The ethics tutorials end when dissent quiets
January 11, 2015 11:20 PM   Subscribe

August Never Ends -- by Zoe Quinn: The machinations of online abuse aren't going away - we need to talk about it.
It’s a head splitting cognitive dissonance to be fielding requests for help from friends who have just gotten swatted at the same time as giving someone else numbers on the harassment and abuse perpetrated by GamerGate because someone he’s talking to thinks it’s over and never had a big impact on people in the first place. This entire week has been spent putting out fires started by scriptkiddies and adults who should know better but are too empty to care about their victims. I’ve been trying to take a day to just be a regular person, recenter myself, and have the energy to get back to work with the same enthusiasm I tend to have, but every attempt gets cut short by some fresh, new, horrible news about someone trying to get into my accounts, a new asinine conspiracy theory being used as an excuse to dox people I went to high school with, friends freaking out because anonymous message board people are talking about how to mail them bombs, or just another death threat. At least the death threats have become somewhat routine.
posted by Theta States (189 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
Related, and before we forget how it all started: Eron Gjoni: Hateoful Boyfriend.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:32 PM on January 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's clear that the law really hasn't caught up to our technology. (Though, as Al Franken used to joke, we had Senators that used to refer to a microphone as "the machine." And now Ted Cruz heads the subcommittee that oversees NASA.)

While it's clear that the GG assholes may have lost the public relations war, there's a hard-core group that still making people's lives hell. Nobody should have to put up with the shit that Anita, Zoe, Brianna, or others have gone through.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:36 PM on January 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


The a problem is, to them there is no such thing as losing. They'll keep going until they can beat the game.
posted by ctmf at 11:46 PM on January 11, 2015


Another problem is, they really have no down side. It's easy to say don't sink to that level, that it's not ok no matter who the target is, but that attitude means it's just playing an entertaining game to them. Maybe if someone was going around beating the living shit out of these guys, they'd be able to cry hypocrite. But at least they'd have some skin in the game, which might make a lot of them fold.
posted by ctmf at 11:53 PM on January 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


And now Ted Cruz heads the subcommittee that oversees NASA

oh god don't make me weep
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:55 PM on January 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


["Tipping" derail deleted. Let's stick to the topic.]
posted by taz at 12:10 AM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


ctmf: But at least they'd have some skin in the game, which might make a lot of them fold.

They already have skin in the game, theoretically. A lot of what the harassers are doing is illegal (all the hacking, death threats, the more blatant harassment, etc.) and much of the rest incurs civil liability (all of the libel). If any of it was enforced, it would shut a lot of it down - and don't tell me the law couldn't find at least some of these guys (they sure seem good at it when someone threatens the president or a celebrity). But they seem to aggressively not give a shit, probably as a combination of general apathy, and more cops being on the bad side of the debate.

Unfortunately I don't think things will change until someone does get killed, and the cops get sued by the family for ignoring the signs. These communities are going to keep seething and one-upping one another until someone with no judgment does something crazy to show off or belong.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:18 AM on January 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


Is there someplace to donate money to help her out? Anything like that? I'd really like to do more to support her than just retweet or share posts or whatever.

Such bullshit.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:23 AM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Right, a big FBI takedown that had some teeth would count as "beating," etc. I just don't see it happening. Maybe they'd be a little more eager to act if there was a credible vigilante problem.
posted by ctmf at 12:24 AM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


It doesn't even have to have teeth. Just some indication that law enforcement cared even a little - just a call from the FBI that said "Hey, we know about that death threat you made against *****, don't do it again or we'll arrest you" would likely be enough. A lot of these guys are teenagers or barely older with no record and would probably be easily scared into at least not making public threats or hacking.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:30 AM on January 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


scaryblackdeath: Is there someplace to donate money to help her out? Anything like that?

Her webpage has information and links on the sidebar that will answer this question.
posted by tykky at 12:34 AM on January 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


The problem with the law enforcement angle is well addressed in the article. Go to the police? Well, first you've got to get the police and the courts to take the online threats seriously, which is not easy. Then every document involved gets leaked and niggled to death, selectively quoted and just used as 'evidence' of Quinn lying, and thus more basis for the ongoing harassment and threats. And heaven forbid she try and continue to have a life online, where they will pore over every thing she's ever said looking for more reasons to tar and feather her, no matter how flimsy, and sealion her continuously. That she did nothing wrong in the first place and her ex was a lying sack of shit, simply doesn't matter - she's now enemy number one of the movement, and making her life hell, or trying to get her to kill herself is just an ongoing cause that has not and will not end.

And at the same time, they claim the harassment isn't happening, or it's just all fake stuff made up by anti-gamergaters, or if it is happening, that the people doing it are gamergaters is incidental and no reflection on the movement, which is, of course only about ethics in journalism.

She's facing years and years of this crap while it grinds its way through the courts, and there's absolutely no sign of it stopping - and her only crime is to be a woman who dares to have opinions on the internet. And she's far from the only one affected, it's happening to everyone even tangentially involved, and of course other women who've also become targets for daring to have opinions they don't like.

It's a horrible situation to be in, and there is no solution in the short term. There's no way to drain that swamp of misogyny and hate that gamergate sprang from that I can see. All we can do is try and educate those who haven't already been sucked into the broken-mirror version of reality that a) yes, it really _is_ that bad for women on the internet, and b) we all have a duty as a society to not sit by and do nothing.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:35 AM on January 12, 2015 [26 favorites]


Unfortunately I don't think things will change until someone does get killed, and the cops get sued by the family for ignoring the signs.

Can you point to lawsuits like this? I mean to say, it literally isn't the police's job to protect people (despite possible slogans indicating otherwise); it's the police's job to deal with crimes after they have occurred. That being said, a lot of crimes are (apparently) occurring here - SWATting being among the most serious. As Zoe points out though, she is the one who has to walk the police through all of this stuff, if she can find some that care.
posted by el io at 12:38 AM on January 12, 2015


As someone who doesn't tweet or follow twitter I find this fascinating. And a bit disturbing. I spent a few hours [because I'm slow] reading about GamerGate earlier tonite.

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/gamergate
seems to be not invested but it appears everyone is invested either financially or morally.

I fear all the internet will ultimately be twitter driven eventually.
posted by vapidave at 12:44 AM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know the specific cases, but the closest analogy I can think of are the cases that led to mandatory reporting laws, or the cases that let to psychologists/psychiatrists to be required to report plausible threats to law enforcement. Neither the courts not the public likes it when professionals ignore credible threats of violence, and then the violence occurs.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:45 AM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just to pop in for a second:

Eron Gjoni is the Franz Ferdinand of the current -gate madness; I think history will show his little emo blog entry was just some randomly grabbed "controversy" to finally set off a waiting-for-years posse which would never return but just run across the landscape, ever shifting their goal, ever changing their methods, and just leaving a tide of destruction.
posted by jscott at 12:47 AM on January 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm not sure I'd compare Gjoni to Franz Ferdinand. sure, the GamersGate tendencies were there already and did only need one incident to blow up, but Gjoni did his utter best to fan the flames. He didn't just write one blog post, he promoted it on 4chan and elsewhere and kept engaging and encouraging Quinn's harassers.

Without him, we may have gotten something similar to GamersGate, or perhaps it would've remained at the already godawful level of harassement any prominent (or otherwise) woman has to deal with from geekdom. But I have a feeling that Gjoni's sob story, with all its PUA elements of how you just can't trust women, touched a nerve with the internet's manchildren.

And then of course it all got picked up by professional kulturkampfers like Baldwin wanting to use GG for their own liberal bashing and damn the consequences.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:05 AM on January 12, 2015 [21 favorites]


Yeah, the importance of Gjoni's role in actively engaging and deliberately fanning the flames can't be overstated.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:45 AM on January 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


vapidave: That knowyourmeme link is a large pile of utter bullshit. Not because of what it says, but because of what it omits. If you read carefully you'll realise that there's actually nothing *there*, just a lot of innuendo which does it's absolutely best to paint Zoe Quinn in the worst possible light whilst never actually coming up with anything of actual substance. "But it's actually about ethics in game journalism" of course.

You can start right from the top:
  • Zoe had relationships with game journalists: Yup, but there is *no* evidence whatsoever that she benefited professionally in any way from them. None. Zip. Nada. If there was, you can bet it would be listed here, but there is none, because she didn't.
  • Yes, some game journalists contributed to her patreon: Why? Because it was the only way at the time to pay for a game she had created so that they could review it. Since when did buying a game become corrupt? Search me.
And so on and on and on. As you dig through every claim you'll find yourself asking "where's the beef?" There isn't any. Zoe Quinn is someone who slept with some people and a bunch of people (mostly men) on the internet decided she had to be punished for it. That's the story.

If you want an article from an outside perspective try the RationalWiki article on GamerGate.
posted by pharm at 1:53 AM on January 12, 2015 [29 favorites]


Zoe Quinn is someone who slept with some people

...according to her obsessive, hateful, puppetmaster-of-harassment ex-boyfriend.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:10 AM on January 12, 2015 [18 favorites]


The Wikipedia article is also helpful, if anyone needs more background information. And Gamergate has launched an all out attack on Wikipedia and Jimmy Wales to try and stop it, so you can be reassured the article is quite accurate about the nature and "accomplishments" of gamergate.

I don't know how law enforcement will ultimately play out in this thing. The recent expose of child porn at 8chan (the home of GG's main forum), written by Dan Olsen (trigger warnings galore), has gotten quite a bit of attention. And an 8chan board called /baphomet/ has started doxing, swatting, and planning various terror acts against GG opponents. So I'd expect 8chan to be the first target.

An FBI investigation into GG has been hinted at by some of the women targeted.

As for losing, I think it could be argued they've lost already. Their membership is stagnant, if not dwindling. Their public image was never good, but is far underwater now. They're a byword for Internet hate, and they recently decided to defend 8chan and, in turn, defend the child porn boards there. Not the smartest move when their PR is abysmal, and they'll now forever be connected to pedophiles. For a supposed "consumer advocacy group", they can accomplish nothing positive since no one respects them.

Their future is probably full of further harassment, stalking, idiotic sermons to the choir, and possible acts of violence. Or, if we're lucky, they'll sink to a desperate and quiet half-life like so many other rejected fringe groups.
posted by honestcoyote at 4:22 AM on January 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Like vapidave, I hadn't really kept up with the GG thing, but that RationalWiki article is kind of terrifying. What the hell is wrong the the law enforcement agencies pretty much everywhere that people threatening people with rape and murder are just left to keep doing it? I don't buy this whole 'I don't understand the Internet' thing for a second. If they were faced with such threats that came to a cop, they'd be in the thick of it arresting everyone in sight. It's fucking bizarre, really.

I think it could be argued they've lost already
Well, as someone not in the middle of this, all I can see is that they have got way with hundreds, perhaps thousands of serious crimes. That sounds like a win to me, simply because law enforcement agencies are tacitly supporting them by ignoring their crimes.
posted by dg at 4:29 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


What the hell is wrong the the law enforcement agencies pretty much everywhere that people threatening people with rape and murder are just left to keep doing it? I don't buy this whole 'I don't understand the Internet' thing for a second. If they were faced with such threats that came to a cop, they'd be in the thick of it arresting everyone in sight. It's fucking bizarre, really.

I don't think it's all that bizarre, actually. There's a long and storied history about abuse and harassment aimed mainly towards women being discounted or dismissed. There was a recent FPP that illustrated just how bad it is, with law enforcement often ranging from apathetic to flat-out hostile. "It's just the Internet, I don't get it" is just the latest excuse.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:26 AM on January 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


What the hell is wrong the the law enforcement agencies pretty much everywhere that people threatening people with rape and murder are just left to keep doing it?

