TIME Video Games

What Is #GamerGate and Why Are Women Being Threatened About Video Games?

What is #GamerGate?

Correction appended: Oct. 17, 2014.

The online movement #GamerGate, which has been brewing since August, took a frightening turn this week when feminist commentator Anita Sarkeesian was forced to cancel a speech at a Utah college following a threat against her life. Sarkeesian chose to bow out after Utah State University officials decided to go forward with the event but couldn’t promise Sarkeesian they would be able to keep legally-carried guns off campus.

The anonymous threat warned the school’s administrators of a brutal assault on the campus if Sarkeesian’s talk was allowed to proceed.

“I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs,” the email said. “She is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU….I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”

The threats are familiar ones for Sarkeesian, whose positions have made her a target for those who feel threatened by feminists, particularly in the gaming community. But the people attacking Sarkeesian have been emboldened lately by #GamerGate, an online movement whose participants say they are targeting corruption in gaming journalism. The campaign has roots in hate speech towards women who make and talk about video games.

How did #GamerGate begin?

In August, a programmer named Eron Gjoni wrote a series of blog posts about the end of his relationship with indie game developer Zoe Quinn. Gjoni accused Quinn of sleeping with a video game journalist named Nathan Grayson, who at the time was freelancing for gaming sites Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun, allegedly in exchange for positive reviews of her game Depression Quest.

Depression Quest was already a controversial game. Released in early 2013, the indie game simulates the experience of having depression and is played entirely by choosing multiple-choice text options. Many gaming outlets applauded the unique game and its exploration of a serious subject in a brave way. However, the game also diverged from the kinds of content and gameplay found in most mainstream games. Some observers argued it wasn’t actually a good game in terms of the experience, but it was instead merely an intellectual exercise, and the articles praising it were puff pieces that caved to P.C. pressure.

When Gjoni publicized the personal details of his relationship with Quinn, certain gamers—who had already criticized the initial coverage of the game—became even more vehement in their vitriol towards Quinn. Stories of Quinn’s sexual history along with nude photos of her soon appeared on online message boards and chat programs like 4chan and IRC. Harassers went so far as to talk about whether they could get Quinn to commit suicide, with one participant saying that wouldn’t be a smart “PR” move.

It’s important to note here that the charges against Quinn and Grayson hold little water. Neither Grayson nor anyone else at Kotaku even reviewed Quinn’s game. Grayson briefly mention the game once in a March post about a completely different subject, but that was before they began their relationship, according to all parties involved. Kotaku has since conducted an investigation into the matter and said it found no ethical violations.

Nonetheless, some gamers were angry that the press didn’t report more on Gjoni’s accusations. Frustrated, the already-angry gamers continued to levy personal attacks against Quinn in reaction to what they perceived as the media’s silence on the matter.

Who is Anita Sarkeesian, and why did someone threaten to shoot up a school if she visited?

Around the same time Quinn came under attack, #GamerGate participants began harassing Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent feminist critic who speaks about women’s roles in video game plots and game development. Sarkeesian hosts a show called “Feminist Frequency” on YouTube. Last year, she launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for a new series exploring what she considers harmful, sexist tropes in video games:

Anonymous Internet users began threatening Sarkeesian’s life in August after she posted a new video on the sexualization of women in video games. One person even created a game in which players were invited to abuse her. Sarkeesian eventually filed a report with the San Francisco police department and was forced to leave her home for fear of her personal safety. The FBI is investigating the death threats made against her.

It’s at this point in August that Firefly actor Adam Baldwin coined the term #GamerGate on Twitter. Using the hashtag, a group of #GamerGate participants began harassing writers who have supported Quinn and Sarkeesian. Other women in the gaming industry, like Brianna Wu, also received threats against their lives. (Wu has since had to leave her home and go into hiding.)

Fast forward to this week, when someone again threatened to take Sarkeesian’s life.

Why does #GamerGate think feminist criticism of gaming will lead to the “death of the gamer?”

