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Local democracy reporter reveals city council’s ‘orgasm’ ban

A local democracy reporter revealed a city council has banned a series of words including viagra, slapper, nipple and orgasm from its email servers.

Tom Dare – who works for the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Live and the BBC – discovered Birmingham City Council has a list of 129 words which are blocked from ever reaching council employees online.

Tom was inspired to submit a Freedom of Information request on the subject after a councillor spoke out about the online abuse she had received.

The FoI response provided a story for the Mail’s Sunday Mercury sister title, run under the headline ‘No orgasms please, we’re Birmingham City Council!’

Tom told HTFP: “The idea behind the FoI came from a tweet from Cllr Nicky Brennan, who was speaking about just one of the many abusive emails she receives which had slipped through the council’s censorship net.

“She mentioned that the way in which the email had reached her inbox was by the sender editing the word slightly – putting a full stop in the middle of an offensive word, for example.

“This got me wondering what kinds of words were censored by the council, and beyond that, which ones they didn’t seem offensive (the word rape, for example, was not included in the list, but the word vagina was).

“I just feel that, for the most part, councillors are passionate members of the public who just want to help out in their local community, and whom should not be subject to some of the vile abuse they face.”

Other banned words include vagina, penis, foreskin, clitoris and testicles, as well as “Combat 18″, the name of a far-right group.

The council has also admitted that it “quarantines” thousands of emails every month due to their offensive nature

Tom added: “The reaction to the piece so far has been great, with many people expressing their shock at some of the words on the list, as well as shock at some of the words that did not make the list.

“Given the current state of things such as bin collections and cuts in Birmingham at the moment, many people were also keen to suggest words that they felt the council may have added to the list, such as ‘regular, bin, collections and competent’.

“Words such as orgasm being banned made for a great headline in the Sunday Mercury over the weekend, and the FoI response itself has given me a good few ideas for follow up stories, such as finding out exactly how many emails the council has had to ‘quarantine’ over the last few years.

“The response indicated that ‘thousands of emails’ are being quarantined at present, so I hope to have a follow up to the story soon.”

3 comments

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  • March 4, 2019 at 11:04 am
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    All terribly salacious and titillating but it’s hardly Woodward and Bernstein, is it?

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  • March 4, 2019 at 1:08 pm
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    Let’s hope they don’t come across an erection during their mass debates on planning.

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  • March 5, 2019 at 12:16 pm
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    Smutty clickbait, pure and simple. How does knowing any of this help improve residents’ understanding of the activities of their local authority, which I thought was the remit of the local democracy reporters.

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