Hundreds of gamers and activists are coordinating on Discord and Reddit to plan Gamers for Freedom protests in defense of free expression
Hundreds of gamers and Internet activists are coordinating online to plan major protests at Activision-Blizzard’s annual conference, BlizzCon, which starts November 1st in Anaheim, CA. The protest organizing has only intensified after Blizzard issued a statement where it attempted to quell backlash by reducing its punishment of Hong Kong based professional gamer Blitzchung, but doubled down on it’s absurd policy that bans all forms of political speech and free expression.
The protest is part of the GamersForFreedom.com campaign that Fight for the Future unveiled last week, which features a scorecard to keep track of which companies have publicly pledged to not censor players the way Blizzard did, and which companies may already be caving to pressure from authoritarian governments.
Fight for the Future is calling for the protests to be nonviolent and creative, encouraging participants to show up with umbrellas, in relevant costumes, and with signs and banners focused on free expression for all. The group is crowdfunding to support the protests, and has an online petition for those who cannot attend
"Decisions about how to moderate online speech are some of the most important decisions of our generation, and have profound implications for the future of humanity. Companies should not be making these decisions under pressure from ANY government, whether it’s China, the US, or the UK," said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future (pronouns: she/her), "Blizzard’s attempt to quell this controversy is cowardly and it’s only going to backfire. This is not just about Blitzchung or Hong Kong –– they need to make a clear commitment to not act as the speech police on behalf of governments in general. A blanket ban on all political speech is inherently at odds with basic free expression. It’s taking sides with the status quo, and those who wish to suppress free speech. How you determine what is "political" is a political decision in and of itself."
"This is not going away, she added, "Blizzard, and other companies who are engaging in censorship on behalf of an authoritarian government, are not going to get away with it. They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they’ve unleashed. We’re going to make an example out of them to make sure that all companies know that throwing human rights and free expression under the bus to make some extra money will not be tolerated."
Like many others in the tech and gaming worlds, we were extremely disappointed to learn that Blizzard banned a professional gamer and confiscated his tournament winnings because he advocated for his own political freedom. But we’ve been encouraged to see the immediate, widespread public backlash. And some game companies — such as Epic and Immutable — have made public pledges to never ban or punish their players for speaking about politics and human rights.
Dayton Young, Product Director at Fight for the Future, (pronouns he/him), added: "Gamers deserve to know which companies are willing to engage in censorship on behalf of authoritarian regimes and which companies will defend basic freedom of expression. Blizzard has engaged in blatant censorship and should immediately reverse its decision to ban Ng Wai Chung, restore his tournament winnings, and repair its relationships with the livestream casters. No gamers should be punished for expressing their views on politics and human rights. And no game company should ever ban or penalize players for advocating for their own political freedom. We call on all game developers and publishers to make a public commitment to support the rights of their customers, employees, and fans to freely express their beliefs in America, in Hong Kong, in China, and around the globe."
Fight for the Future is coordinating with gamers and activists in a Discord channel and across social media, where game fans from around the world have been voicing their outrage at Blizzard and planning their own creative protests for BlizzCon. More updates to come.