Feminist Frequency Has Launched A Guide To Online Harassment

Feminist Frequency Has Launched A Guide To Online Harassment

Briefly: Media critic Anita Sarkeesian, in collaboration with other activists, has published Speak Up & Stay Safe, a guide to navigating harassment on the Internet. Even if you’ve been lucky enough to never deal with harassment, it’s a great reference guide to avoid sharing too much about yourself on the Internet, and to determine how much is already out there. (A lot, as you’ll soon learn!)


  • “It’s never your fault. Never. Ever.”

    I think that is quite a untrue statement. you may not deserve the harassment online, but that’s not to say that it is isn’t your fault that the harassment started.

    • Agreed, that statement isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous. Actions have consequences, some deserved, some not. In fact, consequence is the justification a lot of people online use when they hassle someone who has said or done something stupid, like Mel Gibson for his anti-semitic remarks, or Adam Baldwin for his GamerGate affiliation.

      “Never ever your fault” is just unwarranted absolution that trains people to think they can do or say anything they want and anyone who calls them out on it is an evil harasser whose opinion doesn’t count.

      • Everyone is a victim these days, didn’t you know this?

        “Woe my life for I am a victim… I’ve been brought up on participation and encouragement awards. I am sound in my beliefs and fear any other to the extent that it is harassment if another shall disagree and must be silenced!” – Everyone, 2015

      • Actions have consequences, some deserved, some not.

        Yes, this is true. And harassment is in the “not” category.

        “n. the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands.”

        This isn’t telling someone they’re wrong or calling out bad behaviour. It’s about irrelevant comments on physical appearance, and using gendered slurs, and rape and death threats. And that’s NEVER the victim’s fault.

        • If we’re going to debate semantics, I’ll be clear that I’m using English and not law. From OED:

          [mass noun] Aggressive pressure or intimidation

          If you’re calling out bad behaviour and you’re doing it aggressively, you’re harassing them. If you’re telling someone they’re wrong and doing it aggressively, you’re harassing them. If you threaten to trash someone’s reputation or threaten to tell everyone you know not to frequent a business because the business is being racist, you’re harassing them.

          Is it always deserved? No, absolutely not. Is it deserved in those instances? Many people who otherwise fight against harassment would argue yes. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t harassment, and it’s still hypocrisy for someone to claim they’re fighting against harassment by harassing harassers.

          I don’t like harassment in general, but it’s incredibly naive to think it’s never the consequence of one’s own actions, and it’s dangerous to teach people to think that way.

          • …and the first example sentence from OED is this: “they face daily harassment by the police”. There was nothing wrong with the definition I posted, it’s just the one I had to hand and it’s plain English. I wasn’t arguing semantics.

            And I agree that responses to harassment can be harassment. The point is, that kind of intimidation is wrong.

            A victim pointing out to an employer that one of their employees is harassing them is not harassment. Getting 500 other people to join in is.

            Anyway, pub time.

          • It sounds like we agree on that point then. Have fun at the pub, I’m about to head there myself!

        • Which has not been identified or addressed. Maybe the sentiment isn’t in question but the definition of “victim”. Why isn’t there an onus or responsibility on anyone to identify through reasonable means, who the victim of any given situation is? It can’t be just “you know what’s wrong” – isn’t this just establishing a new status quo where we ask fewer questions?

    • While it might be true that there is some action the victim took that might be seen as a cause, blaming the victim here is effectively saying that the harasser has no agency. That whenever they see certain behaviour they are forced to attack, so it is obviously the other party’s fault. Saying “it’s never your fault” is instead pointing out that the harasser has a choice in how they behave.

      If you say things that other people disagree with, I think it is fair that other people will respond to argue their case. It certainly isn’t an invitation for death threats, doxing, or stalking: that’s the thing they’re saying isn’t your fault.

      • I agree that death threats, doxing and stalking are rarely* the victim’s fault, but they’re also the extreme end of the harassment spectrum. The article said “it’s never, ever your fault” in (to my reading, at least) a much broader context and the problem with that message is the same as the problem with the ‘victims are to blame’ message – both push all responsibility onto one party, when in most cases both parties are responsible to some degree.

