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Microsoft bans “offensive language” from Skype, raising privacy fears

Microsoft has changed the terms of service for its video calling program Skype to prohibit the sharing of “offensive language”, amongst a range of other “inappropriate content”, raising questions about how it hopes to police the platform.  

The changes, first noticed by blogger Jon Corbett, include the interesting note that Skype’s ‘Code of Conduct’ has been changed to clarify that the use of offensive language is prohibited, and is punishable by bans from a whole range of Microsoft services not limited to Skype, most notably its gaming service Xbox Live.

Content considered inappropriate for the service includes, “nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity”, which may not be publicly displayed or shared.

Policing problems

The changes raise questions about how Microsoft hopes to police its service. The public display of content makes a certain amount of sense, and would presumably include the use of the service for webcam modelling, but policing the sharing of this content is less clear.

Would it, for example, prevent two consenting adults from having an adult video call? Is swearing still allowed on Skype?

Related: Twitter gives blue ticks the red flag

Rules like these would make sense on a public platform like Twitter (which is currently trying to crack down on inappropriate and offensive content), but Skype is a more difficult platform because much of what happens there occurs privately between two individuals. The new terms of service do not offer an explanation of how Skype intends to police the rules. Public content can be flagged, but private content is much more likely to slip through the cracks.

We’ve contacted Microsoft to clarify how the new rule changes are expected to work, and will update this piece when the company responds.

Do you think offensive language should be banned from Skype? Let us know @TrustedReviews.