After the state of California filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, the company’s social media has fallen silent. It all began last Wednesday when the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing took the publisher to task with allegations of widespread gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and many accounts of employee harm attributed to a “frat boy” work culture.
While official Twitter feeds and Facebook and Instagram pages for franchises like World of Warcraft, Crash Bandicoot and Call of Duty are generally used to stay engaged with fans, they appear to have gone dark rather than risk further reputational damage while promoting games. The accounts for Activision and Blizzard Entertainment and their subsidiaries on social media have also taken up the silence.
Numerous former employees have come forward to describe the pain and harm they’ve experienced while at the company. Other game industry professionals have volunteered in detail some of the transgressions they’ve personally witnessed in their interactions with the company at industry events and meetings.
The filing details of the lawsuit are widely discussed and featured elsewhere and we won’t go into them to avoid any triggering content for readers. Let it suffice to say that the two year investigation conducted by the state of California uncovered some pretty horrific working conditions and plenty of race and gender based harassment to go around.
Reports are that the company’s leadership is desperately trying to get ahead of the lawsuit, with internal emails uncovered that carry an air of rushed apologies and complete panic. Blizzard’s J. Allen Brack said the allegations are “extremely troubling” while making weird allusions to his family’s reverence for feminist Gloria Steinem. Fran Townsend, Activision’s Chief Compliance Officer attacked the lawsuit, saying it “presented a distorted and untrue picture” of the company.
Yes, Activision Blizzard has a “compliance officer.” I don’t know what that means but Townsend was a Bush-era counterterrorism adviser who made frequent visits to Abu Ghraib. She would later go on CNN to defend the use of torture in gathering intelligence for the war on terror. Make of that what you will.
If there’s any relief to be had for the silence of Activision Blizzard’s social media, it’s that the people who run those accounts – the community managers and possibly interns being delegated social media duty – don’t have to deal with an understandably critical response from fans, gamers and the general public. Many are either demanding accountability or expressing their angry refusal to support the company any longer.