ESRB Asked to Rate Toxic Online Communities by ADL

Published: September 23, 2021 11:14 AM /


The ratings used by the ESRB.

Recently, the Anti Defamation League published a report on harassment and online toxicity in 2021. As part of their recommendations, they asked the ESRB to provide metrics on in-game toxicity and extremism to help protect players.

In a report titled Hate is No Game: Harassment and Positive Social Experiences in Online Games 2021, the ADL states that while many of the players they surveyed enjoyed the social connectivity of gaming, especially with the pandemic, many of them also experience "a firehose of hate and harassment." The level of harassment players experience has been at "alarmingly high levels" for the third year in a row, and only seems to be increasing. Online hate is a problem many can attest to, such as the Twitch streamers dealing with hate raids. In the 'Recommendations section of their report, they provide a variety of suggestions to caregivers/educators, the government, civil society, and the gaming industry. Of particular note is one recommendation targeted towards the ESRB, known for rating games and sometimes accidentally leaking them when people see what they've rated.

The results of a poll asking young gamers where they experienced harassment in online games.
The results of a poll asking young gamers where they experienced harassment in online games. Note that at least 62% of all young players experience harassment in every game listed.

The ADL describes the ESRB as an "effective" means of helping players and parents understand what's in a game and how appropriate it is for certain age groups. Many online games often have a warning that online interactions aren't rated by the ESRB because such interactions generally depend on how nice the players are and how good the moderation is. However, there aren't any audits of such behavior in games. "Such audits would allow companies to include information and metrics about toxicity and extremism in their ratings, to allow players or parents of players to make informed decisions about potential exposure to harmful content or harassment." It can be tough to get a good bit of data on such a metric, given that it can be hard to tell what will bring out the best or worst in players, but such information would be very useful.

What are some of the other highlights of the ADL report?

  • For some of the other recommendations, the ADL also suggests addressing workplace toxicity, allowing independent audits of video games' content moderation, and supporting the research of game scholars and practitioners.
  • The appendix lists the results of various polls given to different age demographics of gamers. On the polls asking where players have experienced harassment, some of the highest-ranking games include Valorant, DOTA 2, and Call of Duty.
  • Harassment most often comes from in-game voice or text chat, along with gameplay, which the ADL defines as "throwing the game, being blocked by other players, etc.

What do you think of the ADL's suggestion of rating the toxicity of communities? Let us know in the comments below.


Have a tip, or want to point out something we missed? e-mail us at [email protected] or join us on Discord!