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Adobe's symbolic pro-Gamergate gesture frustrates victims

Adobe's symbolic pro-Gamergate gesture frustrates victims

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Software company Adobe has implicitly voiced support for vitriolic "consumer revolt" Gamergate. After being asked by Gamergate supporters to drop sponsorship for Gawker Media, the company said that it was not actually an advertiser, but would ask Gawker to remove an Adobe logo from its site. Gamergate supporters were protesting a series of tongue-in-cheek tweets by Gawker-affiliated Valleywag editor Sam Biddle, jokingly calling to "bring back bullying" of nerds. "Adobe stands against bullying," the company tweeted, adding a link to the Adobe-sponsored Bully Project Mural.

Over the past several weeks, Gamergate has called for a boycott of several gaming and technology publications, including this site and Gawker sister site Kotaku. Early on, it argued that sites had insulted their reader base by publishing articles that suggested the traditional gaming audience was misogynist or obsolete. Over the past few days, though, it's focused on Gawker Media specifically. Biddle apologized for his remarks last week, saying that "I tweeted some things about 'nerds' that were supposed to be funny, but ended up hurting many ppl." He later wrote a post about his interactions with the "D-list right-wingers" of Gamergate, including one of his primary critics, who had previously told people upset about games media to "put down the fucking video games and stop reading retarded sites."

The Washington Post reports that Mercedes-Benz also pulled sponsorship from Gawker briefly last week after complaints over Biddle's remarks, "while [it] assessed a situation." The ads were later reinstated; Mercedes-Benz has not responded to multiple requests for comment. In early October, Intel pulled advertising from gaming trade publication Gamasutra in response to an article by journalist Leigh Alexander that criticized mainstream gaming culture. Intel apologized not long after, saying it "does not support any organization or movement that discriminates against women," but said it was not reinstating its ads. Adobe's decision doesn't appear to pose any financial threat to Gawker, and it was almost certainly written to be as inoffensive as possible, but minus more context, it does effectively throw the company's lot in with Gamergate. Adobe has not responded to requests for comment.

"I think he owes everyone an apology."

Gamergate, which began with an angry blog post from the ex-boyfriend of lo-fi game developer Zoe Quinn, is run under the banner of higher ethical standards for journalism. Members have complained about "personal or financial ties" between writers and developers in the relatively small indie games community, including writers' contributions to crowdfunding campaigns. There have been occasional assertions that these ties constitute criminal offenses, and that the existence of a mailing list for games journalists constituted "collusion" to push political messages in coverage. But Gamergate's most prominent complaints to advertisers involve the influence of "social justice warriors" and feminists who factor progressive politics into editorial coverage and, by extension, silence "politically incorrect" debate. Based on public statements and template letters, companies are urged to pull sponsorship partly because of broadly defined unethical journalism, but also because sites have published editorials that supporters of Gamergate find offensive.

Opponents of Gamergate have pushed back at Adobe's statement. "I was chased out of my home by the people you are supporting," said game developer Brianna Wu, who received violent and apparently Gamergate-related death threats after mocking the movement. "I would appreciate a call." Wu, who says she was "very nerdy growing up," tells The Verge that she still found Biddle's comment "breathtakingly tone-deaf. It frustrates me to have worked so hard to share these painful stories of women targeted by Gamergate, only to have that work undermined by Biddle's thoughtless remarks. I think he owes everyone an apology."

While parts of Gamergate have denounced any attacks and insist that its supporters have also received threats, Wu is the third woman in gaming to be driven out of her house by people who, though many don't profess to be part of Gamergate, share parts of a common ideological cause with the movement. Games critic Anita Sarkeesian, for example, recently canceled a Utah State University visit because the school received a (non-Gamergate-related) threat to "massacre" feminists in a bombing and shooting. At the same time, Gamergate supporters have carefully scrutinized opponents and reported any behavior they find troublesome, albeit sometimes to the point of accusing women of faking attacks on themselves.

"What I'd ask Adobe to understand is Gamergate has a playbook," says Wu. "You can actually go to 8chan and watch them plan and execute this false outrage. The plan is simple. Create false email accounts, use templates, and manufacture outrage. Their goal is to make it seem like there are more people upset than there really are." Wu says she has spoken to Adobe since the original tweet, though she did not disclose details of the conversation.

Adobe responded to the backlash against its initial tweet by saying it would not support any group that bullies.

It's not clear whether Adobe actually knows anything about Gamergate, but its glib PR has proved more controversial than it probably intended.

Update October 21st, 10:00 PM: Updated with Adobe's second tweet and statement from Brianna Wu.