Press Releases

Trahan Leads Request to Top Gaming Companies on Proliferation of Harassment and Extremism in Online Games

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led a group of Democratic members requesting information from top gaming companies about their efforts to combat rising hate, harassment, and extremism in their online games.

“We know that online games, like the ones you create, are widely used spaces where millions of people overwhelmingly report experiencing positive social behaviors and find a sense of community and belonging with other players. However, they are also spaces where hate, harassment, and extremism can proliferate, and we are concerned about the total volume as well as the increase in player reports of these negative encounters,” the lawmakers wrote. “Given the rise of extremism – especially white supremacist ideology – around the world, it is important that online video game developers work to stop the spread of harassment and extremist ideologies that proliferate on their platforms.”

An Anti-Defamation League report released last week found that 77 percent of adults and 66 percent of teens have reported experiences of harassment while playing online games over the past year, marking a six percent jump since last year for both age groups. Three out of every five children between the ages of 10 and 12 years old reported experiencing the same kind of in-game harassment.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the proliferation of white supremacy and other forms of extremism has also increased dramatically, with 15 percent of gamers under 18 years old and 20 percent of adults reporting encounters with white supremacy while online. The level of adult exposure to white supremacist ideologies is more than double what gamers reported just a year ago. The dramatic increase is cause for concern since online games have become active tools for extremists looking to recruit young gamers to their causes, and extremists as recently as the Buffalo supermarket gunman have cited games as critical to their radicalization.

“Online Multiplayer Games are more than media and entertainment outlets–they are social spaces where people of all ages connect through concerts, protests, conversations, and more. Sadly though, ADL research has shown for the fourth year in a row that these spaces are being increasingly filled with hate and harassment,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. “To date, online multiplayer game companies have not received the same level of scrutiny for these harms as traditional social media companies have. It’s time for players, parents, lawmakers, civil society, and communities to require more from the companies who profit off players’ interactions. We applaud the work of Rep. Trahan and others in Congress to bring this issue to light and call for accountability from online multiplayer game companies.”

The letters sent today were addressed to the following companies:

  • Activision Blizzard, Inc. (Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch)
  • Take-Two Interactive (Grand Theft Auto Online)
  • Riot Games (League of Legends, Valorant)
  • Epic Games (Fortnite, Rocket League)
  • PUBG Corp (PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds)
  • Valve (DOTA 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive)
  • Microsoft (Minecraft)
  • Sony (Destiny 2)
  • Electronic Arts (Apex Legends, Madden NFL)
  • Ubisoft (Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege)
  • Square Enix (Final Fantasy XIV Online)
  • Tencent (Clash Royale)
  • Innersloth (Among Us)
  • Roblox (Roblox)

The letters request answers to the following questions by January 9, 2023:

  1. How are you assessing and mitigating the risks and harms of in-game harassment and extremism in your online games? What plans do you have to further address this issue?
  2. What mechanisms do you have in-game and externally (such as official websites, forums, and support pages) for players to report in-game harassment?
  3. How are player reports of in-game harassment handled, how large is the team that reviews those reports, and what automated tools are used in-game and by your review team? What investments are you making in ensuring the development and improvement of these systems?
  4. How do you integrate feedback from groups that represent communities most impacted by online hate and harassment into the process of improving reporting in your games?
  5. How do you identify extremist content in your games? Can you specify which of your currently existing policies address extremist content?
  6. What data do you collect on in-game player reporting mechanisms and automatic bans for inappropriate behavior? Will you consider releasing those data in regular transparency reporting?

Additional cosigners of the letters include Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Katie Porter (CA-45), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Susan Wild (PA-07), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Adam Schiff (CA-28), and Elissa Slotkin (MI-08).

A digital copy of the letters can be accessed HERE.