“We’re dealing with Voldemort here, we may as well learn some Defence Against the Dark Arts.”
That’s how Zoe Quinn, the game developer at the heart of the bizarre, scary ongoing scandal over whether or not it’s ok to send people death and rape threats (spoilers: It never is), introduced her presentation on moving past online harassment at Game Developers Conference 2015 here in San Francisco.
Quinn, who recently formed a task force called Crash Override to help victims of online harassment, knows a thing or two about the topic: After an ex-boyfriend leaked personal details of their love life online last August, she found herself the victim of threats that forced her out of her home and saw her private info released online. Her father still recieves harassing 5 a.m. phone calls from online strangers even today.
“I could have been anybody, all it took was one ex-boyfriend,” says Quinn on why she was targeted for abuse.
Which brings us back to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Quinn says that she learned a lot about how to deal with this the hard way, and offered several tips.
- Call the police before you get Swatted. If you feel like you’re going to be Swatted — the term for the horrible prank of calling emergency services on somebody you don’t like so that a SWAT team raids their home — make sure to try to call the police preemptively and show them any specific threats made. Oh, and if you have a dog, lock it up: SWAT teams have a horrible habit of killing dogs in these raids, Quinn says.
- Keep specific evidence. If you have everything, including threats made, the police have a lot more leeway in cases of stalking, prank calls, and any threats of violence. “If you can show the police specific threats that have been made it goes a long way towards helping them understand what’s going on,” Quinn said.
- Delete social media accounts and other info. Quinn advises anybody who’s worried about their information getting misused to “detective the heck out of yourself” by deleting any and all old social media accounts, Googling yourself to see what’s loose out there, and going to third-party people information services like Spokeo.
- Don’t pick easily guessable security questions. For sites that ask security questions in case of a lost password, it’s generally a good idea to change your security questions to things that you can’t find out through the detective work you’re doing.
- Use two-factor authentication. Additionally, Quinn recommended a device called the Yubikey, a USB dongle that acts as a key for your computer — it’s impossible to forge or replace, so nobody is getting into your accounts without the actual thing plugged in.
Meanwhile, Quinn called on people who work for technology companies like Facebook and Twitter to take better care of the people who use their platforms in the face of widespread abuse.
“It’s good to know that companies have your back when people are at the door calling for your head,” Quinn said.
Quinn wasn’t the only one with a horror story.
Feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian and game developer Brianna Wu were similarly targeted by online trolls for serious, credible threats to their lives and safety. Other panelists, including ex-eSports pro Neha Nair, community manager Donna Prior, and games developer Elizabeth Sampat all shared their own experiences with virtual and physical abuse in the industry.
Quinn closed her presentation by announcing a partnership between hers and partner Alex Lifschitz’s Crash Override task force and the just-revealed Online Abuse Prevention Initiative (OAPI), a new nonprofit led by Randi Harper, developer of the very popular Good Game Auto Blocker tool for automatically blocking Twitter trolls. They will work together to help tech companies build better infrastructure on the back end to fight harassment.
The announcement was met with huge applause by the audience.
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