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Is the New Silence Penalty Bad?

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As some of you may have seen recently, there were two videos put out by Asmongold in which he displayed how easy it is to abuse the silence penalty, as well as discussing how it happened and what he thought of it.

If you missed the videos, you can check out the "full story" video that he posted on his YouTube:

The general summary of the video is that he arranged a raid to help test the new silence penalty. He sent out the following message in /s:

MY NAME IS ASMONGOLD AND I LOVE WORLD OF WARCRAFT!!

A pretty harmless message that is by no means offensive, abusive or worthy of a report; after telling everyone in the raid to then report him, he was immediately silenced for 24 hours. 

This might seem ordinary for some of you, given that he was reported by a large number of people, but this is actually the opposite of what Blizzard detailed this new system as. I feel a good reference for what the system is supposed to be comes from these tweets by Lore:

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We can very clearly see that the new system is actually a "guilty until proven innocent" type of thing, where players are silenced immediately by an automated system and then a GM might review it in the future. While I'm sure some of you might feel that this case is different because it's such a huge concentration of reports in a small amount of time, other players are reporting similar problems.

Those of you that are familiar with the Friendship Moose runs will most likely know who Zelse is. He puts together runs to help players get the Grove Warden mount from Archimonde. While advertising for runs, it seems he was reported and, as with Asmongold, immediately silenced. 

Placeholder for tweet 755907002635878401

Despite the fact that Zelse's silence was removed by GMs, this still goes to show that the system silences you before any form of review. 

So what does all of this mean? Why is this a bad thing? I sat down with Asmongold over on his stream to discuss everything that had happened to him with the penalty, as well as the Reddit post that popped up concerning his video.

It's important to note that he has not received any contact from Blizzard regarding the silence or his video at the time of writing this, and he sat out the full duration of the 24 hour silence.

There seems to be a lot of discussion about something called "squelching" in the Reddit thread. Why is it different from the new penalty?

Before I show you his response to this, I want to clarify exactly what squelching was. This feature seems to have been around since as early as 2011; it was a feature that essentially automatically muted people for 3 hours when they were "squelched". If you take a look at the video above, starting at around 5 minutes, you can listen to Asmongold's clarification about what it actually is. 

Given how much discussion there was about it, I asked him to go through his reasoning about squelching again and really distinguish the two. He said the following:

Quote

Whenever I was reported, what I was reported for, I only said it once, so it had nothing to do with anything like spam. If there was some form of spam filter, my message would not have been caught by that because it was only sent once.

It also wasn't a squelch because whenever I received the e-mail after I was reported, the more information link that they gave me was a link to the silence page, not a link to the squelch page for spamming. It was specifically a link to the silence page had just been updated at that point, 15 hours ago or so.

Also, all of the information on the silence support page was all stuff we had seen mirrored in the punishments for whenever the silence penalty was implemented.

If my account was squelched and the punishments mirror the punishments for being silenced, then these two would be synonymous, right? They would be one and the same.

So, if I was squelched, then I was also silenced. This means that getting squelched is getting silenced. If I get squelched without an investigation, then I get silenced without an investigation. 

Changing the rhetoric doesn't change what this all comes down to, where a person is still getting their account silenced and action being taken without an investigation.

Before we look at whether or not the system is inherently bad, let's take a look at what is currently happening. Does this system open itself up to abuse?

Given that we can now see there is no review before the silence is applied, this system starts to seem a lot more scary. As evidenced by Asmongold's video, there was no profanity in his message, nothing negative, nothing malicious. If something as positive as his message can still receive the full penalty, do we now have a system that becomes very easy to abuse?

I asked what Asmongold thought about the ability of players to misuse the system and simply report people they don't like, people that are competition in either raiding or selling things or just generally people they don't agree with. Here's what he had to say:

Quote

You have to ask the question, are they going to be able to punish people for misusing the system? I think any reasonable person knows the answer is no. They won't be able to do that because it's too fine of a line between punishing the victim and the people abusing the system.

People will not get in trouble for falsely reporting others; there are just too many ways to explain why you reported someone, such as clicking the name accidentally, wanting to report someone else and so on. There are too many ways to rationalise it and they are actually legitimate reasons.

Blizzard could be punishing innocent players for something that they might not have done knowingly, since they might have had good intentions. Let's say someone says that Brexit was a good decision. They are reported for racism, because a person believes that someone supporting Brexit is a racist. Whether or not it is true is irrelevant, since the person that is reporting believes their reason is fair. Blizzard won't ban the person that is reported, but should they punish the person that filed the report? 

