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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 10, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 37
Overzealous Xbox censors boot Fort Gay, WV resident
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Overzealous Xbox censors boot Fort Gay, WV resident

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

Microsoft Corporation and Xbox Live are issuing a formal apology to a small West Virginia town and a 26-year-old Xbox gamer they accused of violating the online gaming service's code of conduct by publicly declaring he's from "Fort Gay" - a name the company considered offensive.

Fort Gay is a real town in West Virginia, roughly a 90-minute drive from the state's capitol of Charleston. However, when Josh Moore tried to tell that to Seattle-based Microsoft, they didn't believe him. What's more, they didn't even bother to check.

It took me 0.16 seconds to find 261,000 results for "Fort Gay West Virginia" on Google.

"I figured, I'll explain to them. Look in my account. Fort Gay is a real place," Moore said. But customer service 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 had paid in advance for two years.

"I told him, 'Google it!'" said Moore. "He said, 'I can't help you.'"

Microsoft suspended his gaming privileges for a few days until Moore could convince them the location in his profile, "Fort Gay WV," wasn't a joke or a slur, but rather an actual community of about 800 in Wayne County, West Virginia.

"At first I thought, 'Wow, somebody's thinking I live in the Gayest town in West Virginia or something.' I was mad. ... It makes me feel like they hate Gay people," said Moore.

"I'm not even Gay, and it makes me feel like they were discriminating," Moore told the AP.

Fort Gay Mayor David Thompson also tried to intervene, with little success.

"It was so inappropriate for them, they wouldn't even say the word," Thompson told the AP Wednesday. "They said, 'that word.' It's beyond me. That's the name of our town! It's appalling. It's a slap in our face."

Stephen Toulouse, director of policy and enforcement for Xbox Live, blamed the whole affair on miscommunication.

"Someone took the phrase 'Fort Gay WV' and believed that the individual who had that was trying to offend, or trying to use it in a pejorative manner," Toulouse said. "When it was brought to my attention, we did revoke the suspension."

Toulouse said he will contact Moore and apologize. Staying ahead of slang and policing Xbox for offensive content is a constant challenge, he said.

"In this very, very specific case, a mistake was made," said Toulouse, "and we're going to make it right."

Fort Gay traces its origins to 1789, when 11 people established a settlement at the junction of the Tug and Big Sandy rivers, across from what is now Louisa, Kentucky.

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