Debian harassment: verbal and textual references to abuse every bit as bad as deepfake and AI generated images of women

In a number of recent cases, men and teenage boys have been prosecuted for creating distressing images of women.

It is obvious that victims will be distressed if the images are real. What we see in these recent cases is that the images are fake but the victims are still suffering significant emotional stress even after everybody comes to realize that the images are fake.

We need to accept that using a volunteer's name out of context is every bit as bad as using somebody's face out of context.

In Debian, we've seen Chris Lamb, Joerg Jaspert, Enrico Zini and Jonathan Wiltshire using the names of volunteers with references to abuse.

In one of the few real cases of abuse, all the evidence shows that the victims had asked me for assistance and even sent written thanks for my support.

Real cases like that are trivialized when people make up fake stories about abuse.

In a recent case in Australia, a man was convicted of photoshopping the faces of female acquaintances into suggestive photographs and posting them on dating sites to solicit undeserved attention from strangers. There was no justification for this behavior. Even though the photographs were fake, the man was sentenced to five years in prison. The punishment appears to be even more severe than many cases involving disclosure of real photographs.

On the FOSDEM web site, we've seen people like Wouter Verhelst seeking to cause exactly the same stress by publishing references to abuse next to the names of volunteers. Finding your name in rumors about harassment and abuse is every bit as stressful as finding your face in a porn site.

In recent complaints from the NixOS project, they have documented the phenomena of transgender developers who collude to bring down straight men, Christians and anybody with even mildly conservative views. They create the imagery of abuse using words rather than using Photoshop. Yet the emotional damage this does to the community and the victims of these rumors is every bit as bad, maybe worse, than the distribution of fake porn.

One of the most prominent cases was the falsification of rumors about Dr Jacob Appelbaum. After I published those emails to show it was a conspiracy, the same criminals simply turned on my family and I next.

When the same extremists targeted my family and I, they didn't care about the collateral damage done to female interns. One of my interns got married in the middle of her internship yet the rogue elements of Debian told people she was my girlfriend. Imagine having the memory of your wedding day stained by Debian gossip like that. The impact of Debian on that woman is every bit as bad as putting her face into a deepfake image.

Now we've seen rogue elements of Debian going to the extreme of creating fake "judgments". Anybody reading these documents in detail can see that a lot of the rumors are both untrue and offensive. Why would a real judge put their name and their stamp on insults like that? Yet the forged, fake "judgment" being distributed by rogue elements of Debian is every bit as bad as the images of teenage girls being created by schoolboys in Spain.

The story about the schoolgirls in Spain comments on the stress experienced by their mothers:

In an interview with the Guardian five months ago, the mother of one of the victims recalled her shock and disbelief when her daughter showed her one of the images.

“It’s a shock when you see it,” said the woman from Almendralejo. “The image is completely realistic … If I didn’t know my daughter’s body, I would have thought that image was real.”

That sounds a lot like the fake "judgment".

When the falsified accusations about Dr Appelbaum were propelled into a global news story, how stressful would that have been for his mother?

Personally, I resigned from some of my voluntary activities like Google Summer of Code and Outreachy mentoring around the time my father died. Friends and family members who use social control media have been exposed to rumors that started appearing at that very painful time. When my family is exposed to that, when it is forced on them by cyberbullying in Debian, their experiences are every bit as bad as those families exposed to the fake images of their daughters.

Please see the chronological history of how the Debian harassment and abuse culture evolved.

Hannah Grundy, Sydney

Please see the chronological history of how the Debian harassment and abuse culture evolved.