Technology

Kids gaming platform Roblox faces hurdles ahead of public listing

Roblox filed late Thursday for a multibillion-dollar stock market debut

Photo: Phil Noble/ Reuters
  • Roblox filed late Thursday for a multibillion-dollar stock market debut;
  • But parenting groups and investors alike said they were concerned about whether the company’s automated systems to moderate content can effectively delete potentially offensive language and images;
  • As its stock listing draws near, the company could come under closer public scrutiny from Wall Street.

Powered by user-created games, Roblox filed late Thursday for a multibillion-dollar stock market debut, riding the lockdown entertainment boom with its appeal as a place for safe fun and interactions for the youngest gamers.

But parenting groups and investors alike said they were concerned about whether the company’s automated systems to moderate content can effectively delete potentially offensive language and images that pop up on the platform.

In response to written questions, company spokeswoman Teresa Brewer said in a statement that Roblox “has no tolerance for inappropriate content, which is why we have a stringent safety system, including proprietary text filtering technology, third-party machine learning solutions, and customized rules on what to block, which we update daily.”

Last month, Roblox removed the examples within hours of Reuters sharing them with the company. Roblox has said it has 1,600 people working full time to eliminate inappropriate content on the platform.

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In the stock registration filed after this story was published, the company acknowledged that “from time to time inappropriate content is successfully uploaded onto our platform and can be viewed by others prior to being identified and removed by us” and was a “risk factor.”

“This content could cause harm to our audience and to our reputation of providing a safe environment,” the company wrote of the former concern.

“If we are unable to prevent, or are perceived as not being able to sufficiently prevent, all or substantially all inappropriate content from appearing on our platform…[that] would likely result in significantly reduced revenue, bookings, profitability, and ultimately, our ability to continue to successfully operate our platform.”

Roblox is a free platform which offers millions of games, many of them created by its own young users through a simple programming tool that the company provides. It has been credited with developing kids’ logic and creativity. Like Microsoft’s Minecraft, Roblox allows users to create and share 3D gaming content via simple tools and send messages to others.

As its stock listing draws near, the company could come under closer public scrutiny from Wall Street, said John Streur, chief executive of Calvert Research and Management, which focuses on socially responsible investing.

“From an investor perspective, it will be a major problem if the headlines months from now reveal that the company is unable to manage the risk of its platform,” Streur told Reuters. Roblox declined to respond to comment on that view.