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Yahoo Mail reverses ban on 'allah' in usernames

Lifts prohibition after online flap. Says ban was meant to prevent people from promoting hate by combining "allah" with defamatory language.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read
Yahoo Mail will now let people register usernames that include the word "allah," after a ban designed to thwart prejudice went astray.

The policy reversal, announced Wednesday, came too late for Linda Callahan of Ashfield, Mass., who set up a Google Gmail account after being rejected by Yahoo Mail because of the presence of "allah" in her name, said her son, Ed Callahan.

"She was disgusted by (Yahoo's policy) and saddened," he said. "It was discriminatory. They disallowed 'allah' but allowed 'jesus' and 'god,' and I don't think there is a rational explanation for that."

The existence of the ban made a bit of a splash on the Web after it was reported in The Daily Hampshire Gazette on Friday and picked up by The Register and Slashdot this week.

Early Wednesday, Yahoo issued a statement about its new policy and the reasons for the original ban.

"A small number of people registered for IDs using specific terms with the sole purpose of promoting hate, and then used those IDs to post content that was harmful or threatening to others, thus violating Yahoo's Terms of Service," the statement said. "'Allah' was one word being used for these purposes, with instances tied to defamatory language. We took steps to help protect our users by prohibiting use of the term in Yahoo usernames. We recently re-evaluated the term 'Allah,' and users can now register for IDs with this word because it is no longer a significant target for abuse."

Though his mother is boycotting Yahoo, Ed Callahan said he wasn't.

"I went ahead for fun and registered 'allahs_in_callahan' in Yahoo," he said, adding that he has devoted a Web page to the Yahoo ban.

It seems the situation has been a problem since at least June 2005, judging from a Web page (which includes profanity) created by someone named "Kallahar," who said Yahoo barred him from registering his name. Apparently, "allah" was not banned by Yahoo until after 2000, the site says.