MMO studios form Justice League-style alliance to combat toxicity

After years of trying to crack the serious issue of negative behavior and toxicity among their individual communities, 30 game studios and industry leaders are teaming up to see if their combined strength can win the day.

League of Legends’ Riot Games, World of Warcraft’s Blizzard Entertainment, EVE Online’s CCP, Fortnite’s Epic Games, and Twitch’s Twitch are among those companies that have formed a “Fair Play Alliance” in an effort to combat bad player behavior. The coalition’s goal is to create a set of behavioral standards that will be shared among the whole community and help up-and-coming developers as they try to break into the e-sports markets.

“As an industry and as a society online, we’re trying to find our way. Having to be a company that steps out and says ‘We’re gonna be the ones to do this’ is kinda scary. This is an opportunity for all of us to say ‘What if we walked together as an industry?’” said Riot Senior Technical Designer Kimberly Voll.

The first step for this alliance is a meeting at GDC this Wednesday with the hopes of formulating a strategy going forward. The alliance’s mission statement is as follows:

The Fair Play Alliance is a coalition of gaming professionals and companies committed to developing quality games. We provide an open forum for the games industry to collaborate on research and best practices that encourage fair play and healthy communities in online gaming. We envision a world where games are free of harassment, discrimination, and abuse, and where players can express themselves through play.
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Tyler Collins

Shout out to the majority ( yes I say majority ) of players who are just looking to have fun and have no idea what any of this nonsense is about.

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Tyler Collins

How do you end toxicity (a.k.a bad communication)? You do what Riot does and make it hard to communicate, LUL.

This is kind of like the war on drugs, aimless and stupid.

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Robert Mann

Ah, it’s for e-sports. Meh.

They just want to be PG enough to get more market share.

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Sally Bowls

There are some indications to be hopeful.

E.g., Riot’s talk from GDC ’13 The Science Behind Shaping Player Behavior in Online Games BY
Jeffrey Lin Riot Games
Overview The player behavior team at Riot uses science to understand toxic player behavior. During this session, Jeffrey “Dr. Lyte” Lin discusses what Riot’s statisticians, scientists, and developers are doing with the latest research in behavioral, social, and cognitive psychology to solve one of the biggest problems in online gaming today. From the player-driven Tribunal to the Honor Initiative, Jeff Lin talks about how science can reform toxic players, and reinforce positive player behavior.

One of the talks had some metric about how players who never log back in were (IDK) 74% more likely to have had a reported player in their last game. Which is helpful in showing management the millions of dollars that toxic players are costing them and thus it is worth spending some money on combatting them One of the surprises to me is that a lot of players were surprised that their behavior was considered toxic by others. (which is kinda more troubling than toxic gameplay.) The above talk mentioned that in modern fashion, Riot tested 217 ways to give tips including the location, timing, font, and color.

So perhaps things can go quicker if there is some cross-pollination as to what works.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Stop people from being toxic?

Ha, good luck with that.

Also, when did ‘toxic’ become so trendy?
Why say “toxic” when ‘asshole’ or ‘dick’ will suffice?

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Bruno Brito

Shorter. I’m lazy.

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Armsbend

Calling someone an asshole would only add to the cycle.

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Utakata

In the end, it will likely be about persuading players to behave on their time. As for stopping it in its entirety instead, I would suspect they would reasonably know and conclude that’s unlikely.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

Being an asshole is a singular problem. A group of assholes spewing at each other and transforming generally normal people into another asshole is toxic.

arimer
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arimer

Most games already have the tools. Mute and blacklist. Why do companies need to take further steps besides giving you the tools? If you aren’t willing to do it yourself why should anyone else care?

dixa
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dixa

because the abusers go way out of their way far too often to circumvent mutes, ignores, blacklists to further antagonize others.

what is in place is proving to not be enough of a deterrent and all of your parents are failing in teaching you right from wrong. it’s time for big brother.

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Sally Bowls

Q: Why do companies need to take further steps besides giving you the tools?
A: Money

This isn’t about protected free speech. It’s about whether one customer’s actions cost you more revenue than they bring in. Similar reasons movie theaters don’t let you cell phone, so as to not drive away a larger number of customers.

And mutes and blacklists only happen after all the other customers have read it. Companies want their online game to be fun, not for, as they are logging in, customers to be wondering and dreading what they will be reading today.

At the end of the day, it does not matter what the offended could do or should do. If the company will have more profits from protecting the offendable, then the company can, should, and eventually will protect them.

Besides a lot of games only have a 500-entry ignore lists which is woefully inadequate.

