The Anti-Defamation League, which previously sought to outlaw the OK sign and Pepe the Frog, is now setting its sights on hate speech in video games. The gaming community can be toxic, but ADL-level censorship is not the answer.
Issues when it comes to the gaming community are never easy to tackle. Especially when it comes to the way that people decide to speak online. It goes without saying that inhibitions are dialed down on the internet. People will often speak in a way that they never would in public, when they realize they wont get fined, arrested, socially canceled or struck down by God if they drop a racist or homophobic slur. There were moments of playing Call of Duty 4 years ago where Id mute every single person whenever Id enter a match. The last thing I wanted to hear when shooting terrorists was some thirteen year old squawking like hes Richard Spencer at Charlottesville.
There are absolutely reprehensible things that are said on the internet. You can browse 4chan for ten seconds to realize that. But when it comes to gaming, especially competitive match environments, trash talk is almost part of the deal. People do it, and some tend to take it too far. Thats undisputable. Whats also undisputable is that there are already methods in place to deal with it. There exist mechanisms for reporting and banning players who break community rules which in virtually any game with a chat (voice or text) include prohibitions against racism, homophobia and other ways of inciting hatred.
Are those measures perfect? No. It goes without saying that, from the developers perspective, it probably feels like herding cats. But these arent idiots who are developing these games. They have experience and they have the agency to make their own rules for their own games and the interactions within.
Whether or not gamers feel safe with the community rules and the way they are enforced, they can decide for themselves by choosing or refusing to invest their dollars and their time in a given studios product. Ultimately, the fact of the matter is if you dont want to deal with other people in multiplayer outside of the competition, you dont have to.
Enter the Anti-Defamation League.
The Anti-Defamation League is a non-profit organization that works to combat anti-semitism and bigotry.
They are also the guys who branded Pepe the Frog as a hate symbol just because some online morons decided to photoshop it into something offensive and saw alt-right hate code in the OK sign and the word Boogaloo.
Oftentimes, theyre seen making public declarations whenever a public person says something particularly nasty. Other times theyre doing things that seem rather pointless, like hosting a virtual panel about xenophobia and Coronavirus. They also were rather infamously involved in the most recent adpocalypse at YouTube, where they were brought in to consult and fight hate speech.
Theres no reason not to believe the ADL will not take the same sledgehammer approach to gaming. Their ability to ignore context has already been demonstrated in the Gamesindustry.biz interview with Daniel Kelly, the assistant director for the ADLs Center for Technology, when it was first reported that the organization is preparing its foray.
The norms that come up in the qualitative research is that women and people of color go into game spaces and just turn off the mic and don't speak, because they know if they speak, they'll be identified, targeted, and harassed. That's just the reality of how they play, Kelly said.
Heres the reality. Everyone gets that sort of treatment online. Men are just as likely to receive online harassment as women, and video games are no different. Trash talk exists, and its not a pretty thing.
Kelly is worried that the video game industry fights hate by adopting the tactics of Facebook or Twitter circa 2006 . as if the Twitter and Facebook of today have it all figured out and are not suffering from excess censorship and liberal moderator bias.
There have been attempts at applying woke censorship to games before, and they have shown that those trying this approach have zero understanding of the environment and that actual gamers have zero wish for such interventions. If Bully Hunters was unnecessary, and if Anita Sarkeesians nonsense was unnecessary, then so is the ADLs.
Its certainly not fun for a twelve-year-old to tell me hes going to throw me in Auschwitz, but I can mute him because a developer thought of that ahead of time.
What you also notice is that, in the interview, the ADL is mum when it comes to the means of helping games. Thats because theyre not developers. Theyre protesters. They dont have a solution outside of censorship. Maybe they want something genuine, like less hate in the world. Maybe they want more control over peoples speech. If its the former, theyre terrible at what theyre trying to do. If its the latter, theyre sinister.
Though the systems already in place arent perfect by any means, the fact that the ADL isnt coming into it with anything aside from platitudes comes across like a power play, not genuine concern. If the ADL knew what to do from the get-go aside from doing something about hate speech they would have said it already.
To put it succinctly, the ADL is trying to bully its way into a situation that it has no business in on the assumption that companies like Valve and Blizzard have no clue what theyre doing. Id ask this of the ADL. Of your organization, Valve, and Blizzard, which is the one that makes money off of innovation? I think they can handle things themselves.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
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