US Senator Maggie Hassan has despatched a letter to Valve boss Gabe Newell to precise concern about “extremist content material” on Steam, and to ask what Valve is doing to fight Nazism, white supremacy, misogyny, and different “hateful sentiments” shared on the platform.

“As the preferred and largest digital distribution platform for pc video video games, together with on-line neighborhood and communication options, Steam has great home and world attain and is utilized by pc online game gamers of all ages,” Hassan wrote within the letter, out there at Vice. 

“Disturbingly, Steam has a major presence of customers displaying and espousing neo-Nazi, extremist, racial supremacist, misogynistic, and different hateful sentiments. Valve needs to be taking steps to forestall dangerous content material, particularly given the connection between on-line feedback and violence within the offline world. Extremist content material on Steam, discovered after cursory key phrase searches utilizing phrases and pictures generally related to neo-Nazi, extremist, and racial supremacist ideologies, is pervasive.”

Hassan cited the “plain and unambiguous” use of the time period “88”—a widely known neo-Nazi reference to HH, or Heil Hitler—in consumer account and neighborhood teams in her letter, in addition to the widespread presence of symbols, pictures, and language related to the Third Reich. The prevalence of this content material is “extraordinarily regarding,” Hassan wrote, “particularly given the recognition that Valve present enjoys over its rivals within the videogame digital distribution ecosystem.”

The unmoderated presence of “hateful and dangerous ideologies” retains lots of its customers from taking part in its communities, out of worry of harassment, abuse, or threats, Hassan stated. Worse, permitting these concepts to flourish unopposed opens the door to “the very actual menace of violence in offline, bodily areas.”

“A current report by the Anti-Defamation League discovered that ‘almost one in ten avid gamers between ages 13 and 17 had been uncovered to white-supremacist ideology and themes in on-line multiplayer video games’,” she wrote. “With extremist ideologies and antisemitic violence on the rise all over the world, it’s incumbent upon corporations to observe the content material that customers introduce into their merchandise.”

Having laid out her case, Hassan put the query to Valve: Does the content material she cited in her letter violate Steam’s subscriber settlement, and in that case, what precisely is Valve doing to search out it and shut it down?

“Opposing the unfold of extremist and racist actions on-line needs to be one thing that every one can agree is necessary and guaranteeing that on-line leisure areas are secure and welcoming for everybody needs to be a prime precedence of online game makers and distributors,” Hassan wrote. She requested Valve to reply to her inquiries by January 15, 2023.

She’s not unsuitable: Steam is not the second coming of the Day by day Stormer, however there’s loads of Nazi-adjacent content material to be discovered, in customers, teams, and game titles. A few of it’s clearly facetious, however that may be a troublesome line to attract, particularly if you’re younger, remoted, and closely on-line.

(Picture credit score: Valve)

(Picture credit score: Valve)

(Picture credit score: Valve)

Steam has confronted this criticism earlier than. In 2018, we identified that Steam was internet hosting hate teams as a result of Valve wasn’t implementing its guidelines. Different platforms for on-line communities have confronted related criticism. Discord was additionally taken to job in 2018.

Valve is not the one game firm going through one other spherical of robust questions from US politicians about extremist content material. An Axios report says seven Democratic members of Congress have signed an analogous letter being despatched to Activision Blizzard, Digital Arts, Epic, Innersloth, Microsoft, PUBG Corp, Riot Video games, Roblox, Sony, Sq., Take-Two Interactive, Tencent, Ubisoft and Valve to inquire about their processes for dealing with extremism and harassment in on-line video games, and “ask for consideration of security measures pertaining to anti-harassment and anti-extremism.” The authors of that letter requested for a response by January 9.

I’ve reached out to Valve for touch upon Hassan’s letter, and can update if I obtain a reply.