Sexism? Every time I see a report about abuse, harassment, and/or stalking, the very first problem is getting law enforcement to take it seriously. There is a very strong cultural orientation toward victim-blaming, and, as far as I can tell, it arises largely out of a lack of interest in "women's issues." On top of that is the widely-held belief that the "free speech rights" of harassers are more important than a woman's right to be free of harassment.

(And, yes, I know, men do sometimes get targeted in these campaigns but harassment is disproportionately a problem for women.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:30 AM on January 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


> I fear all the internet will ultimately be twitter driven eventually.

Not like there's no upside to that. When it happens I'll be able to ignore the internet completely from then on.
posted by jfuller at 5:35 AM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


twitter is where the assholes came to harass the women, it's not the problem. as always, the problem in chan and reddit culture.
posted by nadawi at 5:46 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the interesting, positive side effects of the whole thing is that the EFF has finally (finally!) published a long clarification of its thoughts on how online anonymity and the potential for harassment must be balanced: Facing the Challenge of Online Harassment.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:09 AM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sexism? Every time I see a report about abuse, harassment, and/or stalking, the very first problem is getting law enforcement to take it seriously. There is a very strong cultural orientation toward victim-blaming, and, as far as I can tell, it arises largely out of a lack of interest in "women's issues." On top of that is the widely-held belief that the "free speech rights" of harassers are more important than a woman's right to be free of harassment.

Sexism is the proximal cause, but I think there are some pretty major complicating factors that enable law enforcement to brush off their responsibility: jurisdiction and liability for worst-case outcome.

Jurisdiction in Internet harassment is a problem not just because of the fuzziness of "where" the crime occurred and determining where it should be prosecuted, but also the enormous amount of resources required to track down that where - any halfway intelligent attacker (which leaves out 95-98% of the people pulling this shit) is forwarding their threats through TOR/open proxies. Compounding this: free public Wi-Fi is a thing and how-to set a falsely reported MAC address requires 30 seconds of Googling. In some cases it may be actually impossible to know who sent a threat.

The vast majority of people pulling this shit are too stupid and/or lazy to cover their slime trail, but the above complications allow law enforcement to shrug and say "what are we supposed to do about it?" The likelihood of receiving that response is directly proportional to their liability in a worst-case outcome, however: how does the local police department look on the news if they *can't* claim jurisdiction complications AND the threat is actually followed through?

The reason I say all this is that last year a family member of mine had a couple of friends still in high school who received death threats via Twitter from a boy who had recently graduated their school - they were in protective custody inside 30 minutes and the boy in question was in cuffs within two hours.

The system works surprisingly well in situations where local law enforcement can't shrug off their responsibility, but give them the slightest pretext and that report you filed is going straight into the "lol whatever" bin.
posted by Ryvar at 6:16 AM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


the EFF has finally (finally!) published a long clarification of its thoughts on how online anonymity and the potential for harassment must be balanced

I'm kind of unimpressed. There's a lot in there about enforcing existing laws but nothing practical on how to do that while also protecting the anonymity of online users, which clearly trumps everything else for the EFF. That's fine, as that's the front they're really fighting on and we can't expect leadership from them there, but effective anonymity for harassers means the legal methods are unenforceable. Unless you get lucky and turn over an informant while investigating something else, I suppose.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:02 AM on January 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't say I'm necessarily happy with the statement -I'll wait until it starts yelling at Twitter about how it needs to get its house in order- but I'm very pleased that something from them now exists. At least you can tell where they stand, and from that whether or not you want to donate.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:08 AM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sexism is the proximal cause, but I think there are some pretty major complicating factors that enable law enforcement to brush off their responsibility: jurisdiction and liability for worst-case outcome.

I agree that online harassment adds a special layer of complication, but law enforcement (in at least most of the countries I pay any kind of attention to; this is not just a US issue) has not show itself to be super-interested in dealing with f "brick and mortar" harassment and/or abuse happening cleanly within one jurisdiction. The internet is more the icing than the cake.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:56 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


vapidave: “I fear all the internet will ultimately be twitter driven eventually.”

You're afraid that the internet will ultimately be driven by a platform where everyone is free to comment publicly as long as each comment is relatively short?

That's already what the internet is. That's what it's always been. Twitter is just a reflection of that. The idea that Twitter has one particular obnoxious culture is a complete misjudging of the situation; it's a bit like how a decade ago people would say things like 'television is evil and anyone who watches it is an idiot.' Twitter's just a medium, and as far as the parameters of the medium go, it's a good one: free, direct, public communication.

The nightmare isn't that the internet might ultimately be "twitter driven." The nightmare is that the internet might some day be Facebook driven.
posted by koeselitz at 8:09 AM on January 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Just anecdotally, even when systems are set up to go after harassers (and Twitter is abysmal at this), the individual subjected to harassment is far more invested in putting the time in to their individual case than the authorities, who though yes, they do take this stuff seriously, are already buried in deep stacks of everything from scams against the elderly to online distribution of child pornography .

I once had someone attempt to steal my identity through PayPal. Though I was able to shut that down, PayPal, despite having a system set up to report this and a point of contact who was supposed to be my advocate, had no interest whatsoever in going after the identity thief. They actually made prosecuting him more difficult for me.

They weren't even using the resources they already had in place to verify the identity theft had occurred. I basically had to use the threat of legal action against them to get access to information which led so clearly to a specific person at a specific address that the Feds were able to use it in their prosecution [PayPal was so obnoxious, ineffectual and frustrating to deal with that although my account was a decade old at that point, I shut it down and will no longer do business with them at all now].

Although the Feds were as responsive to us as they could be, I was only one among a continually growing list of victims on one of their many, many identity theft cases.

I don't know how in the world Zoe Quinn knew where potential harassers would congregate on IRC, (gamer haters would probably allege she has doxxed or otherwise harassed people herself), but if she was able to get any kind of concrete proof linked to specific individuals , the Feds WILL act on that. it just takes time. *

I think it's just a given that rooting out these harassing creeps is always going to be something, unfortunately, in which the victim will be the most invested. These women, if they want to take legal action against their harassers, will be forced to learn what is legally prosecutable as harassment and what isn't, become adept at documenting each occurrence and, if take measures to obscure all their personally identifying information, which, as public figures most of them don't want to have to do. And who can blame them? No one really wants to have to go "off the grid" just to lead a normal life.

That's why I am a big fan of employing blocking tools and filters which keep you from seeing the harassment entirely, because even though no woman should have to do that to protect herself, it is much less emotionally draining than dealing with this day after day.

*Which reminds me that I really hope the women involved also will keep reporting on any developments in these investigations, because I think people need to know both what a widespread problem this is and what potential penalties harassers face when they are caught.
posted by misha at 8:18 AM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't buy this whole 'I don't understand the Internet' thing for a second. If they were faced with such threats that came to a cop, they'd be in the thick of it arresting everyone in sight. It's fucking bizarre, really.

Not really. Internet harassment is very difficult to nail down unless the perp is unusually stupid or careless. And then there are jurisdictional issues and a complete unwillingness from ISPs and other companies to grant access to records without a lot of arm twisting.

The nightmare isn't that the internet might ultimately be "twitter driven." The nightmare is that the internet might some day be Facebook driven.

Facebook allows you to block users and set restrictions on who can see what you post and what shows up in your various feeds.

Twitter.... not so much. It's like it's their first day on the internet.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:23 AM on January 12, 2015


Full disclosure: I knew Zoe a bit before GAME_JAM, but not super well. I saw a strange theory last week that she had somehow intentionally sunk GAME_JAM for... reasons? I felt the need to post a rebuttal as another team on the show.
posted by GilloD at 8:48 AM on January 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


Keep in mind that the criminal justice system moves very slowly in these circumstances. As a reference consider Hunter Moore's long campaign of using the Internet to terrorize women. The Feds finally charged him last January after years of bad behavior. His trial won't start until March of this year at the earliest.
posted by humanfont at 9:13 AM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Brianna Wu created a Patreon campaign to fund a position at her company just to deal with this shit. (Ignore the ridiculously high monthly value, that's a one-time thing for this month.) Since, you know, she has a business to run and dealing with police all day is not really her job.

Since the internet is worldwide, this all should really be a federal problem, since regulating shit across state lines is one of the original problems the national government was created to solve. But I'm really not confident in giving the current lot the idea that they should tackle it, since they'd probably end up outlawing everything but what Verizon and Comcast want to see.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:28 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Also, Facebook permissions are a dumpster fire of fail, so I'd really not look to them as an example of what to do.)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:29 AM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


me: “The nightmare isn't that the internet might ultimately be ‘twitter driven.’ The nightmare is that the internet might some day be Facebook driven.”

Pogo_Fuzzybutt: “Facebook allows you to block users and set restrictions on who can see what you post and what shows up in your various feeds. Twitter.... not so much. It's like it's their first day on the internet.”

There is no such thing as privacy on the internet. Facebook is largely built on the premise that we can trust a huge moneymaking endeavor to give us safe, secure data storage – a premise that's clearly ridiculous when we actually come to terms with it. The things we share and post on Facebook are only private as long as Facebook believes that it won't help them make money to share those things, or as long as we get tripped up on some complicated vagary of the privacy control settings – whichever comes first.

It only really makes sense to treat everything on Facebook as at least semi-public. The safest thing would be to treat everything on Facebook as public.

Twitter is superior in that everything's already taken to be public. Twitter's infrastructure is just as bad as Facebook's at deleting some of the more vile harassment – sometimes even worse – but at least everyone comes in knowing that it's a public deal.

I guess the main thing was: it really peeves me when people sneer about Twitter as though it's this unusual corrosive eating away at culture or something. As I said, it's the same as when people used to sneer about television being for idiots. There's no reason for it.
posted by koeselitz at 10:10 AM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is such an important article to read, and so hard to read for the same reasons. Thank you.
posted by odinsdream at 10:19 AM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


GG is yet another reminder that, no, high school isn't special -- humans are really like that.

One of the reasons mefi is at least a little special is because I think Matt recognized this. That regulating pathological human behavior isn't going to be completely addressed by an algorithm or a site design.

A lot of people early on thought that the internet would turn the world into a single small city, and they were right. It did turn the world into a small city. Now we get to discover why having a small lawless city you cannot escape is bad thing.

If anything will lead to the stengthening the unidirectional pipe, it won't be net neutrality or monopolistic ISPs -- it will be this kind of stuff. It is not worth the risk to be a visible contributor because crazy, asocial people just have too much leeway on the internet at the moment.
posted by smidgen at 10:32 AM on January 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


more importantly, the problem is larger than the indie game developers themselves, as academics are also being attacked. the ICA newsletter in Nov. went into detail here: http://www.icahdq.org/membersnewsletter/NOV14_ART0009.asp
posted by zenwerewolf at 10:46 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr: "Unfortunately I don't think things will change until someone does get killed, and the cops get sued by the family for ignoring the signs."

Well, suing seems unlikely to me given how hard it is to bring any kind of suit against the police. However, there is a sort of precedent here in the murder of Rebecca Schaeffer by her stalker which basically provided the impetus for California's anti-stalking laws, the first such law in the US. So, it's not even merely a matter of someone getting killed (other people were killed by their stalkers before Schaeffer), but the "right" person getting killed -- in this case, a modestly famous TV actress.
posted by mhum at 11:07 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really would like to think Zoe Quinn will be able to go home before next August. Not betting on it, though.
posted by immlass at 11:19 AM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


There is no such thing as privacy on the internet.

