When Lyft went on a mission to scrub inappropriate-sounding names from its app, it made a big mistake. The algorithm mistook some people's real names as offensive.

Imagine the surprise of Lyft users who received this message from the company:

We noticed the name on your Lyft account doesn't align with our Community Guidelines. As part of Lyft's guidelines, we require all members of the Lyft community be respectful to help create a comfortable ride for all.

These users were asked to change their display names in the Lyft app within a few days. 

Some of the users who spoke out on Twitter after receiving this message were Brendon Dick, Candice Poon, Mike Finger, and Nicole Cumming. "I'm not thrilled with my name either," tweeted Nicole Cumming. "But I had no idea it violated the Community Guidelines."

Oversight in fixing a problem

So how did this happen? Apparently Lyft was trying to lay the smack-down on offensive content. The message itself was not a glitch. It was definitely sent intentionally to people who use fake names that are inappropriate or offensive, a Twitter spokesperson told The Verge. But they didn't consider that some users' real, legal names might also sound offensive. 

"This message was sent in error," Lyft responded to one user. "We were trying to improve our systems to create a safe and respectful community, and we missed the mark here." They apologized for sending the email and assured the user her name didn't violate the guidelines. They're working on course correcting the problem. ​

Published on: Dec 20, 2019
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