Extremism Finds Fertile Ground in Chat Rooms for Gamers

One server tags itself as Christian, nationalist and “based,” slang that has come to mean not caring what other people think. Its profile image is Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character that has been appropriated by white supremacists.

“Our race is being replaced and shunned by the media, our schools and media are turning people into degenerates,” the group’s invitation for others to join reads.

Jeff Haynes, a gaming expert who until recently worked at Common Sense Media, which monitors entertainment online for families, said, “Some of the tools that are used to connect and foster community, foster creativity, foster interaction can also be used to radicalize, to manipulate, to broadcast the same kind of egregious language and theories and tactics to other people.”

Gaming companies say they have cracked down on hateful content, establishing prohibitions of extremist material and recording or saving audio from in-game conversations to be used in potential investigations. Some, like Discord, Twitch, Roblox and Activision Blizzard — the maker of Call of Duty — have put in place automatic detection systems to scan for and delete prohibited content before it can be posted. In recent years, Activision has banned 500,000 accounts on Call of Duty for violating its code of conduct.

Discord said in a statement that it was “a place where everyone can find belonging, and any behavior that goes counter to that is against our mission.” The company said it barred users and shut down servers if they exhibited hatred or violent extremism.

Will Nevius, a Roblox spokesman, said in a statement, “We recognize that extremist groups are turning to a variety of tactics in an attempt to circumvent the rules on all platforms, and we are determined to stay one step ahead of them.”

Valve, the company that runs Steam, did not respond to a request for comment.

Experts like Mr. Haynes say the fast, real-time nature of games creates enormous challenges to policing unlawful or inappropriate behavior. Nefarious actors have also been adept at evading technological obstacles as quickly as they can be erected.

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