads who are capitalizing on and preaching to the teeming masses mentioned in Troll Food combine to become a dangerous mechanism of online hatred.
Once these personalities entered the fray, things came to a boiling point for me. I decided I had to make a statement of mine own, despite everyone except Alex telling me to keep my head down and stay silent. Together, we crafted a statement and cued up Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, unsure of what would follow when we spoke out. The post went live, and it felt better to finally be doing something instead of just sitting and watching this all happen and feeling helpless.
Half an hour later, my post was hacked, replaced with my home address, my phone number, information from inside several of my accounts, and my father’s home address and phone number.
The Art Of Ruining Someone’s Life Without Ever Leaving Your House
“The walls of the elevator shaft that Alex and I were staying in reverberated with alert sounds. Between friends trying to reach me to warn me, and random strangers flooding my phone with texts, I couldn’t make sense of what had just happened. My social media notifications were full of people calling ‘fake’ before I could even tell what they were reacting to.
I told Alex to start recording. Everything felt like it was on fire, but I had to try to regain control.
I never thought anyone would try to hack into my accounts. Who would ever care about a random game developer who made weird stuff about emotions and farts? Websites that had asked for a complicated password had always annoyed me - I wasn’t a public figure, so why would I bother with making a password that contained uppercase letters, numbers, symbols, the painted nails emoji, two numbers that don't exist yet, and one terrible secret?
I set so many of my accounts to ‘jiveturkey’ and left it at that. Any of the important accounts I had, sure, I protected a bit better. But accounts I didn’t use all the time? Why bother.
It was worse than I could have imagined. A dominos.com account I used once to order pizza for a friend and immediately forgot about? You could find my phone number if you checked the “My Information” page. My ebay account that I used once to order a pair of boots? My home address was visible under the shipping information.
All of this information was now plastered all over the front of my blog.
Worst of all, my poorly-secured blog was set to automatically post to my twitter account, exposing all of this information to hundreds of thousands of people in an instant.”
The hack wasn’t the worst of all of this. My home address and phone number were exposed in a process known as “doxing”. Doxing is a common tool amongst online abusers, and is used to intimidate you or goad other people into further action without ever laying full responsibility on any single person. The mob then uses this information to dig into you further. In my case, it lead to nude photos of me being found and passed around to all of my work contacts, family, and random supporters.
Doxing is only the beginning though. The threats and intimidation are bad enough, but what typically follows is unwanted deliveries sent to your home, jehovah’s witness visits, and anything else that they can use your address for to sign you up for things online.
Sometimes this even escalates into attempted murder by cop, in a practice known as “swatting”. Swatting is when someone takes your dox, and calls in a tip to the police claiming that something dangerous is happening in your home - sometimes it’s pretending that there’s a hostage situation, sometimes it’s claiming you’re making bombs, anything they can do to get the cops to dispatch a SWAT team to your location, hoping that something dangerous will happen when they mix an unaware person with cops who are worried they’re walking into a life-threatening situation.
This chapter will discuss these specific tools of online mobs, how they work, and how online abuse can quickly become dangerous for your life offline as well. I’ll discuss how I made some little errors in safeguarding my accounts and private information, to hopefully raise awareness for this increasingly common method of hurting people online. I’ll also discuss the case of Aubrey Cottle, who was swatted, what his experiences were and how it affected his life.
Since Alex had given up his old apartment to accept a job in France, and my apartment was being passed around and sent to me with threats attached 24-7, we weren’t safe there. Someone had showed up at my house before, they could do it again more easily than ever. We couldn’t go home. We’d have to couchsurf until we were able to get to France.
If he stayed with me, that is. We’d started dating right before all this started happening - who in their right mind would stay?
“Alex wrapped his arms around me after I hung up the phone, but I pushed him away.
‘They’re going after my dad because of ME,’ I said, starting to tear up again. ‘We’ve been public about the fact that we’re together. They’re going to come after you too...’
‘Yeah.’ he said, as if I’d just informed him that the sky was blue.
‘We’ve only been dating for less than a month - y-you can’t stay… You can’t-’ my voice started to break, but I tried to push through and be stern enough to get him to listen to me. ‘What if they go after your employer? What if you lose your job? Go off to France and forget about me!’
He looked me dead in the eye. ‘Zoe, I can find another job. I can’t go back in time and do the right thing.’
It broke me. It was worse in a way than if he’d responded with ‘Ok cool seeya!’ - at least then I’d feel a mix of ‘well screw you anyway’ and relief that someone I’d loved was at least far away and safe. Instead, here he was, standing by me and being every bit the man I’d respected and fallen in love with, and subsequently completely undeserving of what we both knew would happen next.
‘Why??? Why stay? I don’t understand!’ I broke into heavy sobs, as he just held me. ‘Why do you even love me!’
‘Isn’t it enough?’ he said, ‘Do you need a reason, or can’t it just be enough that I do?’
I wanted to hold him tight and push him away with equal, intense desire, but all I could do was hyperventilate in his arms.”
When my dad was doxed, I had to call him and tell him what was going on at 4 in the morning. He answered, telling me the phone had been ringing off the hook and that people were screaming “five guys burgers and fries” at him. My heart sank hearing my ex’s meme in my father’s voice.
Online, hatred spreads like wildfire. When a whole mob is turned on you, it doesn’t stay localized - it spreads out in ways you’d never thought. In this chapter, we’ll discuss the impact this had on my family, friends, partner, my partner’s family, former employers, people who were unlucky enough to have a similar name, and people I’d forgotten ever existed.
This, too, is common practice for the mob. I’ll reference other targets of online harassment whose families found themselves in similar positions.
One of them was fellow indie developer, internet punching bag, and one of my closest friends, Phil Fish, was the first person to publicly stand up for me. The industry at large had been mostly silent on what was going on for better or worse - but Phil was not having it. He loudly went on the offense, calling out what was happening to me and the industry’s problem with women in general.
He was rewarded for this with his website being hacked, his personal information distributed just as mine had, all under the banner of Eron’s “Five Guys Burgers And Fries” meme.
Another weird thing that happens when you’re being mobbed online is that people from your past show up, for better or worse. Everyone you’ve ever looked at wrong might pop up to kick you while you’re down, or even make a buck while you’re at it. In one case, this was a scammy, transphobic women-in-games program run by people who had nothing to do with women or games that I had criticized one afternoon and forgotten about. They decided to jump on the bandwagon with a bunch of false accusations and nutjob conspiracy theories, all the while asking for funding from the mob, and walked away with over $70k for it.
All the while in the background, my ex was continuing to stoke the fires and provide more information. He’d even started painting targets on other people in my industry, and the mob gleefully ate it up. Alex and I used our savvy with the web to find and monitor their less public communication channels to see which one of our friends they were planning on hurting next, and what we saw was through Eron’s coaching and the general malice the mob had toward people like me, they were starting an actual hate group dedicated toward terrorizing everyone I loved or had even talked to publicly before. They were starting to market themselves to others under the thinly veiled excuse of “ethics in game journalism”.
It wasn’t until TV’s Adam Baldwin stepped in that they had a name: GamerGate.
The New Culture Wars
How on EARTH did the Silly Hat Guy from Firefly decide to get involved with a mob of people screaming about my sex life? It was too ridiculous to even process, but there he was, tweeting out an hour long video about who I supposedly boned for reviews that, again, never existed. Tweeting them out to his 200,000 twitter followers. Creating a hashtag to help them better share One Hot Tip To Destroy An Indie Developer’s Sanity with each other.
