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Microsoft announces new Xbox content moderation tools to police “hate speech, bigotry and misogyny”

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Microsoft is cracking down on speech once again. Less than two weeks ago, it published a list of “acceptable trash talk” which dictates what players can say on its Xbox Live online gaming service. Now the company has announced new content moderation tools which will police what it deems to be “a growing toxic stew of hate speech, bigotry and misogyny” in digital life.

Microsoft’s Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, announced the new content moderation tools on the Microsoft blog where he outlined how he believes that “gaming must promote and protect the safety of all” at a time when digital life is becoming increasingly “toxic.”

The new tools will start to be rolled out to official community managers of Clubs (online meeting places for Xbox players) this summer and should be available to everyone on Xbox Live by the end of 2019. The tools will include “proactive content moderation features that will help create safe spaces for fans to discuss their favorite games.” Spencer added that Microsoft is also working on other ways to “reduce, filter, and develop a shared understanding of toxic experiences.”

Spencer also said that Microsoft will openly share safety innovations with the wider gaming industry and that “multiple teams working in areas like moderation, user research, data science, and others are already aligning with industry partners to share insights, and best practices.”

In addition to announcing the content moderation tools, Spencer said that Xbox will be expanding the composition of its safety team, which is nicknamed the “Defenders of Joy,” so that they can help “identify future safety problems and solutions.” He didn’t provide any details on how this identification process will work but said that the updated Xbox Community Standards were Microsoft’s way of communicating how it wants to “keep gaming fun and safe for all.”

These updated community standards include a list of trash talk examples that Microsoft has deemed to be acceptable and unacceptable. Engaging in trash talk that Microsoft deems to be unacceptable can lead to users having certain account features restricted and repeat offenses can result in permanent suspension of a user’s Xbox profile or device. According to Microsoft, if a user is permanently suspended, they forfeit “all licenses for games and other content, Gold membership time, and Microsoft account balances.”

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