The information here serves as clarification for special and fringe cases, with general guidelines and individual emblems being the starting point and often a prerequisite for understanding the special situations detailed below.
All individual guidelines are subject to review, and people are encouraged to contribute suggestions to make the site more transparent and objective.This page serves to supply precise information, for people to understand the detail of the decisions and provide more on-the-point criticism. Some of the following guidelines have been made explicit in this document specifically to discuss their modification, following criticism from site users following the launch.
As this document's aim is being exhaustive, it's not expected to be an easy read.
Non-journalists, former journalists
Normally, only journalists (in the broadest definition of the word, including people who some might define as bloggers) or people whose given profession is not journalism but have a significant writing role should be listed on DeepFreeze.
Former journalists who no longer have a significant writing role and don't seem to be likely to resume are mostly excluded — a good example being Avi Burk, the author of the infamous IGN slating of Football Manager 2009, who no longer has a significant writing role, and thus does not have an entry in DeepFreeze despite clearly qualifying for a Yellow Journalism emblem due to poor research.
The equal treatment principle, detailed below, overrides this one.
Equal treatment, mainstream media
DeepFreeze attempts to be consistent in the entries it inserts. If a journalist receives an emblem for something, another journalist doing the same thing should get the same emblem, unless some factor makes a difference. In the same way, if for some reason DeepFreeze is incapable of covering a certain topic properly, it will most likely avoid individual journalists.
For the time being, DeepFreeze's biggest limitation is the fact that it is run by an individual Italian administrator. Given this person's lack of preparation on English-language press, excepting videogame specialist media, DeepFreeze inserts mainstream media journalists with extreme reluctance, as entries would quite likely be isolated, with similar offenders not being filed due to ignorance of their work. A good comparison to see the effect of this policy would be the very large number of entries on Kotaku (currently at 48) while frequently-criticized sister site Jezebel only has one.
In an attempt to remain consistent, though, mainstream media journalists, former journalists and non-journalists will be listed when they're involved in a gaming journalism scandal, or in situations where a game journalist has gotten an emblem for the same action, especially if the scandal is covered by DeepFreeze. The reasoning, in this case, is that it would be more unfair to give an emblem to a gaming journalist but not to the identically-acting non-game journalist than to add a non-game journalist to the database. The majority of non-journalists and mainstream media journalists in the DeepFreeze database have, at the time of this writing, been inserted due to this principle and their involvement in the GameJournoPros mailing list or "Gamers are Dead" media blitz.
Another good example of this policy is the Max Temkin situation, which earned an emblem to gaming journalist Patricia Hernandez, as well as former journalist Rab Florence and non-gaming journalist Kelly Faircloth who, at the time of this writing, holds the only emblem for Jezebel. Had the situation not been covered by Kotaku and Rock, Paper, Shotgun, probably no journalist involved would've been included, due to the equal treatment principle.
Should DeepFreeze move to address mainstream media journalism more thoroughly, this rule is expected to be at least partially broken during the transition phase.
DeepFreeze may apply one of five possible modifiers to its entries an adjective to read before the entrys category, such as possible dishonesty or amended cronyism. As DeepFreeze entries are meant to be evaluated by the reader rather than taken at face value, their default modifier is meant to be Apparent, and different modifiers are also meant to be taken as indications that the reader is encouraged to interpret.
Unique, unjustifiable act of journalistic wrongdoing, significantly more severe than the average DeepFreeze entry.
Readers are still encouraged to take their own stance, but DeepFreeze suggests taking this one very seriously. No amount of effort will ever make this entry received an "amended" or "resolved" modifier, although correction effort will still be noted in the entry.
Aside from the graphic distinction, this modifier doesn't change how an entry is processed—although a different behavior is being considered.
This emblem is still deemed relevant information to form one's opinion on a source, but it's significantly more likely to be a non-issue than the average emblems in this category.
This modifier is applied in fairly specific ways depending on the emblem's category, being usually assigned for journalists involved in something suspicious, but with no direct infraction of any sort.
Entries with this modifier will be tallied as "minor issues" on outlet pages. On journalist pages, they will be tallied normally, but will generate a disclaimer if they're not accompanied by unmodified or serious entries.
The situation has changed after the event causing the emblem has transpired, and the current situation would not merit an emblem.
Good examples are disclosures added after their absence was publicly called out, as well as apologies or admission of mistakes. It should be noted that, while strictly discussing the issue might not be enough for this modifier to be applied, DeepFreeze usually updates its entries when the emblem's receiver or another relevant party comments on them.
