In context: Blizzard is currently hosting the European leg of its Masters Tour on its Twitch channel. The event, held in Bucharest, Romania, is a full continent away from China. However, that has not stopped some viewers from posting pro-Hong Kong slogans in the comments of the feed. Channel moderators have reportedly been banning those people from the chat.
Blizzard said that it wanted to keep the chat free of political distractions and remain focused on the tournament. It reportedly warned viewers of this. Dot Esports decided to put it to the test by typing "Free Hong Kong" in the comments. Mods (or more likely a chatbot) instantly deleted it and suspended the account from chat for 24 hours.
Reddit users also noticed that other pro-Hong Kong chatter being "censored."
"They've also been 'censoring' anything pro-China," said Redditor Arighzz. "I see some people testing the system by typing pro-China stuff and in gets deleted in a couple seconds [sic]."
"[The] specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. [We] want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision."
However, Blizzard's moderation seemed inconsistent. The Verge observed on Friday that the chat on the PlayHearthstone channel filled up with pro-Hong Kong postings without any action taken. However, it was not a live broadcast, but rather a replay of an earlier match. There may not have been any moderators online at the time, or the chatbots were disabled.
Blizzard's controversial stance on pro-Hong Kong demonstrations has been keeping the company in the news over the past two weeks. It started with the banning of Hong Kong Hearthstone pro-player Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung for holding up a sign in support of the protestors in his home city. The moved triggered protests inside and outside the company.
Blizzard maintains that its punishments have not been politically motivated, but that it is just trying to keep its Hearthstone tournaments focused on esports. Its justifications have not settled well with many players and long-time fans, with some deleting their accounts and others threatening to disrupt BlizzCon next month.