There are rules that people must agree to before joining Unloved, a private discussion group on Discord, the messaging service popular with gamers. A rule: “Don’t respect women.”
For those inside, Unloved serves as a forum where some 150 people embrace a misogynistic subculture in which members call themselves “incels,” a term that describes those who identify as involuntary celibates. They share some harmless memes, but they also joke about school shootings and discuss the attractiveness of women of different races. Users in the group, known as a server on Discord, can enter smaller rooms for voice or text chats. The name of one of the rooms refers to the rape.
In the vast and growing world of gaming, it’s easy to find views like these, both within some games and on social media services and other sites, like Discord and Steam, used by many gamers.
The leak of a trove of classified Pentagon documents on Discord by an Air National Guardsman who harbored extremist views prompted renewed attention to the gaming industry’s $184 billion margins and how discussions in their online communities can manifest themselves in the physical world.
TO reportpublished Thursday by the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, underscored how deeply entrenched misogyny, racism and other extreme ideologies have become in some video game chat rooms, and offered insight into why. people who play video games or socialize online seem to be particularly susceptible to such views.
People who spread hate speech or extreme views have a far-reaching effect, the study argued, even though they are far from the majority of users and occupy only sectors of some of these services. These users have created virtual communities to spread their harmful views and recruit impressionable youth online with hateful and sometimes violent content, with relatively little public pressure faced by social media giants like Facebook and Twitter.
Researchers at the center conducted a survey in five of the world’s top gaming markets — the United States, Britain, South Korea, France, and Germany — and found that 51 percent of those who gambled online reported encountering extremist statements. in games that featured multiple players during gameplay. last year.
“It may well be a small number of players, but they are very influential and can have a huge impact on gamer culture and people’s experiences in real-world events,” said report author Mariana Olaizola Rosenblat.
Historically dominated by men, the gaming world has long grappled with problematic behavior, such as GamerGate, a long-running harassment campaign against women in the industry in 2014 and 2015. In recent years, video game companies have promised to improve their work cultures. and recruitment processes.
Gaming platforms and adjacent social networking sites are particularly vulnerable to the reach of extremist groups due to the large number of impressionable young people who play the game, as well as the relative lack of moderation on some sites, according to the report.
Some of these bad actors speak directly to other people in multiplayer games, such as Call of Duty, Minecraft, and Roblox, using voice or in-game chat features. Other times, they turn to social media platforms, like Discord, which first rose to prominence among gamers and has gained wider appeal ever since.
Among those surveyed in the report, 15 to 20 percent who were under the age of 18 said they had seen statements supporting the idea that “the white race is superior to other races,” that “a race or ethnicity in should be expelled or eliminated” or that “women are inferior”.
In Roblox, a game that allows players to create virtual worlds, players recreated Nazi concentration camps and massive re-education camps that the Chinese communist government built in Xinjiang, a majority Muslim region, according to the report.
In the World of Warcraft game, online groups, called guilds, also advertised neo-Nazi affiliations. On Steam, an online game store that also has discussion forums, a user named himself after the main architect of the Holocaust; another incorporated anti-Semitic language into his account name. The report discovered similar usernames connected to players in Call of Duty.
Disboard, a volunteer-run site that displays a list of Discord servers, includes some that openly advertise extremist views. Some are public, while others are private and invite-only.
Yours truly labels himself Christian, nationalist, and “based,” slang which has come to mean that he doesn’t care what others think. His profile picture is Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character hijacked by white supremacists.
“Our race is being replaced and rejected by the media, our schools and the media are turning people into degenerates,” the group’s invitation for others to join reads.
Jeff Haynes, a gaming expert who until recently worked at Common Sense Media, which monitors online entertainment for families, said: “Some of the tools that are used to connect and foster community, encourage creativity, encourage interaction they can also be used to radicalize, manipulate, pass on the same kind of heinous language, theories and tactics to other people.”
Game companies say they have cracked down on hateful content, placing bans on extremist material and recording or saving audio of in-game conversations for use in potential investigations. Some, like Discord, Twitch, Roblox, and Activision Blizzard, the creator of Call of Duty, have implemented automatic detection systems to find and remove prohibited content before it can be posted. In recent years, Activision has banned 500,000 accounts in Call of Duty for violating their code of conduct.
Discord said in a statement that it was “a place where everyone can find belonging, and any behavior that goes against that goes against our mission.” The company said it banned users and shut down servers if they displayed hate or violent extremism.
Will Nevius, a Roblox spokesman, said in a statement: “We recognize that extremist groups are resorting to a variety of tactics in an attempt to circumvent the rules on all platforms, and we are determined to stay one step ahead of them.” .
Valve, the company that runs Steam, did not respond to a request for comment.
Experts like Mr. Haynes say the fast-paced, real-time nature of the games creates enormous challenges in controlling illegal or inappropriate behavior. Nefarious actors have also been adept at dodging technological hurdles as fast as they can be erected.
In any case, with three billion people playing around the world, the task of monitoring what is happening at all times is practically impossible.
“In the next few years, there will be more people playing than there are people available to moderate game sessions,” Haynes said. “So in many ways this is literally trying to put your fingers in a dam that has holes in it like a lot of Swiss cheese.”