Yesterday AllOut.org took down a petition aimed at shooting back against anti-gay boycott groups placing pressure on EA due to gay characters included in the game publisher’s titles. The petition had been hit with what looked like spambots, as well as by obvious spammers who took their disdain of EA to the comments section of the AllOut petition.
In other words, alongside obvious individual spammers, something was adding duplicate comments to the petition (see, for example) – most of which voiced some sort of support for EA. The names of these spambot comments included such gems as “Fred from Pakistan.” In some instances, duplicate comments were repeated three or four times from as many different countries.
AllOut.org Community Manager, Tile Wolfe, told me yesterday that the site has had no contact with EA whatsoever during the course of the petition.
“We are not arguing that Electronic Arts is a perfect company,” Wolfe added, “but we know that today, on this issue, they are taking an important stand that should be celebrated and supported. Anti-gay groups are the dark-side here, and we’re glad to see so many consumers and citizens joining forces to pressure companies like EA and beyond to promote fair and balanced portrayals of gay, lesbian, bi and trans characters wherever they pop up.”
I also spoke briefly with AllOut.org co-founder and director Andre Banks about the petition and the spam attacks.
Forbes: Could you speak to the goals of this campaign, its origins and how the idea came up, and maybe similar campaigns you’ve worked on?
Also, when did you notice spam attacks on the Yoda petition? I was receiving emails yesterday evening showing images of exact duplicate comments, with absolutely no difference from one to the next save for the name and location of the commenters. These names included ones like “Fred from Pakistan” and so forth. When did red flags start going up?
Banks: AllOut.org is about one year old, and we are an independent organization that has a fairly straightforward goal – to ensure that everyone, everywhere can live freely and love who they choose without sacrificing their safety or dignity. One way that we do that is by working to change policy. Our most recent campaign has been pushing against an anti-gay “propaganda” law in Russia that would make it illegal to talk about anything gay in the city of St. Petersburg – even creating a gay fictional character in a book or movie would be subject to a crime. The other part of our work is about changing culture and a big piece of that is pushing back against groups like the Family Research Council who bully companies and organizations that take a positive stance on gay rights or present positive, affirming images of LGBT people. We wanted to counter the anti-gay boycott of Star Wars by giving our nearly 900,000 members a chance to show that a lot of people support the decision of BioWare and EA to include LGBT options in the game.
We have had no contact with EA. Our small team of campaigners developed and launched this idea late last week because we believed – and continue to believe – that we should support EA’s decision to distribute the games with gay relationships in the face of opposition. Our focus is purely on LGBT issues and our campaign is only meant to show EA, and other corporations, that there is a large constituency of people all over the world who care about and support LGBT equality.
We’ve received many comments, tweets, and emails from gamers all over the world who support the campaign and stand against homophobia.
Unfortunately, our campaign page was hit with obvious spam bot attacks. Our campaigner in Paris identified the spam and when our tech team came online in New York this morning we took the necessary steps to disable the page. We’ve been communicating through our twitter (@allout) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/alloutorg) accounts during the process and answering comments about the issue.
The attacks came from anonymous IP addresses so we are unable to determine the source. We are continuing to investigate but right now it looks like only a few thousand of the signatures came from these spam bots, and the majority were from legitimate All Out members. We’re now working to remove the spam signatures and will be updating the campaign page soon with the correct signature count.
I hope this helps clarify things a bit. We certainly launched this effort as a good natured attempt to stand up for what’s right. Thanks for your coverage of this story and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly for more information.
Were you aware of the other controversies surrounding EA prior to launching the petition? A lot of people saw this as something of a smokescreen or PR move on the part of EA, and were certainly not aware that no communication between AllOut.org and EA had taken place. What sort of feedback have you gotten so far about this?
As we researched the campaign, we understood that some people in the gaming community were critical of EA. We believe that whether or not a gamer or All Out member supports EA, they can agree that the company should not be bullied into making gay people invisible. After the launch, we learned about the allegations of EA faking other support campaigns and obviously reject that sort of cynical, self-serving deception. With that said, a lot of people are missing the real story here – the Family Research Council, a notorious anti-gay group, is telling this company, and many others, that gay people have no place in our games, in our media and in our lives. For All Out, and many thousands who have supported the campaign, that is just unacceptable.
Have you gotten any response from the boycott groups themselves?
No response from the boycott groups just yet. I’ll let you know if we hear anything…
Regarding the 3000 – 5000 spam comments, do these include earlier duplicate comments (such as identical comments left by two or three separate people from two or three different countries) or are you counting only the flood of obvious spam comments received toward the end of the fund-raising drive?
Based on the IP addresses, we believe the 5,000 figure includes all spam received in the course of the campaign.
AllOut has since launched another campaign to fight for gay rights in Russia. You can read about that here.
At this point, no word from EA on any of this, but it does appear that AllOut.org worked independently of the game publisher and that no coordination took place. There’s also no evidence suggesting that any of the spam was orchestrated by anybody, as I noted in my piece yesterday. If anything new comes to light, I will be sure to update.
One final note. I think people all across this debate are rushing too quickly to judgment. As I noted yesterday, there’s no evidence that EA is behind the spambots, or that anyone else is for that matter. In that sense, I think gamers rightfully irked with the company are letting their emotions get the better of them.
On the other hand, certain members of the gaming press are awfully quick to rush to judgments of their own.
This article originally appeared on: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/04/11/allout-org-director-andre-banks-on-the-ea-anti-boycott-petition-and-spambot-attack/Older postNewer post