New York Times Censors ‘Gay’ From its Mobile Service


UPDATE: Thanks to some attention, the problem has been fixed.

A bad word?

Text message someone an article with the word “gay” in the title from the New York Times‘ mobile website, and they may be a bit confused as to what you’re sending them.

That’s because the service replaces every instance of “gay” in a headline with the word “beep”.

My friend Al sent a message to me on New Years Eve containing a link to Frank Rich’s recent column about Rick Warren, and it arrived with the headline “You’re Likable Enough, ‘beep’ People.”

Subsequent attempts using different articles turned up the same results. Click image, as it appeared on my iPhone above, to enlarge. Now while I wouldn’t be surprised if Rick Warren thought of me as a “beep” person, I’d expect better from the New York Times. I would demand that they change it. I’ve sent a feedback email to the paper. Will let you know what I hear.


  1. Shane says

    Worth remembering that until not terribly more than a decade ago, gasp, NYT editors wouldn’t allow the word “gay” in their paper generally, insisting instead on “homosexual.”

  2. Tim says

    That’s very likely your mobile service provider, rather than the Times, doing the masking. They have long lists of supposedly objectionable words, which include the scientific names for various body parts, racial and sexual slang that is sometimes used pejoratively, etc. If it’s in the paper but not on your phone, I’m guessing it’s not the Times’ doing.

  3. Patrick says

    I don’t think this is such a bad thing. I’d prefer for filters to catch “gay” more often, now that it is THE insult used by teenagers. This is a logical outgrowth of the Think Before You Speak campaign that we saw with Wanda Sykes and Hillary Duff a few months back. If ignorant teens wont change their choice of words, we at least don’t have to listen to it.

  4. Mark says

    As they say, only in America – with a knock-on effect in UK! But I would be very reluctant to blame the New York Times for this “censorship”. It is far more likely to be the “filters” with Ma Bell (AT&T). This sort of thing caused by the American software used by cell phone companies is legendary in UK as they try to protect the tiny-tots from the “bleep” word. I guess now that the Times’ White House correspondent will be called Sheryl Bleep Stolberg on SMS messages. Are they retitling the ancient Fred and Ginger RKO movie musical to “The Bleep Divorcee”? And how about the central male character in Edna Furber’s classic novel “Showboat”. He will now become Bleeplord Ravenal!

  5. kujhawker says

    This is not write. But like others said I don’t think it is the NYT. I think important to find out who is doing the filtering before we get the torches and pitchforks. Once we know who and their pathetic excuse then we can go after them.

  6. Al says

    Its not a wirless provider *beep*. It happens across all carriers and if you text the word “gay” under any other circumstance, it is delivered exactly as typed.

  7. SillyGit says

    One has to wonder what would happen if the NYT did a story about Scunthorpe, England.

    Yes, there is such a place. I heard about it when Microsoft Passport would not allow people living there to register with that town name in their address. That presented a problem since it was their registered credit card address. Similar problems occurred for people with names like Hancock, Cockson, etc.

    Including gay in a list of undisirable words is asinine at best, and utterly stupid at worst.

    I look forward to hearing The bleep Widow Waltz. You know that merry has to be next. They apparently disapprove of happiness.

  8. rb says

    So is this why my g1 phone’s google browser won’t let me access the recon site? When I google search for “World Gay Men” the site url comes up as unavailable.
    I can’t check that site on my work pc. That’s one reason why having access to my own browser during work hours (at lunch, for example) was going to be so useful.
    I guess I can give TMobile a call and see if they shed any light on it.

  9. Brendan says

    Patrick, I vehemently disagree.

    Firstly, any teenager who uses “gay” as a derogatory word would be less sensitive to their surrounding, and I doubt that teenager would go to the Times to get their news, let alone send out the article to others.

    Second, someone who would send an article to you would probably be someone whom you know. If they use a derogatory word to you, then it’s your right to call them out on it and to tell them why you don’t like the word used like that.

    Lastly, the censorship happens to the headline. I highly doubt The Times would publish an article with the word “gay” in it in an openly derogatory manner.

    Then again, I’ve been wrong before.