You can find easier situations, like a guild mass reporting, but for many other reporting cases, you can't understand what someone intended when filing the report.

So it's clear that the system is very easy to abuse with a group of people, since you most likely won't get into trouble for it. In order to actually get someone silenced though, you'll need a fairly large group of players. At least, that's what it seems like.

In the past already, there has been problems with certain multiboxers in the community. They pay for a huge number of accounts and have shown evidence of going out of their way to ruin the experience of players in-game. Have Blizzard just given them the perfect tool to do so?

Quote

Blizzard has created the tools for them to do this now. 

Is it necessarily going to happen a lot? I don't think so, but the fact that there is the potential for the abuse makes it so that innocent people can be punished. It's better in a game that people actually pay for, whether by real money or WoW tokens. As a paying subscriber, you should be given the benefit of the doubt and actually treated like an adult. I feel like this is what's really missing here.

With the multiboxing, absolutely. It doesn't matter what the person says. You can get silenced, no matter what you say. There should be a word filter that will only automatically silence people if they are using certain profanities, racial slurs, whatever.

How can we fix this system? What simple improvements can prevent this from occurring?

As someone that dislikes the system altogether, I wanted to hear Asmongold's opinions on how they can fix the system and make sure it properly works. Keep in mind that he is definitely against the system, but I wanted to see how he would optimise it. Here were his suggestions:

Quote
  • Make the ignore list as large as possible.
  • Add a whitelisting feature for people who are reported often but the reports turn out to have no proper reasons behind them.
    • If a person is constantly reported and there is constantly no grounding behind it, that person is given the benefit of the doubt in the future.
    • No action is taken until a full investigation has taken place for whitelisted accounts.
  • A 3-hour immediate suspension isn't necessarily a bad thing.
  • Introduce a word filter that instantly silences people depending on which words are used. 
    • The filter could include words such as racial slurs.
    • No matter how the word is used, these filtered words should not be used.
    • If people report you and the word filter finds the banned words, you are then silenced.
  • Add a feature that blacklists people that continuously report people for nothing.
    • If their reports are constantly found to have no grounding, they can no longer submit reports.
  • Be more forthcoming with information on the new system.
    • Explain the difference between the old system and the new system.
    • What was squelching and why did it need to be changed?
    • What exactly is needed to trigger the silence?

Conclusions

So, have Blizzard made the right choice with this new system? Personally, I'm not so sure. I think it's an OK idea, but it definitely needs a lot of work. In reality, the system either needs to be reworked or removed until they can find a way to fix what is now starting to happen.

Fingers crossed!

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1 minute ago, Duncnx said:

I was watching the interview during the stream last night.  Very well written article and summary of the issue.

Thanks for the kind words, it was great of Zack to let me jump onto the stream and do it right there. Was also fun watching chat laugh at how often I say "fair enough".

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42 minutes ago, Blainie said:

Thanks for the kind words, it was great of Zack to let me jump onto the stream and do it right there. Was also fun watching chat laugh at how often I say "fair enough".

Omg I also say 'fair enough' a lot. Turns out, it can be a reaction to any statement.

 

On topic, I never liked the system the way it was, and this doesn't  seem like much of an improvement.

That said I think it's good to know they're at least trying to better it.

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It would be nice to have an account ignore option that extends beyond just simple text. too often I see players circumvent ignore by making another toon in the game. an account ignore would also have the greater benefit for curtailing a lot of the in game abuse by players that reach beyond simple trade chat spam or defamation. I would like to see an account ignore extend for the abuse that occurs within looking for raid and the AH as well.

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2 minutes ago, Daddy said:

It would be nice to have an account ignore option that extends beyond just simple text. too often I see players circumvent ignore by making another toon in the game. an account ignore would also have the greater benefit for curtailing a lot of the in game abuse by players that reach beyond simple trade chat spam or defamation. I would like to see an account ignore extend for the abuse that occurs within looking for raid and the AH as well.

I'd love to see this as well. Especially if you're someone that is dealing with targeted abuse by an individual, they won't hesitate to keep making characters to continue abusing you.

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Great article. I was in Asmongold's stream for the interview as well and one important detail left out is the ability for trial accounts to report people. 

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20 minutes ago, bantam said:

Great article. I was in Asmongold's stream for the interview as well and one important detail left out is the ability for trial accounts to report people. 

That seems like a huge oversight.  Giving trial accounts the ability to cause a silence is ridiculous, and opens the system up even further for misuse.  When Blizz announced the silence in WoW I was all for it, but it really seems like they need to do some serious work or everyone will be silenced. 

