24th Nov, 2022
Minecraft's original release more than a decade ago has allowed players to create private servers that allow them full control over what players and behaviors are allowed. Microsoft will release a new update next week that allows it to ban Minecraft players from all online play, including those hosted on Microsoft's subscription-based Realms plans.
Microsoft released a pre-release version 1.19.1 of Update 1.19.1 earlier this week for the Java Edition Minecraft. It will be available for everyone on Tuesday, 26 June. This update will allow you to report players who abuse the game's chat system, and "reported users [to be] banned from online play or Realms after moderator approval."
A recently updated "Why have I been banned from Minecraft?" page explains. Microsoft has updated its "Why Have I been Banned from Minecraft?" help page to note that banned players will also receive a message when they "sign in to Minecraft on any platform (non Java Edition] [aka "Bedrock "]."]. This message will inform banned players that they are not allowed to play on servers or join Realms, host multiplayer games or use the marketplace. They are also forbidden from accessing Minecraft Earth. Xbox players will not have access to their worlds. (emphasis added).
Although bans will restrict players' access to private servers, Microsoft suggests that its moderation staff be trained to look at the most serious violations in public Featured and Realms Servers and Realms. Personal worlds won't be reviewed. Private server owners will still be able issue bans that only apply to their server and are "at the discretion" of the server owner. Microsoft states that it will not intervene in private server cases unless there is a clear violation of the Minecraft EULA or our Terms of Service.
The help page suggests that moderation decisions may result in temporary suspensions. However, permanent bans will only be granted for the most serious violations of our Community Standards. These Community Standards cover topics such as "hate speech", bullying, harassment, or threatening other people" but also "excessive posting, spamming" in chat and creating "negative or disparaging" content.
A help page for player chat reporting lists other moderation categories such as "imminent danger - self-harm, suicide, terrorist or violent extremism", non-consensual intimacy imagery, [and] alcohol." According to the update notes, other potential reporting categories such as "Profanity", "Nudity or pornography" and "Extreme violence/gore" were removed in a recent release candidate.
The chat reporting help page explains that players must initiate the report and it will be reviewed by moderation. This should hopefully reduce the false-report problems often associated with automated moderation systems. Microsoft warns against abuse of the chat reporting system, which can result in account suspensions if you knowingly send incorrect or irrelevant moderation requests to others. If banned players feel they were unfairly banned, they can file a case review.
It's not difficult to see players react negatively to the encroachment by Microsoft moderation decisions in their private game spaces via social media. Phantom-Soldier-405 writes that Minecraft is family-friendly and primarily aimed at children. However, it's a game that many adults enjoy that allows them to play in their own private spaces. Microsoft is not only losing their popularity and profits, but they are also gaining a worse reputation for handling games.
Reddit user quillka stated it bluntly: "Leave alone the player hosted servers!" They are capable of managing themselves and have their own moderation. This has been the case for many years.
Some players worry that the new reporting functions could be misused, despite Microsoft's stated protections. "I understand Mojang has good intentions, but trolls *will* get folks falsely banned and they'll likely have next to nothing they'll be able to do about it," one Twitter user said in response to the update announcement.