A cybersecurity company, whose security researcher was once harassed by Blizzard employees at a hacking conference, charged the game developer, according to a new report from Waypoint.
The researcher Emily Mitchell told Waypoint for reaching the Blizzard booth during Black Hat USA’s annual cybersecurity conference in 2015 to see if the major video game company had any vacancies. Her shirt, which referred to a security process known as a “penetration test,” prompted two unnamed Blizzard employees to ask her questions that were riddled with misogyny and sexual ambiguity.
“One of them asked me when was the last time I was personally penetrated, if I liked being penetrated, and how often I was penetrated,” said Mitchell. “I was angry and felt humiliated so I took the free loot and left.”
Two years later, Blizzard reached out to cybersecurity firm Sagitta HPC (now known as Terahash) to request a quote on one of Sagitta HPC’s password cracking boxes. Mitchell, who was Sagitta HPC’s chief operating officer at the time, saw Blizzard’s request and immediately remembered what had happened at Black Hat USA in 2015. After learning about the incident from Mitchell, Jeremi M. Gosney, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Sagitta HPC, responded to Blizzard’s request with a long message denouncing her treatment by Blizzard employees.
“[R]Instead of firing you and telling you we won’t do business with you, we’d like to give Blizzard the opportunity to redeem itself, ”Gosney wrote. (He finally shared the email on Twitter Blacked out with Blizzard’s name.) “We are determined to fight inequality, and I urge Blizzard to do the same. As you may know, today is International Women’s Day. And in honor of that day, we’re making some conditions for Blizzard to do business with us. “
These terms included a 50 percent “misogyny tax” on all business Sagitta HPC did with Blizzard (for use as a donation to three different Organizations Dedicated to supporting girls and women in the tech industry), Blizzard becomes a gold sponsor of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, and a formal letter of apology from Blizzard executives to Mitchell continuing to dedicate themselves to advocating women’s equality and sexual harassment training.
That List of sponsors from this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference shows that while Blizzard did not support the event itself, parent company Activision came into play as a corporate partner at silver level. Kotaku contacted Gosney for more information on what was going on around his email to Blizzard, but did not hear anything prior to publication.
“[Blizzard] made it clear that they weren’t interested in agreeing to our terms, just made many empty promises that they were taking the report “seriously,” that it was being investigated internally, and assured me that they were conducting sexual harassment training, “Mitchell said Waypoint. “Ultimately, it felt like they were more interested in assessing their own legal threat and appeasing me.”
In 2017, the organizers of Black Hat USA, the hacking conference in Las Vegas at which Mitchell was originally approached, promised that they would not leave Blizzard behind as a sponsor of future events. As far as Kotaku Historical information suggests that neither Blizzard nor Activision have been present at the cybersecurity event since the year that Blizzard employees harassed Mitchell.
Continue reading: In the infamous Bill “Cosby Suite” by Blizzard developers
Activision Blizzard has been in the crosshairs of the gaming community since last week Bomb unveiling that the state of California is suing the company over a workplace culture that has fueled years of abuse, harassment, and violence against female employees. The lawsuit specifically mentions the actions of former people World of Warcraft Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi, references to whom Blizzard plans to remove from the MMO and events that took place in Afrasiabi’s hotel room at BlizzCon 2013, colloquially among a group of male employees as “Cosby suite. “
In the course of this publication Waypoint also learn about it an incident from 2018 where an Activision IT employee set up a camera in one of the unisex bathrooms on the Eden Prairie, Minnesota campus and recorded employees going to the toilet. This worker, Tony Ray Nixon, was fired from Activision and eventually pleaded guilty to “invasion of privacy” charges.
“After this incident was reported to us, the company opened an investigation, immediately removed all unauthorized cameras and notified the authorities,” Activision told Blizzard Waypoint. “The authorities, in full cooperation with the company, carried out a thorough investigation. Once the authorities and the company identified the perpetrator, he was fired for his heinous behavior. The company made crisis advisors available to employees on site and virtually and increased security. “
A large group of Activision Blizzard employees attended an organized strike earlier this week in protest at the company’s inaction in the face of intolerable harassment against women and minorities. The group’s demands included an end to forced arbitration for Activision Blizzard employees and a more diverse, people-centric approach to interviews, recruitment and hiring processes across the giant corporation.
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick Finally, these concerns allayed, who described previous responses to the incidents in question as “deaf” but failed to impress employees who were already planning the day-long stoppage. The company also hired a law firm known for past anti-union efforts to help investigate the damning allegations, which does not inspire much confidence in the good intentions of Activision Blizzard.
“This is the beginning of an ongoing movement in favor of better working conditions for all employees, especially women, especially women of color and transgender women, non-binary people and other marginalized groups,” wrote the workers’ coalition in a follow-up statement. “We expect a quick response and commitment from management on the points listed above and look forward to maintaining a constructive dialogue on how to build a better Activision Blizzard for all employees.”