Entries with this modifier will be tallied separately as "corrected issues" on outlet pages, and the correction rates will be shown, allowing readers to see how often an outlet assigns corrections compared to DeepFreeze's average—making these, arguably, a good thing to get for an outlet. On journalist pages, these will be tallied normally, but will generate a disclaimer if they're not accompanied by unmodified or serious entries.
An issue that was already minor when it was fixed, or the correction did more good than the issue bad.
This is a stronger version of the "amended" modifier, issued mostly when an entry qualifies for the "amended" and "possible" modifier simultaneously. Entries not qualifying for the "possible" modifier only receive this modifier, rather than "amended", only for especially effective corrections that deliberately have more impact than the original infraction. Unlike "amended", DeepFreeze doesn't count this entry in the
Like "amended" entries, entries with this modifier will be tallied separately as "corrected issues" on outlet pages—and the correction rates will be shown, allowing readers to see how often an outlet assigns corrections compared to DeepFreeze's average. Unlike "amended" entries, though, these will not be tallied on individual journalist pages.
The situation does not meet the requirements for an emblem, but it's worth explaining why it doesn't.
Used for debunked accusations that are often levied at an innocent journalist, but also for cases where the journalist is just strongly unlikely to have engaged in wrongdoing. Sometimes should be interpreted as "probably not".
These entries are ignored both on journalist and outlets pages.
GameJournoPros — impropriety?
Is membership in a mailing list such as GJP an impropriety? Absolutely not.
Is it something that should be known before making an informed choice on a writer's reliability? I'd say yes. In the interest of maximum transparency on what I understand to be a controversial point, I will switch to first person and give my detailed thought process on the matter.
GameJournoPros was a mailing list for game journalists created by Kyle Orland, active between 2010 and 2014. List was leaked by two members, William Usher and another unknown whistleblower, causing a fairly large scandal and the list's disbanding. Progressively, Usher has released several articles showing improprieties or unprofessional behaviour in the list. Familiarity with DeepFreeze's synthesis article on the list is suggested.
When the scandal erupted, members have said that the list mostly involved innocent discussion. While this might be, and indeed probably is, what matters is whether or not something wrong took place in the list — no thief has ever been let go because most days he wasn't stealing. This especially becomes an issue if the problems have the appearance of being systematic.
GJP's most significant characteristic, as seen in the stats reported aside and taken directly from the mailing list itself, is that it shows a very rich membership, including a very large number of influential journalists from ostensibly rival publications.
With such an audience, it is my opinion that a lot of things that would be at best trivial in other situations would become a very significant issue, willing or not as the instigators may be — even more so given the list's secrecy clause. The improprieties discovered thus far involving the list, from the blacklistings of Alistair Pinsof and Kevin Dent to the censorship of then proto-GamerGate discussion, are indeed things that would be much less likely to be considered improprieties if they had taken place in public or in smaller environments.
What gives, in my opinion, the appearance of a systematic issue with the list are the accusations of "groupthink" it has received — well-phrased by former member Ryan Smith in the quote reproduced aside. Other members have denied these accusations, but what few leaks are available provide strong evidence that there was pressure to conform. While conflicting accounts exist, I will have a much easier time believing the version that is backed by evidence — again, the secrecy clause is the problem here, as I'm very willing to admit a larger sample data might make me change my opinion.
This groupthink accusation, even if just partially true, would be very serious, considering that several DeepFreeze top scorers were list members, most notably Ben Kuchera, who allegedly acted as the group's "alpha dog" and has accumulated a wealth of DeepFreeze harassment emblems for his continued intimidation tactics, which have the strong appearance of being systematic. Let's also remember that the list was leaked from the inside by two whistleblowers who apparently weren't working together — and we know that Kuchera had some very charged statements towards one of the two and has been alleged to have put some pressure on the other's employers.
The samples of GJP we have seem to confirm this "groupthink" is taking place. A very criticized event in the list was the proposed letter and gift to Quinn, whose discussion, according to Kyle Orland, showed the group disagreed on things. Personally, I think Orland is right about this one, as this very much has the appearance of a debate. What, in my opinion, actually shows incriminating groupthink is the rest of the leaked thread: Ryan Smith criticizes Jason Schreier and gets instantly mobbed with no one defending him (for the record, the article that Smith brought into question earned Schreier one of his numerous DeepFreeze Dishonesty emblems, and as a result I'd say Smith's criticism was at very least legitimate); the Vice Eron Gjoni interview elects a uniform stream of vitriol, despite being an entry in the "Gamers are Dead" media blitz; most notably, no one seems to disagree with, or find anything wrong with the thread's opening post, that, in my interpretation, sounds like a very politely-phrased version of "a fellow GJP member has been accused of cronyism, what's the best way to censor this — ignore it, or focus on Quinn's harassment?" — an interpretation that I realize might be subjective, but very disturbingly is a perfect match for the media's behaviour in the GamerGate controversy. Furthermore, if some might not agree with my interpretation of Orland's post, it's much harder to see Ben Kuchera's intimidation of Greg Tito as well-meaning, and he doesn't get called out for his tone — proof from elsewhere shows that disagreement with Kuchera had previously nearly got Ryan Smith kicked out.
