US Senator Maggie Hassan has sent a letter to Valve boss Gabe Newell expressing concern about “extremist content” on Steam and asking what Valve is doing to combat Nazism, white supremacy, misogyny and abuse. other “hate sentiments” shared on the platform. .
“As the most popular and largest digital distribution platform for computer video games, including online community and communication features, Steam has considerable national and global reach and is used by gamers across computer video games of all ages,” Hassan wrote in the letter, available on Vice (opens in a new tab).
“Disturbingly, Steam has a significant presence of users displaying and espousing neo-Nazi, extremist, racial supremacist, misogynistic and other hateful sentiments. Valve should take steps to prevent harmful content, especially given the relationship between online commentary and violence in the offline world Extremist content on Steam, found after quick keyword searches using terms and images commonly associated with neo-Nazi, extremist and racial supremacist ideologies, is ubiquitous.
Hassan cited the “simple and unambiguous” use of the term “88” – a well-known neo-Nazi reference to HH, or Heil Hitler – in user account and community groups in his letter, as well as the common presence of symbols, images and language associated with the Third Reich. The prevalence of this content is “extremely concerning,” Hassan wrote, “particularly given the popularity that current Valve enjoys relative to its competitors in the digital video game distribution ecosystem.”
The unmoderated presence of “hateful and harmful ideologies” prevents many of its users from participating in its communities, for fear of harassment, abuse or threats, Hassan said. Worse still, allowing these ideas to flourish unopposed opens the door to “the very real threat of violence in offline physical spaces.”
“A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League found that ‘nearly one in ten gamers between the ages of 13 and 17 have been exposed to white supremacist ideology and themes in online multiplayer games'” , she wrote. “With extremist ideologies and anti-Semitic violence on the rise around the world, it’s incumbent on companies to monitor the content users put into their products.”
After laying out her case, Hassan posed the question to Valve: does the content she cited in her letter violate Steam’s subscription agreement, and if so, what exactly is Valve doing to find it and close it?
“Opposing the spread of extremist and racist activity online should be something that everyone can agree is important and ensuring that online leisure spaces are safe and welcoming for everyone should be a top priority of video game manufacturers and distributors,” Hassan wrote. She asked Valve to respond to her requests by January 15, 2023.
She’s not wrong: Steam isn’t the Daily Stormer’s second coming, but there’s plenty of Nazi-adjacent content to be found, in users, groups, and game titles. Some of them are clearly facetious, but that can be a hard line to draw, especially when you’re young, isolated, and heavily online.
Steam has faced this criticism before. Back in 2018, we pointed out that Steam was hosting hate groups (opens in a new tab) because Valve was not enforcing its rules. Other online community platforms have come under similar criticism. Discord was also taken to task in 2018 (opens in a new tab).
Valve isn’t the only game company facing another round of tough questions from US politicians over extremist content. An axe (opens in a new tab)Our report says seven Democratic members of Congress signed a similar letter sent to Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Epic, Innersloth, Microsoft, PUBG Corp, Riot Games, Roblox, Sony, Square, Take-Two Interactive, Tencent, Ubisoft, and Valve. to inquire about their processes for dealing with extremism and harassment in online gaming, and “request review of security measures relating to countering harassment and extremism.” The authors of this letter requested a response by January 9.
I have contacted Valve to comment on Hassan’s letter and will update if I receive a response.