Bustle: Questionable Ethics

Todd Wohling / February 20, 2015 at 11:00 AM / Archive

Updated Editor’s Note 11/7/2017 – In an effort to further commit to our editorial vision of quality content about nothing but games or the industry, we are leaving this note here to let you know that this article does not meet the standards of that vision as it exists today. This article may be poorly written, or it may be well-written but with charged political content, which we have stepped away from. It’s not the ideas we have a problem with, as we do not discourage any viewpoint, we are just moving away from this sort of content. This article no longer represents TechRaptor’s editorial vision today and into the future. You can read more about why we are doing this here.


I’ve been flirting with the periphery of GamerGate over the last couple of months, preferring to focus on the people trying to destroy the gaming industry.  This time, the focus is going to be on the editorial board of terrible propaganda e-rag Bustle.

Bustle’s Rules of Conduct

If one were to go to the Rules of Conduct for Bustle, you’d find a sweeping preamble that says, “You shall not (and shall not permit a third party to) either (a) take any action or (b) upload, download, post, submit, or otherwise distribute or facilitate distribution of any Content on or through the Service, including without limitation and User Content, that:”

What follows is a bulleted list of things to not do.  The list is as you’d expect: don’t post copyrighted material, don’t impersonate people, and so on.  There are 2 bullets in the Rules of Conduct of particular interest that I’m going to focus on:

  • you know is false, misleading, untruthful or inaccurate;
  • is unlawful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, libelous, deceptive, fraudulent, invasive of another’s privacy, tortious, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, offensive, profane, contains or depicts nudity, contains or depicts sexual activity, or is otherwise inappropriate as determined by us in our sole discretion

The Bustle Terms of Service are dated June, 2013.  It would seem both contributors to Bustle, as well as any editors that review content posted on Bustle, would know the Rules of Conduct and not violate them.  I emailed Bustle a set of direct questions with respect to their editorial process and the Rules of Conduct.  As of the time of publishing, Bustle has not responded.

So How Did THIS Get Approved

On February 11, 2015, Brianna Wu did her best Kathrine Cross impression and posted a “Woe is me because GamerGate” News item on Bustle.  I read through it, and started noticing all the defaming, libelous, and known to be false items in the piece, so I started to count them.

What follows is not a criticism of Brianna Wu—she has the freedom to think whatever she wants to and write it down and submit it to a place like Bustle—but a critique of how lax the editors of Bustle are in applying their rules of conduct to people pushing a narrative they support, regardless of how defaming and inaccurate that narrative is.  So let’s begin.

False Equality

It should come as a surprise to no one at this point that the false equality of GamerGate, 8chan, and “hate group” is made in the Bustle piece.  This time, it is made with a twist; suddenly the Kotaku in Action subreddit is equal to GamerGate, 8chan, and a “hate group”.  To put it mathematically:

Gamergate = 8chan = /r/KiA = hate group (1)

Common sense says this is false.  Not every supporter of GamerGate is active on 8chan.  Not every 8chan user is a subscriber to the KiA subreddit.  Not every subscriber to KiA is a supporter of GamerGate, and none of Gamergate, 8chan, or /r/KiA is a “hate group”.

But don’t just take my word on it.  Look at the analysis done by Chris von Csefalvay, which concluded the interactions of GamerGate supporters are not constructed in a way consistent with a hate group.  Further analysis puts the population of GamerGate at 150,000.  Using the 1:9:90 standard on the KiA subreddit puts the population of GamerGate supporters at nearly 280,000.  Oh, by the way, von Csefalvay received death threats for even doing the analysis.  I wonder who could be responsible for death threats against a person who showed, statistically, that GamerGate isn’t a “hate group”?

You can guarantee neither games media nor Bustle will look into it, along with fake DMCA claims, reddit censorship, poorly documented or missing disclosures, and the lives games media tried to destroy.

I know at least 1 person who is staunchly pro-GamerGate, pro-consumer (yes, even the galactically stupid consumers who get fleeced for Madden Warfare every year and/or who think netdecking in CCGs and MOBAs equates to “skill”), and anti-corruption who isn’t active in /r/KiA or 8chan.  That “at least one person” is me.

Throughout 2014, and as recently as January, I was being investigated by an agency of the US Government.  I won’t say any more than it was the kind of investigation that determines one’s trustworthiness and character.  My associations were looked into; my entire social media history was examined; and anything not obviously above board was questioned.  You know what never came up throughout the entirety of the investigation?  GamerGate.

If GamerGate is truly a “hate group”, then my associations with it would have been questioned—it’s not the kind of thing the people looking at my social media history would miss.  Therefore, on top of common sense and statistics, add the opinion of the federal government of the United States that GamerGate is not a “hate group”.  This is sufficient to my mind for the “hate group” narrative to qualify as both “known to be false” and “defamatory, libelous, deceptive…”

There are 7 total known to be false assertions in (1): GamerGate = 8Chan, GamerGate = /r/KiA, GamerGate = “hate group”, 8Chan = “hate group”, /r/KiA = “hate group”, 8Chan = /r/KiA, and Gamergate = 8chan = /r/KiA = hate group. [Author’s note: Big shouts to @Novacurse for counting.]

