An Occidental College spokesman confirmed to Gawker what was suspected earlier today: Online trolls from Reddit and elsewhere disrupted their online anonymous sexual assault reporting system with hundreds of sarcastic, caustic false rape reports.
"Late Monday, the 16th we started seeing a stream of what we would call suspicious reports that were being submitted" to Occidental's Google-based assault reporting form, said Jim Tranquada, director of communications for the Los Angeles college, which has faced scrutiny in recent months for underreporting sex assaults involving its students.
That's about the same time that commenters on Reddit's r/MensRights subreddit began discussing plans to spam the college's reporting system with phony accusations.
That system received about 400 separate assault allegations in 36 hours. "That's far more than we have ever received in the past," Tranquada said. "The sheer number of reports was suspicious."
"What we found suggests that these report were the work of an off campus group of trolls who are involved" on the politically incorrect forums of 4chan and Reddit, Tranquada said.
He added that the form submitters hadn't been traced—the reporting system is anonymous in order to afford victims maximum security—but the language of the reports collected by the system matched what could be found on 4chan and Reddit.
That language included the bogus rape accusations "I was assaulted by Occidental College, I was assaulted by feminists, I was assaulted by Fatty McFatfat," Tranquada confirmed.
The online trolls' work is "classic backlash," Occidental associate professor Lisa Wade, a sociologist with expertise in social inequity and sexuality, told Gawker in an email:
The men targeting Occidental's anonymous report form are mad that women are being listened to, that men's voices are no longer given so much power that they can effectively drown out the voices of women. They're mad because they're not the only ones that matter anymore. I get it. To them, it really does feel unfair. Something really is changing. They ARE being demoted — from a superior to an equal — and it feels wrong to them because they're so used to being privileged, to being the most specialest girl in the whole world.
She added that backlash was "a good thing. It means we're winning the fight. They're gonna have to get used to it."
In the meantime, however, Tranquada said school officials were taking pains to review each rape report submitted online.
"There might be a real report among all these suspicious reports," he said.
[Photo credit: Occidental College]