Why the attacks on Keffals are an attack on all trans people

by Jess O'Thomson

Sun Aug 28, 2022 · 1251 words · 7 min

Popular Twitch streamer Keffals has been the victim of a continued campaign of doxxing and harassment by internet forum site Kiwi Farms, including an incident of swatting. This harassment is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a wider pattern of harmful behaviour which poses a threat to the entire trans community. Trans people should not live in fear, and the attack by Kiwi Farms on Keffals and other trans people must be understood as an attack on us all.

The swatting incident

On the 5th of August 2022, trans Twitch streamer Clara Sorrenti (aka ‘Keffals’) awoke to heavily armed police officers at her door. The officers were responding to false threats sent to the London, Ontario police, purporting to be sent by Sorrenti. This led to police searching Sorrenti’s property, seizing her possessions, and placing her under arrest. During the search, police continually misgendered and deadnamed Sorrenti. The Chief of London police has subsequently apologised for incorrectly gendering and naming Sorrenti, and stated that a review into the mechanisms which encouraged this is ongoing. In the same statement, the London police acknowledge that this attempt was an example of ‘swatting’.

What is ‘swatting’

Swatting is an incredibly dangerous online harassment strategy, where the harasser makes a serious false police report whilst pretending to be the targeted individual, in the hopes of generating an immediate and significant police response.

Not only does this technique cause immense trauma and stress to the victim, but has previously resulted in injury and even death.

There is a significant history of the technique being used by the far right to target queer people. Last year saw a series of attacks on US-based drag queens, and more recent examples include an incident involving gay Twitch streamer Nickolas Potter.

How did it happen?

The swatting attempt on Clara Sorrenti was made possible by prior doxxing of Sorrenti’s personal information by the far-right internet forum Kiwi Farms. Kiwi Farms is renowned for its doxxing efforts, although this is not the extent of its harassment efforts. The forum maintains threads on various individuals they consider to be ‘lolcows’ - frequently trans people - who are commented upon in upsetting ways, most especially using a variety of slurs and encouragements to suicide.

Users of Kiwi Farms were able to calculate the location of her apartment using photos posted by Sorrenti’s fiancée of the couple’s window plants. Using this information, the harasser sent an email containing threats whilst pretending to be Sorrenti, and provided the London police with her address.

Continued Harassment of Keffals

Although Kiwi Farms maintains that it does not encourage and was not responsible for the swatting incident, their response to Keffals’s public announcement of the event has involved further doxxing and harassment of Sorrenti.

Fearing retaliation, following her public announcement of the swatting incident, Sorrenti moved from her apartment to a hotel room. Using a photo Keffals posted in her community discord of her fiancées cat on the hotel bed, users on Kiwi Farms were able to find the hotel Sorrenti was staying in, using the bed sheets. Pizzas then began arriving at Sorrenti’s hotel, delivered under her deadname (name from before transition). Kiwi Farms users also used information from press reports to identify and then doxx Sorrenti’s brother.

After this, Sorrenti publicly discussed this further doxxing, and decided to move location again. Sorrenti used a green screen when streaming, and posted no pictures, to ensure these could not be used to find her location. However, Kiwi Farms were not deterred - by hacking into Sorrenti’s Uber Eats account users of the site were once again able to find her location, and posted it on the forums. Following this, Sorrenti announced her plans to flee the country, and states she now in an undisclosed location in Europe.

Why Keffals?

The question is, why is Kiwi Farms so committed to harassing Keffals? The answer becomes clear when one realises that this is not the forum’s first attempt to ruin the life of a trans person.

The Kiwi Farms forums are popular amongst the far-right because the site allows the free expression of unabashedly racist, antisemitic, anti-queer, and ableist views. These are concentrated into threads which are centred on individual targets, and which provide a dedicated platform for bullying and harassment.

Kiwi Farms can be linked to multiple suicides. Indeed, some forum users like to gloat about these suicides as part of the site’s ‘kill count’. However, Kiwi Farms itself denies any responsibility for the deaths, and some users have claimed that certain deaths have been faked.

A key example is the suicide of David Ginder (aka “near” and “byuu”), a nonbinary software developer to whom a thread was dedicated on the forums. They found this thread so distressing that they offered a large amount of money to Joshua Moon, the site’s owner, for the thread to be taken down. After this, Ginder announced their suicide on Twitter, in a thread which specifically named Kiwi Farms as a key motivation for their decision. This was followed by confirmations in other media outlets of Ginder’s death. Despite this, Moon maintains that the death was fabricated.

Keffals remains an incredibly high-profile trans woman, against whom the forums make allegations of ‘grooming’ around her support of trans youth. To the anti-trans forum, she is an important target. By harassing her, the forums do not just harm Keffals, but the trans community more widely. Several trans people I have spoken to are afraid to speak out publicly against Kiwi Farms, out of fear of being made the next target. The harassment of Keffals is just another limb of the forum’s ongoing attempts to victimise trans people, and to make our community less safe.

However, this time Kiwi Farms may have bitten off more than it can chew. By attacking a trans person with a public profile and resources, Kiwi Farms have seen a coordinated response against the site, which has seen the community engaging with companies who host and enable the site to encourage them to withdraw. Since last week the site has experienced significant downtime, and Moon claims that this is due to action by Cloudflare (the current hosts), who are failing to respond to his requests for help in getting the site back up. Joshua Moon has since issued a statement rallying "Gender Critical communities" to support his website, saying “Should we stay down, they will then attack 'gender critical' communities - especially those ran by and for women”. Gender Critical activists on the GC forum Ovarit had mixed responses to this, with some claiming the site, which hosts a wide array of antisemitic, racist and far right content, was an important resource for “receipts” (evidence gathered by doxxing operations conducted on KiwiFarms).

Pressure continues to mount on those who enable Kiwi Farms to continue harassing trans individuals.