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XBox (Games) Games Your Rights Online

Xbox Live Enforcement — No Swastika Logo 473

itwbennett writes "It's one of those questions that really should never come up, but as blogger Peter Smith points out, Stephen Toulouse, the head of Xbox Live enforcement, is used to fielding all sorts of strange questions. Recently, one of those questions was apparently 'Can I use a Swastika as my logo in Call of Duty: Black Ops?' When Toulouse responded with the obvious answer ('No, of course you can't, we'll ban you.') he was met with some pushback by people he refers to as 'contrarians' and 'internet pundits' who decided to educate him on the long and storied history of the swastika as a symbol of good fortune and how just because the Nazis used it, it doesn't make the symbol itself a bad thing. Toulouse covers the topic on his blog in a post titled Context and it's an interesting read if for no other reason than to get a peek inside the day-to-day issues the Xbox Live Enforcement team deals with."
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Xbox Live Enforcement — No Swastika Logo

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  • by metrix007 ( 200091 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:01AM (#34328596)

    The guys tone seems to be that he knows best and that his view is commonly held, and that the people arguing are only doing so for the sole purpose of arguing.

    I don't think that's true at all, and while a company certainly has no obligation to assure free speech to all customers of its service, I would expect it to at least be considered, especially when the arguments have a lot of merit.

    I mean, if his point is that they won't allow things commonly found horribly offensive then he should have simply stated that, without diminishing the people making the argument. All in all, he comes across like a tool.

  • Context and intent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:04AM (#34328622) Homepage

    While the symbol (and the name) are older, there are many ways to draw the original symbol that barely or superficially resemble the Nazi emblem: From orientation (right or left-facing; the Nazi flag always faced right) to the rotation (the Nazi flag stands on end at a 45% angle) to the color (the Nazi flag is red-white-black).

    That implies a hazy line, but it redefines the offense as one of intent, context and of what a reasonable observer would see.

    If you draw something like this [], you can use the "traditional symbol of luck" defense; if you draw this [], then it's a fairly obvious lie.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:06AM (#34328624)

    No one is playing the "Super Hindus" when they use the swastika. It is an inflammatory icon with specific anti-Semitic meaning.

    Its use ought to be banned, just as if a group called themselves the "Jew gassers" and tried to claim it was a tribute to a wacky Israeli troupe.

    Should anything offensive be banned? Well, MS has decided that they will cater to the lowest common denominator, so that means nothing offensive. These rules are indicated up front, so you don't really have a case that you didn't know about the rules.

  • by BadAnalogyGuy ( 945258 ) <> on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:09AM (#34328642)

    Buddhists would say that the meaning of the icon lies in the mind of the one ascribes the meaning to it. Therefore the icon has no intrinsic meaning in and of itself and thus they would have no problem finding another meaningless icon to use in its place.

  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:11AM (#34328652)

    Believe it not (and apparently you don't), his view is normal and commonly held. People arguing in this way for something like the use of swastikas tend to be immature or lying about their motives. There's nothing cool about swastikas, even for Hindus (it's a sacred symbol after all).

  • by Dexter Herbivore ( 1322345 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:23AM (#34328702) Journal
    To quote Stephen's blog in response: "They’ve read an article that’s contrarian to some position widely held, or they’ve found some obscure fact that contradicts common interpretation. Some of them claim to have known it as innate fact, others claim it to be widespread common knowledge taught to every single person in elementary school.Of course, usually neither is true at all. Most of them are just contrarians." I find that a perfectly reasonable argument to make. I've heard and indeed stated myself that the swastika by itself is meaningless, however I know that the context that almost any reasonable person would take it in is as a Nazi symbol. He appears to have considered the argument on it's merits as you've asked, so where's the problem?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:26AM (#34328736)

    The way people talk about the Swastika in the Nazi context you'd swear it was an actual weapon that they stabbed people to death with. FCOL! It was the idiots carrying the flags with the Swastika on it that did all the killing, not the symbol itself.

    To use your logic, attributing deaths to symbols and inanimate objects, you should never ever pick up a knife again or even keep one in your house. How many millions of people have been killed by knives since they were first created?

  • javascript (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forwardhairbrush ( 714823 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:32AM (#34328774)

    What the hell? I really can't scroll down on your site without javascript enabled?

    I'm sure your content was compelling though.

  • by MareLooke ( 1003332 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:43AM (#34328840) Homepage

    For most people the thing that makes them "cool" is exactly the same thing why they are banned on Xbox Live (and in half of Europe): their link to the Nazis.

