Running a website like Arab Research & Advocacy Bureau is tough. It requires constant maintenance, and there are many user requests to deal with.
It’s a good problem to have, and when I do have free time, I like to draw, play music and, occasionally, jump on FIFA.
I have played the game for over 20 years and am a football enthusiast. As such, many people fall victim to my Ultimate Team. I am not perfect at the game, but I am good enough to subsequently receive regular racist messaging from players who guess my Arab ethnicity from my gamertag and/or display picture.
I have been called almost everything from “pakiboy” to “curryboy” to “terrorist” and the like, and regularly report messages that I receive to Microsoft and EA both directly in the console and through customer support channels. I even come across teams with names like “Bomb A Mosque” (see below).
This is all toxic, targeted messaging that creates an environment of hatred towards Muslims, Arabs and people of an Islamic and/or Middle Eastern background. As you can see from another screenshot below, these people not only hate Islam, but they hate Muslim people, Muslim culture, and they also hate Arabs, North Africans and Asians.
This is not about ideological opposition to Islam expressed in online fora: this is categorical racism which is generally unwelcome in eSports.
Despite me following the report process, players rarely get temporary bans and I come across the same, repeat instruction of ‘select the message and report’ whenever I complain to Xbox and EA that action has not seemed to have been taken against the online offender.
I have even had players boasting that they have not been banned as a result of me reporting their racist messages, which seems to legitimise their points of views in their twisted minds.
When I share screenshots with so-called EA and Xbox ‘Ambassadors’ on Twitter, I get the same parrot replies: my case of constant racial abuse and subsequent lack of reprimand cannot be escalated to somebody with more authority, and I simply need to go back to the message and report it again and again through the automated, online service.
This is a mindless activity of little consequence. I’ve been looking to talk to somebody from Xbox directly about the abuse I’ve been facing. Everywhere I go – email, online chat, Twitter and on the console – I face a brick wall. There is nobody with authority to talk directly with (apparently).
I asked other ethnic minorities in the Xbox community if they have had similar experiences on FIFA and Xbox Live – many of whom confirmed that they did and they mentioned that they are simply used to it now. One person told me that he had ‘been banned for calling somebody a trash player’ but when another player called him ‘a paki the player in question was reported but had not been banned’.
Therefore, the report process is inconsistent and broken. What an absolute disgrace that receiving racist messages once a week on online games is now the norm and that we should just suck it up and get used to it due to inconsistently flawed rules on racism on online fora.
Racism in football is a problem both offline and online. Sports and eSports are supposed to unite players: that is the true spirit of sport, especially in a globalised world- but Xbox and EA ambassadors continue to brush the issue of racist abuse and a broken report system under the carpet because they are simply incompetent at managing it.
So, I have come up with my own 3-point plan that I believe XBox and EA Games should follow to set an example and crack down on racism for a healthy online experience for all.
1. Censor racially charged words in messages – this already exists in game within FIFA, but not on core Xbox Live messaging services. This can be achieved through machine learning so, when a player types a combination of words – or a single word – that is identified as racist, the system will automatically place asterisks in place of typed letters. This would disincentive racial messaging and protect victims from a negative gaming experience.
2. Flag potentially racist messages before sending it – in addition to the above, the system should also display an alert warning that a racially charged message contains offensive language. This system is already in place on Facebook’s comment system. I mean, the bar is pretty low on Xbox’s part if Facebook has a more ethical infrastructure than Microsoft.
3. More notifications and adverts on the issue – this one is self-explanatory and should include a serious commitment to ban players, this is already being done in real-life football, so why not in eSports? Surely the digital domain is easier to manage?