People With ‘Offensive’ Real Names Get Messages From Lyft Saying They Break ‘Guidelines’


What can you do when life has dealt you an unfortunate surname? Most people with a name that happens to sound like a body part or an act that you don’t mention in polite conversation don’t really see the point in changing it once they’ve already survived a couple of decades of people poking fun at it, but they’ll tell you that it comes with some inconveniences. Especially in the age of automatic profanity filters, people who are already tired of having to explain that their last name is nothing to giggle about can’t even get a break when doing something as dry and humorless as registering for electronic services.

The latest company to give them a hard time is the ride-sharing app Lyft. On December 19th, some users got alarming notifications giving them two days to change their “inappropriate” display names. But what do you do if your display name that “doesn’t align with community guidelines” is your legal name that you’ve had all your life?

Image credits: kateconger

One user shared this unfortunate exchange with Lyft

Image credits: candicepoon

Image credits: candicepoon

When automated profanity filters shut out legitimate names, it’s known as the Scunthorpe Problem, named after a town in England where residents found themselves unable to register their addresses with AOL in 1996, for obvious reasons. (We wonder if this is a common problem in the UK.)

Based on the chaos on Twitter, we can see that the filter got all the usual suspects with names like Dick and Cummings. But developer Candice Poon, who got one of these messages from Lyft, pointed out that it gives a doubly poor impression when non-English names that wouldn’t raise any eyebrows in their languages of origin get caught by censors, and a more diverse team might have been able to warn the company that filtering names was never going to end well.

Many people on Twitter shared that they had gotten these notifications

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Image credits: Jennifer_Dick

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Image credits: kateconger

Lyft customer service has sent out messages apologizing to users whose names were targeted, but it looks like they’ll have to do a lot of damage control and reconsider using algorithms to clean up perceived “inappropriate” content. See what people whose names cause technical difficulties think of the blunder below.

Twitter users commented on the poorly thought-out policy

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