Some of those involved in #GamerGate consider women, minorities and others’ calls for wider representation in gaming as an attack on gamers, who are predominantly young, white and male. Some believe feminists like Sarkeesian are trying to force them out of gaming — online news site Breitbart published an article entitled “Feminist Bullies Tearing the Video Game Industry Apart.” Not all gamers and not even all those who support #GamerGate attack women or support misogynist views, however. Some participants view the movement as an inquisition into corrupt practices among gaming journalists.

Still, following the harassment against Sarkeesian, Quinn and others, a number of journalists and editors published articles condemning gamers who participated in harassment against women. Among the most aggressive of these criticisms came from Leigh Alexander at Gamasutra, who wrote an op-ed titled “‘Gamers’ don’t have to be your audience. ‘Gamers are over'” at the end of August. That article and similar ones which followed were not well received by many in the gamer community. (Alexander also wrote a related piece for TIME.)

What does Intel have to do with #GamerGate?

Intel was a sponsor of Gamasutra until #GamerGate participants pressured the $158 billion company over Alexander’s article, resulting in Intel pulling its ad dollars from the site, according to re/code.

Intel has since claimed that it was unaware of #GamerGate when it made that decision, but it didn’t return to posting ads on Gamasutra. #GamerGate has gone on to harass several companies into taking similar actions by sending emails at specific times to flood target companies’ inboxes.

What do participants in #GamerGate want now?

Some claim that the gaming industry and the journalists who cover it have grown too close. Several gaming sites have started changing their policies to prevent possible conflicts of interest: Kotaku, for example, now forbids its writers from donating money to indie designers on Patreon, a Kickstarter for indie games.

These complaints are joined by louder, more hate-filled voices making violent threats against women simply for talking about or working in the field of video games. The group has also largely attacked independent gaming developers like the one that released Depression Quest, which typically get little attention from journalists, not the large companies who many say share a quid pro quo relationship with some writers.

Read next: Fixing What’s Wrong With Gamergate Starts With You

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the parent company of the web site Kotaku. It is Gawker Media.

TIME Gadgets

Apple’s First Retina iMac Will Go On Sale for $2,499

The new Retina 5K display packs 14.7 million pixels

Apple unveiled a new iMac with a 27-inch Retina 5K display Thursday, packs a record-breaking 14.7 million pixels — or roughly seven times as many pixels as a typical modern HDTV.

The display measures 5mm thick and will include a number of performance enhancements, including higher contrast ratios, displaying blacker blacks and brighter whites, and a 30% reduction in energy consumption by the LED backlight. The display runs on a new timing controlling chip, built in-house by Apple, to direct the movement of millions of pixels across the screen.

Apple’s iMac with Retina Display will sell for $2,499.

TIME Gadgets

Apple Unveils Its Thinnest iPad Ever

The iPad Air 2's dimensions defied expectations, but much of its hardware confirmed pre-release rumors

Apple’s next-generation iPad, the iPad Air 2, is nearly 20% thinner than its predecessor, the company announced Thursday. The new iPad features the most technologically advanced components the company has ever put in a tablet.

The iPad Air 2, which CEO Tim Cook unveiled at a media event at Apple’s Cupertino, California headquarters, confirmed many of the predictions that fans have made about the new model in the previous months. But the tablet is skinner than the 0.5 mm reduction that many rumormongers in the Apple fan world presupposed: at 6.1 mm, the iPad Air 2 is 18% thinner than the 7.5 mm-thick original iPad Air. It is less than half as thick as the original iPad.

The iPad Air 2 features an A8X chip and 40% faster processing power, according to Apple Vice President Phil Schiller. The tablet also comes with 2.5 times faster graphics processing and an anti-reflective coating on its screen, which Schiller said reduces reflections by 56%.

The camera has been upgraded from 5 megapixels to 8 megapixels.

The tablet also comes with Apple’s trademark Touch ID, which allows users to access their iPads without inputting a four-digit code. Touch ID made its first appearance on Apple’s iPhone 5S.

