Microsoft’s recently-updated terms and services contain clauses that could potentially let the company punish people who use its services with bans or account suspensions if they violate its new terms with things like swearing.
Yes, swearing. Saying bad words in the heat of the moment while trying to capture a point in Battlefield on Xbox Live could result in you being banned and losing your Xbox Live Gold membership status, for example, as could sharing an adult conversation with your significant other over Skype.
If that sounds crazy, you’d be right, but it’s there in black and white. Microsoft offered a summary of the changes to its new terms and services legalese, and the fifth point said this:
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.
And within the actual document itself:
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).
Don’t think the sky is falling quite yet, however: this doesn’t mean Microsoft is going to be actively listening to everything you say and do over Skype or Xbox Live because, as they themselves admit, “…we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so.”
Moreover, being punished for contravening these rules will only happen after an investigation, apparently, as Microsoft also writes “When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue.”
That means your Xbox Live swearing/cursing/Skype nudity will have to be reported by someone else as being “offensive” before that particular ball starts rolling, so as long as your audience approves of your behaviour, you should be fine.
Xbox VP Mike Ybarra tweeted that “This is no change for Xbox Live”, so apparently the possibility of punishment for infractions has been around forever, so nothing has really changed. Skype’s conditions, too, have long contained clauses around certain material being prohibited on the service lest accounts be suspended.
Storm in a teacup, then. Carry on.