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Microsoft offers tool to report abusive content in its online services

By Matt Day Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Microsoft is making it easier to call out racist, sexist or other abusive content on Xbox Live and the company’s other online services.

On Friday, the company introduced a new web form people can use to report content that advocates violence or promotes hatred based on gender, race, sexual identity or other characteristics.

The move comes as technology companies grapple with hate speech on the services they provide.

Social networking site Twitter has struggled to police abusive behavior on its site, including one episode last month in which sexist and racist abuse pushed “Ghostbusters” star and comedian Leslie Jones to quit the site, a move that drew response from the company’s CEO.

Abuse has also been widespread in video gaming, an industry Microsoft, headquartered outside Seattle, plays a role in through its popular Xbox Live online gaming service.

Casual sexism is so frequent that some female players avoid voice chats in online matches for fear of revealing their gender and becoming subject to abuse.

Microsoft’s policy of banning hate speech isn’t new, Jacqueline Beauchere, Microsoft’s head of online safety, said in a blog post, but the specific tool to combat it is.

When hate speech is reported to the company, Beauchere said, Microsoft will evaluate the complaint and determine whether to remove the content or take other action.

“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,” Beauchere said. People who believe items were inappropriately removed can appeal the decision through a separate form.

Microsoft, along with Facebook and Twitter, was among companies that earlier this year signed an agreement with the European Union to “quickly and efficiently” tackle illegal hate speech online.

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