Sony Locks Up The PSN Account Of A Man Named 'Jihad' Because You'll Never Guess Why

from the what's-in-a-name dept

Terrorism is scary. That’s the entire point of terrorism, of course. The relatively meager bodycounts of acts of terror — compared with, say, most minor individual battles in either of the World Wars — are actually attempting to create some kind of political or social change amongst the victims. And guess what? It totally works! After all, western nations, the bastions of freedom and puppy dogs that we are, have reacted to what is ultimately a minor threat by reporting toddlers to the authorities, freezing the bank accounts of people with dogs whose names are a couple of letters off of the scary terror-enemy, and refusing online services to people with scary (read: Islamic) sounding names. Freedom, you see, isn’t free, and we have to pay for it with freedom.

And the real lesson that should be learned from pretty much the entire early part of this century is that once you start the fear-ball rolling when it comes to terrorism, it gets really hard to prevent it from trampling a great deal of innocent people in some of the dumbest ways possible. Take, for instance, Sony just flat out banning a guy’s Playstation Network account because his parents named him “Jihad.”

Jihad Al Mofadda, whose story shot to the front page of Reddit yesterday, said that Sony banned his account on June 7. At first, PlayStation customer support offered to switch his PSN name to something else. Then, he says, after a few days of silence, a different representative reviewed the ticket and decided to ban the account entirely, preventing Al Mofadda from accessing his stats, trophies, and all of the digital games he’s purchased. After his story exploded, Al Mofadda was able to get in touch with a Sony representative again, but he was unable to keep his original handle.

Ok, there’s a lot to unpack here. Stories like this are fantastic for pointing out how easy it is for a corporate entity to try to apply some kind of language policy to its online forums and systems only to find itself hopelessly engaging in hypocrisy. For instance, Jihad is a word with a lot of discussion about what it actually means. Westerners tend to associate it with the term “holy war”, and it has indeed been used in that way historically, but the word itself essentially means to persevere or struggle to keep the Islamic faith. To that end, Jihad isn’t a rarity in use as a first name in Muslim circles. Meanwhile, one of my own Playstation friends has the handle HowDatDicTaste. Shall we vote on whether that handle or the one Al Mofadda used, iJihaD, is more likely to offend?

But the fact that Sony refused to allow the handle even when it was explained that Jihad was Al Moffada’s first name moves this into epic levels of silliness.

One e-mail from a Sony representative read as follows: “As stated in our previous email, we have to consider the network as a whole and we need to take every ones feelings into account. I can appreciate that your name has many meanings but it has one meaning that a lot of users find offensive and there for, when a report was submitted the decision to ban your account was taken.”

Imagine for a moment that some religious sect went completely rogue somewhere in the world and carried out a series of violent attacks. And imagine that this sect decided to name these attacks “Steves.” Sect members would walk into a crowded marketplace in Brazil, declare a Steveing, and set off a bomb. And let’s say that these attacks received wide press coverage.

Would Sony then ban the accounts of everyone named Steve? C’mon, it’s the guy’s first name and he has the passport to prove it.

At the time of this writing, Sony is still refusing to allow him to use his old handle, but has allowed him to keep the purchases on his account under a different name. This means he gets his games, but loses all the friend connections he’d made as well as his game trophies. Is this the biggest deal? Of course not. But the point is that when we can’t even allow people to use their own first names because we’re all petrified by terrorism, things have gone a bit too far.

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Companies: sony

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Comments on “Sony Locks Up The PSN Account Of A Man Named 'Jihad' Because You'll Never Guess Why”

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PaulT (profile) says:

“This means he gets his games, but loses all the friend connections he’d made as well as his game trophies”

I’m not totally familiar as I’ve never felt the need to do it, but I know that Xbox Live has a mechanism where you can change your gamertag and keep your achievements, etc. Does Sony not have such a mechanism, or are they just feeling like they need to pointlessly punish this guy for embarrassing them? If they can’t let you change your screen name without losing everything, they might wish to implement that at some point.

As for the case itself, it’s silly but I can imagine some people complaining over the screen name. People won’t know it’s based on his given name, so Sony would probably just want to stop complaints from people who are scared of that sort of thing. You know, the kind of person who gets so scared of a brown man doing maths that they need to try and get him kicked off the plane ( They’d probably be calling Sony up before the guy finished beating them in-game.