I had no idea when I was watching Firefly that he was a right-wing pundit with the tact and eloquence of a racist email forward from your uncle. He went on rants about how Obama caused ebola, how progressives ruined the country, and how he hated ‘SJWs’ - Social Justice Warriors, a derogatory term for anyone who thought culture had room to improve when it came to minority voices.
His only tenuous connection to gaming was occasionally doing some voice acting here and there. He rebuffed my offers to settle his gripes with my fictional sex life by playing competitive games, saying the only game he had any interest in was Chess.
I had no idea that he was to be the first in a long line of opportunistic people totally uninvolved with video games to use me as ammo in their culture wars, including right wing journalists, pick up artists, and David Draiman, lead singer of Disturbed.”
This chapter goes over what happens when your life becomes a massive viral issue. You cease to be a person to many, and instead become a symbol or a talking point. When this happened, a variety of conservative pundits decided to wade into the fray. A piece titled “Lying, Greedy, Promiscuous Feminists Are Ruining Games” went live on Brietbart, a notorious conservative page. I woke up to one of their journalists, Milo Yiannopolis, who had written an article calling all gamers babies who peed their pants less than two months prior, calling me using the phone number that had been leaked in my dox to accuse me of charity fraud. I hung up on him immediately, but it only escalated. Anti-feminists and cultural conservatives had smelled the blood in the water. One of them, a deranged juice salesman, bothered to spend five figures on a private detective to stalk Alex and I in the name of exposing that Social Justice was a lie. He’d publicly brag about hiring people to pick through our garbage.
The mythology around Alex and I grew and grew as the web of misinformation kept spinning. We were presumed to be hiding out in Europe together, fleeing from federal crimes against the aforementioned juice salesman. Alex was a billionaire warlord’s son, rich off of selling israeli weapons. I was the heiress to the Rooservelt fortune with plants in the US Department of Education, had killed a man, and was part of a UN conspiracy to reprogram young men with video games. None of this is hyperbole, this is what they actually believed.
Suddenly, I found myself under more scrutiny than a politician. Fame, or infamy, isn’t something you choose in the digital era - it’s something that happens to you. You enter the zeitgeist regardless of if you wanted to or not. You’re part of the culture wars.
This was when we decided we had to fight back on a cultural level. We had been silently watching and documenting the creation of this hate mob, and decided to only reveal all of this when the time was right. With GamerGate’s dogwhistle politics gaining traction, we decided it was time to post what we’d gathered. I called Alex over to the table, pre-emptively asked his forgiveness for my cheesy ways, told him he’d met me at a very weird time in my life, and kissed him as I pressed the button to expose the hate group.
We exposed the communications of the GamerGate people that we had been monitoring for weeks to make sure we could avoid them and warn our friends who they had decided to go after next. We had shown them openly using techniques often used by right wing parties like the Tea Party - they had been openly discussing ballot-stuffing tactics, how to create as many accounts as possible to seem like there was massive public outcry when there were only a few hundred people, form emails to send to companies to get them to stop supporting progressives and instructions on how to make as many emails as possible. They’d even engineered a second hashtag called NotYourShield to ironically make a bunch of fake accounts to pretend to be women and minorities outraged at anyone implying GamerGate was racist or sexist.
Gamergate responded to us exposing them by using another political tactic called doc dumping, or releasing so many documents that it’s anticipated that the recipient won’t bother going through them. In the first few lines of these logs, they’re openly discussing how to get me to kill myself, so this tactic didn’t work too well, and people were able to search in seconds and find that they had used my name thousands of times than they had used any term related to journalistic ethics.
So they decided to start calling me Literally Who. It was an attempt on their part to dehumanize me further and use a cutesy slang term to pretend they had no idea who I was while they furiously researched what I had for breakfast that day, but I took it as a badge of honor. I hit back. I made them afraid to directly attack me.
They tried to cover it up.
This was all major blow to their ability to gain support for their more noble smokescreen, but it wasn’t enough. They continued targeting more people, sending us death threats, and bombarding companies with fake accounts to get their enemies in trouble. They’d appeal to the Golden Mean fallacy - that both sides have equal value and to be fair you need to hear them, even though in this case it was like asking an arsonist for his opinion after burning down someone’s house. Anyone who wasn’t interested in giving someone a platform to call me a whore? They were anti-free speech nazis.
It all sounds completely asinine. C.S. Lewis writes that the "sure mark of evil" is when something avoids being comical only by being terrible. He uses as examples the racism of Western colonialism and the "master race" rhetoric of the Nazis. Without the horrors done in their names, says Lewis, "both would be roaring farce". The ignorance would funny, not scary.
I’m not laughing, because to a certain extent, it worked.
“On most services on the web, you probably stand a better chance at removing revenge porn of yourself by filing a copyright claim than you do if you report it as abuse or harassment.
Despite tech companies building the infrastructure the internet lives on, they’ve often got a tremendous blind spot when it comes to how harassment works on their own platforms. They’ve gotten so good and so prompt at removing music that belongs to someone else or illicit Game of Thrones episodes from video sites, but the threats, the doxing, the marked up photoshops of my genitals being sent to all of my work contacts? Almost universally ignored when reported. Nothing seems to “count” as harassment, it’s not technically *illegal* for people to distribute my home address and phone number, so it goes unchecked. It’s a free country, man. It’s free speech.
Free Speech is a worthwhile ideal, but everyone on the internet seems to be doing it wrong. People who “get” this often default to the argument that free speech only means the government can’t silence dissent, but that’s the wrong argument. If we’re talking about the ideal of free speech and not just the legal concept, that means something more. Sure it means making sure all kinds of opinions and artwork can be created. It also means if you scream racial slurs people have the right to call you an asshole right back.
It means companies are allowed to set and enforce their own terms of service. If you wanna ban anyone who thinks (incorrectly) that hotdogs are a sandwich, you totally can. That’s your right. It’s good that people aspire to the concept of free speech, where the weirdos who thinks “hotdog sandwich” is an ok concept can continue to use your platform to have totally wrong opinions in relative peace.
“But where do you draw the line between disagreement and harassment!” our imaginary hotdog aficionado may ask. “It’s a slippery slope when you start banning for anything that’s not explicitly illegal! Where is the line!?”
Actually it’s pretty easy, I’ll do it for you - maybe draw the line at letting people use your service to terrorize people. I think you could probably suspend a user for a while for shouting racial slurs at minorities and sleep pretty well at night.
However, over and over, we saw services using the ideal of free speech as the reason they won’t act on open harassment. This is paradoxical because in allowing people to harass others off the service, especially considering how often they’re marginalized people, they’re actively suppressing the free speech of the people being driven off. They’re inadvertently creating a culture of fear on their platforms. It had a chilling effect. I had heard from too many people to count that privately offered support but were too scared to publicly speak out because they knew this culture exists and is relatively unchecked. Who could blame them for keeping their head down?
How “free” is the speech on your service, really, when anyone who has an unpopular opinion or is a marginalized person has to triple-think everything they say because they know if people on your service decide to use it to ruin their lives, you’ll do nothing?”
Almost all services on the web have some kind of terms of service or abuse reporting procedure, and throughout all of this we saw very little enforcement. Sometimes it was due to treating harassment as a free speech issue as mentioned above, but that was far from the only problem we came up against.
