Toxicity in video games is a topic that game companies don’t pay enough attention to. Says Lori Trahan, US Congresswoman, who spoke of the concern of American parents who have noticed an increase in the presence of extremist speech, hate speech and harassment in general in the online gaming community their children play.
In a post on his official website, which can be viewed here, Trahan accuses the big companies behind the gaming industry of ignoring online toxicity issues in their policies. This conclusion is based on a series of questions sent to 14 companies regarding the actual battle in question. Companies surveyed: Activision-Blizzard, EA, Epic Games, Innersloth, Krafton, Microsoft Gaming, Rito Games, Roblox, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Square Enix, Take-Two, Tencent, Ubisoft and Valve. It’s unclear if Nintendo’s absence is due to a lack of ties to the US government, or if the Japanese company didn’t want to make a statement.
Among the questions asked of companies, we can find mentions of how companies collect user reports, how risks of harm to players are assessed and mitigated, what are the plans for the future, how they detect extremist content, and what are the current policies to address them.
The answers presented here in full were, according to Trahan, unsatisfactory as companies avoided some of the most urgent and important questions. Also, according to the deputy, these companies are not making enough efforts in the fight against online toxicity, objectively analyzing games and communities. According to the statement, the topics avoided are:
- 9 out of 14 companies did not mention policies or actions to be taken to mitigate the effects of extremist content;
- 7 out of 14 companies did not mention how they work with the marginalized and vulnerable communities that generate the most hatred on the Internet;
- 8 out of 14 companies did not mention or do not have transparent reports about how common harassment and extremism is in their games.
It was the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) that compiled the data for Trahan’s investigation, stating that “the spread of white supremacy and other forms of extremism has also skyrocketed, with over 15% of players under 18 and 20% of adults claiming to have encountered white supremacists.” races on the Internet; this is more than double the previous year’s reports. In addition, 77% of adults and 66% of teens said they were harassed while playing online, including three in five children.
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