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Microsoft Seeking to Patent Automatic Censorship 187

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the tom-petty-free-playlists dept.
theodp writes "Microsoft is back at the USPTO, this time seeking a patent for the automatic censorship of audio data for broadcast, a system and method for automatically altering audio to prevent undesired words and phrases from being understandable to a listener as originally uttered."
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Microsoft Seeking to Patent Automatic Censorship

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  • If only (Score:4, Funny)

    by Travelsonic (870859) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @06:59PM (#15267066) Journal
    Now if only Slashdot woild only patent all variants of the "First Post" s the ACs would fear lawsuits for posting them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 04, 2006 @06:59PM (#15267069)
    I ____ _____ that Microsoft would _____ ____ customers and _________ something like ______ ________!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This sounds like a good thing to me. Maybe we can help protect our freedoms by patenting the technologies that try to limit them.
    • If only the government didn't have a key to the patent office, and I had mod points, I'd mod you insightful. I'd trust MS's censorship just slightly more than the government, but seeing that they tend to frolick hand-in-hand, you can bet that it won't just be for swearing.

      Why we even bother censoring swearing is beyond me anyways. It's not like you don't hear it in real life, so why not on the TV? The only thing that bugs me more (aside from sex being taboo where unrealistic violence is a-ok) is the blu

  • by DrEldarion (114072) * on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:00PM (#15267072)
    Radios have stopped playing the runaway hit by the Naval Boys, "Ship Funk", as half of the song was now inexplicably silence.

  • by moochfish (822730) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:02PM (#15267086)
    Sounds like it will be used primarily for Xbox Live to make sure 9 year olds don't get cussed out by some pissed off gamers. Sounds like it'll be a feature most consumers will welcome.

    This sounds a lot more novel than most of the other patents they get that tend to get highlighted on Slashdot. Is it totally novel? Well, I can't speak for any of the experts out there, but at least it's not blaringly obvious, commoditized technology.
    • Sounds very sick (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:11PM (#15267132)
      What kind of fucked-up parent lets their 9 year old play XBox Live in the first place?
      • by Maestro4k (707634) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:28PM (#15267235) Journal
        What kind of fucked-up parent lets their 9 year old play XBox Live in the first place?

        Let me change that just a bit, make that "play XBox Live unsupervised" and the answer is the same kind of parent who will buy their kid the latest Grand Theft Auto game even though it's rated Mature and the employee at the store points out them it's rated mature and explains what that means then let them play it unsupervised. Then they later discover what they'd already been told is true about the game and they raise hell about their kid being able to play it and blames the store, the game company, some vast conspiracy, aliens, etc. anyone but themselves.

        And yes, I speak from experience, worked for a while at a Wal-mart between IT jobs back around the time GTA Vice City came out. Had plenty of parents that I explained to very politely what a Mature rating meant and what was in the game and had them shrug and say "Well he wants it" and them buy it anyway. The reason I modified that is because I ran into a few (very few sadly) parents who knew what the ratings meant and would take the time to read all the info on the game boxes, all the sub-warnings, etc. and decide whether or not they would buy the game. I saw one Dad look through 4 different games and tell his kid "you can't have this one or this one, but either of these will be fine, we'll play it together". Now if only more parents did that.

        • Re:Sounds very sick (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Spacejock (727523) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @09:48PM (#15267895) Homepage
          I bought Fable for the PC, and my daughters saw it and immediately wanted to play it. However, it carries an M rating and when I checked my character stats I saw why: One of the entries says 'number of times had sex'
          The thing is, the game has cutesy graphics and starts out with this innocuous-looking kid like something out of an N64 game. At first glance it DOES look like a childs game, so who are they marketing it to?
          • by Aranth Brainfire (905606) on Friday May 05, 2006 @02:41AM (#15268699)
            People who aren't ass-backwards and try keeping any mention of sex five miles from children.

