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MS man explains why it's hard to police homophobia on Live

"Consider the gamertag 'Bobisgay'."

Xbox Live policy manager Stephen Toulouse has offered further of explanation of why the word "gay" can't be used in gamertags or profiles.

Eurogamer contacted Toulouse to ask why Microsoft doesn't just allow the use of the word, and take action against those who use it pejoratively - as it takes action, for example, against those who use racist language.

"The challenge in this case is that the words themselves are both used as slurs and not," Toulouse replied.

"No one uses, as an insult, 'You're a black man.' Instead they use the n-word (which as an aside is of course forbidden as well). Unfortunately it's harder to define identification from abuse with sexual orientation."

Toulouse went on to offer an example: "Consider the gamertag 'Bobisgay'. Is the person calling someone named Bob gay? Or is the gamertag owned by Bob and he is referring to himself in the third-person?"

According to Toulouse, "The complaint process itself is designed to only show my enforcers the content so we can make a determination as to whether it violates the Terms of Use.

"Who made the complaint and who (beyond the gamertag) is being complained against does not factor in our determinations in order to keep justice, for lack of a better term, blind."

Which is why, Toulouse said, he and the rest of the policy team are working to "move beyond trying to apply a policy to the current situation", and instead "find ways to allow customers to express themselves in ways that cannot be misused".

"As I have stated it is certainly not an elegant solution," Toulouse added, "which is why I'm trying to make something a bit better."

Toulouse was recently heard speaking on this issue in the Major Nelson podcast, as we reported yesterday. During the same podcast, mysterious Microsoft chap "E" said it's "not appropriate" to express your sexual orientation on Xbox Live. Eurogamer asked Toulouse if he or E could comment on why it's inappropriate, but we've yet to receive a response on that particular issue.

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Ellie Gibson


Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.