For instance, Wang, a popular surname in China, was also replaced with asterisks.
“I knew how Wang was used in the vernacular,” Professor Tseng said. “I did go to high school.”
He was curious if Johnson, another surname that can be used as a term for male genitalia, would make it through. To his dismay, the system allowed it.
“That was bothersome,” Professor Tseng said. “If you’re going to censor, censor everything. Censor Johnson so everyone is offended.”
Ms. Bradfield said she did not know why Wang was caught by the algorithm but not Johnson.
Convey Services used a third party — Arena.im — to provide the technology that filtered out certain words. But Ms. Bradfield said it was ultimately her company’s responsibility to make sure it avoided a similar problem in the future.
The solution, she said, was straightforward.
“We have to make sure we take that filter and remove words that are stupid and shouldn’t have been there,” she said.
Still, Professor Theodor, who teaches at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, said she was relieved by how smoothly the five-day conference ultimately unfolded.
“If this is the worst thing that happens when we move our paleontology conference online, that’s just fine,” she said.