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February 8, 2007

ESPN Wants You to Type 'g.a.y.'

ESPN.com recently introduced a commenting feature, and readers have responded by showering some articles with hundreds of comments. Yet readers can't use certain words that aren't verboten to espn.com writers. LZ Granderson wrote the word "gay" 15 times in his column about former NBA player John Amaechi's announcement that he is gay. Granderson also employed "anti-gay," "gaydar," and "Gaytopia." Yet ESPN.com readers who used the word "gay" in their response to the column found it was being replaced by "####"—not even the right number of # signs—and instead had to write "g.a.y.," "g-a-y," "g@y," and other variations to avoid the dreaded hash-mark treatment.

In response to Gelf's query about the apparent filtering of "gay," an ESPN spokesman said, "Filtering is a complex, ongoing functionality. ESPN Conversations are in a beta stage and we will continue to refine the filtering process as it relates to our content and fan postings. The word 'gay' is one that, unfortunately, can be used in a derogatory way. The initial intention of filtering it was to prevent hate speech. We have since made adjustments and the word 'gay' is no longer blocked. Our 24/7 moderation will handle usage on a case-by-case basis."

"We cannot remove the symbols retroactively but have stopped blocking the word from appearing in posts," the spokesman added.

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