Are Gamers Taking Things Too Far?
By: Emily Wang
War video games have been very popular ever since video games were released. Instead of fighting a real war, players get an online, action-packed experience. Yet some players take it to the next level and post classified documents to try to get what they want.
“War Thunder” a war RPG, role-playing game, released in 2012, has had three incidents since 2021. First, a poster was made showing a British Challenger 2 tank. The person had posted it in hopes that a developer of “War Thunder” would make a more realistic model of a tank for the game. Then, someone who claimed they were part of a French tank unit, posted a Leclerc S2 manual while in an argument with others about it’s turret rotation speed. And finally, someone posted classified information about China’s DTC10-125 tank, but no one knows exactly why they did it. Yet none of the documents seem to be of much importance.
Now, Anton Yudintsev, the person who created Gaijin Entertainment, is trying to make sure that all documents received that should be considered classified are immediately deleted.
“We explain to the users again and again that it’s pointless to give us any documents that we cannot and won’t use, but we probably can do more to explain this,” he said. “Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent people from publishing something on the internet. We delete the posts and permanently ban those who break the rules, so our users know that they risk everything essentially for nothing.”
“I didn’t see anything I’d jump up and down about,” said Steven Zaloga, a senior analyst at the Teal Group, a group who has been researching tanks for over 50 years. “Tank manuals will be classified at various levels even though a lot of information in it is not especially sensitive,” Zaloga said. He added that two of the tanks, Leclerc and Challenger, have already been seen by other nations, so there would be an opportunity for a broader spectrum of people to see it. Anyone who handles, fixes, or operates tanks could have seen it.
Zagola also noted that the Chinese tank’s manuals had been revealed to the public since 2018, and the USA has had data about tanks up online for the public to see. Yet all these seemingly innocent manuals and documents could be useful for any hostile nation, especially if they know where to look for the information. Blueprints, documents detailing specific armor materials or configurations could all be useful to another nation.
Barbara L. McQuade, a former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and University of Michigan Law School professor, said that any leaked manuals could lead to people questioning the nation’s security or even the first amendment.
“If you have [classified information] and communicate it, you are in violation of letter of the law,” McQuade said. Still, to be prosecuted, “there is a requirement that you have an intent to harm the United States or provide an advantage to a foreign country,” she said, referring to the 18 U.S. Code § 794. But Gaijin Entertainment is still protected in some form. According to McQuade, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act permits interactive computer service providers to allow people to post about a wider variety of subjects.
“This is the shocking aspect,” Butterworth said. “That someone would post a classified document online to win a video game argument.”