Unethical Quote Of The Month: Microsoft

“By agreeing to these Terms, you’re agreeing that, when using the Services, you will follow these rules:


iv. Don’t publicly display or use the Services to share inappropriate content or material (involving, for example, nudity, bestiality, pornography, offensive language, graphic violence, or criminal activity).

b. Enforcement. If you violate these Terms, we may stop providing Services to you or we may close your Microsoft account. We may also block delivery of a communication (like email, file sharing or instant message) to or from the Services in an effort to enforce these Terms or we may remove or refuse to publish Your Content for any reason. When investigating alleged violations of these Terms, Microsoft reserves the right to review Your Content in order to resolve the issue. However, we cannot monitor the entire Services and make no attempt to do so.”

—-From the revised Microsoft Services Agreement.

I do not trust Microsoft to decide what is “offensive language” in my communications, or anyone else’s. Many people, for example, believe that it is offensive that I assert the duty of citizens to allow an elected President to do the job their fellow citizens exercised their rights to select him to do, and that they have an ethical obligation to treat him with the respect the office of the Presidency requires.

We are already seeing indefensible bias on the part of other big tech companies, such as Google, Twitter, Apple and Facebook, as they favor specific ideological and partisan positions and use their platforms to censor and manipulate public discourse. These are private companies and not constrained by the First Amendment or core ethical principles like fairness and respect for autonomy (and, as we all know, definitely not respect for privacy). The problem is that the big tech companies are ideologically monolithic, virtual monopolies, possess the power to constrain free expression and political speech while leaving no equivalent alternative, and are increasingly demonstrating the willingness to use it.

The big tech companies have proven that they are unethical, ruthless, lack integrity, politically-active and willing to abuse their huge and expanding power to advance their own agendas. At the same time, their products and services  have become essential to the daily lives, recreation and occupations of virtually all Americans. This is a dangerous combination.

They must be regulated as the public utilities they are, and the sooner the better.

17 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Microsoft

  1. I am not convinced that these firms should be regulated or treated as utilities. I do believe that we could reevaluate copyright law and patent law with respect to code.
    Recovering R&D costs for software takes much less time than other scientific endeavors.

    I am not sure what services Microsoft provides me when I license the use of their product. How can they determine what I wrote in an email using outlook is offensive. If I write a derivitive work of 50 shades of grey using Word or use Access or Excel to keep track of my porn collection how will they know?

    The real question is would Microsoft disable MSSequel server to those whose clients traffic in kiddie porn? What happens if I report that their (microsoft’s) messages are offensive to me insofar as they are attempting to bully me into acquiesence? Will they suspend their own services?

      • Agreed. Cable TV was regulated under similar concerns, and decades later is still suffering from the after effects, like packaging unpopular channels (CNN, MSNBC, BET, to name a few) that could not survive if left to market forces.

        Regulations come with extra fees and taxes. Telephone service (cell and landline) come with obsolete fees that the government used to buy off the telephony companies (EUCL, or End User Carrier Line charge for one) which the companies charge under the fig leaf of government regulation yet are allowed to keep for themselves.

        Many state and federal fees were dedicated to, for instance, subsidizing the building of phone service in rural and economically challenged areas of our nation. However, once that goal was achieved, the fee does not go away. Now the same fees are being used to pick winners and losers by the FCC in the broadband markets.

        Be careful what you wish for.

  2. This is a rather intriguing topic that can generate many different responses. I can agree that Microsoft offices agreement should be in place for users. This goes along the same lines as other systems, items, etc. that we wish to use. It is consistent with there license agreement. Social media accounts, Microsoft accounts and many more are multi-purpose and are used as such. However, there is that percentage that will create mistrust and misuse of them. Therefore, there are these agreements in place to guide the public in creating ethical decisions.

    The Microsoft agreement creates clarity to its users. When reading through prior to clicking “accept” it explains their obligation as well as our obligation as the user to adhere to the rules and regulations. The Microsoft agreement explains that it is impossible to monitor the entire services and will not make an attempt to do this. They do without a doubt fully explain that they reserve the right to monitor our content and will enforce their terms if there are violations of the services. This is including content that is inappropriate such as bestiality, nudity, offensive language, violence in a graphic manner, criminal activity, etc…

    This leads me to an overview of “privacy in the electronic global metropolis”, by Charles Ess, Digital Media Ethics. “Sampling of diverse perspectives on privacy leads us into initial reflections and then exercises on privacy and anonymity online. Following some cautions regarding the notion and possible (mis)uses of “culture,” we explore how different people in different cultures understand and value “privacy” and private life in different ways” (Ess, 36).

