The Twitch stream for Valve’s Dota 2 Internationals is removing mentions of Tiananmen Square, and hitting those who do mention it with a two-minute timeout from chat. The square in Beijing was made infamous in 1989 after the Chinese government’s violent suppression of student-led protests there, which resulted in hundreds of deaths.
Some users are also reporting bans for mentioning ‘Winnie Pooh’, a reference to the adorable British children’s character Winnie the Pooh, who was censored in China in 2018 after a surge in comparisons with Chinese president Xi Jinping. Clearly, President Xi is not flattered by the comparison. In our testing, though, we didn’t find this phrase triggered MooBot’s automatic removal and timeout.
The International 2019 requires natural collaboration between Valve and the Shanghai government. The stream may not be moderated by Valve directly, but by its Chinese partner, Perfect World, with whom Valve is working to bring Steam to the country. The two companies also worked together to launch CS:GO in the region and host Dota 2’s 2016 Shanghai major, which was a disaster.
So far, though, there doesn’t seem to be any official word of Perfect World’s involvement in monitoring the chat. At this point, it’s also not clear if the removal of this phrase is deliberate political censorship, or just moderation of the sheer number of users spamming the same phrases.
Either way, it’s not a particularly good look for Valve. It’ll be interesting to see if any concessions will be made when Steam enters the Chinese market.
The International’s main event is set to run from August 20–25 in the Mercedes Benz Arena. The total prize pool this year is $33 million, with the winners taking home $15 million.