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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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.