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Sexual harassment in Overwatch could become illegal in South Korea
Sexual harassment in online games like Overwatch may soon be punishable by law – at least in South Korea. A proposed bill from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family would make some types of toxic behaviour in gaming chat a crime.
The news comes to us via a Korean news source, so an iffy translation makes it hard to nail down the details – and it seems the bill itself has not been locked down just yet. Broadly, it seems the intention is to extend the punishments in place for workplace sexual harassment to non-working working areas, including online games.
Overwatch is specifically cited in the Naver article (spotted by Dot Esports) as a game where harassment is “rampant.” The game’s preference for voice chat over text chat is brought up, likely insinuating that vocal harassment is worth treating more seriously, though this is an area where it certainly appears detail is getting lost in translation.
Toxic behaviour in online games has been a problem from the beginning, and it’s only gotten more prevalent over time. It’s not always gendered, though it often is – and almost always becomes far worse as result. Developers have attempted to address the problem in different ways, including measures like Rainbow Six Siege’s auto-ban for toxic language.
That’s still several steps short of legal intervention, however. Blizzard reports a sharp downturn in Overwatch toxicity since endorsements were added, though it’s certainly not a solution that ends harassment in all its forms.
South Korean legislation would make online sexual harassment a criminal offense
According to a recent report from PCGamesN, South Korean legislators are considering a bill that would make sexual harassment in online games a crime punishable by law. The bill, which was introduced by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family’s Kim Su, seems to aim to amend a previously passed piece of legislation that defined the legal repercussions for sexual harassment in the workplace. The original article, from South Korean news site Naver, specifically highlights Blizzard’s popular team-based FPS Overwatch as a game in which sexual harassment is “rampant.”
This move from the South Korean government comes at a particularly salient time, as gaming studios and players alike continue to contend with toxic cultures and communities, as in the case of the ongoing scandal over gender-based discrimination and harassment at Riot Games. Although it’s currently unclear whether South Korea’s proposed bill will pass, and if it does, what the public’s reaction will be, it’s certainly interesting to see a national government stepping into one of gaming culture’s most hotly contested warzones.
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