Facebook Group Challenges Nintendo on Human Rights

27 Feb

After hearing about a facebook group who plan to take a stand against Nintendo by not purchasing a 3DS (more from the source: Destructoid) I was intrigued enough to investigate the group and what they had to say. Jim Sterling covers the bulk of it on Destructoid, but to summarise, Nintendo are alleged to use materials sourced from Congo, where conflict over mineral resources has led to violence, communities being intimidated and most disturbing, mass rape. While most electronics companies use some materials sourced from situations like that in Congo, Nintendo have been one of the few to avoid disclosure of potentially unethical practice, having a severe lack of transparecncy about sources, and have ignored communication on the issue. The facebook group simply wants to show support for the ‘Raise Hope for Congo’ campaign, which appears a noble cause. While personally I would recommend supporting the charity itself, or lobbying government rather than a profit-hungry business, there is nothing about the campaign that I can complain about.

I would appear to be in the minority. When Jim Sterling asks ‘Do you agree that Nintendo should be punished for possibly funding human rights abuse? Or do you accept this as a sad fact of capitalism in which the poor must exist for there to be wealth?’ he fails to offer a third, apparently more popular option: ‘Do you think that the campaign is just a bunch of attention seeking idiots?’ It seems that the majority of comments are simply an attack on the group. Comments such as ‘nobody gives a f**k so get a life’ are the norm, and they receive more of facebook’s ‘thanks’ currency than those which support the group. Such vitriol seems unnecessary, and even those who attempt a legitimate complaint simply ask ‘Is that PC you’re using conflict free?’ Which, I suppose makes sense to some degree, but why on Earth do people seem to think that highlighting the unethical practices of a company who could avoid them is a bad thing?

The campaign which identified Nintendo's practices

There are, it seems, a subsection of the gaming community who will support a company and its products no matter what. The kind of people who get angry if anyone says Call of Duty has had its day, instead of attempting to argue its merits. The vitriol directed at the group is as idiotic as it is unfounded. Many describe it as ‘stupid’ and its supporters as ‘hipocrits’ (sic), which seems remarkably unfair. The fact that a large majority of comments mention buying a 3DS to spite the group is a sad indication that gamers simply will not criticise the companies that make games or consoles. Worst of all, most of the commenters seem to have totally ignored the point the group’s creator wishes to make, that he wants a company he is a fan of to be more open about their business practices. Instead of reading this point, which is made clear, commenters offer a torrent of abuse. Yes, the group probably won’t make much impact, and many who support it will still probably buy the product, but why criticise? If this kind of campaign was to gather some support and gain publicity, it might at least indicate to Nintendo that they could benefit, as a business, from ethically sourced materials, or if they do already use them, from disclosing that information.

If nothing else, the campaign has made me personally aware of the companies I support. I am a ‘hipocrit’ (sic) typing this on a Toshiba laptop (Toshiba were as bad as Nintendo, in terms of transparency) but I am now aware of a resource I can use to aid me in making future purchases, and will look to support those companies which have been confirmed to operate in a more transparent manner in the future. There may be more Nintendo lovers than conscientious consumers, but if Nintendo were to be made aware of this, one can only hope that it appeals to their business sense and they do make some changes. The critics are right, they will sell the 3DS regardless, but apathy has never borne change.

For more information, here are some links:

‘I Will Not Buy a 3DS Until Nintendo Takes Action Against Conflict Materials’ on Facebook

‘Raise Hope For Congo’

Original article on Destructoid

You can also let Nintendo know that you disagree with their lack of corporate transparency here

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