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33 minutes ago, bantam said:

Great article. I was in Asmongold's stream for the interview as well and one important detail left out is the ability for trial accounts to report people. 

Completely forgot to add that, thanks for bringing it up!

11 minutes ago, ghostdeini said:

That seems like a huge oversight.  Giving trial accounts the ability to cause a silence is ridiculous, and opens the system up even further for misuse.  When Blizz announced the silence in WoW I was all for it, but it really seems like they need to do some serious work or everyone will be silenced. 

I agree. The ability to report from trial accounts basically means that I can create accounts in any region I wish, with no restrictions, to harass and report people.

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2 hours ago, Daddy said:

It would be nice to have an account ignore option that extends beyond just simple text. too often I see players circumvent ignore by making another toon in the game. an account ignore would also have the greater benefit for curtailing a lot of the in game abuse by players that reach beyond simple trade chat spam or defamation. I would like to see an account ignore extend for the abuse that occurs within looking for raid and the AH as well.

They need to overhaul the friending and ignoring system on WoW as a whole. They already integrated battle.net friends which is a very good start, but they need to make ignore work by ignoring by battletag rather than specific characters.

People shouldn't be able to remove themselves from your ignore list by deleting their character or by realm transferring. They shouldn't be able to bypass it by creating another character on a different realm and whispering you (because "account-wide ignore" actually only means "ignore all their characters on your realm but not their other characters on different realms.")

It's already a good thing that ignore keeps track of character name changes but it needs to keep people ignored if they delete their character or transfer to a different realm.

Edited by Ammako
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All that Asmongold did was speculate on how it would be implemented. He *assumed* that getting a silence penalty was strictly based off volume of reports (i.e. getting your friends to dogpile someone would result in an effective silence penalty), then completely disregarded what an "investigation" might include.

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12 minutes ago, Farinata said:

All that Asmongold did was speculate on how it would be implemented. He *assumed* that getting a silence penalty was strictly based off volume of reports (i.e. getting your friends to dogpile someone would result in an effective silence penalty), then completely disregarded what an "investigation" might include.

But the silence happened before an investigation occurred, so why does the investigation matter? He had a 24 hour silence with no investigation at all.

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In all honesty, the silence system is one of the key features that convinced me to resub now after the prepatch. While I'm sure this is not the systems final form yet, I really detest the often toxic culture in MMO's. (WoW is by no means unique, you see the same thing in ESO, Rift, SWTOR and and so on. People are great for the first few months after release then it just gets progressively worse.) Average casual players doing their nightly pug dungeons or LRF are easily exposed to truly horrid harassments for no other reason than being average casual players. Don't get me wrong, if you sign up for a mythic pug, or guild, claiming to be god almighty and fail you should expect to be replaced. But lets be honest, all it takes for people to rage is that their dungeon takes 30 seconds longer than the last time, that the tank pulls a skippable pack, an alternative tactic is applied, that someone makes an actual mistake, or that the group "fails" due to the rager’s obsessive ninjapulling, or that someone doesn’t know the tactics for everything and so on and so forth.

 

The harassments are almost exlusively counterproductive. Instead of spending time explaining and guiding, it’s spent on making others feel bad about themselves.

 

In the critiques against the silence system, a common one seems to this: git gud! Or in laymen’s terms, being harassed is in itself proof that you deserve it because you are "underperforming". In a video game that most people play for fun.

 

As a long time MMO-player, I'm actually not sure I would allow my own kids to play because of the toxicity. And I am very happy that blizzard is finally taking additional steps to disperse some of it.

Is it possible to abuse the silence system in it's current (or any form)? Problably. Has the non-presence of a similar system up until now been abused, and is likely to continue to be abused? Without a shadow of a doubt!

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The only part I disagree with is this bit:

" Introduce a word filter that instantly silences people depending on which words are used.  "

The problem with that is there are cultural differences between players.

For example - the phrase "you sneaky bastard" is friendly in Australia, where as may be offensive in the USA.

For another example - the gnome emote /rasp is extremely offensive in Australia, where as ok in the USA.

Language is too complex to allow any automated system to attempt to just it in a 'moral' sense.

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In spite of the potential problems, I am pleased with the new Silence.  Being one of those average casual players with the desire to play a game and not wage a life and death struggle for mastery, I eventually stopped doing dungeons and events entirely due the harassment by some group members.  It is one thing to mess up in group, but being screamed at and the subject of obscenities merely because you are just an average player is way over the line.   At least now one can hope that the ill-mannered will simply seethe in silence and left the rest of us have fun. 

