Time out for trolls

I never thought I would see this, but Blizz is finally going to try and crack down on some of the toxic players we all encounter in trade chat, BGs, LFR, and other places. Today they announced a “silence penalty” for some of the worst offenders.

Following the Legion pre-expansion, any player who is reported multiple times under the Spam or Abusive Chat categories will, after investigation, receive an account-wide silence penalty. While this penalty is active, the silenced player will find that their ability to chat with others is greatly limited.

This is no slap on the wrist, it is a penalty with real teeth. Among other restrictions, players who receive it will be unable to interact in instance chat or in auto-joined global channels, they cannot create new premade groups or send in-game mail or create calendar events. The first verified infraction will invoke a 24-hour silence penalty, with the period doubled for the second and each subsequent infraction, with no maximum.

Holy.

Moly.

After years of Blizz turning a blind eye to some of the most vile kinds of behavior in their game, after telling us it is up to us to police our own trade chat, after permitting professional trolls to dominate social aspects of the game, they are finally implementing a policy that has a chance to work, a chance for some real improvement in the game’s quality of life.

I don’t know why Blizz decided to do this now, but I suspect they have finally realized that toxic behavior drives away new players and indeed makes the game very un-fun for everyone. No fun = no profits in the long run. Over the last few years, WoW has developed a reputation as being unfriendly and downright hostile to newcomers, and that is not something any company should tolerate.

No one knows how this will work in terms of achieving the goal, but I think it has a great chance of being very successful. For one thing, just making the announcement should put most people on their best behavior, should make everyone think hard before making that string of disgusting comments in trade chat.

And the penalty really fits the crime, I think. Trolls live for the reactions they create, they feed on chat channels. If they receive this penalty, it really shuts down their operation. It’s like a time out for trolls. I think it may eventually cause some of the worst offenders to leave the game, because the main reason they play — debasing and ridiculing others, trying to shock with ever-more-putrid chat — will be gone for them. Good riddance, I say, their departure can only improve the game, and likely will result in increased participation by new and veteran players alike. This is me doing my happy dance.

Watch the forums on this, because there will be — in addition to positive reactions — outrage and cries of “No fairrrrrrrrr!” There will be allegations of misuse, people crying that someone was out to get them and so lied in reporting them, or that their “free speech” is being shut down. Horse hockey. Ever player willingly agreed to Blizz’s terms of use. In the past, Blizz has shown themselves to be quite thorough and deliberate when investigating game cheating, spamming, abusive language. In my opinion, they have been a little too slow to act in some instances, but I think some of that was due to the extreme nature of the only possible punishment to date — suspension. Now that they have a somewhat lighter punishment, I hope they will be willing to act a little faster after they have verified complaints.

One other implication in this announcement is that people who report players for abusive language and chat-detected toxic behavior also have a responsibility to make sure they are submitting a legitimate report. Ordinary (and I realize that is a subjective term) bad language or cursing is not in and of itself abusive, and if you choose to disable your bad language filter, you really cannot report someone who drops the occasional F-bomb. There is a line between cursing and abusive language, and I admit I would be hard pressed to say where it is, but I think I recognize when it has been crossed. It is up to each of us to make sure that if we report someone, that we really believe they deserve it.

I have very high hopes for this change in Blizz’s policy, and I commend them for implementing it. I am optimistic that it will have immediate and positive effects on the game. We all could use a little more civility in our game discourse. Thanks, Blizz. This might work.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

5 Responses to Time out for trolls

  1. I have been waiting to see your response and very glad to see your posting. Language is such a tricky thing and Blizzard will have to develop their own standard; which I hope that they do not disclose to us. I saw in a comment section, “now the douchebags who troll will get what they deserve” and I wondered if that person considered his language offensive and worthy of a report and so on and on.
    I’ve imagined a kind of witch hunt (a sad thought) of hanging out by the dueling area in Goldshire to pick off the rude players who use General Chat; jumping realm to realm to enforce my own version of vigilante justice.
    No doubt about it, I am looking forward to a cleaner world to play in, a reduction of the helplessness when facing foul and abusive language and, oddly, a sort of satisfaction to see a troll be Silenced … finally. And really, I want to move on and seamlessly not even notice the addition of the Silent Penalty and gratefully play my game!

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, I know this is not a perfect solution, but I am like you I just want it to be good enough that I just suddenly notice the game has gotten more pleasant.

  2. Grumsta says:

    It’s a good idea in theory, it’ll be interesting to see how it works out in practice.

    It sounds a bit like ASBOs, and they have become a badge of honour in UK society for some of the people they were meant to “shame” into better behaviour. I don’t see this changing anyone’s behaviour, but if it shuts them up for a bit or makes them move elsewhere to vent their teen-spleens then maybe that will be a success.

    Even now my server’s trolls brag about the times they’ve been banned and are welcomed back to Trade chat like some all-conquering hero by their adoring clique.

    My server’s worst Trade Chat moments tend to be when two groups of brats flame each other over the tiniest provocation. I think Blizz will see a stream of reports from each group aimed at the other. Personally I’d Silence the lot of them (which I do in a way as I turn off Trade when it gets too toxic).

    I wasn’t online for long last night but I did see plenty of whining about how the “Fun Police” are trying to “ruin their game” (I kid you not), and that multi-boxers will get better players Silenced by mass-reporting them.

    Reddit and the forums should be a good indicator of how well this one goes. And indeed Trade Chat itself. Even if it doesn’t quite work as planned at least Blizz are trying, and that itself is a strong message.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yes, there are the returning “banned heroes” on my server, too. I think one aspect of the silence penalty is designed to counter this effect — the geometrically increasing length of time to be silenced for each successive infraction. IF (and I admit it is a big if) this plays out, eventually these trolls become has-beens, so that when/if they do come back, it is to a group of players whose response is “Who?” instead of applause.

      The worst times for trade chat on my server tend to be during periods of school vacation. It seems like all the little boys, whose mommies will not let them go to actual porn sites, need to outdo each other with their perverted ideas of “manly talk”. And the little girls try to outdo each other to see who can debase themselves the most. It is interesting and somewhat telling that these children get genuinely upset when someone advises them that they are being reported — unlike the adult trolls, who don’t even bat an eye. (But who also tend to get worse during these times, as if they can’t stand for attention to be diverted away from them.)

      My impression of trade chat for the few minutes I was on last night was that there seemed to be more civil exchanges, although there were some trying to probe for limits and of course the obligatory “free speech” whiners with no clue about what that really is all about. We will see how it eventually plays out. If it fails, the burden of avoiding these creeps will be completely back on the players. If this happens, Blizz should at least give us a few more tools by increasing the size of the ignore list and making it account wide.

  3. Pingback: Silence Penalty: The Community Standard – Coffee Cakes and Crits