This summer we posted Rethinking The Dictionary and invited your feedback. To the thousands of users who wrote in, we heard you and we want to address your concerns:
- You noted that offensive words can be educational and informative.
- You love that Urban Dictionary can be both useful and funny.
- You asked us to protect Urban Dictionary’s irreverence and authenticity.
A user from New York said:
The world is full of diverse thoughts and languages. Solving “hate” or “abuse” will not be accomplished by selectively deeming slang words to be unacceptable for a dictionary that attempts to keep up with colloquial language as it becomes popular.
A user from Missouri said:
You provide a service that helps people identify and inform themselves […] While some words are offensive, they NEED to be defined so that people can arm themselves with information and understanding. Children ask parents what bad words mean. Pretending those words don’t exist doesn’t help them or anyone. Informing them and educating on meanings DOES.
A user from Florida said:
You don’t defeat evil by hiding it away, you expose it to the light, because only then can people see how bad it is, and only then can their minds be changed on it.
We agree with you. We know that the real world can be offensive and is full of offensive words. Urban Dictionary is an important tool to understand what those words mean. Knowing an offensive word’s meaning can combat inequality and abuse. But there is a difference between using Urban Dictionary to document the meaning of an offensive word and using it to celebrate or endorse an offensive meaning.
We will not ban certain words, and we can’t solve hate and abuse in the world (who can, really?). But we will clarify Urban Dictionary’s community guidelines and build better tools to enforce them. Our goal is to help users write better definitions, and empower users to flag definitions that do not meet our community guidelines. We hope this will improve the overall health of Urban Dictionary.
A very small number of users are responsible for the abusive content we want to remove. Right now their behavior has an outsized impact on the rest of the site — it harms the community and often silences other voices. We want to change that. But the things you love about Urban Dictionary will not change: the irreverence, creativity and humor will remain. The work we are doing now aims to preserve that.
We want to keep hearing from you and welcome your comments in the form below.