  • by guyminuslife ( 1349809 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:44AM (#34328850)

    His view is commonly held. The people who are arguing, most likely, are only doing so for the sole purpose of arguing. I can't say whether he "knows best" as a general principle, but it's a good call. And an obvious one.

    When's the last time you heard the word "swastika" and didn't immediately think about its role in Nazi Germany? Here's my stream-of-consciousness: "NAZIS! HITLER! WORLD WAR II! DEATH CAMPS!" and then, if I think about it a little longer, I might think, "Hindu mythology? Wait, was that Hindu or something else? Maybe Sikh? I don't think that's really a Sikh thing...they've got the turbans but I'm not sure what else...what other religions are there in India? Jainism? No, that's not's not the Buddhists, I don't think...must be Hindu. Doesn't it point the other way, though? Do they do it both ways? I should check out the Wikipedia article. Maybe I should look up Sikhism, too."

    When's the last time you saw a swastika in a movie or a flier or a tattoo or a T-shirt, and it wasn't this bad boy [] or a reference to it?

    These people live in the same universe as we do; it's merely a matter of being contrarian, and a video game (correction: this video game, I won't speak for all possible video games) is not really an appropriate platform for reclaiming the symbol.

  • by mozumder ( 178398 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:51AM (#34328900)

    Like, you made a whole video game to accurately recreate the violent deaths of people for sport, right?

    And you have problems with people expressing their preference for a group that violently killed lots of people?


  • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:53AM (#34328906) Homepage Journal

    >>Here, it's mostly teenage boys donning them. They're ignorant of history and what the Nazi swastika represents

    Pfft. Nazis and their swastikas are pretty much the most recognizable figures out of history to the modern teenager.

    If for no other reason than that all the early Call of Duty games featured Nazis.

    While I understand banning the swastikas, it seems rather fucking hypocritical from a series that has made billions of dollars off WWII.

  • by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @05:55AM (#34328928)

    'No educated person on the planet looks at the swastika symbol (...) and says "oh, that symbol has nothing at all in any way to do with global genocide of an entire race"'.

    Well, no educated person except a couple of billion buddhists and hinduists. But I suppose they're not educated, since they don't believe in our God.

    When you get a city map in Japan, it's often littered with swastikas for all the buddhist temples. I'm pretty sure those have nothing at all in any way to do with global genocide of an entire race.

    He could have made his point with a little more respect. I can understand you don't want swastikas on an online video game service that's used by a lot of people from western societies, but he's pushing it a little bit too far when he's talking about contrarians arguing about some innate facts.

  • by MareLooke ( 1003332 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @06:05AM (#34328976) Homepage

    The USSR (whose flag you are referring to, lumping them all together as "commies" under that flag might offend a couple of other nations) was especially good at getting it's own inhabitants killed and in doing so didn't differentiate between various ethnic groups, for actual genocides I'd say a citation IS needed.

    The Nazis specifically prosecuted and eliminated Jews, gays, lesbians, Roma, handicapped people and probably a slew of other groups that didn't fit into their world view, quite a difference if you ask me.

  • Yes, you're right. But it's entirely a context thing. If I'm playing a WW2 game, I expect to see a lot of swastikas. I expect to see them on my character if I'm playing as the Germans, which you can do in any WW2 game with multiplayer.

    However, here it has nothing to do with the context of the game. It's being used to be provocative - and you would only do this using a swastika if you're a neo-nazi (which probably some of these people are), or if you're ignorant as I suggested. Every teenage boy recognizes the Nazis, yes, but it's ridiculous to suggest that they all *truly* understand the implications of donning the swastika - primarily, they don't understand that it makes them look like an idiot, and it doesn't make them look cool. Especially once you've played this game online with them and you've heard what they have to say - they're ignorant.

  • by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @06:07AM (#34328984)
    Which is why I should totally use it while I'm running around calling people "Noobs" and blowing their heads off with automatic weapons, then teabagging them.

    If in some other game, you're roleplaying a buddhist monk who has it around his neck as a good-luck symbol, its all good and dandy.

    Context people, Context.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @06:11AM (#34329004) Journal
    Do you really think that Buddhists and hindus aren't aware that a variant of that symbol was used as the symbol for the Nazi party, and that the Nazis were responsible for attempted genocide?
  • by RockClimbingFool ( 692426 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @06:21AM (#34329064)

    Prove it? Its banned in most of Europe.

    Unless your Hindi or ancient Egyption, you have nothing to stand on for using that symbol.

    It was bastardized by the Nazis well before anyone currently bitching about it was born. So for all intents and purposes, its a Nazi symbol.

