This month's big blow-up in the eSports world involved star player 'Ninja', popular online gaming platform Twitch, and some ... ahhemm... "adult content". You might not be keeping score, but we sure are.
What the heck is eSports, you ask? You must have missed our earlier update. We're talking about competitive computer and console gaming, where high profile players of popular games like Fortnite get paid anywhere up to $20k/hour by platforms to set up an online channel and stream their matches.
Ninja is one of those, with over 14 million Twitch followers. After announcing his move to rival platform, Mixer, Ninja's Twitch channel sat inactive showing only his old matches. Twitch then decided to take advantage of Ninja's huge following by experimenting with using it to promote other streamers; the first of which happened to be... well, porn. Ninja rushed to Twitter and apologised to fans, many who are as young as 13, saying he no longer had control of the channel. Twitch also apologised, shut down the porn stream which was in breach of its T&Cs, and returned Ninja's channel to its dormant state (although we're guessing a lot of parents were forced to have some preeetty awkward talks that day).
Ninja clearly wasn't happy with Twitch associating his account with mature content, which begs the question - was Ninja defamed?
In the US, it's settled law that public figures can't sue for defamation unless they can prove the conduct was motivated by "actual malice". Ninja's notoriety in the eSports world would probably be enough to shut down any claim.
But Ninja streams to viewers all over the world including a huge number in Australia, where no such defamation threshold exists. And defamation isn't just about false words; it also encompasses associating someone with a defamatory concept via photos, videos or other imagery. There are a lot of ways you can damage a person's reputation.
In one case, a famous Aussie footballer successfully sued a magazine for defamation after it published a raunchy post-game shower nude of him. The court said there was an imputation he was the kind of guy who knowingly allowed photos exposing his junk to be taken and widely published.
Similarly, linking a person with porn may well be defamatory. There are a range of imputations that arguably arise e.g. that Ninja promotes pornography, or (more seriously) condones the screening of pornography to children.
TL;DR? Gamers should consider what rights and controls they have over their persona on online platforms. Platforms and other online hosts like YouTube and Facebook should keep in mind that defamation is much broader than words. We suggest keeping your complaints and takedown procedures for all content types in tip-top shape.
We do not disclaim anything about this article. We're quite proud of it really.