Earlier this week, a Twitter account called @Randi_ebooks tweeted about the now-infamous internet movement GamerGate.
A day later, the tweet was noticed by GamerGate-supporter @Grimachu.
The two accounts then started fighting about GamerGate.
After a few minutes, however, Grimachu realized that the Twitter account he was fighting with wasn't actually a human. It was a bot.
The bot was created by San Francisco-based DevOps Engineer Randi Harper. She told BuzzFeed News that the Twitter bot just tweets out randomly-assembled phrases from her Twitter account.
As a woman in tech on Twitter, Harper used to spar with GamerGaters all the time. She said they posted her personal information online and at the height of the harassment she had over 70,000 mentions of her name on Twitter in a four-six week period.
So Harper built a Twitter blocklist with 10,000 GamerGate names on it. Now she can’t see or hear them. “But my bot does. She just kind of handles all this garbage for me,” Harper said.
Harper said that she used to sit and watch GamerGate supporters get in fights with her Twitter bot, but she stopped because she said it was making her feel sad.
She’s also been monitoring and recording data about who uses the #GamerGate. She said she hopes to release metrics about how GamerGaters communicate.
She said what she’s finding is unlike anything she’s seen before.
"It looks like there's about 4,500 GamerGaters. That's how many people are actively using the hashtag," Harper said. "They're constantly retweeting each other but it's very, very rare that anybody who isn't part of GamerGate sees any of these tweets."
She said that according to the metrics she's pulling, the average GamerGater account is between one and three months old.
"It seems like they think people just sit there and search hashtags all the time," she said. "And if somebody uses the hashtag or even says the word without the hashtag, they're like 'oh, this gives me an excuse to interact with you because you're talking about this subject.'"
Harper has one more anti-GamerGate project she’s working on. She just set up a new Twitter bot called @Gater_ebooks.
Its tweets are pulled from the timelines of actor Adam Balwdin, Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, now-suspended Twitter account @RogueStarGamez, and other prominent GamerGate Twitter accounts.
Ryan Broderick is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Ryan Broderick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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