This post is a brief update in Q&A form to address the most common questions I’m getting about the Predator Alert Tool for FetLife service disruption.

Why can’t I share information about a sexual assault that a FetLife user committed?

Due to a deliberate and sustained denial-of-service attack by a FetLife user, the PAT-FetLife reporting mechanism is unavailable. Please see my prior post for more details about this attack.

Who is behind this attack?

The attacker is not shy. She boasts about her actions on the BDSM/leather/kink dating website FetLife.com, where she goes by the username CarolyneTiler. Her legal identity is Caroline Tyler, a resident of Bradford, West Yorkshire in the UK.

Caroline Tyler’s contact information is collated on Pastie.

Whom does this attack harm?

The people whom Caroline Tyler is harming with her denial-of-service attack against Predator Alert Tool for FetLife are the people relying on PAT-FetLife as a way of communicating about dangerous people inside the kink/BDSM community.

Caroline Tyler’s motivations to attack PAT-Fetlife seem, at least in part, to be personally directed at me. However, attacking PAT-FetLife doesn’t harm me in any way. (I don’t use FetLife.) It harms people who want to remain involved in FetLife but who also want to have access to uncensored information about potential play partners. This kind of peer-to-peer reputation system (like “Yelp for BDSMers”), is something FetLife users have been requesting for years and that FetLife still refuses to provide.

If you’re worried about these attacks against PAT-FetLife hurting someone, it’s not me; it’s ethical kinksters on FetLife you should be worried about.

What can we do to deal with this attack?

In response to this attack against Predator Alert Tool, a number of people have expressed interest in helping to support sexual violence survivors by assisting the Predator Alert Tool project in both the short and the long term, with respect to this specific attack and to attacks in general.

For the short term, with respect to this specific attack

As stated in my prior post, there are a number of things we have done and can still do:

The obvious thing to do in a case like this is to document what happened and then write reports about the people responsible linking to said documentation in the very tools they attacked. I’ve already done that for CarolyneTiler and everyone who metaphorically high-fived her effort. You can view the reports in PAT-FetLife just as you would any other report. And I’ve taken the additional step of writing a statement in Predator Alert Tool for Facebook about Anna Brecht, as well, linking to this post, since she was kind enough to give me her Facebook account, too.

Of course, feel free to follow any of the links in this post to the attackers’ conversations [and contact information] and chime in, yourself. In fact, I’d strongly encourage that. Remind these attackers that trying to take down what is still the only warning tool for rape survivors on FetLife is a shitty way for supposed advocates of a “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” so-called “lifestyle” to behave.

Additionally, as a user on Facebook said:

Hey, EMIS [Caroline Tyler’s employer] is a company that does stuff with computers related to health, and rape is a public health issue, so having an employee using their computer skills to attempt to destroy an anti-rape program is the exact opposite of what they say they stand for.

I responded:

That’s very true. Probably worth bringing up with their HR department. You can probably find out who their HR employees are by searching LinkedIn for that information.

For the long term, with respect to attacks in general

A technological response is needed, too. PAT-FetLife was a prototype I created in 6 hours one night a couple years ago. Since then, I’ve built numerous additional versions of Predator Alert Tool (for OkCupid, for Facebook, etc.) that work differently in order to try out new models and technologies. Ultimately, the goal is for it to function as an Internet-scale reputation system that resists rape culture. That’s a hard problem because rape culture can’t be solved with code alone; we need a sociocultural response (see above, “with respect to this specific attack”) and we need a sociotechnical response.

Thanks to this latest attack, several extremely capable technologists have contacted me expressing interest in Predator Alert Tool and have suggested several promising design alternatives built on decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO). You can follow the conversation on Twitter.

Since I am only one person (who lives in a car and whose primary income is donations), I do not have the financial, emotional, or social resources to do all of the above on my own. As I mentioned on Facebook:

I’ll follow up any leads I have, but my time is much better spent devising a more resilient technological response to this [general issue, rather than this specific attack], because empirically speaking that’s the one thing I have been doing that [most] other people describe being unable to do. However, I am still just one person. My time and energy is limited. Your participation and collaboration is appreciated and needed.

Again, a number of people have already begun collaborating on that work. I will be happy to put anyone who contacts me directly in touch with one another so that you can coordinate those tasks and work more effectively together.

When will the PAT-FetLife reporting mechanism be available again?

After Caroline Tyler’s first attack, I re-enabled PAT-FetLife. The next day, she again attacked the reporting form. This shows a deliberate intent to keep sexual violence survivors from accessing tools they use to communicate.

Unfortunately, also as discussed in my prior post, there is currently no technological way to prevent Caroline Tyler from continuing to make the PAT-FetLife reporting service unavailable. That’s why people are currently composing complaint letters to her employer and why I’ve asked for legal representation.

Adding new information to PAT-FetLife will therefore only be possible when at least one of the following happens:

  • Google Forms updates the PAT-FetLife back-end to their “new” Google Spreadsheets system. The timeline they provided for this is “in 2014,” so that could be a few months yet.
  • Caroline Tyler stops launching her denial-of-service attack on PAT-FetLife, either by her own choice or by being compelled to stop through social, legal, or other pressure.
  • A new version of Predator Alert Tool for FetLife based on the DAO technology I am currently exploring (mentioned above) is ready.
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