US lawmakers are targeting the problem of “harassment and extremism” in gaming

Zoom in / Sen. Maggie Hasan (D-NH) has asked Valve to add to the spread of neo-Nazi accounts and content on its Steam platform.

Members of the US Congress are once again turning their eyes to the gaming industry. But this time the focus wasn’t on loot boxes, Hong Kong, or even video game violence. Instead, lawmakers want to know what gaming companies are doing about “player reports of harassment and extremism encounters in your online games.”

The language comes from a letter seven Democratic lawmakers plan to send later today, as reported by Axios yesterday evening. Lawmakers — including Representatives Lori Trahan (D-Massachusetts), Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-) — are asking for more information about how these reports are handled, what data is collected on them, and what If companies have “anti-harassment and extremism security measures in place.”

The beneficiaries of the congressional investigation will reportedly include real identity from major video game publishers, including Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Epic, Microsoft, PUBG Corp., Riot Games, Roblox, Sony, Square, Take-Two Interactive, Tencent, and Ubisoft, and valve. Notably missing from that list is Nintendo, as are other Asian gaming giants like Bandai Namco, Sega, Capcom, and Nexon (not to mention Warner Bros. Interactive) of America. Between us The maker of Innersloth will also receive a copy of the letter, an addition that likely reflects the impact of that game rather than the size of the company.

Steam’s neo-Nazi problem?

Prior to that joint letter, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) is also taking particular aim at the spread of “users who display and espouse neo-Nazi, extremist, racist, misogynistic, and other hateful sentiments” on Valve’s Steam platform. In a letter he sent to Valve and obtained by Vice, Hassan points to the “rampant” use of “terms and images commonly associated with neo-Nazi, extremist and racist ideologies” on Steam.

“Exposure to symbols, visuals, words and phrases that are clear, visible, pervasive, and associated with racial supremacy, neo-Nazism, anti-Semitism, gender-based violence or harassment, homophobia, and other hateful and harmful ideologies restricts and discourages many Steam users from participating in communities free of harassing, abusive, and threatening behavior.” Hasan’s message came in part. “Moreover, allowing racist, extremist, anti-Semitic, and other hateful ideologies an unimpeded space in which they can thrive online allows for a very real threat of violence in physical offline spaces.”

Both letters cite a recent report by the Anti-Defamation League, which states that 15 percent of gamers ages 10 to 17 and 20 percent of adult gamers were “exposure to white supremacist ideology and themes” across multiplayer games in 2022. It has Those two numbers showed huge increases from 2021, according to the report, and the incidence of “identity-based harassment” against groups such as Jewish and Latino players increased.

The messages also come in the midst of the ongoing trial of David DeBaby, who allegedly attacked the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at their California home in October. DePape’s writings suggest that the Gamergate movement marked his entry into a world of increasingly paranoid right-wing conspiracies regarding Pelosis.

While both letters solicit responses from the companies, neither comes with any explicit threat of follow-up action if such requests are ignored. However, cooperation with lawmakers’ requests can pay off if and when it comes to future hearings, proposed legislation, and/or threats of executive branch action on these or other issues.

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