For those of you who dislike clickin’ links, BioWare, a game manufacturer, recently began censoring threads with LGBT topics (ones that were simply discussing queer sexuality in the Star Wars fandom) in their Knights of the Old Republic forum. When people opened threads complaining about the locked threads, those threads were also locked. Additionally, the very words “homosexual,” “gay,” and “lesbian” were censored out. And Sean Dahlberg, the community manager, responded to complaints by stating very clearly that there was no queer sexuality in Star Wars, and so he would lock any of those topics.
Now, BioWare has issued an apology, given by Dahlberg:
I would like to personally apologize to “Elikal” and anyone I may have offended. My intention was not to demean anyone but simply to help promote a community that could discuss topics in a mature fashion. When I first built the word filter list, I added a variety of terms to the word filter that have been used numerous times in derogatory messaging. There were some words added to the filter that should not have been – we corrected this today.
I apologize for the confusion that this has created but I would like to be clear that there was never any intent to limit discussion. That said, I have overstepped my boundaries in my original statement and I sincerely apologize for doing so.
First and foremost, I’m very happy to see this apology, and also to see that the restrictions on discussion and language have been removed. After all, as has been evident in our comments, as well as the comments all over the internet concerning what happened, there are plenty of queer Star Wars fans in addition to straight ones, and to say that queer sexuality has no place in a culturally significant fandom is to insult and discriminate against a large portion of the fan base (queer and straight alike).
Of course, this apology is flawed in many ways. It is clear from the way in which threads were locked, and from Dahlberg’s initial statement, that the censorship was not to keep discussions mature, or to prevent people from using LGBT terms in a derogatory manner. I’ve got experience with forums, and there are two general aspects of forum moderation that I’ve seen that completely negate this. Firstly, moderators and administrators read threads before locking them; they don’t simply see a “bad” term in the thread name and lock it. Secondly, censoring LGBT terms is in no way preventing (through language) the use of derogatory language. While I do find it sometimes acceptable to censor, say, curse words (like shit and fuck), when dealing with forum members being idiots and jerks, it’s the responsibility of the moderators to dole out the appropriate punishment.
So, while I’m very, very grateful that Dahlberg has apologized, I’m frustrated with him for lying his ass off. It’s clear, based on his first statement, that the censorship had to do with refusing to acknowledge the queer fanbase and disallowing any discussions about such sexuality. Is it because these discussion weren’t “mature?” Hell no.
I also find it just plain insulting that Dahlberg is insisting that everything he did came from good intentions. Insisting that what he did was to promote mature discussion, that he never intended to limit discussion, and that he’s apologizing for “confusion” is simply dodging responsibility and minimizing what he actually did: bitch-slap queer people and allies.
I would prefer to have this obviously poor apology and a lift on the restrictions/censorship than have nothing. I want to make that absolutely clear. But this apology reveals that Dahlberg and probably his superiors do not understand exactly why the censorship was so unacceptable, and the ways in which they have seriously discriminated against the LGBT community.
As a way to express this sentiment, we should all go to the forums and start a half dozen topics about queer sexuality in the fandom. Muahahahahaha!