Steam Labs' latest experiment brings Chat Filtering to Steam and participating games

Chat filtering is an interesting feature to launch this late in Steam’s lifetime (and through its experimental Labs program), but the add includes a way for devs to use the filters in their own games.

The Steam Labs initiative tends to focus on experimental new features the team behind Steam is considering adding to the platform as a whole, but the program’s newest add seems a little more mundane than its usual pitches.

Steam Labs launched an experimental Chat Filtering feature today which, at its most basic level, allows Steam users to block profanity and slurs from messages on Steam.

Of particular note to developers, the Steam Labs launch of Steam Chat Filtering also includes an API that developers can use to bring Steam chat filtering to their own games. More details on that can be found in the Steamworks documentation here.

Its tech based on what Valve has already included in games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Destiny 2, and Dota 2, though the Steam Labs feature includes customization tools for players to curate their own blocklist for words or phrases they want to avoid in their general Steam experience. For the basic block lists, Valve says it first built the Chat Filtering tools based on data from a variety of sources, then compared that data to "a large sample of in-game chat."

"Based on this sample, we've found that by filtering variants of the top 5 most commonly used strongly profane or hateful words, we can eliminate about 75 percent of profanity and slurs used in chat," explains the Chat Filtering page over on Steam Labs. "Over 56 percent of the instances of profanity or slurs found in our sample were a variant of f***. Another 10 percent of them were variants of s***. Another 10 percent were instances of potty-mouth school yard language we've chosen not to filter as strong profanity or slurs. The remaining 24 percent of the instances were strong profanity and slurs we found to be used commonly enough that we've also added them to our lists.”

All in all, it comes across as a bit of a basic feature to launch through the typically more innovative Labs initiative, but Valve notes that part of the reason for the Labs launch comes from the desire to solicit feedback from players and learn which kinds of tools work best for Steam’s users.

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