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.

Picture: ANDRÉ CARRILHO
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Leader: Boris Johnson, a liar and a charlatan

The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. 

Boris Johnson is a liar, a charlatan and a narcissist. In 1988, when he was a reporter at the Times, he fabricated a quotation from his godfather, an eminent historian, which duly appeared in a news story on the front page. He was sacked. (We might pause here to acknowledge the advantage to a young journalist of having a godfather whose opinions were deemed worthy of appearing in a national newspaper.) Three decades later, his character has not improved.

On 17 September, Mr Johnson wrote a lengthy, hyperbolic article for the Daily Telegraph laying out his “vision” for Brexit – in terms calculated to provoke and undermine the Prime Minister (who was scheduled to give a speech on Brexit in Florence, Italy, as we went to press). Extracts of his “article”, which reads more like a speech, appeared while a terror suspect was on the loose and the country’s threat level was at “critical”, leading the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, to remark: “On the day of a terror attack where Britons were maimed, just hours after the threat level is raised, our only thoughts should be on service.”

Three other facets of this story are noteworthy. First, the article was published alongside other pieces echoing and praising its conclusions, indicating that the Telegraph is now operating as a subsidiary of the Johnson for PM campaign. Second, Theresa May did not respond by immediately sacking her disloyal Foreign Secretary – a measure of how much the botched election campaign has weakened her authority. Finally, it is remarkable that Mr Johnson’s article repeated the most egregious – and most effective – lie of the EU referendum campaign. “Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week,” the Foreign Secretary claimed. “It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS.”

This was the promise of Brexit laid out by the official Vote Leave team: we send £350m to Brussels, and after leaving the EU, that money can be spent on public services. Yet the £350m figure includes the rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher – so just under a third of the sum never leaves the country. Also, any plausible deal will involve paying significant amounts to the EU budget in return for continued participation in science and security agreements. To continue to invoke this figure is shameless. That is not a partisan sentiment: the head of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, denounced Mr Johnson’s “clear misuse of official statistics”.

In the days that followed, the chief strategist of Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings – who, as Simon Heffer writes in this week's New Statesman, is widely suspected of involvement in Mr Johnson’s article – added his voice. Brexit was a “shambles” so far, he claimed, because of the ineptitude of the civil service and the government’s decision to invoke Article 50 before outlining its own detailed demands.

There is a fine Yiddish word to describe this – chutzpah. Mr Johnson, like all the other senior members of Vote Leave in parliament, voted to trigger Article 50 in March. If he and his allies had concerns about this process, the time to speak up was then.

It has been clear for some time that Mr Johnson has no ideological attachment to Brexit. (During the referendum campaign, he wrote articles arguing both the Leave and Remain case, before deciding which one to publish – in the Telegraph, naturally.) However, every day brings fresh evidence that he and his allies are not interested in the tough, detailed negotiations required for such an epic undertaking. They will brush aside any concerns about our readiness for such a huge challenge by insisting that Brexit would be a success if only they were in charge of it.

This is unlikely. Constant reports emerge of how lightly Mr Johnson treats his current role. At a summit aiming to tackle the grotesque humanitarian crisis in Yemen, he is said to have astounded diplomats by joking: “With friends like these, who needs Yemenis?” The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. By extension, he demeans our politics. 

This article first appeared in the 21 September 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The revenge of the left