Summary: In the spring of 2020, Mattel and Hasbro announced that the official mobile version of the game Scrabble would no longer be the game produced by Electronic Arts, but rather a new game called Scrabble Go created by a company called Scopely. The change drew the ire of fans (who have even started a petition for the old game to be brought back) for taking what had been a fairly standard mobile version of the popular word game, and introducing a new, flashier version that had some additional “gamification” incentives and put the focus on playing against others, rather than the computer as was typical in the previous game.
This also introduced a new feature: chat. Since players are playing against other human beings, Scopely decided to add a chat feature, but apparently did not consider how such features may be regularly abused. In the months since Scrabble Go launched, there have been many reports of so-called “romance scammers” trying to reach out to people via Scrabble Go’s chat feature.
Multiple reports of these kinds of approaches started appearing in various forums, with some examples of the scammers being quite persistent. At least in Australia, consumer protection officials noted that they have received multiple complaints of romance scammers approaching them via Scrabble Go. One woman in the UK noted that she has been approached by such scammers two to three times every week.
After three months of complaints, Scopely announced that it was rolling out an update that would allow players to “mute” the chat function.
Decisions to be made by Scopely:
Questions and policy implications to consider:
Resolution: A few months after launch, Scopely updated the app to allow players to mute the chat entirely. As complaints remained, it has also added an ability to only connect to friends you already know on Facebook or via your contacts (if you agree to upload your contacts to the service), effectively sandboxing the chat to only users the player has some connection with.
The company has also added the ability to “report” a chat if the user feels it is inappropriate.
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