Kotaku UK’s Rich Stanton Outed With Financial Conflict Of Interest
GamerGate Kotaku UK
(Last Updated On: March 12, 2017)

Richard Stanton, one of the writers at Kotaku U.K., has been regularly writing about a game called Richard Dawkins: Evolution. The game is being developed by Gordon Douglass Ross and is being Kickstarted at the moment. It was discovered that Stanton has financially supported the Kickstarter but hasn’t been disclosing that little detail in the articles.

Over on Kotaku in Action, users Nordic Wish and B-Volleyball-Ready brought the issue up and made it a public talking point for the sub-Reddit.

The post details that Stanton has written three articles about Richard Dawkins: Evolution. The three pieces were published on March 10th, 2017. One piece covers the British development scene, another piece discusses Richard Dawkins, Brexit and Donald Trump, and the last piece is a general preview piece.

None of the articles contain clear and concise disclosure about Stanton financially supporting the Kickstarter for Richard Dawkins: Evolution.

Over on the Kickstarter page you can also clearly see that Stanton is a backer for the project.

For the standard version of Kotaku, editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo had mentioned that writers should disclose or “mention” ties in the articles where there’s a connection to the developer.

The Kotaku U.K., branch’s head editor is Keza MacDonald, and I reached out to both MacDonald and Totilo to find out if disclosure polices at either branch were still being enforced. If either decides to respond, the article will be updated to reflect that.

Some YouTubers such as Harmful Opinions have been more concerned with the quality of the game than the conflict of interest, pointing out that the game doesn’t seem to be particularly well made even though it’s set to release later this year.

Regardless of the quality of the game, this news actually comes shortly on the heels of another ethical lapse by Kotaku that involved a  conflict of interest from Chris Priestman.

The issue of a lack of disclosure was the foundation of what spawned heavy scrutiny into the video games press and the topic of ethics in journalism back in 2014. Kotaku was at the heart of the controversy that would later spawn #GamerGate. While the site stated that they had some new policies in place for disclosure, so far there have been multiple instances where disclosure has not been properly made for the general public.


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About

Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

  • TT
  • Keystone

    It continues to occur.

  • Cytos Lpagtr

    important piece of missing information about harmful opinions though

    he is god

    • Disqusted

      I heard there’s some thing going on between Harmful Opinions, some other YouTubers like Shoe on Head, MundaneMatt, Armored Skeptic, etc and some new social platform run by assholes, that paid YouTubers for promotions, and many failed to disclose.

      A friend told me something like, that company was leaking personal info about Harmful Opinions. Maybe it’s something Billy would want to write about? Don’t know how big of an issue it is.

      • Cytos Lpagtr

        there is a lot of things going on with HO and Candid (the social media platform you mentioned) and youtubers that did promotions for Candid. there has been reason to believe that candid looked into HO’s mother, payed people to do counter videos to him, and it is proven that when you sign a contract to promote there platform, unless you negotiate it out, you are not allowed to criticize the platform (so far as i know none of the people that did promotions said they negotiated it out, so i assume they are tied to it).

        speculation on motivation aside, from now one every time one of the youtubers that promoted Candid have any criticism about other social media platforms, like for example when they suppress free speech, there might be a tiny nagging voice in your head that tells you that maybe they are biased against that platform because they where payed by there competitor (even though the criticism might be valid still). and when Candid does something wrong themselves they can not critique it because they have a contract. one thing candid does wrong for example is making it easy for pedos to create private sharing groups no one outside can get access too. guess who cant mention that however 🙂

  • Gozu Tennoh

    How is kotaku even still around!?

    • normies

      • Mr.Towel

        Frigging poseurs.

        Normies trying to be nerdy because being geeky is cool now thanks to apple.

        • Maybe we can put it down to normies being naive, gullible and clueless, which makes them “innocent”.

          But of course, regardless of this, they are still culpable.

          Normies are important though, because they are the ones that can swing the tide back into our favour. The game is to let them know and convince them that our side are the decent ones, and that the SJW side are the cancerous, deceitful, authoritarian lying pieces of shit.

  • ChrisGarratty

    He doesn’t have a “financial interest” any more than anyone who has pre-ordered a game and then writes about it does. He doesn’t stand to financially benefit from the success of the game therefore​ he has no financial interest. This is not remotely a conflict of interest.

    • We don’t know that, which is why it’s good to disclose such things.

      This is a very standard practice according to SPJ rules and it’s one of Kotaku’s own rules. So no matter what, you’re wrong.