    You bring up an interesting point when you spoke on not trusting Microsoft to decide what “offensive language “is in your communication or anyone else’s. I relate this to Ess explaining our culture, along with background can play apart in what we determine offensive and how we interpret certain things. I can also agree that there are biases on the part of tech companies. Regulation is key here and with swift action. Another consideration by Johannesen, Valde, Whedbee’s book, Ethics in Human Communication “what conditions and in what communication contexts and situations can dialogue function most effectively?” (pg. 59).
    Ess, Charles (2014) Digital Media Ethics, 2nd Ed. Digital Media and Society Series.
    Johannesen, R. L., Valde, K. S., & Whedbee, K. E. (2008). Ethics in Human Communication (6th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

    • Bridgett

      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
      This seems to me the slippery path to The Fairness Doctrine, which purported to make broadcast media fair and representing both sides, and ended up being a tool of repression.

      Those in power (government) decide what ‘fair’ is, and end up with their thumb on the scales.

  3. I think it’s too late to create competition in a wake of huge monopolies. Breaking up railroads, was a physical service was possible. But telecom and computers aren’t that kind of product. Bits and bytes are part of the whole that isn’t really separable, the net demands compatability. How many of the baby bells are still around? How many provide the competition to give real choice, or are prices and offerings competing or more colluding? They must be compatible, like use the same rail gage, but software code forks reduce the ability of things to work together. Even LibreOffice and OpenOffice have growing differences. Splitting something nearly universal will give one or two baby microsofts who have most of the action until the stronger chokes the other. Splitting electric utility here didn’t affect the original much, just reduced the maintenance as the baby ECs don’t do infrastructure. (and they ALL spam phone calls) More competition never increased service here.

    I think some regulation would be better. If a product reaches ubiquity, it really should become less and less political. The huge companies, listed above as too much agenda pushing, are not people and have no more right to stifle my free speech than I would their workers. But they HAVE the power to stifle my speech or dox me and few can challenge them. That power imbalance over things that have nothing to do with my OS or browser operation is very disturbing. (hence my avoidance of MS office/messaging, Facebook, and Twitter)

  4. Who, exactly, does MS think is going to read and adhere to these terms? I’d say this is nothing more than pandering to the – we’re way to far down the Kool-Aid punch bowl of PCism to stop drinking now – idea that somehow offense to another must not occur! Let’s create a terms of service policy that few people will read, fewer will follow, and nearly none will face consequences for breaking but will allow us to say “We’ve done something to make the world a better place.”

    As an aside, has the team who wrote the ToS ever played on Xbox Live? These terms carry over to the online gaming world, and if you haven’t read the terms for using Xbox Live, you should, just for your own amusement. I haven’t been much of a gamer the last few years but I’m sure the online community hasn’t changed much, meaning you either tolerate the raving and screeching of obnoxious twelve year-old’s shouting out offenses to any and all fellow gamers or you have to mute each one to have any sort of peace in which to enjoy your kill streak.

  5. March 31 response for release April 1, 2018

    Jack, I couldn’t agree more with the idea of getting government more involved in regulating these abusive, profit focused entities. Of course the government would be better at identifying and punishing offensive speech. And, with the Post Office looking for work and the IRS without a recent opportunity to illustrate its fair and balanced approach to partisan issues, we can assign the task forthwith. Of course we will have to invent a new cabinet post and department. Only a selfish few, and probably the same group initiating the offensive speech in the first place, would object to higher taxes and a higher authority to better preserve our rights.

    In the end, we can stop the offensive speech, create some new gov’t jobs, a new bureaucracy to protect us and presumably, ultimately a monopoly like Comcast so that “service” can be taken to another level.

  6. Time to test the limits of just what Microsoft thinks “offensive speech” is. We have nothing to lose but our worthless Hotmail accounts.

  7. A true story:
    Once upon a time (2008), I was creating an avatar for use in the video game Rock Band on the XBox 360. This game had a very feature-filled character creator subsystem that even had a simple drawing program in it so that a player could create custom art to stamp on the avatar’s clothing (or, indeed, directly on the skin as a tattoo).

    I created a blonde girl with a blue shirt, red skirt, yellow belt, red boots, and a red cape . . . and a highly-recognizable “S” symbol on the chest. I named the character “Kara”. (For those who aren’t getting it yet, “Kara Zor-El” is DC Comic’s Supergirl.)

    The game would not let me use the name “Kara”, citing that the name was “not classy” . . . which was part of the built-in mechanism that prevented you from using various vulgar and, yes, offensive words in a character name that other people would see if you played online.

    I have a niece named Kara. She turned out pretty well despite having had to endure people saying that terrible offensive word to her multiple times per day during her delicate teen years.

    But seriously, this is what you get when Microsoft is empowered to be the naughty-word police.


    P.S. I learned many years later that “Kara” is also an Armenian word for penis.

Leave a Reply to OhThatGuy Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.