Zoë Quinn Was Targeted for Abuse Online - Here's How She's Fighting Back
Zoë Quinn can pinpoint the moment she realized she'd be devoting her life to ending online harassment. It was October 2014, and for months, the video game developer had endured threats from a group of largely anonymous internet trolls at the center of a controversy known as Gamergate. Quinn's interactive game Depression Quest, about living with mental illness, had enraged a subset of the gamer population by defying their definition of what a "real" game should be. When her ex-boyfriend alleged that she'd slept with a journalist for a positive review (never mind the fact that no such review was ever printed), conspiracy theories gave way to harrowing abuse. Quinn was doxed (her address, phone number, and other personal info made public online) and suddenly she was receiving letters smeared with bodily fluids, and threatening phone calls at all hours of the day and night. Terrified, Quinn abandoned her apartment and erased much of her presence on the internet, a place she'd long considered a second home.
And then came the day that changed everything, when she discovered that someone had hired a man to sift through her garbage. It hit her: "This will always be part of my identity." Hard as that was to swallow, the realization also revealed a new path. "If my old life is gone," Quinn thought, "maybe I can make lemonade out of the lemon tree that crashed onto the hood of my car and broke my windshield."
Since then, Quinn has spoken at the United Nations and cofounded Crash Override Network, a grassroots organization that works to stop online abuse. Nearly one in five Americans has experienced physical threats, stalking, or sexual harassment online, with women targeted because of gender twice as often as men. Quinn's goal is to "empower people to take care of each other" so that "the empathy issue" —that is, its absence online —will be dealt with. "Community isn't just about finding people with common interests," she says. "It's about how you treat others. I'm optimistic that someday we'll think more critically about how we behave online. Ultimately, the internet isn't tubes and wires. It's a Soylent Green thing: It's people."