As of today, Steam users who are sick of dealing with slurs and profanity can opt into an experimental new chat filter feature to begin blocking it out in the Steam client, on the Steam website, in the Steam mobile app and in supporting games.
Called “Steam Text and Chat Filtering,” this filter is now in beta and accessible through Steam Labs. It lets you enable pre-built chat filters to block out commonly used hate speech and profanity, as well as make lists of specific words you’d like to filter out or remove words from being filtered.
Unfortunately, hate speech on gaming platforms is a common trend. On top of hurting and annoying users, such speech can make it difficult to find information you actually need or to have productive strategy or community discussions. Profanity, while not as harmful, can also make spaces unwelcome for children, which leads parents to restrict them from using platforms like Steam or playing certain games.
That’s why Steam is experimenting with a new, opt-in user-controlled text filtering system that replaces certain words with symbols on the client side.
“With chat filtering, we’ve obscured the most offensive language shared on Steam. You can alter your settings to control whether profanity and slurs are displayed, and because each player’s tolerance for difficult words is unique, we’ve included the ability to add or remove words from your personal filter,” Valve marketing director Doug Lombardi said in a statement accompanying today's announcement.
“We’ve found that by filtering variants of the top 5 most commonly used strongly profane or hateful words, we can eliminate about 75% of profanity and slurs used in chat.”
You can apply this filter across Steam chat -- whether in the client, on the web, or through the mobile app -- and in “supporting games,” though Valve didn't specify which games this includes.
The default filter includes most variations of “f*ck” and “sh*t,” which Lombardi said makes up 66% of the instances of profanity and slurs in the sample of Steam chat they used when creating the filter.
Another 10% of the sample was dominated by “potty-mouth school yard language” that Valve has chosen not to filter by default, while the remaining 24% had instances of strong profanity and slurs that have been added to the default filter.
Lombardi explained that Valve chose not to ban words on its default filtering list from chat outright because “we do not want to censor users in chat, but rather, empower them to choose what they see from others.”
He clarified that Valve does ban profanity and slurs in more public places, like user reviews, comments, forums and broadcasts, but expressed that the company doesn’t want to stand in the way of marginalized communities reclaiming harmful language by banning it from more personal discussion.
"Players have an option to see profanity and slurs from their Steam friends, if they wish," Lombardi said.
As for why the feature is currently being deployed as an opt-in experimental beta as opposed to being pushed to all Steam Users, Lombardi said that the company wants to “understand whether the tools we provide successfully empower users to control the chat content you experience on Steam” before pushing it live across the platform, which is the eventual end goal.
So, essentially, Valve is making the type of chat filter that’s already common in multi-player games, like Overwatch and Final Fantasy XIV, and allowing developers to add it to their games using Steamworks rather than needing to make one of their own. And, for good measure, it's applying that same filter to Steam Chat. It won’t stop anyone from saying blocked words, but if you turn it on, you can control which of those words you actually see.
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Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.
It's not just children, many adults don't like profanity either. We are judged by how we communicate, people of class and intelligence should be able to converse or debate about any subject without resorting to foul language.Reply