Frak to Cleveland Steamer: Xbox Live's Big Book of Forbidden WordsS

In the 70s there were just seven words you couldn't say on TV. Today there are thousands you can't say on Xbox Live.

The seven words deemed verboten by the 1973 Federal Communication Commission were scatological, anatomical and, well, nasty. What they all had in common, though, was that pretty much everyone over a certain age knew what they were.

Today's list reaches far beyond that scope, at least for the decency policy of Microsoft's Xbox Live service. They include a fictional obscenity created for television use and sex acts so obscure that even the FCC doesn't get them.

"Our forbidden names list is many thousands now," said Stephen Toulouse, program manager in charge of policy and enforcement for Xbox Live. " Language takes on new meanings daily.

"My team spends a lot of time learning as slang evolves, as the Internet drives new communications. We have to work very hard to be abreast on those sorts of things."

The team also tracks curse words from other languages and keeps an eye on inappropriate phrases that could bubble up from geopolitical issues.

Frak is a prime example of how a seemingly innocuous or nonsensical word can quickly become a banned one.

First used as an oath in the 70s Battlestar Galactica, frak was made much more popular in the recent reimagining of the show.

Xbox Live's terms of use blocks people from using sound alike words in their Gamertag or in the line of text they can use to describe themselves or type a phrase.

But frak needed some context for judging whether it should be banned, Toulouse said.

"With Frak we had to take an interesting approach," he said. "We will take action if it's just the word itself and I don't have the context to know where it comes from."

If there is context, he said, then they try to decide if it's appropriate, harmless use.

"If they write frak you motherfracking fracker, that falls into a banned use," he said. "If it's just the word by itself, I look at the other content to see if it's OK."

While frak is likely the most popular fictional oath to plague Xbox Live, it isn't the only one.

The phrase Cleveland Steamer, the description for a sex act, managed to sneak by TV censors when it aired on an episode of Family Guy after actor Seth Green told them it was a nonsense phrase. But Toulouse and his team were careful to watch for any use of the phrase when Live first launched in 2002.

That's because they are constantly on the look for up and coming vulgarity.

"You'll see a meme running through high schools, suddenly you'll see this phrase popping up everywhere and we have to be on top of it, figure out if it should be banned," he said. "My guys spend a lot of time using Urban Dictionary to see if a new phrase is something that should be banned. It requires a lot of research, a lot of time sharing knowledge with each other."

So much time is spent on the research of fictional cursing that the team has developed an internal Wiki to track the forbidden words of Xbox Live. The interactive document includes thousands of phrases and words deemed inappropriate, much more than the seven once banned from TV.

The job of policing the communication of gamers is a tricky one, because it requires trying to decide what's appropriate for a very wide variety of people, Toulouse said

"People are being more creative in the way they express themselves and as more and more families join online services it moves from a service for the hardcore individual gamer to a broader family experience," he said. "We try to limit the tension of a family experience running into a hardcore one."