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“Mom,” I started again, “Have you heard of Gamergate? She got deadly silent when I told her what swatting was, and about the online harassment campaigns against feminists on Twitter perpetrated by a group called Gamergate.
She asked what we could do in terms of legal action, and I told her probably nothing.
When I realized that there are very few systems in place for protecting people from online harassment, and the systems that do exist (like Block Together, which allows users to share block lists, or robust privacy settings that a user has to manually and painstakingly seek out on Facebook) are just scratching the surface, I decided to come up with a solution myself.
I tried to come up with more advanced filter settings than “public” or “private” for Twitter and other social media sites, to protect users while allowing them to stay visible. Every tweet I’d ever written about online harassment flashed through my mind as I tried to figure out what in particular I had said to piss someone off enough that they’d target my mother, and who it could have been.
The call came in to my mother’s local precinct, not 911.I assumed he was writing an article about online harassment and had reached out to me because I was a budding researcher in the field and a New Orleans native.I was excited that a local newspaper was interested in the topic, and flattered that the reporter had reached out to me.It’s happened to a few female game developers, and a games store in New Jersey during an event. “Mom,” I asked, “did the SWAT team come to your house?I called my mom right away, still staring at the email. She had so much news; my cousin had gotten a new job, and my sister had started dating someone new. ” She laughed and said it was a harmless prank by some hooligan.