Interview: Microsoft’s Allison Matthews and Kim Kunes on Xbox Safer Internet Day initiatives

Recently, we got to ask a couple of questions to Microsoft's Allison Matthews and Kim Kunes about the Xbox Safer Internet Day projects.

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Recently, we got to ask a couple of questions to Microsoft’s representatives about the Xbox Safer Internet Day projects.

In case you missed it, Xbox celebrated Safer Internet Day on February 7, 2023. As part of its initiative to keep playing games online safe for everyone, Xbox highlighted its various projects. For starters, there’s Privacy Prodigy Game from Minecraft Education which aims to teach younger kids how to stay safe online. Then there’s Community Shift, a tool that aims to moderate communication in online games while keeping cultural nuances in mind.

To know more about these initiatives, we got to ask Alex Matthews who is the Head of Minecraft Education at Microsoft as well as General Manager, Trust and Safety at Microsoft Kim Kunes. They were able to share with us some interesting insight on the development and future plans for these internet saftey-focused projects.

Here is the full transcript of our email interview with Matthews (AM) and Kunes (KK):

How did the idea for the Privacy Prodigy for Minecraft Education come about?

AM: Minecraft’s popularity and global reach provides a powerful platform to educate about important topics like online safety, protecting your personal data, and how to interact with others online. “Privacy Prodigy” is the second chapter from Minecraft Education’s Cybersafe series designed to teach players ages 7-18 and parents how to manage their personal data as they navigate the digital world.

What were the considerations made to make Privacy Prodigy as effective as possible in teaching younger players the importance of personal data safety while keeping it a fun and engaging experience?

AM: Minecraft is committed to reaffirming our commitment to creating online experiences that are safe and fun for everyone of all ages. There are challenges in “Privacy Prodigy” that help players identify the various types of information shared between individuals throughout their everyday lives, and how to make informed decisions about data protection. Learnings include the ability to identify the different types of information they need to manage, and what they can share; strategies for protecting their personal data; and ways to mitigate any issues that arise from compromised information.

What’s coming next in the CyberSafe series?

AM: At Minecraft and Xbox, we are always looking for ways to educate and empower parents, educators, and young players. Through learning experiences like CyberSafe, we are building pathways for skills that can also help prepare young people for their future to not only play in a better online world but also help build it.  Look out for future installments in the CyberSafe series. We can’t wait to continue to get feedback from our community to shape our work.

Regarding Community Sift, what are the biggest challenges when it comes to determining potentially harmful content over harmless online gaming lingo? Especially in the context of multiple cultures.

KK: Content moderation needs a proactive approach, supported by human insight. Community Sift’s differentiator is that it is developed by native language speakers and supports 20 digital languages worldwide, including emojis, with a team of Language and Culture specialists. These experts are constantly collecting community insights across all supported languages, ensuring accuracy and a deep understanding of formal and informal language, as well as cultural and regional idioms. They use those insights to update Community Sift’s ability to determine what language is harmful and what is simply gaming slang or part of one’s culture, based on current language trends.

The challenge is that language is constantly evolving, and players can now interact in more ways than ever before, which can present more opportunities for negative interactions. Specifically on the language side, an innocent word or phrase one day can have a completely different meaning the next and that meaning can vary from region to region within the same language. Additionally, language that may be acceptable to one person or within a specific scenario may not be welcome to another person or in a different context. It’s difficult for automated tools to capture these nuances, so it’s important that to protect players at Xbox, we keep pace with changing language, including new slang and offensive terminology, and continue to invest in an approach that combines the benefits of advanced technology and skilled human oversight.

Has Community Sift been rolled out already? If yes, what games is it being implemented on? If not, what are the targeted games that are prioritized?

KK: Xbox used Two Hat’s Community Sift technology prior to Microsoft’s 2021 acquisition of the content moderation platform, so it was already deeply embedded in our community management suite.

Today, Community Sift is implemented across Xbox. Moderation is important to provide a safer and more inclusive community for everyone, and it’s critical that harmful content is blocked before it reaches our players. That’s why we use this human insights and AI-powered platform to classify and filter more than 18 billion human interactions per year within messages, images, and video. The addition of Two Hat to Xbox and Microsoft helps us accelerate our first-party content moderation solutions across gaming, but also across the range of Microsoft consumer services.

For more information on the Xbox Safer Internet Day campaign, visit the official Xbox Wire post.

In related news, Microsoft recently started to push a new Energy Saving update for Xbox consoles.