Valve restricted almost 2,500 Steam accounts for liking a review
Valve later admitted that the bans were a mistakeBy Rob Thubron 26 comments
Facepalm: It's easy to understand why Valve would ban a Steam game review, but banning users who simply liked it seems excessive, especially when the post didn't really violate any rules. Yet that's what happened to 2,439 people who voted a negative review as helpful.
The game in question is Warlander, a free-to-play online multiplayer title with Mixed reviews. Slashdot reports that one of the almost 2,500 pieces of negative feedback came from a user called FREEDOMS117, who was particularly aggrieved by the game's anti-cheat software, Sentry Anti-Cheat.
FREEDOMS117 wrote in their negative review that Sentry Anti-Cheat was "suspicious" and that it "maintains running even when the game is closed, including tray icons." The most worrying part was that Sentry Anti-Cheat "seems to be sending some packets of data to japan IPs while the game has already been closed," and that it was difficult to remove even after the game had been uninstalled.
For those players concerned about Sentry Anti-Cheat, FREEDOMS117's review included instructions on how to completely remove it along with anything left in the registry. The post became the most popular review on Warlander's Steam page, garnering 2,439 upvotes and 437 awards during the three months it stayed on top.
But one Steam moderator took offense to the review, removing it and restricting FREEDOMS117's account for 30 days, stopping them from posting reviews/messages and voting. The reason? The review was "attempting to scam users or other violations of Steam's Rules & Guidelines," apparently.
Not content with just restricting FREEDOMS117's account, everyone who gave the review a thumbs up and an award also had their ability to vote on Steam reviews restricted for 30 days. Affected users contacted Steam support for help but to no avail.
PC Gamer writes that Steam support eventually responded to the outcry, apologizing to FREEDOMS117 and admitting that the moderator made a mistake; they thought the review was instructions on how to remove anti-cheat software, something Valve doesn't allow.
"Our moderators watch for content that describes how to cheat or describes how to tamper with anti-cheat systems. Those are against our rules and it looks like that is what our moderation team incorrectly identified with this case, leading to the banned review. I agree with your evaluation that this review does not fit that criteria," wrote Steam support.
"Furthermore, the mod identified this review as potentially dangerous to other players, due to some of the steps requiring registry edits. This led to the additional lock that was placed on your account and voter accounts. I can see that your review does not contain phishing links, attempts to scam or deceive players, or anything else that warrants a lock."
While FREEDOMS117's ban was lifted, as were the bans on those who liked their review, the original post's text remains hidden. Steam support wrote that they believe the review would make more sense as a Steam guide and should include a disclosure for readers about how the steps should be taken "at your own risk."
Steam support did say that they would be following up with the developer about the behavior described in the review.
Warlander's publisher Plaion wrote that Sentry Anti-Cheat had "a bug where Sentry fails to unregister the icon displayed in the task tray when Sentry Anti-Cheat Task Tray closes, which leaves the icon displayed and makes it appear that Sentry is still running." It claimed that the system does not collect any personal information as it does not need to handle any. The company also included instructions on how to uninstall the anti-cheat software.
The incident will likely be PR black eye for Valve. Not only could it dissuade people from leaving negative reviews, but it might also make others think twice before giving them the thumbs up.