Microsoft makes it easier to report hate speech on Xbox and other services

Microsoft now has better ways to report hate speech—as well as to request that content be reinstated.

Microsoft may not have the social reach of Facebook or Twitter, but the company is nevertheless cracking down on hate speech that may crop up on its services with an easier way to report it.

On Friday, Microsoft launched a simplified web form to report hate speech, as well as a separate petition to reinstate any content that may have been taken down. Microsoft is asking users of its consumer services to report incidents that advocate violence against or hatred of users based upon age, disability, gender, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, and sexual orientation or gender identity. The services covered include Xbox Live, Skype, Sway, Docs.com, Outlook and OneDrive.

The new form simply asks for a link to the content, rather than any screenshots or recordings, such as might be found on Xbox Live. (Recorded audio or video could be stored online, however.) Users must provide an email address, though Microsoft may not need to contact users further.

Why this matters: ”Cortana, record that” may the most potent weapon against hate speech in a user’s arsenal. Trash talk and other taunts are standard fare among Internet gamers, and commentary on Xbox Live can easily cross the line. It’s hard to imagine that Microsoft’s other services will be as affected, though Microsoft’s Code of Conduct does reserve the right to block email and prohibits sharing of things like pornography.

A safer Internet

Though Microsoft said that it felt that the Internet was a force for good, it felt that it could also be abused. “As part of our commitment to human rights, we seek to respect the broad range of users’ fundamental rights, including the rights to free expression and access to information, without fear of encountering hate speech or abuse,” Jacqueline Beauchere, Microsoft’s online safety officer, wrote. “We also aim to foster safety and civility on our services; therefore, we’ve never—nor will we ever—permit content that promotes hatred” in various ways, she wrote.

Microsoft didn’t provide an estimated turnaround time for reviewing the potentially offensive content. The company said it would continue its “notice and takedown” methods for removing that content, and users could use the reinstatement petition to ask for their content to be restored.

“Note that if Microsoft detects an email address is being used to abuse this reporting process for the purpose of harming a Microsoft customer or Microsoft services, or for other improper purposes, we may block the email address from submitting reports,” Microsoft warned.

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has cracked down on unauthorized sharing of a user’s private content. In July 2015, Microsoft began enforcing bans on “revenge porn,” or non-consensual sharing of private images. A year later, Microsoft said it had received 537 requests for content takedowns via its dedicated web reporting page for nude or sexual content. Of those requests, 63 percent (338) were accepted, Microsoft said.

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Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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