Scunthorpe Problem – Software Filters Misunderstand Words

S
Published in: words

The Scunthrope problem, also known as the Clbuttic mistake, occurs when spam filters block e-mails because their text contains a string of letters that are shared by an obscene word.

The problem originated after AOL’s profanity filters prevented residents of Scunthorpe from creating accounts because the town’s name contains the substring c – u – n -t.

The issue is also referred as Clbuttic where the regular expression filters search and replace swearwords and slangs with valid words thus sometimes altering the original meaning.

Here are some examples of the Scunthorpe Problem from Wikipedia:

Problems can even occur with words like socialism and socialist and specialist as these words contain the substring Cialis, the brand name for a medication commonly advertised in spam e-mails. Blocking of the word specialist is liable to block emailed resumes and curricula vitae and other material including job descriptions.

The resumes of magna cum laude graduates have been blocked by spam filters due to inclusion of the word c u m, which here is Latin for “with” but in English is sometimes used as slang.

In October 2004, e-mails advertising the pantomime Dick Whittington sent by a teacher from Norwich in the UK were blocked by school computers due to the use of the word D i c k which is also used as a slang.

📮  Subscribe to our Email Newsletter for Google tips and tutorials!
Published in: words

Looking for something? Find here!

Meet the Author

Web Geek, Google Developer Expert
A
Amit Agarwal

Amit Agarwal is a Google Developer Expert in Google Workspace and Google Apps Script. He holds an engineering degree in Computer Science (I.I.T.) and is the first professional blogger in India. He is the developer of Mail Merge for Gmail and Document Studio. Read more on Lifehacker and YourStory

Get in touch

Google Add-ons

Do more with your Gmail and GSuite account
G

We build bespoke solutions that use the capabilities and the features of Google Workspace for automating business processes and driving work productivity.

  1. Mail Merge with Attachments
    Send personalized email to your Google Contact with a Google Sheet and Gmail
  2. Save Emails and Attachments
    Download email messages and file attachments from Gmail to your Google Drive
  3. Google Forms Email Notifications
    Send email notifications to multiple people when a new Google Form is submitted
  4. Document Studio
    Create beautiful pixel perfect documents merging data from Google Sheets and Google Forms
  5. Creator Studio for Google Slides
    Turn your Google Slides presentations into animated GIFs and videos for uploading to YouTube