            Seriously, the sex in that game is-

            Spouse: What, aren't you going to come to bed?
            You: (yes | no)
            (insert black screen with ridiculous giggling and spouse saying "ooh")
            (return to game with spouse making some sort of lame joke)

            Twelve-year-olds might get all giggly about it, but it's nothing new. Hell, if you're not loitering around your house for no reason all the time it's not even very likely to happen...

            Nevermind theories about that other stat, your character's sexuality...
            • by phorm (591458)
              One does question, however, why it is even necessary to have such scenes if it doesn't add to the plot of the game (especially the sex-counter part).
          • As it's "M" rated I'm going to say "People over 17"
          • "Cutesy" graphics do not immediately denote a child's content.
      • by i kan reed (749298)
        you are aparently one of those people who doesn't know there's such a thing as games rated less than M. If they want to release a game that's rated E, like some kind of racing game, it'd be a nice feature to flip a switch and not have to worry about hearing "you're a gay nigger jew" from every 20th person. I'd further submit that the alogirthms to do this are not intuitive. If you think censorship is bad, make you you make it clear to microsoft that this technology should be able to be turned off.
      • Personally, I'm worried about all the 16-year-old kids cursing up a storm.

        My 26-year-old ears don't like it anymore :(
      • I don't know about the experience of other players, but I'm much more likely to be cussed out by the 9 year olds than anyone else on the system.
    • Man, on X-Box live those 9 year olds are most likely the ones doing the cussing.
      • Man, on X-Box live those 9 year olds are most likely the ones doing the cussing.

        Is that before or after they wax my ass with a sniper rifle from the far corner of the map? Seriously, some of these kids--they are the reason that "Professional Video Games League" is not just a joke anymore.

        There's a million bucks in the mix in this thing! To quote one of the 9-year-olds, Shit! You can't make this stuff up... [cplworldtour.com]

    • I think you mean so that people on Xbox Live for fun don't get cussed out by 9-year-olds who have way too much free time and a vocabulary remarkable only in that it contains more curses and racial slurs than most people even knew existed.
    • Fuck the Xbox.
      Fuck Microsoft.
      Fuck the 9 year-olds.

      M.J.
    • You're probably right about this being welcomed by the masses. Excuse me while I hijack this thread to appeal to anyone who might even consider this a worthy application of such technology:

      Simple argument:

      Fuck, Shit, Piss, Cunt, Motherfucker

      I learned those words years before the Xbox came out.
      Dammit, I learned them years before people started carrying around suitcase-sized cell phones!

      Ask around. You can probably find a few people who learned to swear before the evil internet with it's foul mouthed masses e
    • My experience is the opposite. It's the 9 year olds cursing at other players fairly often. It was annoying to me to the effect that I haven't been on XBox live for months.
    • Which XBL do you play on? The 9 year olds on mine could kill a sailor at 20 yards.
  • Too late (Score:4, Funny)

    by HTTP Error 403 403.9 (628865) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:02PM (#15267088)
    FoxNews already has prior art on that.
  • by 7macaw (933316) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:03PM (#15267089)
    ...no more talking about Linux on the radio, eh?
    • grep -ir fuck * on the Linux kernel sources and you'll soon find that Linux is "objectionable material". Now all we need is some bible-belter congressman to push this technology and we're going to have a few issues.
    • If you can bleep a bad word automatically, you can detect it automatically. If you can detect a bad word automatically, you can detect a word like "democracy" or "ACLU" automatically. If you can detect them automatically and have access to the telephone network, you can grep all phone calls for them.
  • Too late (Score:2, Interesting)

    by criordan (733016)
    I think someone already invented this a while back. They're called "highway overpasses."
    • Well, as someone apparently finds this "interesting", I thought I'd throw in a few other prior art devices that fall under that category:

      Cell Phone Rings
      Unavoidable Tunnels
      and of course, the ubiquitous crying baby.
  • by Goalie_Ca (584234) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:06PM (#15267108)
    For geeks writting OSS this is absolutely harmless... in fact i can see this being a good thing. If they're the only company allowed to use super cookies and have auto-censorship then the world is a better place :D
  • New Words (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:11PM (#15267139)
    The rest of the world will do what Battlestar Galactice does: Made up swear words. BSG can't drop the F-bomb much for administrative/ratings reasons, so they use the word "Frak". I could see a lot of new swear words popping up if this happens.
    • by jbr439 (214107)
      What the frell are you talking about?
    • Why don't you stop talking such Belgium, you Vogon!
    • Gorram it you just may be right!
    • Comedienne Elayne Boosler pointed out that all the old crash-words have been worn out from overuse and they just don't provide any relief when you hit your thumb with a hammer.

