This site has been set up to provide truthful information about the actual aims and operations of the so-called ‘anti-bully’ website, stopthegrbullies.com.
Despite its claim to be against bullying, stopthegrbullies.com is not a genuine anti-bullying site. It promotes harrassment, abuse and hatred towards readers, reviewers, and those opposed to its activities. It is strongly anti-reader rights, and operates against the principles of free speech through the use of abuse, harrassment, and bogus DMCA threats to silence criticism.
What is “stopthegrbullies.com”
stopthegrbullies.com claims to be run by a group of readers and bloggers and users at Goodreads.com, concerned about bullying carried out at Goodreads by members the site labels as ‘GR Bullies’. In reality, the site is owned by a self-published author who uses the platform to attack any readers or bloggers who criticise authors (particularly self-published authors) or books, and critics of stopthegrbullies.com site or its participants, almost all of whom are also self-published authors. Its content is strongly anti-reader rights.
The stopthegrbullies.com domain was registered on 3 June 2012 by ‘Athena Parker’ of Monterey, California, and went live on 2 July 2012. It is hosted by Godaddy.
‘Athena Parker’ is a false identity, and the address and phone number originally visible under the domain were also false. Following complaints, the registration details were then corrected but obfuscated. The real owner has been deduced from overwhelming direct and circumstantial evidence to be Melissa Douthit of Utah. Melissa Douthit is a self-published fantasy author who formerly resided in Monterey at an address almost identical to the false address originally provided by the domain registrant.
When attention was drawn to the uncannily close connections between Melissa Douthit and ‘Athena Parker’ (including addresses, emails, and interests), the site posted denials that Douthit was ‘Athena’ or involved in the site, while claiming the two women were merely former neighbours.
Melissa Douthit first came to the attention of YA reviewers, readers and Goodreads.com users when she went on a commenting rampage at Goodreads in 2011, attacking reviewers of her books and other YA books, under her own name and using sockpuppets.
In February 2012 Melissa Douthit’s account was deleted by Goodreads for creating dozens of sockpuppet accounts to review and rate her own books, and attack low rating reviewers. The sockpuppet accounts were also deleted although she continues to create new accounts for trolling and attack purposes. These accounts are then also quickly deleted by GR.
On 28 May 2012, Melissa Douthit involved herself in an argument between readers and YA author Keira Cass, posting a review of Cass’s book on Amazon multiple times. On 29 May 2012 she posted a diatribe on her personal website against YA reviewer, Wendy Darling, for Wendy’s review of Cass’s book. Douthit’s post outed personal information about Wendy, including her real name, her husband’s name and twitter account etc. There was a great deal of criticism directed at Douthit for this action, and she deleted the original post. The stopthegrbullies.com domain was registered four days later.
On July 2, 2012 the site went live, with posts about Goodreads users Lucy Davis, Ridley, The Holy Terror, and Kat Kennedy. Kat Kennedy is a member of the Cuddlebuggery blog which originally exposed Melissa’s Douthit’s outing of Wendy Darling (and provided screengrab proof of the now deleted post.) The other three women have made critical comments regarding poorly behaving authors on Goodreads.
A ‘profile’ of Wendy Darling was promised, and appeared on 20 July 2012.
The original version of these profiles included locations, real names, and times and places of supposed daily activities (such as restaurant dining). The site also invited readers to submit photos of those profiled and more personal information which could then be published. After the stopthegrbullies.com site was profiled by Andrew Losowsky at the Huffington Post (a profile which he then had to repudiate, and to which he also allowed a rebuttal to be posted), some of this personal information was removed. However, the site has continued to play fast and loose with people’s privacy, using real names and information freely with no concern as to potential consequences for those outed in this way. Indeed, Lucy Davis, who received threatening phonecalls following the posting of her personal information, has been repeatedly mocked by the stopthegrbullies.com site posters for this fact.
A feature of almost all posts at stopthegrbullies.com is the use of selective screengrabs, without linking back to the source. This allows them to present their interpretation of events and comments without giving visitors the chance to verify the context. This interpretation is often distorted to the point of actual dishonesty.
All the posters at stopthegrbullies.com post under false names – ‘Athena Parker’, ‘Johnny Be Good’, ‘Peter Pan’, and ‘Stitch’. ‘Athena Parker’ and ‘Johnny Be Good’ are Melissa Douthit. The other personalities may also be Douthit, or possibly Douthit cronies.
Regular commenter ‘Goronwy’ posts as G. Faso at Amazon forums, and ‘A(nnabeth) Hole’ at Goodreads. While using a male persona on Amazon, she is believed to be a female self-published author. Regular commenter ‘Gyruleine’ used to post as ‘Author on Vacation’ at Dear Author, and is known to be a former romance author active on other forums under a different name again.
Authors Dougie Brimson, Sharon Reddy, Carroll Bryant and MT Dismuke have commented or contributed under their real/usual pennames.
