Should online games be required to encourage human rights?
The 47-member nation Council of Europe thinks so and has issued a position paper, Human Rights Guidelines for Online Game Providers. The CE's recommendations include taking into account the potential impact of gratuitous violence and sexual content in games targeting minors.
In addition the CE warns against content which advocates criminal behavior and urges providers away from conveying themes like aggressive nationalism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, racism and intolerance.
The CE documents alludes to the risk of online game addiction as well as the potential for children to encounter negative types such as griefers, bullies and stalkers in online gaming venues. Threats to privacy are addressed as well. The CE also encourages online game companies to follow rating guidelines and to develop parental control tools for their products.
Most interesting, however, is the CE's surprisingly forward-thinking position on user-created content. The organization encourages providers to be thoughtful in deciding whether or not to delete such content:
Before removing gamer-generated content from a game, you should take care to verify the illegality or harmfulness of the content... Acting without first checking and verifying may be considered as an interference with legal content and with the rights and freedoms of those gamers creating and communicating such content, in particular the right to freedom of expression and information.
This would constitute a sea change for most online game providers. As Cory Doctorow notes on boingboing, "many online games actually put up an 'agreement' every time you patch them in which you promise not to assert your right to either [freedom of expression or creativity]."
The CE also frets that content created by immature users today might come back to bite them in the future, and urges that providers create a system to prevent this:
More at: Terra Nova
Consider developing mechanisms for the automatic removal of gamer-generated content after a certain time of inactivity, in particular for games targeting children and young people. Creating a lasting or permanently accessible online record of the content created by gamers could challenge their dignity, security and privacy or otherwise render them vulnerable now or at a later stage in their lives.