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Social Autopsy founder Candace Owens channels GamerGate in bizarre attack on Zoe Quinn

It's always Zoe Quinn's fault, apparently
It’s always Zoe Quinn’s fault, apparently

So this Social Autopsy debacle is one of the saddest, most surreal spectacles I’ve seen in a long time.

Social Autopsy is, as you may have heard, a spectacularly wrongheaded attempt to fight cyberbullying by posting the personal information of alleged bullies online — that is, in internet lingo, by doxxing them, thus exposing them to the sort of vigilante “justice” that the Internet handles so very, very badly. Social Autopsy planned to assemble a database of 150,000 alleged bullies; how they were to be selected wasn’t altogether clear.

After Social Autopsy launched its Kickstarter campaign last week, it aroused opposition not just from GamerGater types who saw it as a Social Justice Warrior plot to destroy their free speech, but also from some of the main targets of Gamergate-style harassment, who knew all too well how such a platform could be abused by bullies, thus exacerbating the bullying that Social Autopsy is intended to stamp out.

Thankfully, Kickstarter suspended Social Autopsy’s campaign, presumably for violating the fundraising platform’s rules against projects that are “invasive of another person’s privacy.”

But that was not the end of it. No, this was, rather, where things started to get weird — and when Social Autopsy’s founder Candace Owens started spewing bizarrely GamerGatesque conspiracy theories about Zoe Quinn.

Before Kickstarter pulled the plug on the campaign. you see, GamerGate-target-turned-anti-harassment-activist Quinn approached Owens in an attempt to convey just what a bad idea her plan was and talk her out of it.

It turned out that Owens, despite herself being a past victim of cyberbullying, knew shockingly little about the problem her startup was ostensibly founded to solve. Not only had she not heard of Quinn; she hadn’t even heard of Gamergate, which is a bit like being an astronomer who hasn’t heard of the moon.

Instead of listening to Quinn, Owens declared war on her, spewing forth dozens of angry and accusatory tweets, charging that Quinn and fellow anti-harassment activist Randi Harper (who had posted a scathing, and not terribly polite, critique of Owens and her plan) were somehow the puppetmasters behind a barrage of abusive, threatening, and often blatantly racist anonymous messages that Owens (who is black) started getting not long after news of Owens’ plans hit Reddit and 4chan.

Owens quickly began to sound like every other internet crackpot who sees conspiracies in every Twitter mention.

https://twitter.com/socialcoroner/status/721732175368851456

https://twitter.com/socialcoroner/status/721457425082105856

https://twitter.com/socialcoroner/status/721540094713282560

https://twitter.com/socialcoroner/status/721534893390487552

https://twitter.com/socialcoroner/status/721542060415827968

https://twitter.com/socialcoroner/status/721739057911336960

https://twitter.com/socialcoroner/status/721739160898240513

So the online harassment expert who had never heard of GamerGate is apparently also an expert on the publishing industry who’s never heard of Amazon.com — which is already taking preorders for Quinn’s upcoming book, which (incidentally) will be published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Owens also gave an interview to The Ralph Retort, a sleazy anti-“SJW” internet tabloid, rin which she threatened to release alleged information on Quinn and Harper that would cost them “everything.” She made similarly threatening allusions on Twitter, suggesting she was on the verge of launching what she called a #gamergatesequel against the two.

The first shot in GamerGate 2: The Sequeling took the the form of a sprawling blog post in which Owens, bizarrely, accused Quinn of being in cahoots with GamerGate. That’s right. She accused Quinn of working hand in glove with the movement that literally began with an ex-boyfriend’s attempt to smear her.

“I felt I was under attack by [GamerGate], and knew Zoe had tipped them off,” Owens wrote.

I was trying desperately to get people to understand that my company wasn’t bad, these people were; Zoe for intiating it, and Gamergate for fighting the battle for her with full force.

Later on, when the nasty emails stopped, Owens blamed this on Quinn as well.

One of the “proofs” Owens cited to back up her preposterous claims: Some of those who were sending her nasty messages used the term “dox,” a term that Owens had never heard of before she spoke to Quinn.

Oh, did I forget to mention this earlier? Owens, the alleged expert on online harassment, had never heard of doxxing. And so she concluded that everyone using the term was either a sockpuppet of Quinn and Harper, or in cahoots with them.

