Posted by Virus Bulletin on May 2, 2007
Content filter berates woman for using own name in mails.
A woman has complained to the New Zealand ISP Telecom after an email she sent them was bounced back to her, with a message appended saying she had used inappropriate language for a business email. Content-filtering software was sparked after it detected 8 uses of the word 'Gay' in the email sent by the woman, Gay Hamilton of Nelson, NZ.
Ms Hamilton, who had contacted the company requesting sign-up details and who happens to be a lesbian, was outraged that her name was not allowed by the company's filters, and argued that such systems should only act on genuinely offensive language. A Telecom representative confirmed the problem, arguing that the filter was intended to prevent email abuse and harassment, and stating that the equally offensive term 'heterosexual' was also blocked.
'This is an old problem, familiar to anyone called Richard or from the town of Scunthorpe,' said John Hawes, Technical Consultant at Virus Bulletin. 'Filtering words is a tricky business, and such systems need to be configured with great care to avoid causing offense or even, in extreme cases, libelling the innocent.'