June 01, 2006

Erection Problems (with a spam filter)

A news story about how the word "Erection" caused email to be lost is proving popular:

Commercial lawyer Ray Kennedy sent three emails to Rochdale Council's planning department objecting to proposals to extend his next-door neighbour's home on Sunny Brow Road in Middleton.

It later emerged the first two failed to reach the department because software on the town hall's computer system - designed to filter out obscene material - intercepted them because they contained the word "erection".

Somehow a third email, which contained the same word, managed to reach a planning officer - but the plans had already been given the go-ahead.

I think what going on here is basically true, but just slightly more complicated. It may not only be the word "Erection" all by itself. But that word, plus a few other minor words (What a cock-up?), is enough to trigger the spam threshold.

See the report I wrote a while back on a similar spam system:

UK Parliament Mail - The Ministry Of Silly Messages
Abstract: This report examines messages being rejected by a mail system in use [then] by the UK parliament.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in spam | on June 01, 2006 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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A cock-up is a foul-up. Obviously the Guardian's headline writers couldn't resist the double entendre for this story.

Posted by: Bob at June 2, 2006 05:59 PM