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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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.