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Microsoft bans Scroogle

Bah! Humbuggle!

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Updated Microsoft's MSN Messenger service doesn't want you talking dirty - and its definition of dirty talk is quite peculiar.

If you send an instant message containing the word "scroogle.org" via the Microsoft service, the message never arrives. The sender doesn't know it was discarded, and the recipient has no indication that it was ever sent, as the original message remains in the chat window and history.

Scroogle.org is Daniel Brandt's Google scraping proxy. Scroogle scrapes Google's website to return its search results without ads - bypassing the Google cookie, and protecting the user's privacy, because Google is unable to match the searches to any other information- such as your IP address or your GMail account. Scroogle putters along, makes around 50,000 scrapes per day, without being sued. As Google has failed to challenge the legality of the service, it's an odd choice of domain for Microsoft to ban.

Or perhaps Microsoft thinks it's protecting us from filth - the company has made strange and arbitrary decisions before.

In 2002, it prevented Reg reader James Woodcock from signing up for its Passport authentication system, telling him that "Your lastname contains a word that has been reserved or is prohibited for .NET Passport registration." His alternative choice, "Harold Wanker", was happily accepted, while another reader, Dr. Mark Stitson found his name was failed the filth test. Internet filters have a less than noble history when it comes to blocking innocent sites, as the Horniman Museum discovered a couple of years ago.

So perhaps "scroogle" refers to some bizarre sexual practice, or, in some arcane vernacular, is a term for the human genitalia. But if that's true, it hasn't shown up in Roger's Profanisaurus [probably NSFW], which we regard as the definitive resource in these matters.

We contacted Microsoft for an explanation on Friday, but they haven't returned our call. Brandt hadn't heard of the block, but he also declined to comment.

Have readers discovered any apparently innocuous trigger words? Let us know. ®

UpdateThanks to the Gaim project's Stu Tomlinson for explaining the cause of the mystery:

If you try to send a message containing any of the words' ".pif", ".scr", "download.php" or "gallery.php" the message will be silently discarded. The official client from Microsoft will provide no indication to either the sender or recipient that the message didn't go through.

So "Scroogle.org" goes through fine. Gaim detects this and tells you the message wasn't delivered. Can't Microsoft tell if a .scr is a .scr or not?

"Pah. What a pants regex!" says Alain Moran, summing it up nicely. Chalk another triumph up to genius censorware...

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