Best for: Everyone who spends time online. So, you know, all of us.
In a nutshell: Video game designer who experienced the hell of online attacks tells her story and provides us all with the tools to fight back.
Line that sticks with me: So many! But this is a great one: “Pretty much everything we’ve been told about dealing with online abuse is wrong, but the misconception that ‘trolls’ will just go away if they’re ignored is possibly the most damaging.”
Why I chose it: My husband purchased it (he’s works in the same field as Ms. Quinn), and I was excited for the opportunity to read about how she’s handled the abuse and what she is working on these days.
You may have heard of Zoë Quinn. She is the incredibly talented video game designer behind Depression Quest. Unfortunately, you may be more familiar with her as the person viciously targeted by an abusive ex-boyfriend in what eventually became known as GamerGate.
In this well-written and incredibly relevant book, Ms. Quinn shares her story. We hear first-hand about what it can be like to be in the center of a near-literal shit storm, and learn about how she worked (and is still working) through it. This changed her life. She went from being a couple of weeks away from moving with her boyfriend to France (where he was to start a new job) to having to couch surf and eventually leave her home in Boston because of the harassment.
The men who decided that they would believe Ms. Quinn’s abuser went after her like a mob. They targeted her online presence from multiple angles, but also doxxed her, finding out her phone number, her address, her dad’s phone number. Anyone who spoke out in her support — especially those who work in her industry — as also targeted. She, and those associated with her, have had to take very serious security precautions, to the point where she urges people to not share her location if they see her in public.
Instead of disappearing, though, Ms. Quinn has been a vocal advocate for change in our systems. She spends time in this book discussing the ways law enforcement is ill equipped to handle this, including how the system of restraining orders can actually make contact with abusers unavoidable (via court appearances) as well as make personal information readily available (as most of these orders require the petitioner to provide their address and phone number). More importantly, Ms. Quinn is quite aware that involving the police is not something a lot of people want to do if they are part of a group that has a history of being treated poorly by law enforcement. She has also been trying to work with tech companies that, as she points out, can somehow quickly ban for life a person who posts copyrighted Olympics footage, but claim their hands are tied with people spewing death threats.
Another thing that has come from this is that Ms. Quinn and her former boyfriend Alex started Crash Override to assist others who are being targeted by online abuse. They — along with unnamed agents — help people address the abuse, from assisting with gaining back control of hacked accounts to escalating issues at tech companies. They are temporarily not taking new cases, but have a wealth of resources available on their website to help people navigate the systems.
Some of this book will get your blood boiling, because it’s so frustrating to read tech companies essentially doing the bare minimum and not taking the steps that exist to help fix things. Its infuriating to learn that a judge could say with a straight face that Ms. Quinn should just find a new line of work, as though that should be an acceptable outcome of the abuse her ex boyfriend instigated. It’s frustrating that this is all continuing today, on a regular basis.
One thing I also wanted to mention is that Ms. Quinn is good at pointing out that her story is just her story, and that other people — especially people of color and trans people — also experience this kind of harassment, and, unless famous, usually are ignored. I appreciate that she is focused on finding solutions that will work for the most marginalized, not just people like her, who have some measure of privilege.
Please go read this book.