Over the weekend, video game publisher Blizzard banned professional Hearthstone player Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung from the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition after he showed support for the Hong Kong protests in an interview. The move was seen as an example of yet another US company bending the knee to China and led to heavy criticism and a mass boycott. Now Blizzard users who are attempting to participate in the boycott by closing their accounts are reporting that Blizzard has disabled all authentication and is preventing them from deleting their accounts.
Multiple Blizzard users are saying that when they try to close their account or request a copy of their personal data, they’re being presented with a message that reads: “Due to too many attempts. [Authentication method] has been locked. Please try another method for verification.”
So now Blizzard have disabled ALL FOUR authentication methods to actively stop people from deleting their accounts. This is beyond disgusting. Spread awareness of this. #BoycottBlizzard pic.twitter.com/AyUiABgMXD
— Charlotte Mather (@WingedAsarath) October 9, 2019
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Interesting… Trying to delete my Blizzard account and suddenly my authentication and SMS codes dont work. @BlizzardCS what this about.
— Reverend Niehlis The Unwiped (@Niehlis) October 8, 2019
"its not blizzards fault" please. They've gone as far as disabling authentication methods on accounts to stop people from canceling subscriptions, claiming its a bug to avoid legal trouble. Awfully conveniently timed bug.
— The Real St. Shitlard and 95 others (@Piment0M0ri) October 9, 2019
I did a request for my data involving my accounts with you, am getting denied on authentication. From the first try, I get the message "denied. too many attempts"…
Wtf you on about?
— ch1ppz🇨🇭🇱🇹🇺🇸 (@ch1ppz) October 9, 2019
Some of these users are also suggesting that Blizzard is doing this intentionally to stop people from closing their accounts or canceling subscriptions as the boycott against the company ramps up.
Other users have proposed an alternate theory – that Blizzard’s systems have been overloaded by mass account closure and data requests in the midst of the boycott.
It could be their services are so overwhelmed with all the unsubing that its shitting itself and cant process all this workload.
— LORDJESSIAH (@LORDJESSIAH) October 9, 2019
Regardless, the development is likely to add to the growing backlash the company has faced since banning blitzchung. In addition to the mass boycott, members of the Hearthstone community have proposed flooding Blizzard with General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR) requests and two US senators have called out the company.
Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions. China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone. https://t.co/Cx3tkWc7r6
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 8, 2019
Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck. https://t.co/rJBeXUiwYS
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) October 8, 2019
Blizzard employees have also reportedly walked out to protest the company’s ban of Blitzchung. And an American University team has protested by holding up a “Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizzard” sign during the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship.
American University Hearthstone team holds up "Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizzard" sign during Collegiate Hearthstone Championship. Blizzard quickly cuts their broadcast.#BoycottBlizzard #antitotalitarianism #antichinazi pic.twitter.com/xLqOJF7khK
— 大丁明😷 (@Jaytobb) October 9, 2019
Epic Games has also weighed in on Blizzard’s decision and said that unlike Blizzard, it won’t censor for China. However, given that Chinese conglomerate Tencent owns a 40 percent stake in the company, it remains to be seen whether it will follow through when tested on this principle.