By Sarah Nyberg
Gamergate's campaign to terrorize me with my personal information started, strangely enough, with them sending me my own drawings. They managed to dig up silly Microsoft Paint pictures that were a lighthearted joke between friends almost a decade ago. It was a message: They had figured out who I was. I had been doxxed.
I had been openly critical of Gamergate for quite some time. There had been harassment from the beginning. My criticism was done, intentionally, pseudonymously. The quantity and severity of the harassment increased exponentially after I had been doxxed.
They dug through everything they could find -- from websites I own to public records. My mom's obituary was used to find my name from before I transitioned. Decade-old accounts were used to find pre-transition photos. Tens of thousands of posts on old forums were scoured through to find anything they could paint in a negative light. They went through my Facebook, "investigating" my friends for supposed wrongdoing.
Every piece of information they uncovered was used to harass. I was sent those pre-transition photos and told I would never be a woman. My dox and deadname were repeated loudly and repeatedly, even by the biggest figureheads of their movement. One them openly encouraged people to harass me with said photos; even before that encouragement, it had already happened hundreds of times. Photos of my immediate family members that had passed away were sent to me with vile messages -- some blaming me for their deaths. I was tweeted pictures of my house, along with messages asking if I would rather be shot or stabbed. Threatening emails were sent to my friends, some of which were severe enough to require contact with the police.
My websites were taken down from distributed denial of service attacks. Gamergate websites openly posted instructions on how to illegally gain access to my servers via SQL injection exploits; this was used to leak chat logs between a small group of friends from almost a decade ago. Campaigns were launched to bombard advertisers on my sites with lies in an attempt to get them to pull out.
Boards that encouraged SWATs posted my information, including my address and that of my family's. Numerous critics of Gamergate had already been victims of SWATs, one of which resulted in over 20 police being deployed. The board responsible bragged frequently about a woman's dog being killed by the police in one incident.
My brother passed away six years ago; he left me Sadie, his pitbull. For weeks after my information appeared on that board I would wake up in cold sweats fearing I would lose her.
Most of this abhorrent harassment is transient in the sense that if you acquiesce to their demands to be silent, it will eventually stop. They have, however, constructed ways for their ire to manifest in more permanent ways. Hit pieces, both on Gamergate websites and in "satire" wikis (that in reality consist of nothing other than libel and character assassination) written by members of their movement, are explicitly meant to do lasting harm that is impossible to walk away from. Randi Harper and many other women have previously written about their experiences with such sites.
They start with tiny grains of truth, and construct elaborate and defamatory stories from them. Randi Harper had talked about experimenting with drugs when she was younger. She also has a child, and she was once arrested for an unpaid ticket. This turned into "she's a felon who sold her child to sexual predators for meth."
The pages they wrote about me claim that I am a fraud, a felon, guilty of tax evasion, a sexual predator and dozens of other equally absurd lies that are every bit as baseless as the ones told about Randi Harper and other women they target.
This is damage is meant to be as close to permanent as possible; picture the most heinous lies anyone could tell about you, but done publicly, in a way that will never disappear. They will be seen by any job you interview for, any curious acquaintance, any date that decides to peek on Google. On top of this, it also outs me as trans and hosts pictures from before I transitioned; this is the kind of online abuse that could get trans women evicted, cause them to lose their jobs, be assaulted or even killed.
This is the first public piece of writing I have ever written under my name, but doing so was not done voluntarily. Because of the position Gamergate put me in, I have no choice but to take my name back; they have publicly outed me as trans, and littered the web with defamation. Their aim was to scare me into silence, but they have done just the opposite: They have both amplified my voice and made me more determined to be a part of fixing the culture in gaming that allows this to happen.