At one point in her post, after posting a screenshot of a threatening message she’d gotten from someone calling themselves dontdoxmexd, Owens added,

Interesting account name, no? Because there was that word that we had never heard before again: “dox”. And we began seeing it over and over again, rapidly.

Yeah, that’s kind of what happens when you try to start a doxxing site. People start using the word “dox” in their messages to you.

Even after learning of the existence of GamerGate, Owens professed to be shocked that pretty much all of the attacks on her seemed to be connected to the gaming community:

Less than 48 hours on Kickstarter, and for certain, we had somehow managed to go viral—but this was an odd instance of viral. We had gone viral within the very niche community of gaming, to which, we had no prior interest or connection to. That isn’t how viral works.

No, but that’s how GamerGate works — as Quinn had tried to explain to her.

Later in the post. Owens wondered, rhetorically,

Why did our kicksktarter campaign get so viciously attacked after 12 hours? Why had it gone viral within just one community? Why were we on reddit, blogs, 4chan, being tweeted every 3 seconds, receiving hate mail, threats, and spam from every direction? Why had someone taken the time to photoshop my face beside a swatsika?

Because that’s the sort of crap that GamerGate pulls all the time?

No, Owens insisted, this was all evidence that Quinn and Harper, working together, had launched what she called, somewhat peculiarly,

an effort of cyber-terrorism. When I began suspecting as much, I created a list of all of the twitter names we had seen tweeting at us aggressively from the start. They were all anonymous and they were all retweeting one another, to make it appear as though they had all agreed and that the conclusion was unanimous about Social Autopsy; they were trying to appear bigger than they actually were.

Yeah, that’s pretty much standard GamerGate procedure.

Later, Owens mused,

It’s interesting, and really something I had never considered. Just how much power you could yield if you devoted yourself to creating a cyber unit. Even if it was just you and 20 other people involved, each with multiple fake accounts.

Well, it was more than 20 people, but again Owens has described GamerGate to a T.

You could feign friends, feign your own support, and exaggerate your own presence and significance. Yes, if you were willing to spend full time dedicated to the web, you could begin to distort reality by presenting an assumed majority.

A false, assumed majority, that goes back and fourth on a 4chan thread. A false, assumed majority, that hits the internet writing as many awful things about Candace Owens and her technically not-yet-founded company SocialAutopsy, before they even get an opportunity to launch.

Replace “Candace Owens and her technically not-yet-founded company SocialAutopsy” with “Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu and Randi Harper and …” and once again, Owens has provided us with a perfect description of GamerGate.

Adding to the surrealiity, large chunks of Owens’ posts were devoted to fictionalized “imaginings” of Quinn’s reaction to the Kickstarter.

Maybe she was twirling her hair, maybe she was drinking a coffee—maybe she was sitting a top her bed in sweatpants; the relevant point here of course if that she was logged onto the Internet.

Perhaps she saw it right there on twitter, with the hashtag #cyberbullying affixed to it. Perhaps one of her of her 73.2k followers messaged it to her, or perhaps it landed right on her feed, having been circulated by the very anti-bullying organizations that she followed. The relevant point here of course, is that she saw it. …

Maybe she sit spit out her coffee, perhaps she froze with a strand of hair still wrapped around her finger; the point here of course is that whatever she was doing, she had now stopped to pay full attention.

Owens imagined an even more ludicrous scene taking place at Quinn’s after their awkward phone call came to an end:

I imagine she had collapsed onto the floor of her bedroom in hysterics, maybe even punching a pillow in frustration on the way down

These were not the only fictional sections in Owens’ post. Owens also repeated, as if true, some of the malicious fictions that GamerGate has spread about Quinn. “I read the multiple stories about how Randi and Zoe had made their money off of abuse from men,” she wrote, as if either woman had somehow brought all this abuse down on themselves in a convoluted plot to make big bucks.

I had read specific examples regarding other women they had harassed and taken down, and about how they themselves had been accused of doxxing. Former victims contacted me (with their real names), and provided me with examples of their DNA: racism, misogyny, gamergate, troll accounts: a cocktail for success.

Later on she repeated the standard GamerGate claim that

trolling and harassment is not only an unfortunate societal issue, but that it is a business that affects the bottomline of many people. That there are .orgs established because of it, that books deal are stricken regarding it, and that individuals are being propelled to fame as spokespersons on the exact same issue that they would never want to see nipped in the bud. Because they feed it.

