A new study by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) warned that one in five adults reported being exposed to white supremacist ideologies in online games in 2022, with Jewish gamers experiencing the most harassment.
The ADL Center for Technology & Society called the results of the survey a “startling increase” from the 8 percent who reported exposure to extremism in 2021.
The Hate and Harassment in Online Games survey also found that 15 percent of young people ages 10-17 reported being exposed to discussions of white supremacist ideologies in online games, including popular games such as Call of Duty, Fortnite, Grand Theft Auto, PUBG: Battlegrounds, Valorant and World of Warcraft.
“White supremacists and extremists are pushing their ideas into the mainstream across society, including online games,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “We know that what starts online doesn’t always end online. It can have deadly consequences in our communities. Online gaming companies have the ability to better moderate their content, but most have fully abdicated any responsibility to protect users and their communities.”
The study found that adult users also experienced a sharp increase in identity-based harassment, with Jews being the most likely to be targeted (34 percent compared to 22 percent in 2021) along with Latino (31 percent compared to 25 percent in 2021) and Muslim (30 percent compared to 26 percent in 2021) gamers.
The study noted that overall, women experienced the most identity-based harassment at 47 percent, but this number has declined since 2019.
Severe harassment — including physical threats, stalking, and sustained harassment — increased from 71 percent to 77 percent of adults, a figure representing nearly 80 million Americans.
“As online gaming becomes ever more common in America, it also becomes an increasingly common entry to extremist ideas and the gateway to violent antisemitism, racism, misogyny and more,” Greenblatt said. “While there is no doubt there are positive benefits for millions of gamers, these benefits must be balanced with the unmitigated spread of hate and harassment running rife in these games.”
The report concluded with detailed recommendations for the gaming industry, government, civil society, caregivers and educators to address online hate and harassment. These recommendations included releasing consistent transparency reports on hate and harassment; submitting to regularly scheduled independent audits; strengthening and enforcing moderation policies; improving reporting systems; and supporting targets of harassment by building content moderation tools for in-game voice chat.