Brianna Wu, the cofounder of a Boston company who has made headlines in recent years for being targeted by the GamerGate movement, says she is launching a campaign to run for Congress in 2018.
In an interview with the Globe, Wu, 39, said she is in the beginning stages of assembling a campaign team, hiring a lawyer, and gathering information to file the appropriate paperwork, which she said she aims to do next week.
The video game developer, who received death threats two years ago for her criticisms of GamerGate, is currently tight-lipped about which Congressional district she will be running for, but noted that it would be in the Greater Boston area and she would not campaign against Katherine Clark: “We need more Katherine Clarks in Congress, not fewer,” said Wu, a Democrat who said she helped campaign for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election cycle.
Wu, the lead engineer at video game company Giant Spacekat, gained notoriety after she sent a tweet in 2014 intended as a joke mocking the members of the shadowy GamerGate movement. Afterwards, she received messages threatening death and rape, as well as messages posting personal information like her address. The threats ultimately forced her to flee her Arlington home.
And, after announcing on Facebook Tuesday that she intends to vie for a Congressional seat, Wu said she’s been getting them again.
“Today. . . it’s been a long day,” she said.
Critics of the movement say GamerGaters are bullies trying to drive women out of a field that men have long dominated, using tactics that include online harassment and “doxxing,” slang for posting personal information, such as a home address, bank information, and Social Security number.
Her personal experience with receiving threats is leading Wu to concentrate part of her campaign platform on privacy rights and Internet harassment.
“It’s hard to stress how unsafe it makes you feel in your own home when you get death threats daily, when you get rape threats daily, and law enforcement refuses to do anything about it,” she said.
Wu understands that she has become a sort of cultural icon, and plans to use that in her campaign message.
“I am a national figure of women’s rights,” she said. “When people hear ‘Brianna Wu,’ they think Internet harassment, and advocating for women in technology and the workplace.”
However, Wu said her main objective in running for Congress “is to stand up for families, so my primary focus is economic.”
Wu said although Massachusetts enjoys a stellar education system, many startups and technology companies end up moving out of state — a practice she’d like to help end.
“We invest enough in our school systems and higher education at great costs to the Massachusetts taxpayers, but then people take that to other states,” she said. “I think we can do a lot more to keep the tech industry here in Boston.”
She said her other top priorities would be to focus on higher wages, stronger unions, and “the thing people need most — more money in their bank account.”
Wu, who has more than 58,000 followers on Twitter, acknowledged that since she posted her intent to run on Facebook Tuesday, she’s noticed an increase in threats.
“When we run, we’ll be right back in the thick of it. It’s going to make me a huge target again,” Wu said, adding that she had a long discussion with her husband before making the choice to once again be in the public eye. “It’s something we really asked ourselves about. But the truth is, I can’t sit out the next four years. I’m really terrified of a Trump presidency, and scared of what it’s going to mean for women.”
Wu said she also believes her ability to speak out against the GamerGate movement, even when it means receiving death threats, shows that she’s unafraid to take on the “alt-right,” an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism, and populism.
“If anyone knows anything about Brianna Wu, they know she will stand up to the alt-right, will stand up to the extreme sexism we saw in GamerGate, and is someone who is not afraid of a fight,” she said. “No one that knows me would say Brianna Wu is scared of a fight.”
Wu might face an uphill battle for the seat, as all of Massachusetts’ nine Congressional seats are occupied by Democrats.Beth Teitell and Callum Borchers contributed to this report.