Sarah Jeong, a technology journalist hired by the New York Times and vilified online for tweets comparing “dumbass f****** white people” to dogs and s
Sarah Jeong, a technology journalist hired by the New York Times and vilified online for tweets comparing “dumbass f****** white people” to dogs and saying they would “all go extinct soon”, has been targeted for harassment by dishonest trolls, her former employer has claimed.
Editors at The Verge, an online tech magazine, denounced what they called “disingenuous” criticism of Ms Jeong by “people acting in bad faith”. The senior writer had been the victim of a Gamergate-style campaign designed to “divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues”, they suggested.
Ms Jeong, 30, posted a string of offensive and apparently racist messages including “#CancelWhitePeople” and “white men are bulls***” up to five years ago. One tweet read: “Dumbass f****** white people marking up the internet like dogs pissing on fire hydrants”.
After being uncovered they quickly spread and were picked up by conservative media including the Daily Caller and Gateway Pundit websites.
Ms Jeong claimed the tweets were “counter-trolling” in response to “torrents of online hate” she had routinely received due to being a non-white woman online. Examples she gave included a tweet calling her a “dog-eating gook” and another that said: “If I saw you, I would sock you in your lesbian face.”
In a statement, she added: “While it was intended as satire, I deeply regret that I mimicked the language of my harassers. These comments were not aimed at a general audience, because general audiences do not engage in harassment campaigns.
“I can understand how hurtful these posts are out of context, and would not do it again.”
Since the tweets were uncovered she has suffered a wave of abuse, including racist language. The Verge issued a lengthy statement attacking those targeting Ms Jeong, saying that during her tenure she had “produced remarkable journalism, including difficult reporting on victims of harassment and abuse”.
The site said that “the trolls engaged in this campaign are using the same [disinformation] tactics that exploded during Gamergate”, a misogynist campaign that deluged female writers with death and rape threats over their coverage of video games.
Male gamers who disagreed with criticism that was anchored in feminism posted writers’ real-life details online, hacked their social accounts and more.
The Verge said: “From cries about ‘ethics in journalism’ to ‘fake news,’ journalists have been increasingly targeted by people acting in bad faith who do not care about the work they do, the challenges they face, or the actual context of their statements.
“Online trolls and harassers want us, the Times, and other newsrooms to waste our time by debating their malicious agenda. They take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters.
“The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation, it’s intimidation.
“So we’re not going to fall for these disingenuous tactics. And it’s time other newsrooms learn to spot these hateful campaigns for what they are – attempts to discredit and undo the vital work of journalists who report on the most toxic communities on the internet.”
Ms Jeong has been appointed to the Times’ editorial board as its lead technology writer.
In a statement addressing the backlash the paper said it had “had candid conversations with Sarah as part of our thorough vetting process” including a review of her social media history.
“Her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers,” it added.
“She sees now that this approach only served to feed the vitriol that we too often see on social media. She regrets it, and the Times does not condone it.”
The Times’ decision to stand by Ms Jeong contrasted with its approach to hiring Quinn Norton earlier this year, when it admitted it had not reviewed her previous social media activity.
In that case, old tweets surfaced in which Ms Norton used racial and homophobic slurs and declared her friendship with a neo-Nazi. Ms Norton, who also writes about online culture, called the backlash to her messages “context collapse”.
Following the furore over Ms Jeong’s tweets, Ms Norton posted: “I don’t think @nytopinion made the right call firing me, though I understand that they panicked, and don’t bear them ill-will, at all, really. But I hoped they have learned to only fire people for cause, not social media fishing for out of context tweets.”