Sometimes, I miss Human Resources (H.R.). Most of the time, my weakness for H.R. ethics cause dozens of lost minutes in contemplating legality around hirings and firings. There are such fine, (imaginary) lines in-between personal and company space that navigating these waters is harder by the quarter.
A friend posted about Alison Rapp just shortly after she was fired from Nintendo. I had followed Gamergate up until this year- after having a few friends involved in the online trolling and seeing first-hand, the incredible devastation that occurs with online bullying. In reading my friend’s post and sensing every syllable of outrage, I decided to dig deeper. After a few minutes, I couldn’t understand anything with Rapp’s controversy. Put plainly, it was a cluster.
Here’s what I could construe: Alison Rapp was the spokesperson of Nintendo and it was widely-believed she worked to take some of the Japanese sexuality and nuances out of games when they were released in America, (which was later proven to be false. Rapp’s role was marketing the games, not the content within the games.) Rapp was stripped of her spokesperson title and then later fired from Nintendo, tweeting the entire experience and blaming Gamergate trolls for harassing her and costing her a career. In looking at tweets and forums, it was easy to see Rapp’s outrage. Hundreds of vile words were directed at her for everything from “ruining” gaming, to name-calling her a myriad of horrible, unrepeatable words.
Just this past week, Rapp shared that those harassing her are now going after family members and friends in a harassment that’s called, “doxing,” or publishing private information about individuals publicly. Even worse? Doxing, while not illegal, is certainly questionable- from an ethics perspective. It’s also difficult to prove, because of the sheer levels of autonomy that the web offers. Doxing can happen to anyone at anytime. Rapp is the latest in a series of individuals that have been doxed, costing them jobs, relationships and more.
At first glance, all I could think was that Nintendo certainly did not take it all lightly- this was litigious from the start. There must have been something I missed. When I continued to look into the case from all sides, I was shocked.
According to Nintendo, Rapp was fired for “moonlighting,” not because of harassment. Rapp contested that moonlighting was allowed at Nintendo. Nintendo’s full statement is below.
Alison Rapp was terminated due to violation of an internal company policy involving holding a second job in conflict with Nintendo’s corporate culture. Though Ms. Rapp’s termination follows her being the subject of criticism from certain groups via social media several weeks ago, the two are absolutely not related. Nintendo is a company committed to fostering inclusion and diversity in both our company and the broader video game industry and we firmly reject the harassment of individuals based on gender, race or personal beliefs. We wish Ms. Rapp well in her future endeavors. (Nintendo’s statement to Mashable, 3/30/2016.)
The Twitter stream, Reddit forums and the interwebs were buzzing with what the moonlighting could be. Some cited it was, “modeling” while others guessed it was more of a coding/geek variety. Just recently, the speculation seems to be that Rapp was a prostitute. From an H.R. perspective, Rapp signed an employment agreement that stated her outside work may not interfere with her title, job responsibilities or work with Nintendo. Perhaps Nintendo fired Rapp, citing the “moonlighting” excuse to cover a few other interesting tidbits.
Rapp had more than a few unsavory public tweets and photos. (So inappropriate in fact, that @JamieWalton, President & co-founder of The Wayne Foundation- a 501(c)(3) NPO advocating for victims of sex trafficking directly contacted Nintendo and asked others to do the same.)
This mixes with little things, like a question of, “why is a spokesperson for a family-friendly brand linking to her Amazon Wish List in her social profiles as her bio?” And, “should a company that sells to children, have a spokesperson that could be seen as “pro” pedophilia on their payroll?” Without being privy to Rapp’s hiring documentation, speculation is speculation, but the questions warrant thought.
This is what I don’t understand: Why are we not asking deeper questions on doxing and its effect on a whole.
The accountability of a share: If we hold Gamergate accountable, why are we not also holding other individuals accountable for participating in the actions of “doxing” or sharing information that has been acquired by the unethical act? What level of responsibility does Jamie Walton, President of the Wayne Foundation hold for asking individuals to contact Nintendo and inquire about Rapp’s position? Does everyone bear responsibility? I re-tweeted Nintendo’s statement a few weeks back… am I also responsible?
Note: I had a great comment from VerGreeneyes, that stated, “I think we should also be clear on the definition of doxxing: posting someone’s private *contact* information (address, phone number and so on) online. Just digging something up and linking it to a person isn’t doxxing. Using publicly available information to make a connection isn’t doxxing. Contacting family members may constitute *harassment*, but it’s only doxxing if you post their private information online.” Ver also notated that doxxing is not illegal. I’ve updated the post after much research.
Rapp’s responsibility: Does Alison Rapp have responsibility as the (former) spokesperson to uphold an image that is in-line with company culture and standards? Was Nintendo fair in allowing Rapp freedom, until they were presented with information otherwise? And, since the information was unethically obtained, should that bear any weight into the decision to fire Rapp? Where does Rapp’s personal responsibility and Nintendo’s responsibility collide?
Personal vs. Company: Discussed at length, does a user have a mandated right to privacy when they publicly state where they work? If they publicly state their position and job on social media accounts, are they still considered private property?
This was a murky, murky grey. You can imagine my confusion when I’ve read piece after piece today, proclaiming that Rapp should have her job returned. Or that what is happening to her is a “horrifying new trend.” I did what I always do when I ponder instances of sexism or elitism: What would we have done if Rapp was male. In this case, I believe if Rapp was indeed, a man… the outcome would be the same- except with more outlets decrying her actions, but that of course, is only my opinion.
The only thing I truly know is this: The internet is as great as it is awful and as writers and journalists, we should be responsible for printing all the facts, not just the ones that fit our narrative. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts…