Here’s what we know about #Gamergate: people mention it on Twitter a lot. The root of the story concerns alleged ethical transgressions by a blog that covers video games, but the tag quickly devolved into a large group of anonymous (male) people wishing violence on women.
Last week, the guy behind the hashtag admitted to BuzzFeed that it was all about a recent breakup and said that, while he regrets certain “outcomes,” he would do it again.
On Thursday, Sam Biddle of Gawker’s Valleywag made a joke about the story that lead to an internal memo from editor Joel Johnson in which he effectively warned writers to be careful about what they tweet.
Biddle’s message seemed to play off the idea that the very demographic most interested in the anti-bullying movement was, through #Gamergate, either directly or indirectly encouraging others to harass women. There was a lot of vitriolic back-and-forth.
Johnson’s memo is the most significant part of this story because it reflects upon the new digital rules: no matter how many times you type “RTs do not equal endorsements” or “opinions expressed on this account are not those of my employer,” the line between personal and professional just isn’t all that clear.
From the memo and its follow-up (via Romenesko):
“I do want you to think about how your tweets can be perceived without context. I’m as guilty as anyone about using Twitter as a place for absurdity and trolling among friends, but the last couple of days have made it clear how people are willing to conflate personal tweets as official company statements.
Making a silly tweet about bullying during National Anti-Bullying Month gave a bunch of people with no clear agenda besides generating chaos a lot of easy ammunition…This is a concession, no doubt. But it’s not without a consideration of a longer view. I don’t think this one was worth fighting for.”
Just as VICE has allegedly taken editorial steps to avoid upsetting sponsors, so Gawker let its writers know that their online behavior does, in fact, reflect upon their employer.
*An earlier version of this post included the claim that Mercedes withdrew advertisements from Gawker properties after the tweets in question went live. Gawker denies this claim, though a Washington Post report claims that Mercedes PR confirmed the company’s decision to “pull its advertising from Gawker ‘while we assessed a situation'” before “reinstat[ing] its campaign.”
We were primarily interested in the internal memo.