  • by metrix007 ( 200091 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @06:23AM (#34329082)

    The problem is his dismissive attitude of the other side as simply being contrarians.

  • by qc_dk ( 734452 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @06:24AM (#34329090)

    You can draw something very close to the second and still claim the defense. It was after all a common symbol in Scandinavia. Carlsberg, the Danish beer company, used it as their logo until the symbol became too tied with thoughts of a rather aggressive southern neighbour. The Finnish air force had it as their symbol, and recently, at their anniversary, you could buy swastika rings. A Swedish noble family has it as their coat of arms. Incidentally that is where the nazis got their inspiration.

    The fact is that banning the use of swastikas is ignorant, prejudiced and hypocrisy. Isn't the COD series originally based on WW2, with the possibility of people impersonating nazis for their gaming enjoyment? So you can play nazis for fun, but you cannot use a 4000+ year old symbol because the nazis also used it?

  • by Jedi Alec ( 258881 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @06:32AM (#34329122)

    An innate right? No, they don't. However, if you are in my house, or on my server, I get to make the rules and decide how far my guests are allowed to go when offending one another.

  • by Golden_Rider ( 137548 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @06:55AM (#34329226)

    Absolute fucking cobblers. In nearly every city in Britain and probably America you will find a Mandir and every one will have swastikas. There have been 3,000 people at ours at Deepawali and other similar occasions (not your group of 20), and nobody is shocked, or wants to shock people. Your assertion that a handfull of people want to use the swastika to shock people is absolute crap, a large number of people use it regularly as a religious symbol.

    That may be, but we are talking about an ONLINE SHOOTER here. The only reason anybody would want to use a swastika in a xbox live shooter (with mostly male teenage players) is not religion, it's the link to nazi Germany.

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @07:13AM (#34329336)

    When's the last time you heard the word "swastika" and didn't immediately think about its role in Nazi Germany?

    When I did my puja this morning, Ganesha is adorned with a swastika on his palm. Next time will probably be when I do my evening puja.

  • by hjrnunes ( 1135957 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @07:19AM (#34329374)

    Well, you can't change the perception of the image, precisely because it is banned almost everywhere! And to be honest, I don't really grasp why. The argument "oh it was used by the evil evil evil nazis" is bull to me. So what? If we start banning things away like that, we'll run out of symbols pretty fast... If it was the portrait of AH we were talking about, I would maybe remotely start to understand... But that doesn't seem to be banned anywhere... And who are you to say what is bad taste and what is not? If it's a free world then it's got to be all free. No exceptions. What's bad taste next? Pedobear? Islamic symbols and lettering?

    Truly, I'm amazed at the stupidity surrounding such phenomenon. A lot of people seems to get shocked at one symbol, yet a lot less are shocked at two stupid wars that cause real suffering and death and solve nothing. Even less seem to care about unjust and unlawful occupation of territories and nations around the world. And I'm not talking about Americans. Europeans tend to fit much more in this description. They face the swastika with the horror of facing the son of Satan or whatever, but then they go happily supporting the war on Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq (although to a lesser extent)... Yeah, the swastika is the real evil here, that's what we should worry about... Fucking imbeciles.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @07:41AM (#34329486)
    Please enlighten and list which of the Crusades were held under the banner of the Union Flag.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @07:44AM (#34329506)

    Never attribute to malice what you could instead attribute to stupidity.

    Captcha: hubris. Appropriate.

  • by Inconexo ( 1401585 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @08:00AM (#34329620)

    For most white people.

    I had never seen as many swastikas as when I traveled to Japan. They were widely used in map to mark buddhist temples (just as toris mark sintoist temples).

    I also can recall a japanese anime series in which the airship and total weapon was swastika shaped (which I didn't understood at this age).

    Remember, in a global world, the westerners are a minority.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @08:23AM (#34329770) Journal

    Other people might disagree.

    And someone might disagree with me when I say that "it's bad to rape children". That doesn't mean I should adjust my position.

    If you think there's something cool about using a swastika to represent you publicly, then there's certainly nothing cool about you.

    It's not the person that's being banned after all, it's the swastika. You want to come back with a symbol that's not offensive, you are welcome. You want to be an asshole, then it's "buh-bye". That actually sounds like a good way to run an online community.

  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @08:25AM (#34329782)

    Yes, and where are most Xbox subscribers located? Hint: it's not in Japan.

    For Americans and Europeans, the swastika represents Nazi Germany, not an eastern good-luck symbol. This particular symbol will probably never be otherwise because of the magnitude of the Nazi party's influence on Western history.

