(parts of this article were basically written by my friend and DeepFreeze contributor @ExposedPerfidy—we can consider him this article’s co-author)
I explained what Crash Override Network is and why it is relevant in the first part. What is left, here, is to explain what happened to make it worth writing about now: the leaked CON logs.
This article was meant to be at least comparatively exhaustive, but it has had a tremendously long gestation due to the sheer length of the logs, which are very dense with compromising material. Relevant information will keep getting added to this post, which will be liberally modified. A list of major edits can be seen at the bottom.
What are these logs?
These logs, found here, are the archives of a Skype group hosted by CON heads Zoe Quinn and Alex Lifschitz. The archives run from December 22, 2014 and January 5, 2015—they are around 50,000 lines long, close to a million words. The purpose of the group was the creation of an anti-harassment group, which would come to be Crash Override Network, as mentioned twice in the logs.
The people in the proto-CON chat also participated in the creation of CON’s charter and documentation. It seems these people are CON’s anonymous staff of “survivors” allegedly helping harassment victims.
The leaks were shortly followed by the leaks of CON’s official documentation, and the group’s Trello shared notes.
The logs’ authenticity has been confirmed by former members Ian Cheong, Randi Harper and Peter Coffin. I’ve been in contact with the anonymous group that parsed the logs, and I’ve seen myself some more information that corroborates the logs’ veracity.
Articles discussing these logs appeared on The Washington Examiner, Heatstreet (twice) and multiple times on One Angry Gamer—apparently, following an efficient media package released by the leakers. Despite the overwhelming amount of coverage that CON had previously received, outlets which had already covered CON chose to answer the leaks with a deafening silence. CON has retained its role as a Twitter trusted partner, and discussion of the leaks is being heavily policed on Wikipedia, where some editors are actively battling to avoid any mention of the leaks on CON’s page.
Who is in these logs?
All of the people in this log are, or have been, very critical towards users of the #GamerGate hashtag, with several being more famous for this criticism than for anything they’re actually doing. The chat contains the overwhelming majority of people considered “Anti-GamerGate” figureheads.
It’s up to speculation which of these people, if any, are still active in Crash Override Network at this point. People active in the logs include CON’s founders:
- Zoe Quinn, the CEO of Crash Override Network and a media darling with excellent publicity—writing as drinternetphd in the logs.
- Alex Lifschitz, Quinn’s partner and CFO of CON.
Journalists and other people with large platforms:
- Then editor-in-chief of GameRanx and freelance journalist Ian Miles Cheong. Cheong has very publicly detached himself from CON’s clique long before the leaks, and has apologized for his behavior in the logs, even writing about them.
- Freelance journalist Katherine Cross—then-secretary of Feminist Frequency and likely CON’s contact with their sponsor.
- Youtuber Peter Coffin.
- Former Jeopardy champion and freelance journalist Arthur Chu. Not seen active in the chat.
- Freelance journalist Dan Olsen.
- Freelance journalist Vereender Jubbal.
- Former Football punter Chris Kluwe.
Other comparatively e-famous people:
- Randi Harper, most famous for creating the GGAutoblocker. Founder of CON partner organization Online Abuse Prevention Initiative.
- Dina Abou Karam, at the time the controversial community manager for Comcept.
- Twitter activist and owner of now-defunct site FFShrine Sarah Nyberg.
- “Internet harassment” specialist Israel Galvez, who appeared on tv as a victim of harassment.
- Programmer Faruk Ateş (@KuraFire)—formerly at Apple, author of Modernizr.
- Small-time indie developer David Gallant.
- Small-time tabletop game author @SecretGamerGirl
Rest of people are not notable, except for their Anti-GamerGate Twitter activity:
- @SjwIlluminati (Tesseract, not to be confused with Remy)
- @UntimelyGamer (nicholas.boterf)
- @Zennistrad (Lars Flyger)
- @UnseenPerfidy (Robert Marmolejo)
- @SFTheWolf (SF)
- @StephanAtWar, later @Tesseraconteur (Remy)
- @KnifeHorse (live:riotarms)
- @Nibelsnarfabarf (Charloppe)
- @AnnieKNK (Annie Kelly)
- “Ross”, twitter unidentified.
Some other people are mentioned but not seen active. Among them, relevant are @a_man_in_black, seen very active in the Trello, and @kav_p who’s mentioned as being a member.
Just the names in the logs are troubling for CON
- The existence of “Anti-GamerGate” as an organized movement has been always denied and mocked by people accusing of belonging to it. The CON leaks prove that basically all major Anti-GamerGate figurehead were working together at CON.
- @StephanAtWar/@Tesseraconteur has been extremely critical of CON, stating that they chose clients with the aim of gaining publicity and power, and that they shared clients’ personal information and even that they managed to get a journalist banned from Twitter. While these are just unverified assertions, they suddenly carry a lot more weight, since it’s now known that this person was posting in these leaks as “Remy”, and, as a founding CON member, they would have access to insider information.