Some companies, like twitter, have an archaic and useless reporting procedure. Then, even if they take your complaints seriously, they have a hard time actually enforcing it. One of the ringleaders who was readily distributing dox and openly harassing anyone he could would proudly show in his avatar how many times he’d been banned or suspended, and kept coming back like a shitty rash.
Even when tech companies are willing to hear you out, they easily fall prey to disinformation. Too many people in positions of power will react before researching, so when Intel was targeted by a massive email campaign, accusing their company of advertising on a news website that hated gamers, Intel knee-jerked and pulled their ads from the website. This was at a time that if they had spent a few minutes googling what “gamergate” was, they’d find out they were about to make a very expensive mistake. As a result, they ended up having to renew the ad campaign and sink $300 million into diversity initiatives to make up for this misstep.
Alex’s employer got mobbed by the same letter-writing campaign, but they had our backs. Their response was essentially “we are french, we do not give a fuck”. But then they started brigading all the studios his employer worked with. They started brigading Ubisoft, who folded like a stack of cards. Alex amicably mutually parted ways with the studio, not wanting to cause more trouble for them, and we were both tremendously disappointed.
We had always talked about how everything would be ok because we’d run off to France together, and wouldn’t have to be moving from friend’s couch to friend’s couch with a mob nipping at our heels. Now we were looking at a reality where there was no end date on that.
When it became clear that we were not going to get the help we needed, we had to do *something*. We had to try everything.
We finally decided it was time to go to the police.
CSI: Cops Struggle with Internet
“I’ve spent more time with lawyers and cops than I have family and friends lately. It’s apparent why more abuse victims don’t bother fighting their abusers in court - when all you want is for shit to be over and to move on with your life, it’s like jumping down to the next ring of hell instead.
Tonight was the first time I spoke with a female officer, and watching her read over some of the stuff he’s written and the look of horror on her face was kinda heartening in a way. I mean, it’s fucked up, but when you spend 20 hours of the last 48 going over and cataloging your ex boyfriend’s abuse that has been so egregious it’s hit international news, it becomes all you know. When you see him repeatedly brag or talk about how he’s going to fuck you over more when he wins, it makes you instinctively panic. When it’s just reams and reams of being told how horrible you are, how you deserve death or worse, you lose perspective on the people who are reasonable. You forget they’re there. You fall down a rabbit hole. Then someone else takes a look at it and is horrified, and you’re like “oh right, I forgot this is horrible and not at all normal”, like you’re a cartoon character coming out of an especially bad acid trip.”
The first time I tried to file a police report was nothing short of disheartening. When things had finally escalated to the point where the mob nipping at my heels were doing things like brigading the IRS with reports that I was committing tax fraud, I thought since they were starting to fight on the playing field of older institutions and real life, it was time to start interfacing with them myself. I had to start establishing a paper trail. I hadn’t thought there was any point in bothering with it in the first place because of the degree to which traditional institutions are behind the times in terms of caring about, or understanding, anything about internet culture. It’s not entirely their fault either - internet culture has it’s own rules and dialects, so much so that an outsider trying to understand posts on 4chan will likely get lost in all the jargon, in-jokes, and assumptions.
Beyond that, when something happens online it’s difficult to even find the right jurisdiction to report in. We were still getting threats of violence tied to my old address, so we couldn’t go home to file in my precinct, the local places we were visiting said all they could do was take a citizen’s report, and the FBI was impossible to talk to.
It wasn’t until Eron started soliciting titles from the mob for a follow-up post that we decided to pursue the legal angle further, and see about getting a restraining order.
So you’re faced with what to do when you’ve been so badly abused it’s made international news. Do you go to the police or not? Well, if you don’t, they’ll claim that it wasn’t real because there’s no police report. They did so with Anita Sarkeesian (who did have a police report, which was conveniently ignored). If you do enter the system, you have to accept that all of what I’ve already written is what you’re facing down, with little chance at actually seeing justice, be willing to sign up for the years-long process in the event that it actually goes to trial, and know you have little chance of a court order stopping your obsessive abuser any more than seeing people target and hurt your family and the families of those close to you ever did. You also get what is happening now - there ARE police reports, there ARE court documents, and there IS validation by the legal system that what has been done is not ok, but all of that is overlooked to continue to spin the narrative.
Your police reports? The difficulties of explaining online abuse and harassment to law enforcement hurt you twice: initially in your ability to get very real, very horrific things done to you taken seriously by the system in the first place, and then later adding insult to injury by having any inaccuracies or misunderstandings entered onto the report by the officer attributed to you maliciously lying. Not only do you get hit the first time by the despair and frustration in translating internet to real life, but then when it translates back you are blamed over the very faults and difficulties that were hurting your ability to protect yourself in the first place. The well-meaning officer who bothered to take you seriously and tried to navigate a world they didn’t understand is now being used against you by the pitchfork-and-torch crowd all the same. The crowd doesn’t understand or care that police reports are far from the end-all-be-all and that a detective always has to get to the bottom of things, but that doesn’t stop them from blowing it up into cries of perjury and using it to reinforce their prior malicious claims, or to further involve themselves in things as private as domestic violence cases.
The affidavit given to the court? Thinkpieces are written by strangers in bad faith about how your abuse isn’t real, dissecting it and tossing out anything it actually says to instead try and fixate on whatever can be spun to suit the narrative of you being worse than Hitler, without even a way to confirm that any of their suspicions are true. There is no forest, only trees - every sentence becomes fixated on so aggressively that any meaning is lost, any context or nuance is stripped away, and you are denied your humanity yet again. You watch people use the very things proving something deeply wrong happened to you to perpetuate more horror, and are forced to discuss private trauma on a public, hostile stage. You are forced to watch people who want you dead dig into private, painful abuse and call you a liar complete with highlights and notations.
This chapter will talk about the challenges of navigating the legal systems when you’re dealing with things that have happened online. I’ll talk about how we got a restraining order, how my ex continued to violate it and seek money to take me to court to remove it to give more information to the mob, and try to dispel common misconceptions about how the legal system and the internet intersect. I’ll also discuss Anita Sarkeesian’s similar experiences with getting her cases taken seriously, despite facing multiple years of abuse.
August Never Ends
“When your life gets engulfed in a shitstorm that makes international news, after the initial shock wears off, it’s not the big things that kick you down. In a weird way, after the first few waves of shock and terror and nausea wear off, you kinda get used to it. Each new thing is simultaneously easier and harder - you’re used to it, but it’s cumulative. But you go into survival mode after a while, you get better at it. Normal becomes a distant memory.
It’s the quiet moments it catches up to you.
It’s after everyone else is asleep in the house that isn’t yours that you’re staying in because you’re afraid to be alone, not just because of the death threats but because you’re scared of what might happen if you stop for five seconds. It’s when you linger in the bathroom after a shower, looking at your naked body and feeling worthless after every slurred appraisal of everything wrong with it, after waking up to another pornographic comic, after seeing the nicer strangers say you are indeed fuckable but only for a weird and gross reason. It’s when your boyfriend wakes up for the third time, pleading with you to come to bed with the same look on his face he had when he told you he was watching you waste away when you couldn’t sleep or eat for a week when this all started, the first time you ever actually saw him scared. That’s when the horror creeps in. That’s where the not-knowing lives. It dangles over you, just under the hum of the appliances, and when it’s quiet enough, it crushes you. It’s as if when survival mode ends, you forget how to actually be alive. You think awful and stupid things about if any of the faceless mob will make good on their threats.
