Microsoft has changed its terms of service, affecting the likes of Skype and Xbox Live, delivering a strange amendment to each program’s code of conduct.
Microsoft’s new code of conduct prohibits, amongst other things, “nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence or criminal activity”. If users are found to have shared, or be in possession of, these types of content, Microsoft can suspend or ban the particular user and remove funds or balance on the associated account.
It also appears that Microsoft reserves the right to view user content to investigate violations to these terms. This means it has access to your message history and shared files (including on OneDrive, another Microsoft property) if it thinks you’ve been sharing prohibited material. Unsurprisingly, few users are happy that Microsoft is willing to delve through their personal data.
Microsoft has not made it clear if it will automatically detect and censor prohibited content or if other users will be required to report the content. If it’s the latter, it would be a system similar to the one already in use, albeit with much less content allowed.
Since Skype is a private messaging service in which people could use to con-sensually trade several of the types of aforementioned content, and Xbox Live is a service used to play games that may endorse or depict violence and criminal activity, users are confused as to what effect the changes would entail, and why Microsoft is even making this change in the first place.
On top of that, Microsoft hasn’t clearly defined its vague terms. Nobody is clear on what the limit on “offensive language” is, and are all discussions of “criminal activity” prohibited, including discussion of high-profile or personal crimes?
While public platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have been recently criticized for allowing too much offensive content and speech to permeate their sites, no-one has criticized Microsoft’s services for allowing hate speech or criminal activity — despite Xbox Live’s reputation for vitriolic arguments between online gamers. It seems likely that Microsoft is pre-empting future criticisms now the social media giants are cleaning themselves up.