We do not think this is a harmless hoax

Jezebel has some new fodder for Christina Hoff Sommers: a Congresswoman actually expects the FBI to do something about Gamergate harassment. Brace yourselves for new videos from the “factual feminist” aka the former philosopher who now shills for a right-wing clubhouse.

[Katherine] Clark is the congresswoman for Brianna Wu, the Boston-based game developer who’s been relentlessly trolled for months by Gamergaters. Clark’s office, she says, has been “watching Gamergate unfold” for several months.

“We discovered this fall that Brianna was a constituent and reached out to her about what we could do,” Clark said. “That led us eventually speaking with the FBI about how they’re handling these cases.”

Wow. Imagine if Rebecca’s Congressional Representative had ever done that.

Or, you know, not handling them at all. It’s exceedingly difficult to get law enforcement to take online threats and harassment seriously. Danielle Citron, the law professor and author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, estimates that the DOJ has only prosecuted 10 cases of cyber-stalking between 2010 and 2013. (A Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that there are 2.5 million cases of serious and frightening harassment each year, though they don’t specify what portion of that is online.) To date, not a single violent threat made against Wu, Anita Sarkeesian or Zoe Quinn has result[ed] in an actual, prosecuted criminal case.

Clark, a former prosecutor, says her office met with seven representatives from the FBI in February to determine how seriously the agency is taking the problem.

“It was disappointing,” Clark says. “This is clearly just not one of their priorities. For me as a former prosecutor, it echoed what we would see 20 years ago around domestic violence.” She said that while the FBI are obviously “committed public servants,” they didn’t seem terribly interested in the Gamergate problem.

Doesn’t that make us all feel special.

Clark is also aware that local police can be less than useful, she says: “We’ve heard from many women that local police are often well-intentioned and wanted to be helpful, but may not even know what Twitter was is never mind the power it can have and the real effects it can have on someone’s life and feelings of safety and ability make money. There’s also the chilling effect on their freedom of expression.”

And so Clark is politely going nuclear: in a press release today, she called on the DOJ to “prioritize” online threats against women. She’s also sent a letter to her fellow members of Congress and to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies—the entity that oversees the DOJ—asking them to put language in the 2016 appropriations act that specifically addresses online threats.

That’s heartening to see. Even if it’s just words added to an appropriations bill, it’s a step. A step is better than no step.

The economic impact on women is real, Clark says, and she takes it seriously as a threat to the national economy: “Many of the women [targeted by] Gamergate had to not accept lucrative speaking opportunities and decline public events where they received threats that were very specific,” Clark says. (Brianna Wu’s company Giant Spacekat pulled out of the gaming convention PAX East due to threats.)

“This is an issue that people are paying attention to,” Clark says. “We do not think this a harmless hoax. We think this has real-life implications for women, both personally in their feelings of safety and also economically as they try to put their careers together. There are very few careers choices these days that don’t have some intersection with your online presence.”

She’s been there herself.

Clark has also been threatened online, she says. “Not to the degree many women face, but when I was a state senator we had to have state troopers go out and talk to one person. That’s exactly why I’m bringing this up. As a member of Congress, the threats leveled at me would get a very different level of priority and attention. That should be available to women across the country as well.”

Threats aren’t just some harmless joke.


  1. says

    Threats aren’t just some harmless joke.

    Exactly. Let’s not forget that Anita Sarkeesian actually cancelled a speaking appearance recently due to what seemed to be very credible death threats, about which the venue (university of utah) chose to do absolutely nothing.

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    Interesting that she’s faced online harassment herself. Is that what it takes to get this issue on politicians’ radars? As she said, there’s already a mechanism in place to address harassment of Congresspersons; is the safety and level of protection they enjoy what is keeping them from addressing the complete lack of safety for their own constituents and people in the general population, especially women? Like the way people who live in gated communities don’t care about threats to personal property in the general community because they themselves feel insulated from it.

  3. says

    Isn’t this part of what we have the NSA for? They might as well do SOMETHING with all that warrantless surveillance data our taxes paid for…

  4. moarscienceplz says

    I wonder if PAX East’s insurer is aware of these knife threats? If they demanded everyone attending go through metal detectors and/or forced PAX to raise ticket prices to cover the cost of increased security, that might make the “It’s only about ethics in journalism” gasbags change their tune.

  5. says

    The (apparent lack of an) investigation into the cyber-harassment aspects of the mass shooting threat made to USU is all the more disturbing when you consider that:
    (a) details of Anita Sarkeesian’s USU lecture, scheduled for 15 October, were posted to 8chan’s /b/ board on 9 October;
    (b) On 10 October a poster in another thread on /gg/ made posts describing where to purchase guns near to USU;
    (c) The posts in question were first derided as being made by a ‘shill’ (the generic term for anyone who makes GG look even worse than they normally tolerate) and then swiftly deleted in under 20 minutes.
    The /gg/ thread was archived too late to preserve the original posts, but the last two are indicative of what was deleted: http://archive.today/kuT3w
    But nooooooooo, 8chan has nothing to hide, and had no involvement in the threats which came to light on 14 October. Considering the amount of doxxing and swatting that they are regularly doing, they seem to be on a path that will possibly end in someone’s death before too long.

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