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New research reveals online gaming’s bigoted username problem

Five games were analyzed: “League of Legends,” “PUBG,” “Fortnite,” “Overwatch 2” and “Call of Duty.”

Video game remote control. Credit: Lalesh Aldarwish/Pexels.
Video game remote control. Credit: Lalesh Aldarwish/Pexels.

One “League of Legends” player who chose an orange robot and panda for an avatar decided to call their character “1488 gas em,” flashing a white supremacist code word and Holocaust reference for everyone to see.

A new report from the Anti-Defamation League investigating the hate speech saturating online video games has discovered that while companies have tried to prevent racist or antisemitic usernames, less overt references can still appear.

“While game companies have filtered out some of the most obvious offensive terms and slurs, they have many holes in their filtering systems,” the researchers write. “CTS found that in addition to more obvious terms, newer terms and more abstract code words referring to white supremacist ideology are also not being caught by username filtering.”

Four other games were analyzed, including “PUBG,” “Fortnite,” “Overwatch 2” and “Call of Duty.” Of the five, the report showed that “Overwatch 2” generated “the fewest results when searching for offensive usernames. These results could indicate an effective policy against offensive usernames that could be adapted to other games.”

Additional racist usernames the research team found included “HeilHitler” in “Call of Duty” and “WhiteLivesOverBlk” in “PUBG.”

Other players created bigoted names that employed more recent and obscure terms to insult other groups. One “Fortnine” gamer called their character, also illustrated with a panda, “FemoidsGTFO,” using a slur against women that has emerged from the online “incel community.” Someone in “Call of Duty” used an insult against transgender persons in a username, “troonraider.”

The report concluded that companies had to do better to stay up to speed on linguistic developments among online bigots: “Given how hateful terms have dynamic meanings that often change depending on contexts and over time, game companies will need to keep track of how these terms are being used by extremists and other hateful actors.”

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