What a Victory for Free Speech
One such attempt to reassert privilege in the sphere was a, now deleted, game on the entertainment and social media site Newgrounds where a player could “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian.” In response to this game, Stephanie Guthrie, a feminist advocate, organizer, and analyst doxed its creator, Bendilin Spurr, by, in her words “sic[ing] the Internet on him.” Since doxing is a controversial practice, this act raised the ire of many, including Toronto-based artist Gregory Elliott, a former acquaintance of Ms. Guthrie, who began a long campaign of Twitter harassment directed at her and some of her friends. Elliott was not alone in his reaction. Guthrie began receiving escalating amounts of harassment, including threats of rape and violence. Amidst this less specific, albeit disturbing, harassment, Elliott continued commenting at and about Guthrie; particularly, he would mention her location whenever it was made known to him.
All of this culminated in a criminal suit against Elliott, who was eventually acquitted of charges of criminal harassment, with the judge citing the lack of any specific threats issued by Elliott. While true, this ignores the larger context of the harassment of Guthrie. Elliott’s one-to-many tweeting about Guthrie enabled and amplified the many-on-one harassment she subsequently experienced. This level of amplification is a unique feature of online, especially Twitter-based, harassment and it requires a re-evaluation of the concept of criminal harassment.