On March 9th, 2015, an apparent former Patreon Backer of Brianna Wu's posted on Medium, calling into question that Wu had ever actually hired "Twitter Harassment Specialist" Natalie O'Brien. This user's post went as follows:
"Who is Natalie O’Brien and does she exist?
In 2015 I signed up for Patreon specifically to pledge to Brianna Wu.
Her Patreon has always clearly stipulated that the money will go to hiring someone to deal with harassment. This seemed like an important and logical cause for me to support. I’d seen her receive harassment as a result of GamerGate, and as advocate for Boston’s tech scene, it was a no-brainer for me to throw in a few dollars. Unfortunately, I now believe that Natalie O'Brien may not exist...
In various publications, Brianna has mentioned a woman named Natalie O’Brien. She has claimed that Natalie O’Brien is a pregnant woman who she hired as an administrator. I now believe that Natalie O’Brien may not exist and that Brianna Wu has simply pocketed the money for herself.
On the official Giant Spacekat website, Natalie O’Brien is currently listed as an administrator. As you can see, there is no description for her. There are no pictures of her, no social media, no information about her anywhere on the internet.
In this article, written by Krystal Wong, Natalie O’Brien is mentioned again as a pregnant woman who she has employed.
A quote from Natalie is included, though interestingly it was given through e-mail. I approached Krystal Wong for clarification regarding if she had ever met Natalie in person or spoken to her on the phone and received no response.
Here again, Wu brings up Natalie as the company’s administrator, claiming that she is the person who runs the twitter account @GSXOffice.
I initially became suspicious when having a conversation with a local friend involved in IT who had previous a business dealing with Brianna. When I mentioned that I donated to her Patreon, he suggested that I do a little more digging on the veracity of her claims. In doing so, I noticed several claims that seemed dubious. The one that concerns me most is of Natalie O’Brien because it is a purely financial matter and does not involve subjective ideas about politics or social justice. Simply enough, Brianna Wu has likely made over $30,000 over the course of her Patreon’s existence and there is no evidence that the person that she claims to be paying the money to (Or any other person filling such a role) exists.
In reaching out to fellow Bostonians in the gaming and coding community, I have not found a single person who knows Natalie O’Brien. Further, in reaching out to people who have supposedly worked at the Giant SpaceKat games with Natalie O’Brien, the only response I got was from someone who had never heard of Natalie O’Brien or a pregnant employee at GSK at all. When I contacted other members of Giant SpaceKat and Brianna Wu’s professional circle, I was met with ignored e-mails and immediate blocks on twitter.
This lack of an answer is even more damning than simply hearing that the employees had never heard of Natalie O’Brien. It’s one thing to not be aware of someone you work with, but it seems like an incredible overreaction to, instead of simply saying if you know the person or not, circle your wagons and refuse to speak on the subject.
The only person in Brianna’s social or professional circle who has been willing to speak publicly on the subject on Natalie O’Brien is former contract employee Emma Clarkson and she also doubts Natalie’s existence.
Some may be wondering why I’m posting this anonymously. My primary concern, is that as someone who is entangled in similar social and professional circles as Brianna, I’ve seen how quickly she can turn on and leverage her twitter followers against people, both in real life and on twitter particularly in response to criticism.
Secondly, as it becomes more and more obvious in the local community that Natalie O’Brien is fictional, I am, to an extent, a bit embarrassed for having fallen for this apparent ruse.
As for why I’m airing this grievance publicly, as previously stated, I have attempted to contact Giant SpaceKat employees in private and did not receive any response.
My request to Brianna is simple: I’d like to see proof that Natalie O’Brien, the (formerly) pregnant woman who is listed as an “administrator” for Giant SpaceKat, exists. Simply prove to us who have given you money month after month that that the funds went a legitimate cause. I think that is a fair request considering our financial support.Edit: Thank you for reading. I’d like to clarify that I’m not any of the people in the tweets above, they were just tweets I found when looking for information on Natalie O’Brien."—InformUs on Medium, March 9th, 2016
Soon after, Brianna Wu learned of this posting, and immediately demanded the backer's personal information:
"Hey, this is Brianna Wu. So, if you are/were one of my Patreons — please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m more than willing to introduce you to the woman we hired. We can do a three-way call.
Here are some facts. There are litrerally hundreds of journalists, venture capitalists, tech insiders, law enforcement people and other professionals that know her. In fact, the Gaurdian requested an interview with her yesterday. We’re also working on a joint piece with our ample harassment data for one of the biggest news sites in the world.
Honestly — if you had concerns you could have just written me. ❤Bri"—Brianna Wu's Response on Medium, March 10th, 2016
For reasons that should be obvious, the Medium user refused and responded thus:
"Thanks for the comment Brianna.
I am honestly not interested private correspondence and I’ve already tried to contact several people who should know her in private and I mostly got ignored or blocked (And once called “An idiot child.”) I feel that you’re being duplicitous here so I’d like to keep any correspondence on the subject in the public eye.
Additionally, I do not see how a private phone call with me, personally would prove to your other and current patrons that Natalie O’Brien exists.
Regarding the hundreds of people that know Natalie (As in, not those who have received e-mails or phone calls from her) - I can’t say that I’ve contacted hundreds of people about this, but I have spoken with more than a dozen, none of whom are willing to say that this person exists. The only three types of people I’ve encountered are people who have no idea who she is and have no opinion on the subject, people who say they’ve never met or spoken with her and those who say outright that she is a fabrication.Are any of these hundreds of people who can vouch for her existence willing to verify that she exists publicly? Any of her co-workers, past or present? Anyone in the Boston tech/coding scene?"—InformUs' Response on Medium, March 10th, 2016
At this point, Brianna Wu dropped any pretense of nicety and resorted to more aggressive measures:
"Look, I was willing to entertain the outside chance you were legit — even though the odds were astronomical this was Gamergate. But give me a break, this is the adult world. I wasn’t born yesterday. Or, as we said in Mississippi growing up, I didn’t fall off the turnip truck.
If you’re legit, write us, we’ll check your name against our records — and have a phone call with the person you think doesn’t exist. But you’re not legit.End of line."—Brianna Wu's Response on Medium, March 10th, 2016
Not to be intimidated, the backer fired back:
"Again, if there is anyone - a n y o n e - on the planet of earth who will corroborate your story, any of these journalists or law enforcement officials or anyone else, I’d love to see it. You have nearly 50K twitter followers, it seems really strange that no one will simply step to the plate with confirmation of having met this person. No one who is a known-entity and no one who is anonymous will say that they have met Natalie O’Brien.
I actually noticed that you made a tweet on the subject here.
And despite the fact that you have plenty of people referring to me negatively or stating that this is all made up - again, none of them will simply say that they have ever met her. Not a single of the “hundreds” of people who know Natalie chimed in to say “Haha, what a dummy! Natalie is well-known!” or anything of that sort.Every single known-entity will defend you to the death on this issue, but for some reason will stop short of saying that Natalie O’Brien exists. Why?—InformUs' Response on Medium, March 10th, 2016
As of so far, Brianna Wu has yet to post a single credible shred of evidence that this woman exists.