4 Insane Examples of Overzealous Internet Censorship
The Internet is filled with cultural riches, ranging from translations of ancient Mesopotamian texts to this inexplicable death metal video tribute to Arnold Ziffel, aka the pig from the 1965 sitcom Green Acres.
But that's not all -- the Internet is also home to a borderline unfathomable amount of pornography. And as a result, there are a slew of filters, software, and apps designed to make sure this roiling ocean of filth doesn't completely spill over into the workday, murder worker productivity, and tank the global economy. And given the all-consuming river of XXX fun this blocking technology must stanch, sometimes it backfires hilariously.
A Christian News Site Renames an Olympian
We can remember athlete Tyson Gay for a few reasons. First off, we could remember him for being an Olympic medalist who, as a world champion track and field runner, has achieved more in his 30 years on Earth than most of us achieve in the totality of our lives ...
Get your giggles out now, 9-year-olds.
... or, we can remember that one occasion when One News Now -- the Internet news wing of the Christian fundamentalist group the American Family Association -- saw the filtering technology on its website remove the athlete's offending last name and redub him as "Tyson Homosexual" during the Olympic trials in 2008.
Before One News Now edited the article, it contained such choice quotes as "Wearing a royal blue uniform with red and white diagonal stripes across the front, along with matching shoes, all in a tribute to 1936 Olympic star Jesse Owens, Homosexual dominated the competition." It's so baffling because we can't even figure out the agenda here -- aren't those filters meant to keep comment section trolls in line? So the goal is to take "LOL POLE VAULT THATS SO GAY!!!" and switch it to "LOL POLE VAULT THATS SO HOMOSEXUAL!!!"? That's not an improvement, is it?
Spam Filters Veto Basic English Words
In 2006, lawyer Ray Kennedy wrote three emails to his local borough council complaining about a planning matter. His first two emails never reached the council, whereas the final email arrived too late for the council to react to the complaint. Where did everything go wrong?
And no, his name wasn't Ray Kennedy Fuckgenitals.
Kennedy's first two emails used the word "erection" according to the first definition listed in any dictionary (as in, "building"). But this common term set off the council's spam-blocking software boner alert. And to add insult to injury, the emails weren't even regarding a building shaped like a giant engorged penis, which is a situation we've been seeing a surprising amount of these days.
Facebook Wipes a Town Off the Map
The world is brimming with old towns whose names have gained new, innuendo-happy meaning only in recent times (we mean you, Climax, Michigan, and Intercourse, Pennsylvania). Such was the case in 2011, when the 1,000 residents of Effin, Ireland, found themselves unable to list their hometown on Facebook after the social networking site deemed their fair hamlet's name "offensive." That's right -- the word polite people use to avoid saying "fucking" now gets censored.
Oddly enough, Hardcore Anal, Scotland, never had this issue.
On one hand, we soberly sympathize with the residents of Effin, whose town has borne its name for centuries. On another hand, the town's advocates didn't do themselves any favors when they said stuff like "Our best known export is Effin cheese [...] I'd just like to put down (on Facebook), because I'm from Effin, and so would so many Effin people around the world, that they're from Effin." You're really just rubbing it in their faces at that point.
The Entire Internet Blackballs a Museum
In 2004, a certain anthropology museum in London encountered a problem. Despite its wealth of historical artifacts, its emails were being rejected by spam filters, and Internet browsers were either blocking its site or rerouting visitors to naughty websites. In fact, a tenth of the museum's ingoing and outgoing email communications was being censored. Why was this happening?
Backlash from the powerful walrus lobby?
If Beavis and Butthead ever opened a detective agency, this would've been their career-making case. After a century of providing thousands of Londoners with a family-friendly education, the Horniman Museum -- which was named after 19th century tea magnate Frederick John Horniman -- was being vanquished from the Internet on the basis of its name alone.
But seriously, could he have picked a penisier hat?