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65% of online gamers face threats, stalking, other 'severe harassment'

New study from the ADL shines light on the ugly side of online gaming.

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Online game players are also exposed to extremist ideologies and hateful propaganda, according to the ADL.
Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty Images

Online gaming may be popular and fun, but it's not without pitfalls. More than 70% of online gamers have experienced some form of harassment, according to a survey released Thursday from the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Technology and Society. And 65% of players said they've experienced "severe harassment," including physical threats, stalking and sustained harassment.

"Online hate causes real harm," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a release. "Every time someone in an online multiplayer game physically threatens or harasses another player repeatedly because of who they are or what they believe, that experience doesn't just end for that individual when the game is over." 

Among online gamers who experience harassment, 53% reported being targeted based on their race, religion, ability, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity, according to the ADL. Nearly 30% also report being doxed, which means having their contact or other personal information published online. The ADL also said that some gamers reported being exposed to "extremist ideologies and hateful propaganda."

Harassment and bullying in gaming isn't new, but the ADL study highlights that there's still a lot of work to be done to tackle the problem. EA in June held its first Building Healthy Communities Summit, where it brought together 230 gaming influencers to discuss ways to combat harassment. In May, Microsoft posted its community standards, and committed to more moderation tools to help people avoid toxic players. 

For each of the 15 online games included in the ADL survey, at least half of players reported experiencing some form of harassment. The five games where players reported the most harassment were: DOTA 2 (79%), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (75%), PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds (75%), Overwatch (75%) and League of Legends (75%). 

However, online gaming isn't all negative: 88% of gamers said they've experienced some form of positive social interaction, like making friends, while playing online multiplayer games, according to the ADL. Thirty percent of players reported feeling like they belonged to a community in an online game.

The ADL worked with data analytics firm Newzoo to survey 1,045 US adults ages 18 to 45 who play games across PC, console and mobile platforms. The surveys were conducted from April 19 to May 1.

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Originally published July 25, 6:53 a.m. PT:
Update, 10:45 a.m. PT: Adds more background and information from ADL survey.