rewboss

Scunthorpe

Scunthorpe

Recently, YouTube got into a spot of trouble with a security flaw, which they had to fix in a hurry. Without getting too technical, somebody discovered a way of inserting HTML in video comments, causing all sorts of mayhem.

Because the exploit involved typing <script> in the comment, part of the brute-force fix the powers that be have forced upon innocent users simply edits out any occurrance of the word “script”.

It’s similar to the way a profanity filter works, except that these filters normally replace the offending string with a row of asterisks. YouTube has decided simply to make it vanish, as if it had never been typed.

Of course, the problem is that the word “script” occurs in ordinary English, so a comment like “Was the script difficult to write?” becomes the unintelligible “Was the difficult to write?” which allows much to the imagination, to the enrichment of all.

It gets better. Not only is the word itself filtered out, but any occurrance of the sequence of characters embedded within a longer word is similarly edited. People often refer in their comments to the video description, which must now be called a “video deion”.

This is a variant on what is known as the Scunthorpe problem after a town in England whose name regularly falls foul of profanity filters. It contains, you see, an obscenity, which most people are completely unaware of until it is pointed out to them by obliging profanity filters which render the name as “S****horpe”.

How much more entertaining it would be if profanity filters worked on the same principle as the YouTube security patch. Because then the name would be “Shorpe”, which doesn’t shove the presence of foul language in your face, and, as an extra bonus, has readers engaged in a fruitless search of Google Maps for the place in question (I’ve checked: the nearest match is Thorpe).

There are so many other words that inadvertantly include naughty words, and instead of being defaced by the classic — sorry, “clic” — asterisks, we could make entirely new words and abbreviate our language in the process (making books a tiny bit shorter and thus saving paper and other valuable resources).

It would be great. City-dwellers could live in skysers, people wanting to know the time would simply glance at their wrisches, and borderline alcoholics could be discouraged from drinking by the knowledge that rum is made from fermented moles. I don’t know why nobody thought of this sooner.