The internet can be an ugly place, with its anonymity bringing with it the ability to insult and threaten violence without the repercussions that would result in the real world. Companies like Microsoft host a number of forums and provide various resources where it's possible for participants to create an abusive environment, and it's well within those companies' rights to police their own property and enforce the kinds of environments that are welcoming to all customers.
Microsoft recognizes this fact and takes upon itself the responsibility to ensure that its various hosted services represent the kinds of places where all of its customers can participate without the threat of violence or hatred. Therefore, the company has announced a new way for customers to report hate speech as well as a method for requesting that Microsoft reconsider and reinstate content that has been removed.
In the company's own words:
Without question, the internet is overwhelmingly a force for good. We strive to provide services that are trustworthy, inclusive and used responsibly. Unfortunately, we know these services can also be used to advocate and perpetuate hate, prejudice and abuse. As part of our commitment to human rights, we seek to respect the broad range of users’ fundamental rights, including the rights to free expression and access to information, without fear of encountering hate speech or abuse. We also aim to foster safety and civility on our services; therefore, we’ve never — nor will we ever — permit content that promotes hatred based on:
- National or ethnic origin
- Sexual orientation/gender identity
We will continue our “notice-and-takedown” approach for removing prohibited content on hosted consumer services, and the new form aims to improve the quality and speed of our reviews. When hate speech is reported to us, we will evaluate each complaint, consider context and other factors, and determine appropriate action with respect to the content and the user’s account.
To report hate speech on any of Microsoft's hosted consumer services, go here and fill out the web form. You can request that content be reconsidered and reinstated by filling out this web form. In addition, Microsoft will be including government requests in their Content Removal Requests Report that the company publishes on the Microsoft Transparency Hub.
For more information on how Microsoft is working to combat offensive content online, read the entire announcement. The company hosts more educational information on the topic on their web site, and you can follow along with the discussion on Facebook and Twitter. Let us know in the comments if you think Microsoft is doing enough of the right things to make their various systems into the right kinds of environment for their customers.