Following our report on Google Ideas’ bizarre decision to invite several online abusers to a discussion about preventing online abuse, the organisation’s employees have begun to distance themselves from some of the individuals mentioned in our article.
Izzie Zahorian, a designer and researcher for Google Ideas, whose Twitter bio says she is “thinking about how to make the web a safer and more inclusive space,” recently removed a number of retweets from attendees Randi Harper and Zoe Quinn. An archive of her timeline from one day ago reveals a number of tweets from both individuals, but a glance at the same timeline today shows the tweets have been un-retweeted.
Zahorian had previously retweeted messages from Randi Harper that mocked onlookers’ concerns at her track record of abuse. They, too, have disappeared from Zahorian’s retweets.
If Zahorian is sincere about her efforts to make the web a “safer” place, she is indeed wise to distance herself from these two activists. Harper, in particular, is notorious for her two-faced attitude to online abuse. As we have reported at length, Harper has been at the centre of some of the most vicious and sustained campaigns of abuse on the web.
Just one day before the Google Ideas event, she boasted about “destroying men for sport.” This wasn’t an exaggeration: a number of her victims, such as academic Vivek Wadhwa, software engineer Roberto Rosario and data scientist Chris von Csefalvay endured horrendous personal upheaval due to Harper’s protracted campaigns of abuse, which extend well beyond the internet and into their offline lives.
It’s hard to know what Google Ideas were thinking when they extended invitations to Harper and other online abusers, including a feminist game developer who gloated about a DDoS attack on a rival feminist games project and a journalist who helped trigger the high-profile public shaming of “comet scientist” Dr. Matt Taylor.
The decision has led to a social media storm, taking a considerable toll on the Google Ideas’ public image. The #GoogleAbuse hashtag, started by abuse victims and their supporters as a means to protest the invitations, has been tweeted almost 12,000 times in just two days.
This episode serves as a cautionary tale for any organisation looking to delve into the topic of online abuse. With so many online abusers engaging in doublespeak – claiming the mantle of anti-abuse activist as a means to cover up their own trail of online victims – choosing whom to invite can be treacherous.
On this particular issue, organisations should take care to closely research the background of anyone claiming to be a “campaigner against online abuse.” They may be shocked at what they find.