Hilarity Ensues After Software Used By Virtual Paleontology Conference Bans The Word "Bone"

Maria Arts/Shutterstock.com/Twitter/Ben Rathe

As an outsider you'd probably expect paleontologists to constantly use the word "bone", and you'd be right. Day in, day out, they can't stop mentioning bones.

This caused quite a lot of trouble at this year's Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP) conference, which was held as a virtual event this week due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Trying to keep things as normal as possible, they held Q&As with the speakers after their talks. Attendees only needed to submit a written question they want answered, and this is where the problem arose. The software banned several words the paleontologists needed to say, including but not limited to "bone".

-
-
-

"The platform we're using for the conference is apparently set up for business and industry meetings, not science, and apparently it came with a pre-packaged naughty-word-filter," paleontologist at the University of Tennessee Stephanie Drumheller said of the issue in an Ask Science thread on Reddit.

"After getting a good belly laugh out of the way on the first day and some creative wording (my personal favorite was Heck Creek for Hell Creek), some of us reached out to the business office and they've been un-banning words as we stumble across them. It takes a little time to filter from Twitter to the platform programmers, but it's getting fixed slowly."

One attendee put together a spreadsheet of banned words, which included "hell", "bone", "ass", "pubis", "sexual", "crack", "damn", and "beaver". Though not all of these are a problem, paleontologists do occasionally find pubis bones with cracks in them, which is somewhat of an issue.

The conference is a good example of the "Scunthorpe problem", in which innocent words are picked up as false positives for blocking by software, because it can't interpret the context. The problem is named after an incident where AOL wouldn't let people from Scunthorpe, England, register for accounts because of the rude word buried towards the start of their town's name. It's still a surprisingly common problem, despite software now being better at picking up on the context.

-
-
-

In one of my favorite examples, one poor Belgian political candidate, Luc Anus, was banned by Facebook from using his own name.

 

Comments

If you liked this story, you'll love these

This website uses cookies

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By continuing to use our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.