‘Online harassment is not an impossible problem,’ says Riot

Online abuse drops to two percent

“How do you introduce governance into a society that didn’t have one before?”

That’s the question posed by – and to – League of Legends developer Riot, as it grapples with unacceptable behaviour and online toxicity. 

According to Riot, “the answer wasn’t as simple as abolishing anonymity.”

“As we spend more and more of our time online, we need to acknowledge that online harassment and toxicity is not an impossible problem, and that it is a problem worth spending time on,” wrote Riot’s lead game designer, Jeffery Lin, on Recode.

The developer built “Tribunal,” a system designed to automatically create public case files for unacceptable behaviour as reported by players. Players review the data and chat logs, then vote on whether or not they deemed the behaviour to be acceptable (or not, as the case may be).

The most “rejected phrases” in the English language in North America were homophobic slurs.

“Our team found that if you classified online citizens from negative to positive, the vast majority of negative behavior (which ranges from trash talk to non-extreme but still generally offensive language) did not originate from the persistently negative online citizens,” Lin added.

In fact, 87% of online toxicity came from the neutral and positive citizens just having a bad day here or there.

Verbal abuse has dropped by more than 40%, and 91.6% of negative players change their act and never commit another offense after just one reported penalty. These results have inspired us, because we realize that this isn’t an impossible problem after all.

The trouble with percentages, however, is that though the number make look small, two percent of 67 million League of Legends players is still 1.4 million people. Which isn’t a small number, let’s face it. 

On the plus side, later this year Riot will be revising the system to also support the reporting and celebration of “positive case files.”

What do you think? Do you think online harassment remains an “impossible problem,” or could developers be doing more to nurture safe game-space environments? As always, we’d love to know what you think!

Only 2% of League of Legends matches include abuse, says Riot [VG24/7]

Vikki Blake