@Ampy Thank you for your noble effort to increase accessibility of the TF2 community to more players by making it more welcoming. However, I believe that the way you are trying to do it here is misguided.
I would like to make this virgin essay a series of responses to points made in favor of off-platform media bans which I disagree with.
First, I would like to consider the opening statements of Ampy. The first of his arguments I will consider is as follows:
“Arguments have been made that players should be allowed to have free speech…”
This is an irrelevant argument. Private organizations and companies such as RGL do not need to abide by the absolute freedom of speech that the federal government and public institutions need to respect. They are allowed to make restrictions on speech which are reasonably related to their goal of continuing to exist/make a profit. As hate speech may impact their ability to acquire revenue through advertisements, it is entirely defensible for RGL to ban people on the basis of hate speech. No reasonable player is arguing that hate speech should not be a bannable offense when done in, at least, official RGL matches.
The second point I will address continues out of the first and goes as follows:
“[RGL’s] stance on not “policing” the private discords, or other media options players use still, indirectly harms RGL’s image. [Some] private servers […] are filled with only RGL players [and] hate speech is used flippantly [in those servers]. My particular stance is that RGL should allow players to report these instances (with screenshots or voice recordings only) and punish the accused accordingly.”
After justifying why RGL should be able to ban players for using hate speech (at least in some circumstances), Ampy attempts to then claim that RGL should ban players outside of official matches, outside of scrims, and in private discord servers populated by some nebulous quantity of RGL players (with some amount of non-RGL players presumable allowed to still qualify for being banned). The issue here, and why I believe the first point is disingenuous, is that this is not about free speech but rather about jurisdiction.
For those who do not know, the premise of “jurisdiction” is that rule-enforcing bodies only have the authority to punish people who commit offenses within some area(s). That is, they can only punish people who violate some rules within their jurisdiction. It is inarguable that official RGL matches fall within RGL’s purview as a league which functions to set up and facilitate matches between teams. All hate speech in matches, provided that such speech falls within the category of rule-breaking speech (which Ampy notes it does), is therefore liable to be punished. RGL has also extended these rules to in-game scrims and RGL-associated pugs as well as to out-of-game official RGL discords, voice calls, streams, and other social media platforms. RGL bans players for in-game hate speech when the offenses are conducted in an environment where the “teams” in question, and all players on them, are acting in a way that directly relates to RGL’s league either by virtue of these being (un)official matches between RGL teams or being pugs run by RGL staff and thru RGL-associated services. RGL bans players for out-of-game hate speech when it is done on official RGL platforms or done specifically against RGL or its staff. This is the jurisdiction as it exists.
Ampy would seek to amplify this jurisdiction such that it includes private discord servers or other forms of messaging services or servers with some quantity of RGL players (while he states “all” it can be fairly interpreted, in my view, as being equivalent to “an overwhelming majority” or “almost all”). This makes little sense as these servers are not actually associated with RGL in any way other than their userbase being RGL players. While these players may be a part of RGL, they are also allowed to (and hopefully do) exist outside of RGL. No matter how unprofessional or inappropriate someone may act in private (assuming that there is no harm being done e.g. harassment or stalking) the expectation on the part of RGL is that they act as “‘perfect saints’ in matches and scrims [and official RGL platforms/communications]” and not that they are perfect people. Ampy justifies this expansion by citing some harm to “RGL’s image.”
RGL’s image is it’s presence on its platforms and in its service. In other words, those things which are “on-platform.” RGL does a very good job of policing these services (some might even say it does too good a job sometimes). It is not responsible for the racism and bigotry that its players spew in their off time, even at other players, and should therefore not police it except as far as that racism and bigotry constitutes some legitimate form of harm. Saying slurs 100 times a day in the froyotech team discord server would not actually affect anything the league officially does provided it stayed within that private server.
Another point I wish to address is the following made by @rairai
“Acknowledging that someone is bigoted but being unwilling to take a stance since it didn’t occur in RGL-regulated services is a form of complicity.”
This is disingenuous. RGL can take a stance but the argument is that that stance should not be a ban. RGL should say that hate speech is bad given that that is obviously RGL’s stance. However, to ban players for off-platform hate speech is to ban players for hate speech that, ultimately, has very little to do with the league. Simply because you signed up to paly in RGL does not mean that you implicitly agreed to never say any slur ever in every server with a preponderance of TF2 players.
To whit @Ampy also notes:
“Outsiders to the community see [racist players in off-platform servers…] and begin to associate RGL with the same. It promotes the idea that RGL is not actually a safe haven against this threat, but just a thin veil. Players inside the community are turned away from the league because the community is only inches away from the hate speech.”
This is a reaction that one might have but it is also not the only reaction one might have. A seemingly obvious alternative would be the judgment that “wow some of these players are bigoted garbage and I should not associate with them.” In video games as in life, not all role models are perfect and we can and should choose who we choose to interact with and idolize. The league ensures that no bigotry remains in its official channels, it should not try to expunge the bigotry of all of its players as if that was a desirable or useful goal.
The final point I want to address is this erroneous notion of “free speech” which is being thrown around most notably by @Ampy but by some other users as well. Before I quote it I wish to remind everyone, again, that as a private organization RGL does not have an obligation to respect free speech in the same way as it must be respected by the US government or public organizations.
“Your […] right to speech isn’t being infringed on. You are completely free and able to speak your mind […]. You are not free from any or all consequences of such actions.”
A right to free speech necessarily implies two different rights, one positive and one negative. The first, positive right is that one is able to speak whatever they want, within reason (often limited by harm inflicted), whenever they want. The second, negative right is that this right to speak freely may not be abridged (i.e. censored). One is not actually free to do something one is punished for doing. The “free” here means that it can be exercised without consequence. Conflation of free as in “free choice” with free as in “free speech” is a fundamental misunderstanding of terms. While I understand this may be counterintuitive, and it ultimately does not matter as RGL is a private organization, it is an important one.