The fact that Steam is extremely hands-off in regard to moderation isn’t really news. Readers will recall it was referenced in a video report last month, which called Valve’s approach to controlling things “chaotic neutral” according to former employees, and the only time the platform shifted its Hutt-like hide was last year’s move against crypto and NFT games. Meanwhile, hatred and extremism continues to be a problem on the platform as reported on in stories from 2018, 2019, and an ADL report from 2020; the platform’s only attempt at mitigation appears to be letting people handle it themselves.
That problem – as well as Valve’s years-long span of direct inattention – is now being directly targeted by New Hampshire Democratic Senator and senior member of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee Maggie Hassan, who sent a letter directly to Gabe Newell asking why neo-Nazi, extremist, and hate group content is proliferating on Steam, specifically in Steam groups.
Hassan writes that she was able to easily find “plain and unambiguous references” to neo-Nazi and white supremacist symbolism and ideology and attaching several screenshots of these examples taken from the platform. In the letter, she also asks several questions about what violates Steam’s rules, what its moderation processes are, and whether Valve has a moderation and safety team.
“Allowing racist, extremist, antisemitic, and other hateful ideologies an unimpeded space in which they can flourish online allows for the very real threat of violence in offline, physical spaces,” Hassan writes. “With extremist ideologies and antisemitic violence on the rise around the world, it is incumbent upon companies to monitor the content that users introduce into their products.”
This letter is a separate one from an earlier industry-wide letter that Congressional leaders co-signed, which asked similar questions about what game studios and publishers are doing to stop the rise of hate and harassment in their online titles and communities. As for this letter from Sen. Hassan, Steam is yet to issue any public statement.