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4 hours ago, schwarzkopf said:

The only part I disagree with is this bit:

" Introduce a word filter that instantly silences people depending on which words are used.  "

The problem with that is there are cultural differences between players.

For example - the phrase "you sneaky bastard" is friendly in Australia, where as may be offensive in the USA.

For another example - the gnome emote /rasp is extremely offensive in Australia, where as ok in the USA.

Language is too complex to allow any automated system to attempt to just it in a 'moral' sense.

I do agree that catching everything in every region would be difficult, but I think that there are more than a few insulting/derogatory terms that that could be used as a general filter. Anything else would have to be reviewed which still creates an issue if there is an automatic silence after being reported. 

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The system can only be "easily abused" to the extent that a large number of players can be easily convinced to make simultaneous fake reports. And this will only remain true if there are no consequences for doing so. Assuming Blizzard disciplines those making false reports and especially harshly those organizing large blocks of them, the supply of players willing and able to do this is going to drop sharply after an initial period. Even before then, I believe the system is on balance fixing more existing problems than it is creating new ones.

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1 hour ago, MOHRONIC said:

I do agree that catching everything in every region would be difficult, but I think that there are more than a few insulting/derogatory terms that that could be used as a general filter. Anything else would have to be reviewed which still creates an issue if there is an automatic silence after being reported. 

In Australia, very few words or phrases are deemed truly offensive inherently. Probably count the words on 1 hand that I wouldn't have said to my mum, on one finger the words I wouldn't say to my boss.

If a person has no way of determining what they are allowed to say or not, it makes it difficult to judge them, however an automated system supported by mob rule will judge them anyway.

 

 

 

 

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On 2016-07-21 at 5:12 PM, Blainie said:

But the silence happened before an investigation occurred, so why does the investigation matter? He had a 24 hour silence with no investigation at all.

He also staged it with a full raid group. Which is not that easily done by a single person.

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5 hours ago, Calysia said:

He also staged it with a full raid group. Which is not that easily done by a single person.

Actually, when I was watching his video I realised how easy it would be for guilds to mass silence people. Guilds can have a huge mass of people in them... it only took 30ish to get Asmongold silenced...

So it does also beg the question. If it takes a group of people to get someone silenced... Then if i report someone for harassing me, and I'm just one person. Then is it doing anything? Is it accrued?

There probably should be a long GM post about how it works. But possibly why that hasn't occurred as much, is because elusiveness might stop the masses from abusing it as much.

Personally, I report people a lot. Well... I report a lot of gold sellers :P. But also, sometimes, people swing abuse my way and I report them. When the info first came out about the silence, I thought, well thats kinda good under the acknowledgement that maybe my reports will accrue with other peoples.Iif they are abusive to more people than just me. Because, tbh, I assumed that nothing ever came of my reporting. I thought that the click was a bit of a cop out. Like, why allow a report feature if nothing ever comes of it?

I dont report people for being mean if they know who I am, thats their right. But, if someone goes out of their way to be a cunt to a total fucking random in trade for saying something intelligent, then pfft. Ofc I'll ignore and report. This is why i turn off trade most of the time :(. Which is poor for a community mmo. But yeah, after I /ignore, then I'm free of their shit to some degree. But, I worry about other people. People can stand up for themselves sure, but if I can save the next version-of-me from getting abused then I'd prefer that.

But yeah... the deal is, that if its accrued then it works for individuals. If it doesnt, if only one person reports something. Then someone else reports something 10 days later, and its a different convo and it fails to stack... Then this system is useless. Because it can only be used in open forum in this context. Like, trade chat, or within a group or raid. It cant ever be used properly in private convos if it doesnt stack.

"What exactly is needed to trigger the silence?" Is possibly the best question asked.

"A 3-hour immediate suspension isn't necessarily a bad thing." I agree with this. If you are immediately silenced AND THEN its investigated within a few hours when the GMs get back to work hours or whatever other reason, like delay in processing. Then sure, I can see that.

Great post Blainie, thanks for the good read :).

Edited by Swatch
Full stops. Rofl.
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20 hours ago, schwarzkopf said:

The only part I disagree with is this bit:

" Introduce a word filter that instantly silences people depending on which words are used.  "

The problem with that is there are cultural differences between players.

For example - the phrase "you sneaky bastard" is friendly in Australia, where as may be offensive in the USA.

For another example - the gnome emote /rasp is extremely offensive in Australia, where as ok in the USA.

Language is too complex to allow any automated system to attempt to just it in a 'moral' sense.

