Lyft is flagging people with names its algorithm thinks are inappropriate, like “Dick,” “Finger,” and “Cummings.” The ride-hail company is sending messages to these users telling them their names don’t align with its community guidelines, and are being directed to change their name or get booted from the service.
Naturally, this is creating some consternation among people with, shall we say, delicate-sounding names.
Yo @lyft I think it’s kinda fucked you don’t allow me to use your service anymore because of the last name I have! Fix your company’s code and parameters! The last name Cumming Is an actual last name head asses
— Cultra (@MitchellC717) December 19, 2019
Customers with non-English-sounding names are also being flagged by the company. Lyft customer Kwame Som-Pimpong told The Verge that he has reached out for clarification as to what name, other than his own, the company would prefer him to use.
You recently sent me an email to change the name on my account because it’s not in line with your community guidelines. My name is Bubunyo and if you are expecting me to use an English name, it won’t happen cos I’m not English. You might as well just ban me.
— Local Man (@KiddBubu) December 19, 2019
— Jen Dick (@Jennifer_Dick) December 19, 2019
As Jen Dick here points out, it looks like it’s a classic case of the Scunthorpe problem, in which someone is blocked from a website for having a username that is deemed to be obscene. The problem was named after an incident in 1996 in which AOL’s profanity filter prevented residents of the town of Scunthorpe in the UK from creating accounts, because the town’s name contains a four-letter word that I don’t think I’m allowed to say.
Lyft’s response bot on Twitter is working overtime trying to collect phone numbers and emails from everyone affected. Reached for comment, a spokesperson apologized for the confusion.
“Some members of the Lyft community were using names that were either inaccurate, offensive or both,” the spokesperson said. “In trying to fix the problem, we cast too wide of a net. We were well-intentioned, but our response clearly led to errors that we are working to correct, and we apologize.”
While it’s unclear whether he was affected, Twitter user Charles Butplugg wants everyone to know he feels their pain.
My last name is Butplugg and I get banned from everywhere
— Charles Butplugg (@beepbopboopzap) December 19, 2019