      She suggested reusing some existing words that still have an emotional punch. Someone cuts you off in traffic? Roll down the window and yell, with your face red, "Audit you!".
    • Well microsoft you, ballmer lover!
    • by xixax (44677) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @08:25PM (#15267511)
      Someone ought to Gates those Clippys up the Allchin and kick them in the Balmers for coming up with an idea that's so WinFS.
    • Re:New Words (Score:3, Informative)

      <nitpick>Well actually, "frack" was used on the original BSG, along with other made-up words (like the "centon" unit of time). So its use on the new BSG is more of a nod to the earlier show than a way of avoiding censorship.</nitpick>

      But yeah, you're right that this will lead to new swear words to bypass the filters. After a while the old swear words will be passe and no one will use them, and Microsoft will start filtering the new words, and the cycle of swearing and filtering will continue ad
      • They can't drop the F-bomb everytime they say "frak" (that's the new series spelling), they get censored somehow. Personally, I think NBC wants the option to reshow on other networks before 10pm, which is why there's sex (though no nudity) and violence, but minimal "normal" swearing.
      • The obvious solution to this is to start using "Microsoft" as a swear word.

        "What the Microsoft are you talking about?"

        "Go Microsoft yourself."

        "So I was Microsofting this chick the other day..." o.O
    • <mutter> Smeg head </mutter>
    • I guess you've never heard of darn, dang, heck, jeepers, jeeze, gosh, frick, or freak, the latter of which is now synonymous with its inspiration. Also, the moment you start using those words in school, you might as well start walking around in a Klingon uniform -- if that's your thing -- because the ensuing ridicule/ass beating will be no less severe.
    • There is an admin pack that seems to be installed on a lot of CSS servers that can filter out offensive language by replacing it with ****. What seems to happen most of the time is people either misspell the word (eg cnut) or add in a space.
    • Two words: sacre blue!

      (Just to be a smart ass and point out this is quite an old practice that predates BSG by a few hundred years.)
    • Like, "That technology is a futhermucking, dot-gamm shiesse of pit, SIR!"
  • I doubt that the USPTO will bat this down, but there's prior art on all sorts of speech recognition. This one just happens to deal with censorship and adding metadata to the audio stream based on that.

    As you all can see though this patent was filed back in 2004, so it's been around for a while. The idea isn't anything new, nor is the application. What would be interesting is the broadcast industry's response to this thing.
    • Now, they put "dangerous" live programming on a six second delay and a person monitors and pushes a buttom to dump out bad content before it is transmitted. Any system that replaces that will have to be really really good at always doing the right thing and never doing the wrong thing. (What with the way nanny-gate bureaucracies worship technology, how much do you want to bet that the threshhold for fining broadcasters for indecency will be set lower once an automated tool hits the market?) So is Microsoft
    • As for prerecorded and live audio radio transmissions, such as on talk shows or call-in shows, this would be GREAT for the ones tired of being slapped with fines across all their networks by the FCC when someone utters, "F*ck you, a$$holes" or maybe even "FOOK YOU".