This pattern repeats, as, again, Klepek's proposal of "collectively" ignoring Kevin Dent and Dale North's "advisement" to ignore Alistair Pinsof seem (again, by the very small sample size that is publicly available) to have elicited no complaint inside the list.
The real issue is, again, the secrecy clause, which forces me to infer. Most improprieties in the list where revealed by whistleblower William Usher. His articles strongly suggest that he only possesses digest emails, and not the complete list — content that is even more partial once we consider he was only a member since 2013.
Information gathered from outside the mailing list also paints the list badly, with several members having other improprieties. While it seems unlikely for the "Gamers are Dead" media blitz to have been orchestrated in GJP — some participants were list members, but Leigh Alexander was not, at the time, a member any longer and one of the articles was posted in the leaked thread — but, for instance, each of the four journalists involved in the false Brad Wardell accusations was a list member. Coincidence? Maybe, but, once more, the secrecy clause leaves us no choice but to infer.
All this said, I believe that GameJournoPros membership, while not an impropriety in and by itself, very much is, to quote the DeepFreeze central guidelines, "factual information that a reader would want to know, before deciding if he can trust this source".
But how to list this information in the fairest and most objective way? This is a problem.
In my year and a half in the group, I was often the only dissenting opinion in specific topics and most of the time I got totally ignored. Sometimes I was criticized or told I was off-topic. Sometimes I was warned I was “creating a hostile environment” to specific people for disagreeing with them in an unapologetic way, and a couple times I was told I’d be kicked out of the group. The informal pressure to “fall in line” with the groupthink was very strong.
GameJournoPros — how to handle?
DeepFreeze guidelines explicitly state that "Entries don't necessarily represent ethical improprieties" and might instead represent "a strong appearance of impropriety" or even things "that are not strictly breaches of journalistic ethics", as long as these things are follow its intent of "supplying factual information so that readers can form an opinion on their own". The above section explains in detail why GameJournoPros is deemed something notable.
While every DeepFreeze entry is meant to be taken critically, especially for more subjective emblems, every one except the GameJournoPros emblems is filed for something tangible. For example, it's up to you if Chris Priestman covering Terry Cavenagh while receiving money from him on Patreon should be considered an impropriety or is not such a big deal, but the existence of the financial relationship is absolutely undeniable. Even for DeepFreeze's most disputed emblems, like Arthur Gies's review of Bayonetta 2, you can disagree with the evaluation that the review is intentionally sensationalist, but no one can deny the review existed and it generated controversy. The GameJournoPros emblems are different — they are filed, and certainly hit a lot of people that have not been involved in the list's issues.
The secrecy clause is what creates a filing issue, because if the list's contents were public, membership in and of itself wouldn't be an issue. As things stand, DeepFreeze is forced to choose between inserting a speculative Collusion emblem and blaming some innocent journalists, or not filing entries and not giving users relevant information. When forced to choose between these two injustices, DeepFreeze sides with the users. So, reluctantly, the default filing method for DeepFreeze entries involves the use of a Collusion emblem.
While originally DeepFreeze filed all GameJournoPros entries as Collusion, following additional research it now files GameJournoPros entries as Trivia, unless the available leaks prove that the journalist was active in the list. This does not mean that the specific proof of the journalist's activity linked in the entry is deemed an impropriety, or that all journalists listed with a Collusion emblem are guilty of something — or even that all journalists with Trivia entries are innocent of GJP related wrongdoing. This is only evaluated to be the most informative way to distinguish between the group's participating members and the apparently numerous non-active members.
While DeepFreeze strives to follow objective guidelines and to treat its subjects equally, there are some circumstances where some subjects may have been subjected to more scrutiny than others for reasons that are beyond the site's control, and thus may be, while still evaluated within DeepFreeze guidelines, sanctioned for something that other journalists have not been earning an entry for.
