I had a run in with the police a few weeks ago. Yeah… that’s right… I’m so gangsta!
However, if you’re expecting to hear about car chases, my time in prison with a big bloke from Norfolk who kept calling me Doris, or the witty repartee only an obnoxious police officer with a Napoleon complex can provide – I’m sorry, but you’re backing the wrong horse.
You see, my beef was with the internet police, and it happened on a Tuesday morning, at my desk in the office, whilst eating a delicious biscuit.
After publishing that week’s Snarky Tuesday over breakfast, I had taken my 40-mile wacky race into work and started the daily toil in earnest. After shuffling papers for a while, I grabbed a coffee and checked in on the website to see how the early morning traffic was looking.
With an entire Jammy Dodger wedged into my stupid mouth, I clicked on my website, and nothing happened.
Not one to give up that easily, I clicked on the link a further fifteen times, just to make sure. Nothing. I slammed the mouse on the desk and threw it to the floor… to check it wasn’t a particle of dust blocking the circuit board thingy. Still nothing. Just as I reached to unplug the screen (in order to give it a rinse in a bowl of warm, soapy water), I noticed a message:
This page has been blocked because of suspected offensive page content (fuck).
It seemed my website had been blocked because I had used a potty word! One single use of the f-bomb, within a 700-word, skilfully crafted, totally sexy, mind-bendingly funny, essay had gotten me disavowed from the internet.
I have an issue with this.
Let’s start with how many times you think that word appears on the internet? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it’s more than once – and not always by me.
And how offensive is that word anyway?
It’s been employed within canonised works of literature for centuries, shouted a thousand times a day at most North London comprehensive schools, and by way of several variants, frequently used to describe every politician on the planet.
You’re telling me that Islamic State can jump on YouTube as a means of repulsing the world with their shenanigans, but due to 4 letters arranged in a certain way I can’t reach a two-bit website that gets the same kind of viewing figures Educating Joey Essex got (before being canned)? This is a joke, right?
I was curious. Who gets to decide what is considered offensive?
I spoke to the IT guy. I wanted to understand the justification behind being blocked in such a way. With nerd juice flying in all directions, he told me it was blocked by software used by the company that was based on a matrix of words and a particular set of algorithm’s that sets a redundant “cost” on something that I didn’t understand, at all!
I think he was still talking when I wandered off and bought a Mars bar.
Techno babble aside, surely there are repercussions towards this annexing of certain parts of the English language? It smacked of the overbearing result of a nanny state – one that seemed hell bent on indoctrinating a charter of unsolicited standards towards what is deemed acceptable and what isn’t?
However, at that moment of rallying my thoughts, and getting a bit political, I remembered a salient and very critical facet to all of this.
The computer I’m using, and the time in which I’m using it, is not mine. I’m at work for Christ’s sake! I should be, ya know… working.
In short, it’s all well and good to have lofty ideas towards how language is being embezzled by faceless censors with absolute power, but do it in your own time, eh!
Oh, and stop eating all the Jammy Dodgers!
Paul Millard 2015