Saay What?


The British town of Scunthorpe is a delightful place to visit. It is a perfectly normal town, with just one tiny problem. Its name is often unfairly redacted online because it contains a "rude" word. See if you can spot it…

This sort of overreach is generally known as the Scunthorpe Problem.

I ran into this issue on a kid-friendly site from a major brand. I had the temerity to type a perfectly normal word. A child friendly word. Dare I say it, a word that every English speaking child knows.

It was instantly redacted.

You know what? I get it. You're allowing people to associate User Generated Content with your expensively-licensed IP. You don't want that to be sullied by mischievous youths typing in naughty words. You don't want the hassle of explaining to an overwrought parenting groups that you're not intentionally corrupting their kids. It's just a hassle.

So slap on a profanity filter. Just blanket ban anything from the Long List Of Very Naughty Words™.

This meant I couldn't write the word "writstwatch" without it becoming "wrisch". Talking about the town of "Cumbria" was truncated to "bria". The fashionable "cummerbund" was traduced to a mere "bund". Discussing a certain part of female anatomy became the Glottal-Stop-worthy "oris".

I was allowed the letters fag just as long as I didn't start a word with them. But, apparently, the filter let them through if they were on the start of a newline!

"Condom" was not a banned word but, weirdly, "kondum" was.

Of course, in the end, it's pretty easy to evade profanity filters. In this case, I just abused Unicode to get some bold characters. But there are dozens of ways a moderately intelligent child could bypass this sort of filtering.

The list of bad words was fairly short. A creative mind could come up with some thunderingly good swears which would make a sailor blush - and wouldn't be stopped by this bowdlerising machine.

The word I was trying to type - if you haven't guessed it from the title of this post - was… "Saturday".


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