Minecraft is on fire. At least that’s how it currently feels if you follow the fandom on social media or certain message boards. A portion of the community is up in arms following the news that developer Mojang won’t back down from a controversial move to open private servers up to moderation and account-wide player ban. Fans are now rallying around the battle cry “Save Minecraft” against what they see as an existential threat to massively popular online builder.
“If Mojang thinks that every skilled coder who is against this system won’t try and embarrass them by breaking this system, I would bet against Mojang,” big-time Minecraft YouTuber Taylor “AntVenom” Harris tweeted. “Not a threat btw. Just calling it like it is. #SaveMinecraft.” Another player was more succinct. “Fuck 1.19.1,” they wrote in a tweet that’s since blown up. Some are blaming the studio itself. Others believe the policy change is coming from Microsoft and are blaming the tech giant.
Mojang and Microsoft declined to comment.
The hate and the hashtag are all because of Wednesday’s v1.19.1 update for Minecraft: Java Edition. Players can now report one another for “inappropriate chat messages or dangerous behavior,” even on private servers. “The type of behavior that will get you banned is hate speech, bullying, harassing, sexual solicitation, or threatening others,” Mojang wrote in an FAQ.
The reports go to Minecraft moderators who then determine what follow-up action there should be, if any, including player bans. It sounds like a good system, especially for a game marketed toward kids that anyone can play. But it’s also a major intrusion into a part of Minecraft that has historically been ruled purely by players.
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While Mojang said it won’t be monitoring online chat or using bots to moderate, players still fear the new tool could be abused to wreak havoc on private servers. The thinking goes that players could conspire to maliciously report someone on one private server, and then get them banned from the entire game. An exploit called Gaslight V2 is one tool players have used in the past to manipulate in-game chat logs, and its developers claim it still works in the latest version of the game.
“We recognize that private servers function independently from Mojang Studios, and many use that independence to create remarkable Minecraft innovations that enrich the community,” the company wrote last month. At the same time it maintains that it needs to hold players to its terms of service no matter where they’re playing the game. “Every player should enjoy a safe Minecraft experience wherever they choose to play.”
Mojang previewed the changes several weeks ago, but the backlash is building after the studio made clear it’s not ready to reconsider them. In a comment that’s now been downvoted over 1,000 times on the on the Minecraft subreddit, community manager MojangMeesh wrote that while the studio valued feedback, “it does not mean that feedback will always change the design principles Mojang Studios adheres to.” MojangMeesh also called on fans to stop hounding developers about the issue in unrelated threads and discussions.
“Harassment does not help anyone: not the devs who receive it, nor the players who are passionate about an upcoming change,” they wrote. “We want to maintain a constructive and open dialogue with you, and this kind of behavior inhibits that.”
“Bullshit, lmao sorry but this entire shitfest has been on blast by your community for about a month straight now and there’s been very, very little true discussion from mojang to come from it,” one commenter fired back. “Simple question, then: How long will an appeal take?” wrote another. “Since a lot of us are worried about false positives, give us a time period.”
Bans range from three days to permanent, and while Mojang says all reports and appeals will be reviewed by human beings, some players are still worried about edge cases, as well as the freedom to run private servers as they see fit. This has led to mods to try and circumvent the new moderation system. One program called “No Chat Reports” has already been downloaded over 200,000 times. It says it strips “cryptographic signatures” from messages so they’re no longer associated with a particular Minecraft account.
Others in the community have taken a more nuanced approach. YouTuber xisumavoid, who runs his own private servers, argued in a recent video on the subject that players aren’t fairly weighing the abuse and predatory behavior that moderation would help catch. “There is going to be good that comes out of this system,” he said. “People will be protected and I feel like a lot of things in life are a trade-off.”