Since its initial release over a decade ago (and even following Microsoft’s 2014 acquisition of developer Mojang), Minecraft has let players create private servers where they’re in full control of what behaviors (and players) are allowed. Next week, though, Microsoft is set to roll out a new update that lets it ban a Minecraft player from all online play, including private servers and those hosted on Microsoft’s subscription-based Realms plan.
Earlier this week, Microsoft launched a pre-release version of Update 1.19.1 for the Java Edition of Minecraft, which will go live for everyone on Tuesday, June 28. That update will add the ability to report users who abuse the game’s chat system and allow for “reported players [to be] be banned from online play and Realms after moderator review.”
On a recently updated “Why Have I been Banned from Minecraft?” help page, Microsoft notes that banned players will also get a message when they “sign into Minecraft on any platform (non-Java Edition) [aka “Bedrock”].” That message will clarify that “banned players are not allowed to play on servers, join Realms, host or join multiplayer games, or use the marketplace. They are also not allowed to access Minecraft Earth. Xbox players will no longer have access to their worlds [emphasis added].”
Whose moderation is it, anyway?
While bans will limit players’ ability to join private servers, Microsoft suggests that its “highly trained moderation staff is looking at the most egregious violations in public Featured Servers and Realms… Personal worlds will not be reviewed.” Private server owners will also still be able to issue bans that apply to that server alone and which are “at the discretion of the server owner.” Microsoft says it will “not intervene in private servers aside from overt violations of the Minecraft EULA and our Terms of Service.”
The help page also suggests that many moderation decisions will lead to temporary suspensions, while permanent bans will be reserved for “the most severe violations of our Community Standards.” Those Community Standards cover common moderation topics like “hate speech, bullying, harassing, sexual solicitation, or threatening others” but also things like “excessive posting or spamming” in chat, creating “negative and disparaging” content, or posting personal information about “yourself or others.”
A help page on player chat reporting lays out other moderation categories like “imminent harm – self-harm or suicide, terrorism or violent extremism, non-consensual intimate imagery, [and] drugs or alcohol.” Other potential reporting categories like “‘Profanity’, ‘Nudity or pornography’, and ‘Extreme violence or gore'” were recently removed in a new release candidate, according to the update notes.
The chat reporting help page also lays out that reports must be initiated by a player and will be reviewed by the moderation, which should hopefully limit the false-report problems sometimes associated with more automated moderation systems. Microsoft warns that abusing the chat reporting system by knowingly sending incorrect or irrelevant moderation requests or inciting others to do the same “can lead to repercussions for your account.” And banned players will be able to file for a case review if they feel they have been banned unjustly.
On social media, it’s not hard to find players reacting negatively to the encroachment of Microsoft moderation decisions on their private game spaces. “Minecraft, although family friendly, and primarily catered towards children, is a game played by many adults that desire private spaces where they may play the game in certain ways or communicate in certain ways that are inappropriate for younger audiences,” writes Reddit user Phantom-Soldier-405. “By severely restricting the ability for adults to enjoy games in their way, Microsoft is not only losing popularity and profits in the long run, but also giving themselves an even worse reputation than they already have with handling games.”
Reddit user quillka put it more bluntly: “Leave the player hosted servers alone! They have their own moderation and are capable of handling themselves. It has been this way for years and has worked for years.”
Some players are also worried that the new reporting functions will be abused, despite Microsoft’s stated protections. “I understand Mojang’s intentions are likely good, but trolls *will* get people falsely banned and there’ll likely be next to nothing they can do about it,” one Twitter user wrote in response to the update announcement.
Public clearinghouse MinecraftServers.org currently lists more than 31,000 private online Minecraft servers, a number that likely represents just a fraction of the privately controlled servers out there.