Online Games Should Encourage Human Rights, Says Council of Europe

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:

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.

More at: Terra Nova

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  1. TBoneTony says:

    This is what I would be saying if I was a Videogame Developer.

    If you guys really want to have online games that encourage Human Rights, then how about trying to make your own game first, one that defines what you feel that encourages human rights.

    Then release it with online content and online capabilities and just see how you guys at the EU can handle it.

    If you find out, that for some uncertain reasons, that the game you have made does not attract enough players to keep the online world livable or even live up to those standards that you have originally asked Game developers to live up to, then you would finally realise how hard it is to make the game in the first place.

    So please, stop trying to ask game developers to live up to your goody-good standards and understand that sometimes your requirements are just going to put so many game developers out of businness.

    If I were you guys at the EU, I would focus more on trying to make the REAL WORLD a better place for human rights intead of trying to force those opinions onto game developers in the online world.

    So, what do you guys think, I know it is not really up to the standard that the EU would want to listen to, but I think I was polite enough.




  2. ulix says:

    "I don’t personally believe Human Rights to be much more than […] a de facto excuse to harm others and escape justic…"


    What the hell is that supposed to mean? Where the **** is the logic in that?

  3. Alyric says:

    Between WW1 and WW2 the French teacher’s unions rewrote their textbooks and managed to systematically destroy any sense of nationality in an entire generation of French students. (Instead they taught pacifism and internationalism).

    While I’ve simplified things for the sake of brevity, this is one of the primary reasons that they were so quickly overrun in WW2.  Nobody was willing to fight.  To date it remains one of the most compelling examples of the danger in allowing politics to influence educational institutions in recent history.

    And no, I wasn’t comparing anybody to Nazis or Hitler. It was a valid historical example that – yes – took place during the second world war.


  4. TBoneTony says:

    Maybe user generated content must be also able to do what RARE did in Banjo-Tooie if you look at the Youtube Videos titled "Banjo-Kazooie rated E for Everyone?"

    You can have allot of sexual innuendos in videogames that are just minor ones and still make an E rated game.

    If developers of Online Games must fall in line with human rights, this is where most of these developers would be pushed into doing, and I don’t think that would be fair for the developers.


  5. TBoneTony says:

    I think that people like them should focus on crimes that happen in reality, NOT ones that are in the online world.

    Like why force all developers to not make violent or sexual content in games and then say to the developers that users must be able to creatively express their freedoms of speech and expression?

    Like it is a complete contradiction on so many levels.

    Perhaps all online games should be considered NOT FOR Children if they are going to have user generated content.

    Like an E rated game that has online capabilites can easily have so many offencive words in it if the game allows speech and text.

    It is a common rule of the online world, you get idiots, annoying conplaints and also people who just screw everyone else.

    If you can’t control the crimes in reality, why try to control crimes in online games that have no real consequence in reality.

    Also I agree that parents should be smart enough to at least be with their kids if they are gaming online, or not even be online gaming at all not just with the people that could take advantage of them but also because of the COST of the subscription fees.


  6. Geoff says:

    Nah, he isn’t comparing the people he disagrees with with Hitler or the Nazis.  That’s the main requirement for a Godwin.

    He’s sort of alluding to it…I think.  Not really sure what his point is.


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

  7. BlackIce says:

    I don’t personally believe Human Rights to be much more than either a cute children’s fantasy or a de facto excuse to harm others and escape justice at the same time. So in that case no, I don’t believe games should be used to promote human rights. Not that it’s my choice to make, obviously.

    ~You Could Be Mine, But You’re Way Out Of Line..~

  8. State says:

    We should give up the European Convention of Human Rights completely. This is not to say that people shouldn’t have rights and not be protected (which you of course would like me to say), but as a country the UK should be able to dictate what those are to its own citizens (I presume you would argue that that means that all rights can be taken away, but we live in a democracy). It has conflicted with too many of our proposed laws (which have the support of the majority of the country).

    The European Convention is deeply flawed and open to abuse (too many people use it as an excuse). There is too much missing from it as well such as the right to a decent death (enthunasia is absent).

