Tom Talks Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 news and opinions

Blocking and Filtering Giphys in Microsoft Teams, why do IT spoil all the fun?

script GIF

Using GIF’s in messaging has been popular in consumer messaging platforms for some time, allowing for a quick, emotive and often funny response. Personally, I am a fan, I think they add a bit of light-hearted fun and boost engagement.

Slack first brought this into the more enterprise/business space, it was a  popular plugin that they added as core default functionality. Microsoft Teams also has native gif support in the box.

Nearly all messaging platforms that have the option to insert gifs use Giphy, an online database and search engine that allows users to search for and share animated GIF files.

Indeed some companies are even using gifs to explain their code of conduct.

Is there a risk of inappropriate gifs?

This is a third party source, populated with user-generated content. So the content is not controlled by any of these messaging platforms. This introduces some risk that inappropriate content may appear. Indeed in March 2018. Snapchat and Instagram temporarily removed Giphy from their apps when a racist gif got through Giphys content filtering via a bug. They pretty quickly re-added Giphy.

So yes there is some risk, but since that incident, no other major incidents have been reported.

However, organisations have different standards for what is acceptable/funny and different risk tolerances. By their nature, most businesses are very risk-averse, especially when there is a potential downside an a non quantifiable, maybe even quesitonable upside.

I feel like a user should be responsible for their actions and judgement, whether they go to the internet search for an image and paste it, or use an inbuilt image search engine. However, there does seem to be an odd line around “well the business gave me this tool, and I found the image via this tool, so it must be OK/I don’t need to use my judgement”.

The business also gave you the PC, browser and access to the internet, that doesn’t mean everything on the internet is appropriate to send to your colleagues. I think its a shame to restrict a tool for everyone because of some small risk of inappropriate use. But I’m not a lawyer or HR expert, so you probably should not listen to me.

How to disable or content restrict Giphys

Giphy does have policies against adult content, violence, self-harm and various other unwanted content, and a reporting system. They also follow the MPAA rating system for gifs which developers can use to filter what gifs are available in their app.

Source: https://www.mpaa.org

The MPAA system goes G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17

Microsoft does offer the option to filter what is accessible in giphy, but limit the option to 3 filters

  • No restriction This means that your users will be able to insert all Giphys in chats regardless of the content rating.
  • Moderate This means that your users will be able to insert Giphys in chats but will be moderately restricted from adult content.
  • Strict This means that your users will be able to insert Giphys in chats but will be strictly restricted from adult content.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/messaging-policies-in-teams

You can disable or set Giphy Content Rating via the teams admin center or with PowerShell: Set-TeamFunSettings

It’s not clear how Microsoft’s names align to the ratings.

If your business is towards the safe/no fun end of the scale, strict might be for you.

About the author

Tom Arbuthnot

A Microsoft MVP and Microsoft Certified Master, Tom Arbuthnot is Principal Solutions Architect at Microsoft Collaboration specialists Modality Systems.

Tom stays up to date with industry developments and shares news and his opinions on his blog, Microsoft Teams Podcast and email list. He is a regular speaker at events around the world.

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Tom Talks Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 news and opinions