Chief of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, yesterday on a twitter post, publicly apologized to a man, Zakir Khan, for temporarily blocking his Epic Games account because his named was flagged for matching a name on a list of “Specifically Designated Nationals” maintained by the U.S. Government.
Fan of Epic Games, Dr. Muhammed Zakir Khan, originally made the account to participate in the Paragon Beta, only to be surprised that his account was immediately blocked once the account was created, soley because his name matched up to a name on the U.S. watchlist.
In an email to Gamasutra, Zakir had this to say:
“When I went to the website to register for an account, I hit submit and that’s when I faced the red text. I was shocked,Initially, I thought I had been hacked. I literally stopped everything and told myself verbally out loud, ‘What the heck?’ I felt dehumanized and discriminated against. Frankly, it hurt.”
The “red text” that Zakir spoke of in the email was in reference to this:
— Zakir Khan (@Muzzakh) January 10, 2016
The full list in question is this one in particular. The list in question contains names of certain individuals and entities believed to be Terrorists, Drug Traffickers, and agents of other countries with agendas counter to that of the United States.
In response to accidentally blocking his account, Tim Sweeney took to twitter to say that it was due to an “Overly Broad Filter related to U.S. trade restrictions” and that the reason this was happening was because Epic had to comply with federal trade restrictions because the recent Unreal Engine 4 is widely being used in commercial products internationally, and that the “Reused [Code] for free Paragon signups without forseeing this”.
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) January 10, 2016
Obviously Zakir Khan was not happy with the response going on to say:
“To be honest, I’m not satisfied with Epic Games’ response to all of this, For a company located in North Carolina’s Research Triangle which is home to a lot of diverse individuals, a programmer should have thought more critically in developing this platform. Someone at the company should have caught this mistake far before it existed.”
This story further highlights how developers and publishers cooperate with the Federal Government to an uncomfortable degree that maybe everyone should think a lot more about.
While the government does have it’s duties to attempt to keep the country safe from harm, this just serves to highlight an example of governmental overreach, and how preconceived notions and taboos in regards to national security may do more harm than good in the eyes of the people, and to Zakir, and many like him, this is far from a good thing.