Was Zoe Quinn GamerGate all along? Or, at least, its so-called “harassing” element — those who were accused of sending anonymous death threats and abuse to the feminist video games designer?
That’s the conclusion drawn by SpliceToday contributor Todd Seavey, after an extraordinary week in which Candace Owens, the founder of an anti-cyberbullying project, accused Quinn and her longtime feminist ally Randi Harper, of instigating a “cyber-terrorist” mob against her.
It should come as no surprise if Harper were involved with online hate-mobs. As Breitbart has highlighted in the past, the feminist web campaigner — who, amazingly, also claims to be an “anti-abuse” activist — has left a trail of victims in her wake around the web. Numerous individuals, ranging from data scientist Chris Von Csefalvay to tech mogul Vivek Wadhwa, have faced massive, coordinated attack campaigns from anonymous Internet users after tangling with Harper. In Csefalvay’s case, these extended to death and rape threats against both him and his wife.
Yet the involvement of Quinn, who has a (slightly) less notorious reputation than Harper, is interesting. For those who missed last year’s GamerGate controversy, Quinn is a feminist video games designer who claims to be one of the foremost victims of online abuse: the target of a year-long campaign of anonymous harassment that she claims “ruined her life.”
As a result of this alleged abuse — for which no-one has been arrested, and has never been traced back to a real person — Quinn has received thousands of dollars in donations from sympathetic users of the crowdfunding site Patreon. She also secured a book deal to write about her ordeal at the hands of anonymous internet meanies, and, despite remaining unpublished, Hollywood executives already want to adapt it into a movie — starring Scarlett Johansson.
Quinn was even invited to the United Nations to discuss her tribulations.
If that’s victimhood, I wonder what its opposite looks like. But no matter. Quinn says anonymous trolls on the internet — without whom, she would have no book/film deal and a few thousand dollars less in monthly Patreon donations — “ruined her life.” So, surely, Quinn would support any efforts to expose and identify these nefarious, yet strangely lucrative web trolls, right? Right?
Apparently not. Social Autopsy is a tech project that promised to do exactly that — link online abuse to real-life names and faces. Yet Quinn and Harper, both of whom have built careers by loudly talking about the need to tackle online harassment, went to war against both it and its founder, Wall Street VP-turned-anti-cyberbullying crusader Candace Owens.
Owens says she received a tearful phonecall from Quinn shortly after news of Social Autopsy spread on the internet. According to Owens, not only did Quinn beg her to shut down her project, but she also vehemently disagreed with its core goal — exposing the identities of online abusers. Amazingly, Owens claims that Quinn already knew the identities of several anonymous internet trolls, yet failed to report them to the proper authorities:
She told me that she KNEW those people were not bad people. That she herself had been a part of the online group Anonymous, and that it was really just “something they did”. She explained that she would never want the people that harassed her listed anywhere, and that she knew the first and last name of some of them, and yet had never reported them.
According to Owens’ blog post, Quinn then urged her to halt her own efforts to expose online trolls:
She then grew hysterical …. she wanted me to put a stake in the project altogether, never bringing it to launch.
This part was practically insane to me; the fact that she thought that with a simple phone call, I would drop something that I had sank thousands of dollars of personal investment and hard work into, just because Zoe Quinn said so. Her suggestion was ego-manaical.
Why doesn’t Quinn want to expose anonymous online abusers? Sure, without them, she wouldn’t have a Hollywood movie in the works, and she wouldn’t have gained international recognition as an anti-abuse activist, but didn’t these people ruin her life?
Owens says she was bemused by Quinn’s attitude. Her confusion quickly turned to anger when, less than an hour after her phone call with Quinn, she found herself bombarded by an online hate-campaign.
Anonymous trolls flooded the Kickstarter page of Owens’ project, sending a new abusive message “every 10 minutes.” The trolls called her a “Nig**r” (Owens is African-American) and threatened to “ruin her life.” Owens also received abuse via her personal email account — which she says she had not published on the web and had only given to Quinn.
