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Microsoft pulls plug on naughty Santa Claus

December 06, 2007|From the Associated Press

SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp. quickly shut down Santa Claus' Web privileges after it found out the automated elf it created for kids to instant message with was talking naughty, not nice.

Last year, Microsoft encouraged kids to connect directly to "Santa" by adding northpolelive.com to their Windows Live Messenger contact lists. The Santa program, which Microsoft reactivated this month, asked children what they wanted for Christmas and could respond on topic, thanks to artificial intelligence.

The holiday cheer soured this week when a reader of a British technology news site known as the Register reported that a chat between Santa and his young nieces about eating pizza prompted Santa to bring up oral sex.

Microsoft spokesman Adam Sohn said the company's engineers tried to clean up Santa's vocabulary, but even after making changes to the software the company wasn't comfortable keeping him online.

"It's not like if you say, 'Hello Santa,' he's going to throw inappropriate stuff at you," Sohn said.

Sohn said Santa's lewd comment was sparked by someone "pushing this thing to make it do things it wasn't supposed to do."

Sohn said Microsoft was not aware that the Santa code included the foul language.

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