      Although the stations have and generally use time delay (maybe 6 seconds), which also confuses the hell out of listeners and the very callers when the callers have the radio on in the background (and makes for some laughs for me...), sometimes th
  • surely the idea of doing that is, well, "obvious" to just about anyone. There might be particular ways of doing it that might be patentable, but just matching for sounds is exactly what a worried mother does when she puts her hands over her precious son's ears. Training a computer to do the same thing seems an obvious thing to do if it's outputting sound and you don't want people to hear 'bad words'
  • Awesome! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pestilence669 (823950) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:23PM (#15267198)
    I forsee a future where you cannot criticize Microsoft in podcasts created and streamed using Windows. "Microsoft Sucks", could be considered offensive.
  • an idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    hey now, if they'll just allow us to define what is worth censoring i'm all for this technology but the choice should be made in the home, not in washington.

    the first thing i'd put on an explicitive list: commercials
  • Censorship (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:32PM (#15267262)
    Let us take a fine example from the wonderful lore of Douglas Adams and simply replace every one of our cuss words with the galaxy's worst word: Belgium.

    Belgium to those Belgiuming Belgiumers who censor our every Belgiuming word!
  • by cyfer2000 (548592) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:38PM (#15267281) Journal
    Cingular, Sprint, Verizon are in trouble if MS get the patent, and if MS think the wireless phonce call is "broadcast".
  • How can they patent 'beep' !!!
  • In other news, Company BlahBlah to implement search technology to automatically block offensive material from image search.... oh wait, that's already a feature of Google image search!

    Automatically detecting the word !@#$ and bleeping it out doesn't seem to be like a bad feature to me, as long as its optional. Maybe it's dumb that they're trying to patent it, but the idea isn't a bad one.

  • Ciminals... (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by KellyMann (557813)
    "Censorship is the control of speech and other forms of human expression, it is often (but not necessarily) controlled by government intervention. The visible motive of censorship is often to stabilize or improve the society that the government would have control over. It is most commonly applied to acts that occur in public circumstances, and most formally involves the suppression of ideas by criminalizing or regulating expression." So what is going to happen to all the website that transmit or retransmit
  • f--- that! (Score:4, Funny)

    by raider_red (156642) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:48PM (#15267317) Journal
    Why should I need that? I should be able to say whatever f---ing s--- I want too. Any A--hole who says otherwise can suck my d---.
  • Musing on the subj (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mapkinase (958129) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:48PM (#15267319) Homepage Journal
    As some of the posters rightfully noted, this won't solve the problem. One of the symptoms of not solving would be "invented" cursive words. The problem lies deeper.

    Think for a minute, why do we curse? We curse to express our emotions. Instead of using words that describe the emotion exactly, like: "I am very angry right now", we spit expletives. We do that to alleviate the anger (for example) caused by this situation. Emotiones expressed in this way help quickly release the pain caused by the anger. But.

    But they do not remove the cause of the anger. Bad driver manners will continue, and there is little you could do about that whether with anger or without it.

    So what would be a healthier reaction? Right. Anger management. You will train yourself not to react angrily, by channelling anger into correct actions, not emotions.

    This is what we have to teach our kids spending on that much more effort than protecting them from hearing infamous seven words.
  • by soupforare (542403) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @07:53PM (#15267345)
    "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it."
  • They are already beta-testing it. Example right here [dumpalink.com]
  • Can you imagine the spin off technology? Instead of just censoring peoples speech you could alter it to say politically correct things. Imagine someone speaking in public and the system automatically changing their speech from one that makes the oil companies look bad to one that extols the oil companies virtues in the on going oil crisis. No one gets to hear the actual speech the person intended to deliver. Talk about being able to spin something before anyone gets to hear the damaging speech.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know most of the replies here are thinking about this in terms of curse words. But the first thing I jump to is the issue of censorship in China. We already know that the search results are filtered over there (see Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.). Seems like the next logical step.
  • Seems to me this is more likely just a paranoid method of securing rights in the future.

    As far as I can tell, this would be pretty tough tech to roll out. You'd have to cover all sorts of pitches, tones, garbled speech, and some weirdly pronounced words. So, I'm thinking Microsoft is just trying to get the trophy before the game even starts.

    And besides, isn't automatic broadcast censorship just called "Interns?"

