# Profanity filter?

## What kind of censorship is appropriate on PF?

12 vote(s)
20.3%

13 vote(s)
22.0%

11 vote(s)
18.6%

15 vote(s)
25.4%

8 vote(s)
13.6%
1. May 6, 2004

### chroot

Staff Emeritus
It has been brought to my attention that some pf members feel our profanity filter is inordinately restrictive. I'd like to hear some feedback about the filter -- please vote in the poll, or post your comments here.

One bit of clarification: I personally consider PF's goal to be: Bringing together people of all levels of scientific knowledge to engage in good-spirited, healthy, rational, and educational debate, and to disseminate scientific knowledge and logical skills to the public. If you would like to debate what PF's goal is, or should be, you are welcome to do so here.

Keep in mind that this goal includes educating children, and most people feel that children should not be exposed to profanity.

- Warren

Last edited: May 6, 2004
2. May 6, 2004

### Integral

Staff Emeritus
Why is profanity of any kind needed to discuss physics? Of course it is rather disconcerting when you cannot even say Lip****z.

3. May 6, 2004

### holly

If PF removes or weakens its profanity filter, it will likely eventually be harmed by this, as a number of minors are on the boards. They should not be exposed to profanity as part of a science forum! I don't care what it's like in the "real world," we are talking about a "place apart" here.

Euphemistic wording should be allowed (durn, crikes, bull, etc).

My two cents' worth.

4. May 6, 2004

### dduardo

Staff Emeritus
I think the profanity filter is just fine as it is. If we remove it how else would we write messages to other people in morse code.

*** ** *** * *** ** ***** ** ***

5. May 6, 2004

### The_Professional

The profanity filter is fine the way it is. I disagree with the fifth option as it pretty much restricts freedom of speech greatly.

Last edited: May 24, 2004
6. May 6, 2004

### holly

I would like to note that flippant and irreverent use of invocations to God is considered profanity, and I see it on here from a "mentor," among others, frequently, and in a belittling manner that indicates it is not actually calling upon God.

The topic at hand is profanity. So I hope the filter can be touched up to remove this, since we are talking about profanity on PF and not merely vulgarisms, nor exclusively curses, correct? I would rather hear a vulgarism than a profane exclamation, but hopefully the filter can stop both.

7. May 6, 2004

### Nereid

Staff Emeritus
Our target audience is world-wide, and inappropriate language or content is ... inappropriate, and should be filtered out.

Is "profanity" inappropriate? Better simply say 'inappropriate'; no need for separate categories.

To keep us on track, I suggest that we take polls like this regularly.

Also, to Integral's point, is there anything we can do about that? It's quite annoying.

8. May 6, 2004

### Staff: Mentor

I believe it's best to keep profanity out. It doesn't bother me, I swear like a sailor, but in a professional or academic environment, you need to have respect for others.

There are a lot of children on PF. I think there need to be guidelines on content, obviously PF is not the place for porn and we all know how religious threads go.

I believe that the current policies in place are adequate. The mentors are doing an incredible job of keeping things going smoothly.

Last edited: May 6, 2004
9. May 6, 2004

### Staff: Mentor

profanity filter? who knew?

Very well said, Warren! I support that goal wholeheartedly.

Just to illustrate how pure and clean my own thoughts are, I didn't even know we had a profanity filter. While I have no problem with profanity in general (come to my office sometime!), it has no place here. I can't imagine any (expletive deleted)### point that I would want to make that couldn't be made better without profanity. (Leave that filter as is.)

10. May 6, 2004

### Njorl

Hey! We're already censoring the sacred. If we censor the profane too, what is left?

11. May 6, 2004

### ShawnD

As long as nobody is posting porn or twisted stuff like rotten.com would have, I don't really mind.

12. May 6, 2004

### chroot

Staff Emeritus
I apologize, I should have included the option to censor content, but not language, in the poll. I added the option.

- Warren

13. May 6, 2004

### Loren Booda

You can imagine my surprise at the previous generation PF censor when I brought up the subject of my housemate's pussycat.

Much more often posters on uncensored sites use profanity to pathologically abuse others than to express exclamation.