    • disqus_6DwfESMiOF

      Kickstarting is actually funding the development of the game. It is very different from a pre-order. While the chance of direct financial gain may be in question, the fact that he is writing about a game that he has funded the creation of is a very clear and direct conflict of interest. People don’t fund games that they don’t believe in, and that belief in the game, which is so strong that he funded the creation of the game, rather than just purchasing it like everyone else, definitely colors his perspective and objectivity regarding the game.

      People may still say that it doesn’t matter and consider his coverage of the game fine, but the point of disclosures is that the audience gets to make that informed decision for themselves. It is at the very least neglectful, and at the worst extremely dishonest and highly unethical to lie to the audience about this direct connection to the game. This is why Kotaku had to publish that policy in the first place, and this writer is in violation of that policy.

      • ChrisGarratty

        Oh puhlease. In what way is it a conflict? What does he stand to gain by positive coverage versus negative? Nothing. I didn’t say it was the same as pre-ordering. I said it was as much a conflict of interest as pre-ordering.

        There’s no conflict here. None whatsoever.

        And Billy, what exactly is it you are saying we don’t know? That he might stand to gain financially from backing a kick starter? We know he isn’t because that is not remotely how kick starter works. If you are claiming that he may have other financial ties to the game where is your proof?

        • And Billy, what exactly is it you are saying we don’t know? That he might stand to gain financially from backing a kick starter?

          Why do you keep going back to this as if he must be doing something criminal to make a simple disclosure. What part of “It’s a breach of Kotaku’s own rules” is not quite getting through to you?

          As I said, we don’t know if there’s anything to gain, just like we didn’t know if there was anything to gain between Nathan Grayson writing about Zoe Quinn while he was sleeping with her. What part of that was so hard to disclose to at least inform the audience about it?

          It’s as simple as that: he has a financial tie to the game, it doesn’t matter if it’s to benefit him it could be to benefit someone he knows. The whole point of disclosure is to simply inform the reader so they can make an informed decision about how they perceive the piece.

          That’s it. There’s nothing else. I have no idea why you’re running to the defense of Kotaku now when we’ve done like a dozen of these articles about various lacks of disclosure regarding people who are either friends with or have financial ties with projects or products or people they write about.

          • ChrisGarratty

            Kotaku’s rules as I understand them are to disclose conflicts. This is not a conflict. A “tie” or “connection” to a developer implies a far closer relationship than chucking someone you never met a tenner over kickstarter and hoping their project succeeds, that’s just supporting your industry and being a fan of games.

            He’s “financially supported” he wrote about. Well whoop-dee-doo, if he doesn’t benefit from the success of the game based on his good or bad press then it still isn’t a conflict whatever level he backed it at.

            Explain to me how this is a conflict of interest. What interest does he have in the game succeeding beyond wanting to play it?

            P.S. Give up trying to pass off GamerGate as anything other than slut shaming. I ain’t buying it, never will.

          • I linked to Kotaku’s EiC’s words in the article but let me re-quote it just so you have an understanding…

            “We agree on the need to ensure that, on the occasion where there is a personal connection between a writer and a developer, it’s mentioned.

            “After some discussion, as noted here, we will make a minor exception and permit a writer paying into a Patreon or any other crowd-funding service in the extremely unlikely scenario when it is the only way to access a game we’re interested in for coverage”

            So in Totilo’s own words, if there is a personal connection or if they pay into a crowdfunding service for coverage, it should be “mentioned”.

            What part of that escapes your comprehension? That’s one of Kotaku’s own rules, ace.

            P.S. Give up trying to pass off GamerGate as anything other than slut shaming. I ain’t buying it, never will.

            Well then I would suggest you give up trying to pretend to be intelligent because we’ve got like 100 articles on #GamerGate covering all sorts of censorship and ethical breaches that have nothing to do with your fixation on sex.

          • ChrisGarratty

            Ok, so the point of this article is either:

            a) You think kickstarting something makes you conflicted professionally. If so, I don’t see how. You gain nothing by the success or failure of the project or;

            b) You don’t think kickstarting is a conflict of interest and are taking it upon yourself to ensure that another site’s staff follow that sites rules regardless of whether or not they impact on a writer’s ability to write in an honest and open manner. Which I just find weird. Do you also make sure that kotaku’s writers put their coffee cups in the machine when they have finished and that they wash their hands after using the loo?

            P.S. before throwing around accusations of sex fixation you should scroll up and see who mentioned sex first in this chat of ours.

