Back in March of this year, feminist blogger and critic Anita Sarkeesian stated, “I’m angry that I’m expected to accept online harassment as the price of being a woman with an opinion.” The frequent Gamergate target has been on the receiving end of unrelenting online harassment for years and is sent rape and death threats on a regular basis. That same month, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark began a public campaign encouraging the Department of Justice to address Gamergate in particular and online threats more generally.
Clark is now making it her mission to make the internet a safer space for women, working towards a justice system that doesn’t minimize, or altogether ignore, online threats against Internet opiners who happen to be female.
And now the House is formally supporting her request. Jezebel reports that a recent memo from the House appropriations committee has asked the Department of Justice to “intensify its efforts to combat this destructive abuse and expects to see increased investigations and prosecutions of these crimes” (emphasis ours):
“Enforcement of Federal cyber-stalking and threat crimes.—The Committee is aware of concerns regarding increased instances of severe harassment, stalking, and threats transmitted in interstate commerce in violation of Federal law. These targeted attacks against Internet users, particularly women, have resulted in the release of personal information, forced individuals to flee their homes, has had a chilling effect on free expression, and are limiting access to economic opportunity. The Committee strongly urges the Department to intensify its efforts to combat this destructive abuse and expects to see increased investigations and prosecutions of these crimes.“
Clark, who’s met with other Gamergate targets Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn, lays out why social-media threats aren’t just empty words. “These threats cause fear for personal safety, create a chilling effect on free speech, and have a negative economic impact for women conducting business online,” explained Clark in a press release. “That is why we’re asking the Department of Justice to enforce laws that are already on the books and make these cases a priority.”
In addition to the House appropriations committee, you can add Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore to the list of people who are tired of seeing women insulted and devalued online. When the company announced that women would be featured in “FIFA 16,” a new installment of the soccer video game, social media was abuzz with sexist complaints.
Moore’s response on Twitter was succinct and spot-on: “So sad to see the misogynistic vitriol following the FIFA 16 announcement regarding women in the game. We are better than this.”
With Moore, Sarkeesian, Clark and many others pushing progress forward, hopefully we can do better in the foreseeable future.
For an excellent analysis of how Gamergate began as “domestic abuse that went viral,” read this harrowing and insightful Boston Magazine piece on game developer Quinn.