Crash Override Network

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"In every story of solipsism, there is always a conspiracy. Why? Because there is always a background involved in every perception."
—Douglas Lain


Crash Override Network, also known as CON, is the now-disgraced "anti-harassment taskforce" established by Zoe Quinn in November of 2014, a few months after GamerGate had been in full-swing. The organization was purportedly developed in order to combat acts of harassment, misogyny, and death threats online. Despite an enormous amount of support from Social Media platforms, and multiple references to it by activism groups, Crash Override Network has, in practice, only barely touched upon harassment prevention and soon became better-known for acting as a support network for and by its members, used to establish legitimacy where previously, individually, the group had none.

The group's official website shut down in late 2016 following the leaking of their chat logs to the general public.

Overview

Crash Override Network was founded by Zoe Quinn and Alex Lifschitz, with assistance from a number of other individuals that the pair claims were victims of harassment and online abuse due to the Gamergate Controversy, having received both death threats and harassment online.[1] It claims to have formed a partnership with Feminist Frequency in March 2016. The group espouses itself as a "crisis management" group, allegedly providing counseling services, help seeking shelter, and assistance in mitigating the damage of such attacks. The group claims that it tailors a unique plan for each victim that comes into contact with them, and works alongside law enforcement and social media. In May 2015, Twitter appointed them as a trusted safety resource. A former member of CON has made claims that Randi Harper, who has an "Online Abuse Prevention Institute" partnered with CON, is responsible for funding CON and provided the connections to Twitter staff to get it made a partner.[2]

Criticism

While it claims constantly to be a credible anti-harassment group, the reality is that Crash Override Network has accomplished essentially nothing of substance or note beyond promoting its own members and looking out for their own interests. Multiple people who have used the service have elaborated that Crash Override was of no help whatsoever when they got harassed, and that Crash Override gave them dubious, if not absolutely ludicrous advice. One of the most notorious examples is that while Crash Override claims to be working with law enforcement, it actuality has a standing policy of telling would-be users to not contact the police over harassment.[3] There are multiple users of CON that have later explained to the Kiwi Farms, under condition of anonymity, that Crash Override is little more than a scam perpetuated by its members to give them a legitimate platform. This belief has been proven by not only the CON Log Leaks, but by numerous testimonials from alleged clients - several of whom have spoken to the Kiwi Farms under condition of anonymity, and several who were decidedly more public with their complaints. The most visible allegations come from the CON Membership Revelations, which firmly establish that CON serves primarily to serve its members aims, clients be damned. To date, there are no confirmed reports of any Crash Override Network client having anything positive to say about the experience.

Additional criticisms pop up when Crash Override Network's claims of legitimacy are investigated. One of the biggest things it uses to tout its own success was that it managed to stop a SWATing conducted by an alleged Gamergate supporter. Closer investigation, however, shows that the alleged SWATing is that it isn't exactly from a credible source:[4] The source is none other than Brianna Wu's infamous "Calls from Gamergate" video, in which she claimed that the Ohio District Attorney's office refused to get involved - when the truth was that Brianna Wu had never contacted them,[5] and that the incident in question was ultimately dismissed by the FBI when Brianna Wu couldn't substantiate where the calls came from.[6]

Lastly, and perhaps most critically: While labelled an "anti-harassment task force," Crash Override Network was repeatedly involved in harassment and misinformation campaigns, many of which were demonstrably worse of what CON accused its opponents of. Much of this was exposed in the Crash Override Network Log Leaks. Worse, CON is now known to have maintained McCarthy-esque "enemies lists" of individuals to slander and push to deplatform for things as nebulous as disagreeing with a member of Crash Override or pointing out when members of CON were lying. For these reasons, Crash Override Network's members were willing to actively attempt to get people banned from Twitter, fired from their jobs, or in trouble with law enforcement, establishing the network's members as excessively petty and vindictive.

CON Membership Revelations

"If you ask any of CON’s members (assuming they choose to speak), they’ll tell you they joined the group to fight what they saw as the abuse of vulnerable individuals on social media. This is only partially factual. In truth, CON started as a Skype chat and morphed into a Slack channel where members gossiped about people they disliked on Twitter and targeted supporters of the Gamergate movement. I would know, because I was one of them."


