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U.N. retracts, apologizes for error-ridden cyberviolence report

U.N. retracts, apologizes for error-ridden cyberviolence report

October 8, 2015 | By Alex Wawro

"We apologize very much for the errors and I hope we'll be able to rectify them. Our priority is to get it back up in 100 percent correct state."

- ITU spokesperson Sarah Parkes, speaking to Motherboard about why the Broadband Commission's recent report on online violence against women and girls has been taken down.

The Broadband Commission has retracted a report on online violence it touted at a recent United Nations event calling for a greater effort to combat online harassment and violence, especially against women and girls.

While the original report advocated against online harassment, some members of the game industry felt it also unfairly targeted video games by (among other things) citing research that described players of violent games being transformed into "killing zombies."

The Broadband Commission has now removed that report from multiple places on its website (though for the moment you can still read the original via this direct link) and replaced it with a promise to post a revised version "as soon as all relevant inputs have been taken onboard" and a list of highlights from the report that do not mention the video game industry.

"The big problem was footnoting which was not up to standard and we very much regret that," International Telecommunications Union spokesperson Sarah Parkes told Motherboard when asked about why the report was retracted. "That is being revised very thoroughly. We are adamant that we will have these [footnotes] all corrected."

The ITU and UNESCO established the Broadband Commission five years ago in response to a call from the U.N. for more advocacy towards the organization's Millennium Development Goals, and Parkes tells Motherboard that the report is meant "to raise awareness" and "stimulate debate" about online harassment and violence. Suggesting that playing violent video games has a deleterious effect on a person's behavior outside of games is just one aspect of that.

"It's a difficult area because there are certainly studies that show no link [to real world violence]," Parkes told Motherboard. "But I think on the other side of the debate there's still some question because there's no longitudinal study. This is an area where it's complicated and I think we need to rely on the psychological studies."

Of course, some scholars are still calling on advocacy groups to stop linking violent video games to aggressive behavior.

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