Stephen Cebula is currently awaiting trial for the posting death threats on Blizzard’s Facebook page, and could face up to five years in federal prison.
Game developers receiving death threats has become all too common these days. Recently the developer of No Man’s Sky was flooded with death threats after it was reported that the game would be delayed, and not even the reporter who broke the news was immune from having his safety threatened. The use of threats and toxic language is always an ugly dark side to gaming and the internet in general and it seems to have hit a fever pitch lately.
Recently a Heroes of the Storm player, Stephen Cebula, was arrested by the FBI for making death threats against Blizzard Entertainment, makers of Heroes of the Storm. Cebula’s threats came after Blizzard issued a chat ban to the 28-year-old for sending messages packed with threats and racial slurs to other players.
Upon receiving the ban Cebula posted this message on Blizzard’s Facebook page:
“Careful Blizzard … I live in California and your headquarters is here in California … You keep silencing me in Heroes of the Storm and I may or may not pay you a visit with an AK 47 amongst some other ‘fun’ tools.”
Blizzard immediately reported the threat to the FBI who arrested Cebula on July 12th. According to court documents, Cebula admitted that the purpose of the threats were to “scare those whom he had threatened.” Even if Cebula had no intention or means of carrying out any of his threats he still could face a maximum of five years in prison and be subject to a $250,000 fine. While being interviewed by the FBI, Cebula also admitted to having sexual fantasies involving his 5-year-old niece and is currently being held without bail due to significant mental health issues.
While it does seem that Cebula is suffering from mental illness, one has to wonder why these types of threats seem so much more common in the video game community. From the Oculus Rift developers to Skyrim modding teams, it seems that no one is safe from these threats. Much of this can probably be attributed to the illusion of anonymity that people have on the internet and the removal of humanity that comes from typing a message into a window rather than talking to someone in person. The one good thing that comes out of this story is that it appears that the FBI and law enforcement are starting to take threats like this more seriously.
Should online threats carry the same penalties as making a threat in person?
Heroes of the Storm is currently available for PC and Mac.