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IGDA Online Harassment Resource

Disclaimer

This IGDA Online Harassment Resource is not a substitute for legal or medical advice or professional counseling, and following these recommendations may come with its own risks. The IGDA provides the information on this site as a service and makes no warranties regarding the same, nor has IGDA necessarily vetted any particular resource. The presence of links does not constitute a referral or endorsement by the IGDA. The IGDA assumes no liability for use of the information or resources on this site. Use your own best judgment in determining the best course of action for your own safety, professional reputation, and well-being.

Additionally, please keep in mind that these recommendations and definitions are meant for those who genuinely feel they are in crisis. The intention is not to audit the validity of the harassment being experienced; we have created this space with the assumption that you alone are best equipped to know whether you are being harassed and whether you need to take action, and that your judgment and needs take priority when dealing with your own experience. Legal definitions and recourse may mean little in the face of the emotional cost of harassment, so our hope is to help mitigate some of the harm and distress you may be experiencing by providing you with these resources.

presented by IGDA Women in Games SIG

 

If you are experiencing an immediate threat against yourself, your friends or your family, we recommend contacting your local authorities as soon as possible.

 

Interested in volunteering to help maintain and expand the resource? Reach out to us a help@igda.org.

Table of Contents

 

Welcome to the IGDA's Online Harassment Resource

Online harassment is the use of the internet to threaten, intimidate, or shame an individual. Methods of online harassment can include but are not limited to posting threats, insults, or personal information (also known as doxing); stalking via email and social media platforms; denial of service (DoS) attacks directed against the target's website; and the coordination of offline harassment campaigns (e.g. contacting a target's employer or family members), stalking, swatting (false emergency services calls designed to send police or bomb squads to a target's home), or bomb threats.

First and foremost, understand that harassment is never your fault. Although many of the items below focus on helping you get through a crisis, the onus is on harassers and their communities to discourage harassment and report harassing behavior when it is observed. You have a right to work, speak, create, and exist in a space free of harassment and the threat of harassment.

Though many industries face challenges regarding gender balance, the game and tech industries have been particularly subject to aggressive harassment campaigns, many of which have been reactions to discussion of gender and representation issues within the industries, their products, and their user communities. This online harassment resource is intended to provide game developers with tools to cope with online harassment, seek legal help, and help create a better industry for all of us. It is updated on a continuing basis as best practices evolve and other resources become available. (If you notice we're missing an important link or item, or think we've gotten something wrong, please contact us at help@igda.org with "Harassment Resource" in the subject line.)

Our long-term goal is for this resource to become unnecessary as harassment becomes a relic of a bygone era.

(Overwhelmed? Email us directly at help@igda.org and one of our staff members or trained volunteers will get back to you personally as soon as possible. Please use the term "Online Harassment" in the subject line. In case of emergency, call your local authorities.)

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Message from the Executive Director

We are game developers because of our intense passion for the medium. And we know that the general public who enjoys the games we create are likewise very passionate. At times with some individuals, the line between passion and obsession, between excitement and aggression can be easily crossed and in such moments, it's important for game developers to understand the risks associated with their craft and to be prepared.

With thousands of members in over 120 chapters worldwide, the IGDA functions as a key support mechanism for game developers and we encourage members and non-members alike to watch out for each other and support one another. By providing these resources, the IGDA will continue to serve as a key support mechanism and a place for game developers to get the information they need, find support from peers and colleagues and know they are not alone as they cope with these issues.

Kate Edwards
Executive Director, IGDA

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What is Online Harassment?

From abusive messages on social media to doxing, online harassment generally consists of repeated or persistent actions made against an individual with the intent to cause distress or harm and may range in severity from annoyance to dangerous or illegal actions.

Wisegeek's internet harassment resources define online harassment as follows:

"Legal definitions of Internet harassment vary slightly from one region to another, but most jurisdictions agree on the basic principles. Internet harassment is an attempt to use e-mail or another form of electronic communication to torment, threaten, stalk or perform some similar act that would cause distress to a reasonable person. When determining the difference between simple rudeness and criminal harassment, authorities are likely to consider issues such as the attacker's apparent intent, the frequency of the remarks or postings, evidence of premeditation or information gathering, whether others were encouraged to participate in these acts and whether remarks or attacks were directed specifically at the victim." [source]

See also: What is Online Harassment?

What type of behavior constitutes harassment?

While each harassment case is unique, the following questions can help identify common harassing behaviors.

  • Is the behavior targeted at a specific person or persons?
  • Are the repeated attempts to interact with or get a reaction from the targeted person online, on the phone, or in person by individuals who have been ignored, told to stop and/or been blocked?
  • Is personal or private information about the target being used or disseminated (doxing)?
  • Are those engaging in the behavior in question encouraging others to make similar remarks or engage in similar behavior?
  • Is the intent of contact or comments to cause distress, inspire fear, or provoke anger in the target?
  • Are the target’s friends, family, and co-workers being contacted?

