New Microsoft Policy Could Ban Users For Offensive Language Starting In May
Civil rights advocate Jonathan Corbett did us a favor and did something that most of us never do. He decided to read an updated Terms of Service agreement from Microsoft that he was sent via email and discovered some interesting changes.
According to the summary of changes, using offensive language in Xbox services could lead to the suspension or banning of a user, loss of Xbox Gold membership time, and possibly the loss of account balances on the account.
The full text that Corbett discovered is:
5. 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.
iv. 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).
These “Services” include a wide range of Microsoft products such as OneDrive, Xbox Live, Outlook.com, Skype, & even Cortana. Does this mean we can no longer curse at Cortana?!?!? An interesting point raised by Corbett is what qualifies as offensive language or graphic violence and how is Microsoft going to monitor for this type of behavior? And how are they going to enforce this ban? Are they going to be looking through my Skype sessions? Well it is not known how they are going to define “graphic violence” or “offensive language”, but it turns out Microsoft has language related to monitoring in their service agreement as well. The agreement specifically states that they have right to review your content while investigating a violation, but will not actively monitor for infringing behavior.
b. 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.
This language has probably been added as more fallout from the FOSTA, or “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act”, bill that was passed late last month. This bill negates certain provisions of the Communications Act of 1934 that protect online service providers, such as Microsoft, from the acts of unaffiliated third parties.
This new bill has language that states services providers can now be liable for any conduct related to sex trafficking that is hosted by their services.
(Sec. 4) The bill amends the Communications Act of 1934 to declare that section 230 does not limit: (1) a federal civil claim for conduct that constitutes sex trafficking, (2) a federal criminal charge for conduct that constitutes sex trafficking, or (3) a state criminal charge for conduct that promotes or facilitates prostitution in violation of this bill.
A Microsoft spokesperson has said this is not related to FOSTA as previously thought. They went on to say that Microsoft agents do not monitor a user’s private conversations and only respond to customer reports of inappropriate content based on information provided to them. They concluded by stating: “We are committed to providing our customers with safe and secure experiences while using our services. The recent changes to the Microsoft Service Agreement’s Code of Conduct provide transparency on how we respond to customer reports of inappropriate public content.”