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Aug 27 2013

What Mother Jones Missed

Mother Jones today published an article about “Elevatorgate”. No, not the backlash Rebecca Watson has been receiving for more than two years now. Reporter Dana Liebelson wrote about the pseudonymous fellow with that Twitter handle (now, apparently, permanently suspended by Twitter after the publicity it’s been receiving) and former blog title who has been trying to inflict harm on Rebecca Watson for more than two years now. The part of the backlash who named himself after the whole.

The occasion of the article is Elevatorgate’s recent forays into “documenting” feminists outside the skeptical and secular movements through Storify. With more people (and more high-profile people) complaining, Storify’s president has had to take notice. He hasn’t done it well (Voltaire! Ergo there are no limits to free speech!), but he is maybe, possibly getting better.

What sets apart Liebelson’s article, however, is that Elevatorgate reached out through an “intermediary” who says they “work with elevatorgate” to give his take on what he’s doing. The only person I know of who works with Elevatorgate is Edie Kendel, a Florida woman who goes by AmbrosiaX on Twitter.

Picture of AmbrosiaX's Twitter profile pic next to Edie Kendel's Facebook profile pic showing the same picture uncropped.Screen capture of tweet by Surly Amy. Text: "Why do you hate Skepchick Edie? RT @AmbrosiaX: @SurlyAmy It's Edie Kendel. Anything else you'd like to know? You seem like a nice person."

If the person who contacted Liebelson wasn’t AmbrosiaX, it might even have been Elevatorgate himself. Either way, the document provided (briefly) to Liebelson is from Elevatorgate’s point of view. From the Mother Jones article:

In response to questions from Mother Jones, a person claiming to “work with elevatorgate” provided access to a Google document in which elevatorgate addressed allegations that he has harassed women through Storify and other social networks—before later revoking access to the document. “We’ve decided this story isn’t for us,” the intermediary emailed. “If you would like a villain for your piece, I would recommend finding somebody who is actually guilty of something. There are far worse people out there than a man who Storifies people’s tweets.”

In the Google doc briefly viewed by Mother Jones, elevatorgate wrote that he does not use his real name on social media because doing so could make him a target of harassment.

Yes, the fellow with now approximately 7,400 Storify “stories” on that account is worried about being targeted for harassment. Yes, I know.

Where this gets interesting, however, is that the Google doc that was only temporarily available to Liebelson is still public, or another copy of it is (pdf in case it gets locked down). Some other choice bits:

Q: What do you use Storify for?

A: To collate public tweets. Particularly to collate evidence of wrong doings, for example, violent rhetoric.

This, of course, is why he does things like Storifying people talking about vegan food. It’s not harassment. Vegan food is a known deadly toxin.

Q: Is it true that you collect hundreds of Tweets from women involved in atheist and feminist communities? Why do you focus on them?

A: I collect tweets from a wide variety of people, including people who I follow, and follow me back on twitter. Funny conversations. Interesting conversations etc. There is no focused effort to “taunt” specific women. Some may appear in more stories than others, but that’s because they tweet a lot and are central figures in the communities they represent. They are publishing their views publicly. Just like any other medium, they can’t expect not to be commented on in a public space.

That’s why he calls Surly Amy “Lamey” and Melody Hensley “Smellody”. That’s why he talks about “madfems” and “fadfems”. But there’s no intent to taunt.

It’s why he does this having called himself at various times “Brave Hero” and “The Saviour of JREF”. But there’s no focus.

There’s more, about how he can’t be stalking people because he’s just monitoring what they do in public, as though stalkers didn’t get obsessive about that until their targets start hiding, as though Elevatorgate laid off of Jen when she went quiet or Melody when she made her account private. But there’s something more interesting to note here.

Screen shot of Storify page showing link: http://bit.ly/elevatorgate-storify

This is Elevatorgate’s Storify account (“BH” for “Brave Hero”), though it isn’t his Elevatorgate Storify account. I can tell because the website listed there () links to the Google doc I’ve just been quoting from (pdf in case this changes). So we now know that self-styled “journalist”, Elevatorgate is the person behind the @wiscfi “parody” Twitter feed. That was the feed that was directing people away from the HashSpamKiller during CFI’s Women in Secularism 2 conference. I’m not sure how interfering with a conference is supposed to be journalism. The account has since been suspended based on complaints, just like Elevatorgate’s main account is.

Then there’s this account.

Screen shot of the wisCFI storify. Links in text.

Yes, having one Twitter account pretending to be the Center for Inquiry wasn’t enough. He needed two, both of them Storifying. This one is connected to the @Centre4Inquiry Twitter account. This one was also active during the conference. If you scroll back on the Storify to May, you’ll see that this account was using CFI’s actual logo during the conference, when it tweeted that those trying to follow the conference should use this blog to catch up.

