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Harassment Is Not Just a Gaming Problem, Says Lobbying Group Head

We're not law enforcement, the ESA's Michael Gallagher says, but we support law enforcement efforts.

Shutterstock / Stokkete

At the Games for Change Festival today in New York City, the president of the U.S. video game industry’s lobbying arm said online harassment isn’t something his member companies should have to solve alone.

Michael Gallagher, who runs the Entertainment Software Association, was responding to an audience question about what the ESA has done since October, when it issued a statement about Gamergate.

That statement, which nearly every company in the ESA has referred the press to in the months since, reads as follows:
“Threats of violence and harassment are wrong. They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community — or our society — for personal attacks and threats.”

The audience member asked what concrete steps the ESA had taken in the past six months.

“It’s important to understand the role of a trade association in this,” Gallagher said. “We’re not law enforcement.”

He praised the work of companies like Twitter that have tried to address how they deal with abuse, as well as efforts of law enforcement to track down individuals who have made threats. A real solution is beyond the game industry’s power, he said.

“The harassment issue is not a uniquely video game issue,” Gallagher said. “It is in this one circumstance focused on our environment. … We do stand with others who want to see the threats end, the harassment end and for civil discourse.”

Here’s the full text of Gallagher’s comments:

It’s important to understand the role of a trade association in this. We’re not law enforcement. What we do is convene and have discussions with leaders of other industry groups, and I think when you see companies like Twitter changing their policies about harassment and the language that’s used, and putting in some steps to mitigate that, I think that’s positive.

When our voice is added to others, saying this activity is not condoned, I think that’s very positive. You have … interest in working with law enforcement in trying to track down the people who are making these threats.

We stand for those efforts and believe that they’re very important, because this harassment issue is not a uniquely video game issue. It is in this one circumstance focused on our environment. But if you look, if you put “harassment on the Internet” into your search browser of choice — mine’s Bing, because Microsoft is a member — if you do that, you’ll get instances that span across the use of the Internet.

It’s not uniquely our challenge but we do stand with others who want to see the threats end, the harassment end and for civil discourse. We protect the First Amendment. That’s one of the things the ESA is known best for. We support all speakers’ rights, including those who are critical. This type of activity is just flat wrong, and it sucks. We’ve been clear about that and continue to be clear about that.

Gallagher also addressed the representation of women in the gaming industry’s workforce, after a different audience questioner insinuated that the ESA’s efforts were only a “drop in the bucket.” He cited a recent survey claiming that women were better represented in collegiate gaming programs than in other technical fields and said paving the way for the next generation of female developers will be key.

“Every ESA member is committed to diversity in the workplace and in the marketplace,” he said. “We’re proud to represent that viewpoint. We have a long way to go and we look forward to working with you to get there.”

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.