27/05/2021 | Writer: Gözde Demirbilek
We asked Kerem Dikmen, Legal Coordinator of Kaos GL, about LoL Turkey's LGBTI+ censorship: "There is no such law in Turkey that forces companies to take these kinds of steps. This problem is not just the concern of LGBTI+'s in Turkey, but a global problem concerning LGBTI+'s in all countries where this game is played."
League of Legends (LoL), a video game developed and released by Riot Games with over 67 million users since 2009, announced this year's icon pack, which started on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia and will last until the end of Pride Month. The Riot Games' official Turkey website announced the Pride season as "It is the time to celebrate the Color Festival! Throughout May and June, we will celebrate the different colors of spring that surround the northern hemisphere with free personalization content that we will bring to all Riot games", without mentioning LGBTQA+ players and not explaining why the season is celebrated during May and June.
We asked Kaos GL Legal Coordinator Att. Kerem Dikmen about the LGBTI+ censorship on the Turkey website of the game:
"First of all, it is necessary to note that this is a game. Therefore, it is a product that has material value and profits. We should assess this product as any other product sold in a grocery. What makes this product different is that it is a product marketed solely on the digital platform.
It is clear that the game's representatives made this decision last year in relation to LGBTI+ visibility, May 17 and the month June which includes various Pride Weeks, but this year this campaign was relaunched by 'emptying the political meaning of the rainbow', trying to make themselves likable to the Government of Turkey and while refraining from distancing themselves from the LGBTI+ movement by using a name as 'Festival of Color'. As a matter of fact, their statement on the issue is a different version of their efforts to making themselves likable to the government."
Dikmen conveyed the situation on the legal level:
"Now it is necessary to look at: Who decides whether to sell a product or not? Of course, governments have authority over this. However, there is no law in Turkey that requires the rainbow to be referred to as the 'Color Festival' or prohibits a game from using LGBTI+ symbols. Therefore, statements made by the representatives of this company such as 'compliance with local laws' and 'localization' are in fact the company's own choice. There is no law to force companies to take such steps. If there was such a compelling norm, they would have been state this norm in their explanations. And we'd look at it: Does the law really prevent companies from commemorating May 17 or Pride Week as it's said? Does it prevent the use of rainbow flags? Does it force the apolitical dissemination of a phrase that symbolizes LGBTI+'s? Those who make this statement cannot talk about such a thing."
Underlining that there is no such legal obligation, Dikmen stated that censorship may be related to the discriminatory decision of the Advertising Board of the Ministry of Commerce:
"So why would they do it? Their decision to take this step is probably related to the homophobic decision of the Ministry of Trade's Advertisement Board, which was passed with the signatures from the representatives of the Turkish Medical Association, Turkish Bar Association, Turkish Dental Association, Turkish Pharmacists Association in 2020. That homophobic decision was: 'Rainbow-themed products in the digital platforms harm children's moral development. Therefore, websites that sell the product have to bring +18 label to these products.' But of course I insist that there was no legal basis for that homophobic decision, which was signed by the Turkish Medical Association, Turkish Bar Association, Turkish Dental Association, Turkish Pharmacists Association. That decision had no basis in the Turkish Commercial Code, the Law on Consumer Protection or any other legislation. Unlawful, homophobic, hateful; It was a decision that promoted the climate of hate in Turkey and opened up new spaces for hate. Presumably, this company was also affected by such increased LGBTI+phobic winds, making such a decision even though the law did not force them in any way. This problem is not just the concern of LGBTI+'s in Turkey, but a global problem concerning LGBTI+'s in all countries where this game is played. Again, there is no law in Turkey that forces companies to make these decisions."
Bahadir Güven of Riot Games Turkey posted a flood on Twitter after the backlash about censorship. Güven said that all content that reached players is coming from the cooperation of head office and regional offices and those localization decisions were made together with the guidance of the legal department and head office according to the local rules.
While Güven was refraining from mentioning why the LGBTIQA+ was removed and what it had to do with localization, a report on Dot Esports revealed that the Riot Games responded to questions about the issue as, "in order to comply with local laws." However, it is not known exactly which "local laws" was the LGBTIQA+ censorship based on.
The game's official Turkey website announced the package developed last year with a note regarding the May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia.
Translation: Yiğit E. Korkmaz
Tags: human rights, media