Why it matters: Riot Games has said that censoring the term “Uyghur” in its League of Legends online chat system was an error. The studio was heavily criticized by players who believed it was kowtowing to the Chinese government.
Uyghurs are a Muslim ethnic minority who are mostly located in China’s far western region of Xinjiang, which, like Tibet, is classed as an autonomous region inside of the country. Human rights groups claim there has been mass imprisonment in “re-education” detention camps, where they’re held indefinitely without charge and forced to swear loyalty to President Xi Jinping and shout communist party slogans.
On discovering that the word was banned in the League of Legends client, players took to the game’s subreddit to express their outrage. According to Riot Games, the problem was due to its filtering system “banning words it shouldn’t.”
The BBC reports that player complaints on official forums were blocked, and it's alleged others sensitive words such as "freedom" are also being censored.
On the game’s subreddit, Ryan Rigney, communications lead at Riot Games, wrote, “Sometimes our system bans really weird words for no reason. That said, it would be complete bullshit to intentionally ban the name of any ethnic group. Will update when I find out more.”
In a later tweet, Rigney said the issue had been fixed in all Riot Regions. He added that the company would be working with its global teams over the next few weeks to review and update its disallowed words/phrases list.
UPDATE: Effective immediately this is fixed on live in all Riot Regions. We'll be spending the next few weeks triaging with our global teams to review our "disallowed words/phrases" lists and update accordingly.— Ryan Rigney (@RKRigney) 21 October 2019
China's influence has been felt throughout the gaming world in recent times. Earlier this month, over two dozen Blizzard employees walked out during work in protest over the developer's decision to ban a pro Hearthstone player who aired his support for the Hong Kong protesters during an interview. Blizzard also banned a Hearthstone team for displaying a Hong Kong protest sign.
Apple is another company that appears keen to appease China, probably because it’s the firm’s third-largest market. Cupertino removed a Hong Kong protest app and Quartz news app following Chinese criticism, and has removed VPNs from China's app store that were used to circumvent the country's great firewall.