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Staying Safe: Harassment and Online Gaming

Discussion in 'WoW Stratics Announcements' started by WoWNews, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. WoWNews

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    Jul 17, 2008
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    I wrote this a while back for a different online game, but the information is just as important here and I thought it would be a good idea to share this article with all of our players. A good friend of mine was the victim of online stalking and harassment in an online game. Because of her experience, it prompted me to write the article before you after doing some research via wikipedia and WorldofWarcraft.com.

    Though it is infrequent there are occasions, even in the gaming world where one may encounter a person or player that oversteps their bounds and behaves in a manner that may be deemed as harassment. I feel this is an important thing to talk about, regardless of how infrequent. It is always better to be safe when online as this is a game and is meant to be enjoyable.
    Now, because of the fact that this is an online game, it can be considered harassment by computer and is illegal in numerous states. Not quite the same as stalking because in most cases, stalking typically requires two or more contacts. Where in cases of harassment by computer, it may just be one incident. Unlike regular harassment, online harassment is different because the acts committed may include a range of various crimes that would not normally be considered harassment if done in person. To get a clearer picture, per wikipedia here are some definitions on the types of harassment:


    Harassment that can occur on the playground, school, in the workforce or any other place. Usually physical and psychological harassing behavior perpetrated against an individual, by one or more persons.

    Psychological harassment

    This is humiliating or abusive behavior that lowers a person’s self-esteem or causes them torment. This can take the form of verbal comments, actions or gestures. Falling into this category is workplace mobbing. Community Based Harassment - stalking by a group against an individual using repeated distractions that the individual is sensitized to, such as clicking an ink pen.

    Racial harassment

    The targeting of an individual because of their race or ethnicity. The harassment's include words, deeds, and actions that are specifically designed to make the target feel degraded due to their race of origin or ethnicity.

    Religious harassment

    Verbal, psychological or physical harassment's used against targets because they choose to practice a specific religion. Religious harassment can also include forced and involuntary conversions.

    Sexual harassment

    Harassment that can happen anywhere but is most common in the workplace, and schools. It involves unwanted and unwelcome, words, deeds, actions, gestures, symbols, or behaviors of a sexual nature that make the target feel uncomfortable. Gender and sexual orientation harassment fall into this family.


    The unauthorized following and surveillance of an individual, to the extent that the person's privacy is unacceptably intruded upon, and the victim fears for their safety.


    To persecute, harass, or torture in a deliberate, calculated, planned, manner. Typically the targeted individual is a subordinate, for example, a fraternity pledge, a first-year military cadet, or somebody who is considered 'inferior' or an 'outsider'. Hazing is illegal in many instances.


    Backlash or 'victim blaming' occurs when the harasser or other people in the environment blame the victim for the harassment, or the resulting controversies and conflicts after the harassment is reported or discovered. Backlash results when people erroneously believe the victim could stop the harassment if they really tried, or that the victim must have done something to cause the harassment. The victim may be accused of trying to get attention, covering for incompetence, or in cases where the harassment is proven, lying about the extent of the effects. "Old school" attitudes about certain kinds of harassment remain and there are in many circumstances social pressure for victims to "keep their mouths shut" about abuse or suffer the consequences.

    Per Blizzard in World of Warcraft there are different types harassment and they are based on the level of severity:

    Words are powerful tools. Throughout your travels in Azeroth, you will be using these tools to achieve your goals, whether those are finding the perfect group to help you with a quest or getting a great price on that dagger you have had your eye on. As anyone who has hit their thumb with a hammer well knows, tools can cause great pain when used incorrectly. Words are no different. The use of inappropriate and offensive language in general, or against another player is not allowed. We reserve the right to evaluate each incident on a case by case basis and take action as necessary. To help prevent the harassment of other players, we have implemented an array of in-game tools that players can use to help protect themselves from such abuse.
    • The Ignore command: By typing /ignore (character name) the player will no longer hear any form of standard chat from the character name being ignored.
    • The Mature Language Filter: By default, all inappropriate words in our profanity database will be filtered. They will appear on screen as jumbled characters. Example: &*@#$
    Below are guidelines to help you determine whether or not the language you have chosen is appropriate for the World of Warcraft. Hopefully, we encompass all manner of barred language; however there may be inappropriate language that does not fit into any of these categories. We reserve the right to evaluate each incident on a case by case basis, and in extreme cases, take action beyond what is detailed here.

