The unironically named ADL (Anti-Defamation League) have for some reason decided to go hard against gaming in general, and one of gaming’s biggest platforms in particular.
That platform is Valve’s game digital distribution service Steam, which is portrayed in a post on the NGO’s website as a place harboring dangerous criminals and radicals, including anti-Semites and potential mass shooters.
At the same time, Steam is said to be both a leading “storefront and social platform” for PC gamers, who are reportedly a large demographic, present in at least 75% of US households. Building further the case of why it’s important to better control goings-on on Steam, the gaming industry is described as raking in more money than both movies and music giants each year.
In ADL’s view, Steam is not alone in enabling radicals: decentralized social network Gab and encrypted messaging app Telegram are also mentioned in this extremely negative light. But, Steam is much bigger and therefore ostensibly more “dangerous” and in need of more serious “attention.”
The ADL’s own survey from 2019 said it established that 29% of Steam users who responded said they encountered white supremacists on the service. But the blog post admits that “outside of these survey results, the evidence of the widespread extremist recruiting or organizing in online game environments remains anecdotal at best.”
But even with this in mind, ADL still singles out Steam as that platform where Americans “experienced the most harassment” – again, quoting to its own survey.
Having set the scene in this way, the piece then goes into explaining the nature and business of Valve’s platform, and the way it handles communities and moderation, i.e., censorship of its platform.
Apparently, not well, as the likes of Vice and HuffPost are quoted as in the past finding some Steam users who glorify Nazi symbols and are prone to racism, sexism, homophobia, and the like.
Steam then introduced what they said was intentionally vague policy, stating that everything would be allowed on the Steam Store, “except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.” User-flagging and removal of nearly 180 games followed, but those and other steps taken since have clearly not been enough for the ADL.
(And ADL also has a problem with memes used on the service, saying they are a form of “bigoted humor and irony.”)
For all these reasons, Valve and Steam are urged to undergo “a significant change of focus and culture (…) and of their approach to platform governance both in terms of policy and practice.”
“These would be the same steps mainstream social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, have been implementing and refining for at least a decade, adapted to the specific nature of the Steam platform,” ADL spells it out.