In the social media age, companies have to be able to quickly vet and evaluate any “influencers” that they partner with to promote their brand online. Electronic Arts now admits its process for doing just that broke down when the company was told of credible allegations of sexual harassment by a member of its Game Changer community partnership program.
A report by Kotaku details allegations of sexual harassment made by community members against a YouTube creator and Game Changer partner with the online handle “Dylan Simz.” The report outlines multiple instances where Simz allegedly shared unwelcome sexual fantasies with teenage boys online and at least one instance where he allegedly exposed himself on camera to a fellow player.
The report suggests that Simz’s status as an EA Game Changer—which granted him early access to in-game content and direct access to EA events and members of the game’s development team—helped him establish and maintain the illicit contact with these alleged victims. “I know that he’s friends with a lot of those [bigger] Game Changers, and I had some friends who were friends with him, so I was like, ‘Oh am I going to lose friends over this too?’” one fellow Game Changer told Kotaku. “He did mention to me ‘Oh, I’m a Game Changer, if you didn’t know,’ multiple times, so I think he knew that, too.”
Last week, General Manager Lyndsay Pearson acknowledged in a Twitter statement that members of team were first made aware of the allegations against Simz in December. Though the team verified those allegations with Simz at the time, they took no action against him until earlier this month, when those allegations started getting more publicity within the community. Simz was finally removed from the Game Changers program on March 5, and he has since deleted much of his social media presence online.
“The actions taken at the time [in December] were clearly not sufficient, and not in line with our values as a company,” the statement reads, in part. “The appropriate response would have been to immediately dismiss [Simz] and take additional steps to ensure our community was protected.”
EA says it has contacted the appropriate authorities and is taking steps to improve its internal investigation processes in matters like these. “We will reinforce out strict guidelines on ethics and conduct standards with all of our Game Changers,” Pearson writes.
EA has previously faced criticism for its Ronku program, which paid YouTubers to promote various games, often without the required disclosure.