Also on Thursday, Apple announced the iPad Mini 3, though with much less fanfare. The new iPad Mini has a 5 megapixel iSight camera and a 7.9-inch Retina display, and also comes with Touch ID.

The 16GB version of the iPad Air 2 starts at $499, with the 64GB version at $599 and the 128GB version at $699. All the models are $130 more expensive with a cellular connection option. The iPad Mini 3 starts at $399. Meanwhile, previous iPad generations are being reduced in price by $100.

The company begins taking pre-orders for the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 Friday, they start shipping next week.

TIME Gadgets

Apple’s New OS X Yosemite Available Today for Free

OS X Yosemite will work with iOS 8 to provide a seamless cross-device user experience

Apple’s OS X Yosemite, its latest operating system for Mac computers, will available Thursday for free download, Apple said during an event at its Cupertino, California headquarters.

OS X Yosemite, available in beta since July, offers among other new features an updated design, a Notification Center that links to third party content, a powerful Spotlight search, and improved Safari functions including a new tab view and sharing functions on third party websites.

Apple emphasized that Yosemite will also work in conjunction with iOS 8, Apple’s latest operating system for mobile devices. Yosemite will use iCloud to provide a seamless cross-device experience, an initiative Apple calls Continuity.

While Apple already uses iCloud to sync the Calendar and Notes apps across devices, users will now have additional features with the Handoff feature. Users will be able to work on presentations or documents on one device, then pick up where they left off on another device. Additionally, SMS text messages—not just iMessages—will appear across Macs, iPads and iPhones. With OS X Yosemite, Macs will also be able to serve as a speakerphone for telephone calls.

And Apple Watch isn’t left out of the Continuity project either. Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering, showed how the Apple Watch can be used as a remote to control presentations on a Mac.

TIME Gadgets

Apple iOS 8.1 Will Bring the Camera Roll Back on Monday

Apple Presents Apple Watch At Colette Paris
A woman takes a picture during the new Apple Watch display during an Apple special event at Colette store on September 30, 2014 in Paris, France. Chesnot—Getty Images

Apple also announced the launch of a new photo library that will sync original resolution photos across all devices

Apple announced Thursday that the camera roll feature, which was removed with the launch of iOS 8, will return with the launch of iOS 8.1, to be released Monday.

The updated operating system will bring back the “beloved” feature as well as debut a beta version of the iCloud photo library, said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, at an event at Apple’s Cupertino, California headquarters. The new library will enable photos taken and edited on one device, like an iPhone, to be “instantly reflected on all devices,” like an iPad. The library will also share photos across devices in their original format and resolution.

 

TIME Gadgets

Apple Pay Starts Monday for iPhone 6 Users

The revolutionary mobile payment system will begin on Monday, Oct. 20

Apple Pay, Apple’s mobile payment platform, will start on Monday, allowing customers to make purchases in retail stores using only their iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. Apple CEO Tim Cook made the announcement Thursday at a live event at Apple’s Cupertino, California headquarters.

The program allows users to pay for items by holding their iPhone 6 or 6 Plus near a contactless reader in a participating stores. Major retailers and restaurants like Walgreen, Duane Reade, Subway and McDonald’s have signed on. Apple also partnered with American Express, MasterCard and Visa on the project. Apple Pay includes an online component as well, making it easier to partake in e-commerce.

“It’s going to change the way we pay for things,” said Cook.

TIME Security

Watch: What You Need to Know About the POODLE Bug

Third security flaw discovered this year, but researchers say it's not as powerful as Heartbleed

The POODLE bug may sound silly, but it can cause some serious damage.

POODLE, which stands for Padding Oracle on Downloaded Legacy Encryption, makes it possible for hackers to snoop on a user’s web browsing. The problem is an 18-year-old encryption standard, known as SSL v3, which is still used by older browsers like Internet Explorer 6.