        That’s absolutely not to excuse inappropriate or disproportionate responses. I just think it’s reckless to push a message that aggressive responses to someone’s actions are never their fault. Never is a powerful word and harassment is a broad term.

        (* Personally I think if someone threatens the safety of you or your loved ones, it’s within reason to tell them if they try anything you’ll kill them. Legally, crimes are often mitigated or neutered by circumstances like that. Naturally, “here are my opinions on sexism in videogames” is not even close to such a case.)

  • title of this ‘article’ makes it sound like a guide to online harassment as been released…as in how to do online harassment.

      • Can you provide an example? While I disagree with her opinions I haven’t seen her do anything that I would class as harassment, although since I don’t follow her I miss 99% of everything she does.

        • So wait. You want me to go and watch a bunch of her videos where she’s attacking me for having a penis and blaming me for her insecurities and such for what?

          I’ve seen maybe five minutes of her god awful rhetoric. And that’s more than enough to realise that she’s a horrid internet troll who makes her living attacking groups or individuals for no reason.

          • I agree her work seems more designed to twist the evidence to the Narrative than the other way around. I got a feeling she’d lose Cluedo alot :p. Her videos aren’t hateful, they don’t harass people, they bring forth a alternative point of view based on an assumed attack.

            But you made a claim, I asked you to back it up, Now a week later you’re saying but her work is awful I don’t want to view it to back up my claim. I’m asking for one single solitary example of her harassing somebody, something I don’t believe I’ve heard of her doing. While her Zealots may have done so on her behalf I don’t think she ever said to do so.

            Bonus Material, not at all related to @jaded, just something that occurred to me when I wrote the response.

            I’ve seen people pick fights on the internet, I’ve seen them harass, encourage their followers to do so as well and have it blow up in their face and then blame the person they picked the fight with, for simply posting the evidence of them being wrong/fabricating lies/did exactly what they deny doing.

            There are Rational people on both sides of Anita’s argument, they just get drowned out by the Doxxers and Zealous Crusaders. If you can’t tolerate a different point of view you should stay off the internet.

  • So.. disable comments on your vids and twitter ban any one who has a opinion different to yours?

    • Then form a hate mob and post letters to every ones employers with the hope of getting them fired.

        • No, anita.
          She trolls in her videos, then disables comments.
          Then she bans youtubers who have opinions that differ to hers.
          Plenty of examples to look up, but off the top of my head heres one: Alpha omega sin. A youtuber i used to sub to. He’s had to deal with her a bit.

          • Then sends her literal convicted paedophilia, rapist and hypocritical army out to bully every one into quiet.

            This is something both Anita and Clementine are guilty of, but its only actually bullying if the victim is a privileged white female blogger. If the perpetrator is a privileged white female blogger then its justice.


    • Right, because we all know that if she just let people speak their minds on her YouTube videos then those who disagree with her would have totally been civil.

      • Because her idea was totally not to incite arguments in the first place, therefore giving her exposure for what I am sure is totally not really just financial gains.

        Maybe she should get some more bots on her twitter to make it seem like she is oppressed.

  • Had a quick gander, appears to be a concise guide, covers quite a bit more than I’d considered. Rather pleasant.

  • This conversation went exactly where I’d expect it to. Someone must have hashtagged the gg brigade in.

    • What’s your position on the topic. Are you saying you think people have no responsibility for their own actions?

      • I don’t have a position, well, maybe I do. I don’t get harassed online so I don’t know what it’s like. I imagine it’s quite awful and the advice she relates is quite useful for keeping your shit together and protecting your digital identity and physical safety. Imagine being her with what she went through all because she critiqued some vidya games, and when she publishes her hard-won knowledge of how not to get destroyed online, the first things commenters say is ‘well if you start shit, you get shit’ That’s a seriously fucked up position for people in this thread to take, given the woman was forced from her home due to death threats.

        I am mainly saying that when anything is posted relating to Sarkeesian, the #GG symbol is flashed at Twitter’s sky and the hordes descend. Why, i don’t know, I think it’s because people are shit and the internet is an awful vehicle that makes everyone feel like their opinion and world view is an incontrovertible fact to be defended to someone else’s death.

