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Plaid up in arms as Commons spam filter bans Welsh

Finger of blame points to Clearswift's MAILsweeper

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The recently introduced House of Commons email filtering package is blocking messages sent in Welsh, while letting spam pass through virtually unimpeded.

Parliamentarians from the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, are complaining that bilingual English-and-Welsh emails are being blocked as containing "inappropriate content", the BBC reports.

Yesterday we reported how the system, meant to block spam, has gone censorware-crazy in preventing copies of a Sexual Offences Bill along with a Liberal Democrat consultation paper on Censorship reaching MPs.

Lib Dem spokesman Paul Tyler MP complained that the system, introduced less than a month ago, was "stifling political debate".

The blocked messages aren't deleted and can be released by a phone call, the BBC reports.

But really this arrangement defeats the whole point of using spam-filtering software, especially when all the while MPs in-boxes are still being deluged by junk email.

Lim Dem MP Richard Allan told us today that the concerns over misdirected emails masked an even more serious problem.

"We do have a real problem with spam and it is still coming through in bucketfuls," he told us.

"Most of it is the Nigerian scam/Viagra ad/Stock market tip/Porno advert type of junk and it is a real pain to wade through it to get to the real email. Much of this does not have 'rude word' text that triggers a filter so it seems to arrive in exactly the same quantities as before the filtering started."

And who's filtering technology is responsible for the mess anyway?

Evidence points to Clearswift's (formerly Content Technologies) MAILsweeper as the package to blame for the debacle.

First on all email headers sent to MPs show that they pass through a Content Technologies filter. Then we have Clearswift's non-denial denial which, reading between the lines, advises how House of Commons BOFHs might need to tweak its filters to sort out the problem.

In response to our questions on the subject, Clearswift issued a statement yesterday that said because of customer confidentiality it "cannot confirm or deny the House of Commons as a Clearswift customer."

"However, our advice to all users of email and web filtering solutions is to define, implement and communicate to all employees a policy relevant to their own organisation," the statement continues.

"We also advocate that these policies are regularly reviewed to ensure that the rule sets are working in the most effective and relevant way. More often than not, rules need to be adjusted and either strengthened or relaxed after the initial implementation.

"Clearswift's MAILsweeper product uses an effective lexical analysis procedure to scan incoming and outgoing email at the gateway, allowing its customers full control over the level and specifics of filtering their electronic communications - how tight or loose is entirely dependant on the organisation." ®

Three fine stories from the BBC on the subject

Software blocks MPs' Welsh e-mail
E-mail vetting blocks MPs' sex debate
Porn plagues MPs' emails

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