In a recent comment, Pickernanny joked about the upcoming videogame GTA VI, musing if there would be real-world consequences for acting in an unsavory way towards minorities in the game. He wrote,
Apparently, Rockstar games has made the incredibly original decision to include a far-right faction in the game that antagonizes the Latina chick and acts as fodder. Maybe they can include a feature where the game punishes you for targeting minorities and women on the streets. Imagine if in the future they cancel people in real life for this very act lol.
This gave me a good chuckle, so my first reaction was to check the website of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the main organizations with which our advanced democracies maintain social cohesion, to read up on their work on protecting minorities online. I went to their press releases, and saw a rather peculiar entry. It read, “ADL to Team Up With Take-Two to Combat Virtual Hate”. I clicked on it, and the page had the placeholder date, Dec 31, 2026. Long story short, it seems that the ADL jumped the gun and put out this press release early. This sometimes happens in journalism, too, when an obituary gets published when some politician or actor is far from being dead.
Anyway, the press release by the ADL is gone now. The link redirects to their press release section, and they even got the Waybackmachine to scrub it. Yet, even though this page is now gone, I managed to retrieve the text from my browser cache, so I am happy to reproduce it below:
ADL to Team Up With Take-Two to Combat Virtual Hate
December 31, 2026
Today, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) proudly announces that it has been cooperating with triple-A video game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc (Take-Two), in order to ensure that people can feel safe when they play their video games. Take-Two is a premier video game publisher, best known for its Grand Theft Auto video game series, the latest entry of which has sold over [update figure] million copies and is the most profitable entertainment franchise on the planet.
In a ground-breaking collaboration, the ADL supported Rockstar Games, one of the publishing labels of Take-Two, in implementing algorithmic solutions for protecting video game players against online hate. Drawing from its deep connections to academia, the ADL set up a high-caliber committee, which included luminaries such as the Israeli public intellectual and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari as well as an all-star cadre of social scientists, including Janina Scarlet and Pepper Schwartz.
Academic work funded by the ADL proved that video games have the potential to radicalize its users. Following Yuval Noah Harari’s work on the philosophy of the metaverse, it was also established that actions in the metaverse are perceived as real and therefore have consequences both for the victimizer and the victim. These insights paved the way for developing an algorithm for online crime control, which is a key element of the just-released video game Grand Theft Auto VI: Americas (GTA VI).
GTA VI allows people to act out their criminal impulses via controlling avatars in a digital world. In the offline mode, this virtual world is populated by so-called non-player characters, but in the online world players encounter the avatars of other players. The inventive methods implemented by Take-Two allow us to immediately react to virtual hate. Players who victimize avatars that are BIPOCs, members of religious minorities, or members of the LGBTQ+ community, or victimize real-world BIPOCs, members of religious minorities, or members of the LGBTQ+ community that identify as non-BIPOCs, non-members of religious minorities, and non-members of the LGBTQ+ community in the world of GTA VI, will automatically be banned from this game. They also immediately lose access to their accounts on Microsoft and Sony PlayStation platforms, including any games they purchased in the past, and any money that may be left in their Microsoft or Sony PlayStation accounts will be donated to the ADL.
Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director and CEO of the ADL, issued the following statement: “The ADL’s work on algorithmically combating virtual hate paves the way for a saver future, and bolsters democracy. It shows that the world cannot allow a hateful, racist minority to control the behavior of the majority and limit their means of expression. To players, virtual worlds feel every bit as real as the real world, so virtual hate crime has to have consequences as serious as real-world hate crime, and the ADL will work steadfastly on converging these two legal categories.”
This collaboration between the ADL and Take-Two is only one of many projects on algorithmically combating virtual hate. It builds on the ADL’s long-standing partnership with Microsoft and Sony in algorithmically detecting hate crimes in user-created text and speech. Follow-up projects will involve partners such as PayPal, Amazon, Bank of America, Citigroup, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This press release of the ADL sent shivers down my spine. In all fairness, this work is not even as outrageous as it may sound. What used to be considered crimes, such as theft and robberies, carry little to no sentences in the real world anymore, so it is as if criminal gangs play GTA in meatspace. In contrast, offend someones sensibilities, and you may get deplatformed, like President Donald J. Trump. Countless people have been booted off PayPal, Patreon, and other sites, and some have even lost access to their bank account. It therefore seems only consequential that virtual hate crimes should be punished just as severely, or worse, as real-world crimes used to be.