Hello Stargate and Science Fiction fans!
I am writing to share a story I am concerned about regarding the important human rights issue of Cyber Bullying.
WormholeRiders News Agency has been gracious in allowing me to share my observations with you on their official Stargate web site since it concerns a science fiction series that I cherish regarding recent incidents of Cyber Bullying at the worlds largest Stargate fan site, Gateworld.
I spoke with the Managing Editor of WormholeRiders, Kenn Weeks to confirm the news agency’s official position on such matters.
The Team WHR position has not changed since it’s inception, including fully supporting the NO HATE Campaign on Twitter subsequent to an attack on one of the firms Lesbian reporters in 2009 shortly after WormholeRiders websites were opened.
This article is about a Stargate admirer who I reached out to after learning his story. I contacted him to ascertain the facts. I have given him the handle “SciFi Fan” (not his real name) to protect his identity. SciFi Fan identifies as an LGBTQ person. He also has a love of a television show called Stargate. Because of the welcoming nature and tolerance to differences that the series of television shows offered viewers for a decade of seasons and four movies, SciFi Fan felt that Gateworld web site would also be a welcoming and tolerant environment.
That is not what happened according to SciFi Fan who said; “What happened with
Gateworld isn’t just my experience. The entire LGBTQ community was forced out. Gateworld has had a blanket ban on LGBTQ content since the beginning. And we’re not the only target. Basically anyone not straight white and Christian is a target”.
Several other individuals who also faced bullying and abuse for their differing views came forward but did not want to be identified. They voiced the same or similar concerns for the reason why they stopped using the Gateworld Forum.`
Gateworld calls itself a family-friendly source for news for the SYFY show, Stargate. They provide a list of do’s and don’ts in their Forum Rules such as, “refrain from personal attacks and name-calling, and from disparaging individuals or groups with crude nicknames they are likely to find offensive.”
Gateworld continues; “Disagreements and debates are fine, but negative personal comments are not welcome. We want our forum to stay friendly! Stick to the issues and the arguments, and when the debate has concluded, agree to disagree. Respecting other members means that they have as much right as you to post their opinion, within the boundaries of the forum topic. Do not tell another member that they should leave. Do not request that the moderators intervene and discipline a member merely because you disagree with a controversial value or opinion”.
According to SciFi Fan, “For the LGBTQ members of the forum, Gateworld allowed one thread where they could talk as long as there were no mentions of gay stuff. No talk about relationships or pictures of gay couples kissing. It was basically just a regular off-topic discussion thread with the occasional link to an LGBTQ news story. But it was under constant attack from other members from the religious and political threads.”
SciFi Fan continues; “For a while, the Mods did their job and removed the offensive posts. They even told one member to not post in there if he’s only doing it to attack other members. But he didn’t receive any kind of punishment. No infraction points, no suspensions. But I guess the Mods got bored of watching the thread because they eventually stopped deleting posts. And the LGBT Q members started leaving.”
SciFi Fan says that he then approached the owner of Gateworld, Darren Sumner, to complain;
“I asked him about Gateworld’s official position on LGBTQ people. If offensive comments about and if he (Darren) world act on them (and) would the offensive comments be removed. He assured me that they would indeed remove posts if they thought they were offensive, and if I could send him some examples of posts I thought broke the rules. I sent examples of dehumanizing language. Referring to trans people as “It” or “That” – like small children do when they’re mad at their siblings. But these are adults. Several of them are over 60. I sent all the examples of slurs I could find. That wasn’t fun to search for. And I tried to explain why doing that made me uncomfortable”.
Sumner’s response, according to SciFi Fan, was less than what he had hoped for, “He suggested I just leave those threads, which doesn’t solve the problem. It creates safe places for hate and intolerance to thrive. And how could I keep posting on Gateworld knowing what was going on in at least three threads? How could I go play in another area knowing the people I’m talking to are debating all the reasons I shouldn’t be allowed to live in another part of the forum”?
Eventually, SciFi Fan says, after many reports of abusive posts to the moderators (trusted members of a forum tasked with moderating the discussion and also keeping the forum clean. Moderators also answer users’ concerns about the forum, general questions, as well as respond to specific complaints) the moderators determined that “there’s nothing wrong with them. The Mods will not get involved with whatever issue I have with the members of the politics threads”.
Further, SciFi Fan stated, “I kept going. Maybe I could convince them. I started posting a link to articles about trans abuse that were relevant to the posts I was reporting. Skydiver, head admin, finally replied to me. She told me if I kept reporting posts she would do to me what I clearly wanted her to do to the members I was reporting. That’s how she said it. “we will do to you what you want us to do to them”
It became obvious, SciFi Fan said, “I was never going to get through to them why it was wrong. Why it hurt so much to visit Gateworld. I thought I could change their minds. Now I knew I couldn’t. It was pointless. The community I was a part of was gone. They didn’t want me. I would never be welcome there. So I left”.
It should be pointed out those social media platforms that are not inclusive of all people run the risk of becoming online headquarters to extremist movements that use online chat rooms, including the infamous ” Discord ” to encourage like-minded users to protest Charlottesville, North Carolina’s efforts to remove long-standing Confederate statues – particularly one of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Discord originally was a chat space for the online gaming community, but some participants used the platform to discuss weapons they might brandish at the Charlottesville rally. Some discussed guns and shields, and one suggested putting a “6-8 inch double-threaded screw” into an ax handle. Multiple posts discussed the logistics of running a vehicle into the expected crowds of counter-protesters.
Philosopher and historian Yuval Noah Harari, bestselling author of Sapiens noted that social media can be an essential lifeline for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people who live outside of liberal communities. “All of the online world has done some wonderful things, like enabling people who have no immediate community to be part of something.
When I grew up there was nowhere I could go, no one I could meet,” said Harari. Harari, met his husband of 17 years on one of the first gay online dating websites, called CheckMeOut, a long-defunct website that predated the popular gay meet-up app Grindr. “Social media and the internet also means that LGBT people are extremely vulnerable to surveillance and abuse,” Harari said.
SciFi Fan says that he would like to see some changes at Gateworld. “I would like them to delete all the offensive and abusive posts I reported and add homophobic and transphobic slurs to the word filter. Darren has been ‘looking into it’ since 2017. So I don’t think it’s going to happen. At the very least I want them to admit there is a problem at Gateworld. I want them to admit they handled it in the worst possible way by banning the target of hate and abuse to protect the people posting it”.
Gateworld’s response to WormholeRiders is as follows: “GateWorld has provided fans an open space to gather and discuss for nearly 20 years, and some members have taken advantage of our choice to allow for a maximum of free speech. That’s led to some bitter fights and even bullying, and that grieves us. We take all reports of bullying very seriously. And so in 2020 GateWorld will roll out new rules and restrictions to curtail this, and to make the forum a welcoming home for all Stargate fans once again.”
Enhancements in Progress at Gateworld:
I recently have reached out to Gateworld Management. They are making positive changes. Gateworld has since implemented its new version of their Terms Of Service and has eliminated the threads that they believe caused all the trouble.
It appears that Gateworld has not entirely removed the problem, however. They have not banned the bullies from the site and continue to permit inflammatory language. Gateworld has also not improved the filters that would delete hurtful language from posts. It is a pity that individuals are forced to take their complaints public in order to be heard and to get any reaction from some Social Media platforms.
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