14. May 6, 2004

### chroot

Staff Emeritus
Some good points so far:

1) Many more words could be considered offensive by at least some people than could ever be put into an automatic profanity filter.

2) Our site has a very good track record of quickly dealing with flame wars, and has never suffered from too much "pathological abuse," as Loren put it. I attribute the success to our excellent moderation staff.

The real decision comes down to manual versus automatic profanity censorship. Certainly, even if the automatic filter were turned out, our mentors would individually deal with rude, profane, or inappropriate posts -- something we already do every day.

In some cases, a bad word or two is probably not a big deal, such as when they are used to denote emphasis.

At least one user has expressed that they would rather our staff manually deal with unncessarily profane posts, rather than filtering out bad words automatically.

- Warren

15. May 7, 2004

There's a profanity filter? I really had no idea...

Guess I have a habit of automatically modifying my language to suit my audience.

16. May 7, 2004

### Bystander

Might be a bit more utility in a "troll list/banned user list" --- saves paying attention to "dead" threads. eg, there is no point in replying to Lifegazer, since LG is no longer welcome on PF. Dunno 'bout Nereid and Russ, but there's a thread in Astro that's kinda hanging --- Nomos Prime may, or may NOT, be an active member these days, and there's precious little indication from examining user profiles.

17. May 7, 2004

### Monique

Staff Emeritus
Really, I don't know why this even needs discussion, not that it is a bad thing that it's being discussed.

Some words just don't have a place on a discussion forum and should be censored. There are cases though that a word doesn't have an offensive tone or are mistakingly censored, in which case a complaint can be made and the filter adjusted.

I remember the time we weren't allowed to say cockroach, now we can :) I've never had issues with the filter.. wasn't even sure it was still there :)

18. May 7, 2004

### Math Is Hard

Staff Emeritus
The only problem I ever had was trying to talk about ****ake mushrooms.

19. May 7, 2004

### lethe

seems a lot of people here like the censorship that goes on here. personally, i feel that censorship has no place in an academic environment where the goal should be unrestricted flow of ideas (ideas relating to physics in particular, should be the goal here at physicsforums). a censorship filter has no place in such an environment.

if there are discussions which run counter to the goal of free flow of academic ideas relating to physics, then certainly they should be removed, but it is impossible for a computer to distinguish.

by installing a software filter here, the powers that be at this site have decided that certain words have no place in an academic discussion, regardless of context for those words.

the very idea of "powers that be" deciding what words can and cannot be used in an across the board ban is antithetical to the very atmosphere that fosters academic freedom.

who gets to decide which words? who decides why some words are bad? should it be based on american broadcasting standards? should the users have input? and what about children? should they be allowed to view words like f u c k? how about words like c r a p, or blasphemy like "god is dead". in some places, blasphemy is a worse crime than foul language. why should one be censored but not the other? if we decide on the most prurient set of rules for filtering out language that we deem "unacceptable regardless of context", so that we cannot possibly offend anyone, we may end up finding there are more things we cannot say than that we can.

of course, it doesn't seem like we are in danger of anything like that happening, but the principle of censorship is there. i think freedom of expression is a better principle than censorship.

i do not mean to imply by anything i say that i think that discourteous or infantile behaviour should be allowed. i just think that the internet is a place whose founding principle is freedom of expression, not restriction of expression. the internet gives me the ability to converse with a variety of people all over the globe, from many different societies with different morals. should the morals of one society be imposed on everyone here?

as it stands now, there are words that i cannot use here on physicsforums that i can use in the following places: while discussing physics with colleagues, while discussing physics with my advisor, while discussing physics on sci.physics.research, and while publishing a preprint on the arxiv. and in all cases, nothing inflammatory, rude, or infantile is implied.

it is worth noting that you can even, on occasion, find the moderators of spr themselves using the occasional curse word in a casual way that i think helps illuminate their points.

as it stands, physicsforums is BY FAR the least free place there is to discuss physics, whereas because of its nature of being an internet message board, it ought to be the most free place to discuss physics.

in short, my position is this: moderation = good, censorship = bad

20. May 7, 2004

### lethe

this is the very kind of thinking that upsets me