- A victim’s rather unflattering account of an harassment victim who asked for CON’s help—showing CON is late in replying, only offers very generic and at points questionable advice, starts ignoring and blaming the harassment victim when she disagrees with them—becomes even more damaging, because two out of three of the people this victim accuses of being her harassers were, unbeknownst to her and revealed only by the recent leaks, members of CON (Harper and Nyberg), and the third (@a_man_in_black on Twitter) is mentioned in the logs and is very active on the Trello.
Several CON members were known harassers
Aside from Quinn—who, as noted in the first part, has been involved in harassment and accused of being involved in scams multiple times, but who, as the founder, was already known to be part of CON:
- Robert Marmolejo has been accused of sexually harassing over twenty women, soliciting them for nudes with the threat of suicide. Accusation has been confirmed by fellow CON members and Marmolejo himself (who publicly apologized). The logs prove he was active in CON—actually, a founding member.
- Israel Galvez has been engaging in a documented doxing attempt. CON, contacted about this event, had denied Galvez worked with them—this might not be a lie, as CON’s statement might reflect his current position, but it’s undeniable he was a founding member.
- Randi Harper has been engaging in frequent and blatant harassment over social media, including doxing a debt collector. She has at least once admitted to doxing.
- Sarah Nyberg has been making money from piracy, has been involved in doxing and cyberattacks and, worst of all, is an admitted pedophile who shared pictures of an 8 years old relative. Not only was Nyberg proven to be a member, but the “Pedophile defense force”, who protected them once their issues were discovered was mostly made of fellow CON members.
- Chris Kluwe has raised a scandal when he admitted he had covered up the rape of an underage girl.
- While it’s less of an harassment issue and more of an embarasment, Peter Coffin is very famous in “lolcow” circles for manufacturing a false girlfriend and using her to harass a female blogger.
CON members call each other harassers
Aside from Remy and Cheong (whose divorce from social justice ideas was very publicized and brought to a significant change in his writing), many people in the logs quarreled with the rest of CON at some point after the logs—most of these spats involved Harper.
Aside from being a founding member of CON, Harper founded and manages their partner organization OAPI. Depending on if her accounts are to be believed, we have to conclude that either CON has been founded and staffed by toxic individuals who are harassers themselves, or that Harper’s a bully and a liar who falsely accuses others of harassment while banking over $3500 per month via Patreon as an harassment expert. Neither option, or the in-between, are particularly flattering for CON.
Harassment in the logs
- The Trello leak shows that the group was actively organizing the doxing of Twitter user PressFartToContinue—including securing a major media outlet as a platform to do so.
- Still on the Trello, it can be seen that the group was using its connections to get the documentary The Sarkeesian Effect removed from Patreon. Similarly, very through and successful effort was underetaken to remove imageboard 8chan from all crowdfunding platforms, an effort that is also seen very consistently in the leaked chat logs.
- Trello also has, courtesy of Dan Olsen, a very accurate dox (including parents’ identity, school…) of the owner of the 8chan /baphomet/ board—a board often dabbling in doxing. It’s unclear what CON did with the information, if anything.
- When the group badmouths journalist Liana Kerzner, Quinn mentions she had contacted her editors. Kerzner wrote a very level-headed response to CON’s accusations towards her—showing them to be substantially fabricated.
- Group attacks a disabled veteran and Purple Heart recipient, with Remy admitting to having contacted the navy to try putting him in trouble. As the group says, it’s unclear if this had any effect, but the veteran did stop posting on social media for a time that seems to match the chat’s events.
Endorsement of harassment
Labeling innocent people harassers
Several times on the Trello leak (such as the “Twitter assholes” sections) contain references to people who were clearly not engaging in any form of harassment, and are seemingly there just for CON to keep shaming material on them.
Lack of anti-harassment
While the logs aren’t completely empty of anti-harassment activity—there are calls to report harassment, and on at least one occasion even harassment of a perceived opponent—there’s overwhelmingly little of it. What little is actually there is mostly calls to protect members of the group from perceived slights, such as in the Jubbal examples above.
Aside from the bits mentioned in the above passages, highlights include:
- Dina Abou Karam had been in the middle of a huge controversy when she was hired as the community manager of Comcept—with the backers of their then-upcoming game Mighty N°9 accusing Dina of having been hired due to nepotism, of not caring about the game, and of wanting to manipulate its development with her political agenda. In what was going to be the first in a series of controversies eventually leading to Mighty N°9’s bad reputation and poor reception, Dina started deleting dissenting opinions from the game’s forums, and Concept, while denying backers’ requests for refunds. The leaks show Abou Karam bragging about influencing the game’s developement exactly as it was claimed she wouldn’t, although it’s unclear if this is plausible.
- The Trello has notes about Quinn talking to crowdfunding site Patreon in order to have them cut financial support to Quinn’s perceived enemies, and notes seem to indicate CON considered this effort successful. Patreon’s founder Sam Yam had publicly claimed just two days after these notes he had “no horse in the race” and he had never even talked to Quinn. This may mean Quinn hadn’t talked to Yam specifically.
