Recently an allegation was made against Pranks, one of the hosts on The One Shot Network. Upon learning of the allegation, we suspended production of Adventure, confronted Pranks about the allegations, and opened an investigation. We gathered information from the victim and the accused to establish a timeline and evaluate what happened. Upon review of all available information, we realized we could not be objective judges when the accused was a friend.
To remove the threat of bias and to insure the safety of a potential victim, we hired neutral third party consultants to conduct the investigation: PhD students specializing in workplace psychology. We chose these individuals because the lawyers and professional HR firms we contacted did not take the victim’s claims seriously in our initial interviews. These workplace psychology scholars understood the importance of listening to the accusation seriously, which made them the most obviously qualified people to handle the case in our eyes.
We signed an agreement which you can read here:
This agreement bound our consultants to protect the anonymity of the potential victim. It also defined the consultants’ obligation as to the community rather than our network. We agreed to treat our consultants’ assessment of this matter as the most informed opinion, as they ultimately had access to information we did not. After over a week of reviewing evidence and conducting interviews, our consultants have reached a verdict.
The allegation made was serious. It demands careful thought and attention. We ask that you understand the first allegation of inappropriate behavior made against Pranks was of a radically different nature. If you wish to read about it, you can find the details of our first investigation here. Please review the consultants’ statement and evidence below to understand our decision and how we reached it.
VERDICT AND EVIDENCE
After reviewing the statement from our consultants, the One Shot Network does not believe the harassment described in the accusation took place. Furthermore, the Network does not believe any event similar to the story described by the accuser took place.
To avoid petitioning from any party interested in swaying their verdict during or after their investigation, our consultants have requested to remain anonymous. They also expressed concern that association with this case could put them at risk for harassment. Based on information that we will share below, we believe this is a realistic fear. We will not release any identifying information for our consultants per their request.
We understand that keeping our consultants anonymous throws potential doubt on their impartiality, and could make members of the community feel unsafe. We want you to have to extend your trust to us as little as possible in this process. We settled on obtaining a notarized affidavit. Statements made in a notarized affidavit are considered the same as speaking under oath in court. Falsifying a notarized affidavit is perjury. We have redacted James’ middle name and address to mitigate the risk of doxing or identity theft.
During our initial investigation, Pranks presented us with a week’s worth of phone location tracking data, credit card statements, public transit purchase records, social media correspondence, and time-stamped private conversations and texts. Simply put, for the week of November 28th we know everything Pranks bought, who he talked to, and where he was when he did it. After we handed the investigation over to the independent consultants, they pursued further inquiry, and Pranks provided even more information, including some workplace information. The consultants used information provided by Pranks, as well as some email exchanges with the accuser to reach their decision.
Some of the information provided by Pranks is excerpted here.
Below are his public transit purchase records, showing that he took the CTA to and from work on Tuesday the 28th at 9:21 and 6:18, respectively:
Below is a private Twitter thread showing Pranks posting during the time of supposed interaction with the accuser:
Below are the credit card records Pranks provided pertinent to the day of the accusation:
In the interest of protecting Pranks’ safety, we have omitted his location tracking data, workplace records, and cell phone records. Though they do not appear here, they were reviewed by our consultants and influenced their decision.
As outlined in the statement by the consultants, the harassment could not have occurred as described based on the credit card receipts, location tracking data, public transit data, and workplace records provided by Pranks. In the face of the overwhelming evidence provided, the validity of any part of the accuser’s story depends on extraordinarily strange behavior (i.e., departing one’s workplace in the middle of the day, taking a cab home and then returning, only to take public transit again) and a phone’s location data somehow failing to operate properly for a very specific time period.
WHY DID THIS HAPPEN
At this time we believe this accusation is part of a coordinated attack to discredit our network, harm our employees, and worst of all make it more difficult for victims seeking justice in harassment cases. The core mission statement at One Shot has been to expand the gaming hobby by making it more visibly diverse and approachable. We cast performers, feature games, and produce shows to broaden the concept of the roleplaying hobby and audience. We’re committed to making games a better place.
Not everyone agrees with these values. In addition to specific threats we’ve received, One Shot has done several things that might have provoked an attack like this. After the 2016 election, One Shot began issuing political calls to action to combat regressive figures in political office. At the beginning of 2018, we held a fundraiser for Trans Lifeline because we believe in visibly and proactively supporting the safety and dignity of marginalized people. We’re certain that no matter the motive, this actor is someone who sought to use our commitment to progressive values against us because they fear what we represent.
As stated previously, we initially treated this accusation as genuine. We treat all harassment allegations as genuine. However, there were aspects of the accuser’s story that initially did not make sense to us. One of the most troubling was the lie that began the accuser’s initial Reddit post.
The accuser claimed to have sent an email to the network prior to posting their public accusation. We could not locate this email in any of our inboxes. James initially blamed himself for this failure, and responded publicly and privately.
After conducting a thorough search without finding an email we asked the accuser to re-send it so we could include any relevant information in our investigation. They claimed they accidentally sent it to “email@example.com.”
This could be an understandable mistake as James’s Twitter account and One Shot’s Twitch account have a similar handle. However, at the time of our investigation and including the period in which we posted this statement, firstname.lastname@example.org did not exist as a valid email address. The address the accuser sent this message from was a gmail account. We know this because we asked the accuser to forward the original statement to us.
If they had attempted to contact us at that address, they would have received a bounceback notification within 48 hours of hitting send. We know this, because we tested it with our professional and private email accounts, per the screenshots below.
In the initial Reddit post, the accuser said they made their accusation public because they received “radio silence” from us. The forwarded message said it was sent on the 10th and the Reddit post was made on the 17th. This timing means that any Gmail user that contacted the nonexistent address would have received no less than three bounceback notifications.
