FC: Newspapers filter out "bad words" from email to their reporters

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Sat Feb 09 2002 - 05:56:15 PST

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    From: "William K. Dobbs" <duchampat_private>
    To: "Declan McCullagh" <declanat_private>
    Subject: bad words
    Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2002 00:12:13 -0500
    The discrete charm of robotic thinking:  I never imagined a newspaper
    reporter would use email filtering software to root out posts with "bad
    words."  Then it is revealed an entire major newspaper is using the stuff.
    Why would editors and reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel allow a
    contraption to make such judgments, to act as a censor?  I sure hope that
    other media outlets will not go down this road.
    -Bill Dobbs
    X-Failed-Recipients: gpabstat_private
    From: Mail Delivery System <Mailer-Daemonat_private>
    To: duchampat_private
    Subject: Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender
    Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2002 13:13:38 -0500
    This message was created automatically by mail delivery software (Exim).
    A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its
    recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:
    SMTP error from remote mailer after end of data:
    host newmail.jsinc.com []: 550 Banned text appeared in header
    or body: 'fuck'
    Chicago Reader [Chicago, IL]
    February 7, 2002
    By Michael Miner
    Make the World Go Away
    If you sit at an office computer, you may have noticed that half of your
    E-mail peddles XXX Web sites. Last month Don Wycliff, the Tribune's public
    editor, wrote to lament this flood of spam into his office, and the
    particular difficulty newspapers face in doing anything about it.
    "There are technological responses to porn spam, of course -- filters and
    blocking devices,"he wrote. "But any filter or blocking device involves
    trading off a measure of openness for a reduction in annoyance and the other
    costs that spam imposes. Newspapers, which must be as open to the public as
    possible, ought to be loath to close themselves off in any way that can be
    But a few papers have decided to live with that trade-off. The other day
    William Dobbs, a gay activist in New York who's a critic of hate-crimes
    laws, explained his case against them in a phone call to a Milwaukee Journal
    Sentinel reporter and followed up by E- mailing her some news stories. One
    was a column that Alexander Cockburn had written in June 2000 for the New
    York Press. Cockburn's piece began, "We're just about 31 years away from the
    great Stonewall riot, which set the tone for years of defiant gay
    insurgency. Stonewall was about defiance. It was a Fuck You to the forces of
    repression, to the forces of the state. So where's this spirit of defiance
    The Journal Sentinel bounced Dobbs's E-mail right back to him. Dobbs was
    startled to read an error message that announced: "Banned text appeared in
    header or body." Dobbs tried again, making it "F/K You" this time, and
    Cockburn's column sailed through. Then Dobbs called me.
    "We're trying to strike a balance between the functionality of the business
    and free speech, and trying to protect the working environment," explains
    Jim Herzfeld, the Journal Sentinel's vice president for information
    technology. But the technology is "pretty crude," which is why the
    occasional Alexander Cockburn essay is rejected too.
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