Path of Exile

Ban wave and collateral damage, Pt. 2

Content of the article: "Ban wave and collateral damage, Pt. 2"

Hi there. A lot of you people know that there were a lot of bans lately, whether it was you who took the hit, or you just read about them here at reddit. Surely, the majority of users assume most of the bans were more than rightful. Although there are known cases of false positives, which were actually resolved by GGG support. Also, there are cases which weren't resolved and its posts were removed by moderators (direct chat, explaining the reasoning behind removal of linked post), but still brought the discussion of the problem.

The reason I'm writing this post is not to discuss personal account issues, or to beg for unbans for myself or other people that were caught in the crossfire, but rather provide you guys a wider knowledge on current situation with false positives. I think it is essential to understand which route GGG has taken to fight faulty accounts, and how it might affect a typical PoE player and his time and financial investment in the future, if things will remain how they are at the moment.

I've been following this topic for quite some time and processed a lot of data that I'd love to share here with you. I will try to avoid the mention of botting, RMT and instead use a word "faulty". Support doesn't clarify 100% what causes the bans, so the word "faulty" makes even more sense for the matter of discussion. I also believe it will help to keep it civil and more to the point.

To save your time, I will not go through every case I've looked into, but rather the ones that seem to be the least suspicious. The post is already going to be lengthy anyway.

On Sep 30, our whole guild of total 9 members was banned. Right now you will see only 8 members on it, but more on that later. As far as I'm aware, most guild members contacted support and only 1 member got actually unbanned. I'm not going to go through every account case, but rather pick the least suspicious one, the account named "elefant".

First of all, this is a pretty old account (joined in 2013), with characters present both in SSF and Hardcore leagues. The rest of the characters also used to be SSF, but got migrated afterwards. Has a few tabs from MTX store, but overall pretty low amount spent on MTX, no supporter packs either. Also the most interesting thing about that case – he hadn't logged in since Harvest. Here is his experience with support: 1, 2, 3, 4. So yeah, he got permanently banned in a league he hasn't even played.

This kind of answer from support is very typical and they basically used the same copy-pasta in all cases with the same ending I had the luck looking into, so I'd like to make a few points on it. Firstly, take a look at that wording: "…there is no evidence to suggest the ban was applied in error…". Apparently, "innocent until proven guilty" is not a thing in Wraeclast. Also, the whole Section 7 of ToS is worthy of your attention. It includes basically almost every wrong-doing you can expect a ban for, although it still has pretty blurred borders on the most topics (i.e. trade tools), that might confuse other people and result in posts like this, this and this. Of course, GGG is in the right to do their business however they see fit, and I also understand why they never clarify their reasoning (unless maybe if you mention GDPR in the ticket), but still it doesn't seem to be the right thing either.

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There's one more interesting case on the guild, though not as convincing. Account is named FabulousFubar (profile link), also the part of our guild. He, like most of us, immediately issued an appeal via email on Sep 25, and got his answer on Oct 6, stating that the case is resolved and his account is no longer banned. This answer is also typical for the outcomes, where the case is actually resolved. There also exists another pasta for accounts, that got away with a warning, but more on that later. Right now I'd like to point out that there are no apologies for the false ban in the answer, and requesting any sort of compensation directly via email doesn't get one anywhere either. When he logged in after the ban was lifted, he found himself kicked out of the guild. Luckily enough, I have an older screenshot with his name on the guild to prove that he actually was in the guild. The only key differences between him and everyone else on the guild I can think of, is that he is a streamer (which he mentioned in his email to support), and he seems to be the one that spent the most on the game out of the whole guild. Other than that, nothing specific. Support dialogue screenshots: 1, 2, 3.

By the way, the wait time on this case isn't the longest out there. The longest I am aware of is this guy. He claims he was banned on Sep 25 and only today his case got resolved, that's 19 days of radio silence in his experience. Sadly this is the best screenshot I have with the precise date, but you can tell it's him by supporter packs edges that are visible on both images. Worth mentioning his case isn't connected to any guild.