        So, I explained myself. Your turn. Tell me what Anita did that deserved death threats and the explicitly vocal and untiring enmity of such a massive group of people.

        • I don’t think she deserved death threats or a lot of what she got. I won’t go into extensive detail but I think she does deserve criticism for things like cherry-picking evidence and taking events that happen to NPCs of both genders and framing them as a gender-oriented bias, and for using a ‘baby with the bathwater’ kind of response by pointing to the really bad responses she received and using them as a justification to deflect all criticism, including the calm, reasonable ones.

          I think a lot of people try to frame this as a dichotomy, that you either agree with Anita or you support the harassment she received. I don’t think that’s a reasonable stance to take. I disagree with Anita on many issues and think much of the criticism she’s received is valid, but I also strongly disagree with death and rape threats, doxxing, stalking and any other completely inappropriate responses she got. I also don’t think that because she has been on the receiving end of that, that it makes her immune to criticism, even if that criticism comes across aggressively. There’s a huge gulf between a frustrated response or even calling her an idiot, and threats of violence.

          I think the guide has generally good information and I 100% support preventative action (on a lot of issues, not just this one). The issue I take is the phrasing of a few parts of the guide, exemplified by the line “It’s never your fault. Never. Ever.” I don’t consider this to be a true statement, and as I’ve mentioned in my post earlier in the comments, I think it’s even dangerous to encourage people to think this way. Harassment is a broad term. It doesn’t require repetition as some argue (otherwise grabbing someone’s butt in the office one time wouldn’t be considered sexual harassment). A lot of the responses that people like Adam Baldwin, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Hulk Hogan, etc. have received from people outraged by their racism have been harassment itself. And to be blunt, even when something like “What the fuck is wrong with you, you racist jackass” is harassment, I think in some of these cases it’s deserved, and I think it’s absolutely the fault of the person who was being racist in the first place.

          Generally speaking, our society acknowledges that the instigator can be at fault for a response or action taken against them under some circumstances. A woman who has lived with emotional abuse from her husband for years and who eventually snaps and assaults him often finds that the law considers this a mitigating or even neutralising circumstance. It acknowledges that the instigator was to blame for the situation.

          There are a lot of other examples too, but I think it neatly shows that we as a society don’t believe that a person is ‘never, ever’ at fault. But pushing that message, that you’re never, ever at fault for the consequences of your actions, pushes what I called above ‘unwarranted absolution’, and suggests to people who read and absorb the message that they can say anything they like and blame for any aggressive response (even if it’s at the low end of the spectrum) is just evil terrible harassment that can be dismissed on that basis. It’s just not how the world works, in my opinion, and teaching people to think like that teaches them to drop responsibility for their side of the equation. We should be encouraging and requiring personal responsibility for everyone involved (including the dipshits who think it’s funny to make death/rape threats), not reassuring people that they have an easy out when they do the wrong thing.

          Edited to add: I don’t identify with GamerGate. I don’t generally associate with movements in general, I find they tend to always have some elements I don’t agree with and I’d rather stand on the strength of my own personal convictions than stand under someone else’s banner, especially one that doesn’t 100% reflect my own views. I think ethics in journalism is a reasonable thing to support but I very much oppose the kinds of things some members of GamerGate have undertaken. I consider myself a pragmatist and an egalitarian, and sometimes that leads to me playing devil’s advocate. I oppose bad logic even if it’s something in favour of what I personally support, and sometimes people can take that as me supporting the other side, but that’s not the case.

          • Sorry man, I didn’t even read all of that. This is a thread around her releasing a guide of how to avoid harrassment online, so no matter what you think of her (and i’m sure you’re being reasonable, again, I didn’t read it) I think any conversation that justifies treatment of her is a little bit out of place here. Saying “she shouldn’t release this guide because she deserves it” or “she deserved what happened to her” is lunacy, as opposed to an entirely separate conversation debating the merits of her past arguments.

