In a recent op-ed on The Hill, Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) became the latest victim of anti-GamerGate propaganda, spouting their easily debunked lines as talking points and demanding that the Department of Justice intervene to hold trolls accountable for their online threats. Of course, she links all such threats to GamerGate, because no one, male or female, EVER received a rape or death threat prior to Zoe Quinn’s exposed infidelity.
In Which We Learn That Even Members Of Congress Are Allergic To Research
On The Hill, self-described as “a top US political website, read by the White House and more lawmakers than any other site—vital for policy, politics and election campaigns,” Rep. Clark had her say about GamerGate. In an op-ed titled “Sexism in Cyberspace,” Clark regurgitated some of the most widely debunked talking points spouted by the anti-GamerGate side, some of which even they aren’t even using anymore. Why Rep. Clark declined to have her aides fact-check her piece prior to submission is anyone’s guess.
Rep. Clark begins her missive with the language of emotion:
The threats made against women under the guise of the online campaign known as Gamergate are terrifying. Targeted women have had their personal information publicly disclosed – including their home addresses – and they have been threatened with murder, rape, and all manner of violence. They have even been promised “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if they participate in professional events.
While I can’t speak to how terrifying a threat is when you can close your laptop and be done with it, I was amused by the reference to Anita Sarkeesian’s cancellation at Utah State University. First and foremost, at no point did the threat itself mention GamerGate, or even the word “game.” This link was only made by anti-GamerGate, who conveniently blamed GamerGate for the threat without any evidence whatsoever. Meanwhile, local police determined that the threat wasn’t credible and declined to even increase their presence at the debate as a result. They also declined to violate the rights of Utah residents by preventing private citizens from legally carrying guns, the excuse which Anita used to cancel her debate (and to date, she has yet to appear at a debate, choosing only to give unopposed speeches). Convenient how that worked out, isn’t it?
While Gamergate has garnered headlines, the truth is that every day is a dangerous day for women online. Journalists, academics, and other professionals who dare to express an opinion – especially a feminist one –are routinely attacked.
Anyone expressing any opinion is going to be “attacked” (in this example, “attacked” means, “to be disagreed with”). Welcome to the Internet.
Young women are deciding not to pursue jobs in technology to avoid the crosshairs of men who don’t think they belong. Women who are being asked to run for public office are choosing to stay on the sidelines once they see the online abuse suffered by their peers.
Easily debunked: we have never had more women in public office than right now. We have never had more women in technology, either (note the increase in Table 1), and there are companies giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to get women in the technology sector. Whether they will actually want to pursue this is another matter, as studies have shown women are far less inclined to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, even when their degree is in a related field.
Presumably Rep. Clark also has access to this information, unless members of Congress are not allowed to use Google.
Women experience sexually explicit or threatening messages 27 times more than men, and for women of color and LGBT women, the rate is even higher.
This could also be expressed as: “The more unique I am, the more specific the threats become!”
In 2006, Congress recognized the real-life dangers of online harassment and amended the Violence Against Women Act to make online threats of death or serious injury illegal. Yet, even though it is a federal crime, federal prosecutors pursued only 10 of the estimated 2.5 million cases of cyber-stalking between 2010 and 2013.
Of course, money and personnel are always needed to investigate crimes, but the truth is, online threats and harassment of women are just not a law enforcement priority.
Rep. Clark is careful to omit the obvious: these crimes are ridiculously hard to investigate and prosecute. Unlike your standard television police procedurals like NCIS and CSI, there isn’t a near-omniscient hacker chilling in the police station, just waiting to pull up all kinds of personal information on whoever you like. First of all, that kind of investigation requires a warrant, which is damn hard to get when you don’t know or where the person is (or whether they are even within your jurisdiction). Second, those brilliant, attractive hackers on screen are largely a myth anyway. Real hacking isn’t the work of minutes, but of hours and days. That doesn’t make for good television, though.
After speaking with the FBI, other law enforcement agencies, and women who have experienced these threats firsthand, it’s clear that nothing is going to change until we stop thinking about these crimes as harmless hoaxes and recognize the chilling effect these crimes have on women and the economy.
Ugh. The reason the FBI and those other law enforcement agencies you spoke to are treating these crimes like harmless hoaxes is because they largely are.
Just last week, someone threatened to bomb an industry conference if Brianna Wu, a game developer, who has courageously stood up to online death threats, participated. This threat was reported, but unbelievably it did not violate the site’s terms of service.
Ah, my favorite part. If there is any part of this op-ed that screams “COMPLETELY UNRESEARCHED!“, it’s this part. Clark is referring to the threat against the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East purported by Brianna Wu. He attempted to show that GamerGate was threatening to release sarin gas in PAX: except that the opposite was true. It was anti-GG making the threat against gamers.
The sad thing is, this hoax was exposed almost immediately. There’s no way that even a minuscule amount of research would have failed to turn this up. Rep. Clark, this is shameful.
Her Solution? Bring In The Department Of Justice
Rep. Clark wants the Department of Justice to be more proactive in policing this kind of behavior online:
That’s why I have asked my colleagues in Congress to join me in calling on the Department of Justice to intensify their efforts to investigate and prosecute the federal laws that criminalize the worst of this behavior.
Never mind the fact she already talked to the FBI (which is part of the Department of Justice, if you were unaware). Never mind that she was almost certainly told that these crimes are, as she stated previously, “harmless hoaxes.” The solution is more prosecution! I wonder how that will be funded…
The federal government is not responsible for policing the Internet, but it is responsible for protecting the women who are being threatened with rape and murder in violation of existing federal law.
So the federal government isn’t responsible for policing the Internet, but you want the federal government to police the Internet. Got it.
Even for a congresswoman who only entered office via special elections (at both the state and federal level), this is tragically sub-par. Rep. Clark, I implore you to do some basic research on GamerGate before you write your next op-ed. Alternatively, get your staff members or interns to do it. That a member of the Congress of the United States would fail in such a simple way before publishing her thoughts on a controversial topic is disheartening. It makes me question her voting; does she put such little thought into what bills become law?
Please, Rep. Clark, do basic research before taking a position in the future. I’m fairly certain you’re being paid to make educated decisions as a member of Congress. It’s time to earn the paycheck.