The other day, LifeHacker featured Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid on its homepage. Today, I received an email from the post’s author, stating that “the Predator Alert Tool post [is] doing well, but as you warned, some people have descended on it with comments and accusations about you specifically.” The email then detailed several accusations, all of which there are already copious amounts of information about in the archives of this blog (for instance, here), so I won’t go into detail.

I have something else to say.

I understand that many people don’t trust me. A lot of these people are self-proclaimed anti-violence advocates. So, what I don’t understand is why, in response to their distrust of me, these “anti-violence” advocates choose to tell folks not to install anti-violence apps that I wrote while AT THE SAME TIME refusing to acknowledge the fact that the tools’ functioning isn’t coupled to the tool-maker.

Such a prolonged tool-suppression & FUD campaign isn’t new or novel but isn’t typically associated w/”anti-violence” advocates, who tend to suffer from a dearth of tools already. Moreover, I know of no criticism of Predator Alert Tool that’s technical in nature.

If there is a technical criticism of Predator Alert Tool’s methodology/philosophy, I want to hear it but, years later, there have been none. In fact, as far as I’m aware, even the people who want to dissuade others from using (or, even knowing about the existence of) Predator Alert Tool ultimately concede that the tools themselves are good.

As a friend of mine said:

[Their behavior] creates a[n] obstruction between maymay’s anti-violence work and an important community of online users — an obstruction that, most of all, harms people who are less technically savvy and more vulnerable to both online and in-person violence, by limiting their access to (and even awareness of) resources they can use to protect themselves.

Given these facts, it is hard for me to believe that the people “concerned” about Predator Alert Tool users are in fact concerned for those user’s safety. And while I don’t believe all of these concern trolls are malicious, their lack of any technical criticism betrays 2 simple possible explanations.

  1. First, they don’t really understand how Predator Alert Tool (or their Web browsers) work.
  2. Or, what they’re actually concerned about is a longstanding social grudge against the toolmaker who’s receiving positive recognition/acknowledgement.

In either case, whether it be because of technical ignorance or reputation-based social capital, the people who are harmed by FUD (“Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt”) campaigns are always would-be users of tools that don’t get used when there is only potential gains to be had by using them. This is akin to telling people not to use (or even write about the existence of) hammers because hammer-makers are racists. And I’m not even arguing that hammer-makers are not racists, nor that I’m a trustworthy person. All I’m saying is that telling people to stop writing about the existence of hammers harms people who need to put nails into a wall and would find hammers useful in doing so.

Because that’s how tools (as opposed to belief systems) actually work in the real world: whether or not the hammer-maker is a racist doesn’t change the fact that the hammer still puts nails into walls. Likewise, whether or not I am “an abuser” does not change the fact that Predator Alert Tool is a useful anti-violence tool users of dating websites can add to their toolkits. This only seems far-fetched if you don’t actually know how Predator Alert Tool works (here’s yet-another explanation). But given that my collaborators and I have gone to great lengths to ensure both the ideas and the code that implements them are open-source, thoroughly documented, released to the public domain, not knowing how the tool works or spreading misinformation about how they work are ultimately deliberate choices.

Now, we’re familiar with the methodology of “smear & scare” from corporations, but that self-identified “anti-violence” advocates—feminists, even!—stoop to the same level is…well, it’s at least educational. :(

The ease w/which Predator Alert Tool can be copied (it’s just an idea after all) & the intransigence of its concern trolls’ unwillingness to so much as discuss mimicking Predator Alert Tool’s methods should at a MINIMUM reveal their priorities, if not intentions.

Anyway this whole thing is extremely frustrating & hurtful and it has been for years. By necessity, I’ve put an order of magnitude more effort into refuting the endlessly repetitive FUD & bullshit about Predator Alert Tool than in actually creating it. That’s very unfortunate because—empirically speaking—the only person who is able and willing to actually write tools like Predator Alert so far is me. Imagine how much more effective tools we could develop if we spent even a fraction of the effort we are currently wasting on this reputation “debate” on actually encoding the anti-violence methodology that Predator Alert Tool uses into every social network on the Internet?

And, I’m just saying, well, isn’t it a bit fishy that same people who have nothing bad to say about Predator Alert Tool itself seem hell-bent on burying it? It’s easy to understand why people may not like or trust someone else, but I find it hard to square how these same people claim to be supporters of anti-violence tools while at the same time preferring to bury discussion about anti-violence tools. Doubly so when those very same people are freely offered replicas of the same exact tool set but without the one thing they don’t like about it (me), and yet they still refuse to accept the offer.

So, after years of being homeless and writing Predator Alert Tool code while living out of my car, is it any wonder I get pissed off at these (often paid) full-time activists whose only contribution to a “debate” about Predator Alert Tool is actually not even about the tool itself?

Look, I can and do deal with a peanut gallery, but the so-called anti-violence advocates who have been hounding me over PAT for years are not harmless.

They are at best woefully ignorant about extreme fundamental premises of how modern technology works & at worst extremely dangerous bullies who epitomize the exact problem Predator Alert Tool is addressing right now, today.