gamergate, shirtstorm, ubergate

Things have been happening in the science & technology world lately that make me feel uncomfortable and sad.

#gamergate

I’m at best a very casual gamer. I don’t have the patience or interest to spend more than a few minutes playing a game, however much I’ve tried since I was young. So I peripherically follow games news without paying much attention.

Twitter exploded with something called #gamergate during the summer. A simple summary:

  • a nasty breakup led to one of the party writing terrible, bitter blog posts about his ex, accusing her of a) sleeping around and b) sleeping around with a games journalist
  • he implied that games journalists are not objective since they are in bed with devs
  • somehow the posts went viral in certain quarters
  • trolls attacked the dev, including doxxing her (releasing her personal information such as address and phone number) and sending her death and rape threats
  • other women who came to the dev’s defence were also horribly harrassed using the same methods
  • a female journalist who wrote about the death of the identity of ‘gamer’ (because of popularisation of gaming) was also horribly harrassed
  • more women who spoke up were equally horribly harrassed
  • interestingly, a male gamer who called #gamergaters every name under the sun was not harrassed

Ostensibly #gamergaters are up in arms about ethics in games journalism, but they have never been able to articulate exactly what they were after. The turning point for me, was when well-respected, well-loved gamer who wasn’t a dev or a journo got doxxed within an hour of her writing a personal post on the subject. Which part of ethics in games journalism was that attack?

It’s a no-brainer, really. They have been exposed as a emotionally retarded boys who don’t want girls to play video games.

Makes me sad, reading all the threats against the women, and it’s all been against women.

#shirtstorm

On 12-nov-2014, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed a small space probe on a comet, after a mission spanning more than 10 years. It was an incredible moment in human scientific achievement.

One of the scientists, while on a global livestream broadcast, wore a colourful shirt with cartoon naked / semi-naked women. In one stroke, he spoiled the vast achievement of the ESA by his stupidity and insensitivity. The STEM industries have had trouble recruiting and retaining women, and this was symptomatic of the reasons why. Lots of negative comments on the topic of #shirtstorm.

Then, guess what? Women scientists who spoke out got horribly harrassed with death and rape threats.

The scientist has since made an apology, but I feel it’s a hollow one. I’d like to see what he, and the ESA, do to recruit and retain women into the industry. My fear is, nothing.

#ubergate

This week, something else blew up. It’s all about ride-sharing service, uber. This storify gives a good summary. Basically, a senior uber executive suggested at an official dinner that the company could hire a team to dig up dirt on journalists who write critical articles about them. He threatened the family of a particular journalist and said they could expose her personal life.

The uber exec in question half-heartedly apologised to the journo (by creepily calling her, when she had never given him her phone number), and the CEO of uber issued an apology that was more like an internal memo, while not firing the exec.

Other journos revealed that uber was not careful with confidential data, accessing and showing ride history and location without the permission of the customers involved.

There are 2 stories here that dovetail into each other. One is the threat against the family of a woman journalist who wrote critical things about a company. However much someone disagrees with any person or company on a professional level, to bring the fight to a personal and family level is unacceptable. It’s sad and scary that a company such as uber would even think of such action.

The second is the seemingly casual attitude the company has when dealing with their customers’ data. They have personal info like credit card, phone number and home address. Furthermore they can deduce where the customers work, what they do on a Friday night and where their kids go to school.

No wonder the journo who was threatened has now hired security for her kids.

uberdelete

I’ve never used uber. Taxis and public transportation are readily available and cheap where I am, and the couple of times I looked into uber, it’s been more expensive than a taxi. I get that ride sharing services are useful in cities where there’s poor public transportation and/or insufficient taxis. I downloaded the app for a) emergency and b) when I’m in another city and may need a ride. In any case, after #ubergate, I’m heeding the call of many techies to delete the app. It doesn’t matter to me, I hope that people who have loyally used it can find another, more ethical and more trustworthy, service for their needs.