Web filter at British Library: Sorry, Hamlet is too violent


The British Library is an instructive test-case as we ramp up for the Great Firewall of Cameron, whereby all British ISPs will have to opt all their customers into an "adult content" filter. The BL's new filter blocked Shakespeare's Hamlet for excessive violence. Because it's dead easy to get enough prudes to look at all the webpages and decide which ones to censor, right?

A spokesperson for the British Library said Hamlet had since been made accessible.

"The upgraded service has a web filter to ensure that inappropriate content cannot be viewed on-site," he added.

"We've received feedback from a number of users about sites which were blocked, but shouldn't have been. We're in the process of tweaking the service to unblock these sites."

Enjoy your time in the stables, Herc.

British Library's wi-fi service blocks 'violent' Hamlet [Joe Miller/BBC]

Notable Replies

  1. Honestly, it sounds like the filter heuristics made the right call on this one. You want to block "violence"? Hamlet is, in fact, nice and violent, so on the blacklist it goes.

    The problem isn't that the machine screwed up; but that the people who demand censorship don't actually have a clear understanding of what they want to block; but they know it when they see it. Even a strong-AI level filtering system would probably have difficulty working with those rules. (And, of course, people who demand that the world be remade in the image of their basest fears should be kept well away from any switches that actually have a function; but that's a different problem.)

  2. Wait until the algorithm sees Titus Andronicus.

  3. If it blocks Hamlet, what chance does the Bible have?

  4. Jorpho says:

    It's been a while, but I would have thought the language of Hamlet to be so wholly obfuscated as to be perfectly camouflaged from such filters. What could it possibly have picked up on? Ear poison?

    I guess Shakespearean English is no substitute for proper encryption.

  5. Spoilers: everyone dies

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