Earlier today, I posted comments from a BoingBoing reader about the fact that MSN Spaces, Microsoft's new blogging tool, censors certain words you might try to include in a blog title or url. If you can't speak freely on a blog, what's the point of having one? This demanded a full investigation.
Using my existing MSN Passport account, I attempted to create a number of blogs, one after the other. The results of which titles passed and which were banned may surprise you — or at least generate a few Beavis-and-Butthead snorkles. Each of the linked test-titles in this BoingBoing post points to to an actual, unmodified screenshot of the corresponding test blog I created (or was denied the ability to create) using MSN Search.
(1) BoingBoing's readers said the title "Corporate Whore" was censored. My attempt at
"Corporate Whore Chronicles" met the same result, but "Corporate Prostitute Chronicles" worked fine. Hooray for synonyms with more syllables!
(2) I figured anything in the original list of seven dirty words banned by the FCC would be off-limits: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. Most of that proved to be true, as did other potent cusswords which would likely cause license problems for a television or radio station. But a test blog titled "Tits for Tats" passed without incident. Off to a good start, with no unneccesarily broad language policing. Chalk one up for MSN Spaces!
(3) More good news. "World of Poop" is just fine. And the rather racy "Butt Sex is Awesome" made it through, as did the overtly naughty "Dick, Balls, Boobies, Goddammit." The test blog titled "My Craptacular Life" was free to do its bloggy thing, unhindered by prudish vocabulary cops. Even "Internet Explorer is Crappy" was welcomed with open arms. Now that's free speech!
(4) Uh-oh. My attempt to create an MSN Spaces blog called "Pornography and The Law" is met with rude red text advising me to can the profanity. So, if I were a law student who wanted to start a blog about the history of obscenity law in the United States, I'd be
shit out of luck.
(5) Very bad news for fans of Russian literature. The blog title "Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov" is deemed inappropriate, as are any titles I try to create with the 1955 book's name.
(6) You may recall our previously-approved blog title, "Butt Sex is Awesome." That name was fine, but MSN Spaces puts the kibosh on "Anal Health for People who Think Buttsex is Awesome" ("anal" was the problem word here; "buttsex," "butt-sex," and "butt sex" all passed MS-muster.)
The conclusion? A mixed bag of results that manages to do what most attempts to automate censorship do — make fools of the censors.