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The Myth of the Anonymous Troll

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The cover of Queer Privacy.

The Myth of the Anonymous Troll is Jake Alley's entry for Queer Privacy, an essay compilation done by online Transgender activists - both legitimate and otherwise. One might find the title of this material a strange fit for Jake Alley, considering that he was one of the loudest voices in Crash Override Network for ending anonymity online, but it is very likely that the compilation's creator simply did not know about Jake's actions at the time.

The piece describes Violet Hargrave as "spending the last three years combating internet-based bigotry and abuse, working with numerous non-profits, activists, sociologists, and non-profit organizations, in addition to her own extensive investigations into the organization and recruitment efforts of numerous hate groups. She always writes under a pseudonym."

Jake Alley's entry to it is a rambling mess filled with half-truths and outright lies.

Breakdown

Each page in this segment will be given an image (a rip straight from the PDF), followed by a text dump of its contents and an analysis-piece on any notable facts about each page.

Any references Jake lists will be placed at the bottom of their appropriate page.

Page One

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The Myth Of The Anonymous Troll by Violet Hargrave

As no shortage of articles will tell you, social media sites in general suffer from a very serious “trolling problem.”

There’s a fair bit of confusion on what exactly having a “trolling problem” means, with some very sheltered people confused at why victims can’t “ignore a few people shouting irate nonsense at them.”

There is not nearly enough discussion of just how the disgusting comments highlighted in articles on this topic are accompanied by police battering down doors after receiving calls about “executing hostages,” death threats made to elderly grandparents, child protective services being called to investigate abuse allegations of siblings/cousins/children, or the evergreen favorite of employers being bombarded with calls and emails accusing victims of every unsavory act under the sun until the victim is fired, if only to shut them up.

While the more serious and life-endangering aspects of these harassment campaigns are hard to find easy solutions for, running aground against woefully out of date police departments, or the anonymity of disposable prepaid phones and spoofed e-mail addresses, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that social media sites really need to institute policies where everyone must register under their real name, because trying to hold anonymous posters accountable is impossible.

Unfortunately, this seemingly common sense approach doesn’t come close to addressing the real problems, as any victim of such an attack can tell you, and as sociologists and abuse prevention experts constantly explain in public talks.

Analysis

One of the more unusual aspects of Jake on this page is also one readily visible in other GamerGate opponents, such as Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, Israel Galvez, and Dan Olson: The immediate correlation of the absolute worst sorts of online behavior being conflated as being one and the same as more mainstream trolling. Jake lays out, squarely in the above paragraphs, that he not only feels that a few people saying mean words is a crisis, but is, indeed, just as bad as SWATing (reporting someone to the police in the hopes of getting their home stormed by police), death threats, and far more intense forms of online abuse.

The true gold, however, follows this: Jake's argument that these tactics are solely the purview of people he does not like. Jake himself, word-for-word, advocates using the same tactics of financial destabilization, law enforcement interdiction, and rote intimidation towards GamerGate supporters in the Crash Override Network Log Leaks and Crash Override Network Trello Leaks.

As is the case for Zoe Quinn herself, Jake tends to argue that anonymity online must be ended for the safety of those on Social Media.

Page Two

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First off, the “trolls” aren’t anonymous. There are a few moves in the serial abuser’s playbook which involve registering a huge number of dummy accounts and using them all to send similar messages, to conduct DDoS attacks or harass employers with “widespread e-mail campaigns,” but those are inherently disposable single-shot accounts, never to be used again whether they’re banned from a service or not, and don’t make up a significant percentage of any dedicated harassment campaign’s activity. The persistent sources of abuse- the organizers, the stalkers, the performative types who compete with each other to see who can make the most outrageous posts or provoke the strongest reactions, almost always do so under their real names, or at least under professional names they can’t simply step away from.

In many cases, the people who orchestrate these sorts of campaigns earn a living off it. Crowdfunding sites like Patreon are rife with “internet personalities” who produce rambling 4 hour youtube videos consisting of nothing but a neonazi staring into a camera and delivering rambling monologues about the imagined crimes of arbitrarily chosen victims, or reposting videos from feminists and other social activists, pausing after every sentence to make a rambling ‘counterpoint.’ This is a hugely lucrative business for some, bringing in thousands of dollars each month(45) between ads and subscription based donations. This of course on top of the financial backing millionaire neo-nazi Palmer Luckey(46).

Those who don’t have the savvy or the drive to monetize their hatred need their names attached to satisfy their egos. Twitter in particular is swarming with monstrous little scumbags who make games out of harassment, keeping score by how many women they’ve been blocked by, or how many tweets they got in before a target stopped responding. Others, like ego driven misogynist Markus Persson(47), or genocide-minded bigots like Cathy Brennan(48\) seem to take perverse joy in how many of their followers will attack a target after nothing but a pointed finger and display of disapproval.

Link 45: BoingBoing - How crowdfunding helps haters profit from harassment

Link 46: Palmer Luckey: The Facebook Near-Billionaire Secretly Funding Trump’s Meme Machine

Link 47: We Hunted the Mammoth - MRAs and GamerGaters rejoice after Minecraft guy mansplains mansplaining, uses c-word

Link 48: The TERFs.net - Cathy Brennan

Analysis

In this particular page, we see some shocking levels of doublethink from Jake Alley, made all the more jarring when one realizes that almost every tactic he lists on this very page involves something Jake's friends have knowingly engaged in - whether it's claiming that "high profile" harassers have done so publicly without consequence or leading mass assaults by their followers to attack their opponents (something Zoe Quinn and Nora Reed, in particular, is infamous for.

