What happens when a policy meant to prevent harassment conflicts with someone’s right to self-expression? That’s the dilemma Microsoft faces after a complaint from a lesbian who identified herself as such in her Xbox Live Gamertag. The gamer, Teresa, complained to the Consumerist blog on Feb 25 that she was harassed by other Xbox Live users after she wrote in her Gamertag, or profile, that she is a lesbian. Many other gamers were incensed because Microsoft has an official policy of not allowing anyone to express their sexual preference, gay or straight, on Xbox Live. Teresa says that according to Microsoft policy, her account was suspended.
In another incident last year, a gamer was suspended after he typed his real name, Richard Gaywood, in his profile.
A Microsoft spokesman explained the quandary to MTV News on Feb 26, saying that Microsoft acknowledges the impulse toward self-expression, but they discourage mention of sexual preference in order to avoid the potential for online abuse. He said that when his team examined complaints referring to the use of the word “gay” in profiles last year, they found that between 95 and 98 percent were using the word pejoratively. Hence the censorship.