Automated Censorship: Don’t Say, Can’t Say
Yesterday NPR terminated news analyst Juan Williams over comments he made on Bill O’Reilly’s show. But what if there had been a way – say a piece of software – that kept those comments from being uttered in the first place?
The question isn’t an idle one, as it brings up issues of censorship. A few days ago, Apple was granted a patent for a software application that can keep teens (and presumably anyone who’s using it) from sending sexually-oriented text messages.
Canon just announced an office copier that can be programmed not to print documents containing certain keywords. For example, an office manager could set the machine not to print any document with the word “Ticketmaster,” on the assumption that it would be a receipt for a concert that was personal, not business-related.
I’m not in favor of teens (or anyone else) sexting. It’s stupid and, when it becomes public as it inevitably does, embarrassing. Nor do I favor employees using company resources for personal business.
But if we abstract these developments, they foretell a troubling trend: A growing movement to prohibit speech and acts proactively – before they occur. This is eerily like the premise of the film Minority Report, where a team of future-forecasting police officers prevent crimes by arresting people before they commit them.
We should be asking ourselves these two questions: Who will control the software, and how will we even know word-blocking software is being used, until we get a summons from the principal’s office? And if we don’t have the freedom to make mistakes – even mistakes of spoken language – will we still be able to have open debate and discussion in our society?
Image by Shelton LeBron
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Leipzig is the founder and CEO of MediaU, online career acceleration. MediaU opens the doors of access for content creation, filmmaking and television. Adam, Cultural Daily’s founder and publisher, has worked with more than 10,000 creatives in film, theatre, television, music, dance, poetry, literature, performance, photography, and design. He has been a producer, distributor or supervising executive on more than 30 films that have disrupted expectations, including A Plastic Ocean, March of the Penguins, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Dead Poets Society, Titus and A Plastic Ocean. His movies have won or been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, 11 BAFTA Awards, 2 Golden Globes, 2 Emmys, 2 Directors Guild Awards, 4 Sundance Awards and 4 Independent Spirit Awards. Adam teaches at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. Adam began his career in theatre; he was the first professional dramaturg in the United States outside of New York City, and he was one of the founders of the Los Angeles Theatre Center, where he produced more than 300 plays, music, dance, and other events. Adam is CEO of Entertainment Media Partners, a company that navigates creative entrepreneurs through the Hollywood system and beyond, and a keynote speaker. Adam is the former president of National Geographic Films and senior Walt Disney Studios executive. He has also served in senior capacities at CreativeFuture, a non-profit organization that advocates for the creative community. Adam is is the author of ‘Inside Track for Independent Filmmakers ’ and co-author of the all-in-one resource for college students and emerging filmmakers 'Filmmaking in Action: Your Guide to the Skills and Craft' (Macmillan). (Photo by Jordan Ancel)