One example is the outlet's size and visibility. It is possible that actions qualifying for a DeepFreeze emblem may fall under the radar if they take place at a smaller outlet like, say, Quarter to Three or Realm of Gaming, when the same thing would've been noticed and sanctioned at large outlets like IGN and Kotaku. Since the same larger user base and higher diffusion that make issues more noticeable also mean problems at larger outlets have a higher impact, this disparity isn't found to be too troubling.
Another, more noticeable but still fairly minor issue is that, as DeepFreeze publicly admits, its entries rely on "several resources created by others for GamerGate" — thus, outlets more targeted by the GamerGate consumer revolt may end up being more represented on the external resources that DeepFreeze relies on.
This is not deemed to be too serious an issue, as GamerGate targets outlets based on ethical issues and the refusal to correct or to discuss these issues, and has been proven to be unforgiving even towards writers it supports, but for the sake of objectivity DeepFreeze will mark the journalist sheets whose working career includes outlets targeted by GamerGate's Disrespectful Nod campaign, pointing them to this paragraph.
All DeepFreeze entries are meant to be taken as possible conflicts of interest, ethical improprieties or examples of insincerity. Entries supply as much and as direct evicence as possible, and DeepFreeze encourages readers to form their own opinion on indivitual entries, journalists and outlets based on this evidence.
DeepFreeze's objective is not to shame or blacklist individual journalists or outlets, nor is it to advocate for any of its subjects' harassment of firing. It strives to catalogue and contextualize all issues that people should be aware of before making an informed decision on which outlets and journalists to trust — in a simple, synthetic, evidence-based and as-objective-as-possible way. Its entries are meant to be taken critically: a reader deciding that DeepFreeze entries are not issues or even that they are marks of merit is using the site as intended.
DeepFreeze subjects feeling that their entries are undeserved for any reason are allowed and encouraged to contact the site to discuss their case. DeepFreeze guidelines frequently get updated following user feedback, fringe cases or reconsideration of current rules, bringing to emblems being refiled, rephrased with improved sourcing or objectivity or at least properly explained. Apologies, corrections, replies or further explainations by a subject or another relevant party (such as the subject's Editor-in-Chief) are listed on the individual entry, provided DeepFreeze is aware of them and they are reasonably relevant. Apologies or corrections will not cause an entry to be removed or refiled, unless individual emblem guidelines state it.
Pictures of journalists
Pictures of DeepFreeze subjects, when present, are taken exclusively from publicly avaliable pictures that have at very least a strong appearence of having been either willingly distributed by the subject or taken in a public venue. Subjects that appear to not want their picture to appear online in general should not be pictured in DeepFreeze either.
Pictures used are preferencially reasonably good-quality color pictures, and reasonably recent. Subjects should preferencially look natural, thus pictures that appear digitally altered, overly posed or silly will not be used unless no other pictures can be found. Once those requirements are met, pictures picked should be as flattering as possible.
While DeepFreeze might accomodate well-motivated requests for a picture's removal, it will not do so indiscriminately. Requests to change the picture for a more flattering one, however, will be mostly accepted — as long as the pictures provided meet the other parameters.
Supported and boycotted outlets
DeepFreeze's outlet list informs if a specific outlet appears to be boycotted or supported by the GamerGate consumer revolt. This evaluation functions independently from DeepFreeze's journalist sheets, and — in line with DeepFreeze's stated goal of providing information to help a consumer form an opinion based on factual data — it's meant to be taken critically. It's expected that some readers may choose to take the GamerGate stance as a suggestion, but, depending their opinion of the GamerGate controversy, may completely reverse it — or even take it as a disclosure of DeepFreeze's possible biases.
Given its endrosement guidelines, DeepFreeze's "Boycotted" status is meant to be taken as just an evaluation of GamerGate's stance, while the "Supported" status implies DeepFreeze's endorsement.
DeepFreeze bases its evaluation of GamerGate's support or boycott is based on GamerGate's stance on the outlet, rather than the outlet's stance on GamerGate. This is deemed more informative to the reader — for instance, the Mangotron website can be found on boycott lists despite its support of GamerGate, while retro-gaming website Hardcore Gaming 101, whose administator is an outspoken critic of GamerGate, but whose site doesn't discuss the consumer revolt and whose forums doesn't disallow (though disencourage) discussion of it is listed as supported by some GamerGate sources.
DeepFreeze evaluates an outlet as Supported by GamerGate if it is listed as such by at least four of five sources — currently the GamerGate wiki, GitGud, GamerGate.community and two infographs. Sites that are listed as supported in two or three of these sources may still be classified as supported discretionally.
