Online gaming platform Roblox riddled with vile antisemitic content

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Online gaming platform Roblox riddled with vile antisemitic content

EXCLUSIVE: Burning Israeli flags and a 'hatred of Jews' avatar among many visuals to which children are being exposed – which the platform is now urgently investigating

A parent said she found several realms that 'clearly contained antisemitic and anti-Israel content'
A parent said she found several realms that 'clearly contained antisemitic and anti-Israel content'

One of the world’s most popular online gaming platforms, played by millions of children, is investigating a significant increase in antisemitic avatars and dialogue after being contacted by Jewish News.

Roblox, aimed at children aged eight to 14, is a huge virtual playground where users hang out. They can take part in a variety of games, explore realms, create their own worlds and avatars, and chat to each other online.

Jewish News has been made aware of some disturbing images, including one avatar called ‘hatred of Jews’. Another avatar is of a person dressed in a suit and black hat with a beard, a long nose and holding a bag of money.

One parent, who contacted Jewish News this week and wishes to remain anonymous, said: “My nine-year-old son came to me and said that he had begun seeing lots of avatars on Roblox that were holding Palestinian flags and he had also seen avatars saying ‘Free, free Palestine.’ I decided to have a look on the Roblox platform and searched under the term ‘Palestine’ where I found several realms that were designed as meeting points for pro-Palestinian rallies and which clearly contained antisemitic and anti-Israel content.”

In one realm she visited there were two burning Israeli flags and near to it a jihadist flag. In another, an avatar, claiming: “From river to sea, Palestine will be free’ – a call for Israel’s destruction.

A realm in Roblox appears to show an Israeli flag burning, with a Palestinian and Jihadist flag (pictured below) nearby

“It did not take us long to discover all of these things, nor did it take long for us to go to a virtual mosque and find people chanting: ‘Free, free Palestine and death to Israel,’” the parent continued.

In this virtual mosque an avatar can be seen chanting ‘From river to sea, Palestine will be free’
One avatar, with blood on her knees, wears a T-shirt with the slogan ‘I can’t keep calm until Palestine is free’

“In my mind, Roblox moderators are not doing a good enough job to weed out virulently antisemitic content. They should be taking a proactive approach, not one where they are relying on users to report clear cases of incitement, hatred and racism.

“Perhaps most depressingly is that Roblox is supposed to be a platform for children. If non-Jewish children are coming across such vile hatred for Jewish people, I dread to think how this could impact and shape their view of the world, especially at a time of rising antisemitism around the world.”

Avatars gather in a realm, apparently conspiring against Jews

This content follows circulating videos on social media of children attending pro-Palestinian protests on Roblox. According to CNBC, one Roblox pro-Palestinian event was visited more than 275,000 times. The rallies feature users marching and gathering with Palestinian flags and signs expressing solidarity.

According to recent data, more than four in ten Roblox gamers are 12 years old or younger. Just under 70 percent of users were 16 or younger. Roblox has over 65 million daily active users and more than 200 million monthly players.

Eze Vidra, co-founder and managing partner at Remagine Ventures, which invests in early-stage startups in entertainment tech, including AI and gaming said: “The gaming community was always one that unites people from around the world, from different backgrounds, cultures and religions. The event (protests) on Roblox is especially sad to see, because it’s supposed to be a safe space for children. Not one for sinister political messages.

“Roblox is for kids. It’s for eight- to 14-year-olds. They hang out in virtual worlds after school. I was shocked with the images appearing on Roblox. Stereotypically anti-semitic portrayals of Jews and anti-Israel chanting. As a father, it’s disheartening and worrying to know that this hate has infiltrated worlds that are meant to be safe places for socialising and imagination.”

Anat Shperling is the CEO and co-founder of Toya, which, headquartered in Tel Aviv, develops games for Minecraft and Roblox, including Miraculous RP: Ladybug & Cat Noir. She told Jewish News: “Some players on Roblox are echoing vile and horrific messaging by terrorists, and this shouldn’t be tolerated, not just on moral grounds, but because they seed violence in young people’s minds and breed the next generation of haters.

“Knowing Roblox, and working on the platform for years, I trust they do everything they can to keep this calamity off the platform, and actively prevent the spread of hate, racism, violence, and intimidation. We expect the platform’s immediate ban and removal of bad actors and delete their content. Two thirds of children [who use the site] go to Roblox every day, to meet others, play together, talk, and do all this while remaining safe and secure. We’re certain Roblox will do the right thing, and remove the growing amount of antisemitism on the platform.”

When approached by Jewish News along with the screenshot images, a Roblox spokesperson said: “We are deeply saddened by the terrible conflict in Israel and Gaza and our hearts go out to those who are impacted in the area or who have loved ones, family and friends who have been impacted.

“While our community standards allow for expressions of solidarity, we do not allow for content that endorses or condones violence, promotes terrorism or hatred against individuals or groups, or calls for supporting a specific political party. As this complex situation evolves, our expert team of thousands of moderators and automated detection tools are closely monitoring our platform and will take swift action against any content or individuals found to be in violation of our standards. We also encourage anyone to report content or behaviour that may not comply with our community standards by using our Report Abuse feature.”

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