While I was writing this post, FabulousFubar was banned again, permanently, just so you know.

Obviously, our guild isn't the only one that was banned. Here's another. It as well has people that weren't even playing for a long time for various reasons. Perhaps they didn't like the game at the point that much, or a league, or 2 leagues in a row. Right now the guild has 19 members, but there used to be more (24, if I recall correctly). Safe to assume that's the result of people getting kicked out of their guilds after GGG had lifted their bans. I've had luck contacting Kettuklaani and asking him to issue an appeal via email. Looking at his challenges and characters, you could tell he wasn't entirely happy about his time in the game to play it longer, so he got bored pretty fast and hasn't been playing since Blight. This is what he got back. You've probably already guessed it. Permanently banned.

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There's also another weird ban-unban-banned-again case with their guild master "GoodWayy", who was fortunate enough to get away with just a warning, BUT then the week later got banned again. Don't have better screenshots on his case, perhaps I will add more later if I'm lucky to get some.

There are some other cases, with and without guilds involved, but anyway they are less convincing than the ones I shared here, and I think most of you already get the point I'm trying to make by now.

There are also a few posts on reddit about being banned for the use of vm and vpn. While these are often used in pair with other software to gain unfair advantage, they still have legit use cases. It seems there's a risk to be banned for the use of vm or vpn, but it's not necessarily that everyone who does use this kind of software is trying to cheat with it.

I will try to sum up things now. Whole guilds were banned, including people that haven't even played Heist. Also, some individual people with and without guilds were banned as well. Some bans were lifted, some were not. The rest of the people are in the waiting room. Only GGG with all of their data collected can tell for sure if the account is faulty or not. But considering a lot of players that haven't been playing this league (and possibly a lot of past ones) were permanently banned as well, most likely something is off about it. These are the facts.

Now I will make my assumptions, based on everything I covered above. GGG's banning algorithms in this league went completely nuts and started flagging more suspicious accounts than it used. I also assume that normally suspicious accounts are subjects for some doublechecking to ensure that there are no mistakes to be made. But for now it seems they just skip all doublechecks and ban all suspicious accounts.

To make it easier to understand: according to the presumption of innocence, one is innocent until proven guilty, but hypothethically in this case GGG is considering one is guilty until proven innocence. This is in my eyes the main reason for a lot of false bans.

Was this outcome intentional and were they really expecting to deal with hundreds of people sending their appeals in support? How much of an impact false positives alone have on economy? I don't know. But what I do know is that situations like these, where you have to contact the support to only get a chance of returning your account, shouldn't be acceptable.

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Even if every wrongfully applied ban was lifted in the matter of hours, this way of doing things as a whole still wouldn't be right. False positives create a lot of frustration for the customers. It is also a huge emotional and financial hit for a lot of people to lose their PoE accounts they spent hundreds of $ on, even if their cases are going to be resolved in the future. I'm pretty confident that this is not what people have been expecting, when they paid for MTX.

Of course, there's almost a 100% chance that a portion of the bans in both guilds and individual cases mentioned was rightfully applied to faulty accounts. But… banning every single player on the guilds, including people that haven't even played Heist? Even in theory, it's impossible to believe that there are guilds with 19 (24) truly faulty accounts, half of which weren't even playing the game lately. And if a few accounts on the guild are faulty, their guildmates that just happened to be there must not take the responsibility for them and be chain-banned as well. Hope we all can agree on this point.

If anyone's wondering what could you do to avoid being banned like that, I'd suggest that isolating yourself out of participating in any guilds might help. Less connections you have with potential faulty accounts, the lesser is the probability of getting chain-banned in that regard. It doesn't guarantee anything though, since there's a lot of individual cases anyway. And yeah, you can use your trade-macro. There won't be any issues with it. If there were, then the whole realm would be banned already.

Thanks for your time. I'm not a native speaker and also pretty nervous, but I hope that my points are clear enough. I'd like to end this post with a quote I found somewhere in the comments lately.

Dwight Schrute:

Better a thousand innocent men are locked up than one guilty man roam free.


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