Microsoft Patents Censorship Bot
October 28, 2008
As the Times Online reports, the corporate behemoth Microsoft is on the verge of unleashing a technology capable of eliminating “green inkers” and conspiracy theorists. “Microsoft has just been awarded a patent for technology designed to automatically detect and remove ‘undesired words or phrases’ from all manner of digital communications, ranging from YouTube broadcasts to internet chat and songs,” writes Mark Harris.
According to Mr. Harris, Microsoft will release this technology to protect children, which is the usual explanation. “The patent describes a system that listens out for phonemes (word fragments) likely to be part of a swearword. If it thinks it hears a forbidden phrase, the software either fades out the offending syllables or simply replaces the rude word with a similar-sounding but clean alternative lifted from earlier speech without a second’s delay.” Of course, defining “rude” will be left up to a corporate censor. It will not be limited to “explicit rap music.” It may very well include phrases such as “9/11 truth” and other political slogans at odds with the government.
For instance, Google’s behavior is not limited to DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) legal complaints, censoring search results on its Google China service, or training training police in India how to find “objectionable” material. Google also censors in the United States and Europe. In addition to blocking child pornography and certain Nazi websites, Google News routinely filters non-corporate media results. As the American Thinker reported in 2006, Google, “without any prior explanation or notice, has been terminating its News relationship with conservative e-zines and web journals.” But it isn’t simply conservative websites: Google and Yahoo have repeatedly censored Uruknet, the Italian antiwar news portal. Liberals also complain of censorship and the removal of Google Adsense from their pages. (See Google’s Gag Order: An Internet Giant Threatens Free Speech.)
Google routinely “excludes” information from Infowars.com, Prisonplanet.com, and fudges rankings, or removes entirely Alex Jones’ films from Google Video and the popular YouTube service, owned by the corporation. In addition to Google, MySpace, owned by Rupert Murdoch, is in the business of censoring political speech on its hugely popular social network. In May of 2007, for instance, a MySpace moderator “admitted that it is MySpace.com policy to censor and filter out posts containing links to the Prison Planet.com website, adding that the MySpace server automatically blocks such information,” according to Paul Joseph Watson.
It is relatively easy to find and exclude text-based posts and websites on a network, however until the advent of this latest technology it was a tedious and time-consuming process to find and exclude audio and video files. As Mark Harris notes, governments and corporations may go beyond simply censoring obscene and pornographic material and use this technology to prevent “people from even discussing concepts such as ‘protest’ or ‘freedom,” especially under the rubric of anti-terrorism.