After more than a year of investigation, the FBI has concluded that nothing criminal occurred during GamerGate, a months-long culture war in the gaming industry that involved death threats and revelations of horrible ethics among video game journalists.
The movement was at its height between late 2014 and late 2015. The main tangible outcome was the FTC’s implementation of new rules that require journalists and YouTubers to disclose when they receive free trips or sponsorships from entities mentioned in their articles. It was an effort to guard against what were essentially advertisements for games masquerading as unbiased reviews.
But GamerGate also involved an equally fraught battle over claims from culture critics of misogyny in the gaming world.
The FBI investigation focused on Anita Sarkeesian, creator of the site Feminist Frequency and one of the first people to say she had been harassed online for stating that women in gaming are mistreated. Brianna Wu, who created her career by complaining about GamerGate, said she also received death threats via email and over the phone.
There is no mention in the report of Zoe Quinn, who some say was the catalyst for GamerGate after it was revealed that a gaming writer had given her favorable coverage without disclosing his personal relationship with her. Quinn and Sarkeesian at one point were minor celebrities, and went to the UN to talk about online harassment.
The FBI investigated a shooting threat against Sarkeesian at Utah State University, where she was planning to give a talk. USU, state and federal law enforcement determined that it was not a credible threat, and no links were ever established to GamerGate despite press coverage that the movement was involved.
During its investigation, the FBI spoke to one underage individual who had been sending threatening e-mails to one of the women and warned him or her to stop. The individual promised to do so, and the FBI declined to prosecute that person.
Investigators also looked at cases where SWAT teams were called out to the home of an unnamed person involved in GamerGate but were unable to find any actionable leads.
In many instances of threats, the FBI determined that the individuals responsible were either unrelated to the GamerGate movement or were using it to inflame the escalating culture war between social justice warriors and gamers.
A popular YouTuber and GamerGate supporter, Daniel “MrRepzion” Sulzbach, was visited by the FBI after a troll signed his name in a fake threat. A comedian named Jan Rankowski challenged Brianna Wu to a street race under his online persona “Jace Connors.”
Ultimately, the FBI was unable to “identify any subjects or actionable leads” and closed the case.
Wu, who is now running for congress, bemoaned the lack of action from the FBI and promised to take the investigators to task. “All this report does for me is show how little the FBI cared about the investigation. I’m fairly livid. Assuming I win my race for Congress, the FBI can definitely expect me to request a meeting in my office about this appalling failure,” she said in an interview.
The fact that the FBI opened an investigation based on her claims and drafted a 178- page report would appear to be proof that they did take Wu’s claims seriously.