Tech

Several women accuse tech pundit Robert Scoble of sexual harassment

Enlarge/ Robert Scoble, as seen in 2013.JD Lasica

Robert Scoble, a longtime fixture of the Silicon Valley punditocracy, has been publicly accused of sexual harassment and assault by multiple women.

In a public Facebook post on Friday, Scoble wrote that he was "deeply sorry to the people I’ve caused pain to. I know I have behaved in ways that were inappropriate."

"I know that apologies are not enough and that they don’t erase the wrongs of the past or the present," he continued. "The only thing I can do to really make a difference now is to prove, through my future behavior, and my willingness to listen, learn and change, that I want to become part of the solution going forward."

The revelations come months after many top Silicon Valley luminaries, including Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital and Dave McClure of 500 Startups, among others, were named as abusers by The New York Times. As is the case in many industries that have been dominated by men for decades, inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment often goes underreported and unpunished.

Scoble's apology did not name any specific actions or victims. The Californian, who did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment on Saturday evening, began his Silicon Valley career as an early blogger nearly two decades ago.

By 2003, Scoble took a job at Microsoft as a tech evangelist, and later worked at other tech and media firms, including Rackspace and Fast Company. In 2014, he publicly wrote about his own experience as a child victim of sexual abuse. More recently, Scoble was the company’s "entrepreneur-in-residence" at a company called Upload VR. Scoble, who in his Twitter profile calls himself an "authority on the future," also founded consultancy called "Transformation Group" earlier this year.

In May 2017, Upload VR’s founders were sued over alleged sexual harassment and were accused of setting up a "kink room" at work. At the time, Scoble wrote publicly on Facebook that while he had attended company parties before, he was unaware of any behavior similar to what was alleged in the lawsuit, which has since settled. Months later, on September 11, Scoble wrote in general terms: "I must admit my own role in sexism in this industry and world. I am flawed, too, and am working to fix those flaws."

Then, on October 19, Quinn Norton, a veteran journalist described an incident with Scoble at a tech conference known as Foo Camp from the "early 2010s." Her Medium post has seemingly opened the floodgates against him.

"Stunned shock"

In Norton's telling, after witnessing Scoble drunkenly make out with an inebriated woman who was not his wife, Norton wrote that she, herself, was awkwardly and briefly introduced to him.

"And then, without any more warning, Scoble was on me," she wrote. "I felt one hand on my breast and his arm reaching around and grabbing my butt. Scoble is considerably bigger than I am, and I realized quickly I wasn’t going to be able to push him away. Meanwhile, the people around just watched, in what I can only imagine was stunned shock. I got a hand free and used a palm strike to the base of his chin to knock him back. It worked, he flew back and struggled to get his feet under him. I watched his feet carefully for that moment. He was unbalanced from the alcohol and I realized if he reached for me again I could pull him forward, bounce his face off my knee, then drive it into the ground."

Since Norton's post, other women have come forward to say that they were touched inappropriately or propositioned by him in recent years.

These women include Michelle Greer, who worked with Scoble at Rackspace—she told BuzzFeed News that he inappropriately touched her at a hotel bar in 2010. Sarah Seitz, a NASA analyst, also wrote on Friday that Scoble had approached her, wanting to have an affair, even after he had written publicly in January 2015 that he had become sober and was attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Sarah Kunst, the founder of Proday Media, tweeted publicly that she reported his improper behavior to the organizers of the Dent Conference. Also on Friday, three anonymous women told TechCrunch that Scoble had made unwanted advances towards them.

As a result of his alleged actions, on Friday, Scoble was removed from the board of directors of the VR/AR Association, a trade group.

On Twitter, Norton continued to discuss her unwanted encounter with Scoble:

Say our names, @Scobleizer, make a list of our names. And find out how to make it up to us. https://t.co/hM3X0pGVJD

— Norton Auto-Updater (@quinnnorton) October 20, 2017

If this really does blow over and Scoble goes back to life as usual, without stopping these behaviors, I really don't know what can work.

— Norton Auto-Updater (@quinnnorton) October 21, 2017

Scoble was reportedly going to release a Facebook Live video on the subject, but on Friday told Business Insider that he would postpone it after discussing his behavior with his wife, Maryam Ghaemmaghami Scoble.

"I appreciate you reaching out," she wrote to Ars on Saturday. "It’s a time for some personal reflection. I don’t have any public comments at the moment. Thank you!"

Meanwhile, Norton told Ars late Saturday night: "just fyi, Scoble has not reached out to me in any way."

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