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Xbox chief Phil Spencer outlines plans for fighting toxicity in gaming

Microsoft’s Xbox chief Phil Spencer says he’s acutely aware of the problems the gaming industry faces from a cultural perspective — issues like toxicity, abuse and harassment, and exclusionary attitudes that can keep gaming’s benefits from spreading beyond its most hardcore, traditional demographic.

So today, Spencer says Microsoft is launching an industry-wide initiative to combat these issues by sharing solutions and technology and committing itself to aggressive enforcement.

“First, gaming is for everyone. No one group ‘owns’ gaming. Instead, whether you’re new to gaming or are a diehard e-sports fan, you are welcome to play and welcome to all the fun and skill-building that comes with gaming. In this way, when everyone can play, the entire world wins,” Spencer writes in a blog post titled “Video Games: A Unifying Force for the World.”

“Gaming is for everyone. No one group ‘owns’ gaming.”

Spencer says he believes in what he calls two fundamental truths for gaming: that the medium is for everyone no matter your age, gender, nationality, orientation, or skin color. The other is that, for gaming’s benefits to be accessible to all people in the world, companies like Microsoft and others need to foster a safe gaming culture and online environment, both through policies and tools and through positive changes to the community and industry itself.

“Gaming must be a safe environment. Creating community is shared work, and protecting community is essential work, so, we all carry part of the payload of community safety – game industry and gamers alike,” he writes. “Gaming is the gateway to these 21st century skills and to STEM. Just consider: teen girls who play video games are three times more likely to pursue a STEM degree. Among teenagers who play games online with others daily, 74 percent have made friends online and 37 percent have made more than five friends online.”

Spencer says Microsoft will now commit itself to a series of new initiatives aimed at making gaming more accessible, less toxic, and safer. The first of those it announced earlier this month when Microsoft publicly updated its Community Standards, guiding what’s acceptable behavior on Xbox Live and how it enforces suspensions and bans. Going further, Microsoft says it will be expanding its safety team in the coming months to include more diverse voices and a wider-ranging set of solutions to common issues.

“Our Xbox Safety team is nicknamed the ‘Defenders of Joy’ because we will defend you in every humanly and technologically possible way, so gaming remains fun,” Spencer says. “We will identify potentials for abuse and misuse on our platform and will fix problems quickly. We are also intent on expanding the composition of our safety team so wide-ranging perspectives can help us identify future safety problems and solutions.”

Microsoft will share technology with others in the industry to combat toxicity

Additionally, Spencer says Microsoft will be giving community managers on Xbox Live new moderation tools that help it better regulate behavior within the platform’s Club system. The company will also streamline the process of creating a child or teen account and says it will be giving resources to its 150,000-person Xbox Ambassadors program to help create an inviting and safe environment for all gamers.”

Part of that will involve hosting family workshops at Microsoft Stores and providing information through its new “For Everyone” hub on Xbox.com, which is dedicated to educating players and parents on inclusivity, accessibility, and safety.

Most importantly, however, is Spencer’s plan to share this knowledge, in the same way Microsoft shares knowledge to combat the worst forms of online abuse and online criminal activity.

“Because we intend to protect all gamers, we will openly share safety innovations with our industry the same way Microsoft has made PhotoDNA technology universally available to everyone from the police to the tech industry to fight the spread of child pornography,” Spencer says. “Today, multiple teams working in areas like moderation, user research, data science, and others are already aligning with industry partners to share insights, and best practices in areas of safety, security and privacy.”

Closing out his remarks, Spencer specifically calls out the promise of cloud gaming, and names services like Microsoft’s xCloud and Google Stadia, as bringing both new, exciting possibilities for expanding gaming to new audiences alongside new risks. “Our industry must now answer the fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety,” Spencer concludes. “We invite everyone who plays games, and industry partners, to join us in following the principles to help unify the world and do our part: make gaming accessible for everyone and protect gamers, one and all.”


