Valve Is Quietly Deleting Hate Groups, But It Isn't Solving Steam's Big Problem

Valve is notorious for a lot of things, but beyond not releasing Half-Life 3, one thing stands out: Its hands-off, often silent approach to running the world's biggest PC gaming platform, Steam. This has landed the company in hot water in the past, but in the face of calls to crack down on user groups that glorify things such as Nazism, white supremacy and school shooters, Valve has yet to speak up.

Illustration: Tara Jacoby

Over the past couple of weeks, sites such as Motherboard, The Center For Investigative Reporting and Huffington Post have dropped damning reports about the state of Steam groups and curators. The author of the HuffPo report has said that he'd uncovered "thousands" of groups and accounts that claimed to "be Nazis, defend school shooters, and spout racist and violent bile", while The Center For Investigative Reporting said it had uncovered 173 groups that specifically glorified school shooting.

All three sites posted screenshots of numerous groups and curators with names such as "KILL ALL THE JEWS", "How to shoot up a school", and "Nationalsozíalismus". Some of these groups are likely memers trying to be edgy (something that's often functionally indistinguishable from tactics employed by sites such as the Daily Stormer to normalise their views), but others, like the latter, claimed to be serious about it. "Group for all Neo-Nazis and White [sic] Supermacists… Fuck jews. Fuck Blacks. Fuck Islam," read the now-defunct page's description. Some of the school shooter-related pages even reportedly contained posts mentioning specific locations, plans and weaponry. Last year, The Daily Beast discovered racist rantings from school shooter William Edward Atchison on Steam, as well.

Given the current national dialogue in the US about racism and rise in school shootings, this is an incredibly bad look for Valve. In the wake of the most recent round of Steam-related revelations, the conversation has filtered up to more mainstream publications, even prompting a petition on activist website Care2 titled "Tell this online platform that hate is not OK". The petition had nearly 25,000 signatures as of today.

And yet, Valve remains silent on the issue and has for quite some time. Motherboard points out that it hasn't received a single comment from Valve since it first started reporting on this issue in October 2017. Kotaku has also reached out to Valve about hate speech and moderation on a few occasions in the past year - most recently this week - and heard nothing back.

Valve does, however, have a habit of quietly removing specific hate groups any time they're mentioned in the press - something Motherboard has noted in its own reporting on more isolated incidents. It seems, however, that Valve made its biggest crackdown yet within the past two weeks, as every group linked in the aforementioned articles now presents an error message that reads, "this group has been administratively disabled", and specific searches for the screenshotted groups turn up zero results. Meanwhile, searching terms such as "Nazi" and "school shooter" now yields groups that are largely opposed to those things or, in the case of the latter, hardly anything at all.

That said, Steam still contains quite a few groups and users who profess to racist or otherwise hateful leanings. For example:

Daily Stormer affiliations, mentions of "purges", overt racism against black and Jewish people - it's still there. You just can't find it by searching "Nazi" any more.

Valve's crackdowns, then, while a step in the right direction, continue to be inconsistent at best. And while other platforms such as Discord and Twitch make explicit statements against hate and create specific rules that prohibit it, Steam remains in a nebulous grey area.


Comments

    In not sure why Steam should have to make a statement on crackdowns and cleaning house for the benefit of others.

    Frankly it only tends to legitimise both extremes anyway and a grey nebulous area better represents the majority rather than furthering the unrealistic idealology that there is currently a line that you have to belong on either side of.

      Because these days, saying nothing is basically the same as saying you approve the behaviour.

        Yep. Silence is acceptance.

    I don't exactly understand what Grayson wants - what difference does it make if Valve comes out and says "Hey everyone, hate is bad"? These groups are against the community guidelines but like anything else Valve will rely on reporting for it to come to their attention. If they don't have the resources to sift through the absolute trash that gets submitted to Steam by way of games, then they definitely don't have the time to sift through trashy groups too.

    The undertone of the article seems to be that unless there's explicit denial then Valve are somehow complicit with or endorse these groups - which is a complete load of rubbish.

      On top of that, there's the fact Valve barely say anything about anything... They have a long and well established precedent of saying nothing at all.

      I mean really, what issues doesn't Valve stay silent on? That'd be a much shorter list.

      But the whole "If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem!" shit definitely has to go.

      But Valve do have the resources though. They just barely do anything until it suits themselves or becomes a problem.

        On the one hand, I agree - Valve could pull together a proper team and fix Steam, because I agree with your later comment that Steam is currently shit and Valve don't care because it's an easy way to make money. And I agree that they generally don't do anything until the public makes enough noise for it to happen.

        But I disagree about them having the resources. There's an awful lot of stuff on Steam, and I doubt that their current team could effectively sift through it to proactively weed out shit groups (or games, for that matter). That said, I don't believe they make any attempt to do so and instead want to harvest the Steam community by having them report shit content. Unfortunately, the Steam community is toxic, so it doesn't work very well.

          Seriously, it's not that hard.

          Start with a simple keyword search for "Nazi", or any other well known term associated with hate speech and anti-social behaviour. Do what every single under employed games blogger has been able to do with half hour and a 500 word article deadline.

          Once the obvious stuff is gone then, sure, let's have another chat, but at the moment this stuff is completely, unapologetically out in the open and proud of it.