    I don't know what's so hard about this... any 14-year old kid in the US that puts together a Swastika is just doing it to piss people off / get attention. Any notion of them actually caring about the swastika symbol is absolutely laughable. Xbox live is not the place for that debate.

  • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @08:49AM (#34329934)

    You need a serious dose of perspective if you think the US engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq are anywhere near the same thing as Nazi Germany.

    Start with a history book--preferably one written in German.

  • by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @09:07AM (#34330066)

    Speaking as a Buddhist... most of the Buddhists I know avoid using the symbol for two very simple reasons: 1, it's a symbol of pain and hatred for those around us, and 2, there are other symbols that carry the same essential meaning. The fundamental rule of Buddhism is "do no harm", and that symbol has become a symbol of harm for a great many people.

    It's also worth mentionning that Hitler's use of the symbol was a little borked... he actually used a mirror image of the actual symbol.

    So yeah. Anybody who's playing that game and wants to use the symbol is probably doing it for the shock value, or to try to piss people off.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @09:19AM (#34330140)

    At the same time, he does have a point. Bhuddism, hinduism or roman catholicism aside, the swastika is best known as the symbol of the nazis who, lets face it, did some pretty nasty stuff a few years back. Even now if you see a swastika in the western world its tattood on the forehead of some white-supremacist nutbar (or Prince Harry is doing fancy dress again)

    My point is, regardless of its other historic uses, when people see a swastika, they think of nazis. Much like the toothbrush moustache - people don't think of charlie chaplin - they think of hitler.

    Aside from going out to prove a point about censorship, why would anyone want to use any image associated with a world war and the execution of millions of innocent people?

  • by RichiH ( 749257 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @09:32AM (#34330230) Homepage

    Yes, swastikas have a long history of meaning good luck and prosperity all across the world. Yes, I would have preferred the nazis to use the goatse man instead of the swastika, but unless you are in the most remote regions of the Andes, a swastika means nazis.

    The twin towers had a different meaning before 9/11, Tiananmen Square used to have a different meaning and so did a lot of other symbols/places/buildings.

    And about the trolls who argue otherwise: They don't want to use the swastika cause they are deeply rooted in one of various old cultures or religions. It's because they want to shock people or they actually condone the actions of the nazis.

    Long story short: Fuck them. Optionally with a large swastika. Those are cool, after all.

  • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @10:09AM (#34330516)

    Why would ANYONE bring Nazi Germany into a discussion about swastikas? I suppose nobody should mention slavery and the Rebel flag either?

    Maybe you just played too much Pokemon:'s_Ninja_Trick_(Gym_Challenge_115) []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @10:15AM (#34330582)

    It took the cross/crucifix two plus centuries to be widely accepted as the Christian symbol. Before that it was viewed as a horrible symbol of Roman capital punishment. The swastika will probably suffer the same fate. As with all symbols, deities, flags, and beliefs as the generations continue to remove them selves from the origins they loose power and significance, it's just the way it works.

    The guy should just have said "good for you, but our policy doesn't allow it." and leave it at that.

  • by Rallion ( 711805 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @11:41AM (#34332070) Journal

    Everything you said is true (except for the last part about a simple in-game picture being a potential source of education and meaningful exposure--I don't learn all about the history of Christianity by seeing an image of a cross)

    None of it changes the fact that the people in question are probably unaware of these facts, and almost certainly using the symbol in a hateful way.

  • by Rallion ( 711805 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @11:49AM (#34332250) Journal

    Having deaths, events, emotions and other things attributed to them is actually exactly what symbols are for. It's kind of the definition.

  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @12:11PM (#34332600)

    Please. Everything he says is spot-on. The only reason this article is even up here is to give Slashdotters a chance to point and say "huur huuur Microsoft is eviiil!" once more.

  • by prelelat ( 201821 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @12:23PM (#34332818)

    I think your missing the point of the guys argument. He's not saying it's always bad to use the swastika as a symbole. He's suggesting that without the context of why that person is using that symbole they won't understand it. You are obviously educated heck a lot of people around here are smart enough to know that the Swastika wasn't always used for that. I think a large number of those educated people would also be smart enough to realize that the large demographic for these games even if it is rated M for mature aren't mature/educated enough to distinguish the difference between the two symboles. Taken in the wrong context the Swastika is very offensive especially if it was a symbole of someone who murdered your grandparents and everyone they knew, it spews hate. It's unfortunate that such a peacful symbole would be basterdized into that but that's what happend. To advoid that sort of hate and misunderstanding at this point I think the XBOX live team is right to ban it. If the main meaning in the western population were to change out of respect for those who use it as a peaceful sign then I'm sure they would change their minds.

