Microsoft suspends Xbox gamer for living in Fort Gay

Xbox LIVE gamer banned from Microsoft's online gaming service for typing in the name of a real city in West Virginia.

You've just signed up for Xbox LIVE. You're entering your personal information, and when you get to the city and state fields, you tap in 'Intercourse, Pennsylvania'. A couple days later you get an email from Microsoft notifying you that your account's been suspended. Why? Because you violated the online gaming service's code of conduct by using a term with overtly sexual connotations.

Except Intercourse, PA really exists, an unincorporated hub where "many Amish and local folks do their business." Sound like an honest mistake? Change the city name to Fort Gay and the state to West Virginia--an actual place situated between the Tug Fork and Big Sandy Rivers with a population of around 800--and you wind up with Microsoft, egg on its face, apologizing for banning Josh Moore, a proud resident of the perfectly real West Virginia city.

The 26-year-old simply typed in the name of his city, but was subsequently accused of violating Microsoft's LIVE Code of Conduct. Among other things, the code stipulates that you shouldn't "create a gamertag, profile content, or in-game content that other users may be offended by, this includes comments that look, sound like, stand for, hint at, abbreviate, or insinuate any of the following: profane words/phrases, topics or content of a sexual nature, hate speech (including but not limited to racial, ethnic, or religious slurs), illegal drugs/controlled substances, or illegal activities."

Apparently someone spied Moore's city name, was offended (or assumed Moore was trying to offend), and reported it to Microsoft.

Instead of verifying whether the town's name was real by, you know, taking five seconds to Google it, Microsoft suspended Moore from LIVE for several days--until he managed to convince them Fort Gay was really a town in Wayne County, West Virginia, near the state's border with Kentucky.

"I was mad. ... It makes me feel like they hate gay people," Moore told AP News. "I'm not even gay, and it makes me feel like they were discriminating."

Moore attempted to resolve the situation by contacting customer service, but was warned off using the name--even after asking the rep to Google Fort Gay's zip code. The town's major David Thompson got involved, but was reportedly told by Microsoft that the veracity of the city's name didn't matter, and that the word "gay" was inappropriate regardless.

By the time the issue was escalated to LIVE policy and enforcement director Stephen Toulouse's attention, the damage was done. Toulouse acknowledged it as an unfortunate mistake, and says he'll be contacting Moore to apologize.

Weirder still, Microsoft recently updated its Xbox LIVE code of conduct policy to allow gamers to use sexual orientation identifiers like lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, and straight in their Gamertag or profile.

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Matt Peckham

PC World (US online)
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