So, I can understand why Sony felt they needed to take action even if they did so (as ever) in the worst possible way for all parties.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It is better to piss off 1 person that to ignore someone screaming about the issue.

“Recall Toulose also referred to the XBL Terms of Use in explaining why user “TheGAYERGamer” received a ban, stating, “Gamertags are visible to everyone and it would be hard for me to defend to a parent of a young child who saw it that the name did not contain content of a sexual nature.””

So a parent looking to be offended by a word, matters more to them because they can imagine hundreds of parents forming a MillionMoms and threatening a boycott.

Look at the people they target, those they don’t think anyone will care about. Brown people are thrown off of planes by racists mentioning how uncomfortable they are being made… and expect the world to make THEM more comfortable. Imagine if corp policy became to offer them the later flight, rather than parade the brown person off the plane to waiting police?

Also Sony got hacked 21 times in 1 year, and then the bigger hacks happened… I doubt they understand how to move network records.

And despite all of this fail… people keep using them.

Anonymous Coward says:

As stated in our previous email, we have to consider the network as a whole and we need to take every ones feelings into account.

To attempt that leads to paralysis, as it does not matter what you decide to say or do, someone somewhere will take offence; indeed, remaining silent, or doing nothing, will offend someone somewhere.

Aw Jeeze says:

Re: pic run amok

Yes indeed!

At a local supermarket in Salt Lake City, Sprouts, I had a sandwich made to order.

One had to fill out a paper form, with a space for your name.

My nickname is Sugarlips, which is what I wrote. This apparently offended the staff, with subsequent unpleasantness.

I eventually was given the sandwich, the worst I have ever had (stale bread, very skimpy makings…).

Adios Sprouts. After years as a loyal customer, your lack of humor, common sense, consideration and respect has lost you a formerly loyal customer.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Because they fear the USG more than they fear their customers.
The USG loves to play the everyone has to help stop terrorism card and enjoy mentioning how secret messages are being passed in online games with words written in bullets on walls. They can now hold up this awesome story about how they stopped terrorism, rather than fending off a random story about how they support terrorism because random guy had a name some wingnut was offended by.

If it was such a horrible word, why was he allowed to make the account? Preemptively banning the word would seem to make more sense then screwing a paying customer well after the fact.

“when a report was submitted the decision to ban your account was taken”
So some idiot, who more than likely was beaten in a game and most likely used wonderful words files a complaint and wins.

So a SINGLE report about a name being offensive is enough to lock someone out of the content they paid for? Or your CSR overreacted and had a meltdown over the name, and you are trying to save face after screwing a customer that harshly over his name.

Sony – we can fuck you without lube and you dumb mfers keep coming back.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“how secret messages are being passed in online games with words written in bullets on walls”

Really? That’s an actual story that people are reading? I had a quick search but didn’t see anything, but that sounds rather… unlikely. To be real, I mean, not that you haven’t read such a thing.

“They can now hold up this awesome story about how they stopped terrorism”

Anyone who actually believes that blocking a guy’s Playstation account had any effect on terrorism is probably too stupid to need the government to propagandise to them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’ve heard of the fear of people communicating via games (which is possible, it’s just not a very good or likely venue for the most part). The bullet thing strikes me as particularly far fetched, though.

I know politicians don’t care, but I’d be concerned about anyone dumb enough to believe that without very good evidence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Since Jihad it’s actually a name of religious significance (who knew? You learn something every day,) I suppose there’s a better analogy than “Steve.”

It’s more like “Chastity” bombers performing Chastisement. I wonder what Fox News would say if that was banned as a user name? Somehow I’m sure they would argue that it’s completely different!

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That would be funny. Now imagine everything in a pompous British accent:

#2282623666: “Hello Mr 2274893059, how are you in this fine day?”
#2274893059: “Good day he-who-shall-not-be-named! It is a splendid day indeed!”
#2282623666: “My good friend, why do you insist in calling me those unconventional names instead of my fine number?”
#2274893059: lowers voice “I’m afraid, dear friend, that your number is of utmost offense.”
#2282623666: displays the most Britishly puzzled face “Why would that be, sir?”
#2274893059: “The number ends with 13, it is common knowledge that it brings misfortune and is generally chosen by terrorists. (!!!)”

