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Steam introduces chat filtering to weed out slurs, profanity

Text & Chat filtering available through Steam Labs beginning today

Image: Steam

Valve is working on a text and chat filtering feature for Steam that will allow players to control what comes to their attention when playing popular online multiplayer games.

Steam Text & Chat Filtering is available now, in a beta version, through Steam Labs. Valve Corp. said the tool was built on the chat filtering Steam already developed for games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2.

The new tool “moves it to Steam for a customized experience that is consistent across supporting games” and wherever Steam users are in a text chat, whether the Steam client, a mobile app, or the Steam website.

Chat filtering already obscures the most commonly used offensive language. Users may then alter their settings to control whether profanities, vulgarities, obscenities, and hostile invective are shown. They may also add to or remove words from a personal filter list, “because each player’s tolerance for difficult words is unique,” Valve said.

“Most of the time, players’ interactions are positive, friendships are formed, and everyone benefits from sharing our love of gaming with one another,” Steam Labs developers wrote in an FAQ. “But some of the time, people have have negative experiences on Steam due to their encounters with, in the worst case, bad actors, or simply others whose tolerance for various forms of language differ from their own.”

Steam already has parental controls to keep younger players safe, and by default content in Steam’s reviews and other community spaces is moderated to remove profanities and hate language, and blur potentially inappropriate imagery.

“Our filtering does not catch all profanity and slurs,” the developers said. “If you see a word you wish you hadn’t in chat, adding it to your filtered list will help us improve our filtering for all Steam users while immediately updating your own experience to avoid seeing that word again in chat.”

Regarding racist, homophobic and other slurs, “We know marginalized groups can reclaim language for themselves,” they wrote, “and we don’t want to stand in the way of enabling groups of Steam users from doing so when chatting with one another on Steam.” That’s why players have the option to see profanity and slurs from those in the Steam Friends list, while blocking it at large.

The developers wrote 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.”

Steam said its telemetry shows that 56% of this language involves the F-word or its many variants. A distant second was No. 2 (as in, the S-word) or its derivatives and compound forms. About 24% of the instances comprised “strong profanity and slurs we found to be used commonly enough that we’ve also added them to our lists.”

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