The office of Ron O’Brien, prosecuting attorney for Columbus, Ohio, was deluged with emails and phonecalls that “wasted time and resources” following an online campaign whipped up by Brianna Wu, a controversial video game developer.
Wu published a widely-shared article on The Mary Sue, a feminist news source, attacking the attorney for not taking her concerns about online death threats seriously. But in a tersely-worded email seen by Breitbart, the Attorney’s office said that Wu failed to file a report with their office before publishing her article.
After receiving a threatening, anonymous phone call, Wu took to the pages of The Mary Sue to complain that despite ‘meticulously documenting threats for law enforcement’, the Ohio attorney had yet to take any action. She also confirmed to Ars Technica that she had been in contact with both the attorneys office and the FBI, complaining that it was ‘radio silence from them’. Cory Doctorow, editor of the online blog Boing Boing, also claimed that Wu was trying to ‘shame’ the attorney into action after ‘furnish[ing] the authorities with the graphic death threats she received’.
But according to the attorney himself, Wu made no effort to contact them before taking her story to the press. In a tersely-worded email to a concerned citizen, the attorney’s office said that no report had been filed to their office from either Wu or the FBI. The attorney’s office also emphasised that the emails and phone calls generated by Wu’s media blitz led to official time and resources being wasted.
A police report or investigation as to Brianna Wu has not been filed or referred to this office. That is the normal method to report a crime, cause an investigation or seek a prosecution. Brianna Wu has had no contact with anyone in this office or the cyber stalking unit of the city prosecutors office. Brianna Wu has not provided any evidence to this office, including any tapes of phone calls allegedly received. Brianna Wu stated online that the alleged caller could be identified if a subpoena was merely issued yet a cell, landline or phone number is not in possession of this office for that purpose; and the proper method to accomplish that is through law enforcement not online posts.
The local FBI office has referred nothing to this office regarding Wu nor contacted us indicating they intend to do so. For unknown reasons Brianna Wu chose to post something online regarding such threats stating they came from Columbus and it was within our authority. Yet she has never had contact of any kind or nature with this office. As a result, this office received a number of emails and phone calls that wasted time and resources to respond to concerned persons who apparently observed these postings.
A reporter for a local news outlet in Columbus confirmed that the the attorney had received no report from Brianna Wu prior to her Mary Sue piece. Wu now claims that she did file a report, but that it “fell through the cracks” due to “miscommunication”. Her critics contend that media attention, not police attention, was always her primary goal.
Brianna Wu periodically claims to be ‘under threat’ from #GamerGate, a diverse movement of video game enthusiasts that she calls a ‘hate group’. But #GamerGate has been defended by numerous high-profile figures, including feminist professor Christina Hoff Sommers, Reason Magazine associate editor Cathy Young and R. Street Institute analyst Mytheos Holt, as a movement challenging political zealots and unethical journalism in the gaming industry.
This isn’t the first time that the tech media have been led astray by Wu. In January, she alerted a host of web publications to a series of bizarre online threats made by a man describing himself alternately as “The Commander”, “ParkourDude91” and “Jace Connors”. Despite numerous public warnings from observers that he was part of a web comedy troupe who specialised in attention-grabbing pranks, a number of online sources including Buzzfeed and Gawker reported Wu’s story almost verbatim. They had to back-pedal a few weeks later after Conners himself confirmed that he was indeed an online prankster.
Wu claims the latest anonymous phone call also came from from #GamerGate, but the voice recording she uploaded contains no mention of the gamers’ movement. Archived threads from the 8ch.net discussion forum reveal that Wu’s phone number had in fact been targeted by /baphomet/, a community that is explicitly hostile to #GamerGate. As well as revealing the personal information of high-profile supporters of #GamerGate, baphomet posters have also been known known to pose as ‘members’ of the movement in order to discredit it. In further evidence that the latest ‘threat’ is an online hoax in the vein of Jace Connors, the recording also makes reference to “you laugh you lose threads” being “f**king retarded”, a reference to a popular in-joke on the anonymous imageboards frequented by web pranksters.
Anonymous online threats have been swirling around the #GamerGate controversy since it began last August. Despite uneven coverage from the mainstream media, these threats have been targeted against both sides from the beginning. So far, the only threat deemed “credible” by the authorities has been an anonymous bomb threat made against a gathering of #GamerGate supporters in Washington D.C. earlier this month.
So far, it appears the authorities are staying out of a controversy that has been plagued by an abundance of trolls from the depths of the anonymous internet, but vanishingly few serious threats.
Follow Allum Bokhari on Twitter @LibertarianBlue