Harassment via Wikipedia Vandalism

June 10, 2012

As some of you may know a harassment campaign is being waged against me because of my Tropes vs Women in Video Games project on Kickstarter. This coordinated attack was launched by various online video game forums and has included attempts to get my accounts banned, a torrent of hate on YouTube, plus countless threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape. As part of that intimidation effort the Wikipedia page about me was vandalized with misogynist language, pornography and racial slurs.

I went back and forth about whether or not to share this publicly because I don’t want to inadvertently encourage this kind of behavior or scare other women into staying silent out of fear something similar may happen to them. But ultimately I’ve decided I’m going to document and strategically share what is happening to me because these types of online harassment tactics are used against women, feminists and people from oppressed and marginalized groups every day.

About a year ago I noticed someone had made a Wikipedia page about me. It’s a simple stub in the Women’s Rights Activist category and contains two short paragraphs mostly pulled from my online bio. Very little had changed on the page since it was created, that is until last week.

[TRIGGER WARNING]

The image below shows the result of the vandalism that took place over the course of June 5th and 6th, 2012. This was not done by just one or two trolls but was a coordinated cyber mob style effort involving a whole gang working together. The screenshot below was downloaded directly from one of the internet forums organizing the harassment. They were proudly posting this image as a trophy to boast about what they were doing and to encourage others to join in.

Click to see larger version – NOTE: I’ve blurred out the pornographic drawing

The vandalism included changing the text, changing the page categories, changing the external links to re-reroute to porn sites and adding a drawing of a woman with a man’s penis in her mouth captioned with “Daily Activities”. One extra imaginative troll added that I was actually Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler in disguise (Hepler has also recently been viciously attacked for her opinions on modern video games).

This second screenshot was also downloaded from those same internet forums and again was passed around on various threads as evidence of their attack. Since my name is rather unique, the Wikipedia page about me comes up first when searching for my name.  This is what a Google search for my name returned for several days even after the vandalism was removed.

NOTE: I added the red arrow and text

On the evening of the second day the page was officially identified as the subject of persistent vandalism and was finally locked by Wikipedia moderators so that only those with registered accounts could make further changes. From the IP addresses logged in the revision history it looked like a dozen or more different people were working together to vandalize the page. I want to extend a big thank you to all the dedicated Wikipedians out there that helped remove the vandalism and continue to monitor the page!

I am certainly not the first woman to suffer this kind of harassment and sadly, I won’t be the last. But I’d just like to reiterate that this is not a trivial issue. It can not and should not be brushed off by saying, “oh well that’s YouTube for you“, “trolls will be trolls” or “it’s to be expected on the internet”. These are serious threats of violence, harassment and slander across many online platforms meant to intimidate and silence. And its not okay.

Again, don’t worry, this harassment will never stop me from making my videos! Thank you all for your support!

99 Responses to “Harassment via Wikipedia Vandalism”

  1. You are doing great work, Anita. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be the target of these trolls. Trolls attack people who are making a difference…a difference that they fear.

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  2. Just want to offer my support and tell you how proud I am of you. Your voice has just as much right to speak as anyone else. Thank you for sharing your message.

    Like

  3. – You’re fucking amazing and thank you for not being silent when peope are behaving like this . With many issues like this I think it’s good to speak up if the person feels comfortable with that and not pressured . It’s an eye opener, did not think ppl do this kind of thing really . .

    Damn .

    You’re awesome❤

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  4. The people making the threats and vile comments need to be reported. Report them, report all of them. I know they’ll just make new accounts but it’s something.

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  5. Thanks for sharing all this with the internet. I’m not surprised to have heard similar stories from other women. It’s an incredible testament that the work you do is necessary that harassment and threats of violence are used against women who point out the patriarchy in our society. Keep your head high, and keep up the great work!

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  6. I despise the “it’s just the way it is” line of reasoning. It’s easier to blame society / biology than to actually think about what is going on. It’s an excuse for the lazy and comfortable.

    What you’re doing is awesome. It brings hope, perspective and strength to those of us who deal with this type of harassment on a daily basis because we play video games and happen to have ovaries.

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  7. The harassment- campaign of these trolls only proves that you are right.

    I appreciate your work a lot!

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  8. Hey!
    Also just wanted to say that I love your videos!! Keep up the good work! Perhaps this video can cheer you up a bit:

    Angelika

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  9. I echo all the supportive comments of the others. Words can’t really express how outrageous this is. I’m glad to hear your spirit isn’t broken.

    Please be safe in light of all the threats you have been getting.

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  10. I would like to write something … inspiring. But I feel so bad for what others do with you and your efforts.

    I just want to say: Thank you, Anita, for what you do. And I really look forward to seeing more good and brilliant stuff from Feminist Frequency.

    Although I do not agree with everything you say, I hold everything you say as at least valid and worthy to think about. And truth is: Although I do not agree with EVERYthing you say, I do share MOST OF your opinions.

    Again: Thank you very much! Thank you very, very much!

    Like

  11. It makes me feel so sad/ill to see people vandalise your pages and stalk you with threats. I am all the way in Australia and a fan of your videos, I hope to somehow integrate at least one into my gender studies class next semester. Keep strong, Stay smiling, and continue to make wonderful stuff. Think of the positive impact you have with your work and educating people, and how so many others unfortunately put work in only to dumb themselves down and be horrid. You are quite brave through all this, I admit I would probably pack up and leave if I encountered such harassment. ox

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  12. A fellow video game researcher linked me to your videos about an hour ago and my first reaction was, “I wonder if she documents all the hate mail she must receive because this is like ringing the dinner bell for trolls.”

    I’m glad to see you have. It is very important that these virulent reactions are recorded. For me, it provides evidence that: 1. your work is important, 2. genders are STILL not equal! (any time I say I am a feminist the usual response I get is why? well, this is why!!!!), 3. We can’t be silent anymore, 4. The internet is a shared space, all genders deserve a right to inhabit and use it. This is evidence that we cannot freely express ourselves (yet).

    Thank you for being open, honest, and brave. As others before me have said, if you are making people this angry, then you’re doing it right.😉 I’m just sorry you have to be a martyr.

    Love and support,
    Ashley

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  13. Never stay silent. It takes courage to call these d-bags out for their actions. What they’re doing, on the other hand, (using the power on anonymity to harass and intimidate) is cowardly.

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  14. I’m noticing with recent trends (the Cross-Assault harassment mess being an example), if you give off even the slightest implication that the gaming community is filled with despicable people, they will respond by being despicable people. Bit of an odd way to show the bigotry in the internet, but hey, it works.

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  15. There’s little for me to add to the comments above, just a big, huge THANK YOU for putting up with all this crap to do something that is of immense value for everyone –even those that are harassing you.

    Your job proves more and more necessary every day, and you have the courage not to look the other way and do it.

    So again, THANK YOU.

    Like

  16. Keep up the good work my friend. Obviously you have hit a super-sensitive nerve.

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  17. I have a lot of respect for you for soldiering through all that shit.

    Over the last few days several people have pointed me in the direction of your site. Let me tell you this – before the petty attacks and relentless tirade of familiar gender based insults, I’d not heard of the site or the videos you are making.

    Thanks to the trolls, I’m now aware of what you’re doing and can offer my support!

    Like

  18. Isn’t there a quote from someone that says if you aren’t pissing people off, you aren’t doing anything important?

    This is very important. I am fairly sure you are going to be talking about things that me and the other 13% of the industry that is female have been saying for *years*.

    It needs to be said, loudly and publicly, where everyone can point to it. I can’t wait to see what you have to say.

    Like

  19. Thank you for what you do, I really enjoy your work. And to anyone who says this kind of harrassment is ‘normal’, no, it’s not. It’s common. There’s a difference.

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  20. You are the best! The work you do are so important – all over the world (I´m from Sweden myself). Take care!

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  21. Wow. These harassment-perpetrators must feel REALLY good about their lives. What clever individuals!

    Die in a fire.

    Anita, keep up the good work.

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  22. […] And for this crime, she has been threatened with rape, with death and with violence, and had her Wikipedia page vandalis…. […]

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  23. […] Wikipedia page were subject to attacks from a handful of video game forum members. You can see a screenshot of Sarkeesian’s Wikipedia page here (warning: graphic language). There’s also a variety of hateful comments left on her YouTube […]

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  24. It’s this sort of repugnant behaviour that has lead me to no longer label myself as a “video game geek”, something I was calling myself since my first ZX Spectrum, over 20 years ago (frack me, I made myself feel old). Now, I just happen to play video games. I don’t play online, and if I do I disable the chat feature, because there are simply too many ugly, hateful people out there.

    I don’t know any other fandom where this is such an intense issue (along with the constant homophobia), it’s embarrassing and part of the reason video games still struggle to find legitimacy in the mainstream media.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, you can always tell you’re onto something important when it’s pissing people off.

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  25. Like many men, real men, out there, I too support you and the invaluable work your are doing. It might be useful to remind yourself that the cockpit shakes most just before you break through the sound-barrier … and that animals in captivity are most restless when one opens the cage.
    Best wishes on your journey!

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  26. It is very sad that these trolls have nothing better to do with their time than to harrass Ms. Sarkeesian. These are the pathetic dregs of society. I am not a feminist, I am a Man that respects people, whatever their race, creed, culture, or gender. These harrassers must not people that respect themselves, so how can they respect anyone else.

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  27. Also just wanted to say thank you so much for your work and I have so much respect for not only what you’re doing but how you’re handling all of this. This is a perfect example to demonstrate just how much still needs to change, and unfortunately how hard that may be for some people to grasp. Anyway, you’re absolutely awesome, keep it up!

    Like

  28. Your courage and dedication are admirable. Even a remarkably strong person would be intimidated by this kind of behavior. Thank you for continuing on with your project, I’m really looking forward to it!

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  29. Holy crap. How do you put up with this and still try to make the world a better place? I got 4 comments in on the youtube comments and my stomach was already filling with acid, and I’m a GUY. (Of course, I guess that means I’m less used to it…)

    Anyways, way to go! You’re an inspiration in calm, levelheaded badassery.

    Like

  30. Thank you for the work you’re doing. I don’t play video games but I have friends with kids – I’m forwarding your site to them.

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  31. Those vandals are pathetic cowards.

    No one should have to face harassment for honestly expressing their point of view. It is absurd.

    Like

  32. Well I guess we see immediately why you do what you do. Good job on raising the kickstarter. I do hope though (as I am unfamiliar with your work) that it will also have examples of how it is done right. Good luck!

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  33. This type of behavior is disgraceful and absolutely disgusting. While that having load of the blame falls on those this think this kind of harassment and vitriol is cute. There is blame to hand out to the guys and gamers that stay quiet when we see something like this. That silence is acknowledge meant that this is okay.. and its not. This has to stop and its going to take the entire community speak out against it.

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  34. I apologize for my gender and wish you the best of luck with your project. I can’t wait to see the final product. I hope you know that the group responsible is a very vocal, ignorant, minority. I hope that together, as a community, we can tear down the facade that correspondence via the internet is exempt from all basic human decency. Trolling needs to be seen as what it is, hate, rather than a mere nuisance. If we cease to accept it I like to believe it will cease to exist.

    I rarely comment but I wanted to join in in letting you know that there is a large amount of support for you and what you do, as you can clearly see from the success of you Kickstarter campaign.

    Like

  35. I think you did right diging into this and exposing it. Its weird that this is happening. I put up a pro equality video on You Tube also and got comments calling me a mangina , homo, moron, etc. Glad your going to continue doing tnis, you must be doing something toght or they woulden’t be squeeling like rats.

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  36. It’s people like this that make me feel like I should apologise for being male and a gamer. neither of which I should feel obligated to apologise for. I don’t agree with some things you’ve she’s said in previous videos but her points about video games are so blatantly true.

    Like

  37. This is absolutely disgusting! Keep up the good work, I love your YouTube channel and all the good work you do! We’re behind you all along!

    Like

  38. Honestly, reading this makes me really really sad in humanity.
    And although you already have a ton of supporters (thank goodness), just thought I’d add to that.
    🙂 I can’t wait to see those videos!

    Like

  39. Just wanted to add my words of support. I’m disgusted by the amount of hatred being leveled at you, but it looks like these idiots are only helping to prove you right.

    So congratulations! It looks like this project is going to be quite successful🙂

    Like

  40. You’re a really great person, and I’m amazed at how offended many people became after that video.

    The fact that you can let the hate slide off, and publish it even, makes me happy. You’re awesome.
    I love you!

    Like

  41. If people start to hate you, you’re doing it right😉

    Please notify me when you’re done with the videos. I’m studying philosophy and gender studies is one of my fields of special interest.

    Like

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