Self-styled "men's rights advocates" used their Reddit forum yesterday to organize a spam campaign against Occidental College's online sexual assault reporting system, possibly complicating the already-fraught reporting process for actual victims at the university.
The campaign went down on r/MensRights, a subreddit for "those who wish to discuss men's rights and the ways said rights are infringed upon." In a post yesterday, user "ShitlordDon" linked to a "sexual violence reporting form" that the L.A.-based university made available to students as an anonymous way of tracking assault complaints. "You just fill out a form and the person is called into the office on a rape charge," ShitlordDon complained. "The 'victim' never has to prove anything or reveal their identity."
Several redditors responded by encouraging each other to fill out the form with numerous false allegations. Most of those responses were promptly deleted by Reddit moderators, but were screenshot and published by one diligent "anti-misogyny" blogger:
Many commenters on r/MensRights were bitterly opposed to the spamming move. "I can't believe y'all here are making false accusations to prove a point, and are getting upvoted for it," one commenter wrote. "I thought the [men's rights movement] was vehemently opposed to false accusations?"
"Before everyone goes all torchy, how do we know anyone at Occidental actually responds to this, or how it is responded to?" asked one top-rated commenter. "Before harassing an institution over this, we should check our facts, or we become what we despise."
In fact, the form alone does not appear to be sufficient to bring a rape complaint against an Occidental student, although it does streamline university assault reporting methods—a problem that the school has struggled to solve after admitting last October that it had underreported sex assaults on campus in recent years.
But even that admission seriously underreported the school's alleged rapes, according to an investigation published earlier this month by the L.A. Times. Occidental is now one of several universities that could potentially face federal penalties for mishandling campus rape allegations under Title IX of the U.S. Code. Yesterday's spam campaign could complicate efforts to bring the college's assault procedures in line with those federal standards.
As of Wednesday morning, it was not yet clear how many reports were actually filed with the university as a result of ShitlordDon's posting, or whether it had succeeded in disrupting reporting procedures for victims of attacks. A spokesman for Occidental told Gawker the university was in the process of gathering facts about the situation and would follow up with its findings in the afternoon; Gawker will update this post as details become available.
Update: Occidental confirms to Gawker that it got jammed up by fake rape reports—not just from Reddit, but from 4chan, too. The bizarre full story is here.
[Photo credit: Occidental College]