Should You Use Profanity Filters?

3 minute read

April 9, 2014

Should You Use Profanity Filters?

What’s the reason for the filter? To stop people swearing. The theory is that there’ll be no fun in swearing if the words don’t come out right. In practise, one of the following things happens

  1. The users continue swearing constantly, happy in the knowledge that it will be filtered regardless. Your forum becomes ****** full of this kind of ****, and it looks ****** terrible.
  2. The users respond to your filter by trying to find the limits of it. Is **** filtered? What about if I spell it with a ph instead of an f? What if I use numbers instead of letters? What if I- etc. You will never beat human ingenuity on this matter.
  3. Some users are bright enough to stop swearing, and are simply more creative and passive-aggressive in the ways that they’re awful to each other.

Aside from the fact that swearing is manifestly brilliant, a profanity filter is a software solution to a management problem. If you don’t want people swearing on your forum, tell them that it isn’t allowed. Put it in the rules. Use whatever gradual punishment systems you have in place if they ignore you. Ban them if they persist. If your users won’t do what you ask them to without a software solution, you’re getting something wrong.

Personally I find swearing to be a wonderful, cathartic way to use language. I just counted, and I swore seven times in the creation of my own rules thread. Good ones too. My personal view is that moderation should focus more on stamping out things like bullying, elitism, prejudice and the variety of other shitty behaviours that a user can express perfectly adequately without swearing. I understand however, that swearing isn’t appropriate for every forum and that at some point you’ll need a way to get people to stop doing it. All I’m suggesting is that perhaps the best way to get your users to stop doing something is simply to ask.

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Patrick Groome HeadshotGuest post by Patrick Groome. Patrick is the Administrator of the Penny Arcade forums. Penny Arcade is one of the most popular and long running gaming webcomics and organizer of the PAX gaming conference.

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Patrick Groome

Written by Patrick Groome

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