You’re right in the middle of an online battle when suddenly someone starts threatening you.  It goes way outside the bounds of any acceptable behavior.  The harasser might target your ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.  They might spew hate speech or start rambling about extreme views.

If you’ve done any multiplayer online gaming, no doubt you’ve encountered this at some point.  The feeling of anonymity gives players a sense that they can say anything and many of them talk without restraint.  Don’t think you’re the only target though.  The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Technology and Society says 65% of players have experienced “severe harassment.”  They define this as physical threats, stalking, and sustained harassment that goes beyond a one-time attack.

“Online hate causes real harm. Every time someone in an online multiplayer game physically threatens or harasses another player repeatedly because of who they are or what they believe, that experience doesn’t just end for that individual when the game is over,” said Jonathon Greenblatt, ADL CEO in a news release.

In total 74% of multiplayer gamers have experienced some form of harassment.

The study shows a troubling trend where harassers shared personal or private information about their target without consent.  It’s called “doxing” where someone makes public personal info such as someone’s real name, address, or phone number.

It’s not just personal attacks either.  A significant number of players report been exposed to hate speech, propaganda, and extremism.  Nearly a quarter of players had heard comments about white supremacy.  8% reported hearing statements of support toward ISIS.  9% heard comments denying the Holocaust.

Researchers examined more than a thousand gamers on 15 online gaming platforms.

Five Games Where Players Were Harrassed Most Often

In each case, 75% of the players surveyed reported being harassed in each of these five games with DOTA 2 gamers faced the most harassment at 79%.

  1. Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2)
  2. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  3. Player Unknown Battlegrounds
  4. Overwatch
  5. League of Legends

“At ADL, we see online multiplayer games as social platforms, and we need to fight hate on these platforms with the same seriousness as traditional social media,” said Jonathon Greenblatt, ADL CEO.

Many jurisdications don’t have laws that address the problem or provide remedies.  When things do turn serious, though, there have been arrests.  A Long Island man was arrested after losing a Fortnite:  Battle Royale match and threatening to shoot an 11-year old that beat him.

“I am going to find you with a gun. You dead. I will come to your house tonight and f***your world up,” he allegedy threatened in a message.  A subsequent threat, according to multiple sources, threatened to find the child at school and kill him.

You can read the ADL report here.