Live boss on gay ban row: We want people to be able to express themselves in a way that can’t be misused

By Patrick Garratt, Monday, 2 March 2009 10:00 GMT

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Xbox live policy chief Stephen Toulouse has admitted that the service’s current stance of the expression of sexual orientation is flawed, and that a solution to the issue of people being banned for including such information in their profile data hinges on users not being able to abuse the facility.

“It’s not an elegant policy,” Toulouse told the Major in his latest podcast. “It’s an objective policy, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s going to experience it in the same way.”

He added: “We’re taking a look at a way in which we can provide the ability for people to express themselves in a way that can’t be misused,” but said he had “nothing to announce” yet.

Toulouse said that the Live team has been working on the issue since last summer. It was thrown into the limelight last week when a woman was apparently banned for saying she was a lesbian in her Live profile.

“When we came across this last summer, we took a look at what we can do about it, and one of the proposals [was] ‘Why don’t you just stop banning those words? Why don’t you let “gay” be expressed?’

“And so we thought, ‘OK, that’s a reasonable request. Let’s go and take a look at the data.’ And we found that somewhere between 95 and 98 percent of the time, depending on the month, the use of the word – I’ll use the word ‘gay’ as just the predominant example – the use of that word was an an insult.

“You know, ‘That’s gay,’ or ‘You’re gay,’ or ‘Joe is gay,’ something that was definitely against our terms of use.”

Toulouse added that the current Live stance has led to him being personally abused.

“I tell you, the amount of mail I get that calls me horrible variations on ‘homophobe’… but once I explain, people go, ‘Oh, this isn’t an easy problem to solve.'”

Get the audio file through the link. Well worth a listen.

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