An especially shitty part of you half-wishes they’d get on with it already.
I had a night out with friends which I was late for thanks to having to file my fourth police report and drop off evidence at a courthouse for a hearing the next day. I hadn’t seen anyone that turned up before all of this happened, and it was the second time I’d tried to see folks on the sly while in town to press charges. Wouldn’t want the person who was bragging about leaving a dead squirrel in my mailbox know I was in the same town as them.
When you see people after a life-destroying event, you only ever have one conversation, looped endlessly on repeat. You find yourself orating, not talking, telling a story instead of catching up with friends. “What’s up” gets replaced with “How are you holding up?”. I love my friends but I see the sadness in their eyes. I pull punches. I hold a lot back. I tell the story. I see Alex step in to tell the stories that he is better at orating than I am. Neither one of us is present. We’re on autopilot. I can anticipate what he is going to say almost line by line and I’m sure he’s used to my script as well. A social life stuck on repeat. Everybody knows what happened to you.
Everyone knows. “I hate to say it, but you’re an event now”, my friend tells me across the bar during a discussion on planning for future development directions based on predicting marketing and cultural trends. An event. I’m something that happened to the industry. I’ve become an issue. A thing to weigh in on. A thing to consider. I know he didn’t mean it insultingly, and he might even be right, lord knows I lack the perspective to judge that. ”
Past a certain threshold, the harassment becomes too big and too public to ever go away, even if you do. This was the case for Kathy Sierra, another woman in tech, who had been similarly attacked. She vanished for 6 years only to return to the web with the same hatred and virulence floating around as when she left. Similarly, Anita Sarkeesian has been dealing with this level of hatred since her kickstarter made her targeted by the same kind of people targeting me now back in 2012.
It becomes profoundly alienating and difficult to relate to people who have never had to deal with this kind of thing. I went to a convention in Georgia to give a keynote speech the way I used to before all of this happened, and had to be escorted around by armed guards. At a party later, when I let my guard down for five minutes and talked with people, someone told me they only started talking to me to “see what all the fuss was about”. I left the room to go to another, and a girl had “#GamerGate” written across her forehead because she’d lost a bet. I was surrounded by what was going online in my offline life, and felt like an outsider in places I used to feel welcome in.
I found immense comfort in visiting Phil Fish immediately after, the first time I’d seen him since he stood up for me and had gotten hacked for it. It was hard facing him after he had gotten targeted because of our friendship, but he never remotely held it against me, saying he’d been targeted for years anyway. Conversations with Anita helped as well, since she had been living with it for over two years, and felt a responsibility to other women in her position. When Law and Order SVU did an episode based on what happened to us, we had the same seemingly irrational reaction to it and were able to talk through it with each other.
With other friends, everyone wanted to talk about what was happening to me. Even the support becomes alienating and tiring. You find yourself explaining your trauma over and over until all you want to do is just hide.
I’ll talk a bit about the day to day life after abuse becomes a permanent fixture in your life, the toll it can take on your personal relationships, and how you can never go back to your old life.
“Nearly five months had passed since my ex-boyfriend had so completely ruined my life that the resulting damage would become the basis of a Law and Order: SVU episode, and finally we sat before a judge during a “show cause” hearing to determine if this was, in fact, a crime. Weeks after finally moving on with my life, my ex barged into the places I worked and lived swinging around an 8000 word manifesto the New York Times would later describe as a “strange, rambling attack” that could have been edited down into a single word: whore. As violating as that was, I would never have guessed it would have awoken the sleeping id of thousands of broken, hateful people who would rally behind his banner and form what would end up being classified by academics as a hate group, featured on Southern Poverty Law Center’s HateWatch, and mocked on The Colbert Report.
As the defense dramatically waved around an article Cracked had commissioned from me about the whole ordeal, making claims that sounded suspiciously close to “she was asking for it”, I tried to mentally let my mind go limp in the hopes that it would make time feel like it was passing a bit faster. This was the fifth time that I found myself in this tiny, sterile room, tightly gripping the over two hundred pages of evidence of the hell that my family and I had been through for the fifth time, and it never got any easier. I tried to keep my eyes focusing straight ahead on the tiny table in front of me so I could pretend I wasn’t in the same room as the man who had, tried to maintain posture, tried to look like whatever I thought a good victim would look like, while the lawyer that was paid for by the hate group my ex incited to torment me bellowed about how much I deserved it while getting basic facts of the case incorrect.
At least this time he didn’t bring a groupie like the court date prior.
It had been an exhausting, soul crushing five months since I had become patient zero of a plague that was incubating in my industry for years, gone viral thanks to my shitty breakup, breaking out into a massive, ugly conflict between conservative consumers and progressive creators that would go on to forever change my industry. Months spent sleeping on friends’ couches because home was no longer safe, watching news of other people in my industry, some who were guilty of nothing more than having met me, being forced to do the same as their attackers claimed simultaneously that none of this never actually happened and that they totally had it coming. Months spent watching people plan to drive me to suicide, stalk everyone I had ever known including people from high school and my former employers, and attempt to murder people with police by phoning in fake high-risk tips in the hopes that someone would be shot in the resulting kerfuffle.
It had been a surreal, absurd five months of fighting back against a near cartoonish rogues gallery of child pornographers, literal nazis, the lead singer of forgettable nu-metal band Disturbed, and a lesser Baldwin. Months of watching a self proclaimed consumer revolt failing to be anything but a mess of revolting consumers, so inept at doing anything other than terrorizing people that even the baby seal they spite-adopted died before the paperwork could go through. Months of rubbing my temples at the daily conspiracy theories and weird mythos these people would cook up and wholeheartedly believe, that I was controlling all of the media and multiple federal departments through kisses, that I was secretly a Roosevelt heiress dating a millionaire arms dealer’s son, and that we were hiding in Europe to dodge the feds for fictional crimes against a deranged Juice Salesman.
It had been five months of finding other people who had been in similar places that I had, looking out for each other and other strangers as they became targets too, and planning on how to keep this from happening to anyone ever again. Months of growing closer to my new partner that I had started seeing a mere week before the nightmare began, who had stayed with me and fought back too even as his employers and family became targets too. Months of refusing to bend to terrorism despite the fear and loss, hoping to improve the culture that let this happen, trying to figure out how to make lemonade out of the metaphorical lemon tree that had fallen onto my car and shattered my windshield.
All of this, over a shitty breakup and a video game review that never existed.
This hearing was to be the last, hopefully. Criminal charges had already been issued in the case of my ex breaking the restraining order that had been granted overwhelmingly in light of the evidence, but this was the time I’d finally get to hear the court say that the last five months were an unacceptable thing to do to a human being. They would finally say that yes, it is illegal for you to knowingly, unapologetically, raise and coach a mob of vigilantes in your ex’s workplace that hurts so many people so egregiously it makes international headlines and leaves a multibillion dollar industry in fear. Finally all the women in my field who had been silently worrying that they were one unstable ex from being in my shoes would have some cold comfort that this was not just a thing you could do to someone without facing consequences. Maybe I could start moving on with my life and finally get away from this man.
