Christian D. Ott, a tenured professor of theoretical astrophysics at the California Institute of Technology, has resigned in the wake of an investigation that found he had harassed two students.
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"This has been a difficult situation for our community," the Caltech statement said. Caltech declined to provide any further comment to BuzzFeed News, and Ott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to more than 1,000 pages of emails and chat messages submitted to the investigators, first publicly reported by BuzzFeed News, Ott had become infatuated with Kleiser, whom he then fired due to his feelings. He later confessed his actions in increasingly inappropriate and erratic emotional exchanges with Gossan.
Gossan filed a complaint with the university's Title IX office in the spring of 2015, which Kleiser joined soon after. Prior to Gossan's complaint, Kleiser had no idea she had been fired for reasons unrelated to her scientific work.
Kleiser is relieved that Ott resigned. But her experience with him, as well as the "lukewarm" response from many in the faculty to news of the problem, has led her to decide to leave academia once her PhD is complete.
"I didn’t see a lot of action on the part of people that I considered to be my role models in my field," Kleiser said. "So that’s kind of difficult, and I think that makes it harder to want to stay and eventually take a permanent position in a place like this."
In 112 recent cases of stalking and harassment reviewed by UK police watchdogs, "not a single one was dealt with properly," reports the BBC. The report, "Living in Fear," found that victims of harassment and stalking were widely disregard and left at risk, and often told that the harassment they received was their own fault.
One in five women and one in ten men report being stalked in the UK. The Crime Survey for England and Wales (as quoted by the BBC) reports 4.6% of women and 2.7% of men aged 16-59 were victims in 2015-16.
One victim said police made her feel she was to blame for receiving abusive messages on social media. "It was my fault for being on Facebook," she said.
The report also said police officers were failing to recognise repeated signs of a stalker, by treating each complaint in isolation rather than being part of a pattern.
That, in turn, meant police and prosecutors did not see the bigger picture and appreciate the full scale of the harm suffered by the victim.
Helen Pearson, from Devon, reported her stalker to the police 125 times over five years.
"They literally didn't want to know," she said. "I was a nuisance."
One victim publicly refused to accept an apology from Devon and Cornwall Police after being attacked by her stalker with a pair of scissors.
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Helen Pearson, 34, suffered neck and face wounds when her neighbour Joseph Willis attacked her with scissors in an Exeter graveyard.
In the New York Times, Katie Bienner relates a cultural shift in Silicon Valley: women victims of sexual harassment describing their experiences frankly. In an industry bound by delusions of meritocracy and egality, simply talking about it is radical.
More than two dozen women in the technology start-up industry spoke to The Times in recent days about being sexually harassed. Ten of them named the investors involved, often providing corroborating messages and emails, and pointed to high-profile venture capitalists such as Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital and Dave McClure of 500 Startups, who did not dispute the accounts.
The disclosures came after the tech news site The Information reported that female entrepreneurs had been preyed upon by a venture capitalist, Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital. The new accounts underscore how sexual harassment in the tech start-up ecosystem goes beyond one firm and is pervasive and ingrained. Now their speaking out suggests a cultural shift in Silicon Valley, where such predatory behavior had often been murmured about but rarely exposed.
From the reports, Ellen Pao striking out in the courts only underscored the impunity enjoyed by these men.
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Lindsay Meyer, an entrepreneur in San Francisco, said Mr. Caldbeck put $25,000 of his own money into her fitness start-up in 2015. That gave Mr. Caldbeck reason to constantly text her; in those messages, reviewed by The Times, he asked if she was attracted to him and why she would rather be with her boyfriend than him. At times, he groped and kissed her, she said.
A Connecticut man who screamed "You will never ever, ever, stop me, my Christianity", thumped his chest, and menaced an Arab family on a Texas beach, was charged with public intoxication earlier this week, reports Fox News.
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At one point the man can be heard hollering "Donald Trump will stop you. Donald Trump will stop you!" Before storming away, video shows him grabbing his crotch and yelling something obscene at the family, in front of several children.
The family posted the video to their YouTube account with a description of what took place:
While enjoying our time at the beach during a family reunion, our kids and us had to experience ugliness and aggressiveness in the worse shape and form possible. We were staying at the South Padre Pearl hotel and went to the beach through their private access. My father was approached by two woman who were also enjoying their time. The women asked him to help with talking to a stranger who was harassing them. All my father said to the guy was "please enjoy your time and have fun and let everyone else here enjoy their time." The guy seemed to listen and walked away. He then came back to my father and started throwing racist comments. He was yelling so loud that my uncles and my brother came over from the water to see what was going on.
