The PS5 voice chat recording feature is a good thing

The PS5’s ability to record and report chat will hopefully help curb harassment and racism.

Earlier this week, Sony released PS4 system software update 8.00. But in doing so, the company faced some backlash with changes made to its Party and Messages features. More specifically, players were greeted with a notification that their voice chat in parties may be recorded.

Naturally, people were skeptical of the feature. Despite Sony noting that the recordings will “be used only for safety and moderation purposes by PlayStation Safety,” the feature was met with overwhelming displeasure. And I really think a lot of that just has to do with Sony’s lack of clarity surrounding the feature.

For starters, the notification you are receiving on PlayStation 4 is for a feature that’s available only on PS5. But because some games will support cross-play between console generations, the warning has to be there on PS4. An amended blog post explains:

Following this update, users are seeing a notification about Party Safety and that voice chats in parties may be recorded. Voice chat recording for moderation is a feature that will be available on PS5 when it launches, and will enable users to record their voice chats on PS5 and submit them for moderation review. The pop up you’re seeing on PS4 right now is to let you know that when you participate in a chat with a PS5 user (post-launch), they may submit those recordings from their PS5 console to SIE.

Understandably, nobody likes the idea of “big brother” spying on their conversations. But in an updated post addressing concerns, Sony explained in a bit more depth how voice chat recording will work — and it’s really not as bad as everyone is making it out to be. In fact, I’m hopeful it could actually curb toxic behavior online.

We all know the type of harassment that exists in the online gaming space. As a straight, white, male I’m usually not on the receiving end of abuse. The worst I get is a “you suck.” But I’m also not ignorant of the racist, sexist and homophobic slurs that are often slung around in chat.

Sony’s decision to record voice chat isn’t about listening to you and your friends’ small talk. It’s about creating a safe online environment to play games in.

I know that there’s a large community of people that will always be against a company listening to private conversations but that’s not at all what this is about. In fact, Sony assures they will not actively monitor or listen to your conversations. It’s strictly being used for reporting online abuse or harassment. The company writes:

Managing online safety is an important part of ensuring that. We believe that it’s critical that gamers be able to quickly and accurately report abuse or harassment if they experience it while on PlayStation Network. As part of this initiative, we’ve been preparing to roll out a new feature on the PS5 console that enables gamers to report verbal harassment through a new Voice Chat reporting function. Its sole purpose is to help in reporting of inappropriate behavior, including actions that violate our Community Code of Conduct. Please note that this feature will not actively monitor or listen in on your conversations – ever – and it’s strictly reserved for reporting online abuse or harassment.

It’s also worth mentioning that only the most recent five minutes of a voice chat will be recorded and available to use for reporting. On PlayStation 5, a player will only be able to include up to 40 seconds in their report (20 seconds of the main conversation with the other player, plus an additional 10 seconds before and after the conversation selection).

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Harmful online behavior should not be tolerated and I’m grateful that Sony is finally giving players effective tools to report or abuse harassment. The community can now responsibly police itself and hold others accountable for their behavior.

Sony could have obviously done a better job explaining this instead of just surprising people with little context. Still, there’s no reason anyone should be against this feature.