Microsoft is strengthening its efforts to combat toxicity and harassment on Xbox platforms, and updating the Xbox community standards to better reflect the company’s values. The new guidelines focus on sportsmanship and the acceptance of “clean” trash talk, while also clarifying actions that will lead to punishment. Even in the case of punishment, however, Xbox’s new guidelines lean towards rehabilitation and offering users second chances after they’ve served out their suspensions.
The largest changes come with regards to how Xbox is targeting general communication and trash talk. “Hate has no place here,” is a repeated mantra and is even listed as one of Xbox’s shared values. Trash talk specifically is detailed in a specific and understandable way, citing language that’s appropriate and examples that aren’t.
The bulk of the guidelines remain, in effect, similar to what they were prior. For example, there are large sections dedicated to safety and legality. Fraud, spam, threats, sexual content, organized harassment, groups formed around drug use or gangs, and any behavior tied to illegal action via the Xbox platform, are punishable through removal or account sanctions just as they always have been.
Examples of the kind of “clean” trash talk that Xbox says is fine includes, “Get destroyed,” “That was some serious potato aim,” “Try again, kid,” and, “Get good and then come back when your k/d’s over 1.” Examples of trash talk that goes too far include any of the above taken to a hateful degree, such as including profanity, slurs including politicized comments like “get out of my country,” and physical threats including those of a sexual nature or references to suicide. Hopefully, the difference between banter and unacceptable trash talk should be obvious and intuitive.
The conversation regarding the growth of online harassment and bigotry in online communities has grown in recent years, but despite a growing public awareness platforms have largely avoided substantial changes to community guidelines. Microsoft making improvements to its guidelines will likely be seen as many to be healthy, and most will almost assuredly welcome the transparency.
Obviously, however, there’s a difference between guidelines and enforcement. Whether or not Microsoft’s enforcement ramps up to match its guideline changes remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Xbox users now have a set of guidelines by which to hold the company accountable in an increased capacity.
Trash talkers can also take comfort in Microsoft’s updated guidelines. That Microsoft explicitly acknowledged that some trash talk via Xbox can still be fun is a move few companies would be willing to make.