Yesterday Kotaku reported that several groups were planning to organize protests at this year’s BlizzCon, an initiative that is in response to Blizzard’s decision to take punitive measures against competitive Hearthstone player Chung ‘blitzchung‘ Ng Wai after he used the Hearthstone Grandmasters event as a platform to speak out in support of Hong Kong. The overall response to Blizzard’s decision has been overwhelmingly negative, and groups like digital rights non-profit organization Fight For The Future launched a Discord and a website to begin organizing a mass protest against Blizzard’s recent decisions.
Blizzard, and other companies who are engaging in censorship on behalf of an authoritarian government, are not going to get away with it. They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they’ve unleashed. #BoycottBlizzard https://t.co/3G0UtfpZXo
— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) October 11, 2019
BlizzCon is a special event meant to celebrate everything Blizzard–a massive and beloved set of properties that includes Warcraft, Overwatch, and Diablo–with over 40,000 physical attendees in 2018. This year’s BlizzCon is scheduled for November 1st and 2nd, with Fight For The Future’s protest planned to commence at the same time, outside the Anaheim Convention Center. Organizers of the protest are asking demonstrators to come with umbrellas to show solidarity with the extraordinary number of civil protests in Hong Kong or to cosplay as Blizzard’s many characters.
We’re passionate about digital rights, and we thought this was a very clear example of censorship that was very disturbing to all of us.
According to their website, digital rights group Fight For The Future’s primary focus is to ensure that the internet (and all that “the internet” encompasses) be “free of interference or censorship and with full privacy.” Fight For The Future finds that Blizzard’s actions against Ng Wai violate those beliefs. “The heart of the matter is, they still censored a man and punished him for speaking out and advocating for his own political freedom, and that’s what they’re continuing to do,” Fight For The Future’s product manager Dayton Young told Kotaku in an interview.
It’s one thing for a company to ban certain types of speech like threats or harassment.
But a blanket ban on all “political speech” is essentially impossible to enforce. It just means that a company has sided with the status quo.
— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) October 12, 2019
The aims of Fight For The Future’s protests are to encourage developers and publishers to take a firm stance against digital censorship and support that protects professional and casual players as well as employees and fans and to persuade Blizzard to fully reverse their decision on Ng Wai. Although Blizzard did change their original judgement in their official statement released late on Friday of this week, Fight For The Future feels that Ng Wai’s punishment should be fully reversed instead of modified. Additionally, differences in language between English and Mandarin statements released by Blizzard following Hearthstone Grandmasters have led many to feel that Blizzard’s Friday statement is disingenuous and an attempt to save public face in the West.
In the past, Fight For The Future has worked to organize both online and real-world protests to major recent events, including the internet blackout in response to the 2012 Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), as well as protests against San Francisco-based company Salesforce’s support of American border-patrol agency ICE.
love hearing from my former coworkers that they’ve been told not to wear identifying blizzard stuff off campus because of credible threats. very cool. glad to see this is totally about defending the rights of people in Hong Kong.
— very cute dog haver (@pedrothedagger) October 10, 2019
Anti-Blizzard sentiment is running high, with many people participating in the #BoycottBlizzard mini-movement that kicked off after the news of Ng Wai’s banning became known. People have chosen to express their disappointment in Blizzard by dramatically posting to social media, making it unclear at times whether the public sentiment is one that supports human freedoms or just like corporation-bashing bandwagonism. Fight For The Future told Kotaku that their organization will do its best to “discourage” protesters at BlizzCon from using the opportunity to exhibit harassing behaviors or express anti-Chinese racism.
Overall, all the different forms of activism among people unhappy with Blizzard’s actions this week are a sign of something positive to Young. “We’ve seen this wave over the past couple days of people making games, people doing cosplay, people making their own parody Hearthstone cards,” Young told Kotaku. “It’s great to see people exercising their freedom of expression. It’s very important for them to do that. Activision-Blizzard and other game companies need to know that this isn’t going to just go away.”