A new study published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Center for Technology and Society found that online gaming has a serious problem with incidents of hate and harassment.
Examining moderation across three private servers for the popular online game Minecraft, the ADL in collaboration with Take This, Gamersafer and the Middlebury Institute's Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism found that one-in-four moderation actions are in response to hate and harassment.
“As with many online games, we’ve found that large numbers of Minecraft users experience hateful speech and harassment while using the platform,” AD CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “From this snapshot, it is clear that Minecraft and the gaming industry broadly must do more to ensure their online spaces have robust community guidelines and that they provide researchers access to more data and information on its servers.”
The research found that many offenders were repeat offenders, with nearly one fifth of offending users having had multiple actions taken against them during the data collection.
They also discovered that hateful messages were 21 percent more common in public chats rather than in private chats, and that messages with “identity-based hate” were 21 percent more prevalent in public chats.
“Servers with in-depth community guidelines were associated with more positive social spaces. Of the three servers reviewed, the server with the most extensive community guidelines and highest ratio of moderators to players had the lowest frequency of sexually explicit, hateful, and severely toxic behavior between users, suggesting the positive impact of robust guidelines,” ADL said.
The study found that temporary bans were an effective way to punish offending behavior, and that bans were more effecting than muting in decreasing hateful behaviour by gamers.
“Hateful rhetoric is common in gaming spaces. The presence of slurs previously only affiliated with white nationalism and hate groups suggests the normalization of extreme language in gaming spaces,” ADL said. “A previous survey published by ADL last year revealed that extremist messages continue to be a concern in online games: One-in-10 young gamers and 8 percent of adult gamers were exposed to white supremacist ideologies in online multiplayer games.”
To better address the issue, ADL recommended that Minecraft take several actions: Invest in content moderation and improve community guidelines; increase researcher access to data; conduct additional research on content moderation and techniques for enforcing rules; and standardize reporting categories for moderation reporting across the gaming industry.