New Microsoft Patent: Bleeping Online F-Bombs in Real Time

Have you ever had your Xbox Live experience ruined by a potty-mouthed opponent?

As reported by Ars Technica, the U.S. Patent Office has granted Microsoft a patent for real-time censoring of audio streams. Presumably, this is intended to help shoot down unwanted F-bombs before they detonate in the ears of innocent Xbox Live gamers.

If the technology is implemented, one wonders whether MS would permit a free-fire zone on XBL for players who enjoy an uncensored, trash-talking game experience.

Ars Technica’ Jonathan Gitlin, however, worries about non-gaming deployment of the new tech:

I can also envisage a more sinister role, however… Imagine the same system applied to digital telephony, then think how valuable such a system might be to an authoritarian regime. As we’ve seen to good effect in Burma and elsewhere, the ubiquity of cell phones has been a good thing for dissidents who need to get their message out or organize themselves. The Great Firewall of China already blocks objectionable web content from reaching Chinese computers; what’s to stop cell phones from censoring anti-government conversations too?

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  1. SticKboy says:

    Sorry, I should have out more emphasis on "sort of". This particular instance isn’t especialy troubling – I just don’t like the idea of a Big Brother figure forcibly stopping people from swearing somewhere down the line.


  2. Austin_Lewis says:

    This seems idiotic.  Seriously, when did people become such pussies that they can’t handle a little bit of swearing?  I had a lovely conversation with a young urban youth of African descent who continually called me a nigger and suggested that my mother like to fuck herslef with hotdogs, all the while suggesting I lived in a cardboard box under a bridge.  I enjoyed him trying to ‘insult’ me while watching his score in COD4 suffer.  However, after about 7 minutes, I got bored of him, and played the odds, replying ‘at least I know who my father is and won’t end up making 7 dollars an hour for the rest of my life like you you talentless plebian’, which actually made him cry.  I figured it would: as of last year, 1 in 4 African-American children (or children of African American fathers) will not know their father at all, and 1 in 2 will not have the father play a part in their life.  Statistics from ACJS 2008. 
    What I’m saying is, sure, that torrent of swearing is fun and hilarious to listen, especially when delivered by prepubescent children with voices cracking, but a well fought out insult or critique of their life is far more hilarious in the end.

    And I don’t want to hear ‘oh my god, you’re so racist’.  Fuck you, stating facts isn’t racism.

  3. Blind Guy With A Gun says:

    So I’m guessing this censorship program is for other languages too? If not time to learn some new words.

  4. Ashton says:

    The Ku Klux Klan and other intolerance groups use the same reasoning when they spread their hateful, racist propoganda.

  5. Father Time says:

    You can try something I picked up from Penn and Teller. Use the most insulting complex words you can. Words that make you sound like you have a good vocabulary but are still really insulting.

    Misinformed self-centered ignorant monkey

    or stuff like

    "unpleasant, myopic, impotent " etc.


    "What for you bury me in the cold cold ground?" – Tasmanian devil

  6. Father Time says:

    Ok allow me to elaborate further. If it’s put in place for everybody in every game and you have to jump through hoops to turn it off it is censorship. If it’s something an individual player sets on and off than it isn’t.

    And by censorship I just mean censorship, I do not mean to imply that’s it’s the disgusting evil infringing form of censorship that most censorship is.


    "What for you bury me in the cold cold ground?" – Tasmanian devil

  7. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    If I play Gears of War, I expect to hear F-bombs. And if someone abuses that, well…that’s what Bolo grenades are for.


    -Remember kids, personal responsibility is for losers! Jack Thompson is still a dick…

  8. Brokenscope says:

    Yes, you will be restricted, because when your on someone elses lawn, you either live by their rules, or get the fuck off their lawn.

  9. Tammej says:

    Instead of being censored, I would rather always want to be made directly responsible for my actions. Meaning – getting punished if I go overboard. Getting banned, having to pay a fine, having to apologise, who knows what.


    Political correctness may have it’s advantages here and there, but just like the other extreme, often times it does not make much sense. We teach children not to use "bad" words. By doing that, we’re making those words ‘special’. And we’re not preparing our kids well, by treating the swear words as if they could kill a person instantly, just by uttering some of them. While it is important for youngsters to know that these words will often offend, the extreme to strictly shield them from them is the worst way to go.


    I thought we have already learnt that much, but I guess we repeat our mistakes over and over.



  10. Tammej says:

     It is very unlikely that this will work like a filter enabling everybody to decide what they want to hear, individually. Most likely, this is going to bleep out certain words, and you will not be able to define which words. It’s not even known yet if this is going to be an option, or if it’s forced on you.


    So, yes. It is censorship. I do not care if it’s their network, their house, they garden or they chimney. I will *not* be restricted in what I want to say, and in what manner I wish to express myself. Not offline, not online. 


