PlayStation’s broken reporting system: first come, first served
A reader rails against the reporting system for harassment on PSN and why it will ensure he never buys a PlayStation 5.
The generic breach of conduct email I recently received was not the first one I’d ever got from Sony, nor was it the first one threatening action due to some policy violation. It was, however, the first one that actually suspended my account.
As any other hapless victim of the ban hammer would do in such circumstances, I turned to Google for wise advice. One article I found particularly interesting had been published on Metro and talked about an unfair 30 day dealt to a PlayStation 3 gamer.
This was written in 2014, but, six years down the road, the article is as relevant as ever: in six years, Sony released a new generation console, improved it a couple of times, and even announced the imminent launch of the next generation of its popular device, yet did nothing to improve on its crude and unjust reporting system.
In that article, a player describes how reporting someone for trash talking backfired and got him banned instead, just because he informed his aggressor of his course of action.
It beggars belief, but having witnessed how the reporting system works, I always suspected I would end up in a similar situation (I barely chat to anybody, and I don’t even play in parties: I do my occasional multiplayer casual gaming solo, on lone wolf mode, so to speak).
And it finally happened.
A couple of days ago I had the misfortune of playing against one of the many toxic players inhabiting what is possibly the most toxic genre of all: first person shooters. This particular player was going round the map tea-bagging everyone, which some people find immensely offensive while others find it extremely funny and simply part of the first person shooter experience. Despite being on the defeated team, I managed to do quite well for myself, and decided to message this fellow.
Yes, I admit: I was the one who started the exchange, but with only the mild slang common to such endeavours. Usually, this kind of exchange – as ubiquitous as tea-bagging – lasts for a few inane lines, each side thinking itself cleverer than the other in a conversation which, to an outsider, is as silly as it gets… and then it ends. This one did last longer than usual, but like all good things, it eventually came to an end.
Or so I thought.
The next day I meet the same player. He was the one initiating the conversation now, telling me how he killed me so many times without me returning the favour (when my recorded footage clearly showed otherwise). Another lengthy exchange took place, until we both ran out of fuel and, once again, the fire died. I thought it would be the end of it.
The player would continue to message me, even going so far as to tell his friends to message me, invite me to a ‘party’ (certainly not for a good cup of tea), sending me a ‘friend’ request, and even spreading lies about me. Basically, the dictionary definition of harassment. This went on for days.
I simply ignored all of the above, though I did reply to his messages. This bully was now taunting me and also baiting me: once he received the reply he was looking for, he immediately toned his messages down and reminded me how one can easily get banned.
Soon enough, I receive a notification. This guy clearly knew what he was doing. He also knew what would lead to his desired outcome and made every effort to reach that point.
It is also important to keep in mind that, with the account suspended, a user cannot report another, and cannot appeal the decision (what’s the point of an appeal if it cannot be used when intended by who needs it most!). There is no easy way to share one’s version of events: an unfair trial, if there ever was one!
It is not the first time that I was reported by players who messaged me just to insult me. It seems that abusive players have learnt how easy it is to get someone’s account suspended.
Now it is true that perhaps I should have reported him before, but since I was the one who had started the exchange, I felt it would be hypocritical. And from my experience these confrontations usually fizzle out naturally. I also do not like to spam the report function and abuse it on relatively trivial matters, but PlayStation seems to encourage this infantile practice.
The reporting mechanism employed by PlayStation is clearly flawed and it rewards bullies by punishing actions without any regard to context. It essentially encourages this kind of harassment – the only way to avoid this trap is by not playing their game and report any messages immediately.
The moderators never properly review the situations, and the text they send out saying otherwise is just a cop out to avoid proper monitoring in what is essentially a cost-cutting measure. In reality, the one reported first suffers the penalty, regardless of the context. Simply put, the company which fancies itself as being ‘for the players’ does not really care and is only in it ‘for the money’.
That article I mentioned ended with the gamer promising he would not get the PlayStation 4 or the PS4 slim follow-up. Now that the PlayStation 5 is soon coming out, I suspect he will not get that either.
And, it seems, neither will I.
By reader Kenneth Curmi
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