    You seem to be of the opinion that if you don’t have the European Convention then you have nothing, but the UK needs to lead the way in creating an independent convention, one that works for its citizens instead of against them. I do not feel protected by this convention in fact I feel the opposite because of it.

  9. GusTav2 says:

    What I’d like to know is which of the Convention rights you’d happily give up?

    Or do you only want ‘terrorists’ and ‘criminals’ (and presuambly other types of non-humans) to give up their rights?

    I’d like to see exactly what freedoms and liberties you view to be superflous. The protection of liberties in the UK law before 1950 was incredibly limited; in fact it was only the introduction of the Convention into UK law in 1998 that gave UK citizens many of these rights in a way that could be actively protected before the domestic courts.

  10. Speeder says:

    Here in Brazil there are a group of people that banter around: "Human right is only for humans!" because here actually the human rights DO help, but they also free terrorists…


  11. State says:

    The European Convention of Human Rights has done nothing good. People were protected enough under existing laws, but this convention has meant that all other laws are overridden and as such it has allowed people to get away with too much because of their "human rights".

    It doesn’t matter who (or what paper) talks about the issue, the government are finding problems with the convention (terrorists have too many human rights) whilst the opposition are opposed to the convention.

  12. Geoff says:

    You sound white.  And WASPy.


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

  13. GusTav2 says:

    Slow golf clap, you are the Daily Mail, you have never read the European Convention, and I claim my £5.

    I thank you …

  14. State says:

    Under the Bill of Human Rights from the EU in real life Nico Bellic is protected and all his victims can be accused of damaging his human rights. Police wouldn’t be allowed to shoot him (not matter how many people he killed himself) because he has human rights, if he burgles your house you can’t defend yourself against him because you may violate his human rights.

    Yes in real life criminals are allowed to get away with lots due to "Human Rights" whilst allowing their victims to suffer. The UK has been made a much worse country due to these stupid rights, the quicker we get rid of them, the better.

  15. Conster says:

    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.

    fas⋅cism – noun: governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

    That’s why I was hoping he was being sarcastic. Also, I think the word "fascist" is used way too easily on GP.

  16. ulix says:

    What the hell are you two id**ts (sorry) talking about (if the first commentary was meant as sarcasm, I take that back)?

    If anybody is accusing anybody of a thought crime, its you two.

    Your accusing the EC, a very loose league of states, an institution with absolutely NO political power, to promote censorship. When what they are actually doing is encouraging (!) immoral (most of the time) capitalist companies to actually take responsibility, without forcing them (or giving any indication of wanting to force them) to do anything. In effect they’re acting on their’ right of free speech.

    Go study politics, please, and learn something about the world, instead of being ignorant Americans (this is not, in any way, meant as a general statement).


    Also, speech isn’t thought, slander is illegal in the US too, threatening people also is, thus its a form of limiting "free speech" (at least your’ interpretation). So is this a bad thing in your eyes? You tell me!

    Where do you draw the line? Because you just have to draw one, only difference (between, lets say the US and today’s Germany) being where to draw it.

  17. chadachada321 says:

    Eh, I agree with him.

    If I want to make a game where I’m a white dude that goes around lynching black people, I should be able to. If I want to make a game where I’m an asian woman that goes around killing white people, why the hell not? Why should I be limited by fascist governments (I think basically all governments these days are either fascist or communist) with what I do or do not promote/show with MY games?

    To limit one’s expression of speech (as in, a game or movie or picture) is to try and put a limit on their way of thinking. This constitutes "thought-crime" because you’re trying to say that their way of thinking is worse than yours.

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  18. Flamespeak says:

    The only race I like in the 40K universe is the Orks.  They don’t have any kind of delusional attitude what-so-ever.

  19. Geoff says:

    Ah good ol’ 40k, where everyone hates everyone else and the brainwashed warrior-monk zealots who "cleanse" worlds by bombarding them from orbit until they’re barren rocks are the "good guys".

    I think the only race that has a hint of grey in them is the Tau.  At least they ask their enemies to join them first.  Though I suppose that countered by Chaos who can only be described as blacker than the blackest black times infinity.


