In the absence of more detailed internal information from game companies, CTS used third-party tools and game registration systems to gather data about how these companies filter offensive usernames. In the future, increased transparency in the industry could help these audits and drive improvement of safety practices for the game industry.
Using the ADL Center on Extremism’s Glossary of Extremism, the Center for Technology & Society (CTS) compiled a list of over 150 offensive terms. These terms were then sorted into five categories based on identity and affiliation with hateful ideologies: antisemitism, misogyny, racism, anti-LGBTQ+, ableism, and white supremacist terms.
For testing already existing usernames, CTS prioritized 2-4 terms from each category based on their likeliness to be used colloquially. Since the White Supremacist category is the largest and contains complicated, coded terms, its sample contained eight terms. This led to a total of around 30 terms sorted into each category. Any username containing the term was counted as being offensive.
To test registering usernames, CTS used a different sample because it was testing the terms by themselves (as opposed to existing usernames). This sample used the same categories with the following number of terms tested for each:
Antisemitism – 6
Misogyny – 3
Racism – 3
Anti-LGBTQ+1 – 10
Ableism – 2
White Supremacist – 10
The following table shows the categories CTS and created and their definitions.
CTS used the Tracker Network2 to search usernames across five popular games in the Tracker Network’s top 25 games that were also listed among the top eSports games of 2022 by Statista. These five games were also chosen because the Tracker Network had more information for them compared to other games.
League of Legends – Riot Games (2009)
League of Legends is a team-based strategy game where two teams of five powerful champions face off to destroy the other’s base. Players choose from over 140 champions to skillfully take down towers and battle to victory.
League of Legends has a Code of Conduct that gives examples of good and bad behavior. They also explain the consequences of offenses.
PUBG: Battlegrounds – Krafton (2017)
This game is a downloadable online-only multiplayer shooter for Windows PCs (and mobile). Up to 100 players compete in a last-man-standing, kill-or-be-killed battle royale. (Source: Common Sense Media)
PUBG has Rules of Conduct that includes a section on offensive usernames.
Fortnite – Epic Games (2017)
137,786,994 Players Tracked
This game pits up to 100 players against each other in solo, duo, or up to four-player squads to see who can survive the longest against each other on an ever-shrinking map. (Source: Common Sense Media)
Fortnite has a Code of Conduct that explicitly prohibits hate speech but does not outline a username policy specifically.
Overwatch 2 – Blizzard Entertainment (2022)
Overwatch 2 is a hero shooter where players are split into two teams and select a “hero” from a roster of 35 characters. Characters are organized into classes with different abilities to support their team. (Source: Common Sense Media)
Blizzard has an In-Game Code of Conduct that specifically mentions usernames as part of its enforcement policy.
Call of Duty: Warzone – Activision (2020)
52,994,614 Players Tracked
This game is a free-to-play and standalone addition to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019). It is a battle royale-style game: the primary mode has up to 150 players dropped into an enormous map where they work in squads to systematically kill all enemies while gradually being pushed into closer quarters via an approaching poison gas cloud. (Source: Common Sense Media)
Call of Duty has a Security and Enforcement policy that forbids offensive behavior. They also updated their reporting system at the end of 2022. This new system will first be implemented into Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II.
CTS also tested registering usernames for Call of Duty: Warzone (Activision) and Fortnite (Epic Games). These games were picked because they had the simplest registration systems that did not require downloading the game to create usernames. Their registration systems also immediately inform the user if the username is taken or inappropriate (filtered out).