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Microsoft can terminate its services to you for ‘hate speech’

This post first appeared at Fellowship of the Minds

Do you use any of the following:

  • Windows as your computer’s operating system.
  • Internet Explorer or Edge as your browser.
  • Bing as your search engine.
  • Outlook for your email.
  • Word as your writing software.

If you do, recently you probably received an email notification from Microsoft about changes to their Services Agreement, just in time for the 2020 election.

But most of you probably didn’t click on the link to read Microsoft’s new Services Agreement. You should, because contained in the Services Agreement is this:

3. Code of Conduct.
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a. By agreeing to these Terms, you’re agreeing that, when using the Services, you will follow these rules:

  • vii. Don’t engage in activity that is harmful to you, the Services or others (e.g., transmitting viruses, stalking, posting terrorist or violent extremist content, communicating hate speech, or advocating violence against others).
  • viii. Don’t infringe upon the rights of others (e.g., unauthorized sharing of copyrighted music or other copyrighted material, resale or other distribution of Bing maps, or photographs).
  • ix. Don’t engage in activity that violates the privacy of others.
  • x. Don’t help others break these rules.

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.

Nowhere does the Services Agreement even remotely define what “hate speech” or what “help others break these rules” means.

As an example, if I call Microsoft “tyrannical,” is that “hate speech”? If I, as I had, point out that Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates had said on four occasions that vaccines would reduce world population, is that “hate speech”? And if, having read this post, a reader post a comment criticizing Microsoft, am I “helping” others to “communicate hate speech”?

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Not defining these critical terms, the violation of which can trigger Microsoft’s termination of its services, means that Microsoft can call “hate speech” and “helping others break these rules” whatever they want.

Given the vagueness of its Services Agreement, how are we to conduct ourselves so as not to violate the terms of the agreement?

Read more at Fellowship of the Minds

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