The FBI has released a heavily redacted 173-page PDF of GamerGate documents under FOIA. Much of the material has any identifying information stripped out, but it's clear that many of them are explicit threats and other harassment. Read the rest
Though Twitter brings in a hell of a lot of money, it's not enough to satisfy the company's investors, who are said to be contemplating a sale to Google or Salesforce; in The Guardian, Nathan Schneider moots the possibility of turning Twitter into a co-operative platform.
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Technologists have a dismal pattern: when it comes to engineering challenges ("build a global-scale comms platform") they rub their hands together with excitement; when it comes to the social challenges implied by the engineering ones ("do something about trolls") they throw their hands up and declare the problem to be too hard to solve. Read the rest
Twitter's openness is its strength, and also its weakness: the ease with which new accounts can be created makes it into an amazing tool for free expression, and also a perfect venue for vicious harassment (see also); but Instagram (a division of Facebook, the home of the walled garden) has announced a suite of anti-harassment tools that seem like they'd be compatible with Twitter, raising the obvious question: why hasn't Twitter already deployed them? Read the rest
Bloomberg reporter Dune Lawrence relates her two-year online ordeal at the hands of Benjamin Wey, a disgraced financier and harasser who posts crudely libelous "news" stories about her (and other targets) on a fake tabloid news site established for that purpose.
In September 2015 the FBI arrested the man behind TheBlot, one Benjamin Wey. Not for smearing me or the other people he imagined were his enemies. He’s primarily a financier, and he was charged with securities fraud and other financial crimes involving Chinese companies he helped to list on U.S. stock markets. The U.S. Department of Justice alleges Wey pocketed tens of millions of dollars in illicit profits that he funneled through associates overseas and back into accounts in the U.S. Wey denies the charges. A trial has been set for March 2017.
Meanwhile, TheBlot’s lies about me still pop up online. The same is true for a young woman who won an $18 million judgment against Wey and his companies for sexual harassment and defamation, a journalist who wrote about her, a retired Nasdaq official, and a Georgetown University law professor. As Wey, 44, awaits trial, he regularly posts Blot articles calling all of us, and others, frauds, racists, and extortionists. He’s found a way to exact revenge with few consequences, and he’s milking it.
Wey seems to be a consummate internet creep. Here's how he reportedly responded to the official request for comment that Bloomberg insisted she send him:
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“Howdy! Ni Hao! Hello! I am Benjamin Wey—your old friend.
Lawyer and journalist Sarah Jeong is one of the net's best writers, and her new ebook, The Internet Of Garbage, grapples with misogynist harassment and threats online. Read the rest
Anil Dash writes that a cynical blogger in-joke—"never read the comments"—has become a "bad habit," an excuse for giving free rein to abusive conduct.
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honestly, I get it — making a joke out of the situation may be the only way of dealing with that horrible feeling of dread that comes from knowing an institution values one’s words enough to profit from them, but not enough to protect the person writing those words…
Yet I think our reflexive use of these grim jokes have gotten accepted into the culture of people who build, manage, and publish on large social apps and media sites. The fact that we joke about it documents an acceptance of a culture of abuse online. It helps normalize online harassment campaigns and treat the empowerment of abusers as inevitable, rather than solvable.
And worse, we denigrate a form that used to be, and sometimes still is, a powerful way of making meaningful connections with the world. I met most of my closest friends in the comments on my blog, or by commenting on theirs.
Sarah Jeong reports on how Twitter has begun to take control of the hatred, harassment and general horseshit posted on its site.
Twitter talked some big talk, but it has buckled under both lawsuits and media outrage, tweaking and changing the Rules around speech whenever something threatened its bottom line. For a business, free speech can only be a meaningful value if it doesn’t really cost anything. … The Twitter of today strikes an uneasy balance between its old self and the unapologetic, ideologically-unburdened censoriousness of Facebook and Instagram. It remains yet to be seen whether the company has the vision and creativity to live out its new identity.
The "free speech wing of the free speech party" couldn't have done this but two years ago. They had to wait until the issues at hand were understood (at least by and large) not as abstractions to be dealt with on principle, but as practical issues of everyday human suffering. Read the rest
Chubb's new troll rider on its elite personal insurance package for its wealthiest customers now offers up to £50,000 to cover the cost of counselling, lost income, and professional anti-troll services (forensics, reputation management) for people who are targeted by online harassers. Read the rest
The Sigma Nu fraternity at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia has been suspended in connection with these asinine signs displayed at a private residence where members of the frat live. The brilliant individuals hung the banners during move-in week when parents were dropping new students at campus. Read the rest
A non-profit group analyzes what harassment looks like on the social media platform, and how Twitter responds to it.
New policies at Twitter for reporting, automatic message muting, and enforcement could turn the noise way down for users subject to harassment.