Microsoft puts profanity filter on %@!#ing Teams transcripts

Just in case you blurt out that L***x is better than Windows? (That was a joke, PR friends)

Slinging the occasional expletive in casual conversations isn't so unusual these days – and online chinwags are no exception.

But if you believe that such colorful language has no place in a professional business environment – virtual or otherwise – Microsoft is giving you a way of keeping it out of sight, at least in transcriptions.

Microsoft, Zoom, and Cisco Webex report a combined 300 million-plus daily users on their internet meeting platforms. At least some of those peeps will be tossing around an expletive or two during a heated or lighthearted conversation.

The air might also turn blue when Teams falls over again, as it did on Wednesday, locking out some via the web, or when Outlook for the web went dark for hours on Tuesday, not that you could hear the ranting via Microsoft's broken services.

In any case, this week Redmond formally introduced a profanity filter for Teams that lets users keep the curses out of live captions and transcriptions. You won't be able to stop folks from hearing the swearing as the boss dresses down the sales team, or grumpy admins ask clumsy users what the hell they were thinking. But at least you won't have them go on the record.

The profanity filtering tool has been in the works for a while, with Redmond adding it to the Microsoft 365 Roadmap in February. The profanity filter is now on by default, though users can toggle it off if they don't mind swearing being added to captions and transcriptions.

A preview of the caption filtering emerged in April, and there are already ways to block bad language in other parts of the Windows giant's cloud.

The decision whether to keep this latest filter on or turn it off, managed via the captions and transcription tab in the user settings, is up to the user rather than the meeting's host.

However, what isn't clear is what the filter will read as a profanity. There are the obvious ones but there are also numerous gray areas. Would "hell" make the cut? What about "damn"? Not to mention regional and national variations of naughty words. What might be a light offhand comment in Europe could anger someone in the US and offend others in Asia. Maybe refer to George Carlin's NSFW list?

The profanity filter wasn't the only change Microsoft made to Teams. With captions, the full name of the speaker is displayed above their comments and the default number of lines goes from two to three, with further custom expansion possible.

For ease of reading, Microsoft has added four different caption styles, changing the font color, the height and position of the panel, and the font size, which along with the window height can add another extra three to four lines of captions, it's claimed.

The features are available now on desktop and web clients for commercial and government organizations. ®

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