SSL protects data exchanged between a website and user, indicated by a green pad lock icon. If you’re a home user, don’t panic — you’re not at high risk. But, just to be safe, one solution is to upgrade your web browser.

TIME Video Games

Fixing What’s Wrong With Gamergate Starts With You

Whatever you think about games, game journalism or recent critiques of the way video games treat women, you have an obligation to be respectful in debates, and it's a shame we still have to say that.

This is how far we have to go: the Entertainment Software Association, a U.S. video game trade association and sometime D.C. lobbyist group, is now having to remind us that threatening to do violent harm to someone is the opposite of okay.

“Threats of violence and harassment are wrong,” an ESA spokesperson told the Washington Post Wednesday. “They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community—or our society—for personal attacks and threats.”

Read those words again, slowly, because they are a measure of the distance that remains between right here and now, and the point at which our species practices general civility in all its forms of communication, where human beings can depend on each other not to be cruel, condescending, vicious and in some instances even homicidally hostile over cultural disagreements. It should be as shocking as some of these threats that in 2014, someone has to utter the words “harassment is wrong.”

And yet at least three women who work in the games industry have had to temporarily leave their homes after being threatened with horrific acts of violence, simply because they said something someone else found disagreeable. Critic Anita Sarkeesian, known for her video series deconstructing female tropes in video games, just canceled her appearance at Utah State University after someone threatened “the deadliest shooting in American history” if she was allowed to speak. (The university deemed the presentation safe to proceed after consulting with local law enforcement, but can you blame anyone so threatened?)

The locus of all this animus in recent months is a so-called movement known as “Gamergate,” another neologistic slogan born of the infamous 1970s political scandal whose tendrils have circumnavigated space-time to motivate people to lazily append and then rally behind an egress descriptor glommed onto a vague reference label. Like the Tea Party, Gamergate may have been forged with something like an original central purpose: in its case, ostensibly reforming perceived corruption in “games journalism.” But as some of its supporters began violently threatening women who wrote about the topic, it quickly snowballed into something far messier and treacherous, a perplexing mass of conflicting idea-vectors, vitriol-filled social media assaults and online forum-filled cascades of general thuggery.

In a recent Salon article celebrating Richard Dawkins’ slight backpedaling on religion, the site references an interview with the evolutionary biologist, in which Dawkins says “There is a kind of pseudo-tribalism which uses religion as a label.” He’s talking about The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), reacting to a question about what could motivate a group to acts of utter barbarism like the beheadings for which ISIS is now infamous.

“Pseudo-tribalism” summarizes nicely. Swap “religion” for “Gamergate,” specifically for those using the term to denigrate and terrorize women, and you have the analogue. That well-meaning proponents of Gamergate have utterly failed to wrangle the slogan back from these bomb-throwers means it’s time to abandon it, to find a better way to prosecute concerns about journalistic corruption, and to wade civilly into the intellectual debate about female tropes in games.

Whatever you think of Sarkeesian’s thoughts on games and those tropes—and it should go without saying that there is room for civil debate about any critic’s thoughts on anything—there’s no room in such a debate for harassment, libel, slander, rape threats, death threats, posting intimate photos of someone without consent, outing their geographic location to intimidate them and so forth. Harassment is not debate. Harassment ends debates. It’s antithetical to dialogue, and, assuming you’re not so aberrant or sociopathic that you can’t tell the difference, isn’t meaningful dialogue what you’re after?

This is how you change the debate, and it has to happen before dialogue starts, before you even get to the level of worrying about semantic contentiousness over whether the label “gamer” is forever or forever stultified. In logic debates, there’s a thing known as the ad hominem fallacy. Ad hominem is Latin for “to the person.” It means to attack someone personally–and irrelevantly–instead of debating the actual idea or claim or argument. The litmus test is this: after you’ve typed out your comment or message board post or social media screed, does it violate this fallacy? If so, that’s what the delete button’s for.