And yet, the harassers are apparently impossible to identify, and therefore pursue/prosecute?

I've never understood this contradiction. I'm not all that computer- or internet-savvy, so I'd love it if someone explained it to me. I totally understand the difficulty in determining jurisdiction. What I don't understand is why we don't regularly see the actual names of all of these harassers. If they're getting away with all this, it would seem to me that retaliation would be just as easy to get away with, and therefore a viable option. I know harassers have been occasionally identified with some success. Why doesn't stuff like that happen more often?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:41 AM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you know a specific person you want to find, you can probably root out information about them. If you're dealing with a large, pseudonymous mob, the process becomes much more difficult.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:45 AM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sure, I get that it's a large mob, but if we started seeing more of their faces, I imagine fewer guys would be so willing to join in. I keep thinking the thing to do is to focus on the worst offenders (who certainly have internet handles they hide behind, at least) and go from there.

For all I know, this is already being done, and it just never gets any traction because of slanted media coverage or whatever. I just see this contradiction between "no privacy on the internet" and "faceless mob that hides behind anonymity," and I can't understand why that still holds.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:08 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you're dealing with a large, pseudonymous mob, the process becomes much more difficult.

Up to a point, but GamersGate is not quite that. There are leaders and instigators and those should be named and shamed more often. Like Eron Gjoni, who started it all and who I always make a point of mentioning in these threads.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:21 PM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


hell, the restraining order against gjoni is regularly disregarded and ignored by him and yet he remains free. we are so far away from law enforcement taking threats against women seriously it's hard to even imagine it.
posted by nadawi at 12:24 PM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


hell, the restraining order against gjoni is regularly disregarded and ignored by him and yet he remains free.

This is also something that surprises me. I've been aware of the awful stuff GG does since August, but my impression was that Gjoni had apologized for his role in starting it with his bullshit posts against Quinn and walked away from it. I didn't know he'd still been pursuing his vendetta.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:27 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


And yet, the harassers are apparently impossible to identify, and therefore pursue/prosecute?

It's not impossible. But imagine this likely scenario. Someone gets threats from 8chan. Reports to the police. The police get a warrant and get the system logs. The system logs pinpoint the IP address of the person posting. The address traces to a datacenter. Further warrants and logs, and the cops discover the address was used for a virtual private server. Owner of the VPS is questioned and turns out the owner was running a TOR exit node, and has never even heard of 8chan. Dead end.

Or, the address from 8chan's logs traces to Sweden and is owned by a virtual private network. After getting Interpol involved and all the steps required for that, they present a demand for the VPN's logs and are told the VPN keeps no logs. Furthermore, the VPN uses shared addressing so several different VPN users are given the same IP address for increased privacy. Again, dead end.

At this point, further detective work could be done, but there's not much to go on. 8chan is a typical image board and users post anonymously with no usernames. Perhaps the NSA could be brought in for parallel construction, but I imagine that particular demon is only invoked for investigations deemed very important by the powers-that-be. Perhaps the guy who runs 8chan could be forced to secretly run more detailed tracking software, or some Javascript designed to expose TOR users, but that would probably take something like an NSL, or a set of potential charges held over the site owner's head, and that probably wouldn't be given out over what's considered a low priority harassment investigation.

I'm far from being an expert in network security, so there's probably other investigative techniques I'm not remembering or aware of. But this gives you a rough idea of what the police face if the harasser was even a little competent.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:33 PM on January 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


scaryblackdeath - unfortunately not - he's still been very active - giving interviews and encouraging harassment on twitter and generally being a complete ass. i'd bet his behind the scenes involvement never wavered either.
posted by nadawi at 12:39 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I don't understand is why we don't regularly see the actual names of all of these harassers. If they're getting away with all this, it would seem to me that retaliation would be just as easy to get away with, and therefore a viable option.

What "no privacy on the internet"means is that if you put some bit on information online, it will leak out and can be used in ways you didn't originally intend.

This is separate from anonymity, which is actually pretty easy to accomplish if you're even a little bit careful and can follow some instructions.

What you really desire is a way to provably tie an anonymous action to someone's actual identity, and that's where things get hard. To do that, you need access to records - IP logs, routes, etc. And to get that, you need cooperation from entities who really, really, really do not want to get involved.

The big hurdle I ran into when I was being harrassed by my ex was getting those records. Twitter/Google/randomISP doesn't care what a county judge says you should have access to. Even if they comply, the records might not be in a format useful to you, or may have otherwise useful info redacted from it. Look at all the trouble record companies have had going after people who use filesharing - even when they have good records, it's still a full on drag out fight. And those people didn't even take the most rudimentary of steps to hide their tracks.

This leaves aside all of the usual issues with getting the cops to take harrassment issues seriously - it can be hit or miss in the best of cases, and they don't have the time, expertise, or resources to pursue this except in the most high profile events. I do IT shit for a living, and handed the detective in my case lots of really great info, and the prosecutor still didn't feel like it was a criminally provable case.

So, I feel for Ms. Quinn. I really do. I know that wood chipper feeling she describes. It sucks.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:44 PM on January 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is also something that surprises me. I've been aware of the awful stuff GG does since August, but my impression was that Gjoni had apologized for his role in starting it with his bullshit posts against Quinn and walked away from it. I didn't know he'd still been pursuing his vendetta.

I had a rather acrimonious Twitter interaction with him in late October/early November and he was still reveling in it then. If he's changed his tune since then I am not aware of it.
posted by brundlefly at 12:45 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well – there's a difference between privacy and anonymity.

Privacy is the ability to interact with others without the wider world knowing about it. Anonymity is the ability to interact with others without them knowing who you are.

Privacy is more fragile than anonymity, at least in the internet realm, because it depends on the discretion of at least three parties – you, the person you're interacting with, and the organization that facilitates the interaction (your ISP, Facebook, etc – and there are usually a number of these). Since people love to talk, and since facilitators love to make money, it's relatively very likely that private interactions will eventually become public. Anonymity, on the other hand, just depends on putting up enough obstacles to someone figuring out who you are – and in most cases nobody'll care to do much work on that front anyway, especially if there are many people just like you.

These interact in funny ways on the internet, of course; an immediate and popular approach has been to attempt privacy through anonymity: if nobody knows who you are, you can say things in public that you might not even say in private to people you trust most. This kind of pseudo-privacy is a precious thing to a lot of people, sometimes for very good reasons – which is why "doxxing," the publishing of documents connecting an online alias to a real-life identity, is often seen as a paramount violation of the assumptions the internet is founded on.

Of course, the other side of the privacy-through-anonymity coin is that saying things in public on the internet isn't the same as saying them in private. It's only the same as privacy in the sense that you don't suffer consequences; but other people still have to suffer the consequences. If you harass people, if you say things that hurt people, those things will still hurt them. Anonymity can be dangerous, even poisonous, if we don't carefully extrapolate our sense of decency from real-world human interaction and remember that there are actual people on the other end that we can hurt.
posted by koeselitz at 12:47 PM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


MartinWisse: “There are leaders and instigators and those should be named and shamed more often. Like Eron Gjoni, who started it all and who I always make a point of mentioning in these threads.”

I am not much for name-and-shaming personally – I prefer rational evaluations of people – but there are others who've dived in on this publicly, too. Christina Hoff Sommers, whose particular distinction is as a strong anti-feminist "philosopher" quite popular with the men's-rights scene, has taken advantage of GG at a few moments to speak out against feminism in gaming; and she's been just as silly as she always is. Also, at the moment, a focal point on the GG side who has fought to keep his place of prominence, apparently thriving on the attention, is the delightfully awful Mike Cernovich, another men's-rights type who's made a lot of rather ugly comments in the past in that awful vein of "women really want to be abused."
posted by koeselitz at 12:47 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


i just checked - this month alone he's talking to roguestar and defining libel and taking nasty, no name, swipes at zoe, and telling people he's never harassed anyone - same shit, different year.
posted by nadawi at 12:49 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Christina Hoff Sommers, whose particular distinction is as a strong anti-feminist "philosopher" quite popular with the men's-rights scene...

Or, as GGers call her, a real feminist.
posted by brundlefly at 1:02 PM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


And here's the latest doxing / harassment today, this time courtesy of CloudFlare.

CloudFlare has an policy of revealing the names and contact information of people reporting abuse to the companies and individuals who were accused. As a way to combat 8chan's child porn and harassment boards, some have reported 8chan's misdeeds to CloudFlare. CloudFlare helpfully passed all of this along to Brennan / Hotwheels, 8chan's owner & admin, and he then proceeded to post this information publicly on Twitter and on /baphomet/, which is the harassment / doxing / wannabe-terrorist board.
posted by honestcoyote at 1:04 PM on January 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


CloudFlare has an policy of revealing the names and contact information of people reporting abuse to the companies and individuals who were committing the abuse.

but why
posted by postcommunism at 1:08 PM on January 12, 2015


Or, as GGers call her

...based mom. because they can't conceive of a woman that they don't want to fuck unless it's their mom.
posted by nadawi at 1:25 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


CloudFlare helpfully passed all of this along to Brennan / Hotwheels, 8chan's owner & admin, and he then proceeded to post this information publicly on Twitter and on /baphomet/

That's insane. Frankly, we need laws that when something like that happens, the offending site just gets de-listed from DNS servers forever, hosting is shut down, and the owner goes to jail. Can that happen as the result of a lawsuit by the person getting doxxed? Like 8chan just needs to be permanently gone from the internet. What possible purpose does it serve?
posted by freecellwizard at 1:27 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a general warning: Be careful when clicking unknown links connected to this. /baphomet/ is known for setting up links to harvest IP addresses, which they then add to their raid/doxxing list. It's shit behavior, but it's known behavior.
Domains you recognize: Cool.
URL shorteners like bit.ly? Be careful, load through a VPN if you have to.

Screenshot of an example
posted by CrystalDave at 1:29 PM on January 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Part of the problem I've heard is that even if the police can track a harasser down, the penalties are so mild it's just not worth it. What's the point if spending six monthson an investigation that results in nine months of jail time?

And the EFF's response is both expected and sad. Apparently they believe the best solution is for everybody to be anonymous. Their response isn't quite "suck it up", but it was basically promoting the status quo at best, and a couple of their proposed solutions would actually make things worse.

Basically, we're in an environment where there is no sanction, nothing to stop harassment. There is no rule of law, and things are only going to get worse.
posted by happyroach at 1:43 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


CloudFlare has an policy of revealing the names and contact information of people reporting abuse to the companies and individuals who were accused.

*record scratching*

This is where someone should be fired.
posted by odinsdream at 1:47 PM on January 12, 2015


Unfortunately I don't think things will change until someone does get killed, and the cops get sued by the family for ignoring the signs.

Can you point to lawsuits like this? I mean to say, it literally isn't the police's job to protect people (despite possible slogans indicating otherwise); it's the police's job to deal with crimes after they have occurred.


Any such lawsuit would be a non-starter. The police have no duty to protect, and that's established by several supreme court cases, including one specifically about their failure to do diddly shit in the face of a protection order. Here's an outdated article from Police Chief Mag that lists the tremendously small conditions where there might be such a duty; subsequent suits have eroded even some of those.
posted by phearlez at 1:48 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Part of the problem I've heard is that even if the police can track a harasser down, the penalties are so mild it's just not worth it. What's the point if spending six monthson an investigation that results in nine months of jail time?