It is, ironically, true that internet abuse is a business. Not to Quinn or Sarkeesian, who never asked for any of the abuse they’ve gotten, but for those who’ve made a sometimes handsome living targeting people like Quinn and Sarkeesian — ranging from YouTube blabbers like Thunderf00t and Sargon of Akkad to the odd (and now broken up) couple behind The Sarkeesian Effect to, well, Ethan Ralph of the Ralph Retort, who built his site by pandering to the GamerGate troll army.

While not a GamerGater herself, Owens has indeed “descended into Gamergate Trutherism,” as New York magazine’s Jesse Singal so aptly put it.

Owens ended her post promising to further investigate what she calls the “cyber-industry” of, I guess, getting trolled and harassed by armies of dickheads, which she posits must be “a business that has profit margins that would ripple our economy if it came crashing down.” She pledged to start her investigations with “Ms. Zoe Quinn and Randi Lee Harper.”

Doxxing is a terrible way to fight harassment, but even if it were a noble endeavor, Owens is one of the last people on planet earth who should ever be put in charge of defining just who is and who isn’t a bully.

CORRECTIONS: In the original post I described Ethan Ralph of the Ralph report as a former Gamergater who described himself as a “proud neo-troll.” Despite declaring “I’m Done With GamerGate Politics” last November, he still considers himself part of Gamergate. The “neo-Troll” label belongs to another Ralph Retort contributor, not Ralph himself. I regret the errors, and I’ve corrected the post.

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joekster
joekster
6 years ago

Jenora: Good point about facebook. Maybe I should have said ‘lack of consequences’, of which annonymity is only one form.

Jo: I think that the fact that so many people haven’t heard of GamerGate is a great thing 🙂 Agree that she probably should have checked Wiki before posing as an expert. Ignorance is no crime, refusal to accept education should be.

Delphi: Sorry if I offended you. I do think that Ms. Owens is reacting poorly to the situation.

Finally had time to read through all the comments. Props to whomever tried to educate Ms. Owens. I agree with those who say this is too complicated to be a GG fraud. but I find it fascinating that Ms. Owens seems to hold alot of ‘MRA’ type views about men and women.

Also, interesting conversation about the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’. I have to confess, when I was a medical student, I did use the terms in my clinical notes (ex. John Smith is a 54 y/o m with a history of hypertension here for routine f/u), until one of my mentors pointed out that alot of people find the terms dehumanizing. Since then, I’ve switched to using ‘man’ and ‘woman’. Afraid I haven’t taken care of enough transgender people to have learned the nomenclature for them, but ‘man AFAB’ or ‘woman AMAB’ seems as good a way as any (and gives me more acronyms to use in my word-salad). Thanks for the pointers.

Virgin Mary
Virgin Mary
6 years ago

It’s funny tho how really difficult it is to doxx somebody, even on 4 Chan, I know I’ve tried. There is a local predatory Paedophile in my neighborhood who has been grooming young teenage girls for about twenty years. He went to court last year and was aquitted of an attempted rape of a fourteen year old girl, but convicted of a lesser charge of sexual assault of a girl of sixteen who he said encouraged him. He got off with a suspended sentence, ten years on the sex offenders register and a £6000 fine. Worse still, he has been a lay preacher and church youth worker for over twenty years, and has dozens of victims. If you can’t doxx someone who deserves a doxx ing, what’s the point?!!

KittyCartel
KittyCartel
6 years ago

Ugh I started reading some of the other articles on that degree180 site and I had to stop. I did see @Cyberwulf *waves*.

After browsing a few of her articles and some of the other author’s posts I am now much less surprised she came down on the pro GG side. I don’t think she’s a full feMRA but seems to lean that way a bit.

ThatBear
ThatBear
6 years ago

It’s far from normal to assume that a harassment victim is actually the head of a giant conspiracy and is spending day and night harassing herself with a giant sock puppet army.

That is not a remotely rational conclusion.

It’s not. But it’s comforting. It’s easier to believe that an evil woman is lying than it is to look the full force of GG hatred in the face – especially if it’s threatening to point in your face.

