On our TotalBiscuit Article

By Rich Stanton on at

Yesterday we published an article which has attracted a great deal of anger, and I wanted to address that as soon as possible. The piece in question is an interview with John Bain, aka TotalBiscuit, a YouTube personality and PC gaming critic, on the subject of harassment in gaming communities and specifically the mod tools available to creators and how they could be improved.

The subject of online harassment is the focus of an ongoing series of articles on Kotaku UK that, before this, had covered smaller creators who have found themselves vulnerable to abuse. The interview was published because it provided a different perspective on the failures of online tools in managing harassment. I felt that Bain, who has used these services since inception and built a huge audience, could offer unique insight into how Twitch and YouTube could improve in the future.

Much of the criticism we received centred on the decision to publish an interview with someone who has been identified with the Gamergate movement on the anniversary of the hateful post that spawned it. This timing was an unfortunate coincidence. I didn’t realise there was any significance to yesterday’s date until people began pointing it out post-publication, and this was a failure on my part.

There was also justified criticism of how the article was angled. It is an interview focused on the nuts-and-bolts of moderation tools with online video services, but the headline and absence of certain context saw it interpreted as a defence of Bain’s own behaviour.

That context would be that Bain inarguably came to engage with and encourage Gamergate. He has in the past argued that it was not a harassment campaign and not a misogynist movement, an account that any of us working here at Kotaku UK would vehemently dispute from personal experience. It was a mistake not to include this context in the interview, and it was insensitive to those to whom Gamergate and its followers have caused pain. I want to be clear that both the angle of the headline and the absence of this context were my mistakes.

We are always ready to hear criticism from our readers of what we publish here on Kotaku UK, and happy to acknowledge and apologise when we screw up. As a team of writers with set working hours and family commitments, sometimes that apology takes some time to craft and publish.

I find it bitterly ironic that our attempts to shine a light on online harassment have led to this conflagration, and the personal targeting of the author, Laura Kate Dale. Scare tactics and threats shouldn't be part of anyone's job. Part of the motivation behind this series was her compassion for and identification with the people who experience it, every day, especially the women and minority creators who disproportionately bear the brunt. We will continue to cover this topic, because we believe things need to change. I deeply regret that this interview now overshadows the rest of our hard work.

John Bain is a no-go area for some people. I don’t believe any person should be a no-go for a journalist — though, of course, how we deal with the subject is open to criticism. There was a great deal of criticism here, so I can only accept that I messed up. My thanks to those who expressed their perspective with civility. My apologies to those offended by the article. We will learn the lessons from this, and be better in future.