What's especially jarring, however, is his choice of targets here, and the claims that Jake makes regarding those very targets. He treats any disagreement with his side's political talking points with the very worst of harassment, as evidenced by that first link, which predominantly centers around people who made videos criticizing Anita Sarkeesian - an individual who has steadfastly refused to engage anyone who tangentially disagrees with her, refused to engage in debate, and wanted the UN to destroy anonymity online because she didn't want people to be able to point out when she was lying.

The other entries on this list are if anything, even more ridiculous, and not one of them has been involved in harassment campaigns, nor does Jake's links prove them. Palmer Luckey's sole crime was being a supporter of Donald Trump - as evidenced by the article Jake himself linked. At no point is the case made that Luckey supported Nazism in any way, shape, or form. Markus "Notch" Persson, drew Jake's ire solely because Markus Persson made fun of Nora Reed when she tried to stir up an outrage mob against him and he proceeded to laugh her off. Cathy Brennan, similarly, has absolutely nothing to do with online harassment; she is a Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminist, or TERF, but Jake does not prove in this link any connection whatsoever to harassment.

Page Three

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Meanwhile, it’s the victims of these attacks who suffer the most from efforts to “combat anonymity.” Facebook’s real name policy(49) is routinely abused to shut down the profiles of people of color, trans people, and those posting under pseudonyms, specifically to avoid the sort of harassment the policy ostensibly exists to prevent. Trans women under the age of forty are exceptionally likely to spend years exploring their true gender via roleplaying games before coming out to friends and family, particularly online games like World of Warcraft. Online gaming communities are also notorious for violent queerphobia and misogyny(50), so when Blizzard Entertainment’s instituted a policy tying accounts to legal names, staggering numbers of trans players were suddenly exposed, and women both cis and trans, already facing abuse and harassment in-game, suddenly had to contend with their names being readily available, to search for social media accounts and home addresses. This in turn ties back to the most dangerous aspects of “trolling problems.” Even without the aid of real name policies, uncovering the contact information of victims in order to further escalation is a huge priority of harassment campaigns. Take the case of Sarah Nyberg(51), an unassuming young woman pseudonymously discussing the transphobic comments she received on twitter to a modest audience. After over a year of traditional abuse, “trolls” compromised the security of the server hosting an old user image of hers, discovered her real name, then used Facebook searches and ancestry websites to research her entire extended family, and publicly accuse her of sexually abusing her youngest living relative.

Link 49: Wikipedia's Article on Facebook's Real-Name Policy

Link 50: GenderTerror - Gaming Culture and Safe Spaces

Link 51: Sarah Nyberg's Medium - I was a Teenage Edgelord

Analysis

It's at this point that Jake drops anything remotely resembling common-sense or advocacy and instead launches into what can charitably, at best, be called an attack piece. He begins by linking to Wikipedia, before following it up with a link to an article by a friend of his who is notorious for baiting harassment online so that they can then complain about it (and who fittingly tells of a story of how they were harassed without a scrap of evidence, and argues, in that same article, that misgendering is violence.

It's the next segment however where Jake completely goes off the rails, defending Sarah Nyberg, the Crash Override Network member who was also a self-described pedophile. Jake, along with Israel Galvez and Dan Olson, went out of their way to bury evidence against Nyberg after years worth of logs, in which she linked to pornographic materials covering children, talked extensively about sexual attraction to children, and indeed, admitted to being a pedophile, became public knowledge. Despite their efforts, extensive evidence covering Nyberg's crimes still exists,[1][2][3]

Perhaps most interesting of all, Nyberg herself admits that the logs are real in the post Jake provides. Her argument is that it was just her being edgey, but even if that is the case, she still would be guilty of possession and distribution of child pornography.

Page Four

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Such efforts to strip victims of their anonymity (often referred to as “doxxing”) are frequently coordinated by means of dedicated stalking sites, like 8chan’s /baphomet/board(52), or Kiwi Farms(53). Social media sites routinely refuse to treat links to these sites as harassment, claiming to only have jurisdiction over what they personally host, but have similar excuses when people’s personal information is directly exposed by way of their services. Personally, I have been inundated for months with tweets from users advertising their ties to Kiwi Farms, shouting names and attaching photos of various people they believe me to secretly be. When I report these, the response from Twitter is that they will only remove the posts if I can provide them with photo IDs, proving myself to actually be each of these random men. Random innocents are being harassed now in an effort to attack me, and the only action the platform is willing to take would be to confirm to my stalkers that they finally guessed the right name if I provided verification.

How then, one might wonder, do these nefarious creeps avoid the consequences of repeatedly, if not regularly, leading campaigns of hatred and abuse against innocent people? Campaigns so severe as to end careers, force people into hiding, and capture international media attention? It isn’t that they’re anonymous. Perhaps their rampages aren’t as high a priority as others? Not the case. Having personally reviewed tens of thousands of cases of reported abuse, first time and minor offenders are far more likely to see action taken against them than high profile repeat offenders.

Link 52: Timothy Craig's Medium - /baphomet/, 8chan's Black Board

Link 53: NY Magazine - Kiwi Farms, the Web’s Biggest Community of Stalkers

Analysis

More attempts are made to conflate the actions of groups that had nothing to do with GamerGate with GamerGate itself, all done through blatantly biased sources. The first link he has, is done by none other than Timothy Craig, another member of CON, and consists of multiple attempts to conflate /baph/ with GamerGate, based solely on the fact that (A) they are on 8chan, and (B) they have covered some of the same professional victims. The second link is from none other than Margaret Pless, a member of Crash Override Network and former Kiwi Farms user who was fond of using the site to dig up dirt on her political opposition. This is on top of the fact that Jake and his associates have done the same actions Jake decries above.

Jake also claims to not be this guy, mostly to save face.

Conclusion

It's coming.

References