Careful what you say online: Microsoft is listening in.
The tech giant recently implemented some changes to its massively popular game Minecraft. The game currently holds the record for being the bestselling video game of all time, and hundreds of thousands of players are playing at any given moment.
In June, Microsoft announced that some new reporting features were coming to the game. Players could snitch on each other, and if a player was found to be in violation of nebulous Community Standards for things like hate speech or threats of violence, that player would be banned from playing online.
“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,” said Microsoft in a support article about what being banned entails. In non-gamer English, a ban completely cuts the player off from accessing online services.
The backlash was almost instantaneous, but the policy nevertheless went into effect on July 27.
It’s important to note how Minecraft works. There are two types of online play: public and private. On a public server, players can join strangers from around the globe in-game, whereas a private server requires some form of code or invitation to gain access and is usually used by smaller groups of friends to play with each other.
The new policy allows Microsoft to ban a player for something the company doesn’t like that was said on a private server, where Microsoft shouldn’t have any sway. Imagine Bill Gates busts into your house while you and your friends are all playing Halo and bans you from playing online because you said Lia Thomas is a man.
It’s something like that.
Of course, Microsoft insists that there’s no way this system can be abused and that human beings will verify if a ban is justified. But judging how Microsoft’s Big Tech brethren regularly censor conservatives, forgive me if I’m a little skeptical.
Microsoft’s foray into censoring content on private servers has staggering implications since it’s not just a game company. It also creates some of the most used software in the world.
It’s not difficult to imagine a universe where Microsoft starts censoring Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. The company already revealed its leftward tilt with a series of bizarre changes to the Microsoft program suite’s proofreader function.
Back in 2020, Microsoft added a bevy of “inclusive” editing suggestions to applications like Microsoft Word, including recommending users capitalize the word “black” (but not “white,” of course) or replace the word “mankind” with “humankind” to avoid being sexist.
Minecraft itself is no stranger to forcing out those who don’t agree with leftist dogma. Markus Alexej Persson, who goes by the persona “Notch,” created Minecraft back in 2009.
Following comments Notch made on his Twitter critical of feminism and the idea of white privilege, Microsoft scrubbed all references to the man who made the game from his own creation in 2019. Later that same year, Microsoft distanced itself even further from Notch by neglecting to invite him to the game’s 10th anniversary celebration.
“His comments and opinions do not reflect those of Microsoft … and are not representative of Minecraft,” a Microsoft representative said, according to Variety.
Given the woke direction that Microsoft is going, is Minecraft the canary in the coal mine for a wider-reaching reign of censorship?
After all, there isn’t much of a difference between a private Minecraft server that requires an invite to access and a private Word document. If I type something like “A man can never be a woman,” will that get me banned from using Word?
Microsoft appears to be leaning toward yes.
It’s dangerous when activist corporations decide what is allowed or not allowed to be said online. Conservatives have already proven repeatedly that they are being unfairly targeted, and that censorship is a weapon the left wields with impunity against its opposition.
But maybe there is a silver lining to this whole censorship catastrophe. Many Minecraft players, even those on the left, seem upset with the changes.
The Minecraft forum on social media site Reddit, normally a hive of leftism, was outraged with Microsoft’s decision. Post after post decried it, and many users demanded Microsoft backtrack.
That’s a start at least. Conservatives should also forcefully condemn and combat the policy and Microsoft should cease its foray into censorship and leave Minecraft alone.
Freedom of speech isn’t a game.
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