I got a message from Mozilla today (they’re the people who run Firefox) asking me to sign a petition against the “Stop The Piracy” bill. So I did what all researchers do and got onto Wikipedia to find what it was all about. It’s a bill promoted by the owners of the copyright of things like music and film, and it’s opposed by all the search engines. Google are up in arms because the bill may finish off Youtube and it’s not long since they paid $1.6 billion for it.
At the bottom of the Wikipedia page there was a link to “The Scunthorpe Problem”. “How on earth does a no-hope town in Lincolnshire get into the argument?”, I asked, so I clicked on the link.
The Scunthorpe Problem arose when search engines developed a filter to exclude the use of certain words and because the word Scunthorpe contains a very certain word, this prevented residents of Scunthorpe from opening accounts and from people who were searching for businesses in Scunthorpe from finding them. Similar problems occurred with Penistone in Yorkshire, Lightwater in Surrey and Clitheroe in Lancashire.
There’s a related problem when parental controls replace words which are considered offensive with more acceptable words. Thus the American Family Association automatically replaced the word “gay” with “homosexual”, so that an article on the sprinter Tyson Gay came out as “Tyson Homosexual”. The word “ass” was replaced with “butt”, so that “buttbuttinate” replaced “assassinate”.
Which leads to the obvious conclusion – leave the internet alone. I think I’ll sign that petition.