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U.S. rep could legislate to challenge game companies over online harassment

Congresswoman Lori Trahan doesn't think game companies have been transparent enough about how they tackle online extremism.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

March 3, 2023

2 Min Read
A shot of the Capitol Building in the United States
Louis Velazquez (via Unsplash)

U.S. congresswoman Lori Trahan doesn't think game companies have been transparent enough about how they tackle online extremism within their player communities.

As a result, Trahan is exploring "possible avenues for legislative actions" that could shine a light how extremism exists in online games, and how it can be tackled.

As highlighted by Axios, the news comes after Trahan and other congressional Democrats asked game companies to lay out how the policies and procedures they use to curb harassment and extremism in their online games. That request was made after the Anti Defamation League released a report suggesting there has been a rise in hateful conduct in video games.

Although a number of major players, including Microsoft, Sony, EA, Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, and Ubisoft, responded to that request, it seems Trahan is disgruntled at a perceived lack of transparency and oversight. 

Time to "shine a light" on extremism in online games

summary of those responses (PDF) released by Trahan claims some companies failed to provide information on how they specifically identify and address extremism.

Others, such as Epic Games, Tencent, Take-Two Interactive, and EA, also reportedly declined to answer one question that asked what data companies collect on in-game player reporting mechanics and automatic bans for inappropriate behavior.

“I’m disappointed that the majority of companies failed to address some of our most urgent questions, including providing us with their policies around extremism, as well as transparency reporting around these topics," said Trahan in a statement picked up by Axios.

As a result, a spokesperson for Trahan said the rep is now exploring how legislative action could "shine a light on how extremism exists in online games and explore what can be done by regulators, companies, and gamers to better address the issue."

Responding to Trahan's assertions, Aubrey Quinn, a spokesperson for game industry trade group the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), said game companies take hateful conduct "very seriously." In a letter sent by the ESA to Trahan, the group added that politicians are creating a "false reality" about the prevalence of extremist behavior in games.

"Suggestions that playing video games expose players to ‘extremist’ behavior cause a false alarm and create a false reality," reads the letter. "The reality is that millions of Americans are engaging in fun, positive and valuable play on our platforms. That is because our members place a high priority on creating safe and inclusive environments. And where harmful behavior surfaces, our industry addresses it promptly."

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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