Press Releases

Trahan, Lawmakers Request Federal Update on Hate, Harassment, and Extremism in Online Games

LOWELL, MA – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Innovation, Data, and Commerce Subcommittee, led a letter from lawmakers to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting information on steps the agency is taking to mitigate hate, harassment, and extremism in online games.

“Late last year, the FTC took action to hold video games accountable for violating the rights of users. As you know, the Commission imposed a $275 million penalty against Epic Games after it was found to have violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and utilized dark patterns to trick users into making unwanted purchases,” the lawmakers wrote. “As the agency responsible for protecting consumer rights and safety, we request the FTC provide a written response…outlining the actions the Commission is taking to mitigate hate, harassment, and extremism in online games, and what legislative solutions Congress could provide to enable the Commission to better address these issues.”

In the letter, the lawmakers cite a recent report from the Anti-Defamation League that found online gaming companies’ trust and safety teams face numerous challenges trying to moderate hate, harassment, and extremism in their games. Most notably, the report found that trust and safety teams are routinely under-resourced and overwhelmed, and industry executives often do not understand the workload placed on these employees.

“To address the problem of hate and extremism in online games, we need a whole-of-society response. Online games are robust digital social spaces for people of all ages. It is incumbent on industry, civil society, and government to ensure they are safe, respectful, and inclusive spaces for vulnerable groups,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. “According to our research, we saw increases in severe harassment including physical threats, stalking, and sustained harassment across age groups. Even more concerning, in our first year of data on pre-teens ages 10-12, nearly three out of four experienced harassment in online games. We are eager to discover what plans the Federal Trade Commission is putting in place to hold game companies accountable and push back on this trend, and how Congress can best support its efforts. Once again, we applaud Rep. Trahan and her colleagues in the House and Senate for continuing to bring attention to this important issue.”

The letter sent today follows a request from Trahan and lawmakers late last year to online gaming companies about what actions they have taken to limit the proliferation of hate, harassment, and extremism in their games. Another report from the Anti-Defamation League found that 77 percent of adults and 66 percent of teens have reported experiences of harassment while playing online games over the past year, and three out of every five children between the ages of 10 and 12 years old reported experiencing the same kind of in-game harassment. A majority of gaming companies who received requests failed to describe substantive steps being taken to mitigate these rising harms.

Additional signers of the request sent today include Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Adam Schiff (CA-30), Katie Porter (CA-47), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-16), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), and Annie Kuster (NH-02). A digital copy of their letter can be accessed HERE.