Sadly, none of that would come to pass for one simple fact.
It happened on the internet.
“I’m not issuing the charges in the case of harassment”, the Magistrate stated plainly. “If this is the way the internet is, you should really just get offline. Just stop posting.”
I was floored. I had recorded, sorted, and presented the biggest known case of orchestrated internet-based harassment with proof that it was done deliberately in an act of vengeful domestic violence, and I was being told without him even looking at it that there was not enough to fit the low standard of ‘probable cause’ for a harassment case.
I was floored for another reason though. That *wasn’t* how the internet was. Despite the last five months, I still loved the web. It’s the place where I’d met some of my oldest friends, it’s an invaluable learning tool for just about anything you can think of, it’s a resource that breaks down barriers to creating and distributing ideas and media, hell it’s what led me to becoming a game developer in the first place. It gives voices to so many people with valuable contributions to make to humanity that would be traditionally unable to speak, and ignoring those to focus purely on the voices screaming hatred and death threats is insulting to me in a way that feels as if someone had stepped on my hometown pride. It’s my workplace and my community, and I even have a microchip implanted in my hand that sends people to specific websites. It’s a part of me on every conceivable level, and I’m hardly unique in this regard - it’s becoming more and more of a part of everyday life. Treating it like a magical alternate dimension where nothing that happens on it counts no longer works when most news networks actively source things from twitter and other forms of social media.
Telling a victim of an mob calling for their head online to simply not go online anymore is like telling someone who has a hate group camping out in their house to just move out.
Now I was being told not to go home in a completely different way than when the death threats had started up five months prior.
“Sir… I’m an independent game developer who makes web games”, I said, still reeling and numb from the decision. “I would have to throw away my career and everything I’ve built to stop being harassed by these people.”
“You’re a smart kid.” He stated, half-winking on his way out the door. “Find a different career.”
Alex was waiting for me as I left the room, careful to avoid seeing my ex and feeling that sick pit deep in my stomach that always welled up and knotted into panic and fear every time I did. My head was full of static and I had a hard time explaining to him what happened in there. Even though criminal charges had issued in the case of violating the abuse prevention order, it felt hollow. I didn’t want revenge or retribution, I had spent so long just trying to get away from him - it was being told by the institution ostensibly there to protect me that none of the hell we had lived through and the lies and abuse that would likely follow me for the rest of my life were not harassment by a magistrate who barely even looked at it. That the two judges we had been heard by before that overwhelmingly said “no, this is clearly wrong and clearly abuse” before this one because they looked and understood could be trumped at the last minute by one who openly said he did not understand the world he was meant to make a ruling on. I thought of all the women I had spoken to since the start who had said that they couldn’t wait to see criminal charges because they’d rest easier, and were happy I was fighting back, and how I could face them and tell them that the legal system had so completely failed because all it took was one person in a position of power being uninterested in the internet and not thinking it mattered to derail months of horror that millions of eyes witnessed. What parts of me weren’t utterly crushed were filled with despair - I never had much faith in the system to begin with but when they took what was happening seriously I had invested in the hope that I had been wrong about that.
“He got away with it”, I told him. “He got away with GamerGate.”
We stood waiting for our ride in front of the courthouse when Alex pulled me out of the spiral of hopelessness I had started to fall down, as he had countless times before, by pointing out that there were other ways we had been fighting back. That we had invested too much in this one route forward toward the goal of stopping this from happening ever again. We went to the greasy spoon diner that we’d fallen in love with the locals and decor of after prior court dates, and we went back into rebuild mode. We made plans for the support network we had been building the last few months, plans to help other people like us where the system had failed us today, and plans on how to work toward getting culture at large to start taking our online world seriously. If we couldn’t fight against massive online abuse mobs in the courtroom, we’d fight it our own way. We’d fight it with our words and our empathy and our friends and fellow survivors that we had been amassing over the last few months. We’d fight to change the culture that let this happen.
And we knew what we had to do.”
This chapter will discuss how sometimes the court systems completely fail you because of a misunderstanding of tech, and how we decided to fight another way. This chapter and the next will serve as a bridge and second act to the book, to transition from the problems to the solutions.
“We used to travel around with what Alex called ‘The Mobile Command Center’. It was the only way we could excuse ourselves from the 24-7 cycle of monitoring and documenting everything. It contained everything we’d need to be able to get online and handle a crisis immediately - stepping away from the web when things were still so dangerous and caustic felt like sticking my head into the mouth of a particularly nerdy lion. Paradoxically, if we hadn’t taken breaks and reminded ourselves to be human, it’d feel like we were going feral. When all you hear and see are people threatening you and plotting how to ruin your life, it feels like you’re pouring acid on your heart.
The elevator shaft was not the most welcoming of environments, either. It was like being trapped in a tiny box full of Internet. So we forced ourselves to accept the drinks and support of friends who had been watching all of this happen, begrudgingly, and by making sure at a moment’s notice we could at least try to unfuck a bad situation.
Like clockwork, while we were out loudly swearing and having drinks with Adam Sessler, we got a call that a friend-of-a-friend had a Skype account compromised and it had been sending out awful messages. This had happened to another friend the night before, and we were able to get his account shut down and returned to him while he was panicking. We’d practically had the security team on speed dial.
Oblivious to how weird this looked to everyone else in the bar, Alex and I went to work. He broke out his laptop and my mobile internet hotspot while I asked the standard questions we needed to pass on to the security people, and started surveying the damage. Within minutes, we had gotten the account back to him, and the situation was back under control.
We apologized profusely to Adam, feeling guilty for having to go into work mode in the middle of a social engagement. He waved it off, and seemed surprised we were able to pull that off.
‘You guys look like you’re in the movie Hackers.’ he said, laughing.”
Back when we were still sleeping in an elevator shaft, Alex and I used to jokingly call any time we’d see friends ‘pre-hack drinks’. The attacks were becoming so frequent it seemed inevitable that any fistful of hours would come with at least one attempt on us or one successful hack of a friend. Since we had been monitoring and warning targets and unfucking our own accounts, we had gotten used to and good at fixing broken situations, compromised accounts, and what have you. People started to know they could come to us for help and actually receive it.
When we were faced with so much hardship in getting any real help or advice through the hell we’d been going through, Alex and I discussed how we should be that service. How we could take all of this heartache and specific knowledge and maybe stop it from happening to other people.
The harassment had gotten so huge and so public, that we inadvertently became a beacon for other people who had gone through what we had. Every single time I’d talked with another victim, our stories were eerily similar, and the reaction we got from the outside world was similarly disheartening. They were also the only people I got real, solid advice from, and outside of Alex, my biggest support in continuing to push forward and not go crazy.
And just like me, they wanted to start fighting back.
This chapter discusses the formation of Crash Override Network growing organically out of all that, how we operate, and why we formed. The second half of the book begins after this chapter.
All My Hexes Land On Exes
“When we’re pouring over our hundreds of cases, we ask ourselves what commonalities are the most obvious so that we can write a guide to point to that will address a lot of concerns. The hope is to not only be able to provide resources to people in crisis, but to help people prevent a bad situation from happening in the first place.
We keep making the joke that one of these tips should be ‘NEVER DATE ANYONE INTO HACKING’.
One line that we see repeating over and over in our cases is that someone dated an asshole. Some of them even specifically want to speak to me because they saw how my ex abused me with an online mob and they’re dealing with a Creep Throat of their own.”
