Monday, February 11, 2008


At work, they have email filters that catch not only spam, but also messages that might be considered offensive. It's a bit of an odd system. Every time the filter stops something, it sends you an email notifying you of the sender and the subject line of the quarantined message, with instructions for how to have the message released to you. The practical upshot of this is that, instead of your inbox getting choked up with spam emails, it gets choked up with notifications that the filter is quarantining spam emails.

But what's really odd is that there are two separate filters - two that I've seen, anyway. The notifications are slightly different: "Offensive email message quarantined" vs. "Spam email message quarantined." Like any filtering program, it makes the occasional mistake: quarantining a message from my friend Robbie's city government email as spam, and once quarantining a message from my friend Tony, at another city government office, as offensive, just because he mentioned being pissed off. (But you can even say that on network TV!)

When you work for an agency like mine, you feel a little skittish about following the instructions to have an email released. You aren't supposed to be sending or receiving personal emails, period, no matter how pissed off you are.

But today I got two notifications which left me a little puzzled. "Penetrate harder and give the pleasure to all women!" got quarantined as offensive, while "Make the boner harder and really feel the difference!" was pegged as spam.

Really! Why, I wonder? The basic meaning seems about the same for both. Perhaps the State of Texas frowns upon the implication that you might get busy in a non-monogamous fashion? Maybe "penetrate" is tagged as an inherently dirty word, but nobody thought to flag the word "boner"? Or perhaps there's something else in the body of the email itself that would explain the distinction, but I won't know unless I follow the instructions to release these emails from quarantine into my mailbox.

Yeah, right. My curiosity is piqued, but there's no way I'm going there. I have enough of a reputation at work already. I don't need IT knowing me as the chick who asks to release the penis messages.

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