          • You think kickstarting something makes you conflicted professionally. If so, I don’t see how. You gain nothing by the success or failure of the project or;

            It was in Kotaku’s rules, so you’ll have to ask Totilo why he put the rule there.

            You don’t think kickstarting is a conflict of interest and are taking it upon yourself to ensure that another site’s staff follow that sites rules regardless of whether or not they impact on a writer’s ability to write in an honest and open manner.

            Who said I do or I don’t find it a conflict of interest? I said that we don’t know if there could be more to him backing the project, but it’s good for readers to know that there are financial ties if he discloses it.

            Do you also make sure that kotaku’s writers put their coffee cups in the machine when they have finished and that they wash their hands after using the loo?

            Here… this statement here shows that you’re a stupid f**king moron. I say that with the express purpose of hoping that you have some inkling of self aware to realize that we’ve been covering ethical violations from other sites for past two years you ignorant piece of sh*t.

            What part of #GamerGate being about ethics in journalism are you so spastic in grasping that a site that has regularly covered lapses by other journalists and has an entire section dedicated those lapses, and also has a section on the front f**king page do you not understand you unintelligent mongloid?

            Since you probably don’t have the basic intelligence to click the tag, here’s the link you pathetic waste of brain tissue:
            http://www.oneangrygamer.net/tag/gamergate/

            Do you have any other stupid questions that an autistic five-year-old would already know the answer to? Or do you still not understand #GamerGate, despite the fact that even a lobotomized tube baby with down syndrome gets it?

          • ChrisGarratty

            I think you missed an insult about spunk bubbles somewhere in that little rant.

            “Who said I do or I don’t find it a conflict of interest?”

            Your headline purports to “out” a “financial conflict of interest”. I made the (evidently ridiculous) assumption that somewhere in the article there would be a conflict of interest, probably of a financial nature, being outed.

            Of course, being the bastion of journalistic ethics that you are, I’m sure that headline wasn’t an effort to click-bait at all, and you have some genuine financial conflicts to out. I’ll let you get back to it. Out away.

          • Your headline purports to “out” a “financial conflict of interest”. I made the (evidently ridiculous) assumption that somewhere in the article there would be a conflict of interest, probably of a financial nature, being outed.

            We keep going over the same thing. According to Kotaku’s own standards this WOULD be a conflict of interest since it goes against their own rules about disclosing personal/financial ties to developers. Either you have a hard time reading or you’re being stupid on purpose to hide the fact that you have a comprehension deficiency.

          • ChrisGarratty

            Going against Kotaku’s standards is not the same thing as there actually being a conflict of interest. Totillo himself points out that “Some may disagree that Patreons are a conflict. That’s a debate for journalism critics.”

            He also says in a subsequent post: “And to clarify and evolve the policy I stated in light of the healthy debate that followed: I believe that Kotaku writers are indeed entitled to pay into a game developer Patreon if that’s what they need to do to access a developer’s work for coverage purposes. They can even expense it.” (http://kotaku.com/about-gamergate-1630707501)

            You said you were outing a “financial conflict of interest”. What you have in fact done is outed a possible failure to correctly follow Kotaku procedure.

            The one is not the other. Your headline is sensationalist and misleading.

          • You said you were outing a “financial conflict of interest”. What you have in fact done is outed a possible failure to correctly follow Kotaku procedure.

            The one is not the other. Your headline is sensationalist and misleading.

            What the f**k do you think failing to follow procedure is you stupid piece of sh*t?

            Read this you ignorant gutter trash:
            https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

            Journalists should:

            – Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.

            Do you know what that is? No, of course not. You don’t have the comprehension skills, so I’ll explain it to you like you’re a f**king illegal, illiterate immigrant (which you probably are, or an uneducated trust fund kid):

            If there are rules setup to limit the appearance of a conflict of interest, and those rules are breached, then it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest. Do you understand that you college dropout punk?

            When someone pays into a crowdfunded project and fails to disclose that instance — as per Totilo’s own post — they would have created the appearance of a conflict of interest by failing to follow the rules.

            In the SPJ guidelines, when someone fails to disclose a personal, financial or otherwise connected tie to a subject, individual, group or organization, it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest.

            Are you too stupid to follow the logic here or was that spelled out enough for you that you can grasp it like some kind of inner city drop-out who needs hooked on phonics to talk like a normal human being?

          • ChrisGarratty

            Your headline doesn’t say “appearance of conflict of interest”. Your headline asserts a “financial conflict of interest”. I’m asking you to point to me where the financial conflict of interest lies.

