PlayStation 3's New Problem: Censorship

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Sony's PlayStation 3 has hit hard times. The company has slashed production costs by 35 percent, yet the console still sells at a loss--and those sales dropped 19 percent last month from a year earlier. But these are not the only problems Sony is facing: Now comes a free speech issue surrounding banned words from the PlayStation's "Home." Sony has run into trouble with its efforts to quell what some may consider offensive language.

Sony has banned the use of the words "gay," "lesbian," "bi-sexual" and "Jew" -- among others -- as club names, and is filtering them from text chats. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that this has left certain groups unable to express their solidarity. For instance, a gay allegiance could not give themselves any moniker containing the word "gay," for it would be filtered out.

While it is in Sony's best interests to quell hate speech, banning words that are only negative when used in certain contextual situations plays on wobbly ground. Xbox Live experienced a similar issue earlier this year when it banned the username "theGAYERgamer." This case of censorship became even more complicated when Richard Gaywood tried to use his surname as a username and was banned. Similar censorship controversies arose when Wikipedia banned an image in the UK and Facebook censored breastfeeding photos.

"Home" has also suffered conflicts with racism and sexism. An Ars Technica reader reports, "You can't walk far [in "Home"] without finding people yelling obscene crap back and forth. So maybe they're tweaking the default voice settings, because Sony is going to have a real problem selling this world to families."

Add to this list of problems the fact that the PS3 is no longer the cheapest Blu-ray disc player on the market and you're left with a fledging console bleeding money and struggling to maintain order in its social applications. While I do not believe this spells an immediate disaster for the PS3, these circumstances carry with them a weight that does not bode well for consumers. If these tiny earthquakes persist, we could be witnessing the beginning of the end.

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