WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, Vice reported that Senator Maggie Hassan is calling on Valve Corporation, one of the largest video game developers and online distributors, to address rampant extremism, particularly antisemitism, on its Steam platform. The Senator’s letter, which includes screenshots of extremist imagery on the Steam platform, can be found here.
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By Matthew Gault
Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire has called out Steam and its owner Gabe Newell for the proliferation of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups on the platform. While the problem is not limited to Steam, it is the largest digital storefront for video games and also hosts numerous forums and community-created groups. Some of those groups use fascist imagery and post racist memes.
In a letter addressed to Newell, Sen. Hassan pointed to the extremist imagery on Steam and asked Newell about the platform’s moderation policies.
“Steam has a significant presence of users displaying and espousing neo-Nazi, extremist, racial supremacist, misogynistic, and other hateful sentiments,” the letter said. “[Steam owner] Valve should be taking steps to prevent harmful content, especially given the relationship between online comments and violence in the offline world.”
Extremist ideology in the gaming community is not new, and Steam’s groups specifically have long had a problem with celebrations of white nationalism, Nazis, and even school shooters. School shooter William Edward Atchison posted racist messages on Steam for years before killing two people and then himself in 2017. Steam also once hosted a community named after the accelerationist Atomwaffen Division that linked back to the group’s websites and videos.
The imagery and messages in these Steam groups are often in plain view. Straight references to white supremacist ideas is as common as ironic humor common in spaces where neo-Nazis are trying to mask their ideas. Hassan’s letter said she found a group that used symbols associated with the third Reich such as “photographs of, and references to, members of the Wehrmacht or Waffen-SS organization; Emblems of Waffen-SS divisions involved in war crimes, including the infamous 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.”
In other groups, Hassan found “plain and unambiguous references to the neo-Nazi term ‘88,’ referring to the letters HH, short for ‘Heil Hitler,’” and “the use of terms like ‘Blut and Ehre,’ a popular Nazi and neo-Nazi slogan, ‘Waffen-SS,’ ‘White Power,’ a white supremacist slogan, ‘Zyklon,’ an apparent reference to the pesticide gas used in Nazi extermination camps to carry out mass murder, and the use in combination of the numbers ‘14’ and ‘88,’ a reference to the white supremacist slogan ‘1488.’”
Hassan attached a sheet full of screenshots of some of the community groups and profiles that used this imagery and names. Some of the screenshots included URLs. Motherboard independently confirmed that these images are present in Steam’s community groups and found several other examples.
Valve did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.