    Highly Inappropriate

    Language which falls under the following categories is deemed to be highly inappropriate. Clarification on what constitutes each category can be found by clicking on the links below.
    Extreme Sexuality/Violence
    Real-Life Information and Threats
    Sexual Orientation

    Though we have varying tolerance for repeated abuse of each category, any language that violates one of these categories will most likely result in:

    • Being given a warning
    • Being temporarily suspended from the game
    • Possibly being given a Final Warning, any further ToU violations resulting in account closure

    Moderately Inappropriate

    Language which falls under the following categories is deemed to be moderately inappropriate. Clarification on what constitutes each category can be found by clicking on the links below.
    Zone/Area Disruption
    Harassing or Defamatory
    Major Religions Religious or Figures
    Illegal Drugs or Activities

    Though we have varying tolerance for repeated abuse of each category, any language that violates one of these categories will most likely result in:

    • Being given a warning
    • Being temporarily suspended from the game if the behavior continues

    Other Categories

    There are two other categories of harassment that are not necessarily related to the language used. These are listed below.

    Physical Harassment
    We have taken great strides to ensure all physical harassment (i.e. stealing resource nodes, kill stealing, training) is addressed or being addressed by the development team. Forms of physical harassment in the game will not be addressed by the GM staff, but instead with a development resolution, if warranted. This however does not include abusing game mechanics/exploiting or disrupting zones/areas to cause another player grief or distress.
    Ongoing Harassment
    Harassment takes many forms, and is not necessarily limited to the type of language used, but the intent. Repeatedly targeting a specific player with harassment, either physical or verbal, can lead to more severe action. The idea behind this is to prevent any one player from consistently being made uncomfortable in the lands of Azeroth.

    Situational Factors

    The action we take may be more lenient or more severe than those listed for each category. One major factor in considering what action to take is the number of people who the language is visible to. We have broken this factor up into three categories, listed below.
    We consider language to be public when said in the "General" and "Trade" channels as well as with the "yell" command. Since comments in these forums are visible to the largest number of players, we take harassment in these channels very seriously. Abuse of language in these mediums will receive at least the penalty listed above, if not additional repercussions.
    One-to-One or One-to-Few
    This group includes private "whispers", player-created chat channels, and the "say" command. Though we enforce all rules in these forums, the number of people affected will be taken into consideration, and penalties may not be as harsh as stated above.
    Guild Chat
    Since your participation in guild chat is "at will," we take a much more lenient stance in these forums. Only the most severe harassment (i.e. Racial/Ethnic, Extreme Sexual/Violence, Real-life Threats) will be considered.

    • Repeatedly violating any area of the Terms of Use (ToU), including the areas detailed above, will often result in temporary suspension from the game.
    • This policy is not language-restrictive. Language that falls under this policy will always be subject to the repercussions listed, whether it is inappropriate in English or any other language.
    • Players found to be in violation of the above policies will have an E-mail sent to the account's registered E-mail address with any details regarding their account penalties.

    The bottom line is that we want World of Warcraft to be a fun and safe environment for all players. World of Warcraft is an MMORPG, and the key words are "Massively Multiplayer." In playing this game, you will encounter thousands of other players who share different experiences and come from vastly different backgrounds. While certain language may not be offensive to you, consider the fact that that same language may have a completely different effect on someone else. We've done everything we can to make this a great game but now it's up to you, the players, to breathe life into the world. Choose wisely my friends.

    These guidelines do help when handling the basic offenses, but what about when it goes beyond this. For example when a player is asked to be left alone and the person stands outside their in game home. With the ability to stealth and hide in game it can make it easier for a person to watch and "stalk" another player. The fact that the game allows for anonymity also may embolden the offender. In the eyes of the law it would still be considered a form of harassment. This is a form of what is called cyber stalking and some basic elements of how one may do this per wikipedia are listed below:

    False accusations

    Many cyber stalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim and turn other people against them. They post false information about them on web sites. They may set up their own web sites, blogs or user pages for this purpose. They post allegations about the victim to newsgroups, chat rooms or other sites that allow public contributions, such as Wikipedia or Amazon.com.

    Attempts to gather information about the victim

    Cyber stalkers may approach their victim's friends, family and work colleagues to obtain personal information. They may advertise for information on the Internet, or hire a private detective. They often will monitor the victim's online activities and attempt to trace their IP address in an effort to gather more information about their victims.

    Encouraging others to harass the victim

    Many cyber stalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment. They may claim the victim has harmed the stalker or his family in some way, or may post the victim's name and telephone number in order to encourage others to join the pursuit.

