No ‘Offensive Language ‘ says Skype

Microsoft To Ban 'Offensive Language' From Skype

Microsoft skype

Microsoft recently updated their Service Agreement. These updates are applied to services like Skype, Xbox Live, OneDrive, and more. The update includes a prohibition “offensive language on [Microsoft] services”. The modified rules also outline Microsoft’s right to review your content as part of an investigation. And potentially forfeit credits and subscription time attached to an affected account. Including Xbox Live Gold membership time.

A summary of the update, posted on March 1st and going into effect on May 1st, describes the changes as follows:

In the Code of Conduct section, we’ve clarified that use of offensive language and fraudulent activity is prohibited. We’ve also clarified that violation of the Code of Conduct through Xbox Services may result in suspensions or bans from participation in Xbox Services, including forfeiture of content licenses, Xbox Gold Membership time, and Microsoft account balances associated with the account.

The relevant section of the full Code of Conduct reads:

Don’t publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity).

Enforcement. If you violate these Terms, we may stop providing Services to you or we may close your Microsoft account. We may also block delivery of a communication (like email, file sharing or instant message) to or from the Services in an effort to enforce these Terms or we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason. When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue. However, we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so.

Microsoft is getting more strict when it comes to the language used in their applications by users. And they are strictly against ‘Offensive language’.

The addition of such a clause is not strange or unusual but it is indeed a good addition to the clause. Every service from Facebook’s Whatsapp to Twitter has some sort of terms of use that prohibit the use of the service for illegal activity at the minimum, often with provisions related to harassment and abuse. For services that allow public posting, policies on adult content and violence or gore naturally follow.

Microsoft’s implementation is concerning imprecision and indifference to consent. Illegal content is, obviously, illegal and techniques like image-hashing provide a non-obtrusive way of scanning for it. Terms like Harassment and abuse are defined by the lack of consent that makes them objectionable.  “Offensive content,” however, is defined neither by the law nor the objection of a party involved which means it could quite easily apply to private, legal conversations and exchange between consenting adults. Is it about to be against the rules to merely swear on Skype?

Microsoft states it has no interest in monitoring all its services, which is the only way such consensual but “offensive” content could feasibly be decreased. We know that it is a troubling uncomfortable addition. But this was a must move by the company.

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