Yep, it would totally work!

A Dan (profile) says:

Names and terrorism

I’m surprised this wasn’t already mentioned, but some college friends named their daughter Isis (after the Egyptian goddess) before all this Islamic State stuff happened. It wouldn’t surprise me if people with that name start running into issues like this.

Also in the interesting camp, my girlfriend’s name is Renee. When she got her computer, Windows wouldn’t let her set up a user account with her name, because it said her name contained profanity. She was able to set it up with a nickname, but it was very frustrating. We were never able to figure out what profane word was involved.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Names and terrorism

When she got her computer, Windows wouldn’t let her set up a user account with her name, because it said her name contained profanity.

You’re going to need to run that one by me again, because I’m sure I’m reading it wrong. Are you saying that they prevented her from creating a user account on her own computer because they thought her name was a profanity in some way?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The terrorists have indeed, instilled terror into our collective psyche.

It doesn’t exactly help(to put it mildly) that they have any number of governments helping out by piling on the fear-mongering to terrorize the public, governments that have found that so long as you can keep people afraid, and/or spin your actions as ‘To fight terrorism’ you can get away with pretty much anything.

(To be clear, I’m not saying that said governments are working with terrorist groups, but that both the governments and terrorist groups have a vested interest in keeping the public afraid, leading the governments to fan the flames rather than respond with more sane, measured responses.)

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The thing that no one wants to admit is that the biggest terrorists are the governments.

I don’t worry that someone in ‘arabic’ dress will come running up with an AK-47 and murder me, I worry more that someone will execute someone in ‘arabic’ dress because the government told them to fear them because terrorism.

I don’t worry that someone will get 8 oz of something onto a plane, I fear that a chemo patient who is tube fed will be assaulted by petty unchecked tyrants for my safety.

I don’t worry I might come across a video promoting ISIL, I worry that someone who disagrees with the government will find their voice silenced because terrorism.

I don’t worry that ISIL is using encrypted communications to somehow radicalize millions of Muslims in the US, I worry that the government will troll all of my communications looking for reasons to pull me in front of the Committee for UnAmerican Activities.

I don’t worry ISIL will convince young people to take up arms, I worry our government keeps abusing these citizens because its ‘popular’ and will disenfranchise them from society as a whole leaving them vulnerable to those who point out this isn’t right and lead them towards bad acts.

I don’t fear ISIL, I fear the government.
I don’t fear Muslims, I fear the god-fearing red blooded american who takes his rage out on anyone who looks ‘Muslim’.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a feedback loop here that is tightening.

As advertising and propaganda become progressively more micro targeted based on things like consumer facial expressions, browser content and email monitoring etc. etc. the number of mistakes in profiling is going to increase.

There is something said for the relationship between people going postal and the increase of covert algorithm based psychological manipulation. People don’t have to know that they are being antagonized, to be antagonized.

Permit me to theorize that there may be a correlation between school shootings and assorted other irrational violent events, and micro targeted advertising and propaganda. No I don’t have any data, yet.

As algorithms become more advanced and applied to more things the loop will get tighter. The number of people going postal will increase. The algorithms will be proportionally adjusted to more effectively interfere with the domestic population, which will in turn cause MORE people to go postal, and the cycle continues to get tighter and tighter.

I’d be interested in hearing any opinions on what can be introduced to disrupt the flow of this particular funnel, if indeed it exists.

Anonymous Coward says:

But then again...

“We have to consider the network as a whole and we need to take every ones feelings into account. I can appreciate that your name has many meanings but it has one meaning that a lot of users find offensive. As an interim measure, we have changed your screen name from DeTrump to DeSchist. We have given you a free renaming token, but be aware that the new name will have to go through our 90 day review period before activation.


Irma Fuchwithe, CSR”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Other names

Perhaps Sony needs to expand their vision and become more inclusive in their censorship. To help them out, here are some more questionable names:

Emily (means “rival”)
Mara/Molly (means “bitter”)
Persephone (means “bringing death”)
Sloane (means “raider”)
Huxley (“inhospitable place”)
Jacob/James (“supplanter”)

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