Is it possible to be Swatted for writing about #Gamergate? Indeed it is. I was almost Swatted, but it wasn't by people who post in the hashtag #GamerGate. No. I was Swatted by people who have claimed, falsely, that #GamerGate is about harassment of women.
"doxing & hacking & SWATing tend to be a package deal." - Zoe Quinn
Zoe Quinn has claimed to be a victim of harassment. And yet it was Zoe Quinn who was central to a conspiracy to get me (Mike Cernovich) Swatted.
Why did Zoe Quinn want to get me Swatted for writing about #GamerGate?
I'm a lawyer with a strong interest in the First Amendment and free speech issues. My legal writing has appeared in legal encyclopedias and has been cited in dozens of scholarly articles as well as multiple federal court opinions.
When I found out that Zoe Quinn had obtained a restraining order that clearly violated the First Amendment, I decided to look into the case.
Rather than allow me to write about legal issues, which I have done since 2004, Zoe Quinn tried censoring me in the most horrible of ways. Zoe Quinn tried getting me Swatted.
On October 22, 2014, a college student named Margaret Pless published an article listing my home address. Ms. Pless's post contained detailed street view images of my home.
Before publishing the dox, Margaret Pless discussed her plans with Zoe Quinn.
"I'm preparing an article about Cernovich for my own site; I'll link to it here once it's published. I'm holding it because Zoe Quinn says she wants to talk to me." - Margaret Pless a/k/a idledillettante
In Internet parlance, Margaret Pless "doxed" me, that is, she widely disseminated my information.
Once the dox was published, Zoe Quinn sprung into action. She immediately Tweeted out a link to the article to her 30,000 followers. Some of Quinn's followers included people who had made death threats against me in the past. Quinn is also friendly with a convicted woman beater.
Ms. Quinn said of the article that doxed me, "The best gg journalism continues to originate in blogs and storifies." (Archive link.)
After doxxing me, Zoe Quinn and one of her lovers, Alex Lifschitz, made veiled death threats against me.
Believing that the dox did not adequately intimidate me, Zoe Quinn and Alex Lifschitz, each went to Twitter asking for help.
Lifschitz posted a series of Tweets that were designed to intimidate and scare me:
- I guess what I'm saying is that this guy has gone from an annoyance to a credible threat. This is terrifying now. We need some help.
- By "help," honestly, I don't know our options. We'd frankly like to feel safe. Now we have to look out for a spook on [Cernovich's] payroll.
- And for someone who has already proven his willingness to release private details for spite, this is a massive, dangerous loose end.
- Disbarment is not gonna stop this guy.
What sort of help was Lifschitz seeking? Clearly getting me in trouble with the State Bar was not what he wanted to have happen. What exactly was Lifschitz hoping one of his many Twitter followers would do to me?
Quinn herself recognizes, "doxing & hacking & SWATing tend to be a package deal." Quinn doxed me. What did she have planned next?
When some suggested to Zoe Quinn that she try having me disbarred (for what, I don't know), she answered:
- "Disbarment takes years and it won't stop this freak."
Again, Quinn and Lifschitz did not believe that getting me disabarred was sufficient punishment for my "crime" of writing about the First Amendment.
As I had not (and still have not) committed any crimes, I could not be arrested. What were these people up to?
When read in isolation, these Tweets seem somewhat silly. In light of the dox, one cannot help but read them in a more ominous tone.
What do the experts say about Quinn's attempt to Swat me?
In addition to doxing me and soliciting help (while noting that disbarment isn't enough to stop me), Quinn also encouraged people to contact the State Bar of California on me. As I have done nothing unethical, her attempt to incite a mob to destroy by ability to practice law cannot be seen as anything other than cyberharassment.
Quinn's behavior is part of a course of conduct that an FBI expert on Swatting recognizes leads to Swatting.
I met personally with the nationwide experts on swatting in December 2011: the FBI office in Dallas, Texas. They told me that swatting is an extreme form of harassment — and that swatters typically combine swatting with other forms of harassment, including: complaining to the victim’s workplace, defaming the victim online, “Googlebombing” the victim, publishing the victim’s address online, filing phony reports of criminal activity by the victim, and so forth.
That is an interesting checklist, is it not?
How that checklist on Swatting apply to Quinn's pattern of behavior?
- Complaining to the victim's workplace: Check, she called the State Bar on me.
- Defaming the victim online: Check Quinn falsely accused me of several crimes, including harassment and stalking.
- Googlebombing the victim: No.
- Publishing the victim's address online: Check, Quinn doxed Cernovich.
- Filining phony reports of criminal activity: Check, Quinn's co-conspiractor Margaret Pless called the LAPD on me and encouraged others to do the same.
Quinn's course of conduct hits five out of the six items on the Swatting checklist.
She could of course claim she didn't want to get me Swatted. That's the idea.
Quinn published my dox and requrests for help without asking anyone to actually Swat me. It's a clever strategy, is it not?
If I die, she is happy. But it's not her fault.
She totally did not want to get me Swatted. She just doxed me because, well, because! And the "help" she wanted was, well, just help.
How dare you suggest she was up to no good!
I was almost Swatted for writing about GamerGate.
Again, I was not Swatted by people who are trying to reform journalism. I was almost Swatted by Zoe Quinn and others who have falsely claimed to be victims of harassment.