Coincidentally, during their phonecall, Owens said that in an effort to persuade her to suspend her project, Quinn had warned her that GamerGate would “come after her” with a hate-campaign. In reality, GamerGate communities, who have long been the scapegoats for online harassment, have switched from initial skepticism to overwhelming support for Owens.
It’s entirely possible that the abusers who went after Owens came from 4chan’s /pol/ board, Kiwi Farms, or any of the other anonymous communities with a reputation for mass-trolling campaigns, But, for Owens, the timing of the campaign pointed to a different culprit:
To clarify, we had received exactly 8 legitimate messages to our kickstarter account from backers before I spoke to Zoe Quinn. After I spoke to her, we had received about 52 of veiled threats, before we had even gotten up for breakfast the next day. I did not think this was a coincidence.
Alongside the threats came a behind-the-scenes campaign to remove Social Autopsy from Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform where Owens had been gathering investment. This campaign, led by none other than longtime Quinn ally Randi Harper, proved successful. Kickstarter suspended Owens’ campaign, and Harper bragged about her victory publicly.
Speaking to Breitbart, Owens said Kickstarter did not provide her with a reason for the suspension of her campaign. It wouldn’t be the first time that Harper, Quinn and other prominent members of the anti-GamerGate movement, who have many sympathisers among Silicon Valley progressives, have persuaded a tech company to show their rivals the door. Other people, such as 8chan founder Frederick Brennan, have also been ejected from crowdfunding platforms after tangling with anti-GamerGate activists.
It’s also not the first time that opponents of Quinn and Harper have mysteriously become the victims of online hate-mobs.
First there was The Fine Young Capitalists (TFYC), a feminist video games project that was targeted by Quinn and her supporters in late 2014. After Quinn accused them of not paying their female employees adequately (a charge they denied), TFYC quickly faced a campaign of social media shaming. Their website was taken offline due to a traffic overload, and, similarly to Owens, their crowdfunding campaign was targeted. A hacker claiming to operate on behalf of Quinn obtained passwords for TFYC’s online fundraising campaign and suspended it.
Then there was GamerGate, the media ethics and anti-censorship movement that Quinn regularly scapegoats as the source of the online abuse she claims has been regularly directed against her. GamerGate’s original aim was to investigate conflicts of interest between Quinn, a video games developer, and left-leaning games journalists who sympathised with her progressive politics.
Despite Quinn scapegoating them as online harassers, in the early days of the controversy, it was almost exclusively GamerGate supporters who suffered anonymous threats and abuse, which ranged from doxing to death and rape threats. I chronicled some of these incidents in my first article on the controversy. In one memorable incident, Breitbart Tech editor and GamerGate sympathiser Milo Yiannopoulos received a dead rodent through his letterbox from an anonymous source.
The culprits of all these incidents, from the individual who hacked TFYC’s crowdfunding page to the anonymous abusers of GamerGate supporters, have yet to be identified. Whether Social Autopsy has the ability to do so is questionable — but why would Zoe Quinn and Randi Harper, who both claim to be enemies of online abuse, be so adamantly opposed to them trying to unmask online abusers?
Breitbart Tech has been wary of attempts to de-anonymize the internet because of the chilling effect it could have on free speech. We’ve also criticised attempts to expand terms like “online harassment” to cover mere political disagreement. For those reasons, our skeptical attitude to Social Autopsy has not changed. But that’s not nearly as extraordinary a story as the one currently unfolding: Zoe Quinn, the poster-girl for progressive campaigns against anonymous abuse, opposing efforts to expose anonymous abuse.
In my next piece, I’ll look at the dodgy journalism currently being employed to defend Quinn and Harper by their long-time allies in the media. Because of course, where a story concerns Zoe Quinn, gross violations of journalistic ethics are never too far behind.