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The big CON - when the abused were always the greatest abusers

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Offline kat

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After years of digital muck-slinging over Gamergate the deep-rooted malfeasance that so pervasively surrounds anything related to gaming appears to have been true all along. That there was, and still is, a 'secret' cabal of 'journalists' ensconced in press and media disingenuously propagated 'harassment' narratives to diffuse the effectiveness of 'gaters' and as a means to distract attention from their own bullying and abusive behaviours towards others, ignored if questioned, rationalised as 'punching up' or 'hitting back' if answer had to be given.

Although there were cracks in this press/media facade, they were never large enough to fully expose these individuals as being the authors of such extensive and toxic campaigns against their detractors simply because the journalists inculcated misappropriated the corporate platforms and reach of their employers to run cover for each others abuses; claims of collusion were, and still are, real, the favoritism, nepotism, the exclusive cliques, the deals, and networks infecting indie game development and game development more broadly, all still real, although their efforts are now largely directed at Trump supporters or those voicing opposition to the aforementioned cabal of cultural gatekeepers.

Real too were the accusations leveled at prominent 'anti-gamergate'[1] personalities. Now exposed by the #CONLeaks[2] (I II), that despite their carefully crafted public image of innocence, being victims of online (ostensibly Twitter) abuse, an effective iterative ludology propped up by the aforementioned complicit press and media 'allies', behind closed doors not only were members of the self-proclaimed anti-harassment 'Org'[3] abject harassers and abusers themselves, the subsequent #CONTrelloLeaks (Sept 2016) reveal them to also be highly motivated and organised in their efforts to engage in the same type of toxic behaviours they accused of others, tactics they (still) willingly employed against anyone standing in their way; the collecting of "intel" (dox) on individuals, creating "dossiers" (Trello 'cards') etc. that could then be used strategically against their enemies[4] "when the timing is right".

In other words both the CONleaks and CONtrelloLeaks confirm Crash Override Network and its members engaged in activities that are the very definition of the worst forms of abuse[5] being intentional, targeted, pernicious and vindictive, the starkest of contrasts to their creating a 'safe space' for those needing it, the extolled principles and everything they claimed to stand for, the public image presented by the org itself and sympathetic advocates in press and media. All a well crafted lie[6].

It cannot be said enough that for an organisation promoting itself to the broader gaming community and industry as an anti-abuse resource and help line, the inexcusable behaviour exposed by the leaks are a disgraceful abuse of a trust, especially of the victims they claim to have helped, and of their position as a go-to source for game developers looking for solutions to online abuse from anti-abuse specialists[7].

"We don't get let off the hook if we think we're going after a good target by doing the same sort of thing [being abusive]"

But that's only half the story for no matter all this 'truth'[8], the same games industry press and media so eager to give their cause coverage (e.g. Develop Magazine/Online, MCV Online with some 50 articles over 18 months or so), are suspiciously silent on the revelation - whilst this might not be indicative of direct or overt collusion (as gamergate supporters might have it), the lack of initiative or willingness to correct the record can only lead to drawing negative conclusions, that they don't deem the leaks, or confirmed revelations within, newsworthy[9] - it's not news when no-one covers it and it's only news when it is, doubly so for those whom previously received copious praise.

What to do about online harassment
If you believe you are being harassed read "How to stop online bullying, harassment, stalking, and abuse" as a starting point to get help from trusted sources who provide free resources to victims of crime. Failing that, search the internet or phone book for a local 'citizens advice' or other 'community' or 'support' services that can help (call them first to see what options are available to you). Call the Authorities only in instances of there being an imminent or immediate threat to yours or others safety or well being.

[originally written in 2016, updated and published in 2019. Last updated 2020. Ed.]

Further Reading
- #StopGamerGate, #GamerGate (and more...)
- [#investigate + #gamergate] = the FBI dossier
- Being ignored: silencing at SXSW
- Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls - A World-Wide Wake-Up Call
- #educate, #mentorate, #gamergate - encouraging STEM participation

[1] many of the individuals behind the anti-harassment organisation exposed in the #CONLeak and #CONTrelloLeaks belonged to forums, websites and communities notorious for harassment and abuse directed at anyone crossing their paths, a cursory look through their Twitter and social media feeds indicate, whilst they may no longer belong to those 'communities', not much else has changed.

