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A sibling A/B test of sexual harassment in gaming

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Research and empirical evidence shows that women who work in the games business are far more likely than men to receive harassment and online abuse. But what if you could create an A/B situation to test the reality of the abuse?

Emily Greer, CEO of online gaming hub Kongregate has done just that, comparing the messages she has received since the company launched, with those her brother Jim has received.

In a blog post today, she revealed comparative data based on messages she and Jim have received from consumers since they jointly launched Kongregate seven years ago. It turns out, they have received roughly the same number of messages; 2,513 for Jim, 2,487 for Emily. These are often supportive and friendly, but when they are nasty, the stats begin to diverge significantly.

"Checking the text of all 5,000 messages (some public, some private) I found only nine harassing messages for Jim, two with sexual content," wrote Emily. "This backs up his sense that he is almost never hassled: once a year doesn't leave much impression. Among mine, 36 were harassing, nine with very sexual content. That's 4X the amount of harassment Jim receives, and a slightly higher multiple on sexual content. Incest is a common theme among my messages, interestingly, involving Jim while only messaging me."

Emily pointed out that she has not been particularly outspoken on gender issues, and that this helps make the comparison instructive.

"It is about as close to a natural A/B test as you're going to get of the difference in treatment between a publicly known male and female in the game industry," she wrote. "Jim and I not only founded Kongregate together but have run it together (he was CEO originally, I'm CEO now), and have had similar levels of involvement and profile within the Kongregate community since the start.

"We're both known among developers in the industry but not beyond that, have similar numbers of Twitter followers, have not been outspoken about gender or other flashpoint industry issues that generate the buckets of vitriol that have been dumped on Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu. And yet every few months I get a [sexually harassing] message, and he doesn't."

Greer concluded that, "running these numbers through a statistical significance test confirms what should be obvious to anyone following GamerGate: with a 99.9% confidence level it is harder to be a woman than a man in the game industry, independent of what you say or do."