If the answer to one or more of the questions above is "yes," the behavior is likely harassment, and may be illegal in some locations. Furthermore, hacking private online communications is illegal in most countries.

What online harassment is not:

  • Disagreement
  • Rudeness (unless it escalates or is persistent)
  • Profanity (unless it escalates or is persistent)

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Disclaimer

This IGDA Online Harassment Resource is not a substitute for legal or medical advice or professional counseling, and following these recommendations may come with its own risks. The IGDA provides the information on this site as a service and makes no warranties regarding the same, nor has IGDA necessarily vetted any particular resource. The presence of links does not constitute a referral or endorsement by the IGDA. The IGDA assumes no liability for use of the information or resources on this site. Use your own best judgment in determining the best course of action for your own safety, professional reputation, and well-being.

Additionally, please keep in mind that these recommendations and definitions are meant for those who genuinely feel they are in crisis. The intention is not to audit the validity of the harassment being experienced; we have created this space with the assumption that you alone are best equipped to know whether you are being harassed and whether you need to take action, and that your judgment and needs take priority when dealing with your own experience. Legal definitions and recourse may mean little in the face of the emotional cost of harassment, so our hope is to help mitigate some of the harm and distress you may be experiencing by providing you with these resources.

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For Those Experiencing Harassment

Emergency Situations

If the online harassment you are experiencing has escalated to immediate threats of harm against you, your coworkers, your friends, or your family, we recommend that you contact local authorities as soon as possible. The most appropriate place to start is with your local law enforcement agency. In the United States, also contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). If you are not receiving threats, use your best judgment.

FBI (United States)
Find the contact information for your local FBI field office at the following URL: http://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field/field-offices You can reach them by e-mail, phone, or in person.

To immediately file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), follow this URL: http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

Shelter
In rare but serious instances, it may be recommended that you leave your place of residence and seek shelter somewhere safe. Reach out to friends and family, go to a hotel (if affordable), and/or search online for a local shelter.

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What to Do If You Are the Target of Harassment

  • Are you in immediate danger (e.g. imminent or specific threats have been made against you or your family)? If so, seek out a safe space and contact local authorities (see the preceding Emergency Response section for more information)).
  • Please know that this is not, was not, and will never be your fault. Nothing anyone says or does justifies harassment. The fault lies exclusively with the harasser and any individuals, communities, or systems that perpetuate the culture of harassment.
  • If you have the time and emotional bandwidth to do so, document your harassment (e.g. take screenshots with time stamps, record names from the accounts of those who are harassing you, etc.) and report the behavior (with documentation) to local authorities, your ISP, and the relevant contact for the medium via which you were harassed (for example, if you were harassed on Twitter, you can report it using their reporting system).
  • Reach out to trusted friends and family members for help. They can lend you an ear, aid you in collecting and assembling documentation, or assist you in navigating security, legal, or mental health resources.
  • If the harassment is especially persistent or sustained, you may want to reach out to others who may be affected by it.
    1. Inform work supervisors to let them know what is happening and to work together to minimize any confusion or misunderstandings.
    2. Notify friends and family members who may be also be targeted because of their proximity to the situation. It can be hard to explain the impact of online harassment to those not steeped in this culture; check out our What is Online Harassment? section for tips.
  • If you have not done so already, lock down your online presence. Visit the section titled Online Security for instructions and advice on securing your accounts.
  • Don't hesitate to reach out for any additional help or resources you may need. Peruse this resource and feel free to reach out to us at help@igda.org with questions.
  • Most importantly, take care of yourself. Make sure you are attending to your basic physical and emotional needs. You can get through this. You're not alone.

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Online Security

While it is impossible to completely protect your online safety and privacy from determined criminals, there are a number of methods of "locking down" your online presence that will deter most potential harassers. Using strong passwords, enabling two-factor identification, and using a private VPN service will all help thwart casual attempts to access your accounts. For more online security tips, check out the links below.

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Legal Recourse

Unfortunately most legal definitions of online harassment (sometimes referred to as cyberstalking or cyberbullying) are somewhat antiquated or incomplete. Lawmakers and politicians are often less than fluent in the nuances of online communication. We understand too well how frustrated, vulnerable and alone online harassment can make you feel. There are many allies in the game development community who empathize with what you are going through and want to offer their support. Below is a list of resources dedicated specifically to the issue of harassment.

