Dr. Libshitz can't get an e-mail address

The Internet is full of filth.

No e-mail address for you.

No e-mail address for you.

What happened to Libshitz is hardly unique. More than 150 families with Libshitz variations as their name are listed in New York City alone, and it's by no means the only name to run afoul of the Scunthorpe Problem. Just ask Craig Cockburn, who has resorted to replacing the "o" in his last name with a zero to get around filters. Nor are the tastemeisters at Delicacy Central limiting their vetos to instances of buried accidental profanity. Until just a couple of years ago, according to reports, some providers banned names that contained the word "Allah"; eventually Yahoo reversed its ban, which had made addressing difficult for people named Callahan (among others).

Service Provider Policies

The major national ISPs remain reluctant to discuss their policies on acceptable e-mail address names -- or to offer guidance to people regarding what rights they have with regard to using their legitimate family names. I did a little digging and discovered that a person named "Lipshitz" could create an account with Microsoft Hotmail or with Yahoo Mail and not run into any trouble. Try the same operation with AOL Mail, Comcast, Gmail, or Verizon, though, and -- if you're a Lipshitz -- you'll get turned away. (If you're a Cockburn, you won't fare much better.)

Of the four nay-saying providers, only two were up-front in discussing their policies. Verizon's spokesperson explained that "if the language is objectionable and obvious," the network won't "permit it to be used in an e-mail account address." On the other hand, he said, anyone with a valid name-based reason to use that language in an address could contact Verizon's staff and request an exception.

AOL's spokesperson said that the company's filters do block certain "strings of words and particular terms," including any phrases deemed to be "sexually explicit or vulgar." She also emphasized that users who encounter specific problems with the filters can make individual requests.

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JR Raphael

PC World (US online)

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