And yet somehow we have storm-troopers busting down people's doors for even the hints of copyright infringement. Follow the money, as usual.
posted by odinsdream at 1:48 PM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


CloudFlare has an policy of revealing the names and contact information of people reporting abuse to the companies and individuals who were committing the abuse.

but why?


Because it was a DMCA takedown request, and the idea is to be transparent about what organizations are requesting the removal of content. Google does the same thing.

Additionally, Cloudfare as a company does not want to be in the business of moderating content:
CloudFlare is firm in our belief that our role is not that of Internet censor. There are tens of thousands of websites currently using CloudFlare's network. Some of them contain information I find troubling. Such is the nature of a free and open network and, as an organization that aims to make the whole Internet faster and safer, such inherently will be our ongoing struggle. While we will respect the laws of the jurisdictions in which we operate, we do not believe it is our decision to determine what content may and may not be published. That is a slippery slope down which we will not tread.

Today there are hundreds of thousands of sites using CloudFlare and we remain concerned about the slippery slope. To be clear, this isn't a financial decision for us. LulzSec and other problematic customers tend to sign up for our free service and we don't make a dime off of them. When they upgrade they usually pay with stolen credit cards, which causes us significant headaches. The decision to err on the side of not terminating sites is a philosophical one: we are rebuilding the Internet, and we don't believe that we or anyone else should have the right to tell people what content they can and cannot publish online.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:52 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Perhaps the NSA could be brought in for parallel construction, but I imagine that particular demon is only invoked for investigations deemed very important by the powers-that-be.

True anonymity - such that nobody, not even the NSA, can trace back the connection is stupidly easy if you can be bothered. A baseball cap, a downward gaze, some very boring clothing choices and a little nook or alley out of sight of cameras next to a McDonald's or coffee shop or anywhere else with public Wi-Fi. Wireless NIC set to report false MAC address and... it doesn't matter how far they trace it back through TOR or proxies, there's nothing identifying there even if they succeed.

Somebody we don't have useful security footage of used free public Wifi to do terrible things and then walked away, days ago. The end.

The EFF isn't wrong - the Internet is a communications medium meant for maximizing connectivity. If you want to avoid communicating with horrible people on it, then you're going to have to build a gated community on top of the Internet. Attempting to embed identity authentication as an intrinsic property is probably impossible as a practical matter, but even if this weren't the case doing so enables the government to do all sorts of wonderful things like a knock on the door and "chat" with somebody from the FBI, for everyone who downloaded anything from WikiLeaks or read anything written by Edward Snowden.

The real answer to dealing with horrible people? We're sitting in it, all of us, right now.
posted by Ryvar at 1:54 PM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


And yet somehow we have storm-troopers busting down people's doors for even the hints of copyright infringement. Follow the money, as usual.

Please point out a recent case where storm-troopers busted down someone's door because they may have stolen a movie from the internet. This just doesn't happen, ever. The worst you'll get is an automated email from your ISP telling you to knock it off.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:56 PM on January 12, 2015


Amusingly enough, I can't seem to even get to 8chan at this point, instead coming up with a advertising parking page.
posted by Samizdata at 1:58 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


And yet somehow we have storm-troopers busting down people's doors for even the hints of copyright infringement. Follow the money, as usual.

Please point out a recent case where storm-troopers busted down someone's door because they may have stolen a movie from the internet. This just doesn't happen, ever. The worst you'll get is an automated email from your ISP telling you to knock it off.


Ahem, I have an....ummmm...friend who's had that happen to him. Sad thing was, he wasn't downloading it for storage, but was using Popcorn Time.

Or so he, ummmm, told me.
posted by Samizdata at 1:59 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


but why?

> Because it was a DMCA takedown request


that does make sense, for DMCAs. less for reporting abuse or illegal material.
posted by postcommunism at 2:04 PM on January 12, 2015


that does make sense, for DMCAs. less for reporting abuse or illegal material.

Any abuse you report, whatever the category, has the following disclaimer:
If your submission is valid, CloudFlare will act in accordance with our privacy and security policy. CloudFlare is a pass through network that caches content for a limited time only. We do not provide hosting services for any website. CloudFlare will notify the site owner and, where appropriate, the web hosting provider for the site in question.

By submitting a report, you agree to submitted data potentially being released by CloudFlare to third parties, such as Chilling Effects.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 2:09 PM on January 12, 2015


Yep, that is a policy that Cloudflare wrote.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:20 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


CloudFlare has an policy of revealing the names and contact information of people reporting abuse to the companies and individuals who were committing the abuse.
Which is stated in their abuse reporting form and which the person reporting the abuse should have read, but clearly didn't. Regardless of whether that's a fair way to act or not, they were clear about the fact that a report of abuse would be passed to the alleged abuser. In a way, that seems fair, because it makes it harder to submit false accusations. While CloudFlare seems to have no morals, they are pretty open about it (in fact, pretty explicitly state that they take no position with regard to content they enable) and their reasons make a certain amount of sense. In a way, they are being far more honest about what they do than Facebook, Google et al.

As many others have pointed out, the channel is not really at fault in any of this - it's people that are doing this shit and people that need to have the fingers pointed at them. Saying 'oh, it's typical of 8chan and you should just stay away from there/block them' is just excusing and enabling the behaviour of the people that are behind the user accounts. The more everyone focusses on how sites or channels act, the lower the level of conciousness is that there are people actually carrying out these disgusting acts. It's nonsense to suggest that it's all too hard when law enforcement is quite capable of identifying and pursuing those who download media illegally and is quite willing to do both. Sure, there are some that are clever enough to hide their tracks to some extent, but there is plenty of low-hanging fruit there for the picking. By grabbing that low-hanging fruit (and being visible about it), law enforcement agencies could dramatically reduce these problems - in the 'real world' there are always a core of people that law enforcement struggle to get to and a much larger group that are relatively easy to pursue. Law enforcement agencies, every single day, take action against those that they can, knowing they are not getting to the core of the problem.

Well, they take action against political targets, anyway (the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, illegal immigrants etc). They could much more easily and with much less resources take similar action against people who assault others on-line. Why don't they? Because they don't want to and/or because their political masters don't want to. Why don't they want to? Because there are no votes in it and there's no campaign funding in it. Because big business doesn't care, law enforcement doesn't care.
posted by dg at 2:33 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Which is stated in their abuse reporting form

Actually, it isn't.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:39 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the link you provided:
We do not have the capability to remove content from the web. If your submission is found to be legitimate, you will be directed to the appropriate provider for your report
From the abuse form itself:
By submitting this report, you consent to the above information potentially being released by CloudFlare to third parties such as the website owner, the responsible hosting provider, law enforcement, and/or entities like Chilling Effects.
Admittedly, it says 'the website owner', not 'the individual making death threats against you', but there's really no functional difference in this case.
posted by dg at 3:15 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yep. It also says "potentially". Either way, the point is sort of moot - CloudFlare chose to write their policy this way. It's a flawed policy, and they should feel flawed.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:20 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Actually, it isn't.

Actually it is - you just need to click the "click here to submit an abuse report" button and select an abuse option to see it.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 3:20 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's shown. It does have the weasel word of "potentially" and the people who submitted the report had misplaced faith CloudFlare would not share the information with someone untrustworthy.

I have a feeling CloudFlare will change this policy shortly. From looking at their Twitter feed, they're going to have plenty of headaches.

It makes sense to share the report when it involves a DMCA request. Also makes sense if the report was going to the admin of a responsible site full of user created content, so the admins could act on anything problematic. It doesn't make any sense to share harassment / child porn reports with a site like 8chan.
posted by honestcoyote at 4:03 PM on January 12, 2015


Blaming CloudFlare is a red herring, though. They didn't abuse anyone. They didn't send death threats to anyone. Blaming them is the same as blaming the transatlantic cable.
posted by dg at 4:39 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not a red herring. They chose to share names and contact information with a site notorious for doxing. That's highly irresponsible. I cannot imagine how anyone at CloudFlare thought this was a good idea.

They're not to blame for whatever harassment will follow, but they're to blame for helping to facilitate it. Nothing forced them to share this information.
posted by honestcoyote at 4:48 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the problems, from a legal perspective, is that the crime of assault (and related torts) derive in part upon a theory of imminence... that is, that the words of the death threat relate to an immiment and immediate action of violence.


Internet communications transcend conventional geography, and make it to establish to LEOs that there is an imminent threat. Police departments are already having enough difficulty in dealing with the ambiguities of domestic violence matters, where there is proximity and tangible physical abuse.
Conventional police has not proven very good at handling 'intangible' or 'psychological' crimes- ones where there may not be easily available hrad evidence, or direct personal interaction.

I think another part of the problem is that the baseline of internet communications is to toxified as to make it difficult for outsiders to parse harassment from ordinary discourse. Even if you have 'a police detective that plays halo', as is said in the article, it can be difficult within the present environment to distinguish between the ordinary vulgarity and trash talk and harassing speech.

But another part of the problem is surmounting the plasticity of the online presence. Unless you impose some sort of ISP 'house arrest'- a monitor allowing a probate officer to oversee all communications from a particular address- and even that wouldn't stop someone from just using a burner laptop at a Starbucks.

I tend to agree with Ryvar: most of the techniques and technologies that could be applied to resolving this problem are also ones that lend themselves to greater abuse, oppression, and surveillance by government agencies. Do you feed the troll or do you feed the Man?

But I think within the greater arc, it is the PR war that matters most. You won't ever stop psychotic misanthropes from manifesting- even China has spree killers. But much like the KKK was taken apart by Superman and Stetson Kennedy, Gamergate and the MRA movement can be minimized by exposure and investigative journalism.

Open up their communications. Give them the transparency they so ruthlessly impose upon others without their consent. Shine a light on their inner thoughts so that the world may see just how horrible they are.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 5:02 PM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think that Cloudfare is going to have to consider if they can continue to have a business relationship with 8chan in light of those events. I also think that the owner of 8chan should face some significant civil and criminal legal penalties in light of these actions.
posted by humanfont at 5:15 PM on January 12, 2015


Just a couple of small notes as one of the authors of the EFF piece. We didn't intend to suggest in that article that everybody must be anonymous. We did try to highlight that anonymity can be useful for targets of harassment, because that's sometimes omitted in more straightforward discussions of whether to require mandatory IP logging, or Real Names policies and the like in order to combat harassment. But it absolutely shouldn't be the only tool for the harassed, or the only help they have.

Secondly, one of the biggest underlying problems, as we and so many others here note, is just how poorly law enforcement and the judicial system are doing right now in dealing with any of this. I've seen a couple of people understandably critique the EFF piece for not making good suggestions for how to fix this, but, honestly, even though we have a lot of lawyers, we just don't have any historical expertise in reforming the legal system or law enforcement in this way. It's possibly a clumsy analogy to use (and forgive me, because I just invented it), but we're much much closer to the Internet's ACLU than the Internet's SPLC. I don't think anybody would want us to be both, but you might want those two institutions to work together in the future. We just wanted to explicitly set aside the idea that the law has no place in dealing with these cases, and emphasizing that we too believe that there some huge wins to be gained from educating, analyzing and reforming the law's current approach.
posted by ntk at 5:30 PM on January 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


the offending site just gets de-listed from DNS servers forever, hosting is shut down, and the owner goes to jail.

Funnily enough, Twitter tonight is buzzing that the 8chan domain has been seized "by the government", though apparently DNS still resolves at this point. Fingers crossed.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:53 PM on January 12, 2015


The domain name was suspended by their registrar for 'child abuse'.