A number of ‘Anons’ post comment at the site, usually to launch unsubstantiated attacks on one of the favoured targets. The aggressively and openly one-sided comment moderation policy means that any comment critical of the site, or defending targets of allegations, is never approved.
The aim of the site
The site claimed, originally, to be a group of concerned ‘readers and bloggers’ worried about alleged bullying of authors by a group of users at Goodreads.com. However, while still maintaining the pretence of not being connected to authors in any way, all the posts at the site have either been about author issues, or personal grudges by Douthit herself (who still pretends to be nothing to do with the site.)
It is notable that the site originally had a number of ‘badges’ from various bullying organisations displayed on its front page, as well as a list of authors it supported. Angry reaction and threats of legal action by the anti-bullying organisations forced the site to cease displaying the badges, and the list of authors has since been removed, to replaced with a list of ‘Badly Behaving Goodreaders’, ‘Amazon Fora Trolls’, ‘Blogs/Fora to Avoid’ and a special entry for ‘Scary. Run. Fast’ dedicated to author Ann Somerville, and GR user Ridley.
The site now warns visitors against some eighty individuals they claim are trolls or badly behaving individuals. In most cases, no explanation is offered on the site for this categorisation, though many people listed on the sidebar have apparently done nothing more than voted on this Goodreads list. (The site does not, however, consider votes on that list by their commenter, ‘Goronwy’ as Annabeth Hole, sufficient to merit inclusion on the sidebar.)
Since the site went live, its ‘reporting’ has covered alleged sockpuppeting at Amazon forums, alleged wrongful removal of reviews at Amazon, alleged wrongful banning of Robin Sullivan at Absolute Write, and championed the causes of a number of (mainly self-published) authors who have harassed reviewers, become abusive on Amazon forums, or behaved in a grossly unprofessional manner, consequently bringing opprobrium onto their heads. Some of these authors have made their way to the site on their own (such as James Austen, Dougie Brimson and Carroll Bryant). Others (eg Michael Dismuke) are incited by G. Faso/Goronwy at the Amazon forums and directed to the site, where ‘Athena’ and co take up their ‘unjust harassment’ by readers. Still others, such as Emily Giffin, Simone Elkeles, and Victoria Foyt, would appear to be unaware of their championing by the site, and are not known to support it. (See here for details of the so-called ‘bullying victims’ the site has championed.)
Despite the claim that they are concerned “readers and bloggers”, there are no posts defending readers from attacks by authors, or a reader’s right to review.
Claims of bullying
Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power. It can include verbal harassment or threat, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability. If bullying is done by a group, it is called mobbing. The victim of bullying is sometimes referred to as a “target”.
Activities claimed to be bullying by stopthegrbullies.com are:
- Goodreads user shelving/tags
- criticising and naming authors who harass reviewers, who use sockpuppets to review their own books or attack reviewers,who break Amazon’s TOS regarding self-promotion, and who post entitled whines on Amazon demanding reviews in exhange for free downloads
- responding to authors on Amazon, especially when they post angry diatribes against readers
- critical reviews
- allegedly rude comments on author blogs
- calling a racist author racist
- the existence and activities of an alleged (and never proven) ‘Amazon Review Mafia‘
- alleged activities by Amazon employees who secretly work at the Big Six Publishers and who deliberately destroy the careers of Self-Published Authors by nefarious means
- removal of Amazon reviews which have broken the Terms of Service in some way (usually by being by a relative, editor, or author sockpuppet, or being written in exchange for compensation)
- deletion of Amazon author accounts in response to severe and repeated misbehaviour
Despite the site’s condemnations of any criticism of self-published authors or their books, posters at the site regularly post insulting, misogynistic, or ableist remarks about authors and reviewers. While Douthit and her friends condemn ‘attack’ reviews, they announced their intention to do so to Kat Kennedy when/if she published her book.
Many authors, readers, and bloggers have spoken out strongly against stopthegrbullies.com.
stopthegrbullies.com and the misuse of copyright claims
stopthegrbullies.com claim copyright over all material at the site, even over screengrabs of material created by other people at their blogs, on Goodreads, and Amazon. The site is now warning visitors it will use DMCA takedown notices against anyone reproducing material on stopthegrbullies.com, though fair use provisions almost certainly make all such reproductions perfectly legal and defensible.
Chillingeffects.org reports and advises web users on “the deterrent effect of legal threats or posturing, largely cease and desist letters independent of litigation, on lawful conduct.” Chillingeffects notes that “Anecdotal evidence suggests that some individuals and corporations are using intellectual property and other laws to silence other online users. Chilling Effects encourages respect for intellectual property law, while frowning on its misuse to “chill” legitimate activity.”
Melissa Douthit and stopthegrbullies.com have used and intend to use the DMCA “to silence other online users” – in other words, to bully critics of their actions into removing criticism along with proof of their misbehaviour.