Speedrun, a website where leaderboards crown the fastest players for any given game, recently added a commenting feature which hasn’t been going well for anyone. Since its implementation, users have been spammed with vulgar comments and inappropriate images. Worse, those plagued by this problem can’t moderate the garbage. As a result, some speedrunners and moderators on the site went on a strike.
When players upload a run to the site, Speedrun creates a dedicated page with the embedded video. Under that video, there’s a comment section where people can post messages reacting to the content. Originally, the commenting feature was meant to increase the social interactivity of the wider community, according to Speedrun.
Although the site’s update appears to have been well-intentioned, speedrunners and moderators didn’t initially have control over the comments on their own videos. Although they could delete comments and can ban users, offensive comments weren’t deleted automatically. That implementation allowed for bad faith users to create new accounts and spam the same comments “at the click of a button.” To make matters worse, comments apparently didn’t initially have a cooldown and allow for image embedding.
But speedrunners who were affected by this didn’t sit idly by. LiquidWifi, the site’s most popular The Simpsons: Hit & Run Twitch streamer since 2014, recently removed all his speedruns from the website in protest of the comments situation.
According to LiquidWiFi, the comments he received started out innocuously with memes and harmless posts from his community. Within hours, however, he started receiving spam by a small group of people who were banned from his chat. Despite not having many members, the group managed to comment 4,000 of the same posts all over the website. Some of these posts involved death threats, slurs, and “borderline illegal” pornographic cartoon images on every run on his Simpsons Hit & Run leaderboards.
Banning a user, according to LiquidWiFi, didn’t automatically remove their posts from the website at first. The blame, he claims, lied with the site’s owners.
“The lack of content moderation tools is truly an error I would expect from a 2000's internet forum creator, not something happening in this day and age,” he said. “The website owners, Elo, should be embarrassed about that,” he said in reference to the site’s acquisition by Pac by Elo Entertainment in October 2020.
Things got bad enough that, in an effort to preserve runs outside of the website, speedrunners within the Kingdom Hearts, Doom, and Fallout communities started exporting their data from the site in an effort to leave the platform behind.
“The moderators of those communities did a fantastic job and were incredibly understanding of my decision to remove my runs,” LiquidWifi said. After he removed his runs from the site, LiquidWifi and other moderators came up with the idea to host a blackout on the website.
Though it turned kind of ugly for Speedrun users, the site admins were apparently aware of the problem and have made plans on incrementally releasing bug fixes to its moderation process. The site’s new improvements, detailed on Tuesday, will help the staff “mitigate mass spam on single runs as well as spam spanning the entire leaderboard.” The planned bug fixes will also allow runners to globally disable comments on their runs and moderate comments.
“We want to apologize for the issues this update created when it was launched, and we hope these changes will create a more enjoyable and safe experience,” Speedrun said in its moderation post. “We are working on additional moderation tools for comments throughout this week to foster a safer comment experience as well as implementing some design changes requested by the community.”
There will be an option for runners and moderators to remove all comments made by a poster and to add them to a block list. Runners and modders will also have access to any deleted comments made by a poster. For privacy and safety measures, the site said comments cannot be posted if the poster has been blocked by the runner, according to Speedrun. Still, for some, the damage has been done.
Although the site has pushed to create a fix, NoobSalmon, a Fallout speedrun moderator, said the community wants the site’s fixes to be more streamlined for moderators for both the comment section of runs and leaderboard posts.
“The general consensus in our community and the majority of the leaderboard mods in general, not just in the Fallout community, would be to be able to enable/disable comments for entire leaderboards in order to make the moderation easier for game moderators,” he said.
NoobSalmon said the Fallout speedrun community are debating when to end the blackout and are waiting for these moderation options to come into fruition.
“We’ll see how things work out soon and also how other communities react to these changes,” he said.
LiquidWiFi said he has no plans on returning to the site. Overall, LiquidWifi said it’s all “a bandaid fix” that doesn’t address the core problem comments created for moderators.
“One person can still post to the entire games leaderboard, but now every single runner has to take action since the mods can’t do anything except for delete the post,” he said.
While he agrees that the changes pushed from the site are good, LiquidWifi said it now places way too much pressure on an individual runner to moderate their own runs.
Instead, he plans on creating an independent site to house Simpsons Hit & Run and has been encouraging other speedrunning communities to do the same. Some are already exploring alternatives.
“Hopefully with the addition of [new] Speedrun [website] being developed, people will have a community run alternative, rather than a company which couldn’t give a shit,” he said.