I would rather live in a world where a “crazy woman” spends years harassing herself than a world where hundreds of people who don’t know her and aren’t affected by her spend years sending her death and rape threats. World A is neater, simpler, and makes more sense. World B is horrifying and depressing.

I’m not defending Candace Owens’s behavior – she has made just about nothing but mistakes. But her response seems very human to me (if not rational).

Pen
Pen
6 years ago

@ Kale

I got reported & a loong ban on FB for saying (paraphrased):

“black people are not somehow an inherently violent ‘race’ compared to whites. In fact, the majority of mass killers as well as the biggest genociders in history were white”

So just FYI, I doubt you are technically correct. This certainly reveals a lack of knowledge of Asian history, to name but one. It also shows that you don’t understand the impact of a society having a history in the technical sense – that is written documents that can record such things as genocides, versus a society which does not keep records in written form. Even then, it suggests you’re not really current with what we do know about societies without recorded histories – or even contemporary societies.

That’s why it’s the equivalent of trotting out those ‘black people are inherently violent’ memes in the first place, and is probably why someone complained and got you banned.

Obviously, there is no reason to believe that one race is more or less violent than others – or more or less given to genocide.

Viscaria
Viscaria
6 years ago

@varalys the dark, thanks for a great comment. I’m glad that you haven’t been targeted for harassment. Have you commented before? If not, welcome. 🙂

@Pen, I very much doubt that Kale was banned because they’re* “not really current” with the history book you read last year. It’s incredible that you suspect pedants before racists. Also, what Kale posted on FB is in no bloody way equivalent to perpetuating lies about the Black community that have contributed to the deaths of Black children. I mean really. Keep your condescending bullshit to yourself.

*I’m so sorry, Kale, I can’t recall what pronouns you use.

vaiyt
6 years ago

If you can’t doxx someone who deserves a doxx ing, what’s the point?!!
4chan is a do-ocracy. I guess there just weren’t enough people interested in doxxing an actual dangerous person as opposed to suicidal teenagers.

I also suspect their preferred method of doxxing involves fishing for irl information from internet profiles, while the opposite requires real world sleuthing a bunch of assholes shut in their basements aren’t prepared to do.

Virgin Mary
Virgin Mary
6 years ago

@vaiyt

Well, this guy actually left his Linked In profile up, so he wasn’t actually hiding away in the shadows. He didn’t think he’d done anything wrong as he blamed the sexy kids for leading him astray….
I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back out there preaching soon.
I was willing to post a real address, phone number, email and place of work. There was no online sleuthing to be done.

whatalineup
whatalineup
6 years ago

@Virgin Mary, did you post to 4chan proper? 8chan’s /baph/ is the “official” anon dox board, even though it’s anemic these days.

Skiriki
Skiriki
6 years ago

Ugh, hey, let’s not get into business of doxing people, please?

It is one thing to talk about it in general, and another to pass on tips for how/where-to.

whatalineup
whatalineup
6 years ago

My bad. I intended that to be more of a clarification than a how-to. I was just surprised that anons didn’t jump on the pedo brigade.

Mods, please feel free to delete that comment.

Robjec
Robjec
6 years ago

Just a heads up
Update. She will post a new blog/newsletter thing tonight around 6. And a bigger one this weekend.
Old news now but phones dead and I’m borrowing one now.
Visiting a relative in the hospital so may not be able to post when it goes live.

Robjec
Robjec
6 years ago

@poc
Female is also uses in some bio related fields such as bio stats when referring to humans. Basically when the sex is important to the information. It is a collective word though and not uses for individuals to offten.

Research texts also use it.

Robjec
Robjec
6 years ago

Oops don’t know how to edit, that was addressed to pom, if anyone can explain how to fix that please?

Viscaria
Viscaria
6 years ago

@Robjec, after you leave a comment there will be a link to edit it at the end of the your text, for a period of 4 minutes. If you don’t make any changes within that window, your comment is locked down as-is; but I wouldn’t worry about it, since you corrected yourself in your next comment anyway. 🙂

Robjec
Robjec
6 years ago

@Viscaria
Ahh OK thanks.

