In last year’s Midterm race for seats in the United States House of Representatives, Anti-GamerGate personality and Revolution 60 developer Brianna Wu ran as a Democratic candidate in the primary election for Massachuset’s 8th Congressional District. Despite her political inexperience, Wu garnered 22.9% of the district’s vote (16,878 votes out of a total of 73,582), but ultimately lost the election to her incumbent opponent, Stephen Lynch. As the 2020 United States House of Representatives elections rapidly approach, Wu has once again announced her candidacy, which will feature a heavy emphasis on government regulation concerning internet relations.
On March 6th, Wu appeared as a guest on Bloomberg Technology, wherein she discussed her upcoming campaign with Bloomberg Technology host Emily Chang:
During their conversation, Chang asked Wu about her feelings regarding the narrative that the upcoming film Captain Marvel and lead actress Brie Larson were being harassed due to the emphasis on a strong female super hero:
“It’s kind of a familiar story at this point, right? We were here with Ghostbusters. It seems like any time a woman steps forward and tries to put her toe in the water for a male dominated field, we’re right back here.”
Chang then asks Wu if she believes large tech companies have made changes in the fight against harassment, to which Wu cites Facebook’s recently announced shift towards privacy as a result of women being harassed online:
“Chang: Social media platforms, have they say, been working hard. Twitter has made a lot of changes to fight online harassment. But does this go to show that they’re just not getting it or doing enough?
Wu: Your first story was about Facebook moving to more privacy. I feel like part of the backlash of women just being exhausted with being targeted online, it makes sense that people would want to move towards more private social profiles. I think it’s hand in hand. I think it’s just exhausting for all of us dealing with this stuff.”
Though Wu claims that Captain Marvel was targeted by trolls due to featuring a female actress in the lead role, the recently lifted review embargo serves as contradictory evidence to her assertion. The film currently holds an average rating of 65 on Metacritic from both male and female reviewers. Despite claims that the movie was being targeted for review bombs before release, most ‘negative reviews’ were merely people stating that they would not be interested in seeing the film. It is ignorant to claim that no persons exist who truly have targeted Larson and Captain Marvel due to personal misogynistic beliefs, but these bad actors are a very small percentage of the overall discussion surrounding the film.
all men huh? pic.twitter.com/42lZW8gBIi
— ρяøxч (@PI20XY) March 5, 2019
In response to Wu’s claims of misogynist harassment, Chang asks Wu if she believes more legislation is needed to combat the supposedly rampant issue, to which Wu replies that she believes Washington has a role to play in resolving the issue:
“Chang: They’re trying to get it under control, and we’ll see what more ‘private’ Facebook looks like, but does this mean we need legislation?
Wu: I think there is certainly a role in Washington for us to address what women face both in the tech industry and what users face on the other side. Something we’ve seen is really big promises from Facebook, from Twitter, from Reddit, from all these companies, that they’re going to address this situation. For me, looking at this in 2019, it’s very hard for me to point at one thing that has concretely changed for women in the tech industry. So I do think Washington has a role to play.”
When pressed by Chang for further details as to the hypothetical regulations Wu would like to see put in place, Wu cites the creation of the ESRB as a positive precedent for government oversight in the tech industry:
“Chang: So what does that regulation look like? I know this is something you campaigned on.
Wu: I think it starts with letting these companies know that Washington is going to take it seriously. In the video game industry, famously, they held hearings about violence in the 90s, and then the video game industry looked at it and said ‘Oh, if we don’t get serious about this, they’re going to regulate our field.’ And then our industry formed the ESRB and self-regulated, and it works amazingly well.”
However, this example works against Wu’s pro-legislation argument. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was established in 1994 amidst the moral panics concerning violent media, specifically violent video games such as Mortal Kombat. After months of debate between video game publishers and the US Congress, the ESRB was established precisely because large tech companies, such as Nintendo and SEGA, did not want the US government to be the official regulatory administration for the entire industry.
Wu concludes her thoughts on combatting trolls by supporting the use of legislation as a looming threat to bully the tech industry into compliance with these hypothetical federal regulations:
“What I think will happen is if you have people in Washington sitting on the Science, Space and Technology subcommittee, looking at this, that that threat of real legislation coming down the pipe will cause these companies to finally do the right thing.”
Ironically, when asked about details concerning her tech platform, Wu put herself forth as a technologically literate option for Congress:
“People in tech just want someone in Washington that understands their issues, that they could have a conversation about, whether it’s from cyber-security, harassment, trying to launch IPOs, I come from that field, so I understand these things. So I think they’re just looking for technological literacy.”
Wu is far from the only influential personality calling for deplatforming or censorship of those who have taken issue with Captain Marvel. Larson’s co-star, Samuel L. Jackson, recently stated that giving “a voice or a platform to people who normally don’t have a platform is part of the problem.” Negative comments and a pervasive lack of audience interest led internet review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes to remove their ‘Audience Interest’ scores across the website. SyFy Wire’s Editor-In-Chief Adam Swiderski also called for audience reviews to be completely removed from Rotten Toamtoes.
What do you think of Wu’s call for government regulation following fan backlash to Captain Marvel?