I think it's important to draw a line between two things here: normal curse words and racial slurs. There are filters in game to stop people seeing normal curse words. If they don't like them, enable the mature filter. I think it's something different with racial slurs. I don't care about swearing, so I don't have my filter on. That doesn't mean I'm OK with someone being openly racist and berating people with slurs. 

It's important to also note that the various localisation departments could work to ensure that the filters work properly for the different regions, given that they'd need to do it anyway for countries that don't have English as a main language.

7 hours ago, Calysia said:

He also staged it with a full raid group. Which is not that easily done by a single person.

Remember that we don't actually know the minimum number of reports to get someone silenced. Maybe you only need 10, 20 or 30. Players can always ask guild members, friends, raid members, whatever. Let's say someone wipes a pug raid. Everyone is angry, let's report the person that wiped us, they're wasting our time. 

Alternatively, let's say you annoy a multiboxer. Hey, they can suddenly report you from 40+ characters!

1 hour ago, Swatch said:

"What exactly is needed to trigger the silence?" Is possibly the best question asked.

This for me is the most important. Knowing exactly what it is that is needed for me to be silenced, then I can avoid doing whatever it is until they fix it.

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This is definitely concerning for a paying customer, and as an adult. I seen on the media of the growing problem of SJW. People are entitled to their own opinions and can believe what they want. But when they cross the line into banning paying customers for language that may or may not be offensive, that is a scary situation. BTW, this post caught my attention because I recently discovered Asmondgold (sorry if I mispelled!) after watching youtube videos explaining how to get achievements. Your videos are the best. Keep them coming. Thanks. And good luck to ya concerning this issue. Thanks for spreading the word. Hopefully Blizzard takes notice.

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      The Bonus Events system consists of a rotating schedule of different activities, currently scheduled to run each week beginning on Tuesdays. Each Bonus Event grants a passive bonus to a particular game activity and offers a once-per-event quest with a noteworthy reward for accomplishing a related goal. The in-game calendar can serve as your one-stop reference for the event schedule. The Adventure Guide also offers a direct link to active Bonus Events, allowing you to easily accept any associated quests.
      PvP Brawl: Arathi Blizzard (August 20th -  August 27th)
      Blizzard (Source)

      Frozen Arathi Basin (Resource Race)
      Put away your bathing suit, pull out your parka, and enter a winter wonderland as the Arathi Basin you know and love gets a fresh coat of ice and snow. You'll be racing your way between the farm, stables, mine, lumberyard, and blacksmith through piles of snow and over a - mostly - frozen lake. One more thing: the weather forecast calls for a bit of fog of war. We hope you're prepared for the weather.
    • By Stan
      Today's hotfixes come with a lot of nerfs to Queen Azshara. Vitality Conduit now correctly transfers health from a target with absorb shields, and more.
      Blizzard (Source)
      Dungeons and Raids
      Azshara’s Eternal Palace Queen Azshara When either Aethenel or Cyranus is slain on Normal, Heroic, or Mythic difficulty, there is now a 3-second delay before the other one gains the Torment buff. Azshara's Indomitable is now summoned 10 seconds later than previously observed on Mythic difficulty. Tidemistresses have 5% less health on Mythic difficulty. Fixed an issue where casting either Moonfire or Regrowth twice in a row while affected by Repeat Performance was not triggering the silence. Fixed a bug on Mythic difficulty where the damage effect from Deferred Sentence could trigger the healing reduction from Obey or Suffer right as the decrees transitioned between each other. Siege of Boralus  Corrected an issue where players’ pets were unable to attack the tentacles during the Viq’Goth encounter. Items
      Heart of Azeroth Vitality Conduit (Essence) correctly transfers health from a target with absorb shields on them. Learning new ranks of Conflict and Strife (Essence) should now properly grant achievements such as Power Up.
    • By Stan
      Artifact Knowledge will continue to increase each week until the week of October 1, according to Blizzard, despite the fact that in previous Seasons, it ended around the twelve-week mark.
      Blizzard (Source)
      Is this being cut off soon? Or are you leaving it on indefinitely?
      It’s been 8 weeks now, and 8.2 kicked off with 4 weeks of AK already calculated into the game, so in theory, we’ve had 12 weeks of AK at this point. AK ended around the 12-week mark in the prior seasons.
      This is an inquiry, I’m not asking that it be cut off. I think they should leave it on, but that wouldn’t fit the prior seasons.
      No to both questions. 🙂
      As things currently stand, Artifact Knowledge will continue to increase each week until the week of October 1.
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