Donors to Randi Harper's anti-harassment campaign are now being harassed themselves.
Image: Randi Harper/Patreon
Crowdfunding site Patreon was hacked early this month, exposing users' names, emails, and addresses. Now, one woman with a campaign on the site says GamerGate trolls have doxxed her Patreon backers, republishing their leaked personal information and targeting them online.
Developer Randi Harper founded the Online Abuse Prevention Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to creating open source anti-harassment tools, and has been funding it on Patreon. She said donators to her campaign, one of the more popular on the site, had their information singled out and posted to pastebin, a site used to store plain text, after the hack.
Harper alerted her backers when she first discovered the incident around October 9, and soon afterwards found the information was being passed around the GamerGate community. She believes she was targeted in part due to her campaign's progress.
"I've had a lot of success with shutting down their bullshit, they see I'm building up steam and talking with open source communities about solutions to harassment," she said. "I'm one of the few people trying to fight this with technology, and technology is one of the things they don't seem to understand."
The saga continued earlier this week as Harper's backers received a mass email from Sam Smith, a conservative journalist who goes by the name of Matthew Hopkins.
In the email, subject 'URGENT Media Inquiry - Randi Harper Patreon,' he accuses Harper of the "vilest imaginable extremism," citing her support of activist Sarah Nyberg and pointing to a handful of links from conservative news site Breitbart as proof.
"Harper has also admitted to drug abuse, including attempting to smoke meth from a broken lightbulb," the email said. "She also irresponsibly dyed her dog blue and accidentally allowed it to lick up her drugs."
Smith told recipients to reply as soon as possible, threatening to alert campaign backers' employers as well as "relevant authorities" if they continue to support Harper. Update: Smith said he did not mean he would release the names of anyone who continued to support Harper, but rather that there might be "lawful public interest" in his revealing the names of donors because "some of you may work in regulated roles with responsible access to information, vulnerable adults or children." He told Motherboard, "The remark was not contingent on their withdrawing their support for Harper."
"In fact my email made clear no one's details would be released, except in accordance with UK law," Smith said. "As you know I myself have charitably assisted vulnerable women in court. I would actually have great sympathy for Randi Harper's campaign against harassment, were it not for the fact that unfortunately her tool for blocking perpetrators is indiscriminate and has included many undeserving people including several vulnerable and young persons, such as a teenage female tech student."
Harper's supporters, however, took Smith's email to mean that they should stop backing Harper, or else. "As a recipient of that email, I can confidently say that that guy's threatening to contact my employer in an attempt to intimidate me was the best possible way of ensuring my continued—and in fact increased—support of your work," one loyal donor wrote.
Here is Smith's full email:
I am the author of the major blog www.matthewhopkinsnews.com. I am sending you this email because your name appears in a list of people who donate to a Patreon operated by a person called Randi Harper. The list was confidential but has been hacked and placed online by unknown third parties. As a result of the leak you may be named, so please read this email carefully.
Ms Harper is a controversial figure due to her extreme political views, including support for Sarah Nyberg, a political activist who at one time claimed to be a paedophile and supported white supremacism, although now claims they were 'joking'. Harper has also admitted to drug abuse, including attempting to smoke meth from a broken lightbulb. She also irresponsibly dyed her dog blue and accidentally allowed it to lick up her drugs. The following Breitbart articles may be of assistance -
You are supporting a person who is associated with some of the vilest imaginable extremism. Your exposure is interesting, partly because a similar leak occurred a few years ago here in Britain, when the membership list of one of Britain's far right parties was leaked online - http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/oct/20/bn...
As a responsible journalist, I can assure you I shall not be publishing the list. However, some of you may work in regulated roles with responsible access to information, vulnerable adults or children. There may be a lawful public interest in my contacting the relevant authorities (including an employer). In addition, the third parties who obtained the data have, as I said, released it online and I suspect it will find its way to Wikileaks, amongst other places.
I would like to invite you to answer the following questions -
1. Did you know about Randi Harper's history?
2. Do you endorse her extremist views?
3. In light of the revelations about her, and her support for Sarah Nyberg, will you continue to donate?
4. Are you aggrieved at Ms Harper's failure to safeguard your personal data?
Please provide comment as soon as possible.
I am the author of www.matthewhopkinsnews.com, a Conservative leaning blog that has had over 188,000 unique visits since January this year. My pen name is Matthew Hopkins and my real name is Sam Smith. My blog has sourced stories for some of Britain's largest newspapers.
I am studying a Master's Degree in law combined with an LPC (attorney's certificate). In fact I was praised in the British Parliament by then Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming for my legal skills representing a vulnerable woman in the High Court, who faced being declared mentally incompetent - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/... .
He claimed in a blog post on Tuesday at least one supporter withdrew their donations after reading his email, but Harper said Smith's efforts has had the opposite effect: her backers have responded by doubling, and sometimes tripling their donations. Her campaign has jumped more than $1,300 a month in donations after the emails went out.
"The amount of community support has been incredible," she said.
Harper said another benefit to come out of the situation is that it's bringing visibility to the exact issue she is working to address: online harassment. She said she hopes this will give men who work at Patreon and those who backed her campaign a bigger window into the problem she's fighting.
"Many people have never had to deal with harassment, they don't really know what this is like," she said. "This situation can really drive home that there is a harassment problem."
Patreon maintains no sensitive information like credit card or Social Security numbers were compromised in the hack, but advised users to change their passwords as a precaution. Co-founder and CEO Jack Conte previously told Motherboard by email that they are investigating the breach with experts.
"Patreon engineering has done a thorough analysis of the vulnerability that led to the breach," he said. "We are being meticulous and rigorous in the investigation, and based on conversations with dozens of advisors and security experts, I'm highly confident that we're doing everything in our power to minimize the impact on our users."
Update: This story has been updated to reflect Smith's comments.