Oh and here the link to her newest article. I don’t know how to archive anything and am on a phone so please don’t dog pile her.
http://degree180.com/how-the-new-york-magazine-allowed-jesse-singal-to-scam-candace-owens/

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
6 years ago

I don’t know what Candace Owen is even trying to do right now. I checked her Twitter and it’s just a mess. If you didn’t already know about the Social Autopsy project, you’d have no idea what this fight is about by reading her Twitter. There’s pretty much no mention of ideas or disagreements, instead the whole feed is filled with “Randi is a poopy head”, “Zoe professional victim”, “NYmag scam” etc etc etc.

delphi_ote
delphi_ote
6 years ago

I want everyone to understand that I am a private citizen. Jesse Singal unleashed a wave of criticism at me that I was unprepared for, and did not deserve.

Oh. My. God. Is she really so dense she can’t see the irony of her writing this?

Cerberus
Cerberus
6 years ago

Pandapool- Thanks! It’s been like 7 years coming!

vaiyt- Yup, fishing online profiles and the usual Anon antics allows one to play-act like being an elite web hacker ninja while you serve as yet another proxy port for DDoS or as you fisk facebook or some other low-security social media site for things you can google.

While, I’m sure they have reasons they stalk people in meat space, I doubt they’re all that interested in doing it for “good” reasons.

Imaginary Petal- I wonder if part of it is the standard finance/tech-brat antipathy for ever being called out on how wrong-headed a project is? Like there’s definitely some shadows of peeple in a lot of her ramblings. Prolly doesn’t help that she’s incredulous enough about internet stuff to be buying literally everything GG is shoving at her including Breitbart links and other bullshit.

And I wonder if part of the problem is that she had an internal narrative of “I come up with perfect solution. I am heralded with solving this problem. Man, I’m good.” And now all these survivors of online harassment are criticizing her and saying her idea would make things worse not better.

That plus the human tendency to double-down on being an absolute scum-sucker when called out. Ironically enough, Jesse Singal did the same thing when trans people pointed out he wrote an article defending reparative therapy for trans folks.

BreadandCirce
BreadandCirce
6 years ago

I’ve been avoiding stuff on the periphery, but it appears that she’s finally being called upon to answer questions now that she’s stopped flailing. And it’s counting down to them all turning on her. They’re starting to say the same things to her that Zoe said, only now she can’t deflect.

Interestingly, any time she starts to actually veer into SJW territory as far as what she wants to accomplish with SA, one or more of her GG hangers-on brings up the “harassment” by Quinn and Harper. You can tell they don’t want to be associated with her unless they can use her to win somehow. Like, they jumped on board because the enemy of their enemy was their friend, and now they’re stuck with a vague SJWer who has public meltdowns. Every one of them is being careful to say “I am against SA but I support you.”

This is a problem, because she IS SA. When Zoe pointed out problems with the company’s goals, Candace took it as a personal affront. Everything is a betrayal. Everything is the post of a lifetime.

I think she enjoys the hyperscrutiny; her nearly Messianic hyping of her coming article that will “change the lives of all who read it” is totally feeding off that, and she’s got her amen-ers in the crowd.

The hubris is so thick that it’s a wonder she can breathe.

Robjec
Robjec
6 years ago

Well from her twitter she ran across a relatively common for of Spyware and thinks it’s aimed at her, so she is really not very tech literate. Even when her main gg supporters tried to tell her she was convinced it was about her.

Joekster
Joekster
1 year ago

Necroing this thread- Mrs Owens is back in the news again- this time for posting a video on youtube in which she goes through George Floyd’s criminal record (while saying it’s totally wrong that he’s was murdered by the cops, really it is). Not going to link to the youtube video- here it is in a donotlink, if you want to watch it without giving her youtube views.

https://donotlink.it/Pb61Q

Posting the below just to verify that, yes, this is the same Candace Owens. I wonder if anyone else finds her journey as surreal as I do?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2019/03/06/feature/candace-owens-is-the-new-face-of-black-conservatism-but-what-does-that-really-mean/

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Joekster
Conservatives love their token minorities, don’t they? I do wonder when Candace will go the way of Milo Yiannopoulos and the people who love bombed her will turn against her.

She also thinks COVID-19 is a hoax and refuses to take any vaccine.

Joekster
Joekster
1 year ago

@Naglfar: I do feel a little bad for her- she seems to have dunning-kruegered her way into the far-right. It’s a case study in why it’s so important to be able to listen to criticism, even if it’s painful.

Not that I’m in any position to talk- I’m sure my own privilege makes criticism hurt me less than others.

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