    This is nothing short of (one more possible) beginning of the end. It must be fought.


  11. Thad says:

    "But I said "f-bleep-Nk", not "f-bleep-ck"!"


    My phone has voice dial and can’t tell the difference between "Dad" and "Ben".

    I think that, if you want to get a company to change its strategy, pragmatic arguments hold sway a lot more than ethical ones.  "It’s not right" isn’t going to sway people; "It doesn’t work" is.

  12. Anthrax says:

    Trash talking is the heart of any multiplayer FPS, anyone with half a brain should know that. Can you imagine playing Unreal Tournament without the dirty taunts? They’re half the fun of beating other people, so you can rub it into their half blown-off faces.

  13. Bennett Beeny says:

    It’s not censorship to allow people to have the ability to decide what goes into their ears?  No one is censoring anyone’s right to speak.  No one is fitting you with a gag.  If it’s implemented well, it will simply allow people to filter what they hear, and if they don’t want to hear you swearing, they shouldn’t have to.

  14. Artificial Selection says:

    When they told us at our school that we were not to say bad words we just started to use innocent words but we said them in a bad way, then they started to bann the innocent words as well.

    Then i started highschool and no one cared what we said anymore.

    But, this won’t work at all, cause in the end there will be no words left to use for neither insults nor communication, kinda like 1984, if we don’t know the words we won’t know the thoughts.

  15. Father Time says:

    I’d like to remind everyone here (again) what would be the likely result of this. The annoying kids will just find new ways to swear over their mics or be annoying. Or they’ll just be as offensive and insulting as they possibly can without swearing.


    "What for you bury me in the cold cold ground?" – Tasmanian devil

  16. Father Time says:

    The mute button? Oh wait you mean the headset…


    "What for you bury me in the cold cold ground?" – Tasmanian devil

  17. Father Time says:

    Technically it is censorship, it’s bleeping out words, that’s censorship buddy. The thing is though you’re right it’s their servers so they can do with it what they wish. Tis still censorship.


    "What for you bury me in the cold cold ground?" – Tasmanian devil

  18. infect999 says:

    I think this is a great idea…now I’ll only have to listen to every other word that comes out of 12-year-olds’ mouths

  19. TheEggplant says:

    As stated before I can see this not working as expected.

    "They’ve got the rocket launcher and they’re camping in the boulder field" becomes

    "They’ve got BEEEEEEEEEEEP and they’re BEEPing in the BEEEEEEP"

    Yeah clans are going to love that.

  20. gamegod25 says:

    My question is how will they know? Is it going to bleep you if you say anything even remotely close to a curse word?

    And honestly those bleeps are just as annoying as listening to those people. It’s easier to just mute them IMO.

  21. Flamespeak says:

    It makes me wonder if we will be playing a game that has characters that curse all the time, but during online matches you can’t swear…..

    Kind of silly feature though because people are easily muted on XBL.

    Strangely, I don’t run into anywhere near the amount of insult hurlers on the PSN as I did on XBL and PSN is free. I think it might have something to do with the free mic….

  22. Inimical says:

    This isn’t taking away your ability to swear. Swear all you want. It’s just going to bleep you.

    Personally, I just prefer to mute my headset when someone is bugging me. The bleeping is only going to get annoying and I’ll end up doing the same thing anyways.

  23. Adaptor says:

    If someone could design software that can filter complaining, singing, background music and squeeky voices I would be interested.

  24. Brokenscope says:

    Its across a private system, where MS is liable for the content, its not censorship, cry some more.

  25. psykoz says:

    Innocent Xbox Live gamers?

    Psh..  If you don’t like smoking, don’t go hang out where smokers do.

    If you don’t want your kid seeing or being involved in filth, then monitor what they’re doing more, and don’t let them play on XBL.

    If you want good innocent Christian Family Fun, go camping with your Church 🙂


  26. Paulrus says:

    I don’t support this. I see what they’re trying to, and its of good intention. But, fuck man, swearing is how I game. Too bad there’s too many 13-year old squeelers what try to act badass and ruin it.

    Wait, I canceled my Xbox Live months ago, why me care?

    I’m an attention whore. So visit my DevaintArt and feed my ego. Feed the whore.

  27. GoodRobotUs says:

    If it’s optional, it’s fine, but some people can actually hear expletives without dying from shock on the spot.

  28. SilverMelee says:

    A feature that silences trash-talkers and people who swear often? Strange, I thought we already had a feature like that: turning the headset off. Also, if you’d rather not turn off your headset, can’t you kick them and simply choose to set that person to an "avoided" player to prevent future matchups?

    Besides, I’d rather MS work more towards dealing with gamers who don’t play the game right (team-killers, folks who drive in the wrong direction in races, people who quit early when they’re losing, etc.). I feel these kill a game session a lot more than someone who can’t keep their mouth shut.

