Most people use the giant online video game platform Steam to buy games and move on, but others build communities. As we've previously reported, Valve, the company that operates Steam, does very little moderating. So the platform is full of hate groups.
As the nonprofit news organization The Center for Investigative Reporting first reported on Friday, it appears Steam is also full of groups that venerate school shooters. Valve is a multi billion-dollar game company with at least 125 million users. Its code of conduct specifically prohibits racism and “threats of violence or harassment, even as a joke.” That fact that some of these groups have been allowed on a platform for years is yet another example of how Valve not only fails to enforce its own policies, but normalizes extremist thinking.
“Plan to shoot up Forest Lake state school,” a user named School Shooter 66 wrote in the Steam group School Shooting Squad group in March 2017. “I plan to bring an M16 , 3 mags, suicide pills and an axe." The user goes on to detail his plan of attack, and clarifies in all caps that "THIS IS NOT A JOKE."
Other user-created Steam groups talk about school shootings, take their names from prominent school shooters, and celebrate mass killers such as Elliot Rodger, who shot six people to death near the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014. One group, “Future School Shooter Material,” has 106 members and bills itself as “a group dedicated to the bright young minds who are tortured by bullies. Join if you want to be a future school shooter.”
Another group called “School Shoot Gang” used a picture of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold as its avatar. “Remember Columbine High?” It asked. “That was just a warmup. For Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.” There are groups dedicated to Elliot Rodger, George Zimmerman, and Charles Manson. As of this writing, searching Steam’s groups for “school shooter” returns 248 results. Some of the groups have just a few members, while others have more than a hundred.
Many of the messages are not just violent, but also racist. “Whos in charge of shooting the ni**ers and sp**s?” A user asked in one of the Steam groups. “I thought I was but I’m not sure.”
In a group that called California murderer Elliot Rodger an American hero, one user made a vague threat to repeat Rodger’s massacre. “I am like Elliot Rodger,” the user said. “Don't you worry guys, I will prove it soon!”
We know for a fact that at least one school shooter shared his worldview on Steam before carrying out an actual shooting. William Edward Atchison posted racist ramblings and calls to violence on Steam and other online communities for years before killing two students and himself at Aztec High School in New Mexico on December 7, 2017. A Steam group named after the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi organization associated with several recent murders, regularly posted to YouTube and Steam.
Valve did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story. It has not responded to Motherboard's repeated requests for comment on this subject since October 2017.