Activision Blizzard was accused of a ‘misogyny tax’ in 2017 – .

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Activision Blizzard was accused of a ‘misogyny tax’ in 2017 – .


A close-up of blue-skinned Overwatch sniper Widowmaker as she stands ready to shoot.

Screenshot: Activision Blizzard

A cybersecurity company whose security researcher was previously harassed by Blizzard employees during a hacking conference charged the game developer a 50% “misogyny tax” when he requested a quote for security services, according to a new report from Waypoint.

Researcher Emily Mitchell said Waypoint that she approached the Blizzard booth at Black Hat USA’s annual cybersecurity conference in 2015 to see if the leading video game company had any open positions. His shirt, which referred to a security process known as a “penetration test,” prompted two anonymous Blizzard employees to ask him questions mixed with misogyny and sexual double meaning.

“One of them asked me when was the last time I was personally penetrated, if I liked to be penetrated and how often I was penetrated,” Mitchell said. “I was furious and felt humiliated, so I took the free loot and left. “

Two years later, Blizzard reached out to cybersecurity company Sagitta HPC (now known as Terahash) to request a quote on one of Sagitta HPC’s password cracking boxes. Mitchell, who was then COO of Sagitta HPC, saw Blizzard’s request and immediately remembered what had happened at Black Hat USA 2015. After hearing about the incident from Mitchell , Sagitta HPC Founder and CEO Jeremi M. Gosney responded to Blizzard’s request. with a long message denouncing his treatment at the hands of Blizzard employees.

« [R]Instead of sending you back and telling you that we won’t be doing business with you, we would like to give Blizzard the chance to redeem itself, ”Gosney wrote. (It finally shared the email on Twitter with Blizzard name redacted.) “We are committed to tackling inequality, and I call on Blizzard to do the same. As you may know, today is International Women’s Day. And in honor of this day, we attach a few conditions if Blizzard wishes to do business with us.

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These terms included a 50% “misogyny tax” on any business Sagitta HPC did with Blizzard (to be used as a donation to Three different organisations dedicated to supporting girls and women in the tech industry), with Blizzard becoming a Gold Sponsor of la conférence Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, and a formal letter of apology from Blizzard executives to Mitchell in which they would focus more on supporting women’s equality and sexual harassment training.

the list of sponsors from that year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference indicates that while Blizzard itself did not support the event, parent company Activision entered as a Silver-level enterprise partner. Kotaku contacted Gosney for more information on the events surrounding his email to Blizzard, but had no response until the post.

« [Blizzard] made it clear that they weren’t interested in agreeing to any of our terms, just a lot of empty promises that they were taking the report ‘seriously’, that it would be investigated internally, and m ‘ensured they were providing training on sexual harassment,’ said Mitchell Waypoint. “In the end, I felt like they were more interested in assessing their own legal exposure and appeasing me. “

In 2017, the organizers of Black Hat USA, the Las Vegas hacking conference that Mitchell was initially docked at, promised him that they would not allow Blizzard to return as a sponsor for future events. As long as Kotaku can tell from historical information, neither Blizzard nor Activision have been at the cybersecurity event since the year Blizzard staff harassed Mitchell.

Read more: In the infamous “Cosby Suite” bill from the developers of Blizzard

Activision Blizzard has already been in the sights of the gaming community since last week explosive revelation that the State of California sue the company for a work culture that has fostered years of abuse, harassment and violence against employees. The lawsuit specifically mentions the actions of former World of Warcraft creative director Alex Afrasiabi, references to whom Blizzard considering deleting of the MMO, and the events that took place in Afrasiabi’s hotel room at BlizzCon 2013, known colloquially among a group of male employees as the “”Suite Cosby. «

Following this advertisement, Waypoint also learned from a 2018 incident in which an Activision computer scientist installed a camera in one of the unisex bathrooms at the Eden Prairie, Minnesota campus, and recorded employees using the toilet. That worker, Tony Ray Nixon, was fired by Activision and ultimately pleaded guilty to “invasion of privacy”.

“Once this incident was reported to us, the company opened an investigation, quickly removed all unauthorized cameras, and notified authorities,” Activision Blizzard said. Waypoint. “The authorities have carried out a thorough investigation, with the full cooperation of the Company. As soon as the authorities and society identified the perpetrator, he was fired for his heinous conduct. The Company provided crisis counselors to employees, onsite and virtually, and enhanced security. “

A large group of Activision Blizzard employees participated in a walkout organized earlier this week to protest against the company’s historic inaction in the face of intolerable harassment against women and minorities. The group’s demands included an end to forced arbitration for Activision Blizzard staff and a more diverse, worker-focused approach to interviewing, recruiting and hiring processes within the large company.

Bobby Kotick, PDG d’Activision Blizzard finally answered those concerns, calling previous responses to the incidents in question “tone deaf,” but not impressing employees who were already planning a day’s work stoppage. The company also hired a law firm known for his previous anti-union efforts to help investigate the damning allegations, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in Activision Blizzard’s good intentions.

“This is the start of a lasting movement for better working conditions for all employees, especially women, especially women of color and transgender women, non-binary people and other marginalized groups.” , the employee coalition wrote in a follow-up statement. . “We look forward to a swift response and commitment to action from leaders on the points listed above, and we look forward to maintaining a constructive dialogue on how to create a better Activision Blizzard for all employees. “



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