A victim would not need to lie about contacting us privately. However, someone who wanted to maximize the harm to our Network’s reputation has a very clear reason to lie about contacting us.
During our investigation, we were made aware of a callout campaign hosted on Tumblr and Twitter. The accounts involved were dedicated exclusively to attacks on One Shot, and interacted primarily with each other. This is a tactic common for alt-right harassment campaigns.
These accounts also took the time to include attacks against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party.
Curiously absent are mentions of abuse or harassment an alt-right troll would not want to draw attention to. It is absolutely plausible that someone conducting a callout campaign would try to relate their mission to other current events. It is deeply suspicious for this individual to exclusively target people and organizations of the left.
The updates shifted from calls to publicly address the accuser’s statements, to attacks on the Network’s response to these allegations. This included our decision to turn the investigation over to unbiased consultants. These posts followed network personalities and criticized them for their personal lives unrelated to the case.
Eventually, posts made by the accounts were tagged with completely unrelated tags like “The Adventure Zone” and “RPPR.” The use of these tags is specifically to create visibility for their statements. They chose shows and networks with progressive reputations because we suspect they believed any progressive audience would take the bait.
Using unrelated tags is not a common tactic callout campaigns use on Tumblr to spread their message.
Most recently they posted about another alleged incident of harassment that was never brought to the attention of the Network. This accusation apparently went directly to a blog that is only being read by other blogs that post identical content. This claim was posted after a week of inactivity from all Tumblr and Twitter accounts associated with this campaign. It is the Network’s belief that this is a desperate attempt by a troll to garner interest in a failing harassment campaign. We take all claims of harassment brought to us seriously. The claim they alluded to was not brought to us. It is a waste of our time and resources to engage with someone using McCarthyist tactics.
Most troublingly, the person responsible for this campaign has targeted a fan of the network with a callout post – taking the focus away from the Network and anyone who could reasonably address real concerns, and risking harassment to completely innocent people. Someone running a good faith callout effort wants to see bad actors brought to justice. This person wants to harm the Network, and doesn’t care who they hurt in the process.
Their goal was never to find justice for a victim, or demand a serious response to the accusations made. They wanted to be seen so they could spread mistrust. They chose to base their campaign on Tumblr, because they cynically believe Tumblr users invest in false claims of harassment. They tagged their posts with other progressive shows, because they believe people who listen to those shows also behave that way. They performed a vapid imitation of social justice rhetoric without any of the sensitivity of a person interested in social justice.
The accusation and the harassment campaign were part of an attack.
The person behind this attack wanted to derail our mission. They want to intimidate our network away from representing our values. They want to make One Shot ineffectual and vulnerable. They want to make it more difficult for victims to come forward and be treated fairly. They will fail.
As a result of this attack, we have developed a better method to address concerns of harassment. By involving responsible consultants, we’ve eliminated the risk of interpersonal biases that have prevented action in similar cases with other games companies in the past. As we move forward in 2018, we will continue to refine our process, and look for ways to increase transparency. We will share our methods with any company in the industry that needs to make a difficult evaluation of an employee’s behavior. As a result of this attack, victims of harassment in the gaming industry will have better tools to bring their abusers to justice.
This bad faith actor attempted to attack us personally by destroying our friendships and sowing mistrust in our community. No one is ever above suspicion in a situation like this, even a friend you know very well. Everyone involved worked to resolve this in a way that prioritized community safety over personal comfort. We are happy to report that Pranks will resume production of Adventure after a brief hiatus. He will also continue to work with Kat on producing Campaign. This was a frightening and emotionally trying experience, but we still have each other. We’re stronger, and we respect each other deeply. We’re better positioned to serve you now more than ever.
If this person wanted to scare us away from supporting charities like Trans Lifeline, they’ve failed. As a result of this attack, we are reopening our TLL fundraiser. We will raise an additional $1000 to support crisis intervention and micro grants for trans people by March 10th, or James will pay the difference out of his Network wages.
We want to recover from this situation not just as a network, but as a community. That means we have some things to ask of our listeners.
One thing that disappointed us greatly during this process was some listeners defending the network by attacking the accuser on their reddit post. In this situation, the victim turned out to be a bad actor. However, there is no way anyone could know that until an investigation had been completed. No matter your intentions, attacking someone who is a potential victim reflects poorly on our community. If we are going to make games better, we need your help. That means not doing things like this.
We also ask that our fans refrain from interacting with any of these troll accounts. These accounts were created for the purposes of drawing us and our fans into a conflict. The person behind these accounts has already demonstrated a callous disregard for people’s safety. We don’t want anyone risking any sort of harm on our behalf. We also don’t want to dogpile our fanbase onto anyone regardless of whether or not they’re bad actors. If you see one of these accounts, report it for abuse through official channels on the platform you found it, or notify us of its existence. There’s a good chance that this troll will be lashing out in the wake of our posting this statement. Please do not engage.
Pranks wrote his own statement he wanted includes as part of this announcement:
Social Media Silence
I have been maintaining social media silence during this period. I felt it was best until the results of One Shot’s investigation and statement had been released.
The callout campaign, social media attacks, and my desire not to derail #MeToo and analogous movements mean that I will be returning to Twitter, but will not be making public statements regarding the situation outside of what is being released via OneShot.
Thank you for your time and care during this process. We know it was hard for many of you to watch this situation unfold without information. We also struggled with the prolonged nature of this investigation. It was worth it to us to know that this process was handled in a way we felt was responsible. We take issues like this seriously, and sometimes that means they take time to resolve.
If you have questions about any part of this process, please send them to email@example.com. Kat and James will be recording a podcast to debrief this situation and our process. We want to ensure any lingering concerns are addressed in that episode.
James and Kat