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Adam Orth: Developers who speak against online abuse can 'inspire others to action'

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In a very personal talk titled "Mob Rules: The Destructive Power of Opinion and Online Community," Adam Orth of Three One Zero talked about his experiences with online abuse and offered potential solutions for internet mob rule.

Orth gained infamy last spring, when he tweeted about Microsoft's always-online policy for Xbox One. During the time, Orth was an employee at Microsoft Game Studios, and his comments caused a massive controversy. Orth began his talk by explaining the circumstances and expressing frustration with himself for making the comments that he did. "This is a conversation I should have had with a friend, over a beer," he said.

Angry comments soon snowballed. "Immediately after publishing, I was hit by a tsunami of abuse," he said. "Every social network I belonged to became a primal pipeline of rage." At its peak, Orth was receiving 60 negative tweets per minute, and he received violent threats aimed at himself and his family.

At one point during his talk, Orth asked the audience how many people had had their children wished death, AIDS and cancer upon them. He then raised his own hand.

Orth relayed his personal formula for internet toxicity, showing a slide that equated the phenomena with a conflation of anonymity, negative opinion, access to instant publishing, a global audience and a lack of consequences. And he highlighted several positive case studies that he sees as possible avenues for changing the tide. Riot Games' dedication to studying player behavior, ThatGameCompany's experiment in internet multiplayer with Journey and even Polygon’s own comment moderation were floated as possible solutions to the toxicity problem.

"I came out on the other side of this stronger," Orth asserted, advocating for other developers to speak out and seek more positive solutions to the problems. "Be the shining example and inspire others to action."