DeepFreeze evaluates an outlet as Boycotted by GamerGate if it is listed as such by either the GamerGate wiki or GitGud. Sites that meet both Boycott and Support requirements are evaluated discretionally.
These lists may change with time. While these guidelines determine the way a certain outlet is filed, the decision if a site is notable enough to include is discretional on DeepFreeze's part.
In the interest of transparency, when some DeepFreeze emblems, guidelines or omissions elicit strong discussion or are deemed to be controversial for some other reason, they might be filed here for clarity.
- GameJournoPros Collusion emblems
- The notability of these emblems is discussed in this same document, where the issues and proposed solutions with the entries' filing are also discussed.
- Sensationalism emblems on reviews
- The Sensationalism emblem given to Arthur Gies has been discussed in this Reddit post by DeepFreeze's administrator. The same reasoning can be applied to the similar emblems given to Danielle Riendeau and Andrew Groen.
- Proposed emblems on Techraptor journalists
- Requested here, discussed in detail here
- Lizzy Finnegan / CIG
- Requested for an article about Star Citizen, discussed in detail here.
- Milo Yannopoulos
- The most famous journalist supporting GamerGate. Requested very frequently by people who appear to be either malicious or unfamiliar with DeepFreeze's rules on mainstream media, I still took the time to discuss some possible submissions. Should clarify Yannopoulos explicitly stated he wouldn't mind being filed on the day DeepFreeze launched, and he has confirmed that to me in person when we met at the Paris GamerGate meetup, where we exchanged a few words.
Notable database changes
As DeepFreeze behaves like a reference resource rather than like an outlet, both its entries and its articles are subject to being updated. While not all updates, deletions and re-labels are notable enough to file, some will be outlined here to clarify guidelines.
- Chris Carter — Deletion
- In 2014, then-writer for game company Gearbox and former Destructoid journalist Anthony Burch acted as whistleblower for a journalistic scandal, stating that two friends of his working at Destructoid had reviewed his work without dislosing their personal relationship. As Burch had not clarified the identity of these friends — Joseph Leray and Darren Nakamura — an often-used DeepFreeze source erroneously assumed that one of the journalists was Carter, rather than Nakamura. DeepFreeze subsequently filed Carter, who contacted the site and provided some leads. DeepFreeze worked with its source, and given the evidence implicating Nakamura in Carter's place, DeepFreeze's source updated his investigation report. On Carter's request, DeepFreeze deleted his page rather than updating it reflect the mistake (the change was announced on DeepFreeze's homepage, with an apology). As this was early in DeepFreeze's history, and before the site established unpublishing standards, DeepFreeze's administrator neglected to archive the page before deleting it, meaning there's currently no surviving record of its existence, aside from this paragraph and the material linked here.
- Brian Crecente — Deletion
- Journalist Brian Crecente had a DeepFreeze page when the site was launched, but this page was unpublished for a time shortly afterwards. Crecente had originally been filed, when DeepFreeze was still being developed and its guidelines were far from being fully formed, without having been involved in perceived wrongdoings, and only for his relevance as Kotaku's historic Editor-in-Chief. This situation, unique to Crecente, created some confusion, as people understood his inclusion as an implication of wrongdoing — which, given he, like many on DeepFreeze, had a Trivia entry for his "People of GamerGate" portrait, seemed to confuse people further. He was been removed to prevent this confusion, the guidelines for the Trivia emblem updated to prevent people with Trivia emblems to be filed in absence of wrongdoing emblems, and the entries linking to Crecente's profile edited. A long time later, Crecente wrote about an association he was a member of, adding disclosure as soon as he was notified — making him qualified for a DeepFreeze entry. His page was recreated, and his old Trivia emblem added to it again.
- Dan Whitehead — Collusion to Trivia
- The Collusion guidelines have undergone a slight revision, and now state "When behind-the-scenes cooperation is strongly suspected and still unproven, a series of articles that are individually at least strong candidates for a Dishonesty or Sensationalism emblem will instead earn a Collusion emblem". As Whitehead's article on Zoe Quinn that some see as part of the "Gamers are dead" media blitz has no trace of Sensationalism, it no longer meets the Collusion guidelines and has been refiled as Trivia.
- James Fudge — Sensationalism to Trivia
- The Sensationalism guidelines have undergone a slight revision, and now state "An apology might make this emblem less likely to be assigned, especially if it appears to be sincere and it is efficient in undoing the damage done by the offence". As Fudge's apology for his role in the false Brad Wardell accusations is much longer than the original article, had more reach and appears to have satisfied the damaged party, this emblem has been refiled as Trivia.