The Legacy of GamerGate

The Legacy of GamerGate

About a year ago, the IT industry woke up to something like a zombie apocalypse. A misogynistic hate cult calling themselved GamerGate was harassing and threatening women - making them flee their homes and turning their lives into a never-ending nightmare. Back then I wrote that a small, isolated group of people in their own little bubble on the fringe have had their bubble burst (...) Usually, the fragrance that comes out of these bubbles tend to be anything but pleasant. (...) "Gamers" were no exception.[*][a]. Later I called GamerGate a disgrace for the whole IT industry[*][b].

So what did the IT industry do in response to this upwelling of hate? Livio de la Cruz[c] has done a great job digging through the net, and assembled a research paper that at least gives me some hope that hate mobs such as GamerGate will not be with us until eternity: Almost No One Sided with #GamerGate: A Research Paper on the Internet's Reaction to Last Year's Mob[d].

It's an excellent overview, and I think he really hits the nail on the head with his conclusion:

Before GamerGate, people might have had a rough idea of how diversity in teams was good for companies and how online harassment was maybe a problem that needed to be fixed. But now I suspect that people's thought processes tend to go like this: Why do we need diversity in tech? Because of GamerGate. Why do need to fix online harassment? Because of GamerGate. Why is feminism so important? Because: GamerGate.

Livio de la Cruz - "Almost No One Sided with #GamerGate"[e]

For once, the hate was so massive, and so prolonged, and so totally out of proportion that the usual excuses for inaction were insufficient. The stalking, the harassment and the threats pushed it onto national television and people were outraged. When it became clear that much of the hate campaign was the work of a stalker ex-boyfriend who had set out to destroy the reputation of one of the targeted women[f], any claim of the harassment just being "a few bad apples" went from tenuous to utterly non-believable.

As a result, people's reactions fell into five categories: "revulsion", "fear and terror", "sadness, anger, and outrage", "analyzing and fighting GamerGate" and "mockery". Note that there is no category for "supporting GamerGate". There weren't any support outside of what the movement itself could organize. Conversely, there was never any organized anti-GamerGate movement - people looked at the movement and naturally fell into being against it.

GamerGate's legacy was to mobilize the rest of the industry under a banner of making sure nothing like that happens again.

Do I still think GamerGate is a disgrace for the whole IT industry? Yes. It didn't come from nowhere. Anita Sarkeesian had suffered the same kind of harassment long before GamerGate existed, by pretty much the same people. The people who joined GamerGate weren't "turned" to it - they had always been there, with the same values, and they had gravitated to the IT industry because they felt welcome there. It was our decades of ignoring the rampant misogyny that came back to bite us, and until we get rid of the underlying conditions that enabled GamerGate to form, grow and sustain itself while the industry wrung its hands, the cycle will repeat. There are still people, such as Forbe's Erik Kain[g] who thinks that being "true neutral" when people are forced to flee their homes due to a hate mob instigated by an ex-boyfriend is a sign of "level-headedness", and not a sign of the total absence of a moral compass coupled with a near psychopathic inability to care for your fellow human.

But as Livio concludes - we're moving in the right direction now.

Not fast enough, though. No such thing as fast enough. GamerGate is still harassing their targets, with the tenacity of the stalkers they are.

Anita Sarkeesian recently did a speech at The Conference in Malmö. For those who wish to move faster in the right direction, I recommend two of her speeches: Hate and Heroism[h], which was the keynote speech, and Online Harassment[i].

I predict that in a couple more years, any association with GamerGate will be a career limiting item on the CV and that there will be some serious backpedaling from here on out.