Microsoft's Slow Response To Xbox Harassment Leaves One Woman Stunned

The story is sad yet familiar: Last month, Jenny Haniver was playing Call of Duty online when another player started saying some nasty things.

"You on your period or something?" the player said. "'Cause you didn’t do too hot. Being a leader. Of the other bitches that were on your team."

Later, the player, who goes by the Xbox Live name PHATDOG, sent her a text message and then a voice message, in which he got even nastier: "I'm gonna impregnate you with triplets and make you have a very late term abortion."

You can listen to the whole thing below:

This sort of harassment isn't uncommon on Xbox Live—Microsoft's gaming platform is well-known for having a large swath of immature users, to the point where the Xbox team built an entire system called Reputation in an attempt to improve things for their next console, the Xbox One.

But Haniver says that even after filing a complaint and sending all of the pertinent information to Xbox Live, she never received a response.

She walked me through everything she did: First, just after receiving the message on July 26, she filled out a complaint through the built-in Xbox Live system, as directed by Microsoft's instructions.

Next, Haniver sent an e-mail to Microsoft's enforcement group. "I never received a response," she told me, "other than an automated 'we received your email' message."

A few days later, she tweeted at Xbox, but they couldn't help her. Over the next week and a half, Haniver kept checking PHATDOG's account, tweeting at Xbox's support team, and trying to follow up with Microsoft's customer support, but as of August 10, two weeks after her complaint, PHATDOG was still active.

The apparent inaction left Haniver stunned and frustrated.

"One of my biggest issues with this whole thing is that Xbox Live was not able to point me towards a human being who was actually capable of addressing my concerns," Haniver said in an e-mail. "It was a lot of repeating that they cannot comment on specific cases, I should file a complaint, and trust that it will be reviewed."

When reached for comment by Kotaku, Microsoft sent over a statement:

Bullying and harassment of any kind are not welcome on Xbox Live and are taken very seriously. Members should immediately report inappropriate behavior through the complaint tools in the service. The Xbox Live Policy and Enforcement Team investigates complaints that are filed, and they take enforcement action – up to and including permanently suspending the accounts of offenders – as there is evidence to do so. We do not comment publicly on specific cases nor do we provide direct feedback on all complaints in order to prevent individuals from abusing the system and to prevent retaliation.

On Monday, Haniver shared the story on her blog, and it circulated among a number of major news outlets, including the reader-driven blog of our sister site, Jezebel. Since then, PHATDOG's account has been marked with labels that say "Code of Conduct"—a sign that he has been banned or suspended.

Last night, Haniver received an e-mail from a member of the Xbox "Customer Advocacy and Exceptions Management" team. They reached out to ask for her number, saying they'd like to talk to her about what happened.

Update (8/19) - Haniver requested we clarify that she did indeed agree to talk to the Xbox team.

But Haniver says she's unhappy with how long it took for Microsoft to do anything—and indeed, it seems like nothing happened until she made a fuss, and the story hit news outlets.

"In short, their customer service is pretty shit in this respect," she said. "I've been gaming on Xbox Live for almost six years now, and I'm sick of feeling like the legitimate complaints I file are ultimately kind of pointless."

If you do need to file a complaint with Xbox Live, there are full instructions right here.

To contact the author of this post, write to jason@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter at @jasonschreier.