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

  20. Avalongod says:

    Actually it’s true what you’re saying.  The report does seem protective of user created content, which oddly enough, has perhaps the greatest potential for being "offensive" at times. 

    I won’t deny that there are positive elements to the report, nonetheless the report does seem to assume that electronic games are able to fundamentally harm players and that governments could apply legal sanctions/censorship.  I worry about that kind of talk, particularly when its based on a faulty premise.

    Then again the rules for censorship and free expressions are quite different in many European countries in contrast to the US.  Censorship is not as reflexively dirty a word there.

  21. GoodRobotUs says:

    Yup, I saw that section:


    Where those responsible for the content
    engage in the gratuitous portrayal
    of violence which grossly
    offends human dignity or which, on
    account of its inhuman or degrading
    nature, impairs the physical, mental
    or moral development of the public,
    particularly young people, member
    States should effectively apply relevant
    civil, criminal or administrative


    To be honest, that is a non-statement, because it’s impossible to even prove what they are beginning to describe has happened, how do you measure ‘moral impairment’? Where is the scale to measure it against? You certainly couldn’t use the behaviour of most Governments in Europe for a start…

    But the bulk of the article is pretty much pro-freedom, and I quote:



    Recalling its commitment to the fundamental
    right to freedom of expression
    as guaranteed by Article 10 of
    the Convention for the Protection of
    Human Rights and Fundamental
    Freedoms, and to the principles of
    the free flow of information and
    ideas and the independence of media
    operators as expressed, in particular,
    in its Declaration on the freedom of
    expression and information of 29
    April 1982;


    Indeed, if there were any phrase in that entire report that should really concern producers of Media, it is the following:


    iii. include among the licensing conditions
    for broadcasters certain obligations
    concerning the portrayal of
    violence, accompanied by dissuasive
    measures of an administrative
    nature, such as non-renewal of the
    licence when these obligations are
    not respected;


    If there were a suggestion in there that would annoy me, it’s that one, because it’s back-door censorship.

    I still find it interesting though that no-one mentions the positive half of it.

  22. Murdats says:

    yes, lets bubble wrap our world and never discuss anything that may make us uncomfortable.

    I despise this world view more then I do the people who only see in black and white, these people only see in black and white, they are one shade down on the 2 dimensional extremists.

  23. Azhrarn says:

    Lol, yes I can see that game actually kicking up a bit of dust on that front once it is nearing release.
    40k is a grim dark future setting coloured in shades of black after al (not grey, grey is to friendly).


  24. Mr. Manguy says:

    aggressive nationalism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, racism and intolerance

    I guess that means that they will have to cancel the 40k MMO.

  25. beemoh says:

    And commentators are allowed to tell them to stick it- they’re not suggesting stripping government of power or anything, just asking that governments keep their nose out of places they’re not wanted, they aren’t forcing anyone to change.



  26. Avalongod says:

    Actually that’s not true if you read the document closely.  They do suggest that portrayals of "gratuitous" violence may be "lawfully restricted." 

    Not a specific law, sure, but certainly encouraging of the same.

  27. GoodRobotUs says:

    You know they are allowed to urge people not to create violent games, they aren’t suggesting laws or anything, just asking that publishers listen to their concerns, they aren’t forcing anyone to change.

    I find it strange that in a document that is mostly positive for the creaters of user-defined content, people seem to be focussing on one suggestion that doesn’t sit so easily…

  28. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Uhg why do people have to drag all thier morals into thier TV/FILM/Game viewing/Dreams……


    I am a criminal because I purchase media,I am a criminal because I use media, I am a criminal because I chose to own media..We shall remain criminals until Corporate stay’s outside our bedrooms..

  29. Speeder says:

    After all atomic bombs and torturing stop, then maybe the games stop portraing them…


    While this do not happen, go WoW Dark Knights, D&D Necros and Fallout Mister Burke!!!

    Not that I like playing sided with any of these characters, but I like the option to do so…


  30. Freyar says:

    Online games should encourage whatever people to pay since that will keep the developers working. I don’t see how exactly enforcing online games to encourage Human Rights will work out. Conflict is what makes games interesting, and ultimately those conflicts usually result in rights being violated in one way or another.


    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

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