Fortnite is under scrutiny after a disturbing number of offensive AI-generated images were discovered within its user-made game database. The distasteful images appeared in the game thumbnails, easily visible on Fortnite's discovery page, which can be viewed on the game's official website.
While the new Unreal Editor for Fortnite bought the promise of a new creator economy, it has unfortunately devolved into somewhat of a gaming Wild West. With offensive user-generated content passing through moderation undetected, the sheer amount of inappropriate imagery is shocking, to say the least.
The images in question mainly feature overweight men depicted as different racial stereotypes. The sheer amount of different cultural caricatures is disturbing, with the malicious tone of the AI art ranging from light stereotypes to genuinely harmful racist tropes. With a broad range of players, including impressionable young children, the discovery is an appalling insight into Epic Games' weak moderation of harmful content.
After this troubling phenomenon was brought to public attention by Kotaku writer Zack Zwiezen, Epic Games addressed the situation, stating "Discriminatory content, regardless of how it is created, has no place in Fortnite and is a violation of our island creator rules." Over 100 offensive islands have been "addressed" since the news came out, proving the disturbing quantity of offensive content. While Epic states that each thumbnail is checked by a human moderation team, there's a clear need for tightened review practices.
The problem doesn't solely lie with Epic Games, it's a wider issue about the unmoderated freedom that players have to create potentially harmful content. As a community, players have a responsibility to remain vigilant and keep the gaming space a positive environment.
Concerns over AI art only seem to be mounting, especially after the leaked Midjourney artist database caused concern for creatives. However, with the release of Nightshade allowing users to 'poison' their artwork from AI, we could be uncovering more ways to protect ourselves and sustain AI generators as a tool, rather than a negative competitor.