A coalition of activists and gamers (and gamer activists) are planning an “umbrella protest” at BlizzCon, Blizzard Activision’s biggest annual conference, to push back against the company’s censorship of a high-profile Hearthstone player who voiced support for Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.
Nonprofit activist group Fight for the Future is organizing the campaign, called GamersForFreedom.com, to keep a scorecard keeping track of companies that have publicly pledged to not censor players like Blizzard. It is calling on players to show up to BlizzCon, which starts November 1 in California, to protest against the company’s censorship. The BlizzCon protest is named after the 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
“This is not going away,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future said in a statement, “Blizzard, and other companies who are engaging in censorship on behalf of an authoritarian government, are not going to get away with it. They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they’ve unleashed. We’re going to make an example out of them to make sure that all companies know that throwing human rights and free expression under the bus to make some extra money will not be tolerated.”
Fight for the Future has successfully organized a host of major protests over the last few years, including some of the internet’s largest pro net neutrality campaigns. Those campaigns included large-scale public commenting campaigns on the FCC’s website, purchasing billboards to shame anti-net neutrality lawmakers, and working to get Congress to support a bill that would restore net neutrality. In recent weeks, the organization has protested Amazon’s Ring partnerships with police, which allow police to obtain footage from Ring home surveillance cameras without a warrant.
The coalition has set up a Discord to plan the protests. So far, the Discord is relatively small, but Greer said she is hoping people to “come in cosplay, with signs, creative shirts, etc.” The protest is in the early stages, but Fight for the Future has a proven track record of being able to mobilize lots of people in the name of internet freedom: “So far we're just announcing it / calling for people to come,” Greer said on Discord. “We should def figure out all the logistics, location / police liaison / signs and messaging / maybe ridesharing, etc.”
Blizzard employees and gamers have been furious that the company censored a player and seems to be showing deference to the Chinese government. Players have staged mass protests, while employees have been protesting every day on the company’s campus.
Meanwhile, the list of prominent companies that have gone out of their way to censor on behalf of the Chinese government has been growing—mainly because it has been profitable enough to look the other way.