Switch your adblocker on and go familiarise yourselves with THIS Jezebel article, which I’ll be referring to as I go along.
There’s some obvious problems with the article, which I’ll get out of the way first, then I’ll talk about this development in more general terms.
1. No threats etc have been linked to Gamergate as of yet and none have been considered credible.
2. Wu has been mocked, investigated and disagreed with by Gamergate, but again, no harassment has been linked to GG. Wu self-inserted into the controversy to make it about her specifically and about women in tech and online harassment. These are issues worthy of discussion, but are not Gamergate.
3. While it’s true no prosecutions have been made, there have also been no credible threats and these things are often very difficult to prosecute and severe punishments are hard to sell to the public (ref Criado-Perez’ trolls).
Representative Clark wants to make online abuse a priority, but there are very good reasons why it is not a priority for law enforcement. It’s hard to investigate, hard to track down, hard to prosecute, requires technical expertise, can be safely ignored the vast majority of the time and often results in prosecutions that seem draconian and unwarranted against people who are often seen as vulnerable – shut ins, people with mental or developmental issues or young kids.
The cost is very high, the benefit is very small and the amount of cyber-abuse incidents that carry over into the real world can be counted on the fingers of one foot.
Now to move into this event more generally.
Many people in Gamergate welcome this intervention, and not without good reason. Gamergate feels that it has nothing to hide and that it will – again – be exonerated. Gamergate would also welcome third-party trolls and any genuine abusers in its ranks being exposed and run off. Gamergate also would like more law enforcement scrutiny because evidence is increasing that various violations of business regulations are also taking place and investigation would likely end up supporting many of Gamergate’s concerns.
I would, however, enter a note of caution.
It is extremely unlikely – though not impossible – that this Rep. Clark is coming into this out of genuine concern for a constituent. It is far more likely that this has other political implications. Attempts to regulate and control the internet are ongoing and a moral panic about online abuse of women, however fake, is a very good way of getting these kinds of controls and regulations past a skeptical public.
I’m not just blowing smoke here, we’ve had years of this problem in the UK. The actions of campaigns such as No More Page 3 and others are bad enough, actively supporting campus censorship and doing all they can to demonise free expression campaigners but it has gone beyond mobbing and shaming as government involvement has increased.
Moral panic, stirred up by the likes of Gail Dines, accompanied by spurious claims about human trafficking, negative effects of pornography etc has contributed towards enabling the Conservative government (progressives and conservatives working together is a dead giveaway of socially regressive goals) to bring in various measures including:
- Opt-Out Internet filtering (Linking to a Laurie Penny article for the irony value and to underline hypocrisy).
- The ‘Extreme’ Porn Ban.
- The weirdly specific porn production ban.
The US has more protections than we do, thanks to its first amendment, but this isn’t just a free expression issue but about the preservation of a free internet in many other senses.
Just be careful.
It may, finally, be time to embrace PR and Gamergate definitely needs to ‘elect’ a few spokesmen to appear on the media as counterpoints to its critics.