The immensely popular video game Roblox has become a surprising battleground in the Israeli and Palestinian fight for hearts and minds as tensions continue to flare globally following the Hamas terrorist attack earlier this month.
Pro-Palestinian marches have taken place around the world, most notably in major cities including London and New York City, but they have also spread to the digital world. Axios reported that TikTok content that is pro-Palestinian has far more views than pro-Israel content.
Analysts have pointed to the age of users – particularly coming from younger generations – as well as a lack of faith in traditional outlets as factors to explain the surge in pro-Palestinian support from digital platforms, according to Semafor.
Those same factors have led to the game Roblox finding itself as another front in the media and information war that Israeli and Palestinian people have waged over the past weeks. According to data from Statista, 67% of user base as of Dec. 2022 was age 16 or younger.
The relatively younger age of Roblox users has also possibly contributed to a reported rise in cyberbullying as well, with users targeting Israeli players and harassing them with Palestinian flags and hurling insults at them.
The roughly 65 million users can create online avatars and customize them in several ways, and they can interact with other users.
Malaysian users conducted one such march to support the Palestinian people, with lining virtual streets and waving Palestinian flags and holding signs expressing solidarity with the people in the Gaza Strip, the South China Morning Post reported.
Israeli news agency TPS reported that the country’s Ministry of National Security has received reports of attacks against Israeli players, with some avatars wearing uniforms. Roblox reportedly told authorities that users needed to directly report the problems so that their team could handle the issue – including incidents of offensive language and similar content.
A Roblox spokesperson told USA Today that their team works to try and tamp down on the reported harassment, and that while the game’s community standards "allow for expressions of solidarity," they do not allow "content that endorses or condones violence, promotes terrorism or hatred against individuals or groups or calls for supporting a specific political party."
"We have an expert team of thousands of moderators along with automated detection tools in place to monitor our platform and will take swift action against any content or individuals found to be in violation of our standards," the spokesperson told USA Today.
FOX Business did not receive a comment from Roblox despite multiple efforts to reach out for comment.