‘Offensive’ language on Xbox Live could lead to ban, according to new TOS

Microsoft has updated its terms of service for online services, including Xbox Live, with a warning that offensive language could result in a ban or suspension.

The new terms of service (TOS) document is being sent out to registered users of Microsoft services such as Xbox Live and Skype. One update, spotted by activist blogger Jonathan Corbett, specifies “offensive language.”

According to the company’s updates document: “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.”

Previous TOS documents and a code of conduct referred to “profane words or phrases,” according to a report on Gizmodo. This change appears to draw a distinction between foul language, and words that are designed to wound, particularly those aimed at women and minorities.

“We are committed to providing our customers with safe and secure experiences while using our services,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “The recent changes to the Microsoft Service Agreement’s Code of Conduct provide transparency on how we respond to customer reports of public content that violates our terms of service.” Microsoft added that the update does not signify a policy change, so much as a clarification of the potential consequences of using offensive language.

Given how much offensive language goes on in online gaming spaces, the notion that this clause will be severely administered seems unlikely. Microsoft’s lawyers are most likely just covering themselves for those cases in which the company feels obliged to go after the most unpleasant trolls, those who have been repeatedly reported by others.