The death threats and harassment towards women and minorities in the gaming industry, issued by those using the Gamergate title, is certainly not a new topic. Over the past year, members of online communities have used the Gamergate tag in continued campaigns of harassment. Finally, it seems members of the US government are taking notice.
As reported by Jezebel yesterday, Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark has begun to work with the FBI to make the online threats and harassment associated with Gamergate a priority. Speaking about what she found when looking into the FBI’s response so far, Congresswoman Clark declared, “It was disappointing… This is clearly just not one of their priorities. For me as a former prosecutor, it echoed what we would see 20 years ago around domestic violence.”
Approaching the situation head on, the congresswoman has issued a press release urging the Department of Justice to begin taking online threats and harassment more seriously. She has also sent a letter to her fellow members of Congress asking for further efforts and for stricter regulations and enforcement to be put in place. Beyond just the personal effect harassment campaigns have on their targets, Congresswoman Clark points to the economic costs as well, saying “We do not think this a harmless hoax. We think this has real-life implications for women, both personally in their feelings of safety and also economically as they try to put their careers together. There are very few careers choices these days that don’t have some intersection with your online presence.”
Congresswoman Clark took interest in the problems of Gamergate as game developer Brianna Wu, and her Boston-based independent studio, Giant Spacekat, became primary targets of harassment over the past months. Due to the severity of the death threats, and the subsequent inaction of the organizers of PAX East, Giant Spacekat withdrew from the recent convention mere weeks before they were set to attend.
Just this past week at GDC, speakers Rosalind Wiseman and Ashly Burch presented a study about gender and gaming in which they suggested it was less-progressive, more vocal segments of gamer culture, such as Gamergate, that actually drive teenage girls away from embracing a title such as ‘gamer,’ despite their level of attachment to games.
Also at GDC, as reported by Polygon, Zoe Quinn, the first target of Gamergate, spoke about her experience with harassment, stating, “Harassment is not free speech… Tolerating abusive behavior actually limits other people’s abilities to speak in that space out of fear, out of being terrorized.” Summing up her argument, Quinn added, “Games are awesome… Stop letting jerks hijack them.”
As for whether Congresswoman Clarks efforts will have any effect however, we will just have to wait and see.