In today’s internet age, it is so easy to block and ban people online but what if it is a faceless corporation who wipe out decades of online identity without recourse?
In most cases blocking someone online is the correct course of action and has little effect on both parties in the long run. Somebody harassing or abusing you on social media? Simply block them and end that channel of communication. Both parties maintain their social media presence but the aggressor has no way to continue the abuse or harassment. Both parties go on their merry way and life goes on.
However, when it comes to companies and corporations banning people then the effects can be much more devastating. Which Playstation user Marmite_on_toast found out recently.
Marmite_on_toast has been a PlayStation gamer since the earlier PS1 days and has had his PSN account since 2008, Over that time he has massed more than 150 digital titles, A continuous PlayStation Plus subscription and at the time of his ban had £40 in his PSN wallet. All that is lost forever now due to harassment from one PSN user.
Marmite_on_Toast is the leader of an extremely successful and high ranking clan on Battle Ages. A free to play game on PS4. His clan regularly finishes top in the season challenges and are well known throughout the game.
During his tenure as head of the clan, Marmite_on_Toast struck up an online friendship with one of the most active and highest-ranking members of his clan. Over the space of 2 years of gaming daily and becoming close Marmite_on_toast and Player X (Fictional name purely for narrative use) shared multiple jokes, messages and memes.
However, the world of Battle Ages is ruthless. Clan politics are heated, aggressive and complicated. After a fall out with marmite_on_toast in-game PLayer X left the clan.
Now any normal person would think that that would be the end of the issue. Maybe a fiery rivalry with Player X’s new clan but nothing more than that. Player X, however, had different ideas. He reported the memes and jokes sent by Marmite_on_toast over the course fo their friendship to Sony and Marmite_on_toast received a 60-day online ban.
Despite being disappointed by the 60-day ban and the pettiness of Player X Marmite_on _Toast accepted that the jokes and memes, whilst not constituting any form of hate speech, maybe be deemed offensive by anyone reviewing them. He also accepts that he broke Sony’s terms and conditions by sharing them through PSN messages.
At the time he didn’t believe he was doing any wrong but now see’s how Sony can perceive it has so and once his 60 days was served he returned to PSn and his Battle Ages clan and no longer shared any images or jokes in messages. He learnt his lesson, servered his punishment and returned to the game and his online community.
The Harassment Continues
Upon Marmite_on_toast return to PSN, he almost immediately began receiving harassing and abusive messages from Player X. He promptly blocked Player X and reported the messages to Sony. Marmite_on_Toast assumes that Sony gave Player X as a warning as the messages were deleted but Player X continued to be active online.
Thwarted from continuing his harassment of Marmite_on_Toast, Player X attempted to create a sustained smear campaign against Player X by messaging insult and harassing messages to other members of Marmite_on_toast’s clan.
The clan simply decide to ignore these messages and decided that any response to them would only feed the troll so by completely and utterly ignoring them en masse they would starve Player X of the attention he craved and he would move on. This, unfortunately, wasn’t the case.
A Double Jeopardy Offence?
Since Player X was getting nowhere in his personal vendetta against Marmite_on_Toast he went back to the messages and reported a different joke that Marmite_on-Toast sent to Player X back when they were friends.
This second offence saw Sony dish out a permanent life-time ban from PSN for Marmite_on_Toast. No investigation into the situation just a straight out ban.
Marmite_on_Toast argues that this is in effect a second ban for the same offence. He accepts the punishment of the first ban but is adamant that the punishment for that offence was served.
He received his first ban. He learnt his lesson, served his punishment and upon his return changed his online behaviour. but because he refused to interact with somebody who is determined to insult and harass him he has now been banned from PSN for life.
Marmite_on_Toast strongly believes that whilst he was ignorant of breaking Sony terms and conditions on his first offence that the punishment for that should cover all the jokes he sent to Player X during that time.
Let’s not forget here that the jokes were not one-sided. Both PLayer X and Marmite _on_Toast sent similar jokes back and forth to each other and enjoyed them but only one has been punished.
The ban made Marmite_on_Toast take a look at his online behaviour and return to his clan a rehabilitated member of the PSN online community. His ban not only was justified but it was an effective measure in stopping any repeat offences.
Now Marmite_on_Toast has been banned, for life, for an offence he has already served punishment for once. He hasn’t re-offended. It is the same message thread from the same time as the first offence and has only been reported for because he refused to be the victim of online abuse and harassment.
