An Ask Me Anything event by Austrian publisher THQ Nordic has grown into an escalating controversy due to its venue of choice, the imageboard 8chan. The official THQ Nordic Twitter account announced the 8chan AMA early Tuesday morning and was met with an immediate pushback. Its followers referred to the site’s history of hosting bigoted and abusive content under the guise of “free-speech-friendly” values but THQ Nordic moved forward with the AMA without regard. Within two hours of announcing the AMA, THQ Nordic’s PR and Marketing Director had issued an apology.
Despite THQ Nordic’s assurances that any “nasty content” would be managed by 8chan board owner Mark, the AMA was filled with extremely explicit language and images. Yet this didn’t slow THQ Nordic down as both its PR director Phillip Brock and product development director Reinhard Pollice responded to several questions, offering up explicit responses of their own and ignoring the offensive comments between their responses. THQ Nordic’s Twitter account even liked a reply saying “The AMA is going well” and dismissing criticism as “lots of sensitive simons.”
Shortly thereafter, Brock posted a full apology, taking responsibility and claiming that they did not perform their “proper due diligence” in researching 8chan:
“I do not condone child pornography, white supremacy, or racism in any shape or form. I am terribly sorry for the short-sightedness of my (!) decision, and promise to be far more vigorous in my assessment of these activities in the future. This was not about being edgy, this blew up and I very much regret to have done it in the first place.”
Despite heavily participating in the AMA, Pollice says that he “wasn’t really involved” and referred to Brock as “currently handling it.”
8chan’s recent history is tied to controversies related to doxing, swatting, the QAnon conspiracy theory, GamerGate, and child pornography. In 2015, Google blacklisted the site from search results due to “suspected child abuse content.” Regarding whether such controversial content will continue being hosted on the site, the site’s owner was quoted in the past as saying:
“Unfortunately, yes. I don’t support the content on the boards you mentioned, but it is simply the cost of free speech and being the only active site to not impose more ‘laws’ than those that were passed in Washington, D.C.”
The THQ Nordic AMA ended shortly before Brock issued his apology over Twitter.
Given that the THQ Nordic AMA began late in the evening for the Austrian company, it’s unclear whether this is the end of the controversy or not. Regular business hours in Austria are still some time away. THQ Nordic’s link to its 8chan AMA remains live on the company’s official Twitter feed as well.
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