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Ban

Ban – in the digital world, is a form of punishment that involves restricting access to a particular platform, service or resource. In the world of games, it usually involves temporary or permanent blocking of access to a given service, including a game (e.g. by blocking player’s account) or to events (such as e-sports tournaments[1]).  This form of punishment is usually applied in connection with person violating regulations, established rules (e.g. of a tournament or a game), or a breach of applicable law.

The source of ban is usually the set of rules and regulations of particular service or event, established by the organizer or service owner that (so called – Terms of Service[2]) or a similar document. Therefore, such documents usually contain a broad description of the instances of activities that can be sanctioned by the owner of the service or organizer of the event, thoroughly describing what shall be considered as a breach of the standards it has set.

Bans can be imposed in relation to a number of types of misconduct, but the most common include:

  • Behavior that is generally regarded as harmful and interfering in social intercourse – e.g. behavior commonly regarded as toxic such as bullying, harassment, name-calling, spamming or otherwise negatively affecting others;
  • Breach of Terms of Use – e.g. accessing the service in breach of minimum age requirements of the user, number of accounts held, infringement of copyright, e.g. through the use of reverse engineering, or general rules of the platform[3];   
  • Any form of cheating – e.g. related to the use of exploits, bots, hacks to gain an unfair advantage over others;
  • Illegal behavior – e.g. promoting or conducting illegal activities through the service, attempting to commit or committing criminal offences;

Bans may be imposed as a harsher form of punishment, sometimes following a warning to the offender. Behavior that justifies a ban, however, does not necessarily always lead to a ban being imposed, as the final decision as to whether a ban should be imposed ultimately rests with the entity that has the authority to impose it.

A ban in the online environment can take various forms, such as:

  • Temporary ban – which involves temporarily blocking access to a service or part of it. This type of ban is usually imposed in connection with infringements of a minor nature and has a warning function;
  • Permanent ban – consisting of complete blocking of access to a service or a part of it, without a time limit. It is usually imposed for a significant and repeated infringement;
  • Shadow ban[4]  – a subtle form of ban where the user’s activities are restricted or invisible to other users without notifying the banned user. Most often found in the world of social media;
  • IP ban[5] – which entails blocking access based on the user’s IP address to prevent them from activities such as creating further accounts or accessing the game or service from the same network. 

From the user’s perspective, the imposition of a ban can result in the loss of access to the game, progress made, in-game items gained or purchased (including with real money).

Despite this, bans are an institution widely used across all services on the Internet. As one form of regulation of the online environment from the point of view of developers or publishers, bans fulfil an important function of regulating a given environment or community. They are one form of sanctioning undesirable behavior, ultimately aimed at eliminating it. Bans may also have a preventative function – by imposing a given ban, the entity entitled to impose it may achieve the effect of “scaring” other people by dissuading them from committing a similar act.

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[1] See “Valve bans seven CS:GO pro players from tournament play for match fixing” Andy Chalk published 27 January 2015 (https://www.pcgamer.com/valve-suspends-seven-csgo-pro-players-for-match-fixing/).

[2] See “Terms of service” Wiki (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terms_of_service).

[3] See Epic Games v. Apple legal battle that regards alleged Epic’s infringement of Apple’s platform rules and policies  (https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/8/20/21373780/fortnite-epic-apple-lawsuit-app-store-antitrust).

[4] See “Shadow banning” Wiki (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_banning)

[5] See “IP address blocking” Wiki (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_address_blocking)

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Author

  • Kacper Baryła

    Kacper Baryła is a dedicated legal professional with a robust background in the game dev industry. He has channeled his passion for game dev into a legal career that focuses on supporting game developers with intellectual property, contracts, and compliance issues. His expertise extends to personal data and consumer protection and e-commerce matters, where he has provided comprehensive support and trainings to various companies. Kacper’s professional journey includes serving as an in-house lawyer at leading mobile game developer in Poland as well as at top Polish law firms where he honed his skills in GDPR compliance, contract negotiation, and legal advisory for tech-focused businesses. Being a lawyer by vocation, he always remained gamer at heart. Beyond his professional endeavors, Kacper is deeply engaged in the gaming community, having been a participant in professional e-sports competitions in Call of Duty and League of Legends in his teenage years.

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