Monday, October 20, 2008

1000 ways to say this, but Microsoft chose "automatic censorship"

A pretty jaw-dropping title for a patent filing by Microsoft that's designed to create automatic, real-time filtering of "offensive" language in audio.

It's easy to see how this can cause a stink. It makes you wonder if they're giving any thought into how things will play when they name stuff like this. "Filtering" would raise few eyebrows. But "Censorship"? Come on.

Dig deep enough into the patent and you can see that its intent isn't to create FCC 2.0, but instead to allow parents to monitor the language their kids hear through multiplayer video games:

Humans are remarkably adept at identifying words and phrases that are considered unacceptable. However, for certain types of broadcasts, it would be preferable to employ a more automated approach that avoids the need to pay for or provide a human censor to monitor the broadcast, while still enabling the audio data to be censored at an appropriate level. For example, in massive multiplayer games, it would be impractical to employ a human censor to monitor the multitude of voice chat sessions that might be occurring at one time.

Still, the potential for abuse of something like this--after all, it's going to draw from a generated list of words/phrases to block--is pretty daunting. As is the inherent limitation of censuring language without context: After all, a similar filter on a Christian site changed the text in Olympian Tyson Gay's name to "Tyson Homosexual."

blog comments powered by Disqus