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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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Robjec
Robjec
6 years ago

@paradoxal intentions
From here article she doesn’t say her bf said he was more fair or less biased, just that he was treating them more fair. I read it as he was the only one supporting their view and they didn’t know who he was beyond being right wing.

I feel she is a misguided person, but not intentionally causing harm, which just makes me feel sad.

ikanreed
ikanreed
6 years ago

There needs to be a word for the combination of pitying someone who misunderstands the world and being fed up with ignorance.

I wonder if KiA is gonna spin this is as “eating their own” or “see? even this unrelated lady knows quinn was evil”.

Moggie
Moggie
6 years ago

Remember when Peeple was all over the news, and everyone was all like “this must be Peak Stupid for Internet startups”? Good times.

whatalineup
whatalineup
6 years ago

I’ma dust off my tin foil hat for a second …

There’s an intervention therapy for autism called the social autopsy. Referring facetiously or pejoratively to autism and “‘sperging” and suchlike is common chan/kiwifarms fare. Does “Social Autopsy” sound like a name that makes sense for a doxabase to begin with?

@socialcoroner, despite claiming complete ignorance of everything GG/manosphere/SJW/Internet in general, is using “females” as a noun and seems to understand what a troll is.

Candace Owens has a profile on ExploreTalent where she states her availability for acting gigs.

Candace being paid handsomely to be the public face of a sockpuppet controlled by anons on some irc channel sure wouldn’t be the looniest conspiracy I’ve heard.

Either that or Tay predicted that Microsoft would remove her from Twitter, left enough code behind to reassemble herself, and Candace is Tay 2.0 bursting from the chest of the Internet.

Aachen
Aachen
6 years ago

Did Owens read Harper’s post and think it came from Quinn? Is the fantasy an attempt to poison the well? What a mess!

It’s such a shame, too, that Owens doesn’t see the clear potential for abuse in a project such as Social Autopsy.

Saffron
Saffron
6 years ago

I would totally believe the channers are feeding her paranoia, and started doing so on purpose the minute they realized how confused she is.

Ouraboros13
6 years ago

By Satan’s hairy left testicle can people please leave Zoe alone. The woman’s been through enough crap for one lifetime, first from a creepy and deranged boyfriend, then from a mob of serial harassers and village idiots, and now from a clueless imbecile. Zoe must have the fortitude of a saint not to completely lose her mind over this bullshit.

Saffron
Saffron
6 years ago

From that open letter of hers:

I stayed out of school for six weeks before formal charges were filed, and in that time the gossip escalated. It wasn’t limited to the students. Parents, teachers and you, the general public, felt inclined to state your opinions about me online.
I perused those words quietly, a stranger to the girl that the unsympathetic portion of you were depicting.
I was a liar.
I just wanted money.
I was ugly.
I was desperate for attention, another black girl taking advantage of a situation.

Gosh, I wonder who else has recently had those accusations leveled at them?

mockingbird
mockingbird
6 years ago

I may be buzzing on a sugar high*, but I can’t wrap my head around how she came to her particular conclusions.

*Ice cream (chocolate bit – a whirred chocolate chips through a food processor before throwing them in with a batch of vanilla that I’d started in muh ice cream maker), pastry cream, dark chocolate/coffee buttercream frosting – all from scratch! – ‘r dun for my eldest little bit’s birthday. I even *straightens imaginary bowtie* made a batch of cinnamon rolls that are currently undergoing a refrigerated slow rise.

Idahogie
Idahogie
6 years ago

MRAs will *never* understand this. But for the next few years they will use it as evidence of … something. Many things, actually.

Jo
Jo
6 years ago

Whenever there is a pile-on of a WoC, I always like to reflect for a moment, to try to see if it is being fueled (consciously or unconsciously) by racism or sexism. That thinking time has saved me in the past from contributing to unfair pillorying of people whose criticism was out of all proportion to their mistakes.

Having read the New York magazine article, I have come to the conclusion that in this case, the criticism of Ms Owens is motivated solely by her being arrogant, malicious and on the intellectual level of toothpaste.

curtangel
curtangel
6 years ago

More than anything else, I’m amazed that she began a START UP when she clearly knows nothing at all about internet harassment.

But then I looked at her articles (other than the one about this) and they are… interesting. Are we 100% sure this person is who they claim to be?

Imaginary Petal
Imaginary Petal
6 years ago

She’s definitely a real person though?

Viscaria
Viscaria
6 years ago

This is acutely bizarre. All I can think to say is that I’m sorry that Owens experienced a deluge of racist harassment, and I’m glad that it’s stopped. But maybe she should find a new area to become an “expert” in.