    False victimization

    The cyber stalker will claim that the victim is harassing him. Bocij writes that this phenomenon has been noted in a number of well-known cases.

    Attacks on data and equipment

    They may try to damage the victim's computer by sending viruses.

    Ordering goods and services

    They order items or subscribe to magazines in the victim's name. These often involve subscriptions to pornography or ordering sex toys then having them delivered to the victim's workplace.

    Arranging to meet

    Young people face a particularly high risk of having cyber stalkers try to set up meetings between them.
    Behaviors of a cyber stalker:
    Cyber stalkers meet or target their victims by using search engines, online forums, bulletin and discussion boards, chat rooms, Wikipedia, and more recently, through online communities such as MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and Indymedia, a media outlet known for self-publishing. They may engage in live chat harassment or flaming or they may send electronic viruses and unsolicited e-mails. Victims of cyber stalkers may not even know that they are being stalked. Cyber stalkers may research individuals to feed their obsessions and curiosity. Conversely, the acts of cyber stalkers may become more intense, such as repeatedly instant messaging their targets.
    More commonly they will post defamatory or derogatory statements about their stalking target on web pages, message boards and in guest books designed to get a reaction or response from their victim, thereby initiating contact. In some cases, they have been known to create fake blogs in the name of the victim containing defamatory or pornographic content.
    When prosecuted, many stalkers have unsuccessfully attempted to justify their behavior based on their use of public forums, as opposed to direct contact. Once they get a reaction from the victim, they will typically attempt to track or follow the victim's internet activity. Classic cyber stalking behavior includes the tracing of the victim's IP address in an attempt to verify their home or place of employment.
    Some cyber stalking situations do evolve into physical stalking, and a victim may experience abusive and excessive phone calls, vandalism, threatening or obscene mail, trespassing, and physical assault. Moreover, many physical stalkers will use cyber stalking as another method of harassing their victims.

    Now I only touched the surface of how, even in a game one may be at risk. Remember that there is a Terms of Use in place for the game and violations are penalized and upheld by the law. However, one must make sure if they are the victim of harassment, even in the gaming world that they take appropriate action. Make sure you have asked the offender to stop. When doing this be very clear and then remove yourself from contact. Luckily, World of Warcraft allows you to "ignore" other players, in these cases, use it!
    Save everything, though it would be great to just turn your back and delete all contacts and communications, don't. Keep chat logs, ICQ's etc., any and all form of communication. If the offender created a web site about you, save copies of it to your local system and get a trusted friend or relative to do the same and would be willing to testify in court. If phone correspondence is made, have your local phone company trace it, immediately. Speak with authorities and have them take any other correspondence such as mail etc.
    The problem one normally faces here is speaking with the proper authorities, who do you go to? In World of Warcraft, start with Blizzard, make sure you read their Terms of Use and contact the appropriate party. Same thing if a web site is created, contact the host, and follow the appropriate actions to have the situation dealt with. If the person is using a messing service (i.e. Yahoo, AIM, ICQ, etc.) contact them and follow their policy guidelines to stop the offensive behavior. Do not forget, make sure you keep track of all these communications as well. There is nothing like a good paper trail!
    To be safe even online, one must be aware to protect themselves. There are preventative measures one can take to help avoid and prevent things like this from occurring like using a free email service and only use that email for online related correspondence. Also, only give your primary email to close friends and loved ones. Make sure you ignore unwanted users, like I said earlier we are lucky to have this feature available in game. Never volunteer personal information, this can open the door for you to become a victim.
    If you find yourself in a conflict situation, walk away, do not respond or engage in it. If you do this, you are allowing yourself to be drawn into the situation further and giving the offender exactly what they want, a reaction. Taking this away in most cases will make them move on to a new target.
    If an area becomes stressful, leave the area. I recommend this for boards etc. as well as they are used as a form of communication and may allow a person to continue the behavior. Especially in the gaming world, as they are used often to encourage safe interaction. Yet, it only takes one person to twist that and use it against another player.
    Sometimes, one must change to avoid this situation. If it comes to that change completely, make sure you use no former traces of anything you used in the past whether for characters, email and so forth. Also watch what you say online, in the gaming world it is easy to just chat but try and make sure that whatever you say it is something you can say to a person's face regardless of whether or not you say it in game. I also wish to reiterate one last and important point, never ever give out you user name and password to anyone!