Xbox Live members: Microsoft wants your opinion, and the company has designed a game of sorts to help gather it.
Microsoft rolled out the first phase of its new Enforcement United program last week, which enlists Xbox Live members to help identify and act upon offensive content and behavior on the service.
Polygon spoke with Glenn Kaleta, director of Xbox Live Policy & Enforcement and Boris Erickson, Xbox Live Enforcement Program manager about the new program and how Microsoft wants to tap its community's knowledge to make the experience better for users.
The program represents a shift for Microsoft, which had previously handled enforcement internally, and is the result of a desire to let those who know it best regulate the community, Kaleta told Polygon.
"We see this model as really being a great way to engage our very, very passionate user community in a new and creative way," Kaleta said.
Giving users a voice and authority
The Xbox teams interact with the community — players and parents alike — every day. Over the years, Kaleta said that Microsoft has learned what constitutes a good experience on the console, but enforcing that on a user base in the tens of millions can be difficult. Enforcement United is a way to give users "not only a voice, but actually to give them some real authority," he said.
In its beta stage, Xbox Community Ambassadors — a known quantity of community members — will be able to enroll in the Enforcement United program. Its web-based interface is designed to work across platforms and turn identification into a game, which you can see in the picture above.
"From a really simple level, what we're going to be doing is putting the Gamertags that people have complained about in front of users and asking them whether or not they find that Gamertag offensive or not offensive," he said. "So every Gamertag that the user will see will be a Gamertag that has been complained about in the past. What we're going to be doing, this first round, is really just collecting a lot of data. Some of these Gamertags that we're going to be showing are Gamertags from the past five years of Gamertag enforcement that we've done. But the users won't necessarily know that out of the gate, and some of these will be the historical ones that we've already made decisions against. So we can kind of figure out those people in the community that are exceptionally good at spotting offensive Gamertags."
Microsoft will use the data they collect to determine who's really good at identifying offensive content and then feeding them new complaints. That's how current users, as a community, will play a part in identifying and enforcing legitimate complaints.
Though the Enforcement United program will begin with Gamertags, the communal idea behind the initiative leaves room for expansion.
"We recognize that there's a lot of very informed, very intelligent and very engaged gamers in our community," Kaleta said. "We want to give them the opportunity, where it makes sense, to have a bigger impact in the community, [to] have some ownership.
"We are interested in seeing exactly how this works with Gamertags and then assessing as to what other types of user-generated content that this model might make sense for."
"We have a lot to learn from this community."
Beyond the sense of community ownership, Microsoft is also investigating ways it might reward participants. Though there's nothing to announce yet, Xbox Community Ambassadors have been rewarded with Avatar items and game codes for their efforts.
Ultimately, both Erickson and Kaleta see the potential that Enforcement United has to build a bigger, more impactful sense of community across console generations.
"We have a lot to learn from this community," Kaleta said. "We actually see this as a fundamental change in the way our team interacts with the community, and we can't wait for it. We're super excited about doing this."
Erickson seconds the sentiment, and can't wait to learn from and help the community and beyond.
"Just to tack onto Glenn, I couldn't agree more," he said. "It's been a long process to sort of get to the place where we can actually provide this program to our users, and I am remarkably excited to see the data from the users about the kind of content they find offensive.
"Most interestingly, I'm curious to see the data about certain Gamertags and content that the community is split on. The things that there's an even mix of people that think it's not offensive. I think that information is going to be very informative as we continue to track policy experiences for the Xbox platform. And hopefully we can help move the industry forward into safer experiences for gamers, not only on Xbox Live but throughout the entire gaming multiverse."
If you'd like to learn more about the Enforcement United program, check out the program's official website.