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Consumer Recourse

We can all help shift the cultural landscape around game development to be less tolerant of harassment, by providing feedback, reporting harassment, and putting pressure on companies to take a more active role in creating safe online spaces and practices. For example, if you witness someone harassing another person on Twitter, you can report it, Tweet about some of the issues surrounding the difficulty of reporting harassment on Twitter, and encourage your friends and other allies to do the same. In comment threads and forums, you can report abuse, speak up publicly about the problem (if you are comfortable doing so), and encourage others to help encourage the website, community, or social media platform to take action to improve their policies, procedures, and greater community management approach, or to upgrade their backend reporting and tracking systems to better document repeat offenders.

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Mental Wellness and Self-Care

Experiencing online harassment can be overwhelming. It's important to practice self-care: make sure you remember to take care of your basic needs and reach out to friends, family, and even medical professionals if you are finding it difficult to cope or care for yourself.

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Additional Resources

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For Friends, Family, Coworkers, and Other Allies of Harassment Targets

Understanding Online Harassment

If you're reading this section because a friend or loved one sent you this link, please try to treat them with empathy. Although online harassment happens all too frequently, it can leave the target feeling helpless and alone, despite the best intentions of friends and loved ones around them. To understand the impact of online harassment, you need to understand that, for many people, the internet is not a separate space from "the real world." For many of us who work in tech- and entertainment-related fields, virtual spaces are as crucial to our work and socialization as offline spaces. We do not always have the option of avoiding online spaces that have become hostile or even dangerous to us. We can't simply "unplug" and walk away without personal, social, and professional consequences.

Online harassment takes many forms. It may be sustained bullying carried out over days, weeks, months, or even years. Sometimes it carried out by one person, sometimes many. It can involve serious threats of harm and violence. It may result in extreme invasion of privacy in which private, personal details and information are leaked to the public.

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Supporting Targets of Online Harassment

The most important thing you can do for your friend or family member is listen to them. Don't try to tell them how they should think or feel about what they're experiencing. Don't tell them what they should be doing differently. Don't try to play devil's advocate, justify the actions of the harasser, or explain what the target did to "provoke" the harassment. Ask them how you can help, and offer a level of support with which you feel comfortable.

Examples of support you can provide range from offering them a place to spend the night if they're not safe in their home to making a meal for them so they don't have to worry about it or to simply checking in with them on a regular basis to ensure they don't feel isolated. If you are concerned that there is an immediate threat of harm to your friend or family member, encourage them to contact law enforcement.

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Advice for Advocates and Allies

The most important thing anyone -- whether they are a friend or family member of someone targeted by harassment, a coworker, an industry colleague, or anyone else interested in the issue -- can do to support people experiencing harassment is to listen to those being directly affected by it. Another core component of being a good ally is signal-boosting their messages about what is happening and what should be done about it.

Try to keep in mind that experiencing online harassment is emotionally draining, and the struggle to be heard and believed can add to the emotional burden carried by targets. Seek out additional information and research issues on your own when possible, rather than relying on existing advocates or harassment targets to educate you. When interacting with them, respect their time and ask if they currently have the capacity to answer your questions and feel comfortable doing so.

Remember that targets of harassment may face professional and social consequences for speaking publicly about their experiences.

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IGDA and Online Safety

Future Goals for IGDA Online Harassment Resource

We are eager to expand and build upon the IGDA Online Harassment Resource with the help of volunteers and charitable contributions. Some of our future goals include:

  • Partnering with existing organizations to provide services for game developers and other persons involved in the video game industry who are experiencing online harassment.
  • Expanding existing sections to include whitepapers, custom content, and additional links to existing resources.
  • Creating a 24/7 on-call and highly trained support resource to aid people who are actively in crisis.
  • Increasing public visibility and understanding of the issue of online harassment.
  • Creating tangible repercussions for online harassers/abusers.

If you are interested in donating time, funds or other resources towards these goals, have any suggestions for upgrades or changes to content, or would like to volunteer to help expand upon and build up this resource, please contact us at help@igda.org with the phrase "Online Harassment Resource" in the subject line.

How You Can Help
We can always use help expanding this resource. We need skilled copy editors, researchers, lawyers, mental health professionals, security experts, tools developers, excellent writers, and more. If you have any of these skills, please email us at help@igda.org. We specifically could use anyone interested in helping to consolidate and expand upon existing sections (in the style of long-form articles) or organizations interested in partnering to provide a deeper level of services.

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Updates on Our Anti-Harassment Activities

  • 2014 November: Updated
  • 2014 October: Updates
  • 2014 September: Created expanded online harassment resource

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Advisors

Advisors (alphabetically by last name)

Our deep gratitude goes out to everyone who helped contribute to this resource, including those contributors who wish to remain anonymous.

  • Kate Edwards, Executive Director, IGDA
  • Elsa S. Henry from Blind Lady Versus
  • Tristin Hightower, Operations Manager, IGDA
  • Heidi McDonald
  • Anne Toole, Co-Chair, IGDA Women in Games SIG
  • Cat Wendt, Co-Chair, IGDA Women in Games SIG

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