Niantic Announces New Wayfarer Punishment Ladder

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Hello Explorers

Wayfarer abuse has been a problem for some time, and The Wayfarer team has done an excellent job addressing the abusive Wayspots and taking action against those who have broken the rules of Wayfarer. However, there hasn’t been a clear disciplinary ladder for Wayfarer abuse like there is for Pokémon GO. Well, no more! The Niantic Wayfarer team recently announced a new ladder structure for punishments for Wayfarer Abuse.

The announcement and some subsequent content have caused a stir within the Pokémon GO community, and there has been a lot of confusion, misinformation, and frankly some fearmongering on social media that is causing some friction. So let’s go over the ladder and the punishments, and then discuss how we got here, and where we go moving forward.

What Niantic Considers Violations

Niantic defines abuse as any behaviour that violates the Niantic Terms of Service and Player Guidelines. They also provided some examples of what would be considered abuse:

  • Submitting fake data to the Niantic Map for example: Fake Wayspot Nominations or Fake Photos
  • Promoting hateful or harmful content
  • Accessing Wayfarer clients or backends in an unauthorized manner, including through the use of third-party software or add-ons.

The Ladder

For each step in the ladder, the offending Wayfarer user will receive an email that the Wayfarer team says will “inform and educate the offenders on their policy violation.” What that means we are not sure yet, so we don’t know how much detail will be in the violation emails.

While this ladder has steps, Niantic reserves the right to skip steps depending on the severity of the abuse they discover.

Step 1: Warning

The Wayfarer will receive a warning email informing them that abuse has been detected, and warning them to stop the behaviour immediately. 

Step 2: 30-day Suspension

After a warning, if a Wayfarer continues to abuse the system they will receive an email informing them that further abuse has been detected, and warning them to stop the behaviour immediately. 

They will also be suspended from Wayfarer, and all Niantic games for 30 days.

Step 3: 90-day Suspension

After Step 2, if a Wayfarer continues to abuse the system despite the warning and the 30-day suspension they will receive an email informing them that further abuse has been detected, and warning them to stop the behaviour immediately. 

They will also be suspended from Wayfarer, and all Niantic games for 90 days.

Steps 4: 3650-Day Suspension

After Step 3, if a Wayfarer continues to abuse the system despite the warning, the 30-day suspension, and the 90-day suspension they will receive an email informing them that further abuse has been detected, and warning them to stop the behaviour immediately. 

They will also be suspended from Wayfarer, and all Niantic games for 3650 days. That’s just under 10 years if you take into account leap years. And no that’s not a typo.

Redemption period

Any Wayfinder who has not yet reached Step 4 will be given the opportunity to redeem themselves and remove any warnings or suspensions from their records. If they remain infraction-free for the period of 1 year following their latest violation of Niantic’s rules their record will be wiped clean and they will once again have a clean slate. If you reach step-4 however, that is not an option.

Appealing Your Warning or Suspension

If you believe that you received a warning or a suspension unjustly they have provided a form with which to appeal your punishment. That button is at the bottom of the blog post linked above. After Niantic has reviewed your case, they will respond to your appeal with an email.

How Niantic Reaches Their Decisions

There has been a lot of discussion on social media regarding how Niantic makes decisions regarding punishments. NianticAaron responded to a question about that on the official Wayfarer forums. Niantic spends a significant amount of time individually looking at every reported case of abuse to determine if it warrants punishment. There is no part of this system that is handled by bots, or AI, that will lead to a user being suspended.

Niantic will dole out punishments for clear violations of their policies.  Things like repeated low-quality submissions, fake submissions, attempts to influence reviewers, harassment, participating in voting rings, etc. Anyone who does not participate in behaviours such as those has nothing to worry about.

In terms of how Niantic looks at Wayspot nomination abuse, they do not take into account community votes on the nominations. So if you nominate things that are eligible nominations, or even nominations that fall into a “grey area” and they are unfairly rejected that will not count towards you, and Niantic will not look unfavourably on it. In fact, you are encouraged in those situations to appeal your rejection and Niantic will review it themselves, and you might get it approved after all.  I personally have won 4 appeals in the past month.

How Did We Get Here?

Wayfarer abuse has been a problem for a long time. The Wayfarer team has recently removed over 1,500 Wayspots from the Netherlands alone due to abuse. They have issued Wayfarer suspensions and dealt punishments within the Wayfarer system for a while and it wasn’t really having an effect on the abuse. So Niantic has decided that they need to step up the punishments, and effectively “Hit them where it hurts” 

Wayfarer abuse affects the game boards of all of the Niantic games in some way, but especially Pokémon GO as that’s by far the most popular of their games.  Wayfarer abuse has been used to manipulate the Pokémon GO gameboard most of all, so it makes sense that Niantic would want to start including Pokémon GO in their punishments.  Think of this from Niantic’s perspective: If you abuse Wayfarer, something that can affect all of Niantic’s games, why would they let you play any of those games and reap the rewards of your abuse?

Should You Be Worried?

Honestly, I am going to keep Wayfarering the way I always have. Wayfinders who are nominating Wayspots according to the rules, and within the guidelines have nothing to worry about. For anybody who’s worried about participating in Wayfarer, there are a few avenues that I recommend taking advantage of to ensure that you are Wayfaring within the guidelines.

Part of the clarification from NianticAaron on the forums even said that anyone who’s nominating within the guidelines has nothing to worry about. The Wayfarer team is very thorough with their investigations, and they are very experienced in finding things that are abuse verses things that are grey area nominations that are made in good faith.

How Can I Ensure I’m Staying Within the Guidelines?

  • The Official Wayfarer Forums:
    • This is a forum that is run and maintained by the Niantic Wayfarer team and has sections for Criteria Clarifications where Wayfinders can go ask questions about criteria and get answers from Wayfarer community members, and Ambassadors. It also has a section for Nomination improvement, where Wayfinders can get help with any perspective nominations.
  • The Wayfarer Discussion Discord:
    • This is an unofficial Discord server that is home to many experienced Wayfinders, and several of the Ambassadors.  They have channels for Reviewing Advice where you can get advice on something that’s come up in your reviews, Submitting advice where you can get advice on your potential Wayspot submissions, and many other channels. 
  • Follow the Wayspotters on Twitter, and listen to our Podcast. Myself and Jamal host a weekly podcast where we discuss everything about Wayfarer, including all the news, advice, examples of good and bad Wayspots, and more! We’re also on YouTube if you prefer video.
  • Keep an eye out here! I’ll always cover any big Wayfarer news here!

Parting Thoughts

This is all a very good thing. Niantic needed to take a more hardline approach to Wayfarer abuse because the status quo wasn’t working. Hopefully, this approach helps curb the abuse that’s run through the Wayfarer system over the last few years. Only time will tell.

Stay safe out there Trainers.

Author & tags

I've been playing Pokemon Go since the game launched way back in 2016, I am a loyal Valor player and also a content creator on YouTube going by the name Professor Glaw.

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