CON has had a number of its former clients and associates go on to extensively criticize it. Many of the biggest criticisms against Crash Override come specifically from these, which, in addition to several that have come forth to discuss it under conditions of anonymity, have included several who have gone public with their allegations. This includes one former staffer and one of its former clients, both of whom had a lot to say about the Network.

One of its former clients, Twitter user Tessera Conteur turned into one of CON's most visible and vocal critics of the network. Conteur first voiced their frustration with Crash Override in June of 2015.[7] Tessera would go on to confront and demand accountability for Quinn's actions on several occasions, most notably during the Shufflegate non-scandal, in which Conteur accused Quinn of lying to get Conteur to join Crash Override, then proceeding to provide no help whatsoever and, indeed, mock Conteur for seeking help.[8] Tessera Conteur has declared that CON basically only exists to benefit Quinn and provide her with financial and emotional support,[9] and alleges that Quinn did absolutely nothing while other members of Crash Override slandered and belittled them amongst Conteur's peers.[10]

Conteur only continued to keep speaking out about CON's steadfast refusal to do the job it purports to.[11] Conteur has alleged that CON routinely breaks Twitter's TOS by using auto-archiving tools and has repeatedly inflated claims of harassment in order to get users banned from the service, and explained that CON's users were perfectly happy doxing and spreading the personal information of both clients and targets it was pursing.[12] This was later confirmed by not only additional testimony from other CON clients who came forward, but from the Crash Override Network Log Leaks and the Crash Override Network Trello Leaks. One of the most disturbing claims against Crash Override is that the site will refuse to help clients who are not rich enough to donate or famous enough to be used as a platform.[13] Conteur further alleges that Crash Override does not pay its volunteers,[14] a claim that was later backed by the allegations of several individuals who approached the Kiwi Farms under condition of anonymity. Conteur would back this up by pointing out that CON does not have any real training and tried to silence Conteur for daring to point this out.[15]

Ian Miles Cheong, one of Crash Override's members, later would turn on the clique and report on the actions of Crash Override, verifying many of the allegations made by anonymous informants and Tessera Conteur. Cheong, who would go on to confirm the contents of the CON Log Leaks, discussed, in a lengthy article on Heatstreet, a number of major accusations against the network, including the fact that it was actively going after the careers of its critics, attempting to get them in trouble with law enforcement, something Cheong himself admits to having been involved in.[16] Cheong went on to point out that Crash Override employed Rob Marmolejo, a member who would later go on to be implicated in the sexual harassment of over a dozen women online.[17] Cheong would furthermore go on to cover, in detail, the myriad ways Crash Override Network was involved with doxing, harassment, and even attempts to financially destabilize people who were even tangentially critical of Crash Override itself, showing just how spiteful and petty CON really was.[18]

CON Log Leaks

Main Articles: Crash Override Network Log Leaks, Crash Override Network Trello Leaks

A bombshell hit the group in 2016 when Canadian absurdist game reviewer Sean Weaver, better known as Bro Team Pill, released a series of leaked chat logs from Crash Override Network's Skype channel. The logs themselves were later confirmed legitimate by Ian Miles Cheong, one of the individuals who appears many times in them, and establish firmly that despite Crash Override Network ostensibly being formed to fight harassment, it actually accomplished quite the opposite and instead actually was involved with harassment, doxing, threats, and extortion attempts. The later Trello leaks would later reveal that the group maintained a McCarthy-esque "enemies list" comprising high-level supporters of GamerGate and platforms they were using, in an attempt to undermine the hashtag consumer revolt's ability to gain mainstream attention.

