Anti-Bigotry Gaming Site Defaced With Racial Slurs

It only took a week for Gamers Against Bigotry to be defaced by bigotry.

The website, started by comedian Sam Killermann in late June as a way to fight against offensive slurs and hate speech in the video game community, was almost immediately attacked by bigots (or one single, dedicated bigot). They painted racial slurs on the site's homepage and inserted pictures of Goatse wherever they could. And this past Saturday, they took the site down entirely.

Killermann says he doesn't know how many people were involved in what he calls "childish attacks" against his site. He says they began on a small scale, and that they may have originated from 4chan, or at least somebody trying to emulate 4chan's jokes and memes. (Though he hasn't seen anything on 4chan to indicate that it might be a unified attack.)

He also says this sort of defacement proves why a site like Gamers Against Bigotry needs to exist in the first place.

"This stuff that we all deal with nowadays -- like the harassment and the identity-based bigotry and all that stuff that gets flung around -- never really existed until a few years ago," Killermann told me in a phone interview today. "Like I remember my first time playing Halo 2 on Xbox Live and... that was the first time I ever heard someone say the n-word during a video game. I had never ever experienced that my entire life, and I had been playing games my whole life. It's only gotten worse since then -- or at least more common."

"This stuff that we all deal with nowadays -- like the harassment and the identity-based bigotry and all that stuff that gets flung around -- never really existed until a few years ago."

So Killermann started Gamers Against Bigotry in late June with two main goals. The first is a pledge, an Internet petition that asks readers to swear off using identity-based hate speech in gaming. The second is a call to video game makers, a request that they implement more serious measures to help filter out the garbage. (Like, for example, an auto-mute algorithm that would immediately silence people who have established themselves as trouble users, ones that other people block frequently. "If you play any games you know there are some people who you're just gonna mute every time," Killermann says.)

Within days, popular Internet celebrity Wil Wheaton stumbled upon the website and blogged about it on Tumblr. Soon the petition had some 1,500 signatures -- and Killermann had barely even started telling people about it.

Gamers Against Bigotry then became a target for some of the very people it set out to stop.

"I was prepared [for backlash]," Killermann said. Just weeks before launch, a subset of the Internet had gotten riled up at Anita Sarkeesian, an Internet personality who was raising money to start a video series about sexist video game tropes. People called her things like "feminist cunt" and even made a Flash game that involves punching her in the face. So Killermann expected some awful reactions.

"I knew that, when I launched that website I was stepping into a ring that was kind of gonna be like a no punches pulled, just gotta be ready for it kind of situation," he said. "That's tough, that's kinda unfortunate that standing up for the underdog means you're gonna be attacked but apparently that's just kinda the way the world is right now."

Among other defacing methods, the Internet vandals used exploits to add racial slurs to the list of pledger names. They added "NIGGERSKIKESTOILET" to a banner. They inserted pictures of the horrific Goatse. And they masked their IPs so they appeared to be coming from an address called 69.69.69.

(You can see some of the damage in a very NSFW image here. Don't click if you've got a sensitive stomach.)

"We were, apparently, so threatening to these peoples' lifestyles that they decided to take down the entire website."

On Saturday, July 21, the attackers managed to take down the whole website for a few hours. They completely erased the names of all of the people who had pledged so far.

"Sunday, I was like, 'you know what, I'm done with this,'" Killermann said. He spent a few hours learning how to write a patch that could filter racial slurs out of the petition, and he learned how to add some preventative measures to prevent people from running denial of service attacks against the website. But the damage had already been done.

"We only had 1500 pledges," he said. "We were, apparently, at 1500 pledges, so threatening to these peoples' lifestyles that they decided to take down the entire website."

So instead of using the money they'd earned on crowdfunding site IndieGogo to register as a non-profit and help spread word of the campaign, Killermann says they'll have to use it to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"What's really sad about that is that one person or a small group of people has managed to effectively take away the voices of 1,500 people who have signed the pledge so far," he said. "That's gonna get so much worse if, in a month, if we're up to 100,000 people and one person can come and wipe that all clean. That's really sad."

(Photo: l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock)


Comments

    At this point I should be immune to disappointment, but seriously, this was a good cause that hurt/threatened nobody.