    — I do more than just play games. I draw, too:

  29. Papa Shango says:

     How about they censor out the ad’s from my pay service instead of cooking up ways to silence voices no matter how dirty they may be. If people are annoying you can mute them.

  30. Vash-HT says:

    They could probably add a delay between the time you say something and when everyone else hear’s it so that it can be checked before they hear it. They do this on radio shows and stuff so they can bleep out stuff live.

  31. DeepThorn says:

    Agreed, my girlfriend and I were talking about this, and we came to the conclusion that there is no way they could bleep it out without putting in a delay time to the communication or bleeping out the word fun and it think you are going to say fuck.  I agree with another person that said to ban the little kids, at least from communicating with the headset.

  32. Father Time says:

    I KNOW it’s a private server, I never meant to imply that we have some right to swear/talk crap over XBOX live, nor do I believe that. I just think this in the long run won’t do any good.


    "What for you bury me in the cold cold ground?" – Tasmanian devil

  33. Keith K says:

    You think this is about kids? HA! This is about ignorant, uncultured, likely-uneducated swine, ruining what should be a care-free and fun environment for everyone. Racism, sexism and general disrespect need not be tolerated by the likes of anyone.

    You think you have some God-given right to swear like a redneck on Xbox LIVE? Newsflash! Xbox LIVE is a private server, hosted by a private organization. It is private property. It is subject to whatever tyrannical rule Microsoft sees fit. It is not subject to Net Neutrality. If you have a problem with that, you are welcome to not subscribe or use any of a thousand alternate means of online communication.

    To be frank, if you feel the need to stand up and defend this ‘God-given’ right you believe you have to talk crap and belittle others in videogames.. you are a poster boy for the necessity of this system.


  34. DeepThorn says:

    I did that to a guy once after he acted like a total prick to someone.  I went directly to the fact that his father left his mother when he was born, and though he is still tweaked because of that, there is no reason for him to treat other people the way he does, then he shut up real quick, then apologized.

  35. KayleL says:

    I would have to agree. Now kids would say some deep-thoughtful insult that doesn’t use swear words, but is much more offencive.

  36. Father Time says:

    Err actually it is censorship, bleeping out words is censorship. The question here is, is that censorship justified? In my opinion no, simply because the kids will probably keep finding new ways to offend/swear at people in a never ending race, ultimately resulting in a high chance of innocent conversation be bleeped out.


    "What for you bury me in the cold cold ground?" – Tasmanian devil

  37. Austin_Lewis says:

    I dunno.  I keep getting banned from Insurgency, Day of Defeat, Zombie Panic, and Counter strike servers because they’re trying to maintain a ‘family environment’ which just blows my mind.

  38. Father Time says:

    Would it be all right for people to assume the people on the other end can handle swearing if they’re playing an M game (like Halo or Resistance)?


    "What for you bury me in the cold cold ground?" – Tasmanian devil

  39. Bennett Beeny says:

    If you’re "going to swear with some frequency" then your assertion that you’re "one of the more pleasant people to play with online" is surely debateable.  I mean if you swear online, then there’s a significant portion of the gaming population that would count you among the unpleasant people who swear in front of their 8 year-old daughter.  I swear in real life, but online I do not.  Why?  Because online you don’t know who you’re talking to or what family’s home your words are reaching.  Swearing is not such a natural part of my vocabulary that I do it without thinking (unless I’m badly hurt – and if I do swear in the company of minors or people I don’t know I always apologise), so I can temper my language for online play.  If other people did the same, perhaps online gaming wouldn’t have such a bad reputation among parents.

    Personally, I find that bad language is a serious problem online.  Some kids seem to think that swearing makes them feel/seem cool, because I’ve noticed that they even go to the trouble of doing it in text games.  I mean spelling out a curse word is about the lamest thing a player can do if you ask me.

    Not that I’m a fan of bleeps or other software that modifies what people say.  Usually it doesn’t work anyway, and all-too-often it censors stuff it shouldn’t.  I just wish that, instead of relying on software, people who are bothered by coarse language could rely on their fellow gamers to treat them with a little respect.  I guess that’s too much to ask, and that’s why stupid software like this becomes necessary.

  40. ObiWanStevobi says:

    Well, I don’t know about you, my my "gamerzone" is Underground.  Where "colorful" language is allowed.  I don’t want to get banned for swearing because gamerzones mean nothing to XBL matchmaking.  And I certainly don’t want to trust my ability to log in XBL to be based on MS speech recognition capabilities.  No way.  I assure you,  I am actually one of the more pleasant people to play with online, but I’m still going to swear with some frequency.  Granted, i steer completely clear of racial slurs and don’t scream profanity wildly into the mic, but I certainly don’t want to have to stop saying things like "What the f*** was that?!", "F***ing lag!", or some more colorful language reserved for people who join a game only to betray teammates.