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At the same time, the latest science suggests some people can transmit the virus very early on in their illness or even before they are showing symptoms — which is again different from SARS and MERS, and suggests contagion more like the flu virus than SARS. SARS was eventually contained because, when people began to show symptoms, they were isolated — at a time when they only just becoming contagious — and their contacts could be traced and isolated too, explained Minnesota’s Osterholm. But, “Trying to stop influenza-like transmission is like trying to stop the wind. It’s virtually impossible,” he told Vox. 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And other cases may be undetected. “What happened in the UK, where a cluster of infections was started by someone who was infected outside of China, could happen in the US,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Vox. “I’m not confident we’d catch it before it spread on, since we’re using severity of symptoms and history of travel to China as criteria for testing people for this virus.” “There’s a high probability that we’ll see community spread in the US,” she added. Though the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the risk of spread in the US is low, it’s beginning to change its screening strategy to look for people with the virus who aren’t returning travelers from China. 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But the business community is growing increasingly frustrated with the restrictions, and is pressuring government officials to lift some of them. “[It’s] the most intense human social distancing effort in modern public health,” Osterholm said. “What happens when all these people start to go back to work, and public transport is back, and crowding occurs? This is at best a temporary respite in the numbers in China.” 5) Many countries are only now getting testing up and running: Until last week, only two countries in Africa — Senegal and South Africa — had the lab capacity to screen for this virus. While other countries are now scaling up, this outbreak has been going on since late last year, and it’s possible cases have gone uncounted. 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Following the Nevada caucuses, the two candidates are first and second in the national delegate count, with Sanders currently at 34 and Buttigieg at 23. Buttigieg has made the critique that Sanders’s campaign is not powered by a broad coalition before. But at least in Nevada, that claim is not proving true. For instance, in Nevada, the primary’s first racially diverse state, Sanders won decisively, with 46 percent of the vote. Buttigieg finished third, after former Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders also finished first among men and women, all voters below the age of 65 (those above favored Biden), and both Democrats and independents, according to entrance polls. Drew Angerer/Getty Images Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigns in San Antonio, Texas, after decisively winning the Nevada caucuses. Broadly, Buttigieg’s relationship with nonwhite voters has consistently been among his campaign’s weakest points, and in Nevada, this proved the sharpest contrast between him and Sanders. Sanders won 27 percent of the black vote and 51 percent of Latinx voters, while Buttigieg won just 2 percent of black voters and 10 percent of Latinx voters, according to the Washington Post. As Vox’s Li Zhou has pointed out, Buttigieg’s lack of support from voters of color could prove an ongoing problem as the contest moves into more diverse states, such as next week’s South Carolina primary. Nationally, black voters make up 20 percent of Democratic voters. But in an election in which so many Democrats are fixated on exactly one agenda item — removing Trump from the White House — Buttigieg also hammered home the message that, because Sanders is not a unity figure, having the senator as the party’s nominee would weaken the party as a whole. Specifically, the former mayor argued that as a nominee Sanders would weaken the candidacies of down-ballot Democrats and threaten the party’s House of Representatives majority, using terms that painted Sanders as selfish and uninterested in supporting the Democratic Party. ”I believe the only way to truly deliver any of the progressive changes we care about is to be a nominee who actually gives a damn about the effect you are having, from the top of the ticket, on those crucial, front-line House and Senate Democrats running to win, who we need to win, to make sure our agenda is more than just words on a page,” Buttigieg said. Buttigieg went on to accuse Sanders of “ignoring, dismissing, or even attacking the very Democrats we absolutely must send to Capitol Hill in order to keep Nancy Pelosi as speaker, in order to support judges who respect privacy and democracy, and in order to send Mitch McConnell into retirement.” It is true that Sanders — while certainly not lacking support among progressives in Congress — does not have the support of many of the more prominent moderate members who helped bring the House back under Democratic control in 2018. Many of those members, like Reps. Conor Lamb and Abby Finkenauer, have endorsed Biden; others, like Mikie Sherrilland Lucy McBath, have endorsed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But it is also true that Sanders won Nevada with a diverse base of support and may be open to moderating his message, as his campaign surrogate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has signaled recently with statements about seeking a compromise on Medicare-for-all. And should Sanders be able to build coalitions similar to his in Nevada in the states to come, it would undermine Buttigieg’s argument that he cannot form a broad coalition. Until that time, however, Buttigieg will likely continue to give voice to, as Vox’s Matt Yglesias put it, an “alarm, clearly visible in a range of mainstream Democratic circles over the past several weeks, [that is] now going to kick into overdrive.”
vox.com
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How to impress Trump: Indian city builds a wall and plans to fill a stadium
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