The internet and morality

The internet and morality

br.gifAs you probably know, my name is Pamela Gay. This is the name I was born with (yes, middle school was hell). I could have taken my husband’s last name when I got married a couple years ago, but at 32 I didn’t feel like changing, and I quite honestly can’t pronounce my husband’s very French, fairly long, last name properly. (Really. I say it and anyone who can speak French giggles rather violently.) So, Pamela Gay it is.

This can be problematic. Our lab manager at SIUE didn’t get any of my emails for the first several months I was here because because my last name was considered sexually explicit content that needed block by his spam filter. Now, a good colleague in the UK (and possibly a second colleague) has been unable to receive my emails on his university accounts for ~6 months. I tried 6 different email accounts the other day and none of my emails got through.

I feel for the fellow named Richard who goes by Dick. Can he email anyone?

(I wonder if I have any relatives, named Richard…)

By blocking all emails containing the word Gay, you are blocking me.

The desire for universities (who have faculty researching all topics) and even of some nations to mandate what content is acceptable based on canned morals is not going to change what people think about, and it is going to block a lot of legitimate content.

Recently, Pakistan attempted to block YouTube because it has some anti-Islamic content. The way they did it actually knocked down YouTube to the entire world! Once it was figured out what was going on, Pakistan was essential cut off the web. Now, I’ll be the first to admit there is a lot of non-intellectual content on YouTube that just might make you more stupid. At the same time, there is a lot of amazing music, good satire, and even a bunch of educational astronomy content.

By blocking all of YouTube, you are blocking NASA generated content.

Trying to block all indecent content online is a sport even in our own country. Perhaps the most famous example is the Reno vs. ACLU Supreme Court Case. In 1996, the US attempted to pass legislation banning indecent material (e.g. pornography) from the internet. The original legislation was actually signed by Bill Clinton, who I suspect has viewed his fair share of (to use the SNL term) boobies online in his time. (After all, isn’t the Internet for Porn? (link NSFW)) While discussion of Internet legislation seems to have died down for now (focusing instead on monitoring our email) we have to be vigilant of our freedoms to explore all the Internet has to offer: the good and bad, the scams and honest efforts, and the education and stupefying. If I want to legally shop for sex toys or turn off my spam filters, I should have that choice. I may never exercise that choice, but it should be mine if I want it.

What I don’t know is how to chose to block spam without blocking me.

10 Comments

  1. David
    Feb 27, 2008

    Who is Rathbun? I thought that was your maiden name.

  2. Elizabeth
    Feb 27, 2008

    What ever happened to Gay meaning “happy,” or “merry?” How long ago did that definition get phased out? Webster…I call shenanigans!

  3. Pierre J.
    Feb 27, 2008

    If my memory serves me right there is even this line in the song “It’s a long way to Tipperary” “Up to mighty London / Came an Irishman one day / As the streets are paved with gold / Sure, everyone was gay” … So what gives. I couldn’t agree more with you.

    PS : I’m French, and I promise not to giggle if you pronounce French-sounding names in an awkward way 🙂

  4. michael cassidy
    Feb 27, 2008

    I am surprise that any university would block sites and email in such a stupid way.

    I would have thought spam etc would be moved to a spam folder for you to look at and decide if you wish to delete it OR in fact say this isn’t spam and I want to keep and email from this address should not be considered spam.

    I know banks have tighter controls but many of those controls are attempts to block worms etc from getting into their systems.

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  5. Philip Atherton
    Feb 27, 2008

    At a place I worked a while ago the Catholic Church’s website was blocked for inappopriate content…

  6. Vagueofgodalming
    Feb 27, 2008

    That’s just wrong on so many levels. I hope you find a way.

  7. Astrogeek
    Feb 28, 2008

    It’s a pretty lousy filter that blocks on something as common as ‘Gay’. That would block ‘Gaylord’, any mention of the Enola Gay (the B-29 that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima), John Gay (an
    English poet), the towns of Fort Gay, Mount Gay, and the three towns named ‘Gay’ in WV, GA and MI.

  8. Freiddie
    Feb 28, 2008

    That is a question I’ve been too shy too ask. Thanks for answering. Maybe you could try “Dr Pamela”?

  9. Thameron
    Feb 29, 2008

    It is something of an irony considering that we get here through acts of sex (most of us anyway) that naked bodies and human mating are taboo subjects which horrify some people whereas violence is something common to be watched and gloried in.

    People are nuts.

  10. Darron Spohn
    Mar 1, 2008

    Hey, it could be worse. I used to work with a guy named Dick Pilz.

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