            Here’s a definition of a conflict of interest to help you along the way: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/a-conflict-of-interest

            “a situation in which someone cannot make a fair decision because they will be affected by the result”

            So for there to be a financial conflict of interest. Which is what you claim in your headline, I simply want to know the answer to this question:

            “How will the success or failure of the project affect Rich financially?”

            You keep deflecting and insulting but you never answer that question.

          • Your headline doesn’t say “appearance of conflict of interest”. Your headline asserts a “financial conflict of interest”.

            1) Keeping the length under 90 characters for indexing purposes

            2) We’ve already established he breached Kotaku’s own guidelines, which I’ve repeated at least five times now but you’re such an ignorant dolt you refuse to acknowledge that because you were obviously raised in a home where they didn’t mind their kid turning out to be dumb. I don’t know what race you are, but you can’t be Asian because they would never let their kid lapse into the kind of unintelligible gratuity you practice when it comes to basic logic skills. Heck, most black people are at least humble and smart enough to know when they’re called out on their BS, and most Mexicans would have grasped what I had already mentioned at least five post ago. You must be one of those bottom feeding beta cucks who lives life with the security blanket of virtue signaling online because you’re too way too dense to be anything else.

            Your headline doesn’t say “appearance of conflict of interest”. Your headline asserts a “financial conflict of interest”. I’m asking you to point to me where the financial conflict of interest lies.

            Because we don’t know what the extent of those ties Rich has to the project, which is why disclosures are necessary.

            “How will the success or failure of the project affect Rich financially?”

            You keep deflecting and insulting but you never answer that question.

            No, I already answered you the first time, you’re just not intelligent enough to understand the gist. There’s an appearance of a conflict of interest when someone writes three articles in one day for a project they’ve invested some amount of money into. It could be innocuous, I don’t know. Disclosing the ties means that the potential conflict is at least made public.

            And we’re talking about conflicts of interest in regards to journalism you ignoramus. Why are you citing the Cambridge definition?

            Either you didn’t finish high school or you failed miserably at logic 101.

          • ChrisGarratty

            You don’t know that there is a financial conflict of interest. Yet you assert there is one. That is misleading at best, dishonest at worst.

            The definition of conflict of interest is the same in journalism as it is in the dictionary, that you have an interest (“interest” means you stand to benefit, not that you find it interesting) in reporting on a project (e.g. You get paid to write stuff) that conflicts with your interest (again, your potential benefit) in the success of the project (e.g. you get a payout from the project if it does well).

            There is no potential benefit in the success of a kickstarter for a backer so there is no actual conflict of interest. Regardless of what Kotaku’s rules say.

            That you don’t understand this simple concept serves to undermine your efforts to reveal conflicts of interests as it appears that you wouldn’t be able to identify a conflict of interest if it handed you an envelope stuffed with cash and asked you write nice things about it.

          • You don’t know that there is a financial conflict of interest. Yet you assert there is one. That is misleading at best, dishonest at worst.

            Yes, so let’s ignore the rules because no one knows either way if Rich stands to gain anything (could be helping a friend, could be gaining some other incentive, or it could be innocuous) but the simple fact of the matter is that it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest when he doesn’t disclose the fact he paid into a Kickstarter while writing about it multiple times.

            It’s identical to Nathan Grayson paying Zoe Quinn $800 and not disclosing he had financial ties to her. Do we know if Grayson gained anything out of it? I don’t know, I don’t care. It’s a conflict of interest to report on something you have a direct, personal financial connection to without at least disclosing it.

            There is no potential benefit in the success of a kickstarter for a backer so there is no actual conflict of interest. Regardless of what Kotaku’s rules say.

            And you can prove this without a shadow of a doubt?

            You’re an idiot.

            You’ve moved the goalpost three times. First stating that there was no COI because there’s nothing to gain. I point out to you that in Kotaku’s own rules they state that these financial ties should be mentioned, obviously because of the Grayson incident it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest when there are financial/personal ties not disclosed.

            You completely ignore this.

            Next you try to change the context in which a COI is used and re-interpret Kotaku’s own rules, which are pretty simple.

            It’s pointed out to you that once again that part of Kotaku’s rules says that any financial ties paid into a project needs disclosure.

            You ignore this.

            You then move on to trying to criticize this site for policing other site’s ethical policies (something #GamerGate has been doing for two f**king years) and try to make an issue out of that.

            I point out to you that you’re a moron and this has been going on for years. Your ignorance really shined through here.

            You then decide to say that there is no COI and the headline is misleading. Even though directly in the article there is a link to Kotaku’s own rules about this sort of thing, and another link to Chris Priestman being caught doing the exact same thing.

