Microsoft has removed a range of emoticon icons from video-calling service Skype that the company deemed offensive.

Emoticons is the name given to the smiley face icons used in digital conversations over text or instant messaging.

The icons in question include a smiley face holding up a middle finger and a woman's legs in a pair of high heels.

Users have noted however that animations depicting smoking and another vomiting remain accessible within the Skype instant message service.

The icons were removed in a software update to the program that was released in February, and Microsoft moved to confirm the change after questions appeared on the Skype forums about the absence of the icons.

A community manager on the Skype forums said: "These hidden emoticons indeed got removed with [update] 6.14 because of them or their shortcodes having the potential to offend some users."

He added that a dedicated area of the forums had been created for those wishing to show their support for the return of the icons.

Last year, Microsoft also confirmed that Xbox One users who uploaded videos via the console that contained 'excessive profanity' would lose their account privileges.

The company did not state how it moderated or judged the language used in video uploads, but did confirm it would suspend access to the Xbox Live service after users complained of being unable to use certain programs.

Skype was first launched more than 10 years ago, but was bought by Microsoft in 2011, and has since been used to replace the Windows software maker's instant messaging service, Windows Live Messenger.

The video calling service is becoming engaged in an increased rivalry with Facebook, with the social network already supporting both instant messaging and video calling, similar to Skype.

Earlier this year, the social media giant purchased popular messaging service WhatsApp for more than $12bn, and has since updated its own instant messaging app to include identical features to WhatsApp.