(Heads up: This is a kind of disturbing story in that it goes into one of the darker parts of the web. If you’re faint of heart for whatever reason, I’d advise caution.)
Earlier today, THQ Nordic, the company behind games like Darksiders III, announced on Twitter that they would be holding an “Ask Me Anything” session on the image board 8chan. This shocked many observers, as 8chan’s reputation as being the border of the dark web and home to content not welcome on other websites was fairly well known. The resulting trainwreck has resulted in at least one major apology from the company’s public relations department and scores of onlookers stating a lack of belief in their explanation.
We’re not going to link the website and you definitely should not go there, even out of morbid curiosity. Googling the site will lead you to Wikipedia articles and news stories about the image board, but not a link to the site itself, as Google has banned its result. In an article published in 2015, The Washington Post described it as “the more-lawless, more-libertarian, more ‘free’ follow-up to 4chan” as the first sentence of a story describing multiple reports of child pornography being hosted on the site. The board has, on its best days, entertained subject matter such as provocative pictures of minors in skimpy clothing and on its worst days been a hub for the exchange of links for much worse.
Seriously, there’s a non-zero chance going there will put you on an FBI watchlist. Don’t do it.
When THQ Nordic posted that they would be answering questions there, it baffled many who assumed the game publisher’s Twitter account must have been hacked. Further replies suggested that this was not the case, as the company explained that they were given the opportunity and credited someone named Mark who they were told “will take care of the nasty stuff.”
We reached out to THQ Nordic PR and other associated PR agencies while this was going on but weren’t able to confirm at the time that this was being handled by the company. Meanwhile, the AMA was ongoing, with THQ employees Phillip (PR & Marketing director Phillip Brock) and Reinhard (product director Reinhard Pollice) answering questions in a thread filled with racism, anti-semitism, slurs, and pornography. When asked about lolis, the term for underage girls on parts of the internet, with accompanying anime-style art of a naked adult standing behind two younger girls, the accounts joked along with the question. It continued on like that for some time, with the THQ employees nodding along and agreeing with the sentiments posed.
The question & answer session lasted about an hour, after which the THQ Nordic Twitter account updated again with a quoted apology from Brock. The marketing director insisted he had never heard of 8chan’s reputation for these things and did not do his due diligence investigating it. He apologized and took the blame as the single person responsible, despite there being other THQ employees involved.
When asked by GamesIndustry.biz why he continued answering questions despite seeing the things being posted, Brock mostly avoided answering the question. “I was f—ing overwhelmed with a plethora of different emotions to be honest,” he told the outlet. “I am not a white supremacist, nor into child pornography, nor do I think this AMA was smart in hindsight and if I could, I would undo.”
It seems genuinely impossible to Google 8chan without finding information about the board and the various controversies, such as a hosted sub-board for sexual depictions of toddlers, simply out in plain view. If Brock is being truthful, then he would have simply had to do zero research into it at all, including simply typing the words into Google.
“This was not about being edgy,” Brock wrote on Twitter, “this blew up and I very much regret to have done it in the first place.”