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Roblox: “Our work on safety is never-ending”

Developer behind popular kids game responds to recent gang rape incident, reiterates that hacker behind it has been banned

Roblox has spoken out about a recent incident within its hugely popular game, detailing how much time and effort goes into protecting the children that play it.

The developer's response follows the news that a seven-year-old girl's avatar was 'gang raped' by other players who had crafted digital genitals for their characters. The mother of the young girl warned other parents against the game via a public Facebook post.

TechCrunch reports Roblox has since apologised to both the victim and the wider community, and is in fact working with the mother to spread the word among parents about the safeguards in place to help protect young users.

The company has explained that the incident was caused by an individual hacking through the game's protection systems in order to create customised animations. The exploit this person used has been identified and blocked, and the user has been permanently banned.

The incident occurred as the developer was moving user-generated games created within Roblox to a new, more secure system, although the hack only could be used on games that had yet to be moved. Roblox has called on creators to remove all of the games that are vulnerable and move them to the new system, and the majority have done so. Any games that have yet to transition will remain offline until they adopt the new protection systems, thus preventing the incident from happening again.

Roblox also reports that it regularly submits takedown requests to YouTube when it finds any videos detail how to perform such an exploit, particularly if it involves (as it's referred to on some of the videos) 'rape trolling'. However, YouTube apparently only responds to a fraction of these requests.

The firm released a statement to TechCrunch emphasising the importance it places on child safety in its game. It appears to be a longer version of the statement issued to the BBC when the original incident occurred.

"Roblox's mission is to inspire imagination and it is our responsibility to provide a safe and civil platform for play," the statement reads. "As safety is our top priority - we have robust systems in place to protect our platform and users.

"This includes automated technology to track and monitor all communication between our players as well as a large team of moderators who work around the clock to review all the content uploaded into a game and investigate any inappropriate activity. We provide parental controls to empower parents to create the most appropriate experience for their child, and we provide individual users with protective tools, such as the ability to block another player.

"The incident involved one bad actor that was able to subvert our protective systems and exploit one instance of a game running on a single server. We have zero tolerance for this behavior and we took immediate action to identify how this individual created the offending action and put safeguards in place to prevent it from happening again.

"In addition, the offender was identified and permanently banned from the platform. Our work on safety is never-ending and we are committed to ensuring that one individual does not get in the way of the millions of children who come to Roblox to play, create, and imagine."

It's good to see the company sharing details on how much effort goes into protecting children, and even better to see it working directly with the parents of the victim to educate more people about how such games are rendered safe - something we recently suggested will be key to identifying and combating such subversion of online games.