            Not saying you’re saying that, but just sayin’ 😀

          • Yeah it’s pretty long, sorry about that. Sometimes people try to make it out as ‘you’re either for Anita or you support death threats’ kind of thing so a lot of what I wrote was trying to explain basically that I’m somewhere in between. And don’t worry, the only thing I think she deserved was rational criticism (as does anyone really), she definitely didn’t deserve death threats or stalking or any of that nonsense.

  • Anita Sarkeesian’s trolling us all for some more headlines / forum inches .. Well done Anita, You win again.

  • I’m straight up mortified by the response of some you people to this – and at the same time I understand where you are coming from.

    I think the point is that this guide to being safe on the internet is targeted at female gamers who get an unwarranted amount of attention simply because they are female. In a better society their sex would have little affect on males and they would simply co-exist as additional online individuals in which we don’t care much for.

    Anita Sarkeesian sparks anger in a lot of gamers simply because she challenges the norms we are used to now in gaming. These norms aren’t all that different from outside at stereosonic festival or in clubs, at gyms, etc. and it may be because we like to think we are different that we are aghast at the fact that no, we are no different from the meat heads out there. We do not foster an inclusive environment for female gamers, we just talk about it. As if having our attention drawn to this fact changes anything. As if us knowing atrocities are occurring in other countries changes things for those who experience it. Action changes things. But the issue cannot be changed simply in gaming, its pervasive throughout our society as a whole.

    While I don’t agree with Sarkeesian’s methods of conveying information to others as I feel it’s just a means of lighting the topic on fire instead of curbing it I do feel that she, and those involved in her work, are right. She’s human like us too. When you are hated on you tend to respond in the same way.

    • Anita Sarkeesian sparks anger in a lot of gamers simply because she challenges the norms we are used to now in gaming.

      That’s cool, she can do that and I welcome it. However it’s now become much bigger than that, yet the discussion hasn’t evolved. As others have already said: her arguments are presented without allowing continued discussion and criticism, so all that comes from her is a single output. I understand that she would feel forced to shelter from the awful din that is the masses of the internet, and the ensuing harassment I’m sure. It just makes it so hard to take her seriously.

      Especially when at the end of the day, anger hasn’t been sparked in me because she challenges my norms, but because I flat out disagree with many of her conclusions and examples. Then what’s worse, and no fault of her own… is that the now isolated debate means there’s no place for real discussion; it’s a bit distressing to me that I have to tip-toe around the topic of somebody’s analysis of female characters in games, lest we all become lumped in with the harassers.

      We do not foster an inclusive environment for female gamers, we just talk about it. As if having our attention drawn to this fact changes anything. As if us knowing atrocities are occurring in other countries changes things for those who experience it. Action changes things. But the issue cannot be changed simply in gaming, its pervasive throughout our society as a whole.

      Yeah? So what can be done? I don’t think I treat women negatively and would do what’s right if I was in a position of power (like if I had to hire people and pay them appropriately.) But if I’m wrong on that then I’m happy to be called out on it… but surely since I think I’m such a good guy, it’ll fall on deaf ears? There are people way more sexist and they will definitely be more ignorant; doubly, even triply so when the avenue of discussion is simply nebulous. I mean, critiquing an artistic medium may be the easiest way to start a fire but it’s gotta be the worst way to create real change – you just end up with a bunch of burnt artwork.

      • As others have already said: her arguments are presented without allowing continued discussion and criticism, so all that comes from her is a single output. I understand that she would feel forced to shelter from the awful din that is the masses of the internet, and the ensuing harassment I’m sure. It just makes it so hard to take her seriously.

        Let’s be clear here: all she did was disable comments on her YouTube videos. She hasn’t stopped people making videos that rebut her ideas (lots of people have). She hasn’t stopped people discussing what she says in other forums (again, lots of people have). YouTube comments have always been under the control of the content creator: some might decide to disable them, some might heavily moderate them, and others might leave them free for all.

        This is the equivalent of accusing a film maker of censoring reviews because they refuse to append them to the film so they play after the credits. Instead, we see the film as a space controlled by the film maker, and the reviewer will have to use their own space to publish their ideas.

