Profanivore – A Bugzilla Extension Which Eats Bad Words

Recently, an unusually persistent troll came into Bugzilla and started swearing at contributors. This was obviously an unpleasant experience for them, and led me to thinking how we can balance Mozilla’s desire to be a place where everyone is welcome (some of our most awesome contributors have started when under 16, for example) and yet we support the general principle of freedom of speech (which is most important in government-related censorship contexts, but is also important in general).

So a couple of weeks ago I wrote Profanivore, a Bugzilla extension which ‘eats’ English profanities in Bugzilla comments, leaving behind instead a trail of droppings (‘****’). The profanity is only eaten where the comment was written by a user who does not have the global ‘editbugs’ privilege. The digestion happens at display time, so the comment in the database is unaltered.

I wrote this very carefully to walk the line between being over-censorious and being protective of our users having to read abuse from trolls. Hence the “you can swear if you have editbugs” feature.

Unless this meets with serious objections, we plan to enable it on some time in the reasonably near future. If we do, please resist the temptation to test it. It uses a standard Perl module for detection so I have reasonable confidence it’ll do the right thing most of the time, but do let me know if it censors your Scunthorpe.

7 thoughts on “Profanivore – A Bugzilla Extension Which Eats Bad Words

  1. If you tell us who this ****** is, we can try to find him and **** him in the ************* ****. I’m sure several of us would be happy to **** his ******* *** and then **** on his **** and pour **** **** *** *****.

    I mean, if ** *****, we’d **** ** ***** *** *****, right?


    Andy ******

  2. Nice. Clean up the comments by censoring abusive users but still leave in the ability for us to curse back at them. I will try and resist the urge… ;)

    Only problem I see is that sometimes a user is very profane without using “bad words”. A while back there was some nutjob spouting hateful conspiracy theories and more recently this so called “unusually persistent troll” spewed out a bizarre bigoted rant. Even if you expand the banned word list to include various slurs, it’s the message and the messager that are offensive, not the words themselves. Anything will help at this point, but sadly with a system as public as this it’s a problem that’s not going to be easy to fix.

  3. I’d kinda prefer a mechanism where a moderator (perhaps “moderator” could safely be “anyone with editbugs”) could wrap chunks of comment text in <span style=”background-color: black”>. I recognize that this would be considerably more work, but it handles non-profane trolling and profanity that is not detectable by a regexp (but apparent to a human); also it is harder to argue that comments are being “censored”, since anyone *can* still see the text, they just have to take positive action to do so (selecting the black region).

    As an additional fillip, detect search engines and replace the blacked-out text with “xxxxxxx” rather than hiding it with style.

  4. Meh. Persistent trolls will get around everything you put in place. If we want to censor them, it’ll have to be done after the fact anyway. I don’t think bleeping out bad words is necessary or even helpful between adults.

  5. The act of censorship not matter how well intentioned (and it rarely is) is even more childish and stupid than that of abusive idiots.

    Either you delete the all post because is off topic/spam or let pass complete.

    Doing the way you have done is further an act of rudeness greater that alleged offender. Both show the lack of good education and proper character development.

    This is shown even more clearly by the fact that we can be even more abusive without using any of those words. This clearly is not a question of alleged abusive behaviour, because if it were you would delete the comments and block the user, but the put forward of an agenda to convince people that there are so called “dirt words”. Words aren’t dirty.

    It’s a sign of hypocrisy. In everyday settings people these or even more harsh words in front of everybody, in every place in this planet, in any kind of society, genre, age, race, religion or education.

    And insults are also frequent and don’t necessarily need “dirty words”. There’s a page on the internet, that’s extremely insulting while appearing to be full of complements.

    You want to censor, you’re convinced that this specific words have any kind of power or are self-conscious, self-aware. At least be upfront about it. There’s this movement in US and you’re clearly an example.

    You might as well be aware that seemingly innocent and harmless words in English language are swear words in other languages. Even names of women.

    You example “Scunthorpe” just shows the abject stupidity, mendacity and moral cowardice of censorship.

    Censorship is not “good”. It’s exactly the opposite: it’s immoral, unethical, coward, stupid, abusive, dishonest…

    Just prove yourself to be at the same level of the abuser…

  6. Also, “profanity” doesn’t exist. It’s a pathetic attempt to prove yourself better by artificially classifying something as bad based on your own prejudice that in this case is clearly religious.

    Appearances and only appearances are important. that someone behaving so cowardly could pretend to be “better”. bah!