How do we #StopWebH8? The Curious Case of GamersGate Harassment

#StopWebH8 is looking to address internet harassment. Scrumpmonkey asks for ALL web harassment to be addressed, and looks at the case of



Read the ti­tle again. Make sure you take note of the “S” in there. Typos are harm­less, most of the time, but a group of peo­ple fail­ing to make that lit­tle dis­tinc­tion caused a large gam­ing store to re­ceive so much abuse, “threats and harsh words,” it had to put out a state­ment that they were not, in fact, af­fil­i­at­ed with an on­line con­sumer re­volt. Recently there was a hash­tag used in an ap­par­ent con­gres­sion­al brief­ing called #StopWebH8 and in the light of that I think it is use­ful to go back to October and ex­am­ine this gap­ing crack in the me­dia narrative:

Announcement: GAMERSGATE.COM is NOT Gamergate!

As many of you are aware of, re­cent­ly there has been a fierce and in­fect­ed dis­cus­sion about sex­ism as well as jour­nal­is­tic ethics in the gam­ing in­dus­try. We’ve re­ceived threats and harsh words from around the world and want to make it clear for every­one that is not part of this con­tro­ver­sy whatsoever.

Next year cel­e­brate our 10th an­niver­sary and since start we have been sell­ing games for down­load. We are one of the orig­i­nal down­load plat­forms and we do our best to sup­port gamers so that they can buy and down­load games to good prices. Anytime, anywhere.


Theodore Bergqvist. CEO –

 This is im­por­tant be­cause it shows three things:

  1. That there was a wave of “threats and harsh words” be­ing di­rect­ed at GamerGate and there has been since at least October 2014.
  1. That peo­ple are so worked up and will­ing to blind­ly at­tack a tar­get, but also so ill-informed, they will go af­ter some­thing that 10 sec­onds of re­search would show is a com­plete­ly wrong place to di­rect their rage.
  1. The me­dia will ONLY re­port on ha­rass­ment di­rect­ed at GamerGate when it is neg­a­tive­ly af­fect­ing an in­no­cent third par­ty in a way that is im­pos­si­ble to ignore.

side 111Let’s talk about the first point, be­cause I don’t know how a site like Polygon can re­port on this and not feel a wave of shame when it re­ports oth­er in­cor­rect news. This is proof, in print, that peo­ple in GamerGate are the tar­get of sig­nif­i­cant amounts of abuse, amounts of abuse a cor­po­ra­tion finds it im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore. Now if GamersGate felt the need to put out a state­ment, then imag­ine the lev­el of threats and abuse lev­eled at an in­di­vid­ual. You be­gin to see the pic­ture de­vel­op. Zoe Quinn and  the son of a bil­lion­aire in­ter­na­tion­al arms deal­er Alex Lifschitz at­tend­ed a con­gres­sion­al brief­ing this week, un­doubt­ed­ly aimed at try­ing to con­vince them that GamerGate is some kind of “Cyberstalking Campaign.” How can we #StopWebH8 when from the be­gin­ning the vol­umes of threats is­sued were so high against peo­ple they were so des­per­ate­ly try­ing to dis­cred­it? Once again this is a smok­ing gun re­port­ed on by me­dia that claims to stand firm­ly against GamerGate.

The sec­ond point would be amus­ing if it wasn’t so de­press­ing. GamersGate has been around for the best part of a decade, it is an es­tab­lished and very well liked on­line store. For some­one to send a threat to them they must: a) Be mon­u­men­tal­ly spite­ful and an­ti­so­cial to send a threat at all b) Stupid as all hell as to con­fuse the two and c) Have lim­it­ed knowl­edge of gam­ing. GamersGate isn’t ex­act­ly Steam, but I’ve heard of it and I reck­on a good chunk of peo­ple would know the name even if they haven’t used the ser­vice. Even if this abuse had found the right tar­get… it’s still abuse. There are no “good tar­gets” for abuse (no mat­ter what MovieBob tells you) and the fact that it took such in­ep­ti­tude in a large vol­ume to bring this to light is mind-boggling. This brings us on to point three:

The re­port­ing was mud­dled and con­fused, even caus­ing some to briefly think that it was GamerGate sup­port­ers ha­rass­ing the on­line store.  It seems sites like Polygon took pity on GamersGate and de­cid­ed to re­port this an­nounce­ment de­spite the deep em­bar­rass­ment the im­plied ad­mis­sion of high lev­els of abuse again pro-GamerGate peo­ple would cause. There was also a gen­er­al tone that the name con­fu­sion was some­how the fault of the hash-tag; de­spite there be­ing no ex­cuse for send­ing abuse to any­one. Again these were acts of id­io­cy against not only in­no­cent peo­ple, but against com­plete­ly un­in­volved par­ties. If you read the com­ments sec­tion in the Polygon ar­ti­cle the re­ac­tion is an em­bar­rassed shrug and “Well it seems there are a few iso­lat­ed bad ap­ples” be­grudg­ing­ly ad­mit­ting the abuse oc­curred. The men­tal gym­nas­tics to say that and then gen­er­al­ize gamers as “Terrorists” due to the ac­tions of a few iso­lat­ed trolls is a sight to behold.

This typo con­tin­ues to ex­ist in the most hate­ful mes­sages.  Take this for instance:

gamers gate

Once again the mis­placed “S” makes it al­most hu­mor­ous un­til some­one fires off an e‑mail to an un­re­lat­ed on­line store. This is the lev­el of blind, glee­ful abuse we are deal­ing with and for which a pub­lic an­nounce­ment had to be put out to try and limit.

So where does this leave us? Well since October we’ve have ab­solute proof of a large num­ber of most like­ly non-Gamer in­di­vid­u­als riled up and hand­ed pitch-forks by a me­dia sell­ing fear who have gone af­ter a group of peo­ple they see as valid tar­gets of abuse and threats. If not for a rogue “S” we would have nev­er heard about them from a me­dia that is at this point many months com­plic­it in the abuse of these peo­ple. We have peo­ple in Washington be­ing fed lies by a pair of peo­ple who have also con­tributed to an en­vi­ron­ment where this abuse can take place and who fer­vent­ly white-wash its very ex­is­tence.  If they had a hint of in­tel­lec­tu­al hon­est­ly they would try to say #StopWebH8 for all sides of this de­bate in the face of in­deli­ble in­ci­dents like the mis­tak­en GamersGate abuse. You can’t say there isn’t abuse go­ing on to­wards GamerGate, you just can’t, and there is a wealth of ev­i­dence out there be­yond just this glar­ing in­ci­dent.

I think the first step in stop­ping hate on­line is to ac­knowl­edge the dam­age one-sided, false me­dia cov­er­age can do, and to ad­mit to our­selves that on­line abuse hap­pens uni­ver­sal­ly and is not a po­lit­i­cal or par­ti­san is­sue. It’s just a thought. Having some lev­el head­ed san­i­ty would have made the lives of the GamersGate staff a lot eas­i­er and it would make the lives of peo­ple who sup­port GamerGate less mis­er­able as well.

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John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in en­gi­neer­ing. He writes long-form ed­i­to­r­i­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games me­dia and in­ter­net cul­ture. He also does the oc­ca­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly col­umn about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our in­ter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven me­dia and sus­pi­cious of un­ac­cou­table au­thor­i­ty but al­ways hope­ful for change.
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