Epic Games has apologised to a Florida-based Muslim professor for not allowing him to signing up and play their online game Paragon, because his name appeared on a US Treasury sanctions list.
Muhammad Zakir Khan, a speech professor at Florida's Broward College, is also the executive director of the Transparency and Accountability Project – a police accountability database. He has been an ardent video gamer since he was 13-years-old.
However, when Khan attempted to sign up for Paragon, Epic Games's multi-player online video game, he received an unusual message from the company, informing him that he would not be allowed to sign up for the game, as his name was the same as one mentioned on the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control's (OFAC) sanctions list.
Since he was concerned about receiving such a message from Epic Games, he posted a screenshot of it on Twitter and tagged the video game company with #iamnotaterrorist. As soon as the company found out about the gaffe, Tim Sweeney, founder of the video gaming firm, replied to the tweet and apologised for the error.
He also said that such a mistake should not have happened at all, especially at the signing up stage since the protocol was actually set to limit control access to the firm's gaming tools. He explained that the code was originally designed around the Unreal Engine, which is meant for large commercial projects, but was recycled in the system, without much thought to the consequences of such a move.
Khan told The Intercept on 11 January that the issue had been fixed and that he was glad that a solution had been found. However, he also expressed concern about how the company could have overlooked the magnitude of the consequences of using such coding in its system. He said, "I expect a gaming company as big as Epic Games to realize you're in the Triangle in Raleigh. ... You have a lot of people of color there, you have a lot of Muslims there. Shouldn't somebody in your company realize this is going on? We shouldn't be doing this, we shouldn't program it this way.
The "Specially Designated Nationals" list includes all individuals and/or companies "owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of" countries that have trade relations with the US and are subject to economic and trade sanctions as outlined by US foreign and national security policy. The Treasury Department's OFAC oversees the list, which scarily enough, also includes the names of terrorists, narcotics and human traffickers and other similar criminally-inclined individuals or groups."