So often, online hate is kicked off by a single angry person. Too often, that angry person is an ex boyfriend seeking revenge. This chapter will discuss (with permission from clients) some of the cases we’ve seen, resources that are actually effective for victims of revenge porn and online domestic violence, the prevalence of stories like this, and the headway being made to deal with it.
For example, Holly Jacobs, who was mentioned in the chapter All My Exes Live In .Txts, went on to found the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, which does important advocacy work and runs a hotline for victims of revenge porn.
“‘Ok, we’re bringing a case into triage. Can someone sweep for dox?’ I type as if it was muscle memory.
‘On it.’ an agent replies instantly.
‘It’s starting to feel like we’re at the point where you can just pop in here and we all slide down the firepole’ another says.
And they’re right. At this point, when someone tells us they’re being targeted by an online community based in harassment, regardless of if it’s neo-nazis, Men’s Rights Activists (who coincidentally seem to focus on yelling at women instead of doing anything for me), or bored we’ve gotten it down to a routine. As horrible as being harassed by faceless, nameless strangers is, one benefit to it is that they only really have one playbook. They’ve only ever had one playbook, and part of it relied on their ability to work in margins, in weird websites where respectable people wouldn’t think to go.
Unfortunately for them, I am anything but respectable.”
If GamerGate happened a long time ago to someone else, I might have been on the other side of this conflict. I participated in a 4chan-originated online movement calling itself Chanology, but instead of going after individuals it went after an actually corrupt institution. A lot of us at Crash Override have been some degree of troll at one point or the other, and this is actually a huge advantage to understanding what to expect and how to help targets.
I have talked to upwards of 100 people who used to participate in mob behavior, and have seen quite a bit of commonalities in why they got there and what made them stop. Almost universally, they didn’t understand that they were targeting a real person. A lot of their poor behavior was being enabled by the depersonalization of the internet and their peers goading them on to worse and worse behavior. Most of them grew out of it when one of these two factors changed.
Beyond the psychology of online mobs, this chapter will discuss in basic terms the mechanisms of online mob hatred touched on in “Troll Food” and how we subvert it at Crash Override, using a sample case where we assisted a target.
Fart Jokes And Ethical Quandaries
“The longest, hottest, and most drawn out argument that we’ve ever had at Crash Override Network was over what sounds, at first, ridiculous. We were arguing about a thing we were referring to as the Farticle.
‘You have to name him, Zoe.’
I wasn’t winning the argument. Not even Alex had my back on this.
‘Naming him won’t do anything’, I typed into the chat. ‘It’s not about him as a person. If he stops it won’t change enough, we have to use him as an example.’
The argument started over an article I meant to write about a serial harasser who calls himself FartToContinue. Before he took to stalking me and posting my father’s home address all over his site, he had made a name for himself stalking a woman who makes youtube videos about games. This had been his schtick for years, and GamerGate was essentially candy to him (he ended up being the most retweeted account in the movement for quite some time). Naturally, at least one case had come across our desk from one of his victims, and I’d started to wonder what I could do to help them, since the services he was using did fuck nothing about him as he merrily posted dox and told the mob who to hit next.
Years ago, a similar career-asshole that went by the name ViolentAcrez plagued reddit, making his fame from posting non-consensual pornography and generally being a pretty gross dude. A journalist named Adrien Chen interviewed him, unmasking his offline identity and posting his real name in the process, and the piece got huge. Reddit modified their policies on what he was doing, and it seemed like a victory of sorts.
Similarly, I knew who FartToContinue was. I knew how old he is. I knew his name. He had posted his own dox a while ago but deleted them in a hurry, but since this is the internet that sort of thing circulates regardless of if you want it to or not, and had inevitably ended up in the same channels we’d been monitoring for Crash Override clients who were worried about their dox getting out there.
I’d hoped to do something similar to the ViolentAcrez article - profile a chronic harasser, serial abuser, and all around creep in the hopes of shaming the services enabling him into changing or doing something about him.
However, I didn’t want to name him. Even if he was the biggest scumbag in the world, I didn’t feel like he deserved to have what happened to me, happen to him. Beyond that, once his name was out there, it was out of my control. I knew that it wouldn’t just blow back on him, but likely that his family would be targeted, and that I was giving them all up to the faceless mob of the internet.
Alex didn’t agree with this, and neither did any of our agents, save for one. Their worry is that by not naming him and tying his online activity to his real name and real life, he could just drop the old FartToContinue moniker and go about his business under a new name. That he would continue to victimize people consequence-free, and that I had a duty to try to stop him.
A serious ethical debate all over some guy calling himself ‘Fart’.”
This chapter parallels the chapter Fancy Wigs And Talking Skulls and deals with the issue of serial harassers who make a living off of abusing people online and monetizing mob hatred. The debate went on and I eventually won it, with the plan of interviewing him myself.
I plan to actually carry out this interview and include it in this chapter of the book.
There are currently only two things that really work when it comes to dealing with perpetual abusers - either the abuser’s targets become real to them instead of an abstract concept to attack and score points on over the internet, or the services enabling their platform take it away from them. This chapter not only hopes to detail how these two things can work, but to serve that very purpose itself.
I also want to touch on the work of Lindy West, a feminist writer who did something similar by interviewing one of her own abusers and how he had changed as soon as he realized that she was a person, as well as citing specific information from Crash Override cases.
Defense Against The Dark Arts
“If you’re reading this book, you’ve probably been using the Internet for a couple of years, or perhaps your whole life - Email, funny cat videos, school stuff, work stuff, wedding invitations, the usual stuff. Maybe you don’t think you’ve made enough of a splash to get targeted by hackers, hate mobs, or worse. But, hypothetically, let’s say you find yourself in the crosshairs.
After all, it doesn’t take much to be targeted. Maybe you spoke up about a controversial topic, or maybe you were related to someone who did. Maybe it wasn’t really anything you said, but you turned out to be an easy ‘mark’ because you’re still using the same passwords from high school, or someone was able to answer your security questions by snooping your social media. Once your identity has been compromised online and you find yourself unable to login to your Facebook or email account, that sinking feeling in your stomach sets the tone of what’s to come; you’re in trouble. Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in this situation. But as life online dialogue becomes increasingly focused on hot button issues like religion, social issues, and Top 40 music, it pays off to make sure that what’s yours will remain yours. Keeping information out of the wrong hands used to be difficult, but with new tools and platforms like cloud computing and storage, it’s becoming easier to quickly boost tech literacy levels of everyday people. The right tools, tips, and habits can help you stay safe, keep track of what’s going on, and help you come out clean on the other side. ”
This chapter will include practical advice for people to avoid being hacked, doxed, or swatted - this is all from information we’ve gleaned from handling over 500 cases with Crash Override Network, working directly with law enforcement, and managing to prevent multiple SWAT attempts. Readers will be given practical advice mixed in with anecdotes to make it more readable and accessible, and will generally increase their knowledge of tech and information security. I’ll tell the story of Izzy Galvez, one of Crash Override’s earliest cases, who we worked with to monitor and prevent a swatting attempt made on him.
Beyond that, this chapter will discuss how we as a society can do better to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the first place.
“‘My mom is shutting off the internet. She’s mad at me and thinks this is my fault.’, one of our clients texts me late at night.
‘I’m so sorry hun. Are you going to be ok?’ I reply, fingers tapping on the screen.
