Microsoft Launches New Tools For Curbing Online Abuse

Microsoft says it’s joining the movement to curb online hate speech.

Today, the company announced two new additions to its online services: one tool for reporting dislike speech so that the company can take it down, and the other for requesting that the company reinstate content once it comes down. The move goes as criticism from Internet denizens about online abuse reached a new peak this month , notably after online trolls waged Twitter campaign against comedian Leslie Jones and then someone hacked into her personal website and uncovered her private information.

For Microsoft, the move is as important as it is symbolic. Up to 40 percent of Internet users have experienced harassment at one point or the other. People dont typically think of Microsoft first when it comes to how abuse spreads on the Internet. Those conversations tend to revolve about social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit, zooming in on howthese companies try to strike abalance between protecting free speech and cracking down on players who use their services as a route to promote violence or threats–with Twitter receiving more and more criticism in recent weeks. But Microsoft wants to get ahead of the game.

Weve never–nor will we ever–permit content that promotes hatred based on age, disability, gender, ethnic origin, race, religion, and sex orientation ,” Jacqueline Beauchere, Microsofts Chief Online Safety Officer, wrote in a company blog post today. As Microsoft notes, its principles and policies have always been this route. But the timing of this newannouncement is key.

By introducing new processes for customers to report dislike speech, Microsoft says, it hopes to make it easier for users to call the companys attention to the stuff that truly matters.Right now, the company institutes a “notice-and-takedown” approach, and has an internal team that evaluateseach complaint that comes through, considers context and other factors, and determineswhat action to take. This includes monitoring contenton its various products–including Outlook, Skype, Xbox, OneDrive, and Office 365. But with these new tools–and with more inputfrom its users–the company hopes reviews of abuse reports can happen even faster, and get even better.

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