Why “socialist” gets spam filtered

tODD has solved the mystery of why comments on this blog that mention “socialism” or its variants get treated like spam, exiled into a spam world until they are “released” whenever I think to check it.   Look closely at that word.  Specifically its third through sixth letters.  Do you notice the brand name of a “male enhancement product”?  One that is marketed on obnoxious TV commercials and is sold through shady internet sites?  The word is ubiquitous in spam, and any good spam filter is going to filter it out.

So WordPress–or rather, the spam filter Akismet–is NOT a Republican who does not want that anti-free-enterprise economic system brought up, and it is NOT a Democrat who does not want the current president to be accused of subscribing to that theory.  It is just rightfully squeamish and suspicious of male enhancement peddlers.

I would think this would be an issue with virtually all blogs, though.  This is a genuine inhibitor of political speech, one that should be very frustrating for leftists conspiring to bring on the great proletarian revolution.

P.S.:  My brother’s first big comment the other day got caught in the spam filter because he used the word “socialist.”  Yesterday he got another comment blocked because he used the word “specialist,” which has the same problem!  Do see what he has to say on the Medicare post, along with my rejoinder.  I think we found the solution.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    That explains a lot. I used the dreaded S-word in a post on the American Exceptionalism thread and noticed it did not appear afterwords.

  • SKPeterson

    That explains a lot. I used the dreaded S-word in a post on the American Exceptionalism thread and noticed it did not appear afterwords.

  • Kirk

    hahaha filter fail!

  • Kirk

    hahaha filter fail!

  • Dan Kempin

    This could lead to a new game: How many drug names can you hide in a paragraph?

    It would be a nice augment in an otherwise good blog–or at least a palliative when the discussion gets hot. A straight forward contest without commercialism. Don’t get your cap top riled when someone makes a point–just say, “Bravo,” darting effectively away from the controversy. We could even make brownies. With nuts. (But just a tad, ala filberts, or it may be too much.)

    That’s six, by the way. . .

    Say, we could even do this with politicians! No ambushes or complicated palindromes admitted, just spin the dreidle and abide no failure. (With no malignancy, of course.)

    Or, if you prefer, take a Meprobamate and kill two birds with one stone!

  • Dan Kempin

    This could lead to a new game: How many drug names can you hide in a paragraph?

    It would be a nice augment in an otherwise good blog–or at least a palliative when the discussion gets hot. A straight forward contest without commercialism. Don’t get your cap top riled when someone makes a point–just say, “Bravo,” darting effectively away from the controversy. We could even make brownies. With nuts. (But just a tad, ala filberts, or it may be too much.)

    That’s six, by the way. . .

    Say, we could even do this with politicians! No ambushes or complicated palindromes admitted, just spin the dreidle and abide no failure. (With no malignancy, of course.)

    Or, if you prefer, take a Meprobamate and kill two birds with one stone!

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Oh my avoid discussions on certain political philosophies or risk endless ads about E.D. treatments tough choice.

    Spammers should be drawn and quartered.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    Oh my avoid discussions on certain political philosophies or risk endless ads about E.D. treatments tough choice.

    Spammers should be drawn and quartered.

  • S Bauer

    You would think a filter smart enough to scan for that particular sequence of letters would be able to recognize whether the sequence is bounded by spaces or not.

    Actually, I think those words are being caught because the filter is looking for references to the CIA.

  • S Bauer

    You would think a filter smart enough to scan for that particular sequence of letters would be able to recognize whether the sequence is bounded by spaces or not.

    Actually, I think those words are being caught because the filter is looking for references to the CIA.

  • S Bauer

    Oops! Well, there goes that theory.

  • S Bauer

    Oops! Well, there goes that theory.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “I would think this would be an issue with virtually all blogs, though.” Well, it definitely is for some other blogs, because I was Googling for information on [wordpress sociαlist], or something like that, and that’s when I found people discussing similar problems with comments getting quarantined on their blogs. I’d always assumed that there was some issue with pro- or anti-sociαlist comment spam, but when I saw that the word “speciαlist” was problematic, it all made sense.

    I’m still not sure what in the WordPress flow is doing this filtering, though I’ve read several references to dependencies on mod_security and how, I suppose, it’s a bit of a ham-fisted filter. Or, rather, people may throw a list of banned words at it, thinking, “There’s absolutely no reason this random brand name should appear in a valid comment, even if they’re embedded in a word!” … except that one of those brand names is commonly found as a segment of valid English words. Probably very few people have problems with accidentally typing quarantine-triggering words like “enviαgrated”, one supposes.

