Xbox One Suspending Users for “Excessive Profanity”

It’s no secret that the gaming community can be… “aggressive” towards one another on live chat. Well, now if you want to gloat about that awesome headshot or yell at your co-op partner on Xbox Live, you better tone it down and incorporate “fiddlesticks” into your vocabulary.

In the past week since Xbox One’s debut on November 22nd, gamers noticed they were being locked out of games for “past behavior” — without any warning:

Presumably after support agents were flooded with complaints, Microsoft released the following statement to TechCrunch:

To be clear, the Xbox Live Policy & Enforcement team does not monitor direct peer-to-peer communications like Skype chats and calls. Also, we take Code of Conduct moderation via Upload Studio very seriously. We want a clean, safe and fun environment for all users. Excessive profanity as well as other Code of Conduct violations will be enforced upon and result in suspension of some or all privileges on Xbox Live. We remain committed to preserving and promoting a safe, secure and enjoyable experience for all of our Xbox Live members.

As a quick explanation: the Xbox One comes with a new DVR feature that allows players to record up to five minutes of gameplay and upload it for the community to view via the new Upload Studio feature. Any videos going through the Upload Studio are now being heavily monitored, perhaps to the point of excess:

rbevanx: I did and the Xbox One for suspensions, it’s just dafy and it’s worse MS are doing nothing about it [SIC]. Being banned for saying cr*p and plonker on the video stuff is just stupid.

MakVolci: … I made a video and said a bad word (not really a swear in my opinion, but I do understand their displeasure – the nickname of the name Richard) and now I am not able to put Kinect videos on my uploads or upload gameplay at all. I have no idea how long this will last. I do understand I shouldn’t have said it and know where xbox is coming from, but I wish there was a disclaimer about it since I had no idea I would be banned for that. Like I said, ignorance isn’t an excuse, but I’m just warning you guys in case you didn’t know like me.

Blood E Menace: If it’s a temp ban I’m not as mad. Still mad though. Not even a warning. I’d at least like an estimated time so I know when i’ll be able to use those features again.

JussieBud: I use the “B” word and got banned. Extreme concidering thats used on t.v. and the radio [SIC]. Also locked out of Skype, rediculous since that has nothing to do with the outside community [SIC]. It would be nice to have a better explanation than “CHOOSE SOMETHING ELSE TO PLAY.” At least the 360 gave details on how long a temp ban would be, I had to search the internet for hours to get some form of [an] idea what happened.

MakVolci makes a valid point: the warning is in Xbox Live’s Code of Conduct. However, since the Upload Studio is a brand new feature, it seems short-sighted not to put an obvious disclaimer on the program — especially since in-game chat is historically hostile. Given the in-game chat culture, it’s understandable that people weren’t totally aware of how strict Xbox One’s Upload Studio’s Code of Conduct would be.

As a private company running its own communications network, it’s perfectly within Microsoft’s rights to control their servers’ content in this manner. Is this outright censorship in the Constitutional sense? Absolutely not. But here’s the kicker:

oUNDEAD ZOMBIEo: Those rules are kind of funny because of the games like GTA, COD, BF, DR , Killer Instinct and every other game where you shoot to kill or mutilate someone or something.  COD specifically where you get in a game w/ 7 year olds swearing left and right not to mention Ghosts where you kill dogs.

The animated corpse makes a good point. Microsoft is censoring players for profane voiceovers even on rated M games? Seems counter-intuitive that one can’t cuss when commenting on a game that’s full of it anyways. While none of this will change the live interactions among players chatting during a game, strictly enforcing an unannounced Code of Conduct that players had to research after they were suspended isn’t a good PR move for a brand new system.

As a consumer pondering whether to purchase a next-gen system this year (I’ve had the same N64 since middle school), I’m not pleased about users being suspended over words that even the FCC doesn’t censor on air. The video game world has always been a bastion of unregulated chaos — and that’s part of the fun. It’s not beyond the pale to encourage better decorum in some form, but this isn’t the way to go about it. Perhaps putting rated M game recordings in a separate section would be a wiser move.

As for the XBox One in general, I’m not even going to address the creepy facial recognition feature to log players in automatically. Or the fact that it costs $100 more than a PS4. Or that it’s a behemoth in your living room:

(And that photo doesn’t include the separate Kinect box.)

Thank you, Microsoft. You have made my decision final — I’ll be getting a Playstation 4 after New Years.