    I’m not a fan of such an automated banning system.  I’m not even in favor of banning for such offenses.  Mute and move on, or actually restrict who you can play with by gamerzone, and enforce those rules only if players elect to be in that zone, if it’s that big of a deal.


  41. Brokenscope says:

    Instead of using it to bleep stuff, they could use it to make note of how much you curse and what you say. Making their targeted banning system better.

  42. Brokenscope says:

    Its across a private system, where MS is liable for the content, its not censorship, cry some more.

  43. Demontestament says:

    Consider yourself lucky then. Almost every kid I have had the sad luck of playing against has lit up the lobby and the game itself with racial slurs and homophobic insults within seconds of the game starting.

  44. ObiWanStevobi says:

    They would have to introduce some delay if they are going to be processing speech.  XBL is laggy enough as it is, I can’t imagine this being a good thing, as it will only be yet another bottleneck.  As Canary Wundaboy says here, if it’s going to be delayed, there might as well not even be chat in games.

    If anything, restrict this feature to ONLY the Family Zone.  That way, if you really want laggy in game chat in exchange for a few less offensive words thrown around, you can have it.  But I still don’t see why the ability to mute and disable voice communication isn’t sufficient for those that don’t want to hear trash talkers.


  45. Canary Wundaboy says:

    How would such a thing even WORK?

    Are they going to be able to predict what Im going to say before I say it????

    Or are they going to implement a time delay….if they do it would completely kill the point of voice chat, especially on the faster-paced games; "Sniper by Warthog." "I died 30 seconds ago dude."

  46. plkrtn says:

    Fine with it for the younger games, but with M rated, I’m not so sure.

    I’d much rather they check for boys whose voice hasn’t broken, and just keep them out of the game entirely!

  47. Ashton says:

    This is hilarious.

    I’ve seen a lot of older gamers who are just as bad, if not worse, than younger ones.

    My personal experience, 95% of the kids I’ve played with are somewhat annoying to your everyday guy (because sometimes they blab on about things that don’t really matter – one kid was talking about his weekend out at the movies once) or can be rather pleasant (Kids have complimented me a lot during online games). Older gamers though, think they’re the fucking shit, so they curse, they yell out racial slurs, they yell out homophobic slurs, they insult you for your playstyle – even when on your team, and they’re generally assholes who get off being dicks to other people, kind of like leeches, if leeches fed on primordial urges to piss on everything other than itself.

    Now, I’m not saying there aren’t any dumbass kids online (I’ve met quite a few on CoD4, and one on Halo 3 who was a total douche – I think his name was David Ebercore or something), but grown gamers, IMO, are MUCH more absurd and idiotic than your average kid gamer. Especially since they’ll cuss out any harmless kid for DARING to talk about something boring.

  48. Demontestament says:

    Hey M$, how about just making it so children can’t get into online games? That will eliminate a good 80% of the swearing, not to mention the homophobic and racial name calling. If this is actually implimented a good part of the voice communication in COD4 and Halo 3 Matches are going to be nothing but bleeps.

  49. farlander28 says:

    First of all, to Canary – they don’t need to "predict" anything or do a 30 second delay. The software to translate voice-to-text has been around for quite a while, so all they need to do is have it running against the data stream in real-time, inserting a bleep wherever an F-Bomb is recognized. This isn’t like live TV/radio, where someone has a hand on the button and a delay before sending it to air.

    Second, DeepThorn – to assume that they’ll force it on everyone, for every game, is ridiculous. I think it’s safe to assume that it will be a setting that you can switch on or off at leisure in your Live settings, regardless of game rating.


  50. Chuma says:

    If this software can be turned on and off client-side, then it sounds like a great idea.  If it is server-side then I am less enthused by it.

  51. DeepThorn says:

    Oh F#*! really?  What the F#*! are they doing?!?!

    We can cuss if we want to
    We can leave your friends behind
    Cause your friends dont cuss
    And if they dont cuss
    Well they’re no friends of mine
    Say, we can go where we want to
    A place where they will never find
    And we can act like we come from out of this world
    Because you’re one far behind

    Men at Work – You Can Dance (My lyrics though, haha)

    If it is not an M or AO rated game, then fine, no F-bombs, but if I get bleeped or hear bleeps when playing Halo, Gears, or any games like that I will be PO’d as hell.

  52. Keith K says:

    It’s not censorship. Xbox LIVE is not a forum. It does not exist as a billboard to exhibit your uncultured vocabulary. Swearing profusely is against the EULA. Violators are subject to ban at Microsoft’s sole discretion. Bleeping is really the least they could do. (Pathetically so. Im more in favour of zero tolerance bannings)

    Of course, the technology could eventually lead to true censorship, but slippery slopes arent their problem.

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