A lot of people who’ve heard about MSN Spaces have also seen or heard about the the MSN Spaces: seven dirty blogs post on Boing Boing. In fact that post is so popular it’s the first result currently returned by searching Google for ‘MSN Spaces’, this search also results in an ad for SixApart’s TypePad blog hosting service which is also interesting but something I’ll post about another day.
Mike Connelly (the Group Program Manager of the Spaces team) has a post entitled Comments on Content Moderation where he writes
One of our main goals for Spaces was to create a platform for people to share their thoughts and feelings with their friends and the outside world. However, we wanted to make Spaces usable by not only the people who are blogging today, but also be approachable by the general internet user, who might not have heard of blogging previously, or been given an opportunity to try it out.
Unfortunately, whenever you create an open platform for people to say whatever they want, and open it up to the wide world (14 languages, in 26 different markets), there is always a handful of people who spoil the party, and post a bunch of inappropriate (and in some cases illegal) stuff. And to make matters worse, what exactly is deemed “appropriate” or not is very subjective, not only from person to person, but from country to country.
So, we need to do what we can to make our platform available for people to use in the way they like, but we want to keep wildly inappropriate stuff outside of public forums.
However, there is 1% left over. Not everyone on the internet subscribes to the same “netiquette” that some of us who have been around for awhile know and understand. So, we do one proactive thing, to make the world a little less bumpy. We block a set of specific words from being used in 3 areas: the url you select, the title of your Space, and the title of your blog entry. These three fields are reused and displayed in a variety of areas, like search results, so we thought it would be a little thing we could do to cut down on the obvious cases that would most easily offend.
As part of trying to get Spaces to be something that is widely adopted by the general population as opposed to a small subset of society (most estimates are that less than 1% of Americans have weblogs and even at Microsoft where we are all mostly completely comfortable online there are about 3% of the employees blogging) the decision was made to discourage the usage of inappropriate language in parts of the space that would be reused outside the context of the space. One can use whatever language they want in posts, comments, and their various lists. However post titles, blog titles and URLs can’t contain words certain “inappropriate” words [for some definition of inappropriate].
So far although I’ve seen lots of posts deriding the simplistic nature of the profanity filter [of course, every profanity filter I’ve seen can be tricked or causes a large number of false positives] I’ve not seen many posts from existing or potential users of Spaces about how they feel about this. What are your thoughts?