[2] the contents of the CONLeaks were originally uploaded to PasteBin but may have been, or will be, removed by PasteBin staff at their discretion for reasons only they know. Archives do exist but may also be subject to removal due to the nature of their content.

[3] at time of writing Crash Override Network claims to be an Non-Governmental Organisation (their website states "[w]e are a NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) that grows and evolves in response to the needs of our clients") without specifying if this is as a formally registered Limited Entity, 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Entity or simply an unaccountable association of individuals. Funding appears largely to be "sponsored by Feminist Frequency, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization [...] and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law" (Feminist Frequency is currently registered as an 501(c)(3) Non-Profit - EIN#46-3408143).

[4] 'enemies' were/are not just those following, supporting or being supportive of the gamergate hashtag, they also include anyone who spoke out against the 'org' itself, it's 'members', 'affiliates', 'partners', 'associates' etc., or its 'cause(s)' with the person, persons or entity being targeted not needing to be high-profile - although the higher-profile the better as abuse of such individuals or entities gives the 'org' a larger platform to disseminate their disingenuous, divisive and dangerous message.

[5] a revealing moment of candor (speaking to fans and supportive audience at XOXO, late 2015), and by way of explaining the ethos behind CON, exposed a storied history of abusive conduct towards others "for the kick", treating trolling like it was a game "to see who can do the best burn", all laughed off and dismissed as a consequence of being an then "edgy teen".

[6] to date no one has been able to ascertain just how many people CON has helped despite numerous calls for this information to be revealed (notwithstanding data anonymizing).

[7] it's important to note the #CONTrelloLeaks reveal the information gathered was not to aid the authorities, but to afford participants and members of CON's distributed network of 'agents' the means through which they could take vigilante action against others deemed to be guilty of a transgression. In other words an unaccountable network of individuals were setting themselves up to act as judge, jury and executioner to the extent that it crosses the border into being entirely vindictive. CON claim to put their clients first; "Crash Override Network is a purely defensive, opt-in organization. We use proven and humane methods to combat online abuse, putting our clients' needs, privacy, and consent above all else", but as the leaks reveal they are more than happy to act offensively and specifically target anyone opposed to their 'message'. From the standpoint of the victim of abuse seeking help from CON this could mean their members making matters worse for such victims by going after their abusers, abusing the abusers as it were. For individuals already brought close to the edge by online harassment and abuse, being subject to more abuse, actions that might be as a consequence of someone else's actions to anti or out-troll a troll, may push some victims over the edge and beyond help. For an anti-abuse organisation that sat in front of the UN and was given space at many corporate and institutional levels, this is unacceptably reprehensible and wholly irresponsible behaviour.

[8] the original CONLeaks have been confirmed authentic by a former member of the group, and indirectly by a current[?] member (intentionally not linked due to their being one of the more notorious harassers/abusers associated with CON); "If you ask any of CON’s members (assuming they choose to speak), they’ll tell you they joined the group to fight what they saw as the abuse of vulnerable individuals on social media. This is only partially factual. In truth, CON started as a Skype chat and morphed into a Slack channel where members gossiped about people they disliked on Twitter and targeted supporters of the Gamergate movement. I would know, because I was one of them." (IMC writing for HeatStreet).

[9] the concerns raised by participants of gamergate (ostensibly 'honest games journalism', 'disclosures', 'keeping (forced) identity politics out of gaming', 'not censoring artists and developers'), essentially anyone using the hashtag, have never been considered news worthy by their detractors, press and media (c.10k results). Instead they seem much more sympathetic to the counter-narrative of gamergate being solely about harassing women out of games (c.260k results), a handful of whom are closely tied to CON and revealed in the leaks to be persistent harassers themselves - it isn't without irony press covered 'claims' of harassment from the aforementioned absent nary any questions, but won't touch the issues when 'proof' presents itself (in the form of the leaks) simply because it appears to be emanating from the wrong parties.