Since registrars intervene rarely in these things, this seems to be a serious move.

Hotwheels is taking the news well, and is encouraging calm among his users.
posted by honestcoyote at 6:01 PM on January 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Of course they're hiding behind some DMCA request related bullshit, as if it's the same thing for a company's bots to send a takedown request as an abused individual reporting their abuse. What a crock of shit. Here's hoping CloudFlare's policy of working with assholes who use stolen credit cards puts them out of business if this bullshit doesn't.
posted by NoraReed at 6:36 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think when prosecutors catch up with HotWheels he is going to have a very difficult time with his public statements.
posted by humanfont at 7:17 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Of course, it's not just Zoe Quinn dealing with this. This storify of some of @freebsdgirl's recent tweets (Randi Harper) discusses the threats issued to her by an 8Chan admin, about the board which, as admin, he obvs has zero control of.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:35 PM on January 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


This series of tweets from Zoe Quinn discusses the reaction to August Never Ends and the ongoing harassment, including by 8chan/bathomet.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:37 PM on January 12, 2015


Of course, it's not just Zoe Quinn dealing with this.

Of course it's not. Nearly woman I know in tech, in game design and art, every woman I know who has a public face to the internet is running scared. Reluctant to say anything for the response it will get.

I was going to post the other day in a closed internet group about some online drama, and my partner actually begged me not to do so, because she was terrified that it would result in her being harassed. A closed community, no one I know personally on it, my using a pseudonym...and she was still terrified of it resulting in her being harassed. And I couldn't say she was wrong.

When people talk about fears of censorship, bear in mind, THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE NOW. Granted we have a few brave women and men speaking out in the face of aggravated harassment. But we have far more who are censoring themselves because they know what will happen to them if they say the wrong thing. People are terrified of Orwell, when what we really have is more akin to an internet Pakistan.
posted by happyroach at 8:56 PM on January 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


I think Danny makes a fair point: right now law enforcement is *really* bad at dealing with this kind of harrassment & the EFF has no experience of advocating for the kind of structural legal change that would be required. As it is now, we have legal tools that sort of work, some of the time (as a few people have commented above) - restraining orders against individuals & some anti-harrassment laws - but they only really work against individuals with a narrow grudge. Even then, they're an extremely blunt instrument that can make things worse as well as better: You turn to them when you have no other choice.

What we don't have is any effective tools against the kind of 'broad, shallow' harrassment that a lot of people are facing - the kind of distributed mob where many individuals contribute different individual pieces of harrassment over time. This is a nightmare from a legal POV - the expense of tracking down and proving cases against all these people within the existing legal framework is huge, especially given the international nature of the participants, with the more egregious actions often taken by those furthest from the targets precisely because they know they are least at risk of any legal blowback.
posted by pharm at 2:49 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jesus, that bathomet stuff is completely bananas.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:28 AM on January 13, 2015


This series of tweets from Zoe Quinn discusses the reaction to August Never Ends and the ongoing harassment, including by 8chan/bathomet.

Storify-d: /baphomet/, 8chan's Black Board
posted by zombieflanders at 7:29 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jesus, that Dan Olsen piece is harrowing.
posted by OmieWise at 8:03 AM on January 13, 2015


Okay, maybe I'm not getting something but why was an abuse complaint sent to Cloudflare in the first place? Cloudflare doesn't host the original content, it's just a content distribution network used to speed up content delivery and keep down bandwidth costs plus it provides DDOS protection. If you're going to complain about a website's content then that complaint will be sent to the hosting company that hosts a website's content. I guess in 8chan's case they host their own content and thus get all the abuse complaints themselves. So I'm not really understanding the outrage at that. If I send a movie theatre a DMCA complaint that a movie is using my music without permission then the theatre will forward that complaint to the movie studio with information on how to contact me so that the theatre won't be a proxy between the 2 parties.
posted by I-baLL at 9:19 AM on January 13, 2015


I think you've somewhat answered your own question. The hosts of the content are not going to respond to abuse complaints since they are the perpetrators of the abuse. The next-best way is to raise the issue to the facilities and services enabling those hosts.

Cloudflare is not unique in trying to claim ignorance of what happens on their network, and indeed this is often a valid position, but it's not black and white and should involve some level of nuance and judgement on their part in processing complaints made directly to them about their customers.
posted by odinsdream at 10:04 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess the weirdest part about this is that it's a big confluence of technically skilled assholes who know how to exploit systems, whether those systems are people, legal processes, technical facilities, or just paperwork hurdles. They are unmatched when compared to traditional control systems such as the FBI, who probably have, oh, 10 people on staff who know what the fuck a CDN is and how that helps enable rapid DDOS abuses against individual human targets.
posted by odinsdream at 10:10 AM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I tend to think that the weirdest part is that Hotwheels is ~19, and that he came up with 8chan while tripping on mushrooms. But there are a lot of weird parts.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:26 AM on January 13, 2015


Another day, another SWATting. This time, in Seattle. I wish I could say this was the first #GG SWATting in the last *week*, much less the last *month.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:41 AM on January 13, 2015


Wait what. That has to be illegal, hoaxing police. More to the point, illegal and something cops would be severely unhappy with.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:45 AM on January 13, 2015


(What I mean is, cops don't care much about harassment but they should, maybe some assholes using them to scare people will light a fire under them.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:47 AM on January 13, 2015


That's the whole problem, almost everything about this shit is either flatly illegal, or juuuust barely legal, and in both categories it's difficult to even get agreement from authority structures that there is a problem. Or you get their tacit agreement but they throw up their hands as if, well sure stalking is illegal but what can we really do.

To which, internally you're screaming "um, break down their fucking doors and arrest the motherfuckers?" of course.
posted by odinsdream at 10:49 AM on January 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


"I think you've somewhat answered your own question. The hosts of the content are not going to respond to abuse complaints since they are the perpetrators of the abuse. "

Uh, no. If you host something on GoDaddy and it's a copyright violation it's not GoDaddy that's violating the copyright. It's you. GoDaddy just hosts the data for you. The DMCA notice goes to them and they will probably take it down and pass the notice on to you. If you don't go through a hosting company and you have the website on your own server then the DMCA notice goes directly to you.

It's like when people get notices from their ISPs that so and so complained about them torrenting a movie.
posted by I-baLL at 11:05 AM on January 13, 2015


SWATting is illegal and yes, they do go after people who do it IF they can figure out who they are, but usually they can't because the SWATters hide behind multiple layers of security.

My son was at his girlfriend's house when her brother got SWATted for beating some guy so badly at a game on XBox live the guy wanted revenge. Yes, I am absolutely serious. He threatened to do it and her brother thought it was just some idiot talking smack until the SWAT team showed up.

Losing a multiplayer match on freakin' XBox Live was the justification for sending A SWAT TEAM to their house, fully armed, who were on the verge of shooting and killing the family's dogs when girlfriend's Mom heard a noise and ran outside. She was able to intervene, though she could have just as easily been shot herself in the chaos.

They still searched the house to be sure everything was okay, of course (at which point one member of the SWAT team, no kidding, accidentally dropped his loaded gun clip on the stairs), but luckily no real damage was done. Other than scaring the hell out of everyone (and royally pissing me off once I knew everyone was okay).
posted by misha at 11:07 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Uh, no. If you host something on GoDaddy and it's a copyright violation it's not GoDaddy that's violating the copyright. It's you. GoDaddy just hosts the data for you.

Copyright and DMCA are uniquely different. The better analogy would be if I hosted a wiki on GoDaddy whose sole purpose was to plan how to assassinate a political official. If I did that, you can damn well bet GoDaddy's lawyers would be hearing directly from some pissed off government officials, and I'd find myself unable to log into my hosting console in pretty quick order, followed by some guys showing up to my house to ask some questions, and probably not in a friendly way.

However, if I host that same wiki with the sole purpose of fucking up the life of a random feminist, suddenly GoDaddy and traditional power structures throw up their hands as if there's just nothing they can do, freedom and all that you know.
posted by odinsdream at 11:51 AM on January 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait what. That has to be illegal, hoaxing police. More to the point, illegal and something cops would be severely unhappy with.

Much of what they do is illegal, just nigh impossible to prosecute.
posted by Theta States at 12:11 PM on January 13, 2015


Wait what. That has to be illegal, hoaxing police. More to the point, illegal and something cops would be severely unhappy with.
Except that it happens on the Internet and is, therefore, not real.
posted by dg at 12:56 PM on January 13, 2015


"Copyright and DMCA are uniquely different. "

Not sure what you mean by this. The DMCA stands for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and is part of copyright law so..

Anyways, on to the next part of your post:

"if I hosted a wiki on GoDaddy"

Then, yes, "GoDaddy's lawyers would be hearing directly from some pissed off government officials, and I'd find myself unable to log into my hosting console in pretty quick order"

However if you host the content yourself then you would be the one receiving the notices directly.

However I don't understand how that's a better analogy as:

a.) Cloudflare is not a hosting company

and

b.) This wasn't a complaint to law enforcement. This was a complaint to a company that has nothing to do with the content.
posted by I-baLL at 1:07 PM on January 13, 2015


Previously swatting cases were dealt with at the federal level and usually bundled with various conspiracy and computer fraud and abuse violations. This resulted in a very low rate of prosecution for offenders. At a local level the most common crime was filing a false report, which is often a misdemeanor/fine.

State legislatures are starting to tighten up the laws. Starting January 1, California has a new anti-swatting law in effect. It applies to any person who files the report, or causes the report to be made. Penalties include $1000 fine and 1 year in jail per incident. In addition law enforcement may bill the convicted criminal $10,000 per incident. If the criminal is a minor the parents are on the hook. So in theory any swatting in California by the 8chan idiots could result in HotWheels going to jail if the prosecutor decides he falls under the causes the report to be made exclusion.
posted by humanfont at 1:08 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I-baLL; I read your response and I don't think it would be fruitful to continue discussing with you. We're just not communicating successfully. Be well.
posted by odinsdream at 1:10 PM on January 13, 2015


Anyways, this seems like a good article explaining what Cloudflare does:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2014/07/30/cloudflare-protection/
posted by I-baLL at 1:10 PM on January 13, 2015


Ding. Another SWATting against someone who's spoken out against GamerGate. This time, Canada.
posted by CrystalDave at 3:53 PM on January 13, 2015


Cloudfare has proven the value of their services, they have real paying customers from legitimate businesses. Their easy signup model and free tier was a marketing tool. Now this marketing strategy has out lived its value. Cloudfare's CEO should take this opportunity to pivot strategies. the value of the service and Cloudfare's ability to deliver is now proven, so now it is about acquiring the most valuable customers. Time to make sure you've got the Fortune 1000 and premium content sites. Don't waste your time with *chan sites with no revenue and who generate tons of dcma and abuse complaints. That's just a huge distraction for your company at best, a worst it makes those really valuable clients think of looking elsewhere. If it doesn't pivot Cloudfare risks an opening for competitors.
posted by humanfont at 5:31 PM on January 13, 2015


However, if I host that same wiki with the sole purpose of fucking up the life of a random feminist, suddenly GoDaddy and traditional power structures throw up their hands as if there's just nothing they can do, freedom and all that you know.