If you don’t care about respecting someone else’s right to disagree with you, if all you want is to cause harm for some twisted sense of catharsis, what can I say but that you’re doing something that’s the opposite of noble, the opposite of productive, the opposite of moving the ball down the field in whatever direction you think is important–and when you escalate harassment to the level of violence, it’s the very definition of psychopathic.

What I find most depressing about any of this isn’t the state of journalism (it’s hardly just “games journalism,” folks) or what men think about women and women about men. It’s that as human beings in 2014, we still think it’s okay to pick up a keyboard or tablet or phone, venture to someone else’s online space, pull out our weaponized words, and open fire.

TIME legal

Why U.S. Sanctions Mean Some Countries Don’t Get Any iPhones

Apple iPhone Technology Embargo Sanctions
An attendee displays the new Apple Inc. iPhone 6, left, and iPhone 6 Plus for a photograph after a product announcement at Flint Center in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014. Bloomberg via Getty Images

A sanction a day keeps Apple away

Some 36 additional countries will receive shipments of Apple’s iPhone 6 this month, with over 115 countries on track to get the big-screen smartphones by the end of the year. But a handful of countries won’t be receiving any Apple products at all.

Among the Apple-less countries are Syria, North Korea, Sudan and Cuba, which face trade sanctions from the United States. That means the “exportation, reexportation, sale or supply” of any Apple goods from the U.S. or an American anywhere is prohibited in those countries, according to Apple’s global trade compliance. Add to those Apple-less countries several African and Middle Eastern nations, among other countries, which Apple’s sales locator indicates have neither Apple Stores nor authorized Apple product resellers.

Apple did not respond for comment on whether authorized distribution channels exist in countries that aren’t sanctioned by the U.S. but still present a difficult business climate, like Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Yemen. Technology and trade experts were reluctant to speculate why Apple may not penetrate these markets, but some pointed to a lack of demand or infrastructure.

In the map below, Apple-less countries appear unshaded:

The world recently bore witness to what happened when China, not subject to U.S. sanctions, was deprived of the iPhone 6’s initial release: a gray market exploded while rumors swirled that the “Chinese mafia” was storming Apple Stores around the world to collect iPhones for resell to high-income buyers.

That same grey market boom is happening in countries that do face U.S. sanctions, though for different reasons. While Chinese buyers were simply unwilling to wait for the iPhone 6’s official release in their home country, high-income buyers in sanctioned states are creating demand for a product that will likely never be sold in their country. That demand is being met by unofficial providers like the “Apple Syria Store” and “Tehran Apple Store,” two unofficial Apple distribution channels in the Middle East, for example.

A lack of iPhones in some countries, however, is only a problem for those countries’ wealthiest residents. Indeed, the iPhone craze overshadows a higher-stake battle: Access to less-hyped but important American technology in countries where such technology continues to be restricted.

The U.S. has put in place sanctions against Syria, North Korea, Sudan, Cuba and Iran to discourage those countries from abusing human rights, sponsoring terrorism or launching nuclear programs. While the sanctions were largely intended as economic embargoes, they also disrupted the free flow of information by severely limiting residents’ access to communication technology, advocates say. That technology includes not only electronics like Apple’s iPhone, but also American software and websites like Apple’s App Store, Adobe Flash, Yahoo e-mail and educational platforms like Khan Academy and Coursera. In many sanctioned countries, attempts to access those sites result in a “blocked” page. In certain countries it’s also prohibited to update whatever American software is available, leaving in place security vulnerabilities in countries where surveillance and censorship are commonplace.

“It’s still a fairly new issue, because it wasn’t really until the Arab Spring that people started to realize communication technology as a tools of free expression,” said Danielle Kehl, a tech policy analyst at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

Observers first began to note the impact of U.S. sanctions on communication technology during Iran’s Green Movement in 2009, when protesters demanding the president’s removal used the Internet as an activist tool, according to independent tech policy researcher Collin Anderson. Within years, activists won over U.S. officials, who exempted certain technologies from American sanctions on Iran to empower protestors. That hasn’t yet been replicated in other sanctioned countries.

