Skip to main content
If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

ESA butts heads with UN over online harassment report

[UPDATE] UN pulls report on cyber violence against women and girls, apologizes for errors and poor sourcing

Last month, the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development released a 61-page report titled "Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls." The Entertainment Software Association took issue with two sentences in that report, and today released a statement harshly criticizing the report for perpetuating "hyperbolic, outlandish, and outdated notions of video games and gamers"

After pointing out depictions of violence against women are common across mainstream media of all kinds, the UN report says, "Recent research on how violent video games are turning children, mostly boys, into 'killing zombies' are also a part of mainstreaming violence. And while the presentation and analysis of this research is beyond the scope of this paper, the links to the core roots of the problem are very much in evidence and cannot be overlooked."

The citation attached to the "killing zombies" remark points to a 21st Century Science op-ed published in the fall of 2000 that leans heavily on quotes from Lyndon LaRouche and his wife Helga Zepp-LaRouche, who at the time had been decrying violent video game culture and "the Pokemon cult," which they saw as promoting Satanism.

"In quoting Lyndon LaRouche and his wife, Helga Zepp LaRouche, the UN's source material cites Zepp LaRouche's work, 'The Mark of the Beast: America's Children Are in Mortal Danger,' in which she mistakenly reports that children as young as two abuse digital entertainment," the ESA said. "Medical professionals specifically have declined repeatedly to pathologize video game use."

ESA president and CEO Michael Gallagher added, "This is an uninformed, misguided, and unfortunate report. If the overall issue was not so serious, it would be laughable that the UN is citing this work. It is willful ignorance to utilize such incredibly outlandish and outdated data. ESA strongly supports empowering women and minorities and creating an inclusive digital environment that welcomes all perspectives. However, the UN does this important issue a great disservice and undercuts its credibility by spreading ridiculous stereotypes and false opinions."

[UPDATE]: The UN Broadband Commission has pulled the report and replaced it with a note stating, "This report is currently in revision and will be re-posted as soon as all relevant inputs have been taken onboard." Speaking with Motherboard, a representative for the United Nations International Telecommunication Union apologized for errors in the original, chalking them up to the scramble to finish and release the report during a busy time for the UN.

"Really, the big problem was footnoting which was not up to standard and we very much regret that," the representative said. "That is being revised very thoroughly. We are adamant that we will have these [footnotes] all corrected."

Related topics
Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.