Dec 15, 2022 - Technology

Exclusive: U.S. lawmakers press top game companies on extremism

Illustration of a series of angry emojis emerging from one another's yelling mouth

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A recent report from the Anti-Defamation League about the rise of extremism in online game communities has stirred a response from members of Congress.

Driving the news: Seven Democratic members, including Reps. Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, Katie Porter of California and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, are co-signing a letter that will be sent to top game companies tomorrow, requesting information about how they deal with reports of extremism.

  • “We are writing to better understand the processes you have in place to handle player reports of harassment and extremism encounters in your online games, and ask for consideration of safety measures pertaining to anti-harassment and anti-extremism,” the letter states.
  • The co-authors cite the ADL's study that found a rise of extremism in online gaming communities, including a doubling of users’ exposure to white supremacy since 2021.

Between the lines: The lawmakers want game companies to tell them how they assess and mitigate risks of extremist behavior.

  • They also request insights into systems the studios and publishers have for reporting in-game harassment, and a breakdown of how reports are handled, including details of the size of the teams dedicated to these issues.
  • They want to know what data the companies collect on players who are disciplined for inappropriate behavior and whether the game makers are open to regularly releasing data on disciplinary actions taken against players for inappropriate behavior.

Top companies on notice: The letter will be sent to Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Epic, Innersloth, Microsoft, PUBG Corp, Riot Games, Roblox, Sony, Square, Take-Two Interactive, Tencent, Ubisoft and Valve.

What they’re saying: “When we talk about holding technology companies accountable for what they’re pushing toward our kids, gaming companies must be a part of that conversation,” Trahan told Axios.

  • "Online Multiplayer Games are more than media and entertainment outlets–they are social spaces where people of all ages connect through concerts, protests, conversations, and more," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told Axios. "Sadly though, ADL research has shown for the fourth year in a row that these spaces are being increasingly filled with hate and harassment.
  • "It’s time for players, parents, lawmakers, civil society, and communities to require more from the companies who profit off players’ interactions," he added.

What's next: Game companies aren’t obligated to reply to the letter, but Trahan says she’s watching.

  • “Make no mistake — parents like me with young kids are going to be paying attention to how they respond.”

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