Valve has responded to accusations that it is automatically banning Linux Steam accounts simply for having certain phrases in their usernames, calling the claims "a tactic employed by cheaters to try and sow discord and distrust among anticheat systems".
The reports first surfaced over the weekend, when some users took to Valve's github bug repositories claiming that Steam accounts on Linux featuring the phrase "catbot" were being banned by Valve's anti-cheating software.
"Catbot" is a name associated with a type of nuisance, auto-aim cheat bot, often seen in the likes of Team Fortress 2. Reports suggested that all Linux accounts with "catbot" in their name were being blanket banned by Valve, regardless of whether cheating had occurred.
A Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) ban prevents a user from playing any multiplayer game that uses a VAC-secured server once issued, and is, in Valve's own words, "permanent, non-negotiable". As such, the notion that Valve's system was issuing bans using a method as unsophisticated as simple username detection was a concern.
Initially, Valve even appeared to confirm that this was indeed the case, with Valve github moderater kisak-valve posting that "I've received word from the VAC team that this is intentional and not open for discussion on Github."
However, a Valve employee going by the name vMcJohn later offered a more detailed update on the Linux Reddit group, stating that "VAC will not ban you for simply having catbot in your username (either your steam profile or on one or more of your linux accounts)".
"The bug report, and I suspect many of the posts in this thread", vMcJohn continued, "are a tactic employed by cheaters to try and sow discord and distrust among anticheat systems."
vMcJohn's post suggests that Valve has recently started taking cheating more seriously on Linux, and that the new bans are the result of harsher anti-cheat measures on the platform.
"Linux historically hasn't been a problem for cheating," explained vMcJohn, "the base rate of cheating is significantly lower on Linux than it is on Windows. Unfortunately, a 'healthy' community of cheaters grew up around catbot on linux and their impact on TF became large enough that they simply could no longer be ignored."
"Those banned users are very annoyed that VAC has dropped the hammer on them."