    I can't wait for the day that Steam is seen for what it is, A controlling monopoly that ain't no good for the industry, Drm via a lousy client, Managed by a company that checked out years ago, Some of their best games weren't efen made by them becomes it's Valve, What exactly is their day to day goals if they don't make or curate games.

      Oh spelling mistakes, I'm tired, Sorry for the tone of my reply.

      What are their goals? As far as I can tell, it's to make money from being the most accessible platform on which to sell games. That seems to be their primary goal.

      They have market penetration and they make it *easy* to purchase games. The store front is still a mess, and they allow some pretty toxic behaviour, but steam is easy to use.

      It's simple to buy a game. It's simple to find games in your library. It has tie ins from lots of other websites which means its essentially the defacto standard for purchasing games.

      It seems to me that the reason Valve checked out is because they don't NEED to do anything in order to maintain their market position. Everyone hates individual publisher storefronts because they mean a fracturing of the game library and their DRM solutions have historically been more oppressive and anti-customer. GOG is the only potential real competitor in terms of offering content from multiple publishers but it still flags far behind.

      Valve isn't pushing itself to innovate or excel because it doesn't need to.

        ...and their DRM solutions have historically been more oppressive and anti-customer.
        Origin is basically the same DRM platform as Steam except by EA... and they recognise Australian Consumer Law (which Valve have explicitly tried to circumvent), and has had a better return policy than Steam (up until recently, depending on circumstances). And yet nobody liked it because it's EA and it's not Steam. Not only that, but Steam is just one layer of DRM upon which developers insist on layering additional DRM.

        It's got nothing to do with DRM or anti-consumer attitudes and everything to do with Steam being first, and it's been beaten into people such that "No Steam, no sale!" is something people unironically chant. And yet it was hated when it first came out, go figure. Steam is the defacto standard but even if an objectively better system was presented, nobody would use it. It's the Windows of the DRM world.

        It's sad when we've delivered them a oligopoly willingly and are actively hostile to any threat. That's why Valve don't need to innovate or excel - because they know we won't tolerate alternatives, no matter how much better they are.

          You've pretty much described every single nationalistic wingnut leader around the world today. SAD!

          Origin .... nobody liked it because it's EA and it's not Steam.
          Yeah, that's because EA are anti-consumerist dicks. Valve might be shit with refunds, but EA is predatory in pretty much every other way, even after you get into the game itself. Not to mention their long-standing business practices of buying and then destroying dev houses.

          I dislike EA so much that a game has to be *really* good before I will justify giving them any money, simply because as an entity, their priorities are so heavily skewed towards profit rather than the customer, the quality of games, or the craft of creating games. There are almost certainly people who work at EA who care about those other important things, they just don't seem to wield any power. Until that changes, I'll continue to vote with my wallet. Also, I don't find Origin any better to use than Steam.

          I'll prioritise buying games from GOG or other places where it's reasonable to do, but a lot of the time Steam is simply the easiest/quickest/cheapest method to obtain a game.

    Honestly, I don't know if I'm going to give Valve my money anymore. I'll play what I have already, but it's time for me to start sourcing other avenues or just using clients like Uplay, who have been fucking great to deal with.

      I dont buy ubisoft games purely because of uplay.

      Seriously, give GOG a go. Despite the Steam inspired hate it's actually a pretty good client and as a bonus they'll let you import a good variety of games from your Steam library absolutely for free.

      And sheesh, what's with all the down-vote hate? People need to get a life.

        Jesus christ. Steam fanboys are really a thing, huh?

    So a nationalist group is a hate group now? Mmmmm okay mate.

      Yep, nationalist movements have a long history of being an outlet for nothing but hysterical, racist, jack booted, unapologetic fascists. As was accurately noted three centuries ago, patriotism is nothing but the last refuge of the scoundrel.

      Not exclusively no, but that one pretty much speaks for itself....

      Patriotism and Nationalism aren't the same thing.

    These comments say what I was thinking when I first read this. Why do Valve have to say anything? They're clearly deleting the hate groups. That should be enough.

    Happy, mod?

      They're only deleting the groups pointed out to them by the mainstream media. As the article notes, there are thousands more and Valve have done nothing as simple as a keyword search to discover them. That's not moderation, that's public relations media management.

        I agree that Valve needs to be more proactive here and in many other facets of its service, but let's not muddy the water with pretence.

        These groups were removed because they were reported by the community, the very moderation system that Valve employs and nobody should be unaware of nor the scale that system represents.

        If we were talking about public relations media management, it's far more likely that Valve would have delivered a statement, and as this article clearly states, that is what's being demanded of them through the implication of complacency and support despite their actions.

        To me it appears that Valve is making a very clear statement, both in action andsilence.
        That it will act on reports and remove hate speech as well as not be shame baited in to declaring which side of a nonexistent battle line it stands on nor will it be complacent and supportive of the self serving and self legitimising faux political Ouroboros.
        The idea that all your chips must be on one extreme minority or automatically be placed in the other is a fallacy that doesn't represent reality and only serves the purpose of dividing the majority and shifting the frame.

        Action speaks louder than words and loud words will never equate to action.

          They weren't "were removed because they were reported by the community", they were removed because they were reported in the mainstream gaming media.

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