Profanity Filter Best Practices: Customize in Real-Time

Marshall Bauernfeind

You recognize the potential value of implementing a profanity filter to keep your community clean and productive, but wonder, can it be trusted? Will the filter offer the efficiency you seek while maintaining the flexibility necessary for the ever-changing online environment?  After all, even the most advanced language filtering techniques will produce false-positives or let creative slang slip through the cracks. The good news is there is an answer to improving profanity filtering effectiveness: Updating filter lists in real time. The ability to customize your profanity filter in real time is the key to gaining the security you seek, optimizing user experience and creating a successful community.

Profanity Filter

Protect Your Community Culture

Online communities commonly develop their own sub-culture enhanced by new and creative vocabulary specific to that culture. Had you heard of the terms uber, leet, or ftw prior to the rise of virtual worlds? This phenomenon should be embraced and supported by site owners as it strengthens the community by enhancing the online experience and increasing user engagement. However, new fun ways to communicate within a community also opens doors for new methods of harassment and bullying. So while it is important to allow community evolvement and creativity, you must also protect your members. A powerful tool for doing so is having the ability to update your profanity filter in real-time, which provides the following benefits:

  1. Respond to user reports of abuse immediately. By instantly addressing problems, you will instill ownership and empowerment within the community, promote a respectful environment for your members, and offer them an environment where they can feel safe.
  2. Stop inappropriate language in its tracks to prevent abuse, with the option to revert any changes made to your filter later. If players start using a normally acceptable word or phrase in a negative connotation such as “truck you”, add truck to your black list immediately so your community understands it’s not appropriate. To prevent false-positives, you can later remove “truck” from your blacklist.
  3. Deter community members from attempting to harass others. Once word spreads that inappropriate language will be dealt with swiftly and the offender penalized, bullies will quickly learn that their efforts to harass others are futile.

Eliminate False-Positives

Let’s face it, no profanity filter is perfect, especially considering that every online community is unique. Many games, in particular, have creative names for content that can generate profanity filter matches. You can prevent your community from getting frustrated by false-positives when you have the ability to adjust your profanity filter in real-time as they are discovered.

Consider the following scenario: You release a new set of features that contains new content and unbeknownst to you, one of the content names creates a false-positive from an entry on your black list. Players try to chat about one of your cool new features but get blocked by the profanity filter! If your profanity filter requires you to take down the entire application to be adjusted, this would impact your business negatively, both by creating unnecessary expenses and tainting the user experience. If the problem isn’t addressed quickly, you will create discontentment in your community and potentially lose users. A better solution is having the ability to adjust your profanity list in real-time so that changes take effect immediately without incurring downtime of the application, resulting in effective filtering while preserving the best user experience.

Dynamically Track Key Conversations

Managing your profanity list in real-time also provides less-obvious value by allowing you to dynamically track user conversations. At Inversoft, we refer to this as graylisting. In the example described above, you may be curious what players are saying about the new features you just released. To find out, add keywords and phrases about the new features to your filtering lists so that when used, the conversations get queued for review (but the messages do not get blocked). You will gain extremely valuable insight on your community’s likes and dislikes so that you can adjust your content and future releases accordingly.

The ability to customize profanity filtering lists in real-time isn’t merely a benefit, rather a requirement for successful community management. By addressing the points discussed above, real time list management allows you to trust in your filter and build the online environment that you desire for your users.  There are many technical challenges to consider when developing such a solution, but it can be done. Contact us to learn how Inversoft’s CleanSpeak filtering platform can help you tackle those challenges!


Further Reading:

Multilingual Filtering: 5 Ways to Prevent False Positives 

Crashing Servers: A Stable Profanity Filter Solution

Types of Online Filters for Online Safety