Microsoft is set to update its Services Agreement to penalise offensive language across products, including Xbox and Skype. The latest change is vital especially for a product that offers a communication platform, such as Xbox Live and Skype calls, though the wording of the tweaked agreement appears to be ambiguous. The company hasn't specified what it considers offensive. Likewise, it is unclear that how your communications will be tracked to impose relevant actions as per the specified Code of Conduct.
The updated Services Agreement, which is effective from May 1, major focuses on Xbox Live service. As originally spotted by law student Jonathan Corbett, the agreement strictly prohibits the use of offensive language and fraudulent activity. The former is certainly bigger and more impactful for users as well as the company, compared to the latter. "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," one of the key statements on the agreement reads.
The statement certainly shows that Microsoft is not favouring the use of offensive language on any of the Xbox services. But at the same time, it is unclear that what is the meaning of "offensive" in the lexicon of the company. Corbett did find a line on the Code of Conduct section that specifies the restrictions a bit. "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)," the line on the Code of Conduct section reads.
That being said, the word "Services" in the Code of Conduct underlines that Microsoft isn't only referring to Xbox Services but its general services and products as well. These could be Word and Skype. Furthermore, this means the use of offensive language is restricted across all Microsoft offerings. But again, it isn't clear that how Microsoft will be able to track the content to find inappropriate words. If we go deeper into the statements available on the updated document, it confirms that the company has the right to review user content. "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," the statement points out.
In a statement to TechCrunch, a Microsoft spokesperson clarified that the review part of the updated Services Agreement is based on the customer reports about inappropriate public content. "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," the spokesperson said.
Microsoft Director of Xbox Programme Management Mike Ybarra, in a recent tweet, claims that there is "no policy change" for Xbox Live. This appears to ensure users that the company is not making any policy-level changes for Xbox Live and the development that is in plans is what Microsoft was already doing. Having said that, the tweaks to the Service Agreement are likely to make it easy for Microsoft to catch identities posting abusive content through its products and will give end users the power to report offensive language on services such as Xbox Live and Skype.