- CON attempted to keep tabs on the harassment faced by their sponsor Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency—a controversial figure whose notoriety (and very high earnings) springs more from her claims of being a victim of constant harassment that from her extremely criticized videos. Despite their extremely relaxed standards in qualifying anything as harassment, they found no evidence of any of it involving Sarkeesian, whose advertised harassment had already been put in question.
- Quinn states in the logs that she sabotaged the Polaris Game Jam in 2014. This is even more damaging, as at the time Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson released an article about the this Jam’s failure while he was having an affair with Quinn (or, at best, a little before the affair started, and most of the article ended up being about Quinn, depicting her as an hero and publicizing a possible game jam of her own. Quinn soon announced said Game Jam: “Rebel Jam” immediately started taking donations (to Quinn’s personal PayPal account), but, over two years later, still has no detail, dates, location, and is often accused of being a scam.
While several of the connections flaunted by CON members might be exaggerated or false, the many journalists that covered Quinn without disclosing personal or financial relationships with her are very well documented outside of the CON leaks, and are listed in the previous part.
Final, personal thoughts
More than the individual episodes described above, what struck me about these logs was the very disturbing general tone. Considering its relatively small size, the group generates a lot of writing, and extremely little of it consists of light chats, general discussions, jokes… the chat never “turns off”, and almost all of it is just an unending ten minutes of hate towards users of the #GamerGate hashtag.
The group describes anyone who disagrees with them, as an harasser, abuser, racist—no matter how far-fetched these accusations. This leads to such a dehumanization of CON’s adversaries that reading a longer chunk of the logs’ continuous hate-spewing has been a fairly disturbing personal experience even for me.
The CON leaks contain such a tremendous amount of harassment, threats and other compromising material that even an article of this length can’t be considered exhaustive. The chat logs cover just fifteen days, and if the group has continued cooperating in the same way before and after, the content of these logs could be just the tip of a very terrible iceberg.
When I launched my website about gaming journalism, DeepFreeze.it, it was met with great praise, but it also received a lot of negative attention—and, aside from journalists that were listed on the site, a lot of faces were from CON (including a couple not included in the link). DeepFreeze’s feedback board was invaded by trolls—and the board’s moderator speculates CON founder Nyberg was one of them (Nyberg was frequently tweeting screens from the board). It’s impossible to say if CON was involved or not, but it’s certainly a reasonable speculation, especially with sudden start and end of these attacks suggesting a coordinated effort. I’m sure a lot of episodes in the last couple years might show similar patterns, raise some eyebrows.
* * *
The bottom line for me, as usual, is not CON itself. Aside from possibly Cheong, who has a fairly large journalistic presence (and has very thoroughly apologized for his behavior in the chat anyway), they’re nobodies as far as I’m concerned.
Problem is, as noted in the other article, they’re nobodies with a platform. My concern, as usual, is with journalists.
If you take a nude model whose only claim to fame are a couple of zero-effort text adventures, and start writing about her every time she breathes because it’s something that helps your agenda (or perhaps because you’re friends), and prop this nobody to the point that she is receiving $ 4.000,00 per month from well-meaning people for doing nothing, and has talked to the Congress and the UN as anti-harassment expert while leading a group of harassers… then you should quit journalism, lest you turn the word “journalist” into the insult I usually take it as when people compare me to one.
There’s been little debate about the CON leaks. Surprisingly little spinning, most involved parties (including Quinn and Lifschitz) have been, as far as I know, mostly silent. As noted above, the overwhelming majority of journalists that discussed CON before were silent this time, sometimes explicitly so. They did it because the evidence is so direct and so condemning that not even a flippin’ magician could manage to spin it without outing these journos as the frauds (or useful idiots) they’ve been.
So many journalists have propped up these harassers, these liars, these lazy people. I’m sure some stragglers will be stupid enough to cover these people again, despite the leaks. Well, journalists, if you keep not doing your job and being in service of the truth, then someone else will have to step in.
Because journalists are our eyes. And these eyes need to show the truth.
- 16/10/2016: Added Patreon section to Game Industry. Added Milo section to Lack of anti-harassment, and relevant disclosure below. Clarified Quinn’s “KB” list.
- 10/10/2016: Added Sarkeesian section to Game Industry section, added Assange section to Lack of anti-harassment. Minor corrections.
- 2/10/2016: Added Lack of anti-harassment and Final, personal thoughts sections. Exteneded Harassment in the logs section with Liana Kerzner section, split part of it off in the Endorsement of harsassment section. Several minor corrections.
I backed the Mighty N°9 crowdfunding campaign, at the basic $20 tier.
I met Milo Yiannopoulos once, at the GGinParis public meetup, where we had a brief conversation.
On my part, I consider myself on reasonably friendly terms with PressFartToContinue and Jennifer Medina.