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Online Harassment While Gaming On US Lawmaker's Minds

Source: Activision / Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

Playing video games is fun but can also be a toxic experience. US lawmakers are making it their business to find out why online harassment is prevalent and what is being done to address it.

Several members of congress penned a letter to 15 of the top video game publishers on Friday, Dec.16, wanting to know how they intend to respond, and curb extreme online harassment while playing video games.

A draft of the letter was published on Thursday by Axios, and it uses the latest “Ha”e and Harassment in Online Games from the Anti-Defamation League as its source.

The report claims “[a]n estimated 2.3 million teens were exposed to white supremacist ideology” while playing online matches in games like Fortnite, Roblox, Apex Legends, and Madden NFL.

“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,” seven Democrat lawmakers said. “Authorities around the world like the United States Department of Homeland Security and the EU’s Radicalisation Awareness Network are taking notice and launching investigations into how extremists use online gaming spaces to radicalize young people.”

P”r AxiAxios’porting, the letter was to be sent to corporate management of Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Microsoft, Riot Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Square Enix, Take-Two Interactive, Tencent, Ubisoft, Valve Corp., the makers of Among UsRoblox and PUBG. 

Nintendo, strangely was not included in the list of companies.

The lawmakers are curious about the data the companies collect “on”in-game player reporting mechanisms and automatic bans for inappropriate behavior.”

Top Game Publishers Have Taken Action, But It’s Not Enough

Right now, Roblox Corp. is the only company with “an explicit, public-facing policy against extremism,” t”e report indicates.

Microsoft shared last month its first report on online moderation, behavior seen and reported on Xbox Live, and actions it has taken to address the issues.

Despite those actions, “hate and extremism in online games have worsened” following the release of a 2020 report, the ADL says. The current report collects data on the  “harassment experienced by pre-teens ages 10-12.”

Nobody knows more about online harassment than Black gamers. Our very own Bernard ‘Beanz” Smalls and other Balck gamers spoke to The Verge about the rampant racism they experienced while playing Red Dead Redemption online as Black characters.

Games like Call of Duty are a hotbed for racism and racial slurs regularly spewed by its players. Former NBA player Meyers Leonard was caught using an antisemitic slur while streaming on Twitch.

He apologized for his actions but was eventually traded by the Heat in March 2021 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who opted not to pick up his option letting him become a free agent, and he has not seen an NBA court since.

It will be interesting to see if those several congress members turn up the heat if they are unsatisfied with what the companies have to say.

Photo: Activision / Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

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