The Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Technology and Society assistant director Daniel Kelley indicated the organization is specifically gearing up to tackle “hate and harassment” in video games with a specific focus on Valve.
As Reclaim The Net notes, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is no stranger in going after companies when it comes to stamping out what they claim as “hate.”
In June 2019, the ADL’s CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt confirmed they were working with YouTube to “counter hate.”
Greenblatt stated, “Online hate and extremism pose a significant threat — weaponizing bigotry against marginalized communities, silencing voices through intimidation and acting as recruiting tools for hateful, fringe groups.”
He added, “That’s why ADL has been working with technology companies, including YouTube, to aggressively counter hate on their platforms. We were glad to share our expertise on this and look forward to continuing to provide input.”
Greenblatt concluded, “While this is an important step forward, this move alone is insufficient and must be followed by many more changes from YouTube and other tech companies to adequately counter the scourge of online hate and extremism.”
As for one of their next objectives, Kelley makes it clear it’s video games and they plan on specifically targeting Valve in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.
One of the biggest issues he thinks the gaming industry faces is the fact that they aren’t just creating a product, but many of them are also creating online spaces.
He explained, “The game industry is creating social spaces. Online games are social spaces, so the responsibility for the form that hate and harassment take in those spaces is the responsibility of the companies that make those games.”
“I think it’s important that companies use their public voice in this realm and put on their platform, ‘We don’t allow hate speech, and here’s what we mean by hate speech,” Kelly continued.
Kelly then stated, “There’s a lot more they could do, but if they had in place now was in place ten years ago, I think we’d be in a very different place.”
He then calls for the video game developers to work collectively and create a “ruleset around policy and enforcement.”
“If the game industry were able to come together and collectively — or with selected individual companies to start — really share data with the public and society about the problem, I think that would be a huge step forward. But of course to do that, they would need to create a ruleset around policy and enforcement on their platforms in ways that are much more robust than they have now.”
One of the methods he thinks is successful and should be more broadly adapted are reform policies that have been implemented by Roblox and the Fair Play Alliance.
“This is an area where I feel the game industry has done a lot more thinking than social media. In the social media world, there isn’t this discussion of how do we reform [bad actors]? I think that speaks more to games as a culture versus social media as platforms.”
Kelley continues to promote the idea of “reforming folks.”
“If we’re building this interactive space, how do we not just kick out the worst of the worst, but what is that pathway to radicalization, [or] the pathway to reforming folks in these spaces? It’s a super interesting question. It requires more research, and it requires more transparency from the game industry to say, ‘We tried X and it didn’t work. Or it did work, and here’s how you can replicate it in your game.”
One of the biggest trouble spots in the gaming world for Kelley is Valve, the company behind Steam.
“I would say Valve, absolutely. Valve has been actively pushing against this kind of work. At the same time Discord and Twitch were expanding their policies around hate, harassment, and extremism, that was around the same time [Valve] was like, ‘We allow anything except for trolling and illegal content.”
As Reclaim the Net’s Didi Rankovic notes, “As gamers will know, Valve is not even coming close to living up to that promise of allowing all that’s legal and is instead, like the rest of the industry, banning people and closing accounts on suspicious grounds.”
Nevertheless, Kelley believes Valve has a long way to go, “From my understanding, there are a lot of efforts going on at a lot of companies, but in my mind, [Valve has] the longest way to go.”
Valve wasn’t the only company Kelley took issue with. He also took issue with Blizzard specifically Overwatch.
“In our survey, 75% of people who played Overwatch experienced harassment. So it’s unclear to me at this point how efforts to make games more inclusive as media interacts with games as social spaces and the harassment we see in those spaces.”
As for what Kelley actually means by hate, he doesn’t provide any specific examples in the interview, although the article does include a swastika that was created in Fortnite.
While he doesn’t provide any examples, he points to his “qualitative research.”
“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.”
“But I think it speaks to the power of games that they do continue to play… The work we’re committed to here is changing norms so that everyone has the same chance to have the same deep, social, playful, enriching experiences that folks can have in that environment.”
What do you make of Kelley’s comments? Do you expect game developers and companies to work with the Anti-Defamation League to work on removing “hate” from video games?