Online gamers face physical threats, stalking and other abuse

Online gamers face physical threats, stalking and other abuse

In new ADL survey, 23% of respondents report being exposed to discussions about white supremacy

Illustrative: A gamer at a computer. (Dror Garti/Flash90)
Illustrative: A gamer at a computer. (Dror Garti/Flash90)

The majority of online gamers have faced some form of harassment, with more than half reporting having been targeted because of their race, sexual orientation or gender, a study released by the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday said.

According to the New York-based advocacy group, 65 percent of players have experienced severe harassment while gaming, while 74% of online multiplayer gamers have experienced some form of harassment. Fifty-three percent admitted to having faced bullying due to their race, religion, ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

In a finding that the ADL called “alarming,” it revealed that nearly 30 percent of respondents had been doxxed at some point. Doxxing is a practice in which a victim’s personal information, such as addresses and financial details, are posted online without permission.

“Video games are an important and extremely popular form of entertainment. Nearly two-thirds of US adults play games online, yet there are significant problems with hate, harassment and discrimination,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We see online multiplayer games as social platforms, and we need to fight hate on these platforms with the same seriousness as traditional social media — and for us that starts with quantifying the problem through studies like this.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on November 6, 2014 (courtesy ADL)

“Online hate causes real harm. Every time someone in an online multiplayer game physically threatens or harasses another player repeatedly because of who they are or what they believe, that experience doesn’t just end for that individual when the game is over,” he continued. “That’s why it’s imperative for industry leaders and policymakers to take action to prevent this poisonous ecosystem from overflowing and causing additional harm.”

Extremist ideologies are apparently becoming more widespread on online gaming platforms, with 23% of respondents reporting having been exposed to discussions about white supremacy. Nine percent of players reported exposure to Holocaust denial and 13% to 9/11-related conspiracy theories.

Jews and Muslims reported being harassed for their religious views in equal numbers, at 19%, while 38% of women and and 35% of LGBTQ players have also faced hate while gaming.

The ADL has previously released research tracking anti-Semitism on social media, asserting last year that “prior to the election of President Donald Trump, anti-Semitic harassment and attacks were rare and unexpected, even for Jewish Americans who were prominently situated in the public eye. Following his election, anti-Semitism has become normalized and harassment is a daily occurrence.”

Auschwitz prisoners are marched to the gas chambers in the “Cost of Freedom” video game. (Screen capture/YouTube)

A previous ADL study had estimated that about 3 million Twitter users posted or re-posted at least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets in English over a 12-month period ending in January 2018. In another study, the group found that 37% of Americans overall had “experienced severe online hate and harassment in 2018, including sexual harassment, stalking, physical threats or sustained harassment.”

In February, Jewish Agency chief Isaac Herzog denounced online hate in a speech to American Jewish leaders.

“The real dirt of the world comes up from the killing fields of social media,” he said, describing social platforms as a collective “hotbed of the lunatics of the world.”

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