      Bigots aren't reasonable folk, I imagine...

    At this point I should be immune to disappointment, but seriously, this was a good cause that hurt/threatened nobody.

    well, your comment's still up.. but it's only been 5 minutes.

    maybe it depends on context?

    Maybe its because I'm a software engineer, but reading this article makes me think the author of the website was design only and had next to no understanding of basic website security.

      While that may be true, it still is a shame that some who wasn't doing anything to hurt anyone else was attacked for simply having a differing ideal of how people should act on the internet.

      The internet is suppose to be about freedom of expression, but we are edging closer and closer where you can't express yourself, least you tempt the wrath of the horde of angry hackers. Even governments can't express an opinion on a topic without the self-governed internet police rise up and smash them down in protest against freedom.

      It is starting to reach borderline sad that people like Mr. Killermann and Ms.Sarkeesian can't post their own ideas on how to tackle issues with the gaming community without being attacked for simply expressing their opinions. The hackers and others (I am basing this on the notion that people like this also take part in Anonymous raids. I may be entirely wrong but its just a feeling) like them champion their causes as voices of protecting freedom, but won't accept someone else's ideas in the same mindset.

        Aye, don't get me wrong, its still a massive shame that this happened, and very much lends credence to the website's cause.

        "The internet is suppose to be about freedom of expression"
        "call to video game makers, a request that they implement more serious measures to help filter out the garbage. "

        I guess we can safely say, what the internet is "suppose to be" can't be said on either side of the coin

      Highly likely. He sounds like a guy who had an idea and wanted to make a difference.
      Good internet security is something that takes time and money which is likely two resources that he is very short on

    That's what you take away from this? Really?

      The other thing I've taken away from it is a fascination at the fact that people use Goatse still.

        I didn't know What a goatse was, now I'm sorry I do

    I wish people would grow up, the online community makes me sick. It really disturbs me hearing the language used when gaming online, and it's not necessarily the words themselves but the fact that there being used in such an environment at all. Playing on PC these days I fell slightly more shielded from some of it but when I used to play COD 4 on PlayStation it's all you would hear from the mostly under 18 demographic. And that's the worst part, I understand some people are just joking around but the keep it out of the game lobby, not everybody needs to be subjected to that. The fact that these derogatory terms and behavior are working there way in to everyday chitchat within and out side of the gaming environment is disgusting. And what did taking down the site achieve? The reasoning behind these people escapes me. Grow up.

    This is what I learned in every single IT course I've ever done, one of the most important rules.

    Backup your data!

    Can you actually use crowdfunding in that way?

    Taking collections to register as a NFP, then saying "Well, site got hacked, gonna pay for some sweet secure servers instead guys" seems...against terms of service.

      Ah , right.

      The crowdsourcing is to also to pay for him to go to PAX.

      Side note: the overloaded servers also hosted his portfolio and personal blogs - I'd be interesting to see if they were also moved to the new secure servers/hosting.

    I wouldn't put it down to 'threatening their lifestyle'. Trolls are just attracted to srs business with a high rate of return.

    Hey, this reminds me of the adults rating in Australia. ONE MAN has made it almost impossible for game to have an adults rating. I don't find this any different.

    “This stuff that we all deal with nowadays — like the harassment and the identity-based bigotry and all that stuff that gets flung around — never really existed until a few years ago,”

    That was around the time when the jocks that once made fun of gamers got into the hobby.

    Oh my GOD, the circle-jerking going on here is at epic proportions. Newsflash: there are a lot of assholes in the world, and they don't care that you think they're assholes. Are we such a sheltered, naive generation that we'd waste time on such self-indulgent rubbish like this? It doesn't matter how many pansy sites you create asking people nicely to please stop using nasty words, you are not going to change anyone and the only ones who will "pledge" are the people who already aren't total assholes.

    The more attention you give to these snotnosed little bastards, the more you encourage them to use racism and homophobia in their griefing. They LIKE it when you get upset. They think they've accomplished something when you get butthurt about something you've heard them say. If you ignore them, you give them less enjoyment.

    Rule 19, people. The more you hate it, the stronger it gets.

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