If you’re tired of rival players spouting profanities and insults in your PC gaming sessions, Steam has a new solution: The platform is testing a “chat filter” system that promises to scrub bad language from your game chats.
On Thursday, Steam introduced the public beta for the English-language chat filtering feature, which anyone can turn on. The system adopts the chat filtering from existing games Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Destiny 2, and Dota 2 and brings it to the Steam client.
The intent isn’t to block users from spouting bad language during a game session, but to give each player the option to obscure the profanities and slurs from appearing in their own chat windows. “We do not want to censor users in chat, but rather, empower them to choose what they see from others,” Steam wrote in the announcement.
“Some of the time, people have negative experiences on Steam due to their encounters with, in the worst case, bad actors, or simply with others whose tolerance for various forms of language differ from their own,” it added. “A playful match can quickly turn to a heated competition full of emotion and expression, some of which crosses a line.”
In response, Steam developed a chat filter that can automatically flag “commonly used strong profanity and slurs,” and obscure them with symbols (such as “♥♥♥” or “***”) before they appear in the user’s chat window.
The chat filter is also customizable. In the event some offensive language is still creeping in your chats, you can add specific terms you’d like the system to flag. Conversely, you can also tell the feature which words it should never filter out.
Steam hasn’t said which words are on the filter list. But the platform created the list based on feedback from players and by taking “commonly used slurs against various racial, religious, ethnic, and other identifying groups.” Steam staffers then studied a large sample of in-game chats, and found they could filter out about 75 percent of the offensive language by flagging the top five most commonly used profane or hateful words.
“Over 56 percent of the instances of profanity or slurs found in our sample were a variant of f***. Another 10 percent of them were variants of s***,” Steam said. “Another 10 percent were instances of potty-mouth school yard language we’ve chosen not to filter as strong profanity or slurs. The remaining 24 percent of the instances were strong profanity and slurs we found to be used commonly enough that we’ve also added them to our lists.”
To activate the chat filter, sign into your Steam account and activate the special “Steam Labs Experiment 011: Text Filtering” feature. Once it’s turned on, the filter will automatically apply to Steam Chat and supported games. However, which games can run the feature wasn’t made clear in today’s announcement.
Steam eventually plans on “shipping” the chat filtering to all users, citing demand from the community and gaming partners. It’s unclear if it will be opt in our out, but Steam is hoping the beta will help it gauge the effectiveness of the chat filter.
“The purpose of this experiment is to understand whether the tools we provide successfully empower users to control the chat content you experience on Steam. We’ll continue to refine them based on your feedback, so we hope you’ll join the conversation and share your thoughts,” the platform said.