  • by Mr.Bananas (851193) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @08:12PM (#15267443)
    Wow, I didn't think it would be possible to bring together so many things that Slashdot readers love to hate into one single post, but this article has almost done it:

    - Microsoft
    - Software Patents
    - Censorship

    Now, if only Microsoft could extend or apply this patent to automatically censor the topics "evolution" and "open source" ...
  • Excellent! (Score:2, Funny)

    by siddesu (698447)
    If that means that noone else will be able to implement automated censoring without paying a license fee -- I am all for it ;)
  • A new feature for Slashdot - Tagline of the Day Award (hereafter TotDA).

    This is awarded for taglines for the news postings that actually manage to be thoughtful. A tagline that is witty, appropriate and insightful. That doesn't happen nearly enough and therefore the TotDA will not necessarily appear on a daily basis (despite the name).

    I'm assuming that the Tom-Petty-Free-Playlists would be refering to the Last DJ, who plays what he wants to play. Not that that wasn't prescient - I can barely listen to t

  • Your not allowed to post/share benchmarks for any product they produce. Free speech be damned.

    Enjoy,
  • by TheNetAvenger (624455) on Thursday May 04, 2006 @09:50PM (#15267909)
    Tinfoil hats off please, this is for Speech and Media Encorder Services...

    So an employee or customer using realtime voice services could use an automated service and the company using MS Speech Server technologies could tell the system to not let them broadcast 4 letter words through the service for example.

    Imagine a phone system service that allowed a customer to send messages to friends or family, and lets say the company was Apple using the product, they could use the MS technology to ensure the customer didn't tell everyone the service targeted to go get F**ked...

    Another example would be a live broadcast that is encoding to Windows Media going out over the FCC air or the Internet, this could keep a bad caller on 'radio' show (for example) from violating FCC rules in realtime.

    It could also be used for parents to censor TV or Audio off the Internet or Via a TV Box so they could limit certain words from their kids.

    Get it?

    As for 'censorship', come on lets pretend the easter bunny is trying to take over the world with toxic chocolate eggs or something more exciting.

  • Personally, I want to know exactly HOW they are doing this. Speech recognition is not in a very good state right now, and I'd love to see it explained in the patent:

    1) How they will accomplish this exactly - I want algorithms
    2) How they intend to catch EVERY swear word (even if it's limited to the 7 dirty words)
    3) How they will prevent false positives in 100% of situations (funky)

    If they can't supply those three things, it's not an invention that works as advertised, and shouldn't be granted no matter what
  • Microsoft plans to use this technology to censor out these highly offensive words:

    Apple
    iPod
    Google
    Firefox
    Opera
    Mac OS X
    Linux
    Open Source

    -- n
  • Louie Louie (Score:3, Funny)

    by craXORjack (726120) on Friday May 05, 2006 @12:15AM (#15268411)
    Now if only someone would invent a way to do exactly the opposite so we could find out what the lyrics really are to Louie Louie!
  • this is good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by penguin-collective (932038) on Friday May 05, 2006 @02:27AM (#15268678)
    I'm all for bad patents on bad ideas, because it will make it harder for other people to actually use the bad idea.

    Of course, maybe the EFF should take notice and preemptively patent some of the f*cked up, obvious things people are going to misapply technology to over the next years.
  • I looked through the patent, and it simply describes that you can use pattern matching (using standard pattern matching methods) to find undesirable words (well, you can find basically anything with pattern matching, so why not scan for a list of words) and not let them be heard. It talks about a "probability threshold", which is a fancy way of saying that pattern matching will never be able to be 100% certain that a certain word is a swear word, so the system guesses with a certain percentage of chance of
  • You aren't so muckin' fuch. Why don't you go in your jack yard and back off?

    Censor THAT!
  • <expletive deleted> Microsoft! I hope they eat <expletive deleted> and die. What a bunch of <expletive deleted>suckers. Mother<expletive deleted>s.
  • Everyone has two "methods for automatically altering audio to prevent undesired words and phrases from being understandable to a listener as originally uttered."

    They're called "Getting Old" and "Getting Married".

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