Seriously. It's not rocket science. Your terms and conditions include a provision that says 'you agree not to use our service for unlawful purposes'. When you discover that they are using your service for unlawful harassment, you boot them off your service. Done deal.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:31 PM on January 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


People get mad about the seeming arbitrariness of Apple's walled garden or how Google's notion of "not being evil" tends to fluctuate with their own financial interest, but I find the "wash our hands of content"/ "Free Speech uber alles" attitudes of some of these providers much more abhorrent. It feels very high school to me. Given the age of the folks on 8chan, I'm not too surprised. Given the age of the folks running CloudFront, I'm more disgusted.

I remember one episode of the podcast in which the mods were discussing, well, moderation, and how it compared between Metafilter and Reddit. jessamyn made a comment along the lines of "growth is a choice". MetaFilter has kept things small and moderated. Reddit has chosen to grow dramatically in search of the big bucks, and has found itself a whole boatload of other issues related to policing content. I can't help but look at these very laissez-faire policies in the context of that comment, & then consider them to be written by people whose goals are cash grabs.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:38 PM on January 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not kidding when I say that it looks like the only real long-term solution to harassment will be the moderation of the internet, at the level of Metafilter or rpg.net, with all that implies. As it is, the net is approaching unusability to a huge portion of the population, and things are getting worsed. The best case scenario is that eventually someone will set up a large-scale walled garden that requires positive ID (probably with AI support of the moderation) and people migrate to it en mass. It's not a great solution, but at this point it seems to be the most likely long-term result.- and this way the peple who really want privacy could have it without bothering the rest of humanity.

So anyway, a friend just got a twitter account, because that's the best way for her to keep track of her company's announcements. She said there was no way in hell she was going to actually post on it, because she didn't need that kind of trouble. This is the world we live in now.
posted by happyroach at 9:38 PM on January 13, 2015


I'm not kidding when I say that it looks like the only real long-term solution to harassment will be the moderation of the internet, at the level of Metafilter or rpg.net, with all that implies.

Another alternative is to actually enforce the laws we have on the books, and draft new ones to cover gaps that are due solely to the medium through which an attack occurs. This obviously would require almost a "moon-shot" level of political and institutional change, including hiring extremely skilled staff to work directly with traditional law enforcement, compensate them adequately, and institutionalize the support for going after these bad actors.

So, uh, walled garden, I guess.
posted by odinsdream at 5:03 AM on January 14, 2015


[A couple of comments removed. I-baLL you were quoting a comment that wasn't about Cloudflare to argue again about Cloudflare. Folks are carrying on discussing the general topic at this point, so please allow the conversation to move forward without repeating the same things you've already said several times about Cloudflare. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 6:11 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


" I-baLL you were quoting a comment that wasn't about Cloudflare to argue again about Cloudflare."

Are you sure? I was quoting His thoughts were red thoughts's post which was quoting a response to a previous comment of mine.

Either way, it is a derail so, yeah.
posted by I-baLL at 7:15 AM on January 14, 2015


Odinsdream, have you not been paying attention? The laws on the books are unenforceable. No cop in say, Burbank is going to be able to track and get a useful warrent against some Tor using harrasser coming from a server in Brazil. It is trivial to set up anonymous accounts for the purpose of harrassment.

And even if a cop was willing to go to the huge amount of trouble to serve warrents against remote servers who have no sympathy or lethal obligation to follow them? The penalties are so mild it's frankly not worth the effort.

The bottom line is that the same system that the EFF promotes, one where anonymity is easy and hard to crack, is one where anonymous harassment is impossible to stop. The online lives of millions of women are basically considered an acceptable sacrifice so we're can have people like Snowden and Anonymous.

It's not that I like the idea of an internet of walled gardens- it's going to be too prone to censorship of the kind that Apple does. It's not a good solution. But at this point this is the only endgame I see that preserves some usability and public life on the internet.
posted by happyroach at 7:23 AM on January 14, 2015


Maybe it would be better to think of it as an internet of greenhouses. Like, say, MetaFilter, which is a pretty transparent walled garden.

Of course, the larger your consistency, the harder it is to make everyone happy with decisions, which leads to more people going their own way and making 8chans (which we could also say is a walled garden, just a really creepy one with scary trees and dirty old men hiding in the bushes), which leads to passing the buck back to carriers for not cleaning up their gardents, etc. etc. It's a very thorny problem.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:36 AM on January 14, 2015


It's not a thorny problem at all. "Stop enabling assholes" is not a difficult position to take.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:49 AM on January 14, 2015


The bottom line is that the same system that the EFF promotes, one where anonymity is easy and hard to crack, is one where anonymous harassment is impossible to stop. The online lives of millions of women are basically considered an acceptable sacrifice so we're can have people like Snowden and Anonymous.

Which is one of the major reasons why I have little respect for the EFF - I tend to be left wondering exactly whose freedom they're fighting for. (Case in point - their annual "Who Has Your Back" survey only has questions about provider/government interaction - no questions about providers limiting the data they gather or ownership of that data.) It would be nice to see them actually consider the negative impact of their policies.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:01 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not a thorny problem at all. "Stop enabling assholes" is not a difficult position to take.

It is when you've set up the false dichotomy of "enable assholes" or "destroy freedom on the Internet". Breaking through that false dichotomy needs to be the first step.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:15 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jurisdiction is pretty hard to figure out on the internet and why permissiveness is better than a lack of permissiveness becomes apparent when people start getting in trouble for bad laws in other countries. There was an Thai-born American dude who got jailed for translating banned Thai works while living in Colorado.

" It would be nice to see them actually consider the negative impact of their policies."

Why punish everybody for the actions of the few? There's a ton of reasons to want anonymity online especially for oppressed groups.

Also, speaking of walled gardens, I don't really see how that would block harassment. Isn't harassment mainly person-to-person? Like through email or phone calls? How would making the internet a "walled garden" stop anything? Did Youtube comments improve when Google tried making everybody use their real names? No, the same stupid comments continued.

I'd like to know how often criminal harassment is prosecuted actually. Like when the offender's identity is known and there's a clear case of jurisdiction. I have a feeling that it's probably not a lot.
posted by I-baLL at 8:29 AM on January 14, 2015


Why punish everybody for the actions of the few? There's a ton of reasons to want anonymity online especially for oppressed groups.

Because the actions of the few are making the Internet less and less usable for a growing number of people. The greatest threat to anonymity and pseudonymity online is the abuse of them, causing people to no longer trust in them.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:56 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's not a thorny problem at all. "Stop enabling assholes" is not a difficult position to take.

It is when you've set up the false dichotomy of "enable assholes" or "destroy freedom on the Internet". Breaking through that false dichotomy needs to be the first step.


If there is anything we should take from the existence of the chans and somethingawful, it's that the notion of what an "asshole" is is quite subjective. It's one thing to leave MetaFilter because folks say you're wrong, it's another thing to have your DNS host tell you that your website's going away because it thinks you're a jerk.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:10 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why punish everybody for the actions of the few? There's a ton of reasons to want anonymity online especially for oppressed groups.

Because the actions of the few are making the Internet less and less usable for a growing number of people. The greatest threat to anonymity and pseudonymity online is the abuse of them, causing people to no longer trust in them.


I don't disagree with that but I am uncomfortable with anyone just shrugging off the flip side repercussions here. Anonymity, when it works, protects the interests of a lot of people against tyranny of many kinds. Some trivial, some fatal. The fact that it's become a critical tool for terrorizing women and other groups isn't something to be shrugged off either.

I think it's facile to just say we only have to enforce existing law to cope with this, but there's a point to be made here that at least some of these tactics are leveraging other problems in society. The entire phenomenon of SWATting wouldn't be doable without the fact that the number of SWAT teams is steadily increasing, regardless of the size and makeup of a region, and those teams have seen more than an order of magnitude increase in usage over the last twenty years.
posted by phearlez at 9:23 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's one thing to leave MetaFilter because folks say you're wrong, it's another thing to have your DNS host tell you that your website's going away because it thinks you're a jerk.

Yeah it's terrible to face consequences for harassment and threats.

I honestly have no idea what point you're trying to make here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:28 AM on January 14, 2015


I don't disagree with that but I am uncomfortable with anyone just shrugging off the flip side repercussions here. Anonymity, when it works, protects the interests of a lot of people against tyranny of many kinds. Some trivial, some fatal. The fact that it's become a critical tool for terrorizing women and other groups isn't something to be shrugged off either.

Note bene: when it works.

Because the evidence is mounting that anonymity, at least how it's structured currently, isn't working. And it's that fact that erodes support. Because how is an online culture that harasses and attacks people to drive them out of the public sphere under cloak of anonymity not a tyranny in itself?
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:44 AM on January 14, 2015


It's that the idea of being an "asshole" is subjective and community-dependent. Illegal things (see: harassment, credible death threats, child pornography) are one thing to ban, someone being mean to someone else isn't. I might be miffed that CloudFlare is supporting 8chan, but I'm not as much concerned about them hosting 4chan. There's plenty of assholery on their as well, but moot ties what he considers the worst of it down, and if no one gets hurt - well, I'm one to judge but I'm certainly not one to prosecute.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:46 AM on January 14, 2015


but I'm not as much concerned about them hosting 4chan. There's plenty of assholery on their as well, but moot ties what he considers the worst of it down, and if no one gets hurt

What he considers the worst?

You mean like doxxing and child porn? I guess those aren't that bad then. WTF.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:48 AM on January 14, 2015


As far as I know, moot also tries to tie down doxxing and CP. If he doesn't, then yes, by all means, shut it down and bug cloudflare about it. But we can go with hypothetical examples here all day. I'd say that most guys posting on MRA websites like A Voice For Men are assholes. I don't think that those websites should be shut down by their DNS. If they start organizing assaults against private individuals, sure.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:53 AM on January 14, 2015


"Because the evidence is mounting that anonymity, at least how it's structured currently, isn't working."

No, the evidence doesn't support that. If you get rid anonymity then you and I won't be anonymous but somebody who is willing to break the rules will find ways to stay anonymous. Harassment didn't start with the internet.

Actually, come to think of it, getting rid of anonymity will make harassment worse. Doxxing is the lifting the veil of anonymity. Doxxing everybody (which is what getting rid of anonymity basically boils down to) will make it easier to find targets and harass them.
posted by I-baLL at 9:54 AM on January 14, 2015


But we can go with hypothetical examples here all day.

Doxxing and CP on 4chan aren't hypothetical, they're daily occurrences.

I'd say that most guys posting on MRA websites like A Voice For Men are assholes. I don't think that those websites should be shut down by their DNS.

So you're saying their service providers have some sort of obligation to help them air their bullshit? Come on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:01 AM on January 14, 2015


"Doxxing and CP on 4chan aren't hypothetical, they're daily occurrences."

Eh, not really. There's a reason 8chan exists. 4chan does a pretty good job of moderating that stuff out of there.
posted by I-baLL at 10:03 AM on January 14, 2015


'pretty good job' and 'not there' are worlds apart; a friend of mine visits 4chan regularly and continually freaks out because of CP inserted into e.g. lolcat posts. (I tell him "well stop going there" but seems to fall on deaf ears).

My point is, no, these cesspools don't have any inherent right to exist and there is nothing wrong with service providers saying "Nope, we're not enabling this." In fact, that's the kind of corporate responsibility so many people on MeFi want to see happen.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:06 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


We have moved pretty far from the actual link in the post that started this thread. Zoe Quinn's editorial paints a disturbing picture of how persistent and ugly online harassment is and how emotionally draining the process of combating it on a daily basis can be.

