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I will occasionally browse through questions and encounter a question that the firewall on a computer I frequently use blocks. Some blacklisted words that appear in the URL, such as "adult" or "gay" cause the page to be censored. As you can probably imagine, this is very annoying.

Viewing a Question on A Stack Exchange Site

I am not supportive of naively blacklisting words in question titles, but because this nonsense is so obtrusive to the user's experience, I would like to make some trivial changes to the titles, either by munging them or rewording them, to accomodate people like me who use computers that gobble up pages that it thinks are inappropriate. May I?

Possible changes:

Interpret Brainfuck --> Interpret Brainf*ck

What should my first adult bike have? --> What should my first grown-up bike have?

Do bras prevent you from having saggy boobs? --> Do bras prevent you from having saggy breasts?

And the most difficult one:

Gay (homosexual) and gay (happy) --> When did the meaning of this word change from "homosexual" to "happy"?

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If "adult" is enough of a trigger, you work in dire cir cum stances. – random May 25 '11 at 22:19
@random, this question reminds me of when AOL first came to the UK; people in the town of Scunthorpe weren't (initially!) permitted to sign-up. Maybe they were lucky.... :) – Rob May 25 '11 at 22:21
Might I suggest some different firewall software (since you're biking home at the end, I presume that you own said computer and network) as a better solution. – tvanfosson May 25 '11 at 22:22
Didn't you just blocked yourself from viewing your own question? – M'vy May 25 '11 at 22:29
@tvanfosson I don't have any control over it. – Peter Olson May 25 '11 at 22:34
2 – random May 25 '11 at 22:39
Ask your parents to put a filter allowing * and * and * and * – jcolebrand May 25 '11 at 22:43
possible duplicate of Is the language "BrainF_ck" offensive? – Adam Davis May 25 '11 at 22:52
That's a clbuttic problem with web filtering. – Adam Lear May 26 '11 at 2:13
Image #14 is what I want to do after reading this question. – Jon Seigel May 26 '11 at 3:59
@Jon Me too, me too. I always tear up when I read about incompetent firewalls. – Peter Olson May 26 '11 at 4:05
The assumption that anything gay is automatically obscene is offensive in itself. (And possibly illegal, if your web filtering software is installed by an educational institution.) – TRiG is Timothy Richard Green Sep 1 '12 at 15:40
up vote 21 down vote accepted

George Orwell, 1984:

Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year.

Now, you are actually proposing that we use Newspeak: a language that's based on English, but from which some words are deliberately dropped - in hope that

  1. if it can't be named, it doesn't exist, or at least
  2. restricting the language makes for easier control.

Even worse, the list of dropped words is completely arbitrary, as the words are innocuous in most contexts, and the list itself is secret.

So, taken ad absurdum, let's imagine that the people who make the filtering software will get offended by the word code tomorrow (as it's so obviously used on those perverted internets!), and decide to include it in their naughty-word-list. Will you come here asking for that word to be removed from all questions? But this is the same problem that exists with the term "adult"! There's no guarantee that the list won't be updated tomorrow to also block "grown-up", or "breasts", or "saggy", or "homosexual"; also, there is no One List To Rule Them All - should we keep anything which might potentially in some situation possibly maybe offend one person off the network? That's as good as shutting it down.

There's another problem to self-censorship: it wastes enormous resources. "Is this word likely to be banned? And this one? And this one? How about if I replace it with that one?" Asking for such additional effort will push people away.

Also, there are no true synonyms: by editing the post, you are changing its meaning without necessarily improving it. "Grown-up" sounds like the kids' version of the adult term "adult" - you've already shifted the meaning slightly. The sentiment around here is "edit iff it improves the post and doesn't alter its meaning," such "anti-censoring" edits would likely fail one or both of these criteria, and you might be seen as editing for editing's sake.

TL;DR: No. Basic decency is already required for the SE network; ridiculously convoluted self-censorship to appease a filter would be sacrificing too much for a tiny and uncertain gain.

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Note also that there are various ways to bypass content filtering - e.g. SSH tunelling. Although the discussion thereof isn't taken kindly here, they can be used for good or for evil. – Piskvor May 26 '11 at 14:22
I see it's a good thing I asked before I did anything. – Peter Olson May 26 '11 at 15:12

No. Only edit questions to make them more clear. If the question / answer is as clear as it can possibly be, then the Stack Overflow community has done its job.

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Management policy disagrees with this at least in the instance here:… . That is the only clear answer we have from on high and it suggests that the string |f|u|c|k| is out. – dmckee May 25 '11 at 23:33
@dmckee: Extending that to every possible word that might ever be thought to offend anyone is quite a stretch. – Piskvor May 26 '11 at 13:46

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