After starting in mid-August and continuing full-force through October, the Gamergate controversy started slowing down late last year. Under the radar, though, there's still a seething war over the ethics of news companies (primarily, at this point, Gawker and our own Vox Media), the policies of crowdfunding sites like Patreon, the depiction of women in games, and any number of more confusing issues. Unfortunately, an online fight had nasty offline consequences this weekend, when angry internet denizens "swatted" the former residence of an anti-Gamergate figure.
Grace Lynn, who goes by the handle @pixelgoth on Twitter, was at one point a supporter of Gamergate's crusade. But after defecting, she became a highly visible target of derision and anger. Then, yesterday, she tweeted that a poster on the 8chan message board was trying to get police sent to her house with a fake hostage threat. Lynn linked to a (very NSFW) thread in which a user offered to swat and post personal information about a person of the board's choosing, and she said that they had found an old address from her domain name registration. She followed up soon after, saying she had contacted Portland police and confirmed the call.
Apparently http://t.co/PTu5cBIDIl just SWAT'ed me.... ... in Portland. I live in Oakland. pic.twitter.com/D1tPkqgss2— Grace Lynn (@pixelgoth) January 3, 2015
The Oregonian and local news station KOIN confirmed that police had sent around 20 officers, though not a literal SWAT team, to a home in southwest Portland. Police were deployed after an anonymous caller claimed he had taken "multiple hostages and was threatening violence," which matches 8chan users' description of the call. According to KOIN, police said that they were figuring out a plan to approach the house but deescalated the situation after receiving a call from a California resident — apparently Lynn — who used to live in the house, warning them that it was a hoax. The house had two current residents, both of whom were sleeping.
Around 20 officers showed up at the house, where two residents were sleeping
Posting personal information about targets isn't uncommon on the internet, but swatting is a particularly risky and extreme method of harassment. Previously, SWAT teams have been sent after security researcher Brian Krebs, CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer, and a Bungie executive, among others. While these have all ended safely, police have inadvertently injured and even killed innocent people during other raids, and law enforcement is seeking clues on the culprit behind this particular swatting. The alleged swatter claims to live in Serbia.
They also don't claim to be a "member" of Gamergate, insofar as anyone can be a member of an amorphous group with no single set of goals or principles. 8chan, founded as an alternative to the popular 4chan message board, has become virtually synonymous with Gamergate; its founder is seen as a hero of the movement, and it hosts a popular Gamergate sub-board — the screenshot Lynn posted above matches the formatting of it. But the actual swatting took place on a separate board for general anti-social mayhem, and users joked about Gamergate supporters "taking the fall" for the attack. It's obviously not hard to lie on the internet, but there's every reason to believe that this is an unaffiliated troll lashing out.
But it's unlikely that Lynn would ever have come to their attention if she hadn't antagonized Gamergate, and it certainly benefits them. Most swatting requests either involved her or Chris Kluwe, a former NFL player known for posting an expletive-filled tirade against the movement last year. Visit the board in question right now, and you can find people digging up information about Randi Harper, a developer who created a tool to auto-block Gamergate accounts on Twitter. Touching Gamergate is a surefire way to become hated by any part of the internet that disdains progressive "social justice warriors," and its supporters have devoted months to cataloging as much information as possible about their enemies, making them ripe targets for any troll. Lynn's swatting came alongside a wave of harassment of Kluwe and other Gamergate foes, plenty of which appears to be direct retribution. And regardless of who's behind it, it's yet another example of why online attacks aren't just words on a screen.