“Sexual predators are hunting kids on Minecraft,” the sign says.
“Minecraft is ignoring 120,000 parents asking them to keep kids safe,” reads the other side of the sign.
While these may read like billboard signs you’d read on the side of the road, you won’t come across them in real life. The signs are found in the game Minecraft. This is a virtual protest, after all, put together by the national parents organization, ParentsTogether.
ParentsTogether would like to see the tech giant make specific changes to the game, which is extremely popular among children and young people. The group has specifically called for human moderators to be added to the game’s group chats. ParentsTogether would also like Microsoft to limit in-game private messaging to adults and older teens. These features are what they say sexual predators often use to make contact in the game.
The group also shared Minecraft stories from a few parents. One example involves a 6-year-old girl who would receive messages in Minecraft from users who would say they would only be friends with her if she sent them pictures.
“Minecraft knows that predators are all over their chat, coercing kids into sexual interactions. But they aren’t stopping it,” said co-founder of ParentsTogether, Justin Ruben in a statement. “With more children than ever online during the pandemic, there’s no excuse. Tech companies need to fix problematic features on their platforms that put our children at risk.”
With millions of children at home due to school closures during the coronavirus pandemic, the risk sexual predators pose to children playing games online has increased dramatically. The FBI even issued a to parents. Law enforcement officials in some major U.S. cities are now after an uptick in tips involving online child sexual abuse in recent months.
Parents, like the 120,000 who signed the ParentsTogether petition demanding better safety for children playing Minecraft, are clearly getting fed up.
Along with the protest and petition, ParentsTogether has also rolled out Facebook ads micro-targeting Microsoft and Minecraft employees.
Mashable reached out to Microsoft for comment for this story and will update this post if and when we hear back.
ParentsTogether provided Mashable with a copy of the statement Microsoft gave them when the group delivered its petition last month.
The group feels the company’s response, included below, did not adequately address the steps it plans to take to resolve the issue.
Thank you for your inquiry. At Mojang Studios, we take safety very seriously and we are committed to making Minecraft an enjoyable and reliable experience for all our players. Many of our team members are parents themselves and feel personally vested in ensuring we have the industry’s best tools and services to ensure minors have a safe, fun and positive experience. Among many other safety features, we require that children under 13 obtain parental consent before they can play Minecraft, and we use chat filters and a team of content moderators to remove abusive, dangerous, and inappropriate content.
These are just some of the many ways Mojang Studios is working to provide the safest experience possible playing Minecraft. As part of the Xbox group at Microsoft, we provide parental controls with Xbox accounts to help parents choose the settings that are right for their families. For many, the most important of these is making sure that your kids are using child accounts and that parents are exercising all possible options. We also encourage parents to play an active role in their children’s online activities by doing three important things; using advanced parental control settings on relevant devices and gaming platforms, talking with kids about their online activities, and setting clear household online rules for their families. For more information, please visit: https://www.xbox.com/en-US/community/for-everyone/responsible-gaming.
We continue to listen to feedback from our community and also continue to invest in new tools and services to help make the experience even better. Thank you for reaching out.
The Minecraft Team
As for what’s next, Ruben told Mashable in an emailed statement that “We’re considering our options for further escalation of this campaign and will be happy to share anything else we do.”