I noted a comment earlier expressing doubt that Zoe would be able to return to her home. Though Zoe was targeted by harassment in the past that may have forced her to leave her home, as other women have been, I think the commenter may have believed that Zoe is homeless right now. Reading over Zoe's editorial, I can see where someone might have formed that impression from the tenor of her words.

Actually, Zoe is not homeless. She is traveling in Europe right now, on a trip that she tweeted excitedly about to her followers back in August, before gamergate started. She sounds homesick, and she is writing about a topic that obviously brings up a lot of emotion, but she has not been chased away from her home this time and she is not sleeping in elevator shafts.

Of course they're hiding behind some DMCA request related bullshit, as if it's the same thing for a company's bots to send a takedown request as an abused individual reporting their abuse.

As far as the Cloudfare situation, It is important to remember that in this,particular case, the four reports of child abuse on 8chan were not made by any "abused individual reporting their abuse", but were the result of a concentrated effort orchestrated by social justice activists to take down 8chan.

This campaign was spurred after Dan Olsen wrote a post on Medium called The Mods Are (Always) Asleep to condemn 8chan's inaction over questionable content, inaction frequently blamed on the (lame) excuse that the mods didn't know it was going on.

In the piece, Olsen alleges, with what seems like a pretty solid case to me, a long standing pattern of users who call attention to periods of moderator inactivity and then deliberately post objectionable and possibly illegal content during those times.

A number of social justice activists, motivated by the Olsen piece, reported 8chan for "child abuse" as a result.

I can't speak to the legality of the process of reporting DMCA violations versus reporting abuse, and it sounds like Cloudfare handles the latter by treating it more like the former, which I agree sounds like a shitty policy (though not unprecedented, apparently), but that campaign is what led to 8chan being taken down. No victims of abuse were actually outed to their abusers.

Just want to make sure we on Metafilter don't, with the best of intentions, contribute to this discussion with misinformation based on assumptions rather than fact. Those assumptions tend to get repeated online and that only adds to divisiveness rather than productive discussion.
posted by misha at 10:24 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


So you're saying their service providers have some sort of obligation to help them air their bullshit? Come on.

No. I'm saying that service providers don't have an obligation to shut down their bullshit, and claiming that they do can lead to real chilling effects.

My point is, no, these cesspools don't have any inherent right to exist and there is nothing wrong with service providers saying "Nope, we're not enabling this." In fact, that's the kind of corporate responsibility so many people on MeFi want to see happen.

Yes, but the notion of who decides just what a cesspool is is the thorny bit. There are plenty of folks out there who think that Grindr / Tindr et al. are morally offensive and would love it if Apple banned them. Not sure if they're wrong, but that'd certainly be a spicy decision. If "corporate responsibility" means the providers has some kind of upfront policy and discussion with users / site hosts about what they consider to be appropriate, that's great. (Witness the ongoing MetaTalk thread about how the site should handle anti-semitism.) If it means enforcing my personal ethic-of-the-day, well, I'd prefer that they be a bit more conservative.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:25 AM on January 14, 2015


feckless: I'm curious as to what times of day your friend went on there. I used to go there pretty regularly and never, thankfully, encountered any of that.
posted by I-baLL at 10:27 AM on January 14, 2015


No. I'm saying that service providers don't have an obligation to shut down their bullshit, and claiming that they do can lead to real chilling effects.

As opposed to the chilling effect of people being attacked and driven offline by abuse?
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:33 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, speaking of walled gardens, I don't really see how that would block harassment. Isn't harassment mainly person-to-person? Like through email or phone calls? How would making the internet a "walled garden" stop anything

Most likely it would work by having access to content require registration and a real-world identity such as a credit card. If you want to contact a person, you'd need to register. Naturally this erupts only work if there's a lot of people involved. Like, Facebook, Instagram, or Google levels of participation.

It would probably also require fairly advanced and wide-ranging AI monitoring of communications top reduce the amount of work for moderators. We're not there yet, it may be ten years our so before we have that capability. Of course by that time, the berry will likely be so bad that people grab for a solution like the one I outlined.

After all, it only takes so many attacks by bandits before the Taliban begins to look attractive.

As opposed to the chilling effect of people being attacked and driven offline by abuse

Well you see, those people don't count.
posted by happyroach at 10:39 AM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


No. I'm saying that service providers don't have an obligation to shut down their bullshit, and claiming that they do can lead to real chilling effects.

As opposed to the chilling effect of people being attacked and driven offline by abuse?


No; I do think that providers should do be more proactive about handling abusive content. Offensive content, however, shouldn't be. This was why I raised the example of MRA websites, which I usually think of as just being gross & having ideas that most folks don't agree with.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:43 AM on January 14, 2015


I don't think it takes a lot of effort to go out there and see all the people involved in social justice efforts or living in oppressive regimes and understand that breaking anonymity for them would be bad to various degrees. There was a very interesting series of tweets attacking the hypocrisy of the government leaders marching in France after the Charlie Hebdo and all the ways they'd failed free speech in their countries, including people being arrested for criticizing leaders.

The status quo is unacceptable, but quipping "Well you see, those people don't count" while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge the ways that anti-anonymity tools could be used against people targeted by the powerful is dishonest. There's a cost to change and we should pay attention to what it would be.
posted by phearlez at 10:44 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I noted a comment earlier expressing doubt that Zoe would be able to return to her home. Though Zoe was targeted by harassment in the past that may have forced her to leave her home, as other women have been, I think the commenter may have believed that Zoe is homeless right now. Reading over Zoe's editorial, I can see where someone might have formed that impression from the tenor of her words.

Actually, Zoe is not homeless. She is traveling in Europe right now, on a trip that she tweeted excitedly about to her followers back in August, before gamergate started. She sounds homesick, and she is writing about a topic that obviously brings up a lot of emotion, but she has not been chased away from her home this time and she is not sleeping in elevator shafts.


I don't think anyone here has said she is still sleeping in elevator shafts, but to claim that she hasn't been chased away from home and that she's not homeless is just flat-out wrong. From the editorial (emphasis mine):
It’s been 5 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, 5 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.
From the post prior to that:
Putting my family in danger wasn’t what I signed up for when I started programming, but here we are all the same. When I decided to put Depression Quest on steam, I didn’t see it ending with couch surfing away from a ridiculous California lawyer’s PI. But this is life now. This is the new normal for me, and it’s difficult to wrap my head around to say the least.
From Twitter:
I don't live anywhere at the moment this is a gift I bequeath unto people who let me couchsurf
So, no, it's not just impressions formed from the tenor of her words, and this mischaracterization of what is happening to her and others--preceded by an "Actually..." no less--comes across as minimizing and handwave-y.

Just want to make sure we on Metafilter don't, with the best of intentions, contribute to this discussion with misinformation based on assumptions rather than fact. Those assumptions tend to get repeated online and that only adds to divisiveness rather than productive discussion.

As has been a repeated response to your participation in discussions about this situation in general, and Quinn's activities in particular, this is advice that you would seem better off heeding than lecturing others about.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:55 AM on January 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


The status quo is unacceptable, but quipping "Well you see, those people don't count" while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge the ways that anti-anonymity tools could be used against people targeted by the powerful is dishonest. There's a cost to change and we should pay attention to what it would be.

Except that's not what we're doing. We're pointing out that the biggest threat to anonymity is the abuse of it. And the argument that getting rid of anonymity would expose people to danger and harm isn't a counter to that point, because for a lot of people, the choice is not between tyranny and freedom, but between tyrants. As was pointed out, it only takes so many bandit attacks before the Taliban looks attractive.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:02 AM on January 14, 2015


Or to put it succinctly: the people who are being hurt through anonymity are not collateral damage for the freedom of expression, and you ignore this at your own peril.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:37 AM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of folks out there who think that Grindr / Tindr et al. are morally offensive and would love it if Apple banned them.

You can't possibly be drawing any kind of comparison between harassment and services used by consenting adults.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:53 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


You can't possibly be drawing any kind of comparison between harassment and services used by consenting adults.

I raised the example of Tindr and Grindr because a policy as vague as "don't be an asshole" could very easily have ramifications such as the banning of these two services from a platform.

At this point I'm getting het up so will step away. But let me try to be clear: I am absolutely not defending anybody's ability to harass. I am absolutely in favor of shutting that noise down. However, I take exception with the notion of this being as easy as telling services to set up a rule like "don't be an asshole". (The comment that first took us down this rabbit hole.) If you think that MRA-types complaining about imagined persecution and the supposed horrors of feminism deserve the same treatment from ISPs as folks on 8chan calling down SWAT teams on people then we are experiencing the Internet through two very different lenses.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:07 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would be extremely happy if ISPs declined to host assholes, yes. Just because it's the Internet doesn't make it any different from 'real' life.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:16 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just because it's the Internet doesn't make it any different from 'real' life.

The Internet is real life. Period.

I think that thought scares people because of the ramifications.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:30 PM on January 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would be extremely happy if ISPs declined to host assholes, yes.

I don't think the potential issue is ISPs declining to host assholes, but rather declining to host people-they-think-are-assholes-but-aren't. If ISPs can be publicly pressured into not hosting materials that people object to, there will probably be cases where someone manages to get something important but unpopular (discussion of trans* issues maybe?) taken down.

But! That's not what I think anyone here asked for anyway. They asked that ISPs investigate people who are using their services to commit crimes, including harassment.

I think the big problem here is that many content hosts aren't willing to do what is their ethical duty and keep a lookout for people who are abusing others through their services, put an end to that abuse, and turn over details to police as needed. And yes, new laws and international cooperation need to happen for this to work fully, but a serious start would be content platforms actually treating people-using-them-to-commit-crimes as a problem that's worth their resources to investigate.
posted by thegears at 2:59 PM on January 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that the article points out the biggest problem today is a lack of training for law enforcement and judges. Gjoni should have been arrester a while ago for repeatedly violating his restraining order. The people who reported criminal activity to 8chan and Cloudfare are witnesses to a crime. The decision by the 8chan admin to publish names and incite baph to threaten those witnesses is a serious felony which should have resulted in his arrest.
posted by humanfont at 5:18 PM on January 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Except that's not what we're doing. We're pointing out that the biggest threat to anonymity is the abuse of it.

I should point out that I'm not exactly advocating for the "Walled Garden" idea. What I'm doing is looking at the likely future resulting from all this. Perhaps some other solution will be found, though I'm starting to lose hope of that. Possibly the internet will continue to degrade, and a large portion of the population will essentially be driven out of an public online participation.


It seems to me that the article points out the biggest problem today is a lack of training for law enforcement and judges.

That's an frankly, it's seen as a minor problem. I think it's more than one developer who's been told in response to harassment, "Well, don't post stuff."
posted by happyroach at 7:53 PM on January 14, 2015


Eron Gjoni wasn't anonymous when he started this shit. 8chan is just an ordinary website, not some darknet hangout. While it's users might think they are anonymous, it wouldn't be hard for U.S. law enforcement to identify any of the U.S. based users.
posted by humanfont at 10:33 PM on January 14, 2015




I should point out that I'm not exactly advocating for the "Walled Garden" idea. What I'm doing is looking at the likely future resulting from all this. Perhaps some other solution will be found, though I'm starting to lose hope of that. Possibly the internet will continue to degrade, and a large portion of the population will essentially be driven out of an public online participation.

Then we're in agreement. My point is that the argument that Important People doing Important Things need anonymity doesn't make the issue of people being hurt through anonymity go away, and that those people being hurt aren't going to be disposed towards being collateral damage in service to some abstract ideal.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:32 AM on January 16, 2015


Setting aside whether it is desirable, for those who believe that the destruction of anonymity is actually technically feasible, I would love to hear a description of an identity verification system capable of consistently thwarting, say, a reasonably clever 12-year-old. Any takers?

