*CONTENT WARNING : Suicide, suicidal ideation, online mobbing, stalking and harassment **
This week I heard for the first time about something called Kiwi Farms; a Twitter mutual mentioned in passing that they are awful. As it turns out, the “Worst Website on the Internet” as Gizmodo recently called them are a forum of sorts dedicated to stalking and harassing vulnerable individuals that they refer to as “lolcows” who can be “milked for laughs”; targeting in exceedingly cruel and creepy ways particularly those who are transgender, neurodivergent, disabled or living with mental illness. After a quick Google search, a healthy shudder and Contrapoints’ video on “cringe”, I put the whole thing out of my mind in disgust.
Then yesterday I learned the news: a programmer known as Near /Byuu has died by suicide, after being targeted and harassed by trolls from Kiwi Farms. I learned it from one of my favourite Web cartoonists, Sophie Labelle, who has been, herself, on the receiving end of harassment campaigns by neo-Nazi and transphobic groups originating with Kiwifarms.
In the comments to Sophie’s Facebook post, someone mentioned that stalkers organised on Kiwi Farms attempted to contact her employer and endangered her job stability. And the worst part: this is not the first time someone loses their life as a result of harassment at the hands of the Kiwi Farms mob. I may have only heard about it because a creator who was highly respected in the gaming community died; and an artist I personally like, with a Facebook following of nearly 60,000 and multiple published books was also targeted. Far more often, they attack people who do not have thousands of fans — or, for that matter, much of a support network. They cruelly go after the ones who are isolated and struggle.
And this is why we need to talk about them. And not just in a “Yeah, they’re terrible, what a cesspool, let’s have a shudder and then forget about it” way. What I propose, instead, are a few helpful practical resources for supporting potential victims, and hopefully preventing such tragedies for happening in the future.