In a shock turn around of events (the start of which isn’t too surprising given what’s happening in the media industry with sexual harassment claims revealed under the #MeToo hashtag), the infamous NeoGAF games forum was taken offline for almost two days after its owner, Tyler “Evilore” Malka, sought to quell new claims of sexual harassment leveled against him. The site is available again as of 03:00 this morning, but while it was offline some major changes were made to the forums moderation policies and the topics allowed on the site, as well as a mass ban of users who disagreed with the way the situation was handled and called for Malka to step down. If you weren’t following the news in the last two days, you can get up to speed after the jump.
The harassment claims came to light when film director Ima Leupp, a friend of Malka’s, took to Facebook to reveal how he had come on to her strongly on a business trip in 2015, eventually attempting to force her to take a shower with him. This led to increased tension between them, which was made worse by the fact that Leupp was visiting a nearby city with Malka, and felt trapped by the situation.
She initially didn’t out Malka by name, but eventually told her followers to Google him. In a Kotaku interview, Leupp admitted that she continued to be friends with Malka, and even had a physical relationship briefly. When the incident took place in 2015, she said, the trip was intended to help network her with other directors and film publishers. Having someone with connections like Malka made that easier.
Once the story got out, it spread across social networks until NeoGAF’s users discovered it. They clamoured for answers, but none were forthcoming from Malka, who had stopped posting on social networks a few hours earlier. After brief downtime due to server load, NeoGAF’s moderators began resigning in protest, several of whom made their resignation public through the forum. Some long-time members even started asking for bans in protest, hoping to highlight the seriousness of the situation.
Towards the end of the day yesterday, users were posting a few hundred new threads an hour, spamming the NeoGAF Twitter bot which was set up to tweet headlines of newly made threads (many of which have since been deleted). With the moderators gone or logged out, barely any part of the site was monitored, and it went down several times due to server load again. Malka appeared in several threads where he tried to silence the allegations, alongside a second new allegation levelled against him by a female film journalist.
Although a post from the forum’s automated modbot said that Malka would be preparing a statement shortly, the site was shut down not long afterwards. For most of yesterday, the site errored out on Error 503, stating that it was down for maintenance.
In a prepared statement to the forum’s users and media, Malka said the following:
“An allegation of sexual misconduct has been made against me by an ex. It’s not true, the individual making the accusation isn’t credible, the story doesn’t reconcile logically with the facts, and there’s plenty of evidence and witnesses to corroborate that. It’ll be a process.
“All allegations of this nature are serious, of course. I first got word of it on Wednesday when a screenshot of a Facebook post was handed to Voat. I immediately talked with my mod team about the contents of the screenshot and clarified that it was baseless and explained some of the details concerning my former associations with her, and tried to ensure any concerns from the team were addressed fully and transparently to everyone’s satisfaction. On Thursday I heard that she had deleted the accusation from Facebook, and wasn’t entirely sure how to proceed from there or how this would all play out in the public space at that point. Then, Friday morning, the screenshot made its way to NeoGAF and chaos ensued.
“I was in the process of writing a statement that entire day to address formally address the allegation, but the community had erupted in a flash that morning. While the moderation team was trying to restore the peace, accusations and threats concerning the screenshot started shifting to them as well by association with me, and I was asked by my team to do something to fix things and get the heat off of all of them at least. I was beyond exhausted by that point, though, stretched too thin in the time since the post had first appeared and seeing unprecedented events unfold on NeoGAF. I was slow and weak. I failed to handle it quickly enough and let the team down. Before I could finish a statement and get it out there, understandably some mods hit their emotional limit, expressed concerns about the community coming after them, and decided to leave. A few people resigned, and many more quickly followed for similar reasons, citing stress and harassment. The site started breaking under load spikes leading up to the first resignations, too, and then flatlined altogether, so issuing a statement at that time on NeoGAF itself became impossible for the time being, and my attention shifted toward the moderation team’s future.
“Since that whole mess, lasting from Friday morning through Saturday, before we formally went offline for maintenance and repair and restructure, we’ve just been trying to figure out the best course of action for NeoGAF going forward. And as stories began being published by various outlets, I issued some comments to the press, since everything coming out was proving to be sensationalized, opportunist, and unprofessional.
“We’ve all become increasingly stressed and weary this year in ways even I’m not accustomed to by now, and discussions on heated news, political issues, and social issues on the off-topic side of the site have become areas no one has wanted to moderate in the open for fear of backlash or just general exposure to the inevitable toxicity. I’ve gone in there myself to take the heat, since it’s very much my responsibility to do so before anyone else’s, but there’s been little headway, mostly just more anger and resentment and a lot of bans. I don’t think this necessarily reflects on our community; more so the tone of the entire internet this year with regards to heated issues.
“That’s all going to inform the way forward for NeoGAF as we refocus on what the main goals are supposed to be for the site. The mod team will talk about more specifics on what that will entail below.”
In addition to the changes Malka introduced in his post, politics, off-topic, and social topics were banned, and the moderators on the site no longer have their username highlighted or listed in the moderators page, for fear of harassment of the moderators who publicly voiced their support for Malka and his version of events before the forum was cleaned.
It will be interesting to see if anything more comes out of this.