Gamers Against Bigotry is hacked... by gamers in favour of bigotry

A site which opposed racist, sexist language in online multiplayer is repeatedly taken down by hackers.

Today's instalment of "you can't have anything nice" comes courtesy of Texan comedian Sam Killermann. At the end of June, he set up a website with a simple aim: to allow the vast majority of decent, good human beings who enjoy videogames a forum in which to register their views.

The site was called Gamers Against Bigotry, and it asked readers to sign a simple pledge:

As a gamer, I realize I contribute to an incredibly diverse social network of gamers around the world, and that my actions have the ability to impact others. In effort to make a positive impact, and to create a community that is welcoming to all, I pledge to not use bigoted language while gaming, online and otherwise. Bigoted language includes, but is not limited to, slurs based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

Killermann added in an interview with The Mary Sue:

At times, and depending on the game you’re playing, it can feel like you’re the only one who is put off by the bigoted speech that’s tossed around in game chat. Every additional pledge is another person speaking up, publicly, that bigoted language isn’t okay.

He clarified elsewhere on the GAB site that he wasn't against angry swearing, just angry swearing that targeted other gamers for their race, gender or sexuality: "The pledge doesn’t preclude you from making sailors blush, provided you’re making them blush with non-identity-specific four-letter words."

Or, as geek idol Wil Wheaton put it when he posted a link to the pledge on his Tumblr: "In other words, Don’t be a Dick."

Killermann backed up his pledge with an IndieGoGo project to raise funds for GAB, expressing his hope of funding attendance at PAX (the Penny Arcade Expo) and creating an app to allow gamers who prefer not to have a side order of rape jokes with their COD multiplayer to find each other.

You know what comes next, don't you?

The same small sub-group of gamers which tried to silence Anita Sarkeesian for wanting to make some videos exploring sexism was roused again. The stamp of their tiny, privileged feet echoed round the internet.

Within days of launch, Gamers Against Bigotry was subjected to repeated hacking and DDOSing. When I spoke to Killermann yesterday he told me that the big attacks all appeared to come from the IP address 69.69.69. Gamers might not be adolescent boys any more, but some of them like their jokes fairly adolescent.

On 22 July, the hackers took over the site, posting an image all over it (graphic screenshot here). I'll give you a hint about what that image might be with this delicious cupcake:

There was also some freestyling racism:

Even more dickishly, the hackers used a code exploit to wipe the database of the 1,500 pledges which had been collected.

At the time of writing, the problem still hasn't been solved. As Killermann told me: "They've gone through and cleared out the database at their own whim a few times these past 20 hours. We racked up 100 new pledges, wiped clean; 20 pledges, wiped clean; and so on. I can't figure out how they're doing it, but I'm trying to get some security specialists online to help."

Whoever was behind this also targeted all of Killermann's personal sites (his blog and portfolio) with DDOS attacks which overloaded the server.

It's bitterly inevitable that this has happened - after all, one of the incidents which pushed Killermann to set up Gamers Against Bigotry was the hounding of Anita Sarkeesian for wanting to explore sexism in gaming. But apparently, there are some people out there for whom even having these issues discussed poses an enormous threat. 

Happily, Killermann is continuing with the project, and is trying to get hosting for the site which will better stand up to these kind of attacks. He told me: "I really think that the culture has to shift. Right now, 'trolls' are celebrated. There are entire social networks dedicated to it. For culture to shift, behavior has to shift. That's where GAB, and other organizations that will likely follow in our footsteps, comes in."

Gamers Against Bigotry: the restored site.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Find the EU renegotiation demands dull? Me too – but they are important

It's an old trick: smother anything in enough jargon and you can avoid being held accountable for it.

I don’t know about you, but I found the details of Britain’s European Union renegotiation demands quite hard to read. Literally. My eye kept gliding past them, in an endless quest for something more interesting in the paragraph ahead. It was as if the word “subsidiarity” had been smeared in grease. I haven’t felt tedium quite like this since I read The Lord of the Rings and found I slid straight past anything written in italics, reasoning that it was probably another interminable Elvish poem. (“The wind was in his flowing hair/The foam about him shone;/Afar they saw him strong and fair/Go riding like a swan.”)