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Armsbend

To that point I always make the assumption that angry, toxic players are always poor. People with money are hardly ever angry.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

From the press releases it sounds like at this stage it’s just a bunch of happy talk about “best practices” and so forth.

If they want to actually get the attention of the collective jerks of the internet, then they need to talk about something that will cause them some serious pain, like GLOBAL BANS across ALL games by ALL publishers that sign on to this Justice League.

THAT might make an actual impact.

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Ssiard

here is blizzard’s easily abused abusive chat policy. And the key definition that is being actively abused for griefing:

You may not use language that could be offensive or vulgar to others.

In other words, the individual defines what is “toxic” and reports othe players based on that. This was confirmed to me by a GMs supervisor.

dixa
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dixa

while true, do remember that you are not afforded any free speech protections while participating in online communities. such communities are considered private domain, and you are required to behave in a way the owners of the space deem acceptable.

example: games that use one server for worldwide service requiring non english speakers participate in channels of their language and to leave the non english channels (see: eve online rookie help)

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Ssiard

Free speech isn’t the point. It is that you have no real defintion for toxicity and the word is being abused to the point of griefing people.

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Bruno Brito

As always: Your solution is?

dixa
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dixa

reading most of your replies and proclamations of innocence that smell just like all those posts of people who were banned from games, cried foul only to have a dev come on and post logs proving they were banned for good reason i believe you may just be a troll, and a part of the problem.

if you can’t play a game of overwatch or heroes of the storm or any highly competitive game without maintaining your cool then you really need to stop playing them.

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Bruno Brito

Being honest with you, he sounds delusional.

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Bruno Brito

This was confirmed to me by a GMs supervisor.

Anedoctal.

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rafael12104

Well, I’m for every attempt at dealing with toxicity in video games and most especially MMOs. And I’m glad they are forming and alliance.

BUT in my jaded experience, these type of Superhero teams rarely ever work outside of cartoons. They all have vested interests and are willing to participate unless it costs them something.

I hope they can lock a few things down with regard to policy as a starting point. But… dollars to donuts, they will agree that something needs to be done and that is about it.

3-Out-Of-4-Superheroes-Agree-Money-Batman-Meme-Photo.jpg
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Arktouros

Again, I dislike this because I question what the definition of these terms are and who is setting the definitions of these terms.

While people will be quick to trot out the example that there’s no confusion when someone is throwing around racial slurs what the definition of that behavior is; those kinds of issues are already being taken care of and handled. No one is defending that scenario nor are they saying it shouldn’t continue to be taken care of.

The issue is when you get to the grey territory of how overt people are being. Take a scenario where a player who plays a LOL match and intentionally plays poorly to “feed” the enemy. Someone on his team confronts him about playing poorly on purpose. Is the player who is playing poorly on purpose harassing his team? How would you distinguish that from actually playing poorly or having a bad match? Is the person criticizing him for feeding abusing that player by verbally confronting them about their poor play? Is confronting them at all harassment because the person takes it as a personal attack despite nothing but professional language being used?

Toxicity is born from the frustration that is generated through competition. So long as there’s competition, there is going to be toxicity.

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Armsbend

The creators are setting the terms. All of creation’s terms have always been set by the creator. That goes for government, toasters, software and the Almighty Creator of the Universe.

For only a tiny moment in history have average people been given the opportunity to be heard. It didn’t work out. It is going the other way. Back towards balance.

“Toxicity is born from the frustration that is generated through competition. So long as there’s competition, there is going to be toxicity.”

You couldn’t be more wrong. Ever seen a professional chess match end with Kasparov tossing the table in the air and calling his opponent a shitbag? When sportball athletes get out of hand they are handed fines. The result? They pay and STFU.

People are malleable. Extremely so. Take away that which they want and the petulant children will do anything to get it back. If you have to break a wooden spoon o’er their fragile egos – then so be it.

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Schmidt.Capela

When sportball athletes get out of hand they are handed fines. The result? They pay and STFU.

Which is the real reason professional athletes tend to act in a nice way; there are consequences — and usually very harsh ones — for acting in an unsportsmanlike way, so athletes make a concerted effort to be nice and those that can’t leave the profession.

That, BTW, is part of the reason for the alliance forming: to share which kinds of punishment for toxicity work and which kinds don’t, teach each other how to detect toxic behavior in a cost-effective way, and even discuss how to change the game design to reduce toxicity (which, for example, is why Fortnite removed friendly fire).

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Arktouros

Those methods work because they are professionals where playing games is literally their jobs. However the vast majority of gamers are not professionals. Comparing them to professionals or seeking solutions that work on professionals just isn’t going to functionally work.