No Gaming Press

After falsely asserting everyone on the internet that’s not actively posting on Tumblr is in a “hate group”, Wu attacks gaming press:

You’d hope that the gaming press would provide some sort of check on the unrelenting sexism in the game business, but the truth is, they’re complicit in creating our Gamebro culture. One of our largest gaming sites, IGN, has written one single, weak article addressing Gamergate where they don’t even mention it by name. I wish I could say I was surprised, but this is the site that advertises itself as “broverload.”

Apparently, Patricia Hernandez has never written a gaming article, because I’m quite sure Hernandez has gone out of her way to invent a link between anything in the gaming industry not done by her friends and rape.  Gaming Press tried to destroy Brad Wardell, in spite of the accusations against him being so unfounded, the accuser had to apologize.  Games Press shilled out for their barely competent not-game developer friends who were telling stories designed to indoctrinate players into SocJus.

One gaming site does not the “games press” make.  Attempting to shame IGN into saddling up with the rest of the SocJus propagandist games press, and claiming they are “complicit is creating our Gamebro culture” because they’ve generally refrained from dealing with GamerGate at all is defamatory.  Finally, there’s the 2 Minutes Hate, where the games press told gamers they needed to die because of their hobby.

The quoted paragraph above is both known to be false and defamatory toward IGN, which has every right to not write op-eds about a topic; after all, the games press was perfectly happy to not write op-eds universally condemning fake DMCA claims made to silence people.

Bustle Rules of Conduct violation count: 9

No Prosecutions

Later on, Wu expresses some “easily achievable things that can be done immediately” to solve an unstated problem. [Author’s Note: I think it’s supposed to be the threats and/or “rampant sexism” in the tech industry, so I’ll go with that.]  One of the four points reads:

Secondly, there have been no prosecutions for the hundreds of death threats that have been sent to Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, or myself. I am calling on law enforcement, specifically the FBI, to step it up. This will not stop until you show the public that there are consequences to these illegal acts.

This is also a lie.  The threat against Anita Sarkeesian in October, 2014 was investigated by the USU University Police, state and federal law enforcement (that’s the FBI, for those scoring at home).  The result of the investigation was there was no credible threat.  Indeed, even The Salt Lake Tribune stated the reason for the cancellation wasn’t because of the threat, but because of Utah’s concealed carry laws.  An assertion that also strains credibility, as Sarkeesian showed up in the Technology section of the New York Times on the very day the speech was supposed to take place.  It’s intuitively obvious that the RoI for an informercial in the NYT is far better than the RoI for a speaking engagement at USU, so it is really any wonder the USU speech was cancelled?

But that’s not the point.  The point is that threats are being investigated, and there have been no arrests tied threats the public knows about, which would lead one to believe that there have been no credible threats that the public knows about.  What the public doesn’t know is if there have been any arrests of people who have made threats that the public hasn’t been privy to.  To say law enforcement isn’t stepping up because they aren’t violating the rights of ordinary citizens is both known to be inaccurate, and defamatory toward the very institutions Wu appears to be begging for help from in the Bustle piece.

Bustle Rules of Conduct violation count: 11

The Threat

I’ll start this section with the quote:

If Twitter reaches out to me, I’d be delighted to help them [sic] with names of specific people breaking their TOS.

Thought experiment time: what are the chances Sarah Butts, Randi Harper, Jay Allen, IGDA, Ben Kuchera, or Devin Faraci are on that list?  If you said none at all, you’d be right.

This is threat toward everyone with any association whatsoever to the GamerGate hashtag.  Like Harper’s piss poorly designed industry blacklist, the “people violating their (Twitter’s) TOS” will be identified not by what they say, but by who they associate with.  Nothing more needs to be said about this overt threat to Twitter users.

Bustle Rules of Conduct violation count: 12

A Dozen is Enough

I could go on.  The main character is a game developer who made a game that looks interesting to play, so she’s nothing like Zoe, Brianna, or Anita; however, nit picking like this on someone who thinks their life mimics Batman seems unfair.

The issue isn’t that Brianna Wu has these thoughts.  She has just as much right as anyone else to think and feel whatever she wants to, and to write those thoughts and feelings down.  She has every right to submit those thoughts and feelings to Bustle as a candidate for posting on their site.

No, the issue is how the editors at Bustle could condone posting something with so many obviously false, obviously defamatory assertions, and overt threats.  I don’t have a problem with Bustle playing to its audience and having a slant.  Everyone does.  However, there’s a line between reality and fiction that a website’s editors have an obligation to ensure doesn’t get crossed, and in this case, Bustle’s editors failed catastrophically.

Todd Wohling

A long time ago on an Intellivision far, far away my gaming journey started with Lock n' Chase, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons The Cloudy Mountain, and Night Stalker. I earned both a BS-Physics and a BS-Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Today I spend most of my time on PC. I left a career of 14 years in aerospace in Colorado, so I could immigrate to Norway.