Crash Override by Zoe Quinn is a must read for anyone that operates a good amount of their life on the internet, especially content creators. Quinn takes us back to the beginnings of the #GamerGate harassment, what caused it, how it affected her life and her commitment to helping others overcome online harassment. Quinn first starts the memoir off in a very memoir like way by explaining her background and her love for gaming. Anyone in her age range, myself included, will be very familiar with the stories she shares about what the internet was like in the mid to late 90s and into the early years of 2000’s. I always enjoy this type of reminiscing, because, like the Felicia Day memoir, this gives the reader an equal footing with the author because they share so many of the same memories. What is important during this part of the memoir is that she does not gloss over the fact that she was not a perfect individual. Because Quinn is honest about her mistakes, it makes what she has to say about the harassment she becomes a victim of more sympathetic.
The next portion of the book talks about the actual abuse and harassment from her ex-boyfriend and how that turned into what is known as #GamerGate, as he mobilizes a large group of individuals to harass and hurt the reputation of Quinn. During this portion of the memoir, Quinn educates the reader with terms such as brigading, SWATing, and doxing. As someone that wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the terms used to harass individuals online, it was still nice to have a good refresher, and seeing those terms defined from the victim’s viewpoint. The most important thing to take away from her account of the harassment is that as internet users, we need to be much more critical of what we read, and not easily accept or share stories about the misery of others so lightly.
The large second portion of this book is less memoir and more about the battles facing her movement and company called Crash Override. Through her ordeal, with the help of trusted friends, she begins to help others navigate mob harassment. As she begins to contact companies and law-enforcement, it becomes obvious that internet harassment is something that isn’t being taken seriously enough. Most law-enforcement are ill-equipped to understand and take seriously harassment online, as even a judge tells her “just get offline.” Quinn, mercilessly tells the reader over and over again that the “just get offline” advice is one of the worst things to say to someone whose career and life is required to be online. She mentions that a lot of the prejudices that many people who are harassed are some of the same prejudices they might encounter at law-enforcement. Companies start to take her more seriously as time goes by and better ways to handle harassment in large social media companies pop up but there are still many that care more about their bottom-line and hide behind free speech clauses to allow harassment to continue on their platforms.
Near the end of the book, Quinn gives us some tips on how to navigate the waters of online abuse and harassment. What to do when we are a victim of harassment ourselves and how to respond when we see others being harassed. She points out many times in the book that marginalized individuals, the black, trans women, are the ones being harassed the most. Her main point when it comes to being an ally for people that get harassed often is to make sure you have consent to help and share their story. Sometimes, well-meaning people make situations harder for those being harassed by signal boosting the harassment even more. Each person deals with internet abuse differently and no one way is the correct way.
I thought this was a good read and an important read for anyone putting themselves out there on the internet. Quinn gives a lot of great tips on how to protect your privacy and how to go about navigating the online world. The cultural upheaval that came about from #GamerGate is currently being played out at the highest levels of government and protests around the country. A lot of the same thinking that causes the harassment online are the individuals that many are protesting against. The neo-nazis and white supremacists get their start with harassment campaigns online and this book helps shine a light on their tactics and thinking. The second half of the book did slow down quite a bit with a lot of the legality talk, but that doesn’t take away from its importance. A good read that I recommend to anyone wanting to understand online harassment.