Jim Sterling: Wargaming Rolls Back Claims that YouTuber’s Negative Reviews Contain ‘Hate Speech’

The controversy known as #FochGate continues today, as Wargaming, the publisher behind the quietly popular MMO World of Tanks, was exposed on Friday for threatening to use YouTube's copyright strike system to remove a video from YouTuber SirFoch that was hyper-critical of the game's recent Premium Tank, which he called pay-to-win.

SirFoch, who has remained almost entirely silent since revealing this controversy, was removed from World of Tanks' "community contributor" after posting a video including a slew of "F*** Wargaming" lines and calling their new tank, the Chrysler K Grand Finals, pay-to-win nonsense, to put it lightly. SirFoch chatted with Zoltan "Ph3lan" Sipos via discord, where Sipos openly threatened to remove the video with a copyright strike, which would jeopardize SirFoch's ability to monetize future World of Tanks videos.

Although the Head of Community Management at Wargaming, Florian "Nijal" Mentl, publicly apologized to SirFoch for the incident, not everyone at Wargaming was on the same page. Sipos doubled down on his decision to threaten a copyright strike, and, using the same wording as a statement sent to various publications this morning, accused SirFoch of using "homophobic slurs" and "hate speech" in his videos, citing this as the primary reason for threatening the copyright claim. It's a standard "it's not what you said, but how you said it, argument."

Overlooking the fact that copyright claims are not to be used to block that kind of content anyway, it doesn't appear that SirFoch did use any slurs or hate speech. After popular YouTuber Jim Sterling of The Jimquisition posted a long video today outlining the controversy, even recounting an email exchange where he asked Wargaming for examples of this kind of inflammatory language, Wargaming reached out to him to say that they are "no longer standing by the claims" that SirFoch used any sort of hate speech or slurs.

"That was their direct response to today's Jimquisition when asked about it. They're very quick to change a tune," Sterling Tweeted.

The likely origin of this claim is SirFoch comparing the new tank to "AIDS," which is certainly insensitive to those affected with HIV, but isn't inherently homophobic.

But more on the topic of YouTube, the Google-owned company protects using copyrighted content for the purposes of critique and criticism, no matter how vitriolic it may be. In fact, using their copyright system in the way Sipos threatened is considered an abuse of that system. Sterling dealt with a similar issue when game developer Digital Homicide sued him for defamation as a result of his YouTube videos. The lawsuit was, of course, thrown out.

So that leaves Wargaming in a bit of a tricky spot. After originally claiming that they would never issue a copyright strike against someone, only to be confronted with evidence of a very credible threat to do just that, they changed their tune to say that their intent was only to silence the "homophobic" "hate speech" with which SirFoch criticized their new tank. Now that they've backed away from these most recent claims, Wargaming has yet to explain either why they threatened to remove the video, if not for copyright nor for hate speech, or what they intend to do now that they've admitted they were in the wrong.

Again, many forum users are speculating or calling for the firing of Sipos, but many more are claiming the situation has been completely overblown, mostly defending the game itself from accusations of pay-to-win. Like any good scandal, though, this one seems far from over.