    And while, yes, this is ultimately a ridiculous side effect, to be fair to those wanting to quash all spam, I will note two things: (1) Spammers go to ridiculous lengths to obscure the names of the drugs they’re selling, while still trying to get you to understand what they mean — this includes such tactics as surrounding the brand names with junk letters. Coming up with a rule that bans drug spam while allowing for all words that legitimately contain “ciαlis” in them — including any possible well-intentioned misspellings (“a list of New Testament unciαlis”?) — would be tricky. And ultimately suggests that this line of spam prevention is not the way to go. But (2) there is little more pathetic in the blog world, after having read a good article, than finding it followed by a flood of robot-penned spam that drowns out any potential conversation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “I would think this would be an issue with virtually all blogs, though.” Well, it definitely is for some other blogs, because I was Googling for information on [wordpress sociαlist], or something like that, and that’s when I found people discussing similar problems with comments getting quarantined on their blogs. I’d always assumed that there was some issue with pro- or anti-sociαlist comment spam, but when I saw that the word “speciαlist” was problematic, it all made sense.

    I’m still not sure what in the WordPress flow is doing this filtering, though I’ve read several references to dependencies on mod_security and how, I suppose, it’s a bit of a ham-fisted filter. Or, rather, people may throw a list of banned words at it, thinking, “There’s absolutely no reason this random brand name should appear in a valid comment, even if they’re embedded in a word!” … except that one of those brand names is commonly found as a segment of valid English words. Probably very few people have problems with accidentally typing quarantine-triggering words like “enviαgrated”, one supposes.

    And while, yes, this is ultimately a ridiculous side effect, to be fair to those wanting to quash all spam, I will note two things: (1) Spammers go to ridiculous lengths to obscure the names of the drugs they’re selling, while still trying to get you to understand what they mean — this includes such tactics as surrounding the brand names with junk letters. Coming up with a rule that bans drug spam while allowing for all words that legitimately contain “ciαlis” in them — including any possible well-intentioned misspellings (“a list of New Testament unciαlis”?) — would be tricky. And ultimately suggests that this line of spam prevention is not the way to go. But (2) there is little more pathetic in the blog world, after having read a good article, than finding it followed by a flood of robot-penned spam that drowns out any potential conversation.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Still, you don’t have to just type “soci@list” when you are trying to stir up your fellow travelers. As the comment I left above shows, you can make less jarring substitutions, such as Greek alpha (α), which hardly looks out of place.

    Even more amusing — and here is where things get weird — you can type things like “sociаlist”, which would appear to use a perfectly normal English (which is to say, Latin) lowercase A. But not so! For in that instance (and the proof will be in the comment-submitting!) I substituted a Cyrillic lowercase A in that word. Which is identical to the eye, but, as far as computers are concerned, is a completely different character. That one always gives me pause.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Still, you don’t have to just type “soci@list” when you are trying to stir up your fellow travelers. As the comment I left above shows, you can make less jarring substitutions, such as Greek alpha (α), which hardly looks out of place.

    Even more amusing — and here is where things get weird — you can type things like “sociаlist”, which would appear to use a perfectly normal English (which is to say, Latin) lowercase A. But not so! For in that instance (and the proof will be in the comment-submitting!) I substituted a Cyrillic lowercase A in that word. Which is identical to the eye, but, as far as computers are concerned, is a completely different character. That one always gives me pause.

  • trotk

    I just discovered though experimentation that soci@list spelled correctly, but with a zero instead of the letter “o”, gets caught in the filter. And I thought I had found a clever alternative that was swift and easy to type.

    I am going with soshialist.

  • trotk

    I just discovered though experimentation that soci@list spelled correctly, but with a zero instead of the letter “o”, gets caught in the filter. And I thought I had found a clever alternative that was swift and easy to type.

    I am going with soshialist.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    TrotK (@8), have you already forgotten the lesson of this post? Sociаlist “spelled correctly, but with a zero instead of the letter ‘o’” still contains the drug name in question!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    TrotK (@8), have you already forgotten the lesson of this post? Sociаlist “spelled correctly, but with a zero instead of the letter ‘o’” still contains the drug name in question!

  • trotk

    so there you go.

    I got intrigued by the fact that soc and s0c seem identical, and missed the key information.

  • trotk

    so there you go.

    I got intrigued by the fact that soc and s0c seem identical, and missed the key information.


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