        • True that she has and should have the final say at the source of her output. I suppose my surmisation of it is that beyond that I don’t see any of the discussion happening that she is willing to include herself in. I can understand why, when there’s a whole lot of assholes though.

          So imagining that there were no assholes and we could talk a lot more frankly with each other without abusing, she’ll still be talking like she does now, but I’d like to see some listening too.

    • That’s rubbish though. Maybe you have issues with women. I don’t. The people I know and play games with don’t. So it’s kind of insulting to be told that “our culture needs to change to be more inclusive of women”.

      As one friend said, “I’m really struggling to find ways to include myself more.”

  • I prefer to just believe in social karma. If you’re a dickhead then guess what sunshine…

    • I believe in Karma like I believe in god, in that I don’t believe in either and believe both to be imaginary concepts.

      I believe it’s up to people to make things happen, anything else is just a fantastical excuse to leave it up to someone else.

      • I didn’t say I believe in karma, I said social karma. Of course some magic isn’t going to save the day. I just believe that people who are dickheads cause other people to be dicks back. And vice versa for nice people.

      • I believe in Karma like I believe in god, in that I don’t believe in either and believe both to be imaginary concepts.

        Nah, Karma is very real. In science it’s called Newton’s Third Law of Motion. If one acts like a jerk, the consequences (reaction) will eventually come back.

        So Karma is real; it doesn’t always delay into one’s next life, it comes early thanks to people.

  • Isn’t there some policy at Kotaku about marking advertising post like this one as “ADVERTISEMENT”?

  • I just don’t like Anita Sarkeesian…

    She personally just annoys me is all.

    • This has nothing to do with Anita Sarkeesian.

      I don’t like Jeb Bush or Trump, but I applaud the Republicans the last two days for distancing themselves from Donald Trump.

      Give appropriate kudos where it’s deserved.

      • I don’t have an opinion on the book, I just don’t like her.
        That’s… That’s pretty much all I really wanted to say…

        • I think she’s an opportunist myself. I don’t fall on either side of GG and all that crap, but I don’t have any time for her. But, as a teacher I really have to say that resource itself is pretty good genuinely. Give it a look if you’ve got some time.

  • Oh I am looking forward to some nice reasoned commentary in here!

    *fluffs waifu pillow*


  • One nasty line of rhetoric that is derisively thrown around is that we all purport to be victims; associated with this idea is the relative role of responsibility. They’re subjects present in the above comments; they creep in as a response to most commentary around antisocial behaviour in an online environment. Often they are used to normalise these behaviours, supposing that perhaps civility, proportionality of response, or even context, are factors that we should not consider when appraising discourse.

    Many of us may have grown up with the boom in online gaming, a generation of mostly young people navigating their way through social norms and testing the boundaries of what can be gotten away with. Speaking from experience, I remember the hostility of randoms on public servers, and the softly barbed jibes between mates. Amongst innocuous, albeit annoying, trolling were volleys of exasperation calling into question all manner of sexuality, veiled threats of violence, assertions that someone had indeed slept with one of your family, most likely your mother, and any other disparaging sledge that could throw you off your game. Blunt psychological tactics were par for course in the online gaming environment and for the most part have remained intact.

    Protracted and focused campaigns of abuse weren’t unheard of at the time, however, while I cannot speak of their incidence, it is certain that the intensity and prevalence of such events has worsened in the modern gaming landscape. It has become both easier and harder to track a person or hide our presence. With a population largely unexpectant of receiving abuse, that balance is heavily skewed toward the former. For populations that cannot be described as traditionally aligned players, those for whom a fondness of gaming is nascent, the current conduct of the broader gaming community is a minefield.

    In the span of a decade there has been a surge in swattings, doxings, threats of physical and/or sexual violence against a person, their acquaintances, or their relatives. Near limitless vitriol and abuse directed at anyone who isn’t from the norm, is the source of a confected slight, or a person who fits the profile of being weak in some capacity, is to be expected. These types of activities, and the approval thereof, shouldn’t be seen as acceptable decorum within our communities.