            The only thing this article is pointing out is that THERE WAS NO DISCLOSURE.

            You then make a giant leap by pushing the goalpost so far out of the field, it’s no longer in sight. I can’t believe anyone over the age of 15 would even type this…

            Going against Kotaku’s standards is not the same thing as there actually being a conflict of interest.

            That’s the whole point of the article! It goes against Kotaku’s rules, and creates the appearance of a COI. The standards and practices is how we measure COIs you stupid numbskull. How the f**k can’t you understand that?

            Wow, you’re a cretin. And then…. then you decide to redefine conflict of interest based on your own set guidelines, even though you’re an idiot.

            in reporting on a project (e.g. You get paid to write stuff) that conflicts with your interest (again, your potential benefit) in the success of the project (e.g. you get a payout from the project if it does well).

            That’s not always true, because if you had reading comprehension skills you would have clicked on the link I provided to the SPJ ethics guidelines, which explains that it’s not always about financially receiving kickbacks for it to be a conflict of interest.

            You’re so stupid though you don’t get it. It was a COI when Grayson was exchanging money with Quinn. It was a COI when Tyler Wylde was dating a Ubisoft employee while writing about their games. It was a COI when Polygon writers — who were friends with the developers — wrote about their games.

            Anytime it’s done without disclosure, it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest, even more-so when it directly violates a standard ethical practice setup by the publication itself. I’ve repeated this multiple times, but you just don’t have the intellect or skill to comprehend that.

            There are hundreds of examples of COIs scattered across this site and the old OAG site but you’re such an idiot you can’t and couldn’t grasp the concept of them anyway.

          • Disqusted

            I thought you started out with a decent point questioning the conflict of interest, but now you’re insisting GamerGate is about “slut shaming”. Good job showing how incredibly ignorant you are.

            Corruption in the gaming industry and gaming media has been a thing for decades. That is a fact. The incident with that woman was just the tipping point. It had nothing to do with whether she had sex with anyone. None of us give a flying f**k about that.

            It’s that the same media treating us like immoral trash were caught with blatant conflict of interest. And as I said, there are so many cases of this dating back decades. GamerGate dug up even more cases of it. I’ve dealt with it myself. It is everywhere.

            There’s something wrong with you if you seriously believe everything has to revolve around a single woman’s sexuality, and that people cannot be corrupt or have conflicts of interest.

        • disqus_6DwfESMiOF

          A conflict of interest doesn’t always have to mean direct financial gain. It just means there is a bias present that could color the objectivity of the reporting, and that needs to be disclosed. So whether he stands to gain financially is irrelevant to the point that there is a conflict.

          As for what he stands to gain from positive coverage, for one thing he funded the game because he personally believes that the game should be funded he is using his position as an “objective reporter” to suggest to the audience that they should fund this game, without letting them know that he has personally funded this game.

          As you have said yourself, kickstarting is not an investment, which means there are no protections for backers and the money they put towards a game. If this campaign falls through this reporter loses whatever amount he backed. He stands to gain if the campaign succeeds, at the very least he gets the game he funded and his money is not lost, let alone any stretch goals that add more content. There is also the fact that his relationship with the developer is colored by this, that industry quid pro quo rears its ugly head. Because he has not only financially backed the development of this game, but also gives them free advertising the favor can be returned with exclusive access to this game or future games, which translates directly to more clicks on his articles and more money in his pocket.

    • Disqusted

      To be honest, I was wondering about that too. But I waited to see how people responded to you, before saying anything.

      I think it’s best to just disclose any kind of personal connection, regardless of if you benefit from it or not. At the very least, that would put any reader’s mind to rest, and increase trust. Only takes a few moments to do, and doesn’t hurt.

      I can understand if you think this is some witch-hunt thing that shouldn’t be made a big deal out of. But at the same time, Kotaku has betrayed us many times before, which is why people react this way to them.

      • To be fair, it’s not a big issue, but it is an issue that led to a big fallout when it happened before. The whole point of disclosure is so that people don’t begin to formulate conspiracies surrounding connections between journalists and developers, and it limits potential perceived conflicts of interest that may end up tarnishing the reputation of the brand, which is exactly what happened back in 2014.

        A small stone may not break the glass house, but throw enough of them and the cracks will show.

  • Cornson

    Almost 3 years later and Kotaku staff still don’t know how to Disclose information that breached the ethics standard, why am i not even surpriced? (it’s because it’s kotaku, known world wide as one of the most unethical publications to have ever existed)