If you want to solve something you need to understand where things come from. Toxic behavior is a byproduct of competition. Competition means someone is going to win and someone is going to lose. Losing is frustrating. The most common method of dealing with frustration is to vent it out. A great deal of people don’t know or have the tool set to do so in a constructive way and it comes out as toxic. The root cause there is competition, which is also the basis of these games.

When you look at the typical things that prevent professionals and people not acting in a toxic way it’s usually things that are hard to replicate on a large scale. You can’t pay people a salary to play the game and threaten to fine them. Another limiter to toxicity is repeat exposure to the same people. Acting toxic towards someone you’re going to be forced to group or work with on a prolonged basis is usually not in your own self interest but how do you translate that to the gaming world?

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Schmidt.Capela

There are many already in use ways to handle it:

– Bans. No further explanation necessary.
– Shadow bans. Make toxic players spend more time in the queues (so they can’t get in as many matches as normal players and their negative influence is thus reduced), or make it so toxic players are only matched against toxic players.
– Expulsion from the ladder/season. Have a player that repeatedly behaves in a toxic way forfeit all progress in the competitive scene.
– Disable chat/voice chat for the toxic player, allowing just the use of predefined emotes instead.
– Game design. Remove from the game ways that players could behave in a toxic way towards one another, such as GW2 not allowing players to see the name of their opponents in WvW or Fortnite removing friendly fire because of players that killed their own team as a form of griefing.

The alliance is exactly to exchange ideas and information, figure out what is most effective, most painful for griefers and toxic players while minimizing the disruption for upstanding players, so those methods can become more widely used and be tweaked to increase their efficacy.

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Arktouros

Reacting to toxicity once it happens isn’t the issue. That’s a solved issue.

The issue, again, comes in how you define toxic behavior and getting to the root of toxic behavior to prevent it from happening in the first place. While obvious cases (IE: Racism) are solved as well, it’s the grey area territory that provides the most issues of what is and isn’t actually toxic behavior.

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Bruno Brito

Toxicity isn’t something you can erradicate, so you can only solve in a after-action approach.

I mean, the preventive measures are the rules. People can choose not to follow these, it’s their “right” to disobey. And freedom means to accept the consequences of one’s wrongdoings. They have the freedom to do the wrong thing, and if they get caught, they get punished.

Win-win, for me.

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Arktouros

However, that’s already how it works.

The only thing you can do is go further and the further you go the easier it becomes to use said rules to grief and be toxic to legitimate players. As any grief player knows, any rules that are designed to protect players can equally be used to grief them under the right circumstances.

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Bruno Brito

But this isn’t a furthering of these rules for now. It’s a gathering of companies to do something. They maybe compare data, revamp rules, choose new ways, i don’t know.

Wait and see, my friend. Wait and see.

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Schmidt.Capela

Reacting to toxicity once it happens isn’t the issue. That’s a solved issue.

First, it’s not yet well solved. There are potential approaches, but it’s hard to predict how well each will work, or even if it will backfire (avoiding a situation like what happened with Tyler1, where his ban made him more famous, was explicitly stated as a goal for the alliance).

Given that lack of understanding, determining which way to react to toxicity is best for a given situation is still trial and error. Which is where the collaboration, sharing the experiences and research on the topic, is invaluable.

Second, punishment isn’t the only approach they are taking. Changes to game design to make toxic behavior less likely, and less damaging when it does happen, are very much discussion topics for the alliance (or at least this was strongly implied in the Kotaku interview).

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Cosmic Cleric

it’s the grey area territory that provides the most issues of what is and isn’t actually toxic behavior.

Just don’t be rude, don’t be a dick, judged based on society norms in meatspace.

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Arktouros

For only a tiny moment in history have average people been given the opportunity to be heard. It didn’t work out. It is going the other way.

Going backwards serves no one. Instead you’ll just end up with someone who acts racist or acts homophobic while being quietly polite and refusing to openly talk about it. What amazing balance where nothing changes but a beautiful veneer to cover the rot and corruption beneath.

Ever seen a professional chess match end with Kasparov tossing the table in the air and calling his opponent a shitbag?

Are you pretending that every LOL player who logs in and accuses his team mates for being a dick eating shitbag feeder is a professional? Are you confusing the people who treat these games as leisure with people where these games are their literal jobs? Not everyone handles or is suited to handle stressful competitive scenarios in the same way.

