Jezebel Employees Complain About Gawker's 'Rape Gif Problem'

Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014 04:22 PM


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Gawker Media is being publicly shamed by its own disgruntled employees. The staff of Jezebel, a lifestyle, celebrity, and political blog aimed at female readers, posted an open letter to its parent company Monday, which accused "higher ups" at Gawker Media of failing to address the violent, disturbing and vulgar images being posted in the blog's comment section.

"Gawker's leadership is prioritizing theoretical anonymous tipsters over a very real and immediate threat to the mental health of Jezebel's staff and readers," wrote the entire Jezebel staff in a post headlined "We Have a Rape Gif Problem and Gawker Media Won't Do Anything About It."

Gif is short for "graphics interchange format," a kind of computer file for photos and illustrations.

The Jezebel staff insists the "gory images of bloody injuries emblazoned with the Jezebel logo" are "profoundly upsetting to our commenters who have the misfortune of starting their day with some excessively violent images, to casual readers who drop by to skim Jezebel with their morning coffee only to see hard core pornography at the bottom of a post about Michelle Obama, and especially to the staff, who are the only ones capable of removing the comments and are thus, by default, now required to view and interact with violent pornography and gore as part of our jobs."

"If this were happening at another website, if another workplace was essentially requiring its female employees to manage a malevolent human pornbot, we'd report the hell out of it here and cite it as another example of employers failing to take the safety of its female employees seriously. But it's happening to us. It's been happening to us for months. And it feels hypocritical to continue to remain silent about it."

To protect the identity of those who might supply anonymous tips, Gawker Media allows commenters to disguise their IP addresses and comment with what are called "burner accounts." Jezebel staff claims malicious visitors of the site are exploiting this feature to post vicious and inflammatory images without fear of reprisal.

Jezebel says Gawker Media could disable these "burner" accounts if it wanted, and protect the sites' staff and readers from having to endure and even moderate the madness, but they say the company refuses to do this because it's afraid to miss out on potential anonymous tips.

Though the Jezebel staff insists they love working for Gawker Media, a parent company which also owns and operates Deadspin, IO9, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and Defamer, among other blogs, they insist this is a problem which must be addressed.

"It's time the company had its feet held to the fire," said the note. "None of us are paid enough to deal with this on a daily basis."

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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