Anyone who writes about politics encounters this; I call it Subclause Syndrome. Smother anything in enough jargon, whirr enough footnotes into the air, and you have a very effective shield for protecting yourself from accountability – better even than gutting the Freedom of Information laws, although the government seems quite keen on that, too. No wonder so much of our political conversation ends up being about personality: if we can’t hope to master all the technicalities, the next best thing is to trust the person to whom we have delegated that job.

Anyway, after 15 cups of coffee, three ice-bucket challenges and a bottle of poppers I borrowed from a Tory MP, I finally made it through. I didn’t feel much more enlightened, though, because there were notable omissions – no mention, thankfully, of rolling back employment protections – and elsewhere there was a touching faith in the power of adding “language” to official documents.

One thing did stand out, however. For months, we have been told that it is a terrible problem that migrants from Europe are sending child benefit to their families back home. In future, the amount that can be claimed will start at zero and it will reach full whack only after four years of working in Britain. Even better, to reduce the alleged “pull factor” of our generous in-work benefits regime, the child benefit rate will be paid on a ratio calculated according to average wages in the home country.

What a waste of time. At the moment, only £30m in child benefit is sent out of the country each year: quite a large sum if you’re doing a whip round for a retirement gift for a colleague, but basically a rounding error in the Department for Work and Pensions budget.

Only 20,000 workers, and 34,000 children, are involved. And yet, apparently, this makes it worth introducing 28 different rates of child benefit to be administered by the DWP. We are given to understand that Iain Duncan Smith thinks this is barmy – and this is a man optimistic enough about his department’s computer systems to predict in 2013 that 4.46 million people would be claiming Universal Credit by now*.

David Cameron’s renegotiation package was comprised exclusively of what Doctor Who fans call handwavium – a magic substance with no obvious physical attributes, which nonetheless helpfully advances the plot. In this case, the renegotiation covers up the fact that the Prime Minister always wanted to argue to stay in Europe, but needed a handy fig leaf to do so.

Brace yourself for a sentence you might not read again in the New Statesman, but this makes me feel sorry for Chris Grayling. He and other Outers in the cabinet have to wait at least two weeks for Cameron to get the demands signed off; all the while, Cameron can subtly make the case for staying in Europe, while they are bound to keep quiet because of collective responsibility.

When that stricture lifts, the high-ranking Eurosceptics will at last be free to make the case they have been sitting on for years. I have three strong beliefs about what will happen next. First, that everyone confidently predicting a paralysing civil war in the Tory ranks is doing so more in hope than expectation. Some on the left feel that if Labour is going to be divided over Trident, it is only fair that the Tories be split down the middle, too. They forget that power, and patronage, are strong solvents: there has already been much muttering about low-level blackmail from the high command, with MPs warned about the dire influence of disloyalty on their career prospects.

Second, the Europe campaign will feature large doses of both sides solemnly advising the other that they need to make “a positive case”. This will be roundly ignored. The Remain team will run a fear campaign based on job losses, access to the single market and “losing our seat at the table”; Leave will run a fear campaign based on the steady advance of whatever collective noun for migrants sounds just the right side of racist. (Current favourite: “hordes”.)

Third, the number of Britons making a decision based on a complete understanding of the renegotiation, and the future terms of our membership, will be vanishingly small. It is simply impossible to read about subsidiarity for more than an hour without lapsing into a coma.

Yet, funnily enough, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just as the absurd complexity of policy frees us to talk instead about character, so the onset of Subclause Syndrome in the EU debate will allow us to ask ourselves a more profound, defining question: what kind of country do we want Britain to be? Polling suggests that very few of us see ourselves as “European” rather than Scottish, or British, but are we a country that feels open and looks outwards, or one that thinks this is the best it’s going to get, and we need to protect what we have? That’s more vital than any subclause. l

* For those of you keeping score at home, Universal Credit is now allegedly going to be implemented by 2021. Incidentally, George Osborne has recently discovered that it’s a great source of handwavium; tax credit cuts have been postponed because UC will render such huge savings that they aren’t needed.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle