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Harassment and Toxic Behavior on Chess.com

Harassment and Toxic Behavior on Chess.com

erik
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Today I was made aware of this article posted by Julie Nordby Egeland, a Norwegian journalist. The title (translated) is: I was sexually harassed on Chess.com

Julie explains how she recently started playing chess again on Chess.com (she's played about 700 games over the years). After adding a picture of herself as her avatar in January this year, she immediately began receiving some extremely abusive chat messages from several of her opponents. Still others, while not being outright abusive, were overly flirtatious and pushy.  

In doing some research online, she found that when other women shared their experiences, most online advice suggested that women should just change their avatars, essentially saying that this is their fault for being a woman, and being online.

Seriously, men? This is your recommendation for women in online chess (and on social media) - that they should just pretend to not be women? Because men cannot take responsibility for their own actions? I'm so ashamed. Guys, if you think this is funny, it's NOT. If you think it's ok, it's NOT. If you think this is no big deal, it IS. We have always had a strict policy against this kind of behavior; let me remind you that if you are found to be sexually harassing or sending unwanted advances, your account will be closed or restricted immediately. 

Julie, I have reached out to you privately, but I want to publicly apologize as well. I am so sorry that you received this kind of treatment on Chess.com. I am sorry that you came to simply enjoy the game of chess, and left having been verbally assaulted by the worst behavior of my own gender. You deserve better. All women deserve better. Thank you for coming forward to share your story - this is how we improve as a society. 

Chess.com is an open platform where millions of people around the world can freely meet to play chess and connect. And while we often hear stories of wonderful friendships made (and a few marriages!), we spend a disturbing amount of time fighting sexism, racism, persecution, and intolerance. The ease of anonymous accounts and lack of consequences often brings out people's worst behavior. Over the last decade we have continued to build more and more tools to deal with the volume of reports we receive. We are also currently in the middle of an initiative we started in 2018 to add even more reporting and automated protection. (And, TODAY we are fixing a recently introduced bug which removed the protections that should have existed in Julie's game chat. Julie, again, I'm so sorry. Thank you for bringing this to our attention!)

It pains me to see that society is not progressing quickly enough toward kindness, tolerance, and equality. We can build more and more tools to handle trolls, abusers, cheaters, and harassers, but the real solution to the problem is found in our culture, and in ourselves. It is the responsibility of society to promote empathy and pro-social behavior. It is the responsibility of each one of us to treat others as we want to be treated, and to be kind. (Honestly, if that feels too hard for you, then at least have the decency to keep your mouth shut, your fingers quiet, and don't hit SEND on that awful message you just typed.)

Chess.com community - this is on us. Let's be our best selves. And when you find someone who isn't, please use the Report Abuse tools we have set up to handle this. Or, reach out to our Support Team who is standing by to help you out. 

We are committed to keeping Chess.com a fun, friendly, and safe place for everyone to enjoy chess… especially women, who as Julie noted, are underrepresented on the chessboard.

Sincerely, 

Erik
CEO, Chess.com