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Looking For Help With Rape Threats On Xbox Live? Prepare To Be Frustrated.

Today in things that make us scream incoherently

We don’t have time to cover every story that lands in our paths here at The Mary Sue but if we feel it’s warranted, we will try and give something a signal boost. Doing so today lead us on a tour of Xbox Live Support we wished we hadn’t taken and prompted us to write this article on the experience. 

This morning, we found out Microsoft had changed their minds on the whole mandatory Kinect connection on Xbox One and we thought, “Hooray! They’re listening to customers!” only to be disappointed a few hours later by another company response.

We were anonymously sent a link to a post on the blog Not in the Kitchen Anymore. The site, run by Jenny Haniver, features recordings and other documentations of interactions from online gaming sessions on Xbox Live, specifically negative interactions experienced by women. This particular post detailed Haniver recieving a threat and her subsequent reporting of said threat. Here’s an excerpt [trigger warning]:

I was playing Black Ops 2 on my Xbox 360. Another player in the lobby took issue with me being there, and basically started attacking me over my gender. He kept asking if I was on my period, implying that I was fat or a lesbian, and making jokes like “Hey, ya’ll know why uh, women shouldn’t have drivers licenses? Cuz there’s no highway between the bedroom and the kitchen.” It’s all documented in this entry.

After the match concluded, he sent me a text message that said “slizzy” (which is, apparently, slang for “slut”). I replied, “Keep digging yourself into a hole dude.” He then proceeded to send me a voice message that said, “I’m gonna impregnate you with triplets and make you have a very late term abortion. Strict mental abuse. Hahaha.”

Be sure to read the whole post for more details. This happened on July 26th and a week later, Haniver discovered the user was still active on Call of Duty’s ELITE website and was still active in-game as of August 10th. Seeing as how she’d yet to hear back from anyone at Microsoft as to the status of her particular complaint, I decided to give the story a signal boost from my personal Twitter account. I wasn’t expecting a response from Xbox Support, nor was I asking for one, I was simply trying to put the situation in the forefront in case it had gotten swept under the carpet.

Hmm, ok.

This was getting frustrating, not just for myself, but for a few of my followers who were also curious as to why the offending user wasn’t gone yet. It was with this next response I felt the need to detail my own encounter with Xbox Live Support because nothing even happened to me to require a response and I still felt I was getting the runaround.

Again, not helpful and certainly not the kind of responses I expect to get from an official company Twitter account. The responses got more repetitive and even started to sound like the support team was trolling those concerned.

Not the kind of thing you want to hear when dealing with an issue as serious as rape threats. I asked “PS” if they would be willing to give me their full name in an effort to make who was speaking for the company more clear and got this response: “My name is Phil, as it’s posted on our Twitter homepage background. You can identify me by ^PS ^PS”

So…yeah. Xbox Live Support previously told Haniver they couldn’t speculate on how long it could take for a complaint to be dealt with and that only “sometimes” would they even inform the person who complained of the outcome. This begs the question – just how many reports are being filed for in-game harassment that it would take over two weeks for action to be taken? We asked Haniver for her thoughts on the developments today, here’s what she told us:

I am really disappointed in their seeming inability to give me any amount of information on the progress of this issue. They keep reiterating that they cannot comment on a specific case, which I understand… What I DON’T understand is why it would take two weeks or more to address what amounts to a rape threat sent to a player in a private voice message. All I keep hearing is that if I filed a complaint, it will be dealt with- but on what kind of a timeline? Xbox LIVE needs to crack down on harassment like this, and let players who submit complaints know that their voices are being heard and taken seriously.

I’ve filed complaints before using their in-system method. I have no idea if filing complaints is making a difference, because Xbox LIVE does not let you know if your complaint is being acted on (unless, apparently, they feel like it “sometimes”) I understand that they have a large volume of complaints to deal with, but they need to implement better methods to safeguard their players and let them know that their concerns are valid, and heard.

And now they’re actually telling me that I will receive notification if my complaint is acted on, despite the fact that they previously said that only happens “sometimes”. I want to talk to someone from Xbox LIVE or Microsoft who isn’t just talking in circles, and can give me some real information.

I think the most important take away from Haniver’s comments is, “let players who submit complaints know that their voices are being heard and taken seriously.” We know online harassment is a frequent occurrence, specifically involving women, and when someone feels unsafe, reassurance that something is in fact being done, is the least Microsoft could do.

But they are trying new things to make the Xbox live community better. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced beta for “Xbox Enforcement United,” a team meant to specifically seek out violations of their Xbox Life Code of Conduct. They write, “Eligible volunteers are given the ability to judge whether certain types of content violate our Code of Conduct. If there is sufficient agreement within the community that the content breaks the rules, we’ll take enforcement action on behalf of the community!” Also from their blog, “The program will also allow our team of enforcers to devote more time not only to complaints that require more experience and knowledge, but also time to invest in future enhancements that will continue to improve Xbox Live.” Which, you know, sounds like a great idea considering what we saw today.

After an incident at E3 this past year, Microsoft Studios corporate vice president Phil Spencer said, “At Microsoft, being open and respectful with others is central to our code of conduct and our values. Bullying and harassment of any kind is not condoned and is taken very seriously. We remain committed to make gaming fun for everyone, and in that effort, we must lead by example.”

Another support representative, identified as Ben or BB on their twitter page, wrote this later on in the conversation, “We’re absolutely here to help as much as we can with any Xbox support issues.” “Maybe not so much public affairs, though,” replied Twitter user Jim Dandeneau. “Correct, we are definitely here for support questions but we do not have enforcement info nor are we a PR outlet,” replied Ben.

Maybe if Microsoft’s Xbox team placed less importance on replying to every single Twitter mention of them (however obtuse), they’d have more time to actually deal with customer complaints regarding serious issues like rape threats toward their users.

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