Learning About Journalism
November 28th, 2014



As though I haven’t mentioned the word “Harper” enough to warrant an investigation from Ed Greenwood or CSIS, here are some more thoughts regarding what’s going on with some recent developments pertaining to the GamerGate Autoblocker.

Harper was on the offensive the past couple of days. The first was her unloading on the website Tech Raptor for both approaching her for an interview and for some inaccuracies that came about in a couple of stories about Harper. I feel that both sides have made mistakes here.

Tech Raptor erred in their handling of content on their site. One of their writers, Georgina Young, did a rather large info-dump about Harper in her story about the GG Blocker. There were references made to Harper’s past, and some basic misunderstanding of how the Blocker operated. I’m not entirely surprised that Young made some gaffes here — she made an open call for information on Reddit last week — and she seems a little inexperienced with reporting. There’s nothing wrong with soliciting publicly for information, hell, most news outlets these days have a “GOT A TIP? SEND IT IN!” section on their websites. However, the goal of a journalist is to verify information and make sure it is accurate and appropriate. Talking about Harper’s criminal past doesn’t really fit within her story and, worse, the specifics of Harper’s criminal history is unverified.

As well, Tech Raptor’s managing of corrections/retractions wasn’t the best, either. There were references made to alterations being made in the stories posted on the site, but they were vague. The initial edit only had “Some edits were changed to remove inaccurate information in this article upon viewer correction.” They got a little better, but a lot of those problems emerged only because of a lack of fact and source checking. Some may be asking what’s the point of bringing this up, to which I say, if criticism of gaming journalism is one of the raison d’ĂȘtre for Gamer Gate, you have to be critical of everything. Fair’s fair.

Harper was also angry that Tech Raptor intended to use e-mail correspondence that went on between her and one of their writers. Before dismissing Tech Raptor as being another group of “pro” GamerGate individuals, she was entertaining the notion of being interviewed by them, but gave conditions for her interview:

Between this, and her behaviour with another website that was looking to interview her and the expectations she has towards the press, I have to say, fucking really?

Yes, Randi Harper probably shouldn’t be dealing with websites that can’t get the basics of fact checking done. But her interactions with APG Nation in the link above seem a little out of left field and reeks of paranoia or a desire to really want to try and control the narrative.

When I wrote my piece on censorship and the GamerGate Blocker, I expressed concerns about the validity of Harper’s desire to avoid harassment. I pointed out that she’s been fairly antagonistic towards people, and that her “appeals” process basically only approves accounts that haven’t said or done anything of note. If you’re thought to be a problem, for whatever reason, you stay on the block list. Sorry, it shouldn’t be referred to as a blacklist, despite Harper initially having a file that read blacklist that contained a number of users which are the ringleaders or shitlords or whatever of GamerGate.

But this recent spat with Tech Raptor and APG Nation highlights exactly why there is a lot of anger boiling with the Gamer Gate crowd and illustrates why it “actually” is about ethics in journalism.

One, the pisspoor effort from Tech Raptor encapsulates the shoddy efforts from gaming journalists in general, that lead to poorly researched, poorly sourced stories. People aren’t happy with sites like Kotaku et al. for not doing this and they shouldn’t be happy with the way Tech Raptor handled things.

Two, the attempt to obfuscate attempts at journalistic transparency and push narratives. Harper trying to set demands for a website before she’d agree to an interview is ridiculous and wouldn’t fly in any respectable publication and would absolutely not fly in this day and age of GamerGate. Trying to influence how a website reports on a subject (no matter how well intentioned those attempts are) is a huge no no. The only thing that could’ve been worse is if Harper had tried to charge for interviews.

On the other side of the fence, dropping in references to a subject’s criminal past when it doesn’t serve to further the story being reported on, is also an attempt at trying to push a specific narrative. Tech Raptor really shouldn’t have done that and they really should have known better.

Three, a basic misunderstanding of “journalistic ethics.” Harper seemed to be under the impression that her entire correspondence with APG Nation is private and should have remained so. Ignoring the question as to why her politely turning down an interview with these guys is something that absolutely needed to remain private, her anger over APG’s willingness to publish her emails “regardless of [Harper’s] intent” doesn’t jive with the emails she had posted on her blog. It is generally a good idea for a journalist to respect a source’s privacy, after all, you’d like to remain on cordial terms with a source in case you ever need them again, but in the e-mails posted by Harper, you can see Ryan Mo inform Harper that they may quote or reference her emails.

A journalist does not have give a source that courtesy. If a source is being uncooperative and will not answer questions, reporters will sometimes offer up a generic “so and so declined to comment on the matter” or something similar. Sometimes, journalists will include the specific refusal to be quoted as it helps the story. Also, if someone starts making claims about a journalist or an outlet on, for example, Twitter, publishing the correspondence would be handy for that journalist.

Recording interviews is another matter, though, particularly in the States, as there are laws against recording someone without their consent.

Things got fun on Thanksgiving, as Harper “outed” a supposed sock puppet and made a big show of it on her Twitter. The account in question, @Claire_Schumann , has been deleted, but there is a partial record that can be found. Harper, though, was convinced that this was a fake account meant only to “sea lion”, because the individual on it was being too polite and had the gall to make a post on the KotakuInAction subreddit.

I guess that means I’m a “pro-GamerGate” person now, since I’m Canadian and if Canadians are known for anything, it is being too polite.

More seriously, it’s incredibly hypocritical of Harper to be critical of “pile on” tactics while using her own Twitter account for the same. Remember, Harper was the one who chastised Roberto Rosario, head of the IGDA’s Puerto Rico chapter, for not being sincere enough with his apology and for encouraging “pile-on” tactics by using a hashtag.



Using a hashtag promotes hatred and encourages trolls. Publicly calling someone out when you have thousands of followers? SOP, apparently.

Harper, of course, has nearly 10,000 followers on her account, a fact that she routinely reminds people about on her Twitter. While the @Claire_Schumann account may be a fake one, this isn’t the first time Harper has used her rising online profile to attack someone. About a week ago, Harper decided to wade in on what was a fairly innocuous exchange between a male and female developer. The female developer repeatedly asked Harper to mind her own business and was ignored.

I said in my previous blog post about this that I’m skeptical of Harper’s intentions, and her continued behaviour seems to support she isn’t that interested in curtailing online harassment. Rather, she’s more interested in blocking out voices that may not necessarily agree with her. While she does have some legitimate gripes (again, I don’t think Tech Raptor did a great job of researching their stories on her nor do I think they did a great job at offering up corrections), having legitimate gripes doesn’t mean she has free reign to act however she likes towards other people. You can’t be building a blocker that is meant to guard against harassment while engaging in similar behaviour…even if you offer up an apology after the fact.

Well, you can, you’d just be a hypocrite.

As for GamerGate, criticism should be leveled against sites that are engaging in shoddy or lazy journalism. Just because they’re on your “side” doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be rapped on the knuckles.



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