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PubNub Takes On The Cyberbully

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Gaming has developed in astounding ways within the last decade from high definition video graphics, increased processor speeds, to virtual reality (VR) headsets, cloud technology which allows gamers to play from anywhere via the Internet, and more recently blockchain technology. Online gaming has been growing in popularity worldwide, with hundreds of millions of users every day on some top online games. Beyond these traditional forms of online gaming, there has been a huge growth in social-gaming (gaming built in to social media) through mobile devices.

Overall, social interaction with other players has become a necessity to many games, either through co-op play within Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMORPGs) or social play using social media, i.e. Facebook. Thriving communities have been built over the years but, with online gaming comes many of the same risks that other online activities carry. One of these risks is cyberbullying.

Anti-social behaviour has been growing in parallel with the growth of social activities within gaming, with some cases reported of it spilling out into the real world. This in-game toxic behaviour can include chat-spamming, exploits of bugs, “griefing” – a player who derives enjoyment by reducing the enjoyment of others, as well as cyberbullying. Some think that it is the increasing competitiveness of many modern games such as with E-sports, the inclusion of in-game chat features and use of persistent in-game identities are all contributing factors to create a breeding ground for the occurrence of cyberbullying.

The BBC reported on a survey carried out by Ditch The Label - an international anti-bullying charity, that 50% of young gamers had experienced some form of cyberbullying and earlier this year the BBC again reported on the issue, indicating that voice and text-based chat systems used within the popular online game Fortnite has raised ‘stranger danger’ fears, a warning from the NSPCC was issued stating that the game is leaving young people open to being contacted by strangers.

Cyberbullying is an anti-social behaviour which can be defined as repeatedly and intentionally causing harm to others using computers, mobile, or any other digital device which connects to the Internet. This behaviour has been proven to have negative outcomes for its victims including anxiety, stress, depression, poor performance at school/work, and in some extreme cases, suicide and other acts of violence.

"Bullying in virtual environments can quickly get out of hand because there is no immediate feedback loop,” Says Simon Jones, VP Marketing at PubNub. “In real life, others can look you in the eye and tell you to knock it off, but online the social costs of acting out can be near zero."

Gamers, both casual and die hard are strongly agreeing that cyberbullying is a serious problem in the online gaming environment and that something needs to be done about it. With the gaming industry expected to be worth $138 billion by 2021 according to Statista, cyberbullying and anti-social behaviour is a major consideration for the gaming industry and are equally determined for a solution to be found. Awareness of the problem is the first step towards finding a solution.

Some developers have attempted to apply a solution by allowing players to block all chat or building in filters for profanities within an in-game chat system, while this may be sufficient for most social apps, in-game communication can be very useful to the player and blocking may not be an option, for example, planning coordinated attacks. The conclusion is that a more sophisticated solution is needed to recognise and filter out bullying and foul language, and perhaps even take some action such as a warning or reporting of the perpetrator while allowing through normal player communications. This is where PubNub enter the scene with ChatEngine™.

ChatEngine makes it easier for the implementation of cross-platform chat with PubNub, providing all the essential components, microservices infrastructure, and the network to build and scale production-ready chat for JavaScript, iOS, and Android.

ChatEngine also makes use of all the latest technologies from machine learning and artificial intelligence for chatbots, to multilingual translations.

"ChatEngine gives developers full control to add immediate social cost to poor behavior - from moderation to sentiment analysis to muting - which can happen programmatically or at an individual level, letting the bully know they've been actively pushed out of the social group." Jones adds.

One real challenge for the developers of ChatEngine was to design and enable chat features that facilitate safety and allow moderation that does not feel like censorship. Whilst keeping that in mind, PubNub have created a new ChatEngine plugin called Muter, fostering a safe chat environment for everyone. As with most other chat platforms, varying degrees of muting and blocking of users is available, with the additional capability of muting an entire channel.

PubNub Blocks – 3rd party pre-built services can be integrated to provide more functionality for moderation which allows action to be taken on messages being sent between chat users. The Sift Ninja API is a content moderation and filtering block which can be integrated with chat, comments, gaming and any other social applications. It analyses, and filters text based on certain risk levels, determines the severity, and can then auto-moderate, hash-out profanities, based on rules set. Based on vulgarity, bullying, racism, violence, sexting, or Personally Identifiable Information (PII), If a message fails these checks, Sift Ninja gives two options, either to discard the message automatically or to return a response that has the inappropriate text blurred out.

When asked about PubNub’s vision of interactive gaming for the future and how blockchain can play a role in making it easier, automated, more secure, and more intuitive. "In the era of distributed, unhackable records like Blockchain, the power to keep social gaming sociable has to be visible, clearly-stated, and user-addressable.” Jones explained. “We're at the start of a revolution, where gamers set and enforce the manners and social expectations for their communities - and enforce them for the good of all."

To find out more about ChatEngine visit PubNub - ChatEngine.


The IoT Evolution Expo, and collocated events, IoT Evolution Health, LPWAN Expo, The Smart City Event, and IIoT Conference, will take place Jan. 29 to Feb 1 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Visit IoTEvolutionExpo.com to register now.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Special Correspondent

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