Roblox says it will fight parents’ lawsuit

Colin Campbell, Friday, November 24th, 2023 10:59 am

A group of parents who say they “lost significant money” as their children played Roblox have filed a civil action lawsuit against the metaverse gaming company. The company has countered by insisting it will fight the suit in court.

Filed earlier this month in San Diego Superior Court, the plaintiffs accuse Roblox of “intentional and negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law, False Advertising Law, Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and State Consumer Protection Acts”.

Roblox has enjoyed enormous growth in the last few years, with an estimated 43.2 million daily active users – up from 14 million daily active users in 2016. Used primarily by children, it’s a conglomeration of games made by commercial entities, some of which are backed by corporate sponsors.

The company has strived to keep up with concerns about children’s protection against predators and profiteers, implementing a range of protections for parents. However, the plaintiffs say that Roblox is unsafe for kids.

The complaint states: “Roblox advertises its product as ‘family friendly’ despite rampant inappropriate and predatory conduct.” It alleges: “Roblox makes it extremely easy. Almost all safeguards to prevent strangers from contacting and grooming children on Roblox are disabled by default.

“Roblox has misled even tech-savvy parents into believing they had prevented their children from reckless spending.” It makes the argument that while parents often believe that children cannot make in-app purchases because they have not linked a credit card to their child’s Roblox account “payments can be made through several platforms where parents have provided payment details, such as PayPal, Google Pay, iTunes, Xbox, Microsoft, Windows, Amazon, and others”.

Plaintiff allegations

The parents are being represented by Walsh Law. Founder Alexandra Walsh commented: “There’s a misperception that Roblox is safe – the brand has a bit of a halo around it due to the company falsely advertising itself that way to parents.”

He added: “Parents who would never let their kids use TikTok don’t think twice about letting them on Roblox, even though what they encounter on Roblox can be far more harmful. The platform’s popularity skyrocketed during the pandemic, when parents were desperately seeking social interaction for their children. But Roblox has overstayed its welcome in spaces designed for kids.”

The complaint alleges that “children using Roblox have encountered nude avatars, avatars engaging in intercourse, and use of sex toys, as well as virtual strip clubs”. One plaintiff set up her then-seven-year-old son with a Roblox account in 2021. She spent over $4,000 on the platform, “relying on Roblox’s misrepresentations that it was a safe environment for her child”.

The plaintiff found that “multiple users sent her child abusive and profane messages directly through the Roblox messaging service. For instance, one user asked her son to perform virtual oral sex on his avatar in the game. Another user asked her son to show them his genitals, and yet another called him a malicious racial slur”.

Another parent found that links sent to her daughter led to external pornographic material. A father of a 12-year old girl found that his daughter had formed an online relationship with a person who claimed to be a child of the same age, but who was a grown woman who, he alleges “was attempting to groom his daughter and had sent messages of a sexual nature to her”.

In a statement sent to media outlets, Roblox said it would fight the lawsuit: “We dispute the allegations and will respond in court. Roblox is committed to providing a positive and safe experience for people of all ages. We have an expert team of thousands of people dedicated to moderation and safety on Roblox 24/7, and we act swiftly to block inappropriate content or behavior when detected, including sexual content which violates our Community Standards.”

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In another recent funding announcement AI art productivity tool outfit Layer said it has raised $1.8 million. The company says its focus is empowering game artists to “generate images based on their own art styles, allowing them to seamlessly iterate on these images through its premier AI-assisted canvas”.

CEO Volkan Gurel commented: “AI has unlocked many new applications that will be built on top of this new tech stack and we plan to win by building the best product experience for artists in the enterprise leveraging the power of all the great foundational models and tools released by OpenAI, Meta, Stability AI and others. We’re creator-first, enterprise-ready and will remain model-agnostic.”

Former Rockstar dev deletes blog post

A former developer at Rockstar North has been writing a blog, reminiscing about his time working on big-name games like Grand Theft Auto. Stories include behind-the-scenes tidbits that have been picked up by the media. But according to Kotaku, he’s been contacted by his one-time employer, and has deleted many of his posts.

Obbe Vermeij replaced the posts with a statement: “I genuinely didn’t think anyone would mind me talking about 20 year old games but I was wrong. Anyway, This blog isn’t important enough to me to piss off my former colleagues in Edinburgh so I’m winding it down. I would love for Rockstar to open up about development of the trilogy themselves, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon. Maybe I’ll try again in a decade or two.”

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell has been reporting on the gaming industry for more than three decades, including for Polygon, IGN, The Guardian, Next Generation, and The Economist. © 2024 | All Rights Reserved.