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California sues Activision Blizzard, Democrats look to crackdown on health misinformation

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Yahoo Finance’s Dan Howley reports on the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard regarding harassment allegations and the proposed ‘The Health Misinformation Act’ bill by two U.S. Democratic Senators aiming to combat health misinformation on social media platforms.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Well, a harassment lawsuit filed against videogame maker Activision Blizzard alleges that several female employees at the company experienced widespread harassment, gender and racial discrimination. Our tech editor, Dan Howley, is here with all of the details. Hi, Dan.

DAN HOWLEY: Hi, Kristin. That's right. This suit is basically a bombshell for the video game industry. Activision Blizzard, one of the most popular developers and publishers out there, has one of the most popular games "Call of Duty." They also have the games, "World of Warcraft" and "Diablo" under their belts.

But really, the issue here seems to be just this widespread sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racial discrimination throughout the company. The instances listed in this lawsuit are, frankly, horrific. There was talk of a woman who committed suicide as a result of a relationship she had with the superior. There were nude photos of her spread out at a holiday party.

Instances of women of color being micromanaged to the point of utter ridiculousness. There was a woman who reportedly was told to provide a one-page summary of what she would be doing on days that she requested off, something that none of her other co-workers had to deal with.

And they say that in this suit that men partook in what was called cube crawls. They kind of would proudly come into work hungover. And while some men would play video games during work, women would be overlooked for promotions, despite not taking part in that kind of behavior.

Activision Blizzard has denied this. They say that they took action and that this is not the current Activision Blizzard that exists today. But people on Twitter that I've spoken to, people who I've reached out to who previously worked there, say that it's as bad as described. They say they experienced harassment and discrimination on their own. So obviously, this is a part of a larger reckoning within the video game industry, as we've seen with the music and TV and movie industries throughout the MeToo movement. The gaming industry kind of got away with it.

There was a report in 2019 about Riot Games, which runs "League of Legends," having issues there. They seem to have addressed that. Ubisoft, though, another massive publisher last year, was reported to be facing similar accusations. And five executives actually stepped down from that company. So we'll have to see what happens here at Activision Blizzard. But it's something that people who work in the gaming industry say is widespread and ongoing, not just for women who work and develop games, but for women who stream, as well as write about games in general.

And it's also worth pointing out, by the way, that while the industry may be dominated by men still, 50% of gamers are women. So it's not as though women don't exist in the videogame universe. It's just that these men seem to want to think they don't.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, Dan, we have, like, 20 seconds left, but I do want to get to this. Tell us a little bit about that Democrat-proposed bill, essentially doing away with the protections under Section 230 for any social media networks that promote anti-vaccination theories.

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, this is something that's being brought up by Senator Amy Klobuchar. Basically, what it would do is suspend Section 230 protections. That's basically a liability shield that allows companies to host third party content without facing ramifications for what is written about that or that content is. And essentially, it would strip that protection in instances when a national health emergency is put into place, not during normal times.

But this kind of revocation of the protection could lead to further kind of picking away at Section 230. And that's essentially fundamental to the internet as we know it. Without Section 230, we would not have our own site comment sections on, sites we wouldn't be able to do the things that we usually do. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook-- it would all essentially go away as far as we know. So this kind of rule, you can expect that free speech advocates, while they may not agree with this kind of information, will fight back against any kind of limiting on Section 230.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, tech editor Dan Howley, thanks so much for bringing us the updates on both of those stories.