Bitch Magazine: “Wack Attack” – Confronting Online Harrassment

“Wack Attack”, a 2008 article from Bitch Magazine, offers advice to women and feminists confronting online harrassment:

1. Don’t Silence Yourself.

Even the staunchest advocates for ignoring harassment support this stance, because they want women to keep writing online. Do whatever you need to do to feel safe, but don’t quit. Your silence gives every fearmonger and troll a thrill of victory. The more women who insist on being heard online, the better place the web will be for feminist voices.

2. We Must Change the Culture Together

Hold offending sites accountable for the culture they create, and if they refuse to respond, shun them in favor of sites that welcome women’s voices. Report the identities of attackers to authorities whenever possible, and shame them online whenever practical. Pressure media outlets to cover online attacks on women as a serious issue without contributing to the culture of fear that leads to the silencing of women. Call on the men who claim to be our allies to do this work alongside us, and hold them accountable for moderating their spaces responsibly and for reading and linking to women bloggers at the same rate they do men. Join a group that’s concerned with these issues, such as the feminist bloggers’ listserv (contact here) or Take Back the Tech. Make this their problem more than ours.

3. The Best Defense is Good Tech.

If we’re going to be challenging the cyber-status quo, it pays to be technologically prepared. Says Kevin Andre Elliott, who writes as Thin Black Duke and suffered heinous racial attacks when he dared to speak out against Anonymous, “I kept up on [Anonymous’s] boards for some time, and I remember at one point many of the members were lamenting that Biting Beaver and Heart were just too web savvy for them to effectively do what they wanted to do. That made me smile.”

There are many ways to protect your site from attack and shut down offenders before they start, including hosting your photos separately from your blog (so that “image raep” techniques don’t work), and hosting your site on a feminist-friendly ISP like MayFirst, which understands the political as well as technical issues involved and will work with you to keep your site safe on your terms.

4. Better Together.

Another way to stay protected is to blog in a group–that way you can share responsibility, support each other, exchange knowledge, and have greater coverage when it counts…

See also:

Hackers Crow about “Downing” Feminist Websites; Image Raeping (explicit language)
First Amendment or no, it is remarkable how often porn defenders and anti-feminists leap to disrupt and suppress speech they don’t like…

As Elaine Vignealt observes on her blog,
The fact that they consider bloggers’ decisions to switch to moderated comments or change their MySpace pages to “private” as a win for the crackers means their ultimate goal is to silence us. They are NOT hackers, taggers, or even crackers. They’re censors.

If you’re a victim of harassment, Vignealt recommends documenting everything about the attack, including the attacker’s comments, emails and websites (take screenshots since websites can disappear). Keep your software up to date and use strong, hard-to-guess passwords. We would add, back up your files often and be on heightened alert for “phishing” attacks or other deceptive ruses designed to grab your passwords and access your accounts. Someone might call you, for example, and pretend to be from your Internet Service Provider or your company’s IT department.

Vignealt provides these further resources:

Resources for victims of web harassment:

King and Queen of MoPornNorthampton Savagery Do Freelance Work for Republican, MassLive (explicit language)
As those who have visited opposition blog MoPornNorthampton [currently offline] are aware, Jeff Hobbs, Jennifer Ruggieri and their associates have engaged in savage personal attacks on Northampton anti-porn citizens for months. These self-styled heroes of free speech actually suppress it by fostering an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, inducing many citizens to abandon the debate.

Recently Mr. Hobbs, the principal of consulting firm Uncanny Valley, put his considerable technical skills to work in creating a game where the object is to toss a graphic of Adam Cohen’s head as far as you can. Mr. Hobbs lists the Springfield Republican among his clients. The Republican’s online home is called MassLive. In May, MassLive began featuring a new blog by Mr. Hobbs, Link Farm

Yesterday [6/6/07] we had to deactivate our standard commenting system because some individuals persisted in abusing it. Abuse typically means heckling, harassment, unsupported assertions, and a disinclination to engage with us on the facts.

The main tool our blog host provides to manage hecklers is to allow us to block selected IP addresses. However, MoPornNorthampton discovered and has promoted since March a way to defeat this system. We are now requiring all comments to be submitted by email to improve accountability and the quality of the debate.

Not much remorse is coming from Moporn, and they add a false accusation to boot:

I imagine a whispered *Eureka* in the long, bone-dry hours of the night over at NPN headquarters when they came up with that high-powered security protocol.

What a relief, though– the proxy server workaround was a pain–and as a peripheral bonus, the new method will cut down on the long hours Adam spends crafting fake comments to post under fake names. Unlike his opponents, who posted real comments under fake names, he can now skip most of the tedious web interface and do a nice cut and paste from what I imagine as a single five thousand page Word document.


We have never crafted a fake comment. We have no trouble finding evidence for the harm of porn. For Hobbs and Ruggieri, however, it’s apparently more fun to leave ‘dry’ facts behind in favor of subverting the debate process through technological subterfuge and plain old lies.

Pro-Porn Protesters Shout Out Slander, Make Threats
…The protester pictured below approached NPN, mentioned Japanese Yakuza, and said he was a “full-blooded Italian”. We asked him if he was making a physical threat, and he denied it. This interaction was captured on video by another pro-porn protester. A short while later, the “Italian” began following NPN down the sidewalk on King Street, turning away only when told that harassment would lead to a call to the police.

This protester also interfered with NPN’s photographing of his fellow protesters’ activities for several minutes:

“Sex-Positive” Debate-Killing Tactics Stretch into Their Fifth Decade
Our opponents profess extreme devotion to free speech, yet in reality many of them freely employ debate-killing tactics such as disrespect, ridicule, misrepresentation and intimidation. Tactics like these have a history in this debate that stretches back for nearly half a century. They have been effective at skewing the public dialogue over issues of love, sex, relationships and the rights of communities, even as the evidence of the harm of porn and adult enterprises piles up into a mountain.

Capital Video Representative Swears at NoPornNorthampton During Public Meeting (10/26/06)

Abuse and Threats Drive Women Out of Online Participation (explicit language)
[Kathy Sierra’s] Web site, Creating Passionate Users, was about “the most fluffy and nice things,” she said. Sierra occasionally got the random “comment troll,” she said, but a little over a month ago, the posts became more threatening. Someone typed a comment on her blog about slitting her throat and ejaculating. The noose photo appeared next, on a site that sprang up to harass her…

Sample Hustler cartoon: A man watches TV while a woman looks on. On the wall, there’s a baseball bat in a case with this sign: “In case the bitch gets mouthy, break glass”.

George Will: “Anger Is All The Rage”
Back in March we discussed the bile and vitriol on offer at MoPornNorthampton, and the consequences for the quality of public debate. Peter Brooks of TalkBackNorthampton considered the matter, then issued a defense of “trash talk”. George Will discusses this phenomenon in “Anger Is All The Rage”, published March 25 by The Washington Post…

The Virtue of Civility: Bringing depth, respectfulness and integrity back to our national discourse
Patricia Schroeder: Having participated in the political arena for a very long time, I find the meanness is way over the top. One of things we track is the number of women going into politics, and in the last four years the number has been going down instead of up. When you ask women who are more than qualified why they won’t get into politics, they look at you as if to say, “What, do you think I’m nuts?”