The chat logs include some CON members discussing their ongoing harassment of Chuck Johnson. One of the members - Remy in the chat logs - would later explain that Johnson was specifically targeted for harassmentby order of Zoe Quinn and Alex Lifschitz despite some members' reservations about "constantly harassing people" as Quinn and Lifschitz wanted a "whale" to to collect a big "head" from for CON's first target.[19]

Crash Override Draft Leak

Main Article: Crash Override Draft Leak

On August 30th, 2017, a Pastebin log went up, containing some especially interesting revelations about Zoe Quinn.[20] The log itself contained several pre-editing snippets from Zoe Quinn's upcoming book, and it contains a short introduction explaining that the uploader, while their identity is not posted, was a member of Crash Override Network, was someone in the Logs, and that said logs were 100% truthful. The intro goes on to explain that they too witnessed Quinn's more notorious tendencies, kicking people out of her in-group when they outlived their usefulness and establishing that Crash Override basically was created to allow Quinn to attack her enemies.

The snippets from Quinn's book are particularly fascinating in their own right; in them, Quinn posts rambling, frequently-disproven nonsense that show Quinn caring much more about her public image than about Crash Override's alleged mission statement. Tellingly, Quinn breaks out the same "Hate Speech is not Free Speech" line that was so widely mocked in her disastrous appearance before the UN, as well as complaining at length about various websites (including this one) and a multitude of commentators who had exposed Quinn's litany of misdeeds in the past.

"Crisis hotline" suspension

In December 2016, the email "crisis hotline" potential clients were supposed to be able to use to get private assistance was quietly "temporarily suspended."[21] The provided spin claimed this was due to "overwhelming need for assistance," which makes one wonder who is even left besides Quinn and Lifschitz as 2015 and 2016 saw the purge of many of the founding members including Izzy Galvez, Robert Marmolejo, Jake Alley, David Gallant, Nicholas "Sarah" Nyberg, and Remy/StephenAtWar. It is possible some of them are still working behind the scenes, but some like Galvez and Marmolejo were publicly cast out and disavowed while the others can be seen being completely ignored by Quinn on social media.

The hotline has been down for months despite their promise to be "working fiercely to keep the downtime as short as possible."

Due to overwhelming need for assistance with online abuse outpacing our current resources, the hotline is temporarily suspended. This is to allow us to the time and means to focus our efforts on restructuring the organization to better meet the needs of the online community seeking our help. Our public resources and advocacy efforts will remain active while we improve the way that the helpline internally operates to provide free, reliable, and effective aid to more people than ever before. We apologize for our inability to take on additional casework in the interim, and are working fiercely to keep the downtime as short as possible.
—CON's excuses for why they were no longer going to staff their crisis hotline.


References

  1. Wired - Zoe Quinn Launches Anti-Harassment Task Force
  2. StephenAtWar's Twitter - Claims Randi Harper bankrolls CON
  3. Saltasaurus' Twitter - Crash Override Tells Users to Avoid Law Enforcement
  4. ArsTechnica - Gamergate Critic Posts Death Threat Voicemails After Inaction
  5. BreitBart - Brianna Wu wasted Ohio DA's Time And Resources
  6. FBI FOIA Requests on GamerGate - Emails into the Void
  7. Tessera Conteur's Twitter - Crash Override Network Helps Only Zoe Quinn
  8. Tessera Conteur's Twitter - You Lied to Me
  9. Tesser Conteur's Twitter - I Can't Be Quinn's Emotional Police Anymore
  10. Tessera Conteur's Twitter - CON Slandered Me
  11. Tessera Conteur's Twitter - Crash Override is a Giant Collection of Abuse Targets
  12. Tessera Conteur's Twitter - Crash Override Network Will Spread Your Personal Information
  13. Tessera Conteur's Twitter - Crash Override Network Dropped a Case
  14. Twitter - Selection of Tessera Conteur Tweets on Quinn
  15. Tessera Conteur's Twitter - CON Members Lack Training
  16. HeatStreet - Chat Logs Expose Crash Override Network as Online Bullies
  17. MomBot's Medium - Crash Override Network and Robert Marmolejo: How an Online Abuse Helpline May Have Enabled Sexual Harassment
  18. HeatStreet - New Leaks Reveal Crash Override Network’s Online Harassment
  19. Remy's Twitter - Explaining why CON targeted Chuck Johnson
  20. Pastebin - Crash Override Book Draft Leak
  21. Archived copy of the CON About page