So this Social Autopsy debacle is one of the saddest, most surreal spectacles I’ve seen in a long time.
Social Autopsy is, as you may have heard, a spectacularly wrongheaded attempt to fight cyberbullying by posting the personal information of alleged bullies online — that is, in internet lingo, by doxxing them, thus exposing them to the sort of vigilante “justice” that the Internet handles so very, very badly. Social Autopsy planned to assemble a database of 150,000 alleged bullies; how they were to be selected wasn’t altogether clear.
The concept that someone could interpret what I was writing to be a rape guide shocked me at first. But I took a long look in the mirror and absorbed all the great feedback coming in from across the Internet…
Here is what I realized: In the most offensive and controversial parts, I chose my words poorly. Very, very poorly. I meant one thing and people were reading another. THIS IS A MAJOR PROBLEM. I needed to seriously evaluate every last word of my writing to make sure I wasn’t encouraging sexual assault in any way, shape, or form.
Ben Kassoy of DoSomething.Org … graciously offered to meet with me to provide alternate opinions and insights to help remove all of the potentially harmful advice. I am proud to say that his was the first of many meetings I will be having with anti-rape and anti-abuse organizations and experts to make sure that the advice I am offering is free of any tinge of sexual assault or rape vibes. I will be rewriting Above The Game under their guidance and insight.
Right here, on abovethegame.info, I will be starting an international dialogue on how we remove the negative stigma and shame that drives men to seek out seduction advice in the first place. My name may have been martyred in the press, but I will be using this opportunity for good.
The answer isn’t censoring all dialogue surrounding the issue ala Kickstarter’s statement on banning all men’s dating guide projects. Women’s rights and “male seduction guides” can and should coexist …
P.S. To my loyal followers from reddit, you should already be aware my writings are not intended to encourage rape. So rest assured the final book will be in the same style you are used to. I’m just taking us to the next level.
Frankly, it doesn’t sound like he’s really learned much of anything from the experience yet, but if he actually follows through with his promised meetings with anti-rape activists he might. We’ll just have to see how that goes.
So you may have heard about that Kickstarter that raised $16,000 for a loathsome Reddit PUA’s “handbook on how to bully women who don’t like you into sex, while preserving your claims to believe you had consent should you need to tell the police,” as Amanda Marcotte aptly described it in her post on it yesterday. Slate’s Alyssa Rosenberg also has some thoughts on it.
I don’t really have anything to add.
There’s a petition up demanding that Kickstarter simply refuse to fund what is essentially a how-to guide to sexual assault. Last I checked, it had gotten nearly 60,000 signatures.
EDITED TO ADD: Casey Malone, who wrote the blog post that brought this awful project to the attention of people outside of the sleazier corners of Reddit, wrote Kickstarter about it and got a response suggesting that Kickstarter, while planning to go ahead and fund the project, will be reexamining its policies as a result of the controversy. Malone posted some further thoughts.
EDITED AGAIN: Kickstarter has offered an apology. You can find it here. But I’m just going to repost the whole thing:
On Wednesday morning Kickstarter was sent a blog post quoting disturbing material found on Reddit. The offensive material was part of a draft for a “seduction guide” that someone was using Kickstarter to publish. The posts offended a lot of people — us included — and many asked us to cancel the creator’s project. We didn’t.
We were wrong.
Why didn’t we cancel the project when this material was brought to our attention? Two things influenced our decision:
The decision had to be made immediately. We had only two hours from when we found out about the material to when the project was ending. We’ve never acted to remove a project that quickly.
Our processes, and everyday thinking, bias heavily toward creators. This is deeply ingrained. We feel a duty to our community — and our creators especially — to approach these investigations methodically as there is no margin for error in canceling a project. This thinking made us miss the forest for the trees.
These factors don’t excuse our decision but we hope they add clarity to how we arrived at it.
Let us be 100% clear: Content promoting or glorifying violence against women or anyone else has always been prohibited from Kickstarter. If a project page contains hateful or abusive material we don’t approve it in the first place. If we had seen this material when the project was submitted to Kickstarter (we didn’t), it never would have been approved. Kickstarter is committed to a culture of respect.
Where does this leave us?
First, there is no taking back money from the project or canceling funding after the fact. When the project was funded the backers’ money went directly from them to the creator. We missed the window.
Second, the project page has been removed from Kickstarter. The project has no place on our site. For transparency’s sake, a record of the page is cached here.
Third, we are prohibiting “seduction guides,” or anything similar, effective immediately. This material encourages misogynistic behavior and is inconsistent with our mission of funding creative works. These things do not belong on Kickstarter.
Fourth, today Kickstarter will donate $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization called RAINN. It’s an excellent organization that combats exactly the sort of problems our inaction may have encouraged.
We take our role as Kickstarter’s stewards very seriously. Kickstarter is one of the friendliest, most supportive places on the web and we’re committed to keeping it that way. We’re sorry for getting this so wrong.
That is an apology. Some people could learn a thing or two from this.