After death threats, Gamergate target starts group to fight online harassment

Zoe Quinn's organization is run by volunteers who have been victims of online attacks

Zoe Quinn, a game developer harassed by the Gamergate movement, has co-founded an organization aimed at combatting online abuse and helping victims.

Quinn and game developer Alex Lifschitz created Crash Override Network, an "online anti-harassment task force" run by volunteers who faced online abuse and have experience in relevant areas, including IT security, white hat hacking, counseling and law enforcement.

The organization offers counseling to victims and proactively warns potential targets of abuse. Crash Override Network, which launched on Friday, also helps victims rebuild their online presence and works with law enforcement and media outlets to reduce attackers' effectiveness. The group didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Crash Override Network offers its services for free and is being funded by Quinn and Lifschitz, according to a tweet from the organization. The group is not accepting additional volunteers or donations.

Quinn has been a target for harassment since 2013 when she released the game "Depression Quest."

More recently, an online movement that dubs itself 'Gamergate' has targeted Quinn. Gamergate participants post vitriolic comments on social media to supposedly draw attention to ethical issues in gaming and games journalism.

However, the loosely organized, largely anonymous movement has been labelled as sexist and misogynistic since it tends to attack female game developers and women in the technology industry, especially those who advocate for a more diverse gaming culture. Still, anyone who strongly criticizes Gamergate can be a target. Quinn has received death and rape threats and her parents' home phone numbers were posted online.

Crash Override Network's methods have worked, according to one person who used its services during a trial run and posted a positive comment to Twitter about his experience.

After Seattle IT professional Izzy Galvez spoke out against Gamergate, Crash Override Network informed him that his name was appearing on websites where Gamergate participants discussed attacks. People linked to Gamergate then contacted police and claimed that Galvez was depressed, building bombs and had a handgun. On Jan. 9, police visited Galvez's home, an incident that is referred to as SWATing.

"Fortunately, the situation was diffused almost immediately because I had talked to the police 1 week prior to explain to them that I was being [targeted] and was at risk of being SWATed. The SWATing incident is one big part of the targeted harassment I had received by 8chan for speaking out against GamerGate," Galvez wrote in an email interview.

"Throughout this whole ordeal, Crash Override has helped me immensely. They are monitoring Gamergate and 8chan, and they notified me on January 3 when it was found that I was first being targeted. They advised me to contact my local police department and prepared me with a useful guide and related articles to help explain SWATing to the police," he wrote.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'

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