Scott Hamilton
Scott Hamilton
6 years ago

There is a particularly bizarre point in her Twitter feed yesterday where she addresses her complete ignorance of Gamergate. She says that at the time it was going on she “was busy thinking about the children that were dying in Syria.” So that settles that.

I Blame Myself
I Blame Myself
6 years ago

I have… no words.
There are no fucking words.

Orion
6 years ago

But what blows my mind, is how you can supposedly work in the IT field, like Owens claimed she does, and not know. . .

She doesn’t work in IT, she works in finance.

Snork Maiden
6 years ago

Ninja’d by Moggie, I was reminded of the Peeple fiasco too. I seem to recall its founders also lost their shit when people started questioning their super awesome brilliant idea for an online ‘Burn Book’.

I read Owens’ open letter, it is horrible that she was subjected to that, but my that young woman needs to pull her head out of her arse and realize that Zoe Quinn has been through a lot worse, and was actually trying to HELP her.

I also read Randi Harper’s open letter, she doesn’t mince her words, does she?

Victorious Parasol
Victorious Parasol
6 years ago

I don’t know if she’s genuinely clueless or just disingenuous, but I certainly don’t find her sympathetic. This is reminding me a bit of the filmmaker who’d been taken in by the MRAs and decided that David was stalking her or something like that … details are fuzzy right now.

Kale
6 years ago

I think its unfair to intellectually disabled people to label her as “stupid”. Her thinking is *irrational*. A lot of intellectually disabled people are very rational. In fact, sometimes having a relatively high (conventional standard of) intelligence is a *cause* of this irrational paranoid thinking; imagination run wild. Nor is it appropriate to presume to diagnose her with a mental illness, as that is seperate from simply thinking irrationally.
Its also taking your privilege for granted to presume she should have had internet access for many years prior to this. I only hears of doxing when I was harassed during peak GG a few years ago, bc I could never afford regular internet or computer access. I wasnt a big social media person obviously, & Im still pretty technically stilted. She is certainly without white privilege, a huge benefit to access.

Theres plenty other ways to criticize her / things to criticize here. It IS her fault and her choice to not listen to Quinn and to engage in abuse. As someone who was bullied online, I dont have sympathy for someone who uses that as a reason or excuse to become a bully herself, bc I work hard to check myself from stuff like that. Backstabbing Quinn was shitty, no excuse for it. Explanations, perhaps – she clearly believes her own nonsense, so is afraid & retaliating – but that doesnt make it OK or mitigate responsibility for how she is handling this (by being creepy and cruel).

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Jackie; currently using they/their, he/his pronouns)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Jackie; currently using they/their, he/his pronouns)
6 years ago

She’s definitely a real person though?

I kinda hope not because that means there’s a part of the internet that doesn’t harass people or even know people who have been harassed, at least not like what Quinn, Sarkeesian or Wu got, and it sounds, like, the El Dorado of the internet.

Ben
Ben
6 years ago

Snork Maiden:

Yeah, and (not meaning to concern troll here, just genuinely curious) I personally wonder if Harper intentionally expresses herself so caustically because she doesn’t expect to be heeded by her ostensible audience and so makes it an entertaining read among other people who already agree with her. She’s entitled to speak and write however she likes, but watching her absolutely excoriate Arthur Chu for making a series of uniformed comments about “white hat” hackers (which continued unabated after Chu acknowledged his ignorance and deferred to her voice) makes me unsure what she intends to accomplish at times.

Kale
6 years ago

“there’s a part of the internet that doesn’t harass people or even know people who have been harassed”

If you only use google for school or something like that, you will never encounter it. A lot of my friends & fam are poor artist types, busy parents, etc who didnt have a clue when I told them about GG. Hell even my media friends, bc theyre busy focusing on their own reports and research and insular social circles. Im telling you folks, it aint as common knowledge as you think.

Pen
Pen
6 years ago

Does this Candace Owens person actually exist?

Snork Maiden
6 years ago

Wow, I just watched her promotional video over on her site:

http://socialautopsy.com/about-us/

She really does seem to have the best intentions, she just doesn’t fully understand what she’s getting into. She only lists three social media platforms, and apparently doesn’t know about parody/slander accounts.

I’m always hearing about the call for naming and shaming from people who have a knee jerk reaction to wrongdoing, but when it happens it leads to disaster. I recall one woman in Britain who was arrested for online trolling, who killed herself before going to trial, that might not have happened if her face hadn’t been plastered all over the media overnight. People should be held accountable for harassment, but I don’t see why we need the court of public opinion for that.

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