The Real Cost of a Lifetime PSN Ban
The first thing any gamer asks when they hear someone has been banned from PSN is “how many digital games did you have?”
Whilst it is true that Marmite_on_Toast has now lost a library of over 150 games that isn’t the true cost of being banned. He has lost his ability to connect with his online community of friends. He has lost the pride he gained in running a successful and high ranking clan.
He has lost that little part of the online world where he was respected and took great joy in being a leader to veterans and a mentor to newcomers.
Moving outside of Battle Ages and clan he ran Marmite_on_Toast has built up close, meaningful friendships with people across the world through PSN. They are not just a PSN ID. He knows how many kids they have, has congratulated them on weddings and life achievements. Commiserated and talked with them through moments of loss and grieve. These are not just connections in a game. These are deeply bonded friendships that have suddenly been torn asunder.
Yes ther was £40 in his PSN wallet at the time of his ban. Yes, he had three months left on his PSplus subscription and he has lost access to over 150 games but this loss pales in comparison to the emotional and mental loss of such a supportive group of friends.
The Fallout from a PSN Ban
The permanent lifetime ban doesn’t only affect Marmite_on_Toast. Like any responsible parent of a teenage child, Marmite_on_Toast allowed his daughter to play online on his PS4 but only by using a sub-account linked to his with all the appropriate parental controls in place.
His daughter is an incredibly emotionally vulnerable child and whilst he is there for her as much as he can be his daughter relies on gaming for escapism and emotional support of friends.
Disappearing into the world of Minecraft either with friends or alone is a blessed release for his daughter. It is a time of escape and reflection that he respects and honours.
However, due to being banned for an offence he as already served a punishment for his daughter is also banned and locked out of her account because it is linked to Marmite_on_Toast
He is being punished for being a responsible parent and protecting his daughter online. Whilst is daughter is being punished by association. She has done no wrong, she has committed no offence but her entire online community, her friendships and her coping strategies have been mercilessly ripped away from here.
If her father hadn’t have been a responsible parent and taken advantage of the parental controls offered by Sony she would still be gaming online today. However, because her father did the right thing by inking a sub-account to his she has been punished for committing no crime.
Where Do We Go From Here?
It is blatantly obvious that Sony’s rigid approach to online offences is not fit for purpose. There is no room for context or nuance. Their approach to this matter has resulted in a victim of harassment being banned and his abuser free to roam PSN and possibly find another victim.
Whilst the argument that PSN in Sony’s private platform and they are free to police it has they see fit is technically and legally correct. We have to look at the moral obligation Sony has in this situation.
The emotional connections made, the friendships nurtured and the communities built are all things that Sony promote in its user base. To rip that away without investigation or nuance is crass and dare I say evil?
Marmite_on_Toast accepts his original ban, served it in full and returned to PSN a rehabilitated gamer. However, Player X refused to let the issue lie, continued to harass Marmite_on_Toast and his online friends. Because of Sony’s rigid black and white approach, Marmite_on_Toast, his daughter and his clan have all been punished indefinitely for refusing to interact with their harasser.
I am not saying online bans should not exist. Of course, Sony should have the right to refuse service on its platform. What I am suggesting, however, is that the repercussions of a lifetime ban be taken into consideration.
Perhaps we could have some kind of arbitration from service providers when they are contemplating handing out a lifetime ban. I strongly believe that had Sony looked at the full extent of this harassment campaign then the outcome would have been extremley different.
If after reading this you believe that Marmite_on_Toast has been wronged by Sony then you can offer your support by signing his petition over at Change.org
Having a black and white approach to policing online behaviour doesn’t work. Gone are they days of players controlling sprites on a screen like Mario and Sonic.
I AM that Guardian in Destiny. I AM the captain in World of Warships, I AM a gnome warlock in World of Warcraft and Marmite_on_Toast IS the wise and venerable leader of his clan in Battle Ages.
Games are becoming ever more immersive. Don’t be surprised when humans become attached to their online personas and connections. All we ask for is that companies such as Sony take this into account when handing out potentially crippling lifetime bans. If they did then they would have looked at Marmite_on_Toast situation and seen that there was no reason at all for him to be banned for life.
Stoffel Presents has reached out to Sony for comment and we will of course update this article when we receive their response.
This is an incredibly nuanced and emotional issue and as always we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Whilst we understand this subject may elicit strong feelings on both sides of the arguments please be respectful in the comments