Because even granting probably-impossible things like perfect end-to-end encryption and all the governments of the world agreeing to enforce a single set of laws and standards and the US, Israel, Russia and China agreeing to unmask the thousands of software holes used by their respective teams of hackers - I can still think of several trivial workarounds accessible to a child in any currently possible system, and I'm sure people brighter than I am can think of hundreds more.

Beyond keeping that sort of power out of the hands of people like Dick Cheney, I think it's important for people of every stripe - whether Taliban, Tea Party, or the most progressive and well-intentioned Metafilter commentator - to come to terms with what humanity actually is, rather than what they wish it to be, and slowly and painfully push it forward into the light. The difficulty of adolescence is what builds a solid foundation for adulthood, and I don't see why that would be any less true for the human race than it is for each component individual.

There is a long and glorious history of attempting to address social problems with technical solutions which fail spectacularly in ways both catastrophic and hilarious. This sort of thing is too important to repeat that mistake.
posted by Ryvar at 8:09 AM on January 16, 2015


My point is that the argument that Important People doing Important Things need anonymity

Hey I'll make one last stab at this because I just have no good sense: do you not re-read your statement here and see that it's this kind of snark that gets the pushback? I can only speak for myself, but I am not remotely dismissive of the real repercussions that the current scheme has. When you write this in this strawmanny spurious capitalization, however, it absolutely feels to me like you are being dismissive of the ways the disempowered currently benefit from anonymous structures. They are not some small group of Important People. They are just people. Sometimes they are involved in large things like dealing with oppressive or corrupt governments. Sometimes they're just one battered spouse who is able to get a burner phone for cash and be able to reach out to shelters without the husband who looks at all the mail and credit card bills knowing about it.

I'm not cavalier about the current badness. You come across as cavalier about future badness and that makes me more skeptical of any changes you propose.
posted by phearlez at 10:35 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey I'll make one last stab at this because I just have no good sense: do you not re-read your statement here and see that it's this kind of snark that gets the pushback? I can only speak for myself, but I am not remotely dismissive of the real repercussions that the current scheme has.

Well, you really come across as being such. Responding to the point that people are being abused through anonymity and that this is a serious threat to support of anonymity by saying "but look at the people who use it for good!" really comes across as "hey, this is a Good Thing and you need to be quiet". And the point is that why should they? Why should they sacrifice their safety?

And I'm not being cavalier about future badness. I'm pointing out that if you don't want that future badness from happening, you need to realize that anonymity is a tool that can be readily abused, and that abuse will turn people away from it, no matter how you promote the good it does.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:50 AM on January 16, 2015


... the people who are being hurt through anonymity are not collateral damage for the freedom of expression, and you ignore this at your own peril.
Well, it seems to me that, in fact, the people being hurt are currently 'collateral damage for the freedom of expression' in that the only way to allow people with a real need for anonymity to have it is to allow everyone to be anonymous, including the abusers. There's no viable way to distinguish between people with a genuine safety need for anonymity and those that want it so they can let loose their inner arsehole.

As Ryvar says, technical solutions to social problems simply don't work, at least not without unacceptable levels of collateral damage. Abuse of vulnerable people was not created by the Internet and it's nothing new. Abuse of vulnerable people was created by people. For far too long we've accepted there are parts of society that are no-go zones if you want to be left in peace and the Internet has simply extended those zones and enabled the arseholes to join up in a global way and not have to leave the comfort of their homes to continue their arseholery.

The social solutions to these problems are mind-boggingly complex and difficult and it doesn't help that those with much of the power to shape our communities don't give a rat's arse about vulnerable people, refuse to understand the power that anonymity gives to abusers and are protected in being the only people that anyone in power cares about being abused. Like any social change, it has to start from and be driven by communities and the people in them standing up and demanding that something be done about abusers of all stripe. Of course, that comes at a cost to anyone standing up, because they become the next target.
posted by dg at 1:47 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


In other words, our best hope is for another KT event.

In other words, the argument is that nothing can or will be done. Which means the system is going to continue to fall apart until all of it looks like Usenet. Either a replacement for it will be found or not-either way, the current net is.terminal.
posted by happyroach at 3:58 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, a KT event may solve the issue of parts of society being arseholes that spend their energy in tormenting other parts of society but, if sufficient humans are left, perhaps the hope is that there aren't enough to divide society as it is now ;-)

I don't know that nothing will be done. I know that some things can be done - even accepting that some people being abused is an acceptable price to pay for freedom of speech (which is the US model and, therefore, what mostly happens on the 'net). There's nothing to stop any of us from working to reduce it. I don't actually know what they are - is there any point in trying to increase awareness of how this plays out (eg which companies enable toxic things like ∞chan by providing them with service)? Is it possible to play them back at their own game somehow, even if that means establishing a presence there?
posted by dg at 6:14 PM on January 16, 2015


Zoe and Alex Lifschitz just launched an anti-harassment support group for people that are getting targeted by the kind of crap she has been. The design is a little wonky (I can't seem to select text), but the goal is admirable and Zoe says they've already prevented a few SWATtings and done some other work to help people who are being targeted.
posted by sparkletone at 9:01 PM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


There are definitely social and policy changes that can hugely alleviate this problem: attorney generals and police commissioners making enforcement an actual priority for police departments, laws passed at the federal level to standardize jurisdiction in these cases so the harrasser's police district is immediately responsible for a prompt arrest. Streamlining reports of harassment over online services to local police. A standardized system for fast-tracking activity log requests from ISPs. That's just off the top of my head, I'm sure there's dozens of other ways to help.

But speaking as someone who used to do network penetration freelance and spent a good chunk of his teens as a classic IRC troll I have zero confidence in any technical measure providing so much as a speed bump to this type of behavior, and any even quasi-effective solution would enable so much overt abuse by socially atavistic politicians that I strongly suspect the ultimate outcome would leave the exact people currently struggling worse off than they are now.

If what's desired are actual results there's a ton of low-hanging fruit at the legal level that seems like the obvious priority before we resort to methods that potentially open up *everyone* to greater civil rights abuses.
posted by Ryvar at 8:04 AM on January 17, 2015


In a similar vein, Randi Harper has left KIXEYE and is now going full time on improving the GG Autoblocker & developing other useful tools. It's kind of nice that GG's main targets are going on to leverage the limelight they've been unwillingly thrust into for some better causes.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:04 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lordy, that crash override site. I've heard about being mobile friendly, but it's downright desktop hostile.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:43 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, people might enjoy this gamerghazi thread calling out some recent comments by Pro-GG-I-get-lots-of-harassment-too-and-that's-just-the-way-it-is Youtuber Boogie2988 (Caution: Autoplay). Boogie shows up in the thread and a reasonably productive/conciliatory back-and-forth is had by all. It's a nice thing.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:56 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Attorneys General.
posted by OmieWise at 5:15 PM on January 17, 2015


Somewhat related question:
Has there been any movement on finding, and laying charges upon, the person who emailed Utah State University, threatening a mass killing of students if Anita Sarkeesian were allowed to speak?

How is this threat (and these similar threats) allowed to go un-prosecuted? Is there no way to track down the person who made the terrible threat?
posted by blueberry at 7:04 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, people might enjoy this gamerghazi thread calling out some recent comments by Pro-GG-I-get-lots-of-harassment-too-and-that's-just-the-way-it-is Youtuber Boogie2988 (Caution: Autoplay). Boogie shows up in the thread and a reasonably productive/conciliatory back-and-forth is had by all. It's a nice thing.

I like the back-and-forth in that thread a lot. The tone is super refreshing.
I just wish he could understand that an anon mob is the WORST structure to improve pretty much anything, and that alone should be enough to remove support.

I think of that Twisted Metal dev who gave a scathing interview on that (rather pro-GG) site nichegamer, reinforcing just how stupid of an idea a formless movement is.
posted by Theta States at 12:48 PM on January 18, 2015


Good to see Valleywag is now using weev and Breitbart as sources. *throws up*
posted by kmz at 1:30 AM on January 19, 2015


Has there been any movement on finding, and laying charges upon, the person who emailed Utah State University, threatening a mass killing of students if Anita Sarkeesian were allowed to speak?

How is this threat (and these similar threats) allowed to go un-prosecuted? Is there no way to track down the person who made the terrible threat?


I'm sure it is being investigated, but depending on how well the person covered their tracks it may take a while to follow up on. Or it may be impossible. Smart criminals are often not caught.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:33 AM on January 19, 2015


it's not just about being a smart criminal - gjoni seems pretty fucking dumb, and yet he is repeatedly ignoring the restraining order with no consequences (at least, so far). anyone surprised by the lack of action by the cops/fbi/etc have never had to report stalking, or a rape, etc.
posted by nadawi at 10:32 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gjoni literally threw his career away because it was getting in the way of organizing a hate campaign against his ex. I don't know if that is being dumb as a brick or just mental illness, but either way his freedom is being subsidized by the justice system's disinterest in punishing him.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:46 AM on January 19, 2015


exactly - it's not how smart the dudes are but how little the justice system wants to protect the victims. they just don't care and don't seem inclined to start.
posted by nadawi at 11:02 AM on January 19, 2015


Sadly, we have a new New gamergate thread, which means gg bullshit continues.
posted by Theta States at 11:07 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


isgamergateover.com
posted by Going To Maine at 11:51 AM on January 19, 2015


More on Crash Override: Gamergate Target Zoe Quinn Launches Anti-Harassment Support Network
posted by homunculus at 3:09 PM on January 20, 2015


*spits out coffee*

She called it "Crash Override"?!

Hahahahaha

It is the 20th year anniversary of the movie "Hackers".
posted by I-baLL at 7:13 AM on January 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Zoe's unifying theme ('August never ends') reminds me of 'Eternal September.' It strikes me as a similar watershed, in many ways. She's too young to remember it, of course. (was she even born? I guess.) But she may be aware of it.
posted by lodurr at 11:42 AM on January 27, 2015


How to tell GamerGate's made the big-time in terms of being terrible: When there's going to be a Law & Order SVU episode about it.

Video game developer Raina Punjabi (guest star Mouzam Makkar) solidifies the launch of her first game amid a stream of online insults, intimidation and death threats from the male-dominated gaming community. When a female employee is assaulted at a gamer convention, Detective Tutuola (Ice-T) investigates the crime but Raina refuses to delay the launch, and the cops must "level up" to protect her. Also starring Mariska Hargitay (Sgt. Olivia Benson), Kelli Giddish (Det. Amanda Rollins) and Peter Scanavino (Det. Dominick Carisi Jr.). Guest starring Peter Mark Kendall (Steven Kaplan), Susannah Flood (Sarah Keller) and Griffin Matthews (Leslie Connolly).
posted by CrystalDave at 7:54 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are you telling me that Ice-T is going to wrestle 'gators?
posted by postcommunism at 8:00 PM on January 29, 2015


I will tune in if he will enumerate the kinds of reptiles.
posted by phearlez at 8:31 AM on January 30, 2015


I will tune in if he will enumerate the kinds of reptiles.
posted by phearlez at 10:31 AM on January 30


I can't view YouTube from work, but I hope that's John Mulaney's bit about Ice-T on Law and Order listing things.
posted by Green With You at 9:14 AM on January 30, 2015


It is. I figured postcommunism's reference deserved an audio link as well.
posted by phearlez at 9:20 AM on January 30, 2015


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