UPDATE: Zwift has announced a postponing of the ZwiftPower height and weight hiding. Read more here >
Today Zwift announced a two updates via their forum which are being rolled out to mitigate harassment and increase community welfare.
#1: Weight and Height No Longer Public
First, beginning next week, we will no longer publicly display Zwifter weight and height in ZwiftPower, Zwift Companion, nor on Zwift.com. Weight and height will continue to be an input requirement for the game but will no longer be displayed publicly in order to deter weight or height related harassment.
As some Zwift racers have already pointed out on the forum thread, hiding weight and height data is a double-edged sword. Yes, it should reduce unwarranted harassment while removing some triggers which can lead to disordered eating. That’s a good thing. But it will also make it nearly impossible for racers to spot weight/height dopers – and generally, racers have been relied upon to spot this sort of cheating, since race organizers have enough work on their hands.
It’s worth noting here that Zwift provides a form which racers can use to report racers they believe are cheating. According to Zwift, “Our CS agents have all the tools to look at egregious changes in weight and make informed decisions if someone is ‘weight doping’ or not.“ Read more here >
Will race organizers have access to the now-private height and weight data, or will only ZADA be able to access it for performance verification of top-tier races? I posed this question to Zwift, but have not yet received a response.
Assuming race organizers can access the data via ZwiftPower, and the site includes simple tools for spotting potential weight or height dopers (perhaps flagging those who made dramatic changes recently), then hiding weight and height data from the public should work swimmingly. But if this simply lets cheaters cheat more, it may affect more people than it helps.
#2: New Reporting Features
Secondly, we will be introducing new reporting features within Zwift Companion. An expansion to the existing flagging feature, the reporting feature allows riders and runners to report discrimination, bad language, or other forms of harassment in real time by clicking the three dots in the upper right hand corner of a member’s ZC profile. This feature will allow our team to monitor the situation and enact shadow banning when appropriate.
This is a welcome change, as it was unclear how the flagging feature in Companion actually functioned, and it was impossible to share additional details of your report when flagging a rider. The idea that a Zwift staffer can monitor these reports in real time in intriguing – it will be interesting to see if actions are taken quickly when bad actors are reported.
It’s fair to say that the vast majority of Zwifters haven’t had to endure bullying or harassment on the platform. But for those who have, the experience can have huge negative impacts on their zwifting experience and even their overall well-being. And that’s just not right. Zwift should be a safe place.
Changes Already Implemented
Zwift’s forum post included the following list of recent changes they’ve implemented to boost community welfare and reduce harassment:
- Implemented tools that allow us to more effectively review in-game messaging to ensure in-game behavior meets our community guidelines.
- Raising awareness on podcasts about disordered eating
- Removing blog stories, missions, and challenges that glamorize unhealthy weight loss
- With the full support of community group owners, we have collectively worked to ensure community groups promote health and wellbeing and avoid potentially unhealthy triggers.
- Tightened privacy rules for ZADA (Zwift Accuracy and Data Analysis) verification videos – preventing athletes from sharing these publicly.
- Instituting a 2-hour pre-race weigh-in submission window as is the acknowledged best practice across other sports and by the IOC
Zwift is rightly concerned with how its platform can encourage disordered eating behaviors. We dug into this topic in depth several weeks ago, our series “Extreme Dieting in Virtual Cycling“. It’s good to see Zwift working to protect racers.
The forum post concludes with the following statement:
These are only the first steps. More steps are planned to enhance the features that improve the experience for all Zwifters and mitigate harassment.
Just what are those future changes? We’re not sure, but here are some guesses:
- At least one forum reply also mentioned that Zwift could easily put in further controls to reduce weight and height doping – perhaps not allowing riders to change their measurements by more than X% on a given day.
- Rolling out additional race categorization controls/anti-sandbagging tools would greatly reduce arguments and cheating accusations between racers. Forcing riders to race in a category which matches their historic power numbers, for example, is one foundational change that would clean up cheating and improve the racing experience for many, especially D and C riders.
- Cleaning up messaging: currently, group ride messages are bleeding into free rides, which makes for confusing conversations where event participants banter and riders outside of the event get to “listen” in. Sometimes the free riders will even respond to the event messages, but of course the event participants will never see those messages. This all needs to get cleaned up.
Share Your Thoughts
What do you think of Zwift’s recent (and pending) changes? Share your thoughts below, but we’d also recommend sharing them on the official Zwift forum thread.