That is not the Women in Secularism website. It’s a site that, like the Storify accounts, is used to post pictures and ugly commentary about the women Elevatorgate targets and the (not-so-incidentally feminist) men who work with them. That site, at its old address, revealed one detail that will no longer surprise anyone. The blog is authored by Elevatorgate.

Then there’s his @GraniteBench Twitter account (named after the American Atheists installation in Florida), which was suspended until today. That leads to another Storify account, which links back to the Elevatorgate blog and another Twitter account that is apparently being held in reserve.

So, if you thought one hashtag-camping, name-calling, obsessively Storifying account was bad–well, you’re right about that, but it isn’t anywhere near the whole story. The bits I’ve shown here aren’t likely close to the whole story either. If you’re a reporter looking to cover Elevatorgate properly, there’s some digging to be done. The results aren’t going to be pretty either.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    A Hermit

    Wow. And I thought I was spending too much time online…

  2. 2
    Eneraldo Carneiro

    Doxxing accusations in 10, 9, 8…

  3. 3
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Edie Kendel is making the claim that the blockbot is to blame for getting noted harasser of transgendered women, Cathy Brennan, suspended from Twitter.

  4. 4
    oolon

    Doxxing … Edie called me a doxxer, but she needs to deal with her own side first ->
    http://skepdirt.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/surly-amy-doesnt-like-to-be-called-out/

  5. 5
    oolon

    @Goodbye Enemy Janine, Edie/AmbrosiaX used to describe herself as the “slightly delusional” defender of the #bravehero … That is an understatement given the Bug was blocked weeks ago by the majority of the users of @the_block_bot… As much as I’d like to say the bot suspended her and peed her off, given I’m on her hate site as a MRA and harasser of women, it ain’t the truth.

  6. 6
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    It would seem that the ask.fm spam that Brennan unleashed was the reason why she was suspended.

  7. 7
    axelblaster

    the guy is a machine

  8. 8
    PZ Myers

    Huh. I got the impression from the MoJo article that the document was an objective analysis by a journalist…but it’s just AmbrosiaX, a harasser herself, assembling apologetics for elevatorgate? Not impressed at all.

  9. 9
    smhll

    The quote below deserves a double double double double facepalm.

    The assumption is that those I disagree with/quote are completely harmless. While I’m sure many of them are, it’s always better to be safe with one’s identity online when you’re the focus of so much attention.

  10. 10
    Raging Bee

    I’m starting to smell another David Mabus…

  11. 11
    M. A. Melby

    What the hell was that “skepdirt” site?

    *takes shower*

  12. 12
    Bjarte Foshaug

    Obsessively storifying people’s tweets is only “documenting” just like “We know where you live”, or “Nice store you got there. Would be a real shame if something happened to it”, or “Is that your family? Nice family” are just innocent observations. The real message being “We’re watching your every move, and are ready to attack at a moment’s notice”.

  13. 13
    oolon

    @M.A.Melby, whoever it is it seems to like me, I’m a drunk ElevatorGATE doxxing/suspending violent hit man hiring psychopath. Hardly anyone reads it though, I get a handful of click throughs from there. I see me linking to the “dox” of Edie has instantly pushed that to most popular article :-)

  14. 14
    Dunc

    Just how much free time does this idiot have?

    Just like any other medium, they can’t expect not to be commented on in a public space.

    So, let’s say I were to photograph you every time you leave the house (if you ever leave the house), and then send those photographs to you… You’d be fine with that, yes? After all, you’re in a public space…

  15. 15
    Didgya

    So @elevatorgate is obsessed hmmm. When someone holds up a mirror and you don’t like what you see. Do you break the mirror or change the reflection?

  16. 16
    Marcus Ranum

    It ought to be fairly easy to use standard investigative techniques to figure out who these people actually are. If anyone is interested in learning how to do this, contact me offline.

  17. 17
    Kevin Schelley

    Too bad EG wasn’t obsessed with sharing pictures of neat, old-timey elevators.

  18. 18
    embertine

    YIKES.

    How does one run an actual life whilst spending this much time obsessing over strangers online? I mean, not just having a career, but even basic stuff like doing the dishes? I have barely enough time to get the laundry done and my worst computer crimes are playing World of Warcraft for a few hours.

  19. 19
    A Hermit

    kevin @ 16

    Too bad EG wasn’t obsessed with sharing pictures of neat, old-timey elevators.

    You mean like these?

    Vintage Elevators

  20. 20
    Anne Marie

    So @elevatorgate is obsessed hmmm. When someone holds up a mirror and you don’t like what you see. Do you break the mirror or change the reflection?

    @Didgya, I’m seeing you as the world’s worst police officer:
    “My ex is obsessed with me! He’s been following me around for weeks and sending me creepy messages! I saved them all! Here, look!”
    “Uh, HE’S obsessed? Who’s saving all the messages? Trying looking in the mirror and not projecting things onto other people. Run along, little lady.”

  21. 21

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