    In the middle of a game with no context is no way to change that opinion, it can spread more hate especially in a war game. So yeah they might not be promoting the ideas of Nazi's but 90% of the people they play with probably wouldn't even have an idea it was used for something good and most of those that did wouldn't see that in that context.

  • by Maestro4k ( 707634 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @12:56PM (#34333438) Journal

    Well, you can't change the perception of the image, precisely because it is banned almost everywhere! And to be honest, I don't really grasp why. The argument "oh it was used by the evil evil evil nazis" is bull to me. So what? If we start banning things away like that, we'll run out of symbols pretty fast... If it was the portrait of AH we were talking about, I would maybe remotely start to understand... But that doesn't seem to be banned anywhere... And who are you to say what is bad taste and what is not? If it's a free world then it's got to be all free. No exceptions. What's bad taste next? Pedobear? Islamic symbols and lettering?

    It (and other controversial items/topics) are banned on most all forums online for a simple reason -- the vast majority of people using them are NOT trying to do so to engender discussion, but to troll/harass/etc. If you want to blame anyone for this, blame all the people out there that think anonymity on the Internet = license to be the biggest asshole they can be.

    In the case of the swastika though, it is most commonly associated with Nazi Germany, simply because WWII and the Holocaust are rather major historical events and so everyone learns about them. The Nazis used the swastika quite extensively, so it's quite difficult to disassociate them for purposes of teaching. Even if you could do so, why would you? There are plenty of groups who continue to use it as a symbol to promote Nazi Germany's ideals, including killing off everyone who's not blonde and blue-eyed. People need to know the context behind the symbol because it's still relevant. So here you can blame all those aryan brotherhood folks for keeping the swastika in use as a symbol of hate.

    Who am I to say what's in bad taste and not? If you're on a forum that runs on my servers on a domain I own, I'm basically god. It's my site, my rules. If you don't like it, go find somewhere else to discuss it. I'm betting you wouldn't like it much if someone started posting stuff you found horribly offense on a site you owned and controlled either. And this is exactly what Microsoft's saying. It's their service, their rules and you agreed to their Terms of Service when you signed up for the service. That ToS forbids using symbols like the swastika.

    This is a complete non-issue. What it boils down to is "user wants to do something that violates the ToS, company doesn't allow it and explains why".

  • by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @01:36PM (#34334080)

    Reread what was written. I didn't say the symbol is bad, I said that it's become a symbol of hatred for those around me, and that out of respect for those people, I don't use the symbol myself.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @04:27PM (#34336294) Journal

    What happens now?

    So now you get to ban me from your little online community. I'm surprised you had to ask.

    When the XBox Live people decided to ban the use of swastikas, they made a choice. Now people can decide whether they want to be part of an online community that does not allow swastika avatars or not.

    This is not complicated. It's not a matter of free speech and it's not a matter of censorship. It's a matter of owners of online communities being able to set community standards, and then users being able to decide whether or not to participate.

    Personally, I don't believe in buying hardware that requires me become a member of an online community and adopt standards. It's why I don't buy any hardware that operates behind a walled garden as long as I have a choice in the matter.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @09:57PM (#34338944) Journal

    Why Nazi symbols, and not others?

    Because the swastika is a very singular symbol in contemporary iconography. It has zero positive connotation. Zero redeeming value. Zero chance for being "misunderstood". Its associations are so negative in fact, that if you use a swastika to represent you online, it is reasonable to exclude you from being part of the mainstream. The swastika is a radioactive symbol.

    Are we to believe that the Third Reich has Xbox Live accounts?

    Probably not. But there are certainly plenty of groups and individuals who use the swastika as a representative icon, and those groups overwhelmingly hold values that most people find repulsive.

    Bob, you're arguing a very weak position.

    Number One: Microsoft owns XBox Live.

    Number Two: Microsoft doesn't want to encourage people who identify with Nazis to join XBox Live, since most people find people who identify with Nazis as repulsive. "Repulsive" is not good for business if you want to be a mainstream organization.

    Number Three: As the owner of XBox Live, Microsoft is completely within its rights to ask people not to use swastikas as avatars, since swastikas represent very real and very very bad things.

    Similarly, Microsoft could certainly say that if you use abusive racial epithets, you will be banned. In fact, a swastika is to symbols what abusive racial epithets are to words.

    It's a good business decision by XBox Live. People are still free to carve swastikas into their foreheads if they wish. And communities are free to shun people who do so.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp