CNET Publishes Misinformation About #GamerGate, Staff Defends Falsehoods
Donald Trump GamerGate
(Last Updated On: June 15, 2017)

CNET published a screed against the gaming community and against #GamerGate, a 2014 revolt against unethical journalistic practices in the media. The piece was written by Ian Sherr and Erin Carson, and published on June 14th, 2017 [backup] and is titled “GamerGate to Trump: How video game culture blew everything up”.

The piece attempts to blame gaming culture and #GamerGate for helping put Donald Trump in office.

They start by claiming that the proto-#GamerGate antics started with Anita Sarkeesian, and the trolls who popped up around her, writing…

“An army of hateful trolls woke up, found each other online and launched a crusade of harassment, targeting not only Sarkeesian but anyone else who questioned their view of how the gaming world should be.”

Citation needed.

This is a baseless claim and there is no documented evidence anywhere that “hateful trolls” launched a “crusade of harassment” against anyone who questioned the view of how the gaming world should be. If CNET has a citation they’re welcome to present it.

Additionally, the mistrust and resentment that gamers held toward games media originally gained traction after Gamespot fired Jeff Gerstmann back in 2007 over his perceived low score of Kane & Lynch, as detailed by Forbes. #GamerGate was the culmination of years of festering frustration between gamers and games media; but I digress.

Nevertheless, CNET moved on to target #GamerGate, where they wrote…

“A few years later, anonymous online trolls threatened to rape and kill indie game developer Zoë Quinn after her ex-boyfriend posted a 9,000-word online screed accusing her of sleeping with a games journalist for a positive review.

 

“The whole campaign against Sarkeesian, Quinn and other women became known as #GamerGate.”

This is patently false.

No where in Eron Gjoni’s “The Zoe Post”, which you can read in full on WordPress, does he mention that Zoe Quinn slept with a games journalist for a positive review. In fact, CNET purposefully lied here because no where in The Zoe Post is the word “review” even used… ever.

What happened was that Gjoni named Nathan Grayson in the piece, and people figured out that it was the same Grayson from Kotaku who had previously written at Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Grayson had given Quinn positive coverage (not a review) and did so without disclosing his romantic or financial ties to the developer. Grayson’s articles and subsequent ethical lapses are documented on his Deepfreeze.it profile.

Additionally, no evidence supports CNET’s claim that there was ever a campaign against Sarkeesian or Quinn. In fact, in Quinn’s own anti-harassment organization, Crash Override Network, they have no documented harassment from #GamerGate users against Anita Sarkeesian. A WAM!, peer reviewed report indicated that only 0.66% of the people labeled as harassers by more than 172 media articles had actually been reported for harassment. And the FBI’s year long investigation revealed that there was no actionable evidence indicating that #GamerGate was a harassment campaign.

FBI GamerGate Investigation

In fact, CNET misrepresents some of the information from the FBI report to further mislead readers, claiming…

“Sarkeesian, who like Quinn declined to comment for this story, was forced to cancel a speech at a college campus after receiving an anonymous email from a supposed student threatening “the deadliest school shooting in American history.” Brianna Wu, co-founder of indie game development studio Giant Spacekat, had to hire personal security after she became a target for speaking out. Quinn’s family also received threats and was subjected to harassment.”

In the FBI report, which you can read on the official FBI online vault, one of the people who sent in a threatening letter regarding Sarkeesian’s speech at the Utah universe was actually from a troll. The individual used decade-old internet memes laced throughout the letter, including the popular Dragon Ball Z meme “it’s over 9,000”, claiming that he had over 9,000 bombs he was going to bring to the school. The FBI deduced that the multiple threats written in from the  troll were from the same person.

Someone tipped off the FBI claiming that the person who wrote the letter(s) was allegedly a regular forum poster on the SomethingAwful.com message boards. SomethingAwful.com is known as a den of trolls who hate #GamerGate.

CNET, however, continues on by making more baseless claims. They write…

“Over time, different groups on the internet that tend to respond negatively to women, such as some communities of hardcore gamers, coders and far-right white supremacist groups, began to coalesce around shared harassment of women and distaste for social change.”

Citation needed.

CNET continued on with more baseless claims. They wrote…

“In the case of GamerGate, the mobs coalesced around a particular hatred of what they saw as outsiders — women, in particular — attacking video games, which they claimed was theirs.”

Citation needed.

Claiming that the movement was about hating on women will need more than just claims to make it fact. The fact that this particular article from CNET is classified as a news article in their news section is even more damning, as they have no outlier or caveat that these claims are entirely opinion based.

CNET GamerGate News

They also misrepresent other facets of #GamerGate, writing…

“During GamerGate, a blacklist of publications was created, as were email templates and phone call scripts for how to most effectively convince companies to pull their ads from sites that wrote critically about GamerGate or its message.”

What they failed to mention in this paragraph is that the blacklist was formed so that readers would stop supporting unethical outlets who spread falsehoods and damage the gaming industry, such as when Kotaku launched a smear campaign against Brad Wardell or Max Temkin without fact-checking their claims first, or when Gawker took various opportunities to publish unethical content spanning a myriad of subject matter. In fact, Gawker was #GamerGate’s prime target throughout the tail end of 2014, as admitted to by former Gawker editor Max Read.

#GamerGate worked with the FTC to get an investigation launched into Gawker, and even cost the media giant countless dollars in ad revenue.

Gamasutra, Polygon and Joystiq were a few amongst many that gamers had opted to boycott and stop reading, especially following the barrage of articles now known as the “Gamers Are Dead” campaign.

Another thing the CNET article fails to mention is that many of these sites were collaborators or members of the infamous GameJournoPros list, which was sometimes used to direct the narrative traffic of gaming news media via a secret mailing list.

The GameJournoPros list was actually formed by Kyle Orland in imitation of Ezra Klein’s JournoList, which was also accused of collectively manipulating news to align closer to the Liberal agenda, as reported by Mediaite.

Nevertheless, CNET continued on to state…

“The GamerGate mob also expanded use of a tactic called “doxxing,” or publishing a person’s address, Social Security number, phone number or any other private information”

Citation needed.

What we did discover is that Zoe Quinn’s Crash Override Network did partake in targeted harassment and doxing of individuals who were ideologically opposed to them. This information was documented and revealed through leaked chat logs. Multiple members of the group confirmed the authenticity of the chat logs, but media websites refused to report on the contents.

In fact, #GamerGate had a sub-group known as the #GamerGate Harassment Patrol, to ensure that no one used the hashtag to dox or harass anyone.

CNET’s attempt to play six degrees of separation between #GamerGate and Donald Trump being elected into Presidency is tenuously irresponsible at best, and unethical fearmongering at worst.

In fact, claiming that tactics developed by #GamerGate to help seat Trump completely misses the fact that according to exit poll data collected by Business Insider, the majority of people who voted for Trump were majority from rural America, white, middle-to-upper class individuals mostly between the ages of 40 and 65+. What’s more is that most of the people who put Trump in office were moderates and Conservatives.

Many of the demographics who voted for Trump have only a small crossover with the average gamer, who is labeled by most studies to be between the ages of 18 and 35, as reported by Statista.

What’s the relevance of this data? Well, for reference, majority of the people who identified as using the GamerGate hashtag in the Game Objective survey revealed that they were mostly left-leaning Liberals, a majority of whom voted for Barack Obama (for those who identified as American) in the 2012 elections.

Nevertheless, all of these facts were ignored by CNET staff.

The comment section on the article was adept in citing sources to correct CNET and even suggested that they update the article with the proper facts. However, when these issues were brought to the attention of the staff in the comment section, here’s how CNET staff member Connie Gugllelmo responded

“You’re entitled to your opinions about what you consider “evidence” and “poorly researched.”

“CNET stands behind our reporting.”

Majority of the claims were without citations, and evidence was not presented for many of the more outrageous conjecture, but CNET appears to be standing the article.

(Main image courtesy of Box TV)


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Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.