Freedom Of Speech Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Freedom Of Speech RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Digital Homicide Drops $18M Lawsuit, Cites Financial Difficulties Mon, 03 Oct 2016 17:43:16 -0400 Jared Elliott

Digital Homicide co-founder James Romine has filed a motion to dismiss his $18M lawsuit against 100 Steam users who left negative comments about the developer's games and business practices.

The lawsuit was met with intense scrutiny from members of the gaming community after its initial filing last month--especially Valve, who dropped all Digital Homicide products from Steam in light of the incident. Within the filed document, Romine reveals that Digital Homicide was "destroyed completely" following Valve's response.

Romine dedicated a GoFundMe page to the lawsuit, requesting support from would-be patrons to finance a lawsuit, which, evidently, his studio could not afford to begin with. Of the $75,000 requested in Romine's fundraiser, only $450 was donated in support of Digital Homicide's cause.

Valve's swift and decisive actions to protect its customers have sent a clear message to Digital Homicide and developers of similar ilk--consumers should never face intimidation for exercising their freedom of speech, regardless of its financial impact on producers or the sometimes-unsavory nature of its execution. 

Valve is the Champion of Open Discourse that We Desperately Need Mon, 03 Oct 2016 09:30:24 -0400 Jared Elliott

It is no secret that negative opinions of popular games and movies are met with hostility in this day and age. Critics of the Ghostbusters reboot, Suicide Squad, Virginia, and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, for example, have been accused of a litany of transgressions ranging from misogyny and racism to purposeful malice.

This trend was demonstrated most recently by development studio Digital Homicide, who initiated aggressive litigation against reviewers and commenters who expressed negative opinions about their products on Steam. The most notable action taken was the filing of a subpoena which demands the identities of 100 users who submitted negative or hateful comments. Valve responded by removing all Digital Homicide products from Steam.

This is not the first time Digital Homicide has attacked the freedom of individuals to voice their opinions. YouTuber and frequent Digital Homicide critic Jim Sterling has been hounded by the developer for several months now, with doxxing and dubious YouTube takedown requests reportedly taking place against him on a regular basis.

Digital Homicide contends that the Steam forums were not properly moderated, which led to an unsafe business environment and caused "very large... emotional and punitive" damages to the company. The company even claims on their lawsuit's GoFundMe page that it is unable to afford an attorney due to these damages. The great irony of this situation is that Digital Homicide filed its incredibly broad subpoena while most certainly anticipating the legal costs which would arise as a result -- but that's a story for another time.

To be fair, many comments left by Steam users could be considered crass, uncalled for, and even violent -- yet, whether or not these untoward comments caused tortious damages deserving of legal action against anonymous users is another question entirely. As far as their position with Steam is concerned, Valve was happy to answer that question with a swift, judicial rap of its own gavel.

This series of unfortunate events places Valve in an ever-shrinking and increasingly criticized community of individuals who believe that freedom of speech is not only an inherent right for all, but also necessary to protect consumers from misrepresentation of products and to encourage consistent improvement in the gaming and movie industries in general. In other words, it seems that Valve understands that critical opinions are necessary for continuing improvement and quality as a whole. The popular YouTuber Cr1TiKaL mentioned this same point in a recent video, admittedly in a more entertaining fashion:

The most revealing statement made by Digital Games amid this fiasco can be found on their own GoFundMe page, in which they characterize "hundreds of posts of negativity" as "attacks" and "false statements," which supposedly rendered all of their hard work moot:

Within a matter of hours hundreds of posts of negativity can be seen annihilating the marketability of the game leaving the developer who may have spent months and years on that particular game with an eviscerated husk. We barely survived initial onslaughts of these attacks and were just about to break through to success when the false statements obliterated us.

If anything, the above statement exemplifies this climate of censorship and misrepresentation, which encourages blame for failure to be assigned to the opinions of consumers, rather than the quality of the product itself. It may be cliché, but the old adage "If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen" was never more relevant. Rather than taking the heat or simply leaving the kitchen, however, it appears that Digital Homicide would rather throw gasoline over a flaming grill and blame the dishwashers for getting burned.

There is a desperate need for corporations like Valve -- those who promote and protect criticism, rather than attempt to drown dissent with vast amounts of money, witch hunting, and legal intimidation. This is because consumers have not only a right, but an obligation to other consumers to voice their opinions about products on which they spend their time and money, regardless of their position. If we keep negative criticisms to ourselves, we condemn the future of movies and video games to the whims of popular opinion, which can be bought, sold, and manipulated by developers and publishers with disturbing ease.

I had second thoughts about voicing my opinion on the Digital Homicide matter, considering the state of current affairs and their apparent willingness to sue anyone they find threatening -- but, taking my own advice above, I decided that fear of retribution is never a justifiable reason to stay silent. I encourage readers to realize the same for themselves, because it is the only way that we can collectively ensure a bright future for the industries to which we have dedicated so much of our time and attention. Thanks to Valve, we're off to a good start.

Anti-Censorship Group Rallies Over Library Banning Games Tue, 05 Feb 2013 01:35:34 -0500 Wokendreamer

Libraries are places of learning.  They are storehouses of information, both artistic and practical.  It is hard to think of a single place that represents the advancement and caretaking of raw knowledge better than the iconic library, which makes it that much more noteworthy when such an institution decides to ban access to a particular media.

The Paterson Free Public Library in Paterson, New Jersey has instituted a formal policy prohibiting anyone from playing any "direct-shooter" video games on their computers.  The policy came about as a request from several of the librarians at the location, who had been trying to dissuade minors from playing such games and wanted a more official way of preventing the material from being played.

To put things into perspective, the only material directly blocked from being accessed in a public library is child pornography.  Even adult pornography is accessible.  The closest other parallel is that children are not permitted access to online chat sessions, ostensibly to protect against internet predators.

The reasoning behind this policy is, as stated by library board member Irene Sterling, "We felt we should do everything we can to prevent our kids from learning these behaviors,"

While the intention is noble, the National Coalition Against Censorship disagrees with the policy strongly enough to have written a letter to Paterson condemning the policy, particularly with the words,

This assumes that viewers will simply imitate behaviors represented in fictional settings without any independent mental intermediation, a proposition that is palpably false and that the library implicitly rejects by offering access to all sorts of internet sites and maintaining a varied collection of books, magazines, videos and other materials.

The letter goes on to point out that historically it is not the library's place to decide what material is appropriate for children, and that the policy does not specifically apply to unaccompanied children, but also to children with a guardian and to mature adults, making the stated reasoning of protecting children who lack supervision dubious.

With museums beginning to agree that video games are a legitimate form of art, even adding games to some very prestigious collections, it seems a step backwards for a library to decide that certain types of games are inappropriate.  Art is a form of speech, and libraries tend to be one of the places people look to defend that freedom, not censor it based upon the morals of the government employees who work there.

Personally, I think I'd be more concerned about my non-existent kid having effectively unrestricted access to the internet itself than said theoretical child being able to play a shooter.