User-Generated Gaming Platform Roblox Faces Class Action Lawsuit for Being “Addictive” and Exploiting Child Labor

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A new lawsuit accuses popular gaming platform Roblox of creating an “addictive” gaming experience while “exploiting” children and profiting off of “child labor.”

Experts say that an estimated 75% of children aged 9-12 use Roblox monthly. In the first months of 2023, the company made $2.39 billion from “Robux” purchases made on the platform by the mostly minor target audience. Robux is the digital currency used in the game; 400 Robux cost platform users $4.99.

The San Mateo-based video game company launched in 2006 for computer play after being beta tested for a couple of years beforehand. Its instant success led to an iOS release in 2012, an Android release in 2014, and a release on Xbox and PlayStation in 2015 and 2023 respectively. As with many tech companies, Roblox continued to explode in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With this rise in success came mounting concerns brought by parents, child development experts, and others. In 2023, a class action lawsuit was filed against Roblox on behalf of parents arguing that the video game subjected children to dangerous digital environments including online spaces where children were exposed to sexual content and were connected with ill-willed adult users.

This new lawsuit which was filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, maintains similar claims but argues that the platform is not only addictive but is run on the backs of exploitative child labor.

The claim of child labor exploitation stems from one of the main user objectives of the game; creating games and playing games that were created by other players. The lawsuit explains, that “The entire digital world of Roblox is user-generated” and that “Roblox has built its entire platform around profiting from the creative development of its users—most of whom are children—and exploiting their labor for Roblox’s own profit.”

When a user develops an artifact, world, or game on the platform, they can sell their creation to other users through the Roblox marketplace, the “Avatar Store.” In exchange for the sale of their creation, users — again most of whom are children— are paid in Robux. The platform advertises that users can make some “serious cash” for their developments; however, the reality is that most child users will never meet the criteria to cash out their Robux for USD.

In order to make the currency conversion, users must meet several conditions including having a minimum of 30,000 Robux and being registered as a subscriber which comes at a monthly fee. As a result, the lawsuit argues that child developers are unable to ever cash out their digital earnings and that instead, Roblox is the one reaping real-world benefits from these mostly child-generated goods that are digitally sold.

The complaint maintains, “Roblox, of course, makes money every time Robux is involved in a transaction, whether selling an item directly to a user, or taking a cut from user-to-user sales,” adding, “Roblox is thus exploiting child labor and offering children nearly worthless digital currency for their labor.”

The lawsuit goes on to argue that “the design of the Roblox platform was specifically intended to addict users —especially children— and encourage play for longer periods of time.” The video game touts itself as a “wholesome, educational platform for children.” However, the game is quite the opposite as it depends on its addictive nature to continue pulling in children who will ultimately purchase Robux.

“Roblox conceals these dangerous addictive properties, while at the same time holding the platform out as safe and educational for its users,” the lawsuit maintains.

The lawsuit accuses the game makers of violating California False Advertising Law for not making users aware of the game's addictive nature and exploitative child labor tactics. Other claims include fraudulent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, violations of the California Unfair Competition Law, and violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act.

A company spokesperson has pushed back against the lawsuit, sharing with reporters that “Roblox is committed to providing a positive and safe experience for people of all ages. Respecting ‘The Community’ is one of our core values, and we are proud of the positive difference that building on Roblox, with free tools, has made in the lives of many within our developer community.” The statement goes on, “For the experiences that monetize, the majority are created by developers who are over 18 years old. We also maintain community standards, key features and educational materials to promote safety and civility on our platform for our developer and user communities.”

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages and a trial by jury.

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate from James Madison University, where she studied English and Education. Residing in Central Virginia with her husband and two young daughters, she balances her workaholic tendencies with a passion for travel, exploring the world with her family.
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