A recent update to the Java version of Minecraft has sparked outrage after it introduced a player reporting system whose workings grant Microsoft the ability to ban players from both public and private servers.
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First tested in the game’s 22W24A public test before being added to Minecraft Java with the recent June 28th release of its 1.19.1 patch, the game’s new “player chat reporting” feature allows players to now submit in-game reports regarding “abusive messages”.
“You may also have seen our new profanity filter on Realms – these two functions are different,” Mojang explains on their official Minecraft help center. “A chat report is always initiated by a player. No reports are created automatically.”
Further, according to the same support article, “When you submit a player report, you are required to select the individual chat messages that contain the objectionable content, as well as the category of the report, to provide the best context for our moderation team to take action. ”
These report categories include “Imminent harm – Self-harm or suicide”, “Child sexual exploitation or abuse”, “Terrorism or violent extremism”, “Hate speech”, “Imminent harm – Threat to harm others”, “Non-consensual intimate imagery”, “Harassment or bullying”, “Defamation, impersonation, false information”, and “encouraging others to partake in illegal drug related activities or encouraging underage drinking. ”
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As per their own description of the “lifetime of a player report”, after a player submits a report, it is sent to a “team of Minecraft Investigators”.
There, “a moderator reviews the report and the evidence and assigns an appropriate action (if any)”, and “if action is taken, the offending player’s account is suspended from online play for some duration of time or in extreme cases permanently”.
“When reports are submitted, our team reviews not only the phrase reported, but the surrounding context and the authenticity of the report to determine if our community standards were violated,” they explain. “When someone doesn’t follow our community standards, it is possible that their account will get suspended.”
However, concerns have risen over the very system itself.
In a thread on the Minecraft subreddit, JewelTK exposed what “Java chat reporting from the perspective of a server host” looked like, asserting that it “goes against everything community servers stand for. I see it only doing active harm to the game and its community, solving a problem that never existed to begin with.”
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Jewel explains that while private servers in any game allow players to find those who play the way they like (or make their own), the ability to report to Microsoft undermines the independence of private servers, who could previously choose to use third party options such as MCBans.
“Forcing this change upon the community removes our control to play how we wish, no problems will be solved by this addition, and only new ones will come of it,” he said. “Report abuse and false positives are just a few of many issues.”
After briefly noting that he and server staff that banned players with chips on their shoulders could abuse the feature to have private server owners falsely punished, Jewel added, “If Microsoft wants to enforce the rules and report system on the realms they provide, that’s OK. But they should not have a say in how our servers are run.”
“A Microsoft moderator should not be allowed to police my language on what is essentially my property,” he maintained.
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He further expressed concern over how Microsoft would handle the context of such reports, as he notes that though the LGBTQ players on the server use gay slurs in conversation, it’s done with everyone’s consent and understanding that such talk is allowed.
“I feel like as LGBTQ individuals, we have some right to say these in what is effectively our own house,” he posited.
Recognizing that family-friendly servers should have the right to ban those players who use foul language, Jewel emphasized the concept of personal choice, arguing that “it should not be Microsoft deciding all servers must now follow their rules, whether or not people want them.”
Ultimately, Jewel warned, “Do not let this feature pass. Understand where us server hosts and staff are coming from when we say we hate this feature. The report system is primed for abuse, and is being deployed by Microsoft to control players outside of their platform. Microsoft just wants control.”
“Unless we make our voices heard and let Microsoft that we won’t stand for this, it will be the beginning of a dark time for Minecraft, and could potentially kill hundreds of servers,” he declared, concluding his video by begging those watching to voice their concerns to Microsoft and Mojang.
As of writing, Jewel’s post has received over 20,400 upvotes, numerous Reddit ‘awards’, and an overwhelming amount of agreement over his concerns.
“Once this system goes up, everybody should just report every single chat that is sent,” proposed MikeWazowski4ever. “Overwhelm the system and make them see how stupid it is.”
“One of the worst thing about this will be dealing with ban appeals,” CollectionMost1351 worried. “If a player gets banned by mojang while playing on my server he will probably make a appeal on my website but i cant unban him because i didnt ban him in the first place and i guess many players will be confused and frustrated and never return to my server or mc in general.”
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“Well said,” wrote non-taken-name. ” I hope this doesn’t pass and kill such a big part of my (and many others) life, but I’m fearful Microsoft simply doesn’t and won’t care.”
A Change.org petition asking Microsoft to “Remove Chat Reporting from Minecraft: Java Edition” recently surpassed its initial goal of 1,500 signatures and is presently aiming to collect another 1,000.
In January, head of Xbox Phil Spencer stated that Xbox was “not a free speech platform“, but in reality “a platform around interactive entertainment and video games.
“And we’re not there to allow all kinds of social discourse to happen on our platform,” he told The New York Times. “That’s not why we exist.”
Asked at the time about what steps Xbox was taking to combat online harassment, Spencer told Swisher that in addition to improving their various reporting tools, the company was currently working on an AI that “can monitor the sentiment of a conversation [and] does a good job of kind of highlighting when a conversation is getting to a destructive point”.
“Something I would love us to be able to do – this is a hard one as an industry – is when somebody gets banned in one of our networks, is there a way for us to ban them across other networks?” he proposed. “Or at least as a player, for me to be able to bring my banned user list, because I can always block people from my play.”
“And I’d love to be able to bring them to other networks where I play,” Spencer explained. “So this is the group of people that I choose not to play with. Because I don’t want to have to recreate that in every platform that I play video games on.”
What do you make of this new feature for Minecraft Java? Let us know your thoughts on social media and in the comments down below!
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