Valve have introduced a new Chat Filtering feature for their Steam platform as a whole with an emphasis on flexibility and customisation.
The new default setting is to block profanity and slurs from people you don’t know in Steam Chat and through games that leverage Valve’s new system, but you can also modify preferences to turn this filter off, enable it with Steam Friends, and also modify the list of terms that are filtered.
On the one hand, this is great. Chat Filtering is an important tool in blocking harassment and abuse in online social spaces, and multiplayer games are a space where that can really come to the fore. Commonly used profanity and slurs have been put on a default list and will be replaced by symbols, however, Valve rightly state the the use of language constantly evolves and depends a lot on context and who you are talking to. One reason for having a flexible system such as this is to allow marginalised groups to reclaim terms.
It’s for that reason that Chat Filtering is not enables between Steam Friends by default, and also why users can customise the list of terms that are blocked.
Regardless of what you type, you will be able to see it, and it will depend on the filters that the receiving party or parties have enabled as to whether or not they see it.
While this sounds great, it does also have the potential to simply allow abuse to fly under the radar. If a bunch of hypothetical KKK members hop onto Steam for a game of CS:GO, they could throw racist terms about their opponents back and forth, and since Steam’s chat is showing these terms unfiltered to them, it adds an element of permissibility to their actions and terms.
That said, all users will still be beholden to Steam’s terms and online conduct rules. This states that users must not “Defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten or otherwise violate the legal rights (such as rights of privacy and publicity) of others.”
If users believe they are the target of abuse – and you’ll be able to see this from the obscured words – they have the ability to block communication and report them with the following steps:
- Navigate to the user’s Steam Community profile
- Click on the large “more” button in the upper-right corner of the page
- Select “Report Violation” from the dropdown
- Select a category of abuse and enter a brief description of the abuse
Additionally, if it’s in-game, many titles have options and tools to block and report other players as well.