‘I don’t know. I felt awful enough already but she’s blaming me for the pizzas showing up and is angry I was speaking out online.’
I pause, unsure what to say. ‘Well, it isn’t your fault you were targeted this way. You’re not to blame for other people’s horrible behavior. I know she sees it that way, but it’s important that you know that you did nothing wrong.’
I’m at a loss. I know there’s nothing I can say that will make our client’s mother understand, and all I can do is try to be there for them at this point.”
One of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with online harassment is trying to accurately communicate what is happening to you to the people in your life in a way that they might understand. What seems like an all-consuming tidal wave of hostility and serious threats to someone who works online can seem trivial to people who share the dominant cultural view that the internet is just a host for cat pictures and porn.
In this chapter, I’ll discuss some of the common difficulties targets of online abuse face when it comes to talking with the people in their lives about what’s happening to them. As I go over each one, I will give specific examples for why this happens and counterpoints people can make to dispel the general cultural assumption that the internet is a magical place that nothing counts for, and consequences aren’t real for.
I’ll also discuss how online communities and support can be huge for someone experiencing this, especially if people aren’t finding it in real life. I’ll offer suggestions on how to support someone going through such a deeply difficult situation, using examples from my own life and from Crash Override cases. I’ll discuss a case where Crash Override was serving as a support group for one such person, and managed to stop her suicide in progress as a result.
Casualties Of The Culture Wars
“How often do people get to help a superhero?
With GamerGate having successfully created the Tea Party for the games community, naturally other geeky cultures saw an opportunity to take back their territory from the progressives they saw as taking their toys away. Comics seemed like the next obvious target.
Naturally, this meant the hordes were turning on any outspoken forward-thinking person working in comics.
By that time, Crash Override had been in full swing for a while, so we found ourselves helping some of the people whose work we adored. Much in the way that GamerGate saw me as all things threatening to gaming, these people were used as talking points for comics arguments, with all the hatred and hero worship that comes with it.”
What happens to the people who are used as a talking point and have been dragged into the zeitgeist kicking and screaming? When you’re being attacked for your beliefs, or for your gender, or for your race, or for being any kind of a marginalized person, that comes with a whole other host of considerations above and beyond the hatred that comes with being harassed by a mob.
Since it’s launch, Crash Override has had a majority of clients who are marginalized people. Additionally, we’ve seen that the further your demographic is from straight white male, the more noxious and longer-sustained your harassment is. In cases like these, we often see the mob taking out their anger and hatred of a particular group of people out on a single individual.
These situations are extremely difficult. Once you have become a symbol, you find yourself being attacked by anyone who has a problem with what they read you as representing. In so many cases, the thing that helps is other people with a platform speaking up in support of you. When the only people you hear from are the ones telling you to die and spreading around misinformation, it drowns out any support. As scary as speaking up can be, this sort of thing just reaffirms the importance of doing so.
We need people with a platform to take a stand and to support those who are being shouted down by people who don’t want things to change. Early on when only Phil was speaking up on my behalf, it was maddening. Even after the Law And Order episode, few major players inside the industry said anything - the responsibility of speaking out was syndicated out to the people most at risk for being targeted and hurt for doing so.
I’m not talking about toothless “harassment is bad” statements either. No one is going to bill themselves as pro-harassment. GamerGate and other movements like it gain traction because people won’t take a risk and call out the beast by name - if people in major positions of power had spoken up earlier, it wouldn’t have blown up to such tremendous proportions.
Myself, our agents, and so many of our clients are targeted by tactics usually reserved for politics - everything you’ve ever said becomes twisted to the point of unrecognition. Writers get bombarded by phony negative reviews on Amazon, game developers see their employers flooded with emails claiming they’re racist for blocking a person of color (they leave out the fact that the person was sending them death threats, for some reason), and blogs are set up to “expose their misdeeds” by printing gossipy slander too dubious for most tabloids. You can find yourself the subject of the smear campaign out of a president’s worst nightmare simply for being a marginalized person in a nontraditional space.
This, combined with a culture of shaming, has lasting repercussions for anyone who becomes targeted. Justine Sacco, a woman who made a tasteless, casually racist joke on twitter to her 200 followers found herself at the end of a dogpile so aggressive that it cost her career and destroyed her reputation forever. Monica Lewinsky, who was only 22 when she was involved with President Clinton, was patient zero for this sort of online harassment, and it derailed her life forever.
People perpetuating this abuse are well aware of this - we’ve seen them outright try to use it to their advantage. Suddenly you see a group of people who are attacking a person of color with every racial slur in the book 180 and decry the same person for making a nazi joke when they were 15. The combination of the shaming of call-out culture and the misinformation and dogwhistle politics of online abusers who see a person as a symbol of some aspect of culture that they hate lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of abuse that doesn’t leave the target with an end in sight.
People need to be educated about this form of harassment, especially in a world where 48% of employers google job applicants before inviting them for an interview. If the world at large is unaware of this form of harassment and it’s pervasiveness, the lasting effects on someone’s life can be incalculable. There’s no Snopes for someone’s personal life.
We need to break the cycle of dogpiling a single person, even when they’re in the wrong. We need to wake up and realize that even if someone is just pixels on a screen to you, they’re a person in real life, and the internet doesn’t make what you’re doing any less real.
However, sometimes this high degree of visibility can have a silver lining, too. Sometimes you meet other people who are just as sick of this shit too.
“‘It’s an average day and I’m communicating with the abuse department of a tech company. One of the things we’ve been trying to do at Crash Override is develop relationships with people like this so that we can more quickly help people who are in immediate crisis rather than ask them to fill out an umpteenth report and hope for a response back.
This company has a fairly strict abuse policy, and we’ve had dealings with them in the past. One of our clients was being harassed by someone on their platform in what seemed to be a burning tire fire of a violation of their terms of service - I put them in contact and then decided to follow up on a months-old case where someone was using their platform to distribute revenge porn, doxes, instructions on how to SWAT people, you name it. This service also happened to be distributing my father’s home address and nude photos of me. I’d been told it was way over the line, and they would be removed immediately, but a few months passed and they were still there, along with my boobs and my old address.
Seems like a fair thing to have a few questions about.
‘Also - I noticed [REDACTED] is still on the service, despite hosting my dox, my family's dox, my nudes without my consent, and having done this to many other people. When last we spoke you'd mentioned that that was over the line - is that no longer the case?‘
A little later, I received a friendly and helpful response. They were down for talking to our latest client. However…
‘As for [REDACTED], it turns out they were in accordance with our guidelines re: satire and much of the internal debate centered on their stated community guidelines + how to hold an administrator accountable.’
Oh. I am not really quite sure how revenge porn or my dad’s phone number could be satirical. They continued...
‘Fortunately unfortunately, there has been a second wave of complaints about the site, convincing the team of the need to remove [REDACTED] immediately. We are all set to sync tomorrow and I will keep you updated.’ As of this writing, over a month later, the site is still up.”
Sadly, even in a post-gamergate social media landscape, we’re still coming up against the same problems we were nearly a year ago. But we’re working on it.
