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‘I do not condone child pornography’: Game company backtracks after Q&A on site once banned by Google

From THQ Nordic's trailer for "Darksiders III: Force Hollow." (THQ Nordic/YouTube) ((THQ Nordic / YouTube))

Austrian video game company THQ Nordic is apologizing after it agreed to an ask-me-anything session on 8chan, the freewheeling Internet messaging board that was briefly delisted in 2015 by Google after being accused of hosting child pornography.

The controversy began when THQ Nordic tweeted that “We’re doing an 8chan AMA and we have no idea why” — inviting followers to join the conversation.

But the announcement provoked a swift backlash on social media, with critics calling the session a “terrible idea,” among other things.

The Q&A session gained momentum quickly. In between requests for updates to legacy games such as “Timesplitters,” some 8chan posters asked more lurid questions. Several centered on “lolis” — a term that, according to Urban Dictionary, refers to prepubescent girls. A number of 8chan users requested that THQ Nordic include more “lolis” in its games. One such question was prefaced with, “Welcome to h8chan and Heil Hitler bruders.”

Despite the content of those questions, the company engaged with users.

“Where the … lolis at?” wrote one user.

“You got them already we’d say,” Phillipp Brock, marketing director for THQ Nordic, wrote from an ID marked as verified by an 8chan moderator.

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When an 8chan user posted a meme involving a member of the Knights Templar yelling an anti-gay slur, a THQ official replied from the verified ID, “that could be from one of our upcoming games...”

Representatives for the company declined to comment on the specifics of those exchanges, referring to a threaded public statement, written by Brock and posted to THQ Nordic’s Twitter account.

“I personally agreed to this AMA without doing my proper due diligence to understand the history and the controversy of the site,” Brock said. “I do not condone child pornography, white supremacy, or racism in any shape or form. I am terribly sorry for the shortsightedness of my (!) decision. … This was not about being edgy, this blew up and I very much regret to have done it in the first place.”

THQ Nordic’s original tweet promoting the chat session was eventually deleted.

Other 8chan users, perhaps anticipating the coming public relations storm, questioned THQ Nordic’s decision directly on the thread.

“So THQ_Reinhard and Philipp, do you regret this AMA yet?” wrote one user. Another said: “One thing to say to you guys. This was a really dumb idea on your part… but it is appreciated, And I will be sure to support you guys so long as you put out good games.”

8chan, launched in 2013 as a site for people who feel that the notorious image board 4chan is too heavily moderated, has a long-standing reputation for hosting controversial content that, at times, has flirted with the edge of the law. In addition to its brief delisting in 2015 over alleged child porn, 8chan has served as a rallying point for online harassers who have targeted victims on other platforms, such as Twitter.

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8chan eventually became a key gathering place for supporters of Gamergate — an online effort that defined itself as a campaign for ethics in gaming journalism but which resulted in numerous harassment campaigns against women — after the founder of 4chan, Christopher “Moot” Poole, announced that he was banning threads about Gamergate from his site.

Supporters migrated to 8chan, where founder Fredrick Brennan was much more welcoming.

“I believe #GamerGate is at its core a positive movement that fights against obvious corruption in journalism and the tech industry,” Brennan told Know Your Meme in 2015. Among other things, 8 Chan became a hub for those who wanted to reveal personal information about Gamergate’s targets or lob harassment and rape and death threats. More recently, 8chan became an early home of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

THQ Nordic, which recorded more than half a billion dollars in revenue last year, is responsible for game franchises such as “Darksiders” and “Red Faction.” Last year, THQ Nordic acquired Koch Media, the company behind popular titles such as “Saints Row,” “Metro” and “Dead Island.”