Since she announced a plan to offer a reward for information leading to the arrest of any of the people sending her death threats, including tweeting a picture of a jail cell (above), one thing has changed in Brianna Wu's life.
The death threats have stopped. At least for now.
Wu is the founder of Boston-based developer Giant Spacekat, best known for its sci-fi adventure Revolution 60. A vocal critic of GamerGate, she has been the target of online harassment and death threats from people using the GamerGate hashtag. Other women in the game industry, such as developer Zoe Quinn and critic Anita Sarkeesian have faced similar harassment.
She forwards all threats to her local police officers, who have visited Wu's house to investigate the harassment. Now she's offering $11,000 for information that will aid the investigation. She told Polygon she believes there are plenty of people who know the identity of perpetrators and will be willing to share information. Wu added that she has received a number of tips already, but added that she is unwilling to talk details as yet.
There are consequences for doing this kind of stuff
"I think someone going to jail is the best way to signal to the entire industry that these kinds of tactics are unacceptable," she told Polygon in a phone interview. "My intention here is I want to create an environment where there are consequences for doing this kind of stuff. I have played a lot of games like Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row and you can go out and shoot up police cars and there are no consequences. But I want to remind GamerGate that, hey guys, I understand that you are having fun, but this is the real world and there are going to be real consequences."
Wu has previously written for Polygon on the issue of harassment of women in games. She said that many of the death-threats she receives carry the GamerGate tag. The messages often seem to be coordinated. For the past few weeks, she has received death threats about every two days. Her letter offering a reward, is as follows:
We are offering cash rewards for information which leads to the apprehension, arrest, and/or conviction of any person or persons responsible for sending death threats to Brianna Wu.
In order to claim a reward, you must (1) provide information to Brianna Wu which leads to the apprehension, arrest and/or conviction of the party responsible for this act(s) and (2) submit a claim for a reward to Brianna Wu.
In order to receive payment for a reward, the person or persons responsible for the crime must be arrested for and/or convicted of the crime, unless there is the impossibility of arrest or conviction due to the death or incapacity of such person or persons.
For a reward to be considered, the information must be received by Brianna Wu within 90 days of the reward offer, unless otherwise extended. The reward for the apprehension, arrest and/or conviction of the first person is currently $11,000. This amount consists of $1,000 donated by the Wu family and $10,000 donated by an anonymous donor.
Rewards for the apprehension, arrest and/or conviction of additional individuals will decrease stepwise. The amount for the second individual will be $5500. This consists of $500 donated by the Wu family and $5000 from the anonymous donor.
The amount for the third individual will be $2750. This consists of $250 donated by the Wu family and $2500 from the anonymous donor. We reserve the right to modify the reward amounts paid out, based on the quality and/or quantity of information provided, and relevant events related to the apprehension, arrest and/or conviction of the person or persons.
The GamerGate movement and Twitter hashtag is a social campaign defined by most supporters as a call to effect change in video game journalism and to defend the "gamer" identity. The movement is difficult to define because what it has come to represent has no central leadership or agreed-upon manifesto. The hashtag was first used by actor Adam Baldwin in August after intimate details of a personal relationship between a video game developer and a video game journalist were made public and led some to allege cronyism between press and developers. The campaign is now also linked to ongoing and well-established harassment of women in video games, including Depression Quest creator Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Wu, though many of GamerGate's supporters deny the campaign should be blamed for harassment.
This is about the entire game industry getting back to work
Wu told Polygon that a well known Silicon Valley entrepreneur had donated the bulk of the money being used as reward. She shared documented evidence of their correspondence with us, though she asked that the donor's name not be used in this report. Polygon contacted her local police department to ask about the investigation's status, though we have not heard back as yet.
She added that she has not spoken to police about the reward. "I send them the death threats as I get them. They haven't really told me what to do and what not to do, but I am an entrepreneur so taking the initiative is kind of a part of my personality. If I see a course of action that seems like it might have a good mission outcome then I am not shy about going forward and doing that.
"If you are talking to a police on the beat and you're talking about [online message board] 8chan and IP addresses and things like that, it's just not really what they do. They have been very friendly and professional. But I think if we gave them information about who was doing this I think they would look at that and probably appreciate it."
Wu added that she hopes the reward will bring GamerGate-related abuse campaigns to an end. "This is not about Brianna Wu. This is about the entire game industry getting back to work. GamerGate isn't just a distraction for me and Zoe, it's a distraction for every woman working in this field. What I want to do is help the rest of us get back to work."
She added that the harassment campaign is having a negative effect on her life at home and at work. "When I leave our home I ask my husband to leave first, to check around the corner. But also my company needs a leader and I have done zero work for a month because I've been dealing with this."