During GamerGate, a programmer by the name of Randi Harper spoke out about this culture of fear. She created the Good Game Autoblocker, which essentially makes it so that people who use twitter and don’t want to be bombarded by the hatred of GamerGaters can live on the platform in relative peace. It was above and beyond what twitter itself did - we’d see ourselves filing reports on someone who had been posting child pornography at us after being suspended 12 times and pray that we’d even get an answer. The GG Autoblocker made a world of difference, and when twitter is key to so many people promoting their work and business, it’s vital to have that presence.
Tech companies need to step up and not rely on the legal system to tell them how to run their business - that will only lead to overbroad legislation that will ruin the value of the internet for everyone. It’s asinine for something that evolves and iterates as rapidly as technology to look to a system that takes decades to catch up. “Well it’s technically legal” doesn’t mean much when someone’s using your service to send death threats to someone.
Besides, the legal system has a whole other host of issues of their own...
Law And Order: SJW
“‘You should take this phone and leave a message’, Alex said one day, holding his phone out to me as I came out of the kitchen with coffee.
‘Why? I’m not even awake yet.’ I muttered.
‘It’s Representative Clark’s office.’ he said, deadpan as he always was whenever we were doing something ridiculous. She had recently publicly come out to call out GamerGate in particular, and was the first lawmaker we saw loudly discussing the issue of online harassment in general. It was heartening and worrying at the same time - one of our biggest fears was that the wrong government official would get swatted and then we’d be looking at another ‘series of tubes’-level of embarrassing soundbytes from out of touch politicians followed by sweeping legislation that would ruin the internet for everyone. On the other hand, after struggling with the legal system for my own cases and through helping others’, it was good to see someone above our pay grade noticing and giving a shit in the first place.
Alex waved the phone at me as I heard it start to ring. ‘Leave her a message.’
‘Oh.’ I said, taking the phone.
When we were meeting with her office weeks later about working together, my fears were pleasantly put to rest.”
The legal system is just barely starting to touch on online harassment. We’re still at square one - basic education.
So often when we work with police, they’re unaware of what swatting is, what social media is, or even that someone might need to be online for work. Even if things are properly reported and go before a judge, sometimes you wind up like me - being told to give up your livelihood because a single person in the justice system has no interest in the world you live and work in. Defense attorneys are all too willing to capitalize on this, too.
Think internet culture is hard to explain to a friend? Try a legal system that doesn’t really understand what the internet is yet - it’s like trying to push cooked pasta through the eye of a needle. Try explaining shit like 4chan to an officer who types with henpeck hands and getting handed a police report that makes you feel like praying the abuse away may be more effective. Law enforcement is prepared for familiar things like “here is a death threat, here is someone violating a restraining order, here’s where they openly discuss wanting to rape me”, but trying to convey how things work online is frustrating. Thankfully though, police reports are there to put you in contact with the detective, who you can then actually talk to and get to understand what’s actually going on, if you’re lucky. Police reports are there to essentially go “hey y’all some shit is up do you wanna look into this?”, that will then either be escalated or ignored based on the merit of your case (and a ton of other socioeconomic factors) and actually figure out what’s happened and what to do about it if anything. And hey, at least the detective on my case plays Halo.
One thing we see repeated endlessly with our cases is that the police aren’t the only ones with misconceptions about the intersection of law and the internet. When someone is being targeted and sent threatening messages, or doxed, or being sent pizzas, it *feels* like it should be a crime. Many people feel like defamation in and of itself is a crime, and are unaware of the differences between civil and criminal cases. We find ourselves often having to tell a person that no, those threats don’t count because they’re not specific enough and no, doxing is not a crime and no, the cops aren’t even able to do anything about it even if they do understand.
We try and educate our clients on basics, try to help them find attorneys, and try to teach them how to talk to police - drop the jargon, focus on making things simple and relatable, and to document everything with timestamps to create better evidence.
But it’s not enough. We need cops and judges to start becoming literate on these issues to. We’ve been advocating where we can for the continuing education courses that judges have to take to continue being a judge to include a course on digital rights. We’ve been writing and sharing the testimonies of people who have been failed and hurt by the system.
This chapter will also discuss how Holly Jacobs and Danielle Citron took the issue of Revenge Porn, raised enough awareness to make the issue go mainstream, and how just recently a landmark case put away a revenge porn site owner for 18 years. Their efforts led to direct legal reforms, and I think the same can be done for online harassment.
We’re also now working with Representative Clark on talking specifically with these institutions to get them savvy. I’m due to go in front of congress next week, representing Crash Override and trying to get all of our data in the right hands. I’m hopeful that this means good things for the future - that this interest in working with those of us in the trenches can lead to more informed leaders making better decisions that make the internet better.
August Isn’t The End
“This time, last year, a documentary crew had been following me around for a film on indie games that just came out in theaters last night. I sat in the very back of the theater, next to Alex, watching the girl on the screen who looked like me say in the opening of the film that working in the games industry was like coming home as a tinge of sadness came over me. One of the hardest parts of all of this has been accepting that the girl on the screen was dead and never coming back. That as soon as my fingertips grazed the surface of my dreams, they turned to mist and became permanently out of reach. I’d wanted to make weird, small projects for just enough money to get by while helping other people learn to do the same sustainably in a weird peaceful niche of relative obscurity. That’s impossible now. I’ve joined Anita and Kathy Sierra and who knows how many others in a shitty clubhouse where a conspiracy theory or harassment thread springs up in the gutters of the internet every time we do so much as fart. I never could have predicted that by making weird games about feelings and bad dad jokes that I’d find myself dodging a deranged juice lawyer’s PI or seeing a simulacrum of me gangraped on national TV. I feel like I’ve pissed off some ancient lovecraftian god with a million eyes, hellbent on destroying my privacy and peace of mind, cursing me with enough exposure to drive me insane. I was talking to Anita while Alex and I were ducking into a cab the rainy night of Thanksgiving, having come from yet another hearing. My hair had been dyed almost black in an attempt to be less recognizable to the lawyer’s PI that was camped outside. Once we were safely in, I resumed our conversation. I asked her a question she couldn’t immediately answer. “Does it ever get easier?” She thought for a second. “Easier might be the wrong way to put it. Nothing lets up, but you get better at dealing with it.” Who I was, and what I dreamed of might be dead now, but I’m not. I’ve accepted that I can’t go back. When the rules of a game change, you learn and adapt to them. I’m still processing, still figuring out who I am in this context, and figuring out how to make lemonade out of the lemon tree that crashed into my car and took out my windshield.” This last chapter will wrap everything up and discuss where I am now. I’d also like to discuss some of the other major people mentioned in the book and where they are. Alex is still with me, and we have been making great headway on fixing the issues surrounding online harassment. He hasn’t found a new day job due to games companies still being extremely risk adverse and afraid of hiring him and upsetting GamerGaters, but he still soldiers on all the same. We moved to the other side of the country, unable to ever return home, and finally have our own place again. My dad still gets gross phone calls and asks me every time we talk if he can beat up anyone to help solve my problems. Alex’s family gets harassed still too - but they joke around with us about it and haven’t ever told us to stop. Randi Harper and I are hard at work on developing software to help harassment victims catalog and report their cases with OAPI. Eron is facing 4 criminal charges of violating the restraining order, but no charges of harassment or stalking. Phil has quit the industry at large and is making cool shit like a long haired tech hermit. Anita is still soldiering on, doing good work, and making videos in spite of it all.
It will end on a hopeful call to action to the reader, and a reassurance that people are fighting for their rights to exist online.
And maybe a bad joke about ethics in something something.