Update, 10/16/2019: On Saturday, October 12, the president of Blizzard Entertainment, J. Allen Brack, announced that the suspension placed on Blitzchung — the Hearthstone player penalized for expressing his support for protesters in Hong Kong — had been reduced to six months and his winnings reinstated. While we applaud these steps forward, Blitzchung still faces suspension and the two stream casters who saw their contracts terminated have not been reinstated to their positions. To demonstrate unequivocally respect for its users’ right to freedom of expression, Blizzard must fully reverse these penalties and provide restitution, as we called for in our October 11 letter. Again, we urge Blizzard to clarify its policies and account for how they impact the human rights of its users, and we offer our assistance to ensure sustained attention to these issues.
Access Now urges Blizzard to demonstrate its respect for human rights and to reverse the penalties imposed on a Hearthstone player for expressing support for protesters in Hong Kong.
New York – Earlier this week, the gaming company Blizzard penalized a professional Hearthstone player, suspending him from the game and stripping him of his winnings for expressing support for the protesters in Hong Kong.
In an open letter to Blizzard, Access Now condemned the actions, calling on the company to reverse the penalties imposed on the player and the stream casters who covered the event. “By penalizing a player for supporting protesters, Blizzard demonstrates a lack of respect for the human rights of its users and the broader fight for freedom of expression and assembly,” said Peter Micek, General Counsel of Access Now. “Blizzard needs to reset its approach to human rights. Dissent should be playable by all gamers, not locked in a loot box, accessible only under vague corporate rules.”
As a major online gaming and user communication platform, Blizzard’s practices and policies have a direct impact on the human rights of its users. With that power comes the responsibility to protect and respect those rights. Yet, Blizzard’s vague policies grant the company wide discretion to arbitrarily penalize users.
“As a leading gaming and communications platform, Blizzard should proceed on courage rather than fear,” said Micek. “Transparency on Blizzard’s content moderation policy is the first step towards accountability to its stakeholders.”
Access Now called on Blizzard to account for its policies that affect human rights by answering the following questions:
- Does Blizzard commit to respect the freedom of expression of its stakeholders, including players and stream casters?
- What oversight does Blizzard’s leadership exercise over how the company’s policies and practices impact players’ freedom of expression and other human rights?
- Who is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the Competition Rules?
- What procedures do Blizzard employees follow in determining whether its rules have been violated?
- What channels are available to stakeholders, including players, to appeal determinations and comment on the Competition Rules?