    When we speak of victims, wouldn’t it be responsible to evaluate circumstances with empathy and appreciation for context, rather than wielding the term as a pejorative for those deemed not tough enough. It may seem that everyone is a victim because there is an increase in the incidence of both abusive behaviour and victims who speak out against their abusers. We should acknowledge these phenomena with more than a cursory glance. They are worthy of greater scrutiny.

    For some of us, we see an article or a post on a case of abuse and assume the victim was complicit in some form. When pared back, that encouragement is simply a person speaking their opinion or engaging in a non-inflammatory activity. Regardless of the victim’s actions, there is no case for observers to focus scathing and collective abuse. Eschewing discussion of the responsibility of abusers so that we can discuss the responsibility of a victim is deplorable. Else we assume that to speak aloud an opinion is to invite disproportionate criticism.

    We ought to have discussions around these matters, hopefully we can all contribute in a manner becoming of a civil community, and foster a more supportive environment for us all to enjoy games.

    As an addendum, I can’t see advocating increased literacy on information security as a negative position to hold.

    Thanks for reading.

  • I’ve been present in a classroom when we had to tell a grade 9 class their classmate killed themselves. That was my second prac as a student teacher and to be honest it shook me to my core. It came about that part of the cause was due to excessive harassment and online bullying, consistent harassment over a prolonged period of time over social media.

    The more resources such as this the better. It shattered me having to watch children break down and cry over their friend having died and made me question whether I wanted to go on being a student teacher, but thankfully I was able to pick up the pieces and understand that with the good, comes the horrifically bad, especially in the online world.

    It’s easy to write it off, to say things like ‘talk shit get shit’, but the fact is, harassment is never warranted. There’s a distinct different between responding to someone and harassing someone, if you’re unable to discern between the two, either learn the difference or stop adding to the issue.

    I’ve got far more respect for people who put together resources like this, than those who decry it, that’s for sure.

    So it’s not just adults, or 20somethings that fall victim to this, yes, kids do too and the more resources like this, the better, no matter what you think of Sarkeesian.

    • It’s easy to write it off, to say things like ‘talk shit get shit’, but the fact is, harassment is never warranted. There’s a distinct different between responding to someone and harassing someone, if you’re unable to discern between the two, either learn the difference or stop adding to the issue.

      This is the thing though, there is a common misconception that many take and pass as fact: consequences for making threats and harassment are not treated the same as said acts in real life, face to face.

      The truth is, the form maybe different but a threat is a threat so threatening to kill someone over Twitter is treated no differently than making the same threat by cutting out letters of a newspaper and putting it in one’s mail box.

      I agree with you, resources are needed but at the same time I think this mythical disconnection between online acts and consequences need to be busted as too many think that they can do as they please online and not be made accountable.

      • Until we see charges being laid in this country on a wider scale for death threats and the such in the manner that they would in real life unfortunately I disagree, the disconnect is very real.

        • We already do under the telecommunications act. Even if there is no legal limitation, there is no difference between a threat to one’s face than to on via a electronic post.

          At the end of the day, a threat is a threat and the mode doesn’t matter.

          • While the legislation may be there we rarely see it acted upon like it is in real life. Just the very notion this disagreement exists is indicative of that.

  • Thank god there are so many brave people here on Kotaku to save us from these dangerous, outspoken women. How dare they provide resources to people, and genuinely attempt to better their society. They should be hounded in an online hate campaign.

    • Yeah because you can’t disagree with a person if she’s a woman right? Most people say they disagree with her argument not that she is a woman. But hey it’s all about gender politics.

  • The first thing you have to learn about the internet is that everything anyone says is bulls**t. No, 12 yo kid on Call of Duty, you didn’t have sex with my mother. No, random dude on twitter, your uncle doesn’t work for Nintendo and totally has an advanced copy of the new Pokemon game. And no, Anita Sarkeesian, that gamergater doesn’t really want you to “die in a fire”.

    Unless you’re being “properly” harassed (doxxing, physical harassment etc., not just a few mean YouTube comments), I feel that you need to HTFU a bit and realise that a bit of vitriol is the price you have to pay to keep the internet anonymous. If we lose the protection of anonymity everyone will be stuck in their own little echo chamber of positivity and genuine and productive discourse will become extinct.

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