In mid-December, members of the US Congress sent signed letters to major game companies about what they’re doing to combat the rise of online extremism in video game communities. While the letter wasn’t compulsory, it turns out that only nine of the 14 companies replied with details about what they’re doing to fight the threat.
The information comes from statements out of the office of Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), one of the Congressional members who signed the letter, which specifically noted replies by Sony, Tencent, and Epic Games, as well as one reply from Roblox Corp that claims to have a dedicated team reviewing terrorism and violent extremism – the same team that let ISIS-themed worlds stay around long enough for a Singapore teen to be detained for suspected radicalization.
In her statement, Rep. Trahan expressed her disappointment that “the majority of companies failed to address some of [Congress’] most urgent questions,” while a spokesperson for her office says she is “actively looking at possible avenues for legislative actions to further shine a light on how extremism exists in online games and explore what can be done by regulators.”
The Entertainment Software Association rushed to breathless defense of game companies, sending letters to Congress about steps the gaming industry has taken to combat online extremism and issuing a statement of its own that suggests leaders are crying wolf.
“Suggestions that playing video games expose players to ‘extremist’ behavior cause a false alarm and create a false reality,” reads its statement. “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.”
Of course, as readers will recall, this is not just a few representatives of the United States government raising the alarm; no less than the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism conducted a wide-ranging research effort and report on the topic, finding that terrorists are specifically targeting the gaming space to find and breed recruits.