It should be noted that the information here, long as this post is, might not be exhaustive. This post has been updated a few times since it was published, and a list of edits is at the bottom.
What is Crash Override Network?
- CON self-describes as a “crisis helpline, advocacy group and resource center for people who are experiencing online abuse”.
- CON has been founded and is headed by media darling Zoe Quinn and her partner Alex Lifschitz. Its staff “a network of experts and survivors”, whose identities are kept anonymous.
- CON is fiscally sponsored by Feminist Frequency, with donations made on CON’s website going directly through Feminist Frequency.
- According to CON’s website, they’re actively searching for partners but are not hiring individuals—people wishing to help CON are instead encouraged to complete surveys, publicize CON, or donate.
What makes CON relevant?
- CON is a Twitter trusted resource for dealing with offensive content. It was promoted by Twitter’s @safety account.
- CON was listed as an harassment-preventing resource by the IGDA very quickly.
- CON launch has received an overwhelming amount of media coverage, including large outlets like BBC, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Verge, Ars Technica.
- CON has been accused of being ineffectual, and even a fraud. Individual members of CON’s staff have demonstrably been engaging in abuse themselves.
- Quinn is very relevant on her own, given that she has received a colossal amount of media coverage (landing all the way to mainstream media stations), mostly covering her claims to be a victim of harassment. She has talked about her harassment in a US congressional hearing and even at the United Nations, and seemingly was at a point in talks with Sony for a now-cancelled movie deal based on her upcoming book.
- Chat logs detailing the foundation of CON have been recently leaked. These logs feature Quinn, Lifschitz and a series of figures apparently part of CON’s staff, and show these people engaging in very questionable practices for an anti-abuse group.
What accusations has CON received, before the leaks?
- CON’s financing has been fairly unclear, with CON being a non-profit but also receiving donations through Quinn’s Patreon, which has received over 4.000 $ per month and has listed CON as her primary activity for over seventeen months.
- CON’s launch was preceded by a clumsily-programmed and continuously-resetting countdown, and immediately publicized with bots.
- What work CON has actually done against online abuse is again very unclear. While accounts of their work are mostly, understandably, non public, what is available is very questionable.
- Most published case CON helped with involved Israel Galvez. Galvez, as noted below, is apparently a member of CON publicizing his own organization.
- Someone confirmed by the logs to have been a founding member of CON accused the group of being a scam which shares people’s personal info.
- One hagiography of CON was given by journalist Andrew Todd. Aside from being in a blatant conflict of interest with Quinn, according to a source I consider reliable Todd is the boyfriend of another CON founding member.
- CON was namedropped in an article about an event involving controversial figure Brianna Wu. Not only does CON appear to be uninvolved, but, as the article’s correction states, the event implicates Wu in falsely claiming to have made a police report.
- The only report by an harassment victim contacting CON is overwhelmingly unflattering. 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. Furthermore, two out of three of the people this victim accuses of being her harassers were, unbeknownst to her and revealed by the recent leaks, members of CON.
Has CON head Zoe Quinn been engaging in harassment?
The media depiction of Quinn shows her as a victim of harassment—with several journalists having been caught promoting Quinn while having personal or financial ties to her, as noted below—but she has quite often been accused of abusive behavior, even in cases where media depicted her as the victim.
- Quinn stated she was “crippingly addicted” to helldump, a Something Awful board dedicated to doxing and harassing people which was shut down once it drove someone to suicide. There’s evidence of her participating in doxing at least once.
- Quinn claimed to have killed a man by stabbing. No evidence, likely false.
- Two posts criticizing Quinn appeared on anonymous imageboard for depressed male virgins WizardChan in 2013. Quinn claimed she was being harassed by that board’s users, and despite these accusations looking extremely suspicious, then-unknown Quinn received a very large amount of press due to them. One year later, a Wizardchan former administrator stated that the posts Quinn based the harassment claim on were made by Quinn herself “for attention”.
- The infamous ZoePost has been covered very unflatteringly by the press, but it’s undeniable it offers direct evidence of Quinn being abusive to her then-boyfriend.
- Quinn managed to get a gag order on her ex from the ZoePost—who was left unable to defend himself from the very damaging claims made towards him. Leaked court documents show Quinn had falsely implicated her ex in doxing to get the order. When this came out, she claimed it was a mistake by the police.
- Quinn was accused of sexual abuse by an indie dev. No proof one way or the other. The indie dev deleted the tweet, and never brought up the accusation again, when Quinn’s friend and big-name indie dev Phil Fish intimidated him.
- Quinn quarreled with anti-harassment advocate Candace Owens, and warned her that she was going to be harassed by GamerGate due to her “Social Autopsy” crowdfunding campaign. Owen started receiving harassing messages immediately afterwards, primarily targeting her private mail which Quinn appears to have shared with her followers, and her campaign was canceled. Owens believes that Quinn and Randi Harper have been sending or inciting this harassment, trying to pin it on their opposition.
- Quinn incited a dogpile on Stardock CEO Brad Wardell.
- Quinn has been inciting harassment on charity The Fine Young Capitalists with flimsy accusations of transphobia. She did not directly dox them, as claimed, but Quinn’s agent spread their dox.
- Quinn similarly spread lawyer Mike Chernovich’s dox.
Has Quinn been involved in scams?
- Quinn has opened several questionable crowdfunds. She claimed she had been mugged and received donations to recover, but no police report and no evidence of the mugging exist. She crowdfounded over 3,300 $ over two sites for a weekly games project, which she abandoned after producing just two very low-effort games.
- Quinn owns a famously very successful Patreon. Her monthly outcome swelled from little over 1100 $ to over 3000 $ (and eventually up to about 4300 $) following the publicity she received after claiming she was being harassed by GamerGate. However, her production output is overwhelmingly thin: despite her Patreon being, until it included Crash Override in January 2015 ostensibly mostly about games, she hasn’t produced any significant game since 2013’s Clone and Depression Quest—themselves low-effort Twine games. Quinn has been accused of being a “Professional Victim”, her product being her victim persona rather than her accomplishments.
- In 2014, Kotaku’s Nathan Grayson released an article about the failed Polaris Game Jam. Most of the article ended up talking about Quinn, who soon launched her own Game Jam on the coattails of Polaris’ failure. This “Rebel Jam” immediately started taking donations (to Quinn’s personal PayPal account), but, over two years later, still has no detail, dates, location. It was discovered that Grayson was having an affair with Quinn when he wrote the article—at best, a little after—and the recently-leaked logs show Quinn and some developers she encouraged had deliberately sabotaged Polaris.
Have journalists written about Quinn without disclosing a relationship with her?
Yes, at least fifteen times. I had to cover that in a separate article.
In short, six cases of journalists who have been covering Quinn while in an apparent conflict of interest had been known for years. While making research for these posts, I found nine more instances, even with a fairly superficial investigation.
History of relevant edits
- 1/10/16: Added link to the second part, modified section about Todd, added info about Quinn’s UN and Congress speeches and alleged movie deal. Removed section about CON members being known harassers, which was moved to the other article.
- 14/9/16: Added Have journalists written about Quinn without disclosing a relationship with her? section and information on Andrew Todd.
- 27/8/16: Added Has Quinn been involved in scams? section.
- 28/8/16: Added bullet points about Candace Owen, Brad Wardell on Quinn’s harassment session.