Revealed: (Some of) the words you can’t say to Greenwich councillors by email

Greenwich Council sign
The blocks are in place to prevent harassment

Hundreds of words are banned from being sent to Greenwich councillors and officers to avoid abuse and harassment, it can be revealed.

The authority has become the latest to release its list of barred words and phrases, following investigations by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Birmingham City Council was the first to reveal its list of no-go language that is blocked by its server.

Now, through a Freedom of Information Act request, Greenwich Council has admitted it has similar protocols in place. Emails from the public are blocked if they contain a combination of words and phrases that triggers the council’s server.

Much of the language on its list is highly offensive, but phrases are broken down into three categories: spam, racism and hate, and pornographic. Some of the lesser language includes words such as “nipple”, “nude”, and “sex”.

There are numerous variations on the F-word, and racist and hateful language such as “Aryan”, “black power”, “Hitler” and “Nazis” are also banned.

The council said in its response: “As a standard function of the software package, not all the words are an outright block, however they have weights which add up to a trigger weight. A combination of words reaching the configured trigger weight will result in a mail being quarantined.

“This means that the system recognises the potential for inoffensive words to be combined with others to form offensive phrases – therefore it may not be immediately apparent why an individual word is on the blocked list.”

Some words are also blocked from the outgoing server as well as official inboxes.

A spokesman added: “We take the health and wellbeing of all our councillors very seriously and this includes any abuse received from members of the public.

“We condemn anyone sending abuse, including to our councillors, and we are doing all we can to stop abusive emails reaching recipients.”

A similar FOI request sent to nearby Bexley Council revealed that it does not maintain a list of banned words.


LDRS logoTom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich and Bexley. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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