At the end of the Touch Rugby season, I put up a page to congratulate my son's team for winning their grade. Imagine my surprise when I was in the library and the page came up blocked — Unsuitable Material. Turns out I had made a typo and left out the 'g' in Touch Rugby - leaving Touch ...., well, don't want to get this page blocked as well.
It reminded me of stories I'd heard in the '90s about Scunthorpe in the UK being blocked by search engines because it contained 'c**t'. Surely filters are a little more sophisticated than that nowdays? Apparently not.
I'd never been too sure if the Scunthorpe stories were true or if they were just apocryphal, so I did a search. Turns out that they are not only true, but the phenomena is known as the Scunthorpe problem. Other examples include:
- the British MPs being unable to discuss the Sexual Offences Bill and a consultation paper on censorship by email,
- the Royal Society for the Protectionn of Birds blocked cock, tit, shag, booby and other ornithological terms from their forums,
- residents of Penistone, Lightwater and Clitheroe have had problems with emails being blocked,
- the American Family Association changed all references to sprinter Tyson Gay with Tyson Homosexual,
- emails promoting the school production of Dick Whittington were blocked by the school,
- words such as assassinate and classic have been changed to buttbuttinate and clbuttic - presumably in America where they don't know the difference between an animal and an arse, and so on.
Follow the link above for some more examples.
Coincidentally, the Radio New Zealand show Mediawatch last week had some commentators saying how easy it is to filter bad words from comments in on line forums. Not so easy as you might think. If a post about touch rugby can get blocked by a web filter because of a single typo in the file name, maybe we do need to get a bit of AI onto it. I am pretty sure the library used to use Web Marshal - but I don't see any evidence of it on the screen shot.