When the article and an accompanying tweet vanished two days later, it came as a shock to IGN’s staff.
“My initial worry was, 'oh no, it’s a stupid tech error that’s going to make us look [bad],” said one IGN employee who noticed the removal early Sunday. “Then I clicked through and I realized that the tweet had also been taken down. It was just too much of a coincidence.”
Monday afternoon, 66 members of IGN’s staff published a letter decrying the conditions of the article’s removal. “We have come to understand that this was a clear instance of corporate overreach and demonstrated blatant disregard for the most basic standards of journalistic integrity and editorial independence,” the letter states. It was addressed to the publication’s corporate leadership and management at Ziff Davis and J2 Global, the site’s parent company and owner, respectively.
The letter, which demands the reinstatement of the article on IGN’s website, as well as transparency into the decision-making behind the page’s removal and a restated commitment to the staff’s editorial autonomy, is the culmination of a frustrating 24 hours for numerous IGN employees. On Sunday morning, the article linking to charities had been scrubbed from the site with no announcement; the first internal mention came from a post in the site’s Slack, questioning why the link was returning a 404 error.
A day later — following the publication of an official statement and an internal meeting concerning the article’s removal — IGN staff say they still have few answers.
“This is corporate censorship is what this is,” one IGN employee said to The Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their employment. “They have exercised editorial control when they should not have editorial control.”
An official response came approximately 12 hours after the Slack message, in an all-staff email from the site’s publisher, John Davison. The statement was identical to the one shared a few hours later — at 2:21 a.m. Eastern time — on the IGN Twitter account. It is not clear if Davison authored the statement.
“In the instance of our recent post regarding how to help civilians in the Israel-Palestinian Conflict, our philanthropic instincts to help those in need was not in-line with our intent of trying to show support for all people impacted by the tragic events,” the statement read. “By highlighting only one population, the post mistakenly left the impression that we were politically aligned with one side. That was not our intention and we sincerely regret the error.”
In a routine weekday editorial call Monday, Peer Schneider, chief content officer at IGN, fielded questions from staff about the removal of the article. Schneider’s responses hewed closely to the statement released the night before, according to employees on the call.
“They framed it as IGN issuing a retraction,” one employee present on the call wrote in a message to The Post. “It was basically damage control to a majority of angry IGN staff.”
Neither Davison nor Schneider responded to messages requesting comment.
One key demand in the letter from IGN staff: public accountability, starting with an all-hands internal meeting by the end of the week with those responsible for the removal of the article.
“The takedown took place in the early hours of the morning on a weekend with no communication to its initial authors, the general IGN staff, or to the public as to why it happened,” reads the letter from IGN’s staff. “IGN’s editorial team has guidelines about updating content deemed needful of changes, something that we’ve done multiple times in the past — but wholesale removal of pieces without posting an explanatory statement is expressly against our usual policy.”
J2 Global did not reply to a request for comment in time for publication.
IGN has published articles with links to charities in the past, timed to heritage celebrations and in response to events in the news.
“When it comes down to it, efforts like this are just people doing what they think is right,” said a writer who had drafted a similar article for IGN in 2019. At the time, at least, there was no structure in place, or team involved. The writer was simply assigned the piece by an editor. “There’s nothing very formal about it. It’s just doing.”
On Tuesday, IGN Israel, a regional licensed sub-brand, published a statement, noting its willingness to support a charitable effort that did not appear to take a side in Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The prominent image of the Palestinian flag in IGN US’s header, during a time of active conflict between two states which severely affects the innocent civilians of both populations, strongly gave this appearance, in our view,” the statement reads.
The Tuesday announcement from IGN Israel also clarified that none of the changes to the site — including the removal of the flag from the banner and the scrubbing of the donations article — were due to an earlier statement from the sub-brand. On Friday, the site came out in opposition to the original charitable donations article. That social media post was removed by IGN U.S., according to the IGN Israel statement.
Other sites, including GameSpot and Game Informer, also published stories with resources for those looking to donate or learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like at IGN, Game Informer’s article on the subject was removed, to the consternation of its staff, some of whom aired their complaints on Twitter. GameStop, the publication’s owner, did not respond to a request for comment.
“Our post was not, it should not have been controversial,” said one IGN employee. “We were getting people resources and information on how to donate to support victims of war, like children and people who are being victimized by violence. … We were asking people to take care of those whose homes have been lost, who are hungry and injured. That should not be controversial.”
This story has been updated from an earlier version.