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IWF a ‘fundamental’ part of protecting young people gaming online, says Jagex

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Jagex is currently the only member of the Internet Watch Foundation solely founded and based in Cambridge. The charity is encouraging more to follow the games company’s lead.

Steve Wilson, of Jagex. Picture: David Portass/iEventMedia (29164073)
Steve Wilson, of Jagex. Picture: David Portass/iEventMedia (29164073)

For Cambridge-based games developer Jagex, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is a “fundamental” part of helping them take a pro-active stance on protecting young people using their platform.

The game developer and publisher is best known for the RuneScape franchise - one of the most successful and longest-running online multiplayer games.

Some of the biggest companies in the world are signed up to IWF services, but surprisingly Jagex is currently the only IWF member solely founded and based in Cambridge. The IWF is encouraging more to follow Jagex’s lead as part of a new campaign to help protect young people, supported by the Cambridge Independent.

Steve Wilson, player support manager at Jagex, said the services provided from the IWF, including a keywords list that helps them moderate the game’s chat function, is a “fundamental” part of keeping their product safe for all users.

“Together, IWF and Jagex have enormous credibility and experience in helping make the internet a safer place,” said Steve.

“The IWF, like Jagex, is a recognised brand, not a here-today-gone-tomorrow organisation but a class-leading source of expertise in this field.”

The Internet Watch Foundation is based at Discovery House Chivers Way, Histon. Picture: Keith Heppell.
The Internet Watch Foundation is based at Discovery House Chivers Way, Histon. Picture: Keith Heppell.

He added: “We know the IWF can offer professional advice, and they are experts we can speak to if we ever did need expert opinion and counsel.”

Steve believes that technology companies benefiting from the internet should help contribute to helping keep it safe.

“It is just the right thing to do,” he said. “Most people think the IWF is funded by the government, but it’s not. It’s a charity that requires support from everyone to preserve and increase its expertise.”

Jagex, based on Cambridge Science Park, subscribes to IWF services, which are available to other companies keen to improve the online safety of their users. Among these is a keywords list which is compiled and updated regularly by the IWF.

The list is composed of words and phrases that IWF analysts have found to be used by abusers and those looking to find and circulate images and videos of child sexual abuse online.

Steve said the tools the IWF provides help Jagex to make sure their games are kept safe and do not become an environment where younger users could potentially be groomed by predators.

He said: “We have extensive chat in our games, but we don’t have video and images; so the vast majority of our moderation relies on chat interpretation and chat analysis, so having those key words updated is really useful for us.”

Meet Steve Wilson – player support manager at Jagex

Steve has been at Jagex for 13 years. He takes the lead on all aspects of community safety and moderation as the company’s player support manager.

Steve works on collaborative projects for online safety, sharing expertise and best practice working with organisations such as the Internet Watch Foundation and the National Crime Agency.

Within the industry, he’s an inaugural member of the Fair Play Alliance, a forum for gaming professionals and companies to work together to develop and share best practices in encouraging healthy communities and awesome player interactions in online gaming.

Steve’s team provide online moderation for all of Jagex’s games, with a global user base of 260 million accounts.

As well as designing automated safety heuristics, he also heads up the team of human moderators who prioritise and escalate serious issues for law enforcement intervention or to arrange welfare checks for players facing extreme challenges in their lives.

Steve also volunteers for one of Jagex’s corporate charity partners, the Prince’s Trust, offering interview advice and guidance within the ‘get hired’ programme for young people who need a little support as they venture into the marketplace to secure their first job.

How to get involved

Internet Watch Foundation Chief Executive - Susie Hargreaves. Picture: Keith Heppell. (29165672)
Internet Watch Foundation Chief Executive - Susie Hargreaves. Picture: Keith Heppell. (29165672)

The IWF will be working with local businesses, and is looking for experts to join a “hackathon” event in the city in a bid to find innovative solutions to some of the challenges posed online.

Tech companies are also invited to sign up to IWF services which include a “hash list” of known sexual abuse images which have been reduced to a “digital fingerprint” so they can be recognised and removed.

For more information and details of the hackathon and other ways to get involved, visit iwf.org.uk/every5minutes.

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