Anderson also said that pressure from the Iranian diaspora contributed to a decision by U.S. officials to issue a sanction exemption that allowed the export or re-export of “certain services, software, and hardware incident to personal communications” to Iranians. Apple then “quietly updated its compliance policy” to match the change, Anderson said.

“Apple is in an under-appreciated way one of the most responsive adopters of U.S. policies [that lift sanctions on technology],” said Anderson.

Apple had some market incentive to comply quickly with the change. Most of these sanctioned countries have significant amounts of mobile phone subscribers buying devices purchased from non-U.S. countries or companies, according to Anderson and data from the International Telecommunications Union.

Despite all those potential customers for Apple and other tech firms, tech policy analysts agreed the onus is on U.S. officials to invoke change. But that Apple and several other companies chose to engage with complex, high-risk sanctions in Iran shows that when the policies change, companies tend follow suit.

Still, Kehl said the other, risk-averse option for companies is to “over-comply” with Iranian sanctions, or to treat the laws as if they were complete embargoes in order to reduce their liability. That’s what happened in 2009 when LinkedIn blocked Syrian accounts and when Google blocked its code.google.com developer’s tool in Sudan.

Even Apple appeared to over-comply in 2012 when a Apple Store employee in Alpharetta, Georgia refused to sell an iPad to Iranian-American woman after he heard the woman speaking Persian, according to Jamal Abdi, policy director at the National Iranian American Council. “If [Apple] had reason to believe you were going to take an Apple product to Iran, or if you were going to resell it, [Apple] had to take action to stop people,” explained Abdi, who slammed the practice as discriminatory in a New York Times op-ed. The woman later received an apology from an Apple customer service employee, as NPR noted at the time.

The greatest pressure for change, however, is coming from within the sanctioned countries. Iranian bloggers have discussed banned technologies at risking of criminal charges, Sudanese computer science students have demanded more educational tools, and Syrians have called for U.S. imports of basic technological needs. Several non-profits have reported that sanctioning U.S. technology is highly detrimental to affected countries’ growth, while Abdi added that sanctions have prevented the electronic delivery of humanitarian aid or day-to-day monetary transactions because many banks are affected.

Still, tech companies have in recent years shown more willingness to engage government officials on matter of policy, particularly after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s surveillance leaks. Twitter sued the U.S. Justice Department earlier this month to disclose government requests for user data, while popular websites like Netflix, Mozilla and Reddit joined an online protest against the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rules they said could divide the Internet into “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.” In the most visible tech-backed activism to date, Wikipedia and Reddit “blacked out” their webpages and Google censored its logo to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was later shelved by its author.

Analysts are not expecting Apple to be at the forefront of the battle to lift U.S. sanctions. But as several organizations and advocates pressed for changes to American trade policy towards Iran, it would be hard to believe they would turn away Apple’s support.

“[Apple] is very quiet about these things—like either Apple is the best, or maybe the worst. But it seems like it’s the best,” Anderson said. “[Apple's] recognition of [the policy changes regarding Iran] was the first moral victory for everyone who had worked so hard on this.”

TIME apps

Facebook’s New Tool Lets You Tell Your Friends You’re Safe During an Emergency

Facebook

The app instantly updates loved ones of your status

Facebook announced a new app Wednesday that asks users in the proximity of a disaster zone if they’re safe and instantly notifies anxious loved ones of the user’s response.

The new app, Safety Check, was the brainchild of Facebook’s Japanese engineers, who noticed a surge of communication across the social network after the 2011 tsunami battered coastal communities. The new app streamlines that process by taking note of the user’s home city and reaching out in the event of a natural disaster in the area with the text message, “Are you Okay?” A “yes” will be instantly communicated out to loved ones via their Facebook News Feeds.

“We hope it’s a tool that helps you stay connected to those you care about,” Facebook said in a statement announcing the new feature, “and gives you the comfort of knowing your loved ones are safe.”

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