Valve Removes Nazi Steam Profiles After German Complaints

German extremist imagery that, for now, remains up on Steam (Image: Steam)

Far-right groups that often employed Nazi-inspired language have long been able to create ugly little dens on Steam without facing too much resistance. Last year, Valve quietly deleted many hate groups in the wake of sustained reporting from publications like Vice, but Steam’s owners weren’t comprehensive in their approach, leaving many questionable groups unscathed. Now a German regulatory body has said that it made the company delete over 50 instances of user-created Steam content that referenced Nazis.

German television and radio regulatory body the Media Authority of Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein (commonly abbreviated to “MA HSH”) said in a recent release that it got Valve to remove 30 user profiles and 28 wallpapers that it deemed illegal under German law, citing the country’s Interstate Treaty On The Protection Of Minors. It pointed to people with usernames like “Führer” and “Holocaust,” as well as groups with names like “Reconquista Germania.” It noted that in Germany, this kind of language is only permitted in “exceptional cases,” such as “if its use is for research or teaching, or if it is criticism or satire.” These profiles and groups, the regulatory body decided, were clear violations.

“With a few exceptions, Steam removed all content, including the group ‘Reconquista Germania,’ which in its group description demanded the extermination of world Jewry,” wrote MA HSH (via GamesIndustry.biz), as translated by Jalopnik features editor Raphael Orlove.

The regulatory body said Valve also promised that it would do a better job of training community moderators so as to prevent “future violations.” Kotaku reached out to Valve to learn more about its plans, but as of this publishing, the company had yet to reply.

In the meantime, it seems like Valve still has a ways to go when it comes to cracking down on hateful content. As with many tech giants, its current method is inconsistent and characterised by pressure from outside forces, whether that means news publications, regulatory bodies, or in recent cases, mass shootings. Valve is a massively wealthy company with vast resources, so it really has no excuse for its scattershot approach. And yet, as the MA HSH points out: “Steam is very popular with older children and adolescents because of its many options. However, right-wing extremists also use the platform to propagate their propaganda and recruit new followers.” 


Comments

    Valve is a massively wealthy company with vast resources, so it really has no excuse for its scattershot approach.
    It's still a monumental task considering the size of the platform. Or is it that you want them to automate it all? There's no way they can get human eyes on absolutely everything.

    At least if they automate it all, then you can have another article about how big bad Valve accidentally deleted profiles, etc, it shouldn't have, right?

    I mean it would add another to the ever growing collection of Nathan Grayson article's that follow the theme of, "Valve did this when they shouldn't have", "Valve didn't do this when they should have", "Valve should do what I want them to", "Valve's lack of doing (what I want them to) is unacceptable".

    But hey, at least Grayson acknowledges that removing what they have thus far is still actually a good thing... Oh wait, no, he didn't. Easy to gloss over when you're focused on axe grinding I guess.

    Seriously, the day Valve does something this guy can't put a negative spin on he'll probably fucking explode.

      I dunno, would it be that hard to have a list of these words (which could be updated as the language continues to morph) in some kind of filter that just pings an email to an address that a person can go through and say yay or nay to?

        For years companies have been using that sort of automated filtering that elevates flagged content to a human... And it still flags so much it shouldn't and causes issues non stop, especially with the human element only serving to further add to the mess by either being too lenient, or too strict. It's absolutely impossible to get everyone to agree on what is acceptable and what is not, which is the entire problem.

        Some people would have you banned for ever using certain words, context be damned. While others would actually spend two seconds to actually read the content, instead of just banning someone who was having a discussion about history.

        I'd argue a sufficiently advanced computer/AI would absolutely manage this sort of thing better than even the most diverse collection of human moderators ever could, but we're not there yet and it's unlikely we will be for a very long time... Even then you'd still have people disagreeing and thinking it's Skynet in disguise.

        It's simpler than that though. I've occasionally typied in words like "nazi" into the community search function for lols and found literally hundreds of hits. If I can do it, and the MA HSH can do it, then it really wouldn't take much for Valve to put one of their moderators on google duty occasionally to throw in a range of offensive search terms into their own engine and see what pops up. It doesn't take a mathematics degree, sheesh.

      See, you're 100% right, but because this particular issue the article is about is a hard one to oppose without being a dickhead (being pro-nazi speech or whatever) you're gonna get the downvotes.

    Neo-nazi and bogeyman 'far-right' LARPers aside, it's a bit concerning to see that German law can target accounts made by users who probably aren't based in Germany, going by the language they used.

    While the rest of the world doesn't have a say in it, I don't think it should be as far-reaching as this. I know that Russia passed a similar law to the German one right after Germany had passed the draconian NetzDG law, and other authoritarian-esque governments have expressed a desire to do the same, after Germany gave them the green light to do so.

    These sorts of laws would allow "democratic" nations to persecute random people who aren't even citizens, because they're breaking that nation's online content laws, by going after the companies hosting whatever content it is.

    Moaning about "muh (constitutionally implied) freedom of speech" aside I'm fairly certain certain that sort of material was already barred by Community Content guidelines for some time now. I recall Weev throwing a hissyfit on KiA because a moderator changed his display name, as it contained lightning emojis that were supposed to mimic the SS runes and 1488, explaining that it was against community guidelines. No doubt someone with common sense had reported him. The guidelines really only works if everyone works to police each other and report everything to the moderators that breaks guidelines, and I doubt most people read the guidelines at all.

    Honestly I'd have to wonder whether or not it's really Valves responsibility to police speech. I mean they aren't based in germany so german law shouldn't really apply. if it did an aweful lot of games would have to be removed from the store to cater to the Nazi specific laws.

    Even disregarding that, deleting and banning people on a platform that they spend money on is a little dodgy if they can't recover anything. It's not like twitter or facebook where the main draw of the service is free. valve accounts generally mean that people have invested actual money into things as well. Not saying I agree with what these people are saying but, there is no mention of warnings, restrictions or name filters (user names were apparently a problem).

    at the end of the day, all that's really accomplished is that a few chat groups disapear from one platform and show up in another one anyway with people just annoyed or amused at how it happened.

    valve never should have complied period... and i'm already downvoted but whatever here goes.

    Vice and their ilk like nathan see nazi everywhere they a peddling bullshit because it serves them to do so, germany needs to be told to fuck off and stop inflicting the rest of us with their self flagellation, in reality this is a handful of nazis and a bunch of edgelords, they will be back in some form in 20 minutes just like when discord bows to this crap which is why valve should have ignored it all anyway because in a few months the machine will start up again.

    Vice and nathan etc will be writing articles again about how nazis are all over steam blah blah blah valve banned a bunch of people because these people asked them too and it will just be used and ammunition against them saying that they dont do enough its the same story every god dam time. Discord is on its like 8th circuit of this bullshit and now valve has purchase the partner ticket... see u all back here again for round 2 in about 6 months

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