The Fort Gay Incident: Microsoft Still Kicking Off XBox Gamers With "Sexy" Profiles

Last Updated Sep 9, 2010 4:12 PM EDT

Microsoft (MSFT) is kicking people off again from its popular XBox Live service for inappropriate sexual expression. While technically within its rights, Microsoft is going against its own revised code of conduct that now allows gamers to express their sexual orientation in their XBox Live profile. The other problem? The gamers aren't actually talking about their sexuality. It is yet another example of a well-meaning company creating a hostile environment through miscommunication and miseducation of its employees.

In an incident exposed this week, Microsoft gamer Josh Moore was banned for listing the name of his hometown: Fort Gay, West Virginia. According to Associated Press' Vicki Smith, Moore's account stayed suspended even after he called customer service.

"I figured, I'll explain to them, 'Look in my account. Fort Gay is a real place,'" Moore reasoned. But the employee was unreceptive, warning Moore if he put Fort Gay back in his profile, Xbox Live would cancel his account and keep his $12 monthly membership fee, which he'd paid in advance for two years.

"I told him, Google it - 25514!" Moore said, offering up the town's ZIP code. "He said, 'I can't help you.'"


AP also reports that the mayor of Fort Gay couldn't even convince Microsoft that Moore lived in a real place. The ineptitude here is startling: Customer service had his credit card information and could have easily verified his zip code, if not his whole address. Instead, Moore's Microsoft issue hit the local news, the Associated Press, USA Today, GayGamer.net and, of course, BNET.

It is the latest in Microsoft's bumpy relationship with the gay community, but the collateral affects all gamers.

Harassing gamers probably isn't what Microsoft had in mind. It took several days (and news clips) for the Fort Gay gamer to get reinstated, after which Microsoft said that, yes, it was a mistake and, no, its revised code of conduct policy had not been changed again. The Fort Gay incident is a reminder that policy doesn't matter if the front line isn't educated to enforce it.

Photo courtesy of likeyesterday // CC 2.0
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