Tech

Xbox Rolls Out New Moderation Program To Combat ‘Toxic Stew Of Hate Speech,’ And ‘Misogyny’ In Gaming

(Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP / Getty Images)

Celine Ryan Contributor

Head of Xbox Phil Spencer laid out the company’s plan to combat the “growing toxic stew of hate speech, bigotry and misogyny” that exists in the gaming community today in a Monday op-ed published by Microsoft.

Spencer addresses what he calls the two “fundamental truths” of gaming. The first, he says, is that “gaming is for everyone.” Secondly, “gaming must promote and protect the safety of all.”

As he explains in the op-ed:

No different from rock and roll, books and TV before them, video games are often dismissed or maligned as frivolous, fraught with violence or filled exclusively with hate-mongering. But gaming is uniquely designed for equality. We don’t just walk in someone’s shoes – we stand on equal footing, regardless of age, education, socioeconomics, race, religion, politics, gender, orientation, ethnicity, nationality, or ability.

Spencer goes on to detail various additional positive aspects of the gaming community, citing evidence of video games helping autistic children socialize and articles suggesting health benefits such as stress-reduction and alleviation of depression.

Phil Spencer, Microsoft Corp's Executive Vice President of Gaming, speaks at one of the company's Xbox events in this undated photo released from Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington, U.S. on March 14, 2019. Courtesy Microsoft Corp./Handout via REUTERS

Phil Spencer, Microsoft Corp’s Executive Vice President of Gaming, speaks at one of the company’s Xbox events in this undated photo released from Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington, U.S. on March 14, 2019. Courtesy Microsoft Corp./Handout via REUTERS

“By uniting as an industry, we can thoughtfully and deliberately continue building a safe and inclusive gaming environment for everyone. Microsoft, Team Xbox, and I are personally committing to this,” he writes. (RELATED: Here’s What Facebook And Google Did Not Discuss During Hearing On White Nationalism)

As part of this effort, Spencer announced a new program that will provide Xbox community managers with “proactive content moderation features,” meant to “help create safe spaces” for gamers to interact with one another.

Additionally, Microsoft plans to release “new content moderation experiences” to all of Xbox Live by the end of the year. Spencer says this is the best way for parents to manage their children’s online behavior and screen time. 

“We’re innovating now in these and other concrete ways to reduce, filter, and develop a shared understanding of toxic experiences, and to ultimately put our community of gamers, and their parents or guardians, in control of their own experiences,” Spencer wrote.

Spencer argues that “gaming must be a safe environment” across the board. Xbox will be sharing its “safety” innovations with the rest of the industry in “the same way Microsoft has made PhotoDNA technology universally available to everyone from the police to tech industry to fight the spread of child pornography.”

According to Spencer, Microsoft is already working with industry partners in the areas of “moderation, user research, data science.”

Follow Celine Ryan on Twitter