A California congressman is calling out Blizzard for allowing online Nazis to roam Azeroth in World of Warcraft.
Rep. Lou Correa of Anaheim shamed the company on Twitter after a member of his staff who plays the legendary MMORPG noticed other players hosting a racist Halloween costume contest inside of the game.
The player, who runs a racist, anti-semitic guild called "Enclave" had his avatar dressed up in white robes and a white hood—an obvious allusion to the garb of the Klu Klux Klan—with two avatars appearing as slaves beside him (one named "Jesse Jackson," referring to the civil rights leader.) The player commented “next stop Charlottesville” in a screenshot obtained on Reddit and posted by Correa, referring to the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville where a white nationalist terrorist killed an anti-racist protester with his car during the protest.
Correa, who has taken a strong stance against recent white supremacist terrorism in the United States and has demanded that law enforcement look at the issue more closely, said the racist costume contest was just another example of neo-Nazi radicalization in gaming.
“The user-generated content found in World of Warcraft is just one example of how far-right extremists are infiltrating online platforms and video games,” he said in an email.
“By allowing white supremacists refuge, companies inadvertently create safe harbors that extremists can leverage to recruit and indoctrinate other people while also degrading the enjoyment of their own fans,” he added.
Correa called on all gaming companies to have a zero-tolerance policy for extremist ideologies on their platforms.
“I call on the industry to do better at managing and moderating their communities. Your players and fans want to play your games, not fight with white supremacists. Kick the bad actors out—for everyone’s sake,” he said.
White supremacist and racist guilds in World of Warcraft have been an open secret in the
WoW community for at least a decade. There are dozens of posts about the game and about forming white supremacist guilds on neo-Nazi message boards dating back to at least 2007. Some of the threads about the game have sparked discussions that are many pages long on these websites.
The Enclave itself has been a guild on multiple games since 1998, according to its leader, who has posted threads all over the internet trying to recruit for it. One post on a gaming message board from 2014 notes that players need "thick skin" to join: "Our guild is very politically incorrect and we do not censor people's opinions, bad jokes or comical [slur]. If you can't handle profanity or adult subjects you would be better suited in another guild."
Though the guild is not blatantly racist in its recruiting posts, its racism has been well-known in the community for at least nine years. An Urban Dictionary user wrote of its leader in 2010: “He is the guild leader of The Enclave, a group of the worst PvPers on the server, that spread white power racism.” There is a long thread on Reddit about the guild's racism from just two months ago: "The guild is an absolute cesspool of trolls and bigots. Was having gentle banter with the entirety of the guild chat when one of the users started spamming racial slurs,” one user wrote. Another wrote: “They know they are being reported [to Blizzard] now. So they changed to calling black people 'Orcs' so they can avoid being reported for saying the N word. I was in the guild for 2 days and spent most of it just reporting guys to Blizzard for it.”
A 2009 post by the leader of the guild says Stormfront—a well known online cesspool of militant neo-Naziism and once the global meeting ground of the white nationalist movement—was a sponsor of Enclave.
“The Enclave is now officially sponsored by Stormfront,” he said in the post, which also uses highly racist language and includes a photo of KKK members.
After its racist Halloween costume contest, the Enclave held an audio meeting to discuss the fallout. Leaked audio of that meeting reveals some members trying to distance themselves from the group and the leader of the guild, who dressed his avatar as a Klansman. The leader has been trying to say that the costume was a "ghost," not a member of the KKK.
“You keep saying that you were a ghost but we're not dumb, dude. We weren't born yesterday. We can put all those things together," said one Enclave member in response, referring to the two apparent slaves standing beside the avatar.
Members of the guild suggested that now, with Congressional attention, they are worried about getting doxed.
In recent weeks Blizzard came under fire after it slapped a six month ban on a professional Hearthstone player for supporting the Hong Kong protests, something that didn’t sit well with Blizzard employees.
Online posts suggest the leader of Enclave received only a temporary, days long ban for his racist actions in World of Warcraft, but Motherboard couldn’t confirm with Blizzard which did not respond to multiple requests for comment. On its website, the leader of Enclave posted that the guild has shut down until a later date.
An earlier version of this article stated the image of the racist costume contest that was tweeted came from a staffer in Rep. Correa's office. The Congressman's office clarified to VICE that the image was obtained on Reddit, but they had a witness to the in-game event.