What people are is adaptive. They’re going to conform to your new rules, because they have to, and simply find other ways to subvert the system. Eventually those rules to protect people will be used to harm someone who has an outburst that normally isn’t in their character. You can’t win by creating more rules. The only way to address toxicity is get at it’s source and that source is the very nature of the games themselves.

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Schmidt.Capela

IMHO every player that is playing in public servers should be held to similar behavior standards to professional athletes. Gross insults, losing their cool, etc, should result in penalties, up to a permanent ban if the player has been warned and punished multiple times before but refuses to change his ways.

Sincerely, I believe a player that can’t handle stressful competitive scenarios without lashing out against everyone around should not even be allowed to play, at least not until he learns to control his impulses.

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Ssiard

I agree. Except none of that is banned in profession sports. Just google “swearing in nhl” or any mlb, or nfl or whatever you want. They aren’t even frowned upon.

But thanks for giving an example that disproves your own argument.

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Bruno Brito

Disclaimer: I took a ungodly ammount of pleasure googling this.

Let’s start:

Football – 2011

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2011/apr/04/manchester-united-wayne-rooney-swearing

NFL – 2014, n-word ban discussion:

https://www.si.com/2014/03/03/nfl-n-word-ban-monday-morning-quarterback

NFL – 2014, what can players be fined for:

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/photo-heres-a-list-of-what-nfl-players-can-be-fined-for-in-2014/

“EXCESSIVE PROFANITY; Other unsportsmanslike conducts”

And my favourite:

Russia – 2016, ban on swearing inside russian prisons:

Again, i took a ungodly ammount of pleasure looking for these.

Thanks for giving me a search that disproves your argument.

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Ssiard

And all of those fall under extreme. However there is far less that is being banned for in games. Even doing nothing gets you banned as I proved below.

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Bruno Brito

And all of those fall under extreme.

The RULES OF THE NFL FALL UNDER EXTREME?

Oh god.

I just gave you 4 links that contain evidence that not all toxic behavior is allowed in sports, proving you wrong on that note.

Now, give me EVIDENCE that everyone is toxic, i don’t care about your texts or opinions, i want the links.

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Arktouros

That’s a novel concept but again holding recreational individuals to the standards of professionals seems an unwise course of action. I can already tell you right now it’ll become a game to enrage players on purpose into a reaction and then report them for said reaction.

Again, you can’t solve toxicity with rules or behavioral expectations. All you are doing is trying to clamp down on it but you’re going to watch it spring up elsewhere.

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Armsbend

Going backwards serves everyone. I am not suggesting we go back to Germany in 1932 I am suggesting we go back to a time where every dumbfuck with a microphone or keyboard isn’t given the opportunity to spout their idiocy across the airwaves – infecting the feeble minded. The cost of the printing press was a deterrent as was the FCC over radio/tv before the internet.

I am not pretending every moron is a professional. You start with fines/bans at the top and do the same for every player. Take away his toy for a month – he’ll shut his dirty, stupid mouth. Or perma ban him and let them sulk. When they look for a public forum to rant how the jews took away his toy – he won’t find one because that shit will be handled as well.

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Arktouros

You can’t go backwards like that. I mean that literally too, it’s not a realistic option. Have you even considered the freedom that allows you to express that opinion in the first place ultimately gives freedom to the people to post their own opinions? It’s an incredibly hypocritical and untenable viewpoint to want to limit the freedom to express oneself while using that same freedom to do so.

I am not pretending every moron is a professional.

No, what you’re doing is responding to a criticism of your ideas and how it would affect an every-day person and instead trying to using an extreme minority of professionals as a counter argument.

Again, trotting out the examples of the anti-Semite, racist, homophobe, etc is meaningless because in virtually all of these scenarios these players are already handled today and already taken care of. That is a solved issue that already gets resolved.

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Ssiard

Have you ever gone to a sporting event where there were no toxicity? I haven’t.

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Armsbend

It depends on the event. Even boxers have to shake hands and hug at the end.

Watch the NCAA Basketball tournament going on right now. You can watch 50 games and only very rarely will one player step over the line. Give people conditions as a participant – where the other option is never being a participant – and they will follow both the rules and be civil towards one another.

Have you ever witnessed a pro players “apology tour” after they way outstep the line? It happens all of the time. Punishment and the court of public opinion is a deterrent.

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Ssiard

only very rarely will one player step over the line.

What is the line that is stepped over? Who defines it? You’d be surprised what some people define as toxic.

Have you ever witnessed a pro players “apology tour” after they way outstep the line? It happens all of the time. Punishment and the court of public opinion is a deterrent.

Yes but that is only for racism, sexism, and extreme stuff. But toxicity is now defined as anything that offends anyone else.

