The trouble began when Tyrannosaurus Rex expert Thomas R. Holtz Jr. entered “Hell Creek Formation,” a rock unit in Montana where the last giant dinosaur wreckage was found in North America.
He was trying to answer a colleague’s question after an online presentation on the first day of the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Animals.
However, Holtz was stunned when four asterisks appeared in the chat instead of the word “hell.”
Confused, he explained the issue on Twitter. Colleagues spoke of other words that were rejected by software systems that were set to exclude blasphemous expressions, especially knobs, pubis, penetrations, and streaming.
“The most interesting thing for us was the censorship of’bones’. This is, after all, the main thing we work on, “Holtz said.
Many have expressed concern about online censorship by large tech companies. Instagram has been criticized for banning the posting of art featuring nudity. In 2016, the Swedish Cancer Society used a square breast graphic in a video about breast examinations to avoid Facebook censorship.
However, the block of benign terms commonly used by paleontologists seemed particularly enthusiastic.
After Mr. Holtz I posted a list of banned words on Twitter. He received a series of responses.
Some users were indignant.
“Pubis? Seriously? What are you going to call it?” Wrote LP Norman, A self-proclaimed amateur astronomer. “In front of the ischium ???”
Others tried to help.
“Getter Tesaurus” Written by one person..
Every year, a paleontology conference was to be held in Cincinnati that attracted hundreds of scientists, amateur bone collectors and dinosaur enthusiasts. However, the pandemic has forced organizers to move it online, like thousands of other trade fairs, summits, and expert meetings that were scheduled to take place at hotels and convention centers.
It meant scrambling to organize sessions for panelists who were hoping to give a public presentation and developing a code of conduct for participants to prevent embarrassing online behavior. ..
Society has contracted with a software company that offers chat sessions with built-in algorithms that can filter blasphemous and offensive words.
“All software plug-ins have built-in filters to keep them out of control,” said Carolyn Bradfield, CEO of Convey Services, a company employed by the association.
“In that particular case, the filter was too tight,” she said.
After hearing the 10 sessions, Bradfield said he learned of the problem from the participants who were talking about it. She said she was as surprised as everyone else.
“I don’t know why the word” bone “was in the world,” Bradfield said.
The association’s president, Jessica Theodore, said participants continued to find other words that triggered the asterisk and warned the association’s leaders, who shared that information with Convey Services. The company learned about them and immediately deleted the words.
Paleontologists have begun to enjoy this system.
They typed in random words to see which ones would be asterisks. 1 Created a meme comparing the efforts of Velociraptor in the movie “Jurassic Park”It threw itself into an electric fence to find its weaknesses.
“Our couple laughed and began to call Hell Creek” Heck Creek, “” said Stephanie K. Drumheller, a lecturer and paleontologist at the University of Tennessee.
Jack Zen, a paleontology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said some of the censored words weren’t very interesting.
For example, Wang, a popular surname in China, has also been replaced by an asterisk.
“I knew how the king was used in the national language,” said Professor Zen. “I went to high school.”
He was interested in the success of Johnson, another surname that could be used as a term for male genitalia. To his disappointment, the system allowed it.
“It was a hassle,” said Professor Zen. “If you censor, censor everything. Censoring Johnson makes everyone offended.”
Bradfield said he didn’t know why the king was captured by the algorithm or not by Johnson.
Convey Services used a third party (Arena.im) to provide technology to exclude certain words. However, Bradfield said it was ultimately her company’s responsibility to ensure that similar problems were avoided in the future.
The solution was easy, she said.
“We need to take that filter and make sure we remove words that were stupid and shouldn’t have been there,” she said.
Still, Professor Theodore, who teaches at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, said he was relieved how smooth the five-day meeting was in the end.
“If this is the worst thing that happens when you move a paleontology conference online, that’s okay,” she said.
Professor Zen, who has been attending meetings since he was an undergraduate, said this episode sounds like he and his colleagues when they hear the public talking about knobs and bones out of context. He said he was wondering.
“Maybe when I hear a lot of paleontologists talking in the field, it sounds very dirty,” he said. “And we are not aware of it.”