Xbox Boss Promises To Fight Online Toxicity And Encourage Inclusion

Beginning a "fierce urgency for safety."

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Xbox head Phil Spencer has published an editorial on the Microsoft Blog expressing the importance of diversity, and committing the company to combating toxicity online. To that end, he identified three key initiatives for the Xbox team.

The first initiative is continued vigilance from its Xbox Safety team, and expanding the composition of the safety team for a greater variety of perspectives. The group of community leaders known as Xbox Ambassadors will also be working on "community missions" to help create an inviting environment for players.

Spencer's second initiative is to create more tools for players and community leaders to customize their level of engagement to their comfort level. Over the summer, Club managers will get more moderation features, and other content moderation tools will be available by the end of 2019. It also commits to easier parental control tools, along with Gaming Summer Camps launching this summer to teach kids healthy habits. A recently launched "For Everyone" portal on Xbox.com keeps track of these initiatives.

Finally, Microsoft will share its safety tech across the industry, including its teams working on research, data science, and moderation. It compares this plan to its PhotoDNA technology, which it has shared with police and tech companies to fight child pornography.

"The gaming community continues to grow rapidly, and the imminent roll-out of new game services such as Apple Arcade, Google Stadia, and Microsoft's Project xCloud, will make gaming available to even more people worldwide," Spencer states. "Our industry must now answer the fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety."

The full letter also serves partly as a mission statement for the company. It cites data on the current diversity of the gaming audience, the benefits of gaming for people with autism or Alzheimer's, the connection between gaming and STEM education, and then explains the current events that have led to this safety-focused approach.

"This widespread embrace of gaming and its global communities have turned video games into the world’s leading cultural industry, bigger than movies or music," it says. "But it also comes at a time when digital life includes a growing toxic stew of hate speech, bigotry and misogyny."

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