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Bruno Brito

What is the line that is stepped over? Who defines it? You’d be surprised what some people define as toxic.

The gamer’s owners. Simple.

Yes but that is only for racism, sexism, and extreme stuff. But toxicity is now defined as anything that offends anyone else.

It’s not like games will become alt-left bootcamps, relax.

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Ssiard

The poliy is that the individual decides what toxicity is, not the game developer.

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Bruno Brito

Yeah, no. The company has absolute power, no matter how you spin it.

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Cosmic Cleric

But toxicity is now defined as anything that offends anyone else.

Or maybe it’s just defined by society the same way that “being a dick” is.

dixa
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dixa

the stadium management can kick you out of the sporting event for just about any reason.

stadiums dont have chat boxes. if you want to yell a homophobic slur to your boyfriend next to you i’m not going to hear it on the other side of the park.

pick a different example, this one fails.

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Utakata

“Again, I dislike this because I question what the definition of these terms are and who is setting the definitions of these terms.”

It will likely be terms you agreed when playing their product…as it has always been. As you are likely aware, some may vary depending on the game you play and whose running it. But I suspect most are ran by their legal experts before implementing it…so it will likely be more consistent than not. As I am pretty sure more harmonized, since this will a collective initiative between big name developers. Therefor, you will likely have very little fear from this, unless your planning to grief and troll game sponsored Twitch chats.

dixa
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dixa

if it’s not appropriate speech in the work place, it’s not appropriate in these communities.

these are private communities owned and operated by private or public companies, meaning these companies are just as liable for any inappropriate horse shit you say in their channels as you would be if you spewed it out at work.

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Arktouros

While that seems like a general good rule on how to conduct oneself it’s not really accurate that this is a hard rule that companies are required operate off of. Social Media companies are not liable for the myriad, endless supply of sewage that gets expressed there for example.

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Cosmic Cleric

If you own the community, you police the community.

It’s the only rule that matters.

dixa
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dixa

your comparison is not applicable. no, a social media company employee is not responsible for the crap they see on their platform. they ARE RESPONSIBLE for what comes out of their mouths in their workplace.

that social media worker would not be allowed to just post whatever they wanted on that said platform that would make the company look bad. this would be in their employment contract. I know first hand of these things.

try again.

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Sally Bowls

Social Media companies are not liable for the myriad, endless supply of sewage that gets expressed there for example.

Only for the next few hours.

Remember the Children!

My reading of some strident complaints about SESTA/FOSTA means that once Trump signs it, then there will be a loophole in the section 230 safe harbor protections for social media sites as well as sites like this one.

So if someone in the comments says the usual vile drivel, the site is currently shielded by 230. But if someone posts something that runs afoul of SESTA/FOSTA, then the site can be criminally liable or have a chilling effect ( for smaller companies, winning an expensive legal battle is still a loss.)

As internet lawyer Cathy Gellis wrote, “It isn’t just the big commercial services like Facebook who need Section 230, but Internet service providers of all sorts of shapes and sizes, including broadband ISPs, email providers, online marketplaces, consumer review sites, fan forums, online publications that host user comments. … Section 230 even enables non-commercial sites like Wikipedia. As a giant collection of information other people have provided, if Section 230’s protection evaporates, then so will Wikipedia’s ability to provide this valuable resource.”

an EFF lawyer wrote:
As we explained [before], the words “assist, support, or facilitate” are extremely vague and broad. Courts have interpreted “facilitate” in the criminal context simply to mean “to make easier or less difficult.” A huge swath of innocuous intermediary products and services would fall within these newly prohibited activities, given that online platforms by their very nature make communicating and publishing “easier or less difficult.”

The biggest Silicon Valley companies, which seem to have ultimately accepted this legislation as inevitable, have an advantage that smaller companies won’t. They’re able to turn to high-priced lawyers to stave off the lawsuits that will likely ensue. They’re also capable of implementing complex algorithms to monitor their services that a little guy wouldn’t necessarily have access to. This is how SESTA could stifle innovation: The pseudo-monopolies will survive, but new competitors could be priced out or discouraged from entering the arena.

Remember the Children!

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Armsbend

I don’t know much about the bill – I’m reading up on it now – but I support it. I think a wide swath of internet censorship is due.

It appears that the internet is not safe from the normal business practice of massive consolidations that traditional sectors are subject to.

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Cosmic Cleric

Toxicity is born from the frustration that is generated through competition. So long as there’s competition, there is going to be toxicity.

That’s one way that it’s born, but definitely not the only way.