Saturday, January 26, 2013

GenXposé: How STGRB is threatening to dox the wrong person

John Green alerted me to this earlier this morning and I have to say that like so many other people, I'm long since ready for STGRB to fade into obscurity. What is STGRB? Many of you have already heard about this group, but for some the whole scenario is so long and elaborate that you're kind of lost on all of what is going on.

To sum it up as briefly as possible, STGRB stands for "Stop the Goodreads Bullies". It's a group that claims to be working to stop bullying on Goodreads. However nice that might sound, the group doesn't really do any of that. What should have been a group aimed at trying to be a diplomatic go-between for authors with hurt feelings and reviewers set on defending their peers is instead a group that is not only known to side only with the authors, but in the past has also released highly personal information on some of the reviewers they deem "bullies". They've since claimed that they have never revealed personal information, but more than one blog has screengrabs of the group posting things like names, locations, and personal habits along the lines of telling people where the reviewers go on certain days. Some of the reviewers have claimed that people have used this information to call them and harass them. STGRB claims that it wasn't them, but once you put someone else's information out on the internet you run the risk of someone else using it to find and harass whomever you claim is "bad". The thing about releasing that type of information is that you can't give the internet everything but their underwear size and then say "now totally don't call up this girl and make death threats, K?" That's not how it works and that's why doxing people is so bad, even if you say you have no plans or intents for anyone to harass the user.

Their justification behind this was the idea that people wouldn't make such harsh comments if not for the veil of anonymity that the internet requires. Maybe they wouldn't, but it's really hard for STGRB to throw stones when almost all of their users are anonymous themselves. The only person on their site who is readily open about who they are is the author Caroll Bryant. Like him or hate him for all of his actions, at least the guy has the balls to state who he is. As far as who exactly the other people are on the site, it's anyone's guess. Some people say that Melissa Douhit runs the site via several sockpuppets. Others say that it's a number of self-published authors. Either way, nobody really has 100% confirmation on anyone's identity aside from Bryant. What irritates so many people about the whole doxing that STGRB does is that they claim that they want things to be transparent, but hide behind their own smokescreens. I mean frack, people have even been saying that the site has a firewall that bans random people.  And really, what does doxing really serve? So you say that Nasty Reviewer X is Roberta Robinson of WallaWalla Washington. So what? What good will that ultimately do for author/reader relations? If anything, it puts everyone on the defensive and makes people that much more likely to jump to the defense of the latest reviewer, whether they view the review as unnecessarily nasty or not. And yes, some of these reviews do get a little nasty sometimes.

Moving on to why I'm writing this blog, I wanted to state the above to show that doxing can be serious business and that ultimately it serves no purpose. What makes doxing even worse is when you're wrong. That's what happened with GenX and reviewer Amanda Welling. Both are people who have been particularly outspoken about the whole STGRB fiasco, but both people have claimed that they're not the same person. According to her blog, GenX has said that she's been threatened by STGRB to either stop her blog or they'll publish all of her information on the net. Needless to say, GenX didn't take this very well, especially when she knows that they'll be releasing the information on someone that isn't her.

There's just something very nasty about telling someone that if they're not quiet that you'll spread their information on the internet. This includes the implication that people might use this information to harass said person. Given that the previous round of doxing ended with several people getting royally harassed at home and that even posting the names of various reviewers has resulted in them getting harassed via blogs and other social media sites, you can't say that they aren't fully aware of what releasing the information might result in. Even if they did have the right person, threatening to release personal information to get your way is NOT the way to accomplish your ends unless all you want is to cause more trouble.

This just isn't cool. I have to say that I've yet to see STGRB do anything that really benefited any of the people they're supposed to be protecting. I do think that there needs to be a group or a person to help soothe tensions when an author reacts badly to a review that they think is unnecessarily harsh or when a reviewer takes an author's comment badly. This just isn't the way to do it and I have to say that since STGRB has come out onto the scene, tensions between authors, notably indie or self-published authors, and reviewers have actually gotten worse. This is part of the reason why most authors, when discovering that STGRB is "supporting" them, tend to disavow any connections with the group. They know that even though the group claims to be working in the interests of the author in question, their help will hurt more than it heals.

I'll give STGRB the benefit of the doubt that they started their efforts in good faith, but at this point the whole scenario is so toxic that it's better for them to just cut their losses and find a new way to deal with what they see as bullying. Perhaps rather than screaming "so and so is bad" or "this review is bad and this reviewer is a bully", they could say how they would have phrased the review to more eloquently get the reviewer's displeasure across? In the process they should remember that although some reviews seem unnecessarily harsh or even mean spirited, those reviews are someone's opinion and those reviewers do technically have the right to say what they please. Sometimes it's just better to walk away.

Further reading:

I made the Fab Four (or is it Five?) (GenXposé)

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't care less about bad or nasty reviews of my book. Say what you want about them, but when you call me a rapist or a pedophile without any proof to support your claim, that's where the line is crossed from 'speaking your opinion as a reviewer' to an out-right bully.