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Patents Microsoft

Microsoft Patents the Censoring of Speech 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the %$!#-!%-!%!$-##%-$@#! dept.
theodp writes "On Tuesday, the USPTO awarded Microsoft a patent for the Automatic Censorship of Audio Data for Broadcast, an invention that addresses 'producing censored speech that has been altered so that undesired words or phrases are either unintelligible or inaudible.' The patent describes methods for muting offensive words and replacing them with less offensive versions, and 'a third alternative provides for overwriting the undesired word with a masking sound, i.e., "bleeping" the undesired word with a tone.' After all, there's nothing worse than being subjected to offensive speech when you're shooting someone in the head."
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Microsoft Patents the Censoring of Speech

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  • Yay! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kral_Blbec (1201285) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:17AM (#25430923)

    So now the parents of kids too young to play dont have to worry about letting them play!!

    Come on, if you're old enough to play the game, you're old enough to either deal with it or tell them to stuff a sock in it. There are so many other options to work with. Why not just mute the stupid player? Or not even use the voip at all? Like the article says, its only really used for trash talk anyway. Unless I know who I'm playing with, I'm not going to try and coordinate anything.

    Stupid idea.

    BTW first post!

    • Re:Yay! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Sj0 (472011) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @11:54AM (#25432019) Homepage Journal

      What's worse, do they bother censoring the ideas, or do they just use softer words?

      Hey, you mother[LOVER] I'm going to skull[LOVE] your [LOVING] corpse and then I'm going to get you down on your knees and get your corpse to [WHISTLE] on my [SKINFLUTE]

      Or would the Microsoft device just change the whole sentence to something like

      [I LIKE YOU. WE SHOULD GET TOGETHER FOR AGE APPROPRIATE SOCIAL BEVERAGES.]

    • by Valdrax (32670)

      Why not just mute the stupid player? Or not even use the voip at all? Like the article says, its only really used for trash talk anyway. Unless I know who I'm playing with, I'm not going to try and coordinate anything.

      Maybe it's only used for trash talk because stupid kids trash talking prevents anyone from having a civilized game. I mean, I don't play these kinds of games online *because* of all the "new to their testosterone" little brats running around using "fag" like it's punctuation. It's a tragedy of the commons situation.

      Muting the player can invite retaliation, and muting everyone (by not using VoIP) is just sticking your head in the sand. If this kind of software works, then I'd love to see it as an option w

      • Absolutely,

        Just last saturday, I was at my dad's house and we were playing Mario Kart on his Wii with my nephews (8 and 10 yo), those two little gremlins were responsible for 99% of the swearing during the races.

        Anyway, one of few races I lost to them was caused by ther laughters after that dialogue:
        10yo: You're stupid!
        8yo: He, you're not stupider than I am (pause) sh*t!

  • Useless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FluffyWithTeeth (890188) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:17AM (#25430925)

    Trust me when I say you can come up with new curses faster than you can code them into an automatic censorship proram...

    Nevermind all the fantastic new accents this is going to promote. And if you disagree; well quck you.

    • Re:Useless (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 4e617474 (945414) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:27AM (#25430977)

      Trust me when I say you can come up with new curses faster than you can code them into an automatic censorship proram...

      Pondering this make me feel a whole lot better about the whole enterprise. I'm all in favor of protecting budding young minds from the use of profanity as a substitute for creative expression... by teaching them that profanity is the inspiration for expressing yourself creatively. Also I like the thought of someone going to their manager and saying, "I need a ruling on 'defecating masonry'. Can we let that go?"

      • Re:Useless (Score:5, Funny)

        by BrokenHalo (565198) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:42AM (#25431045)
        Pondering this make me feel a whole lot better about the whole enterprise.

        Good thinking. I often think the standard of cursing in this language tends to be woefully inadequate, consisting of the mindless and dull repetition of combinations of the same four-letter words. For once, Microsoft could be doing something positive to improve articulacy of profane expression. It might not be what they intend, but I won't lose any sleep over that. ;-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SL Baur (19540)

        I'm all in favor of protecting budding young minds from the use of profanity

        My parents kept tight controls over what I was allowed to see/hear. Fortunately, I learned profanity from other kids on the playground at school.

      • Re:Useless (Score:4, Insightful)

        by nightfire-unique (253895) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @11:00AM (#25431589)

        I'm all in favor of protecting budding young minds from the use of profanity as a substitute for creative expression...

        I know I speak for many of us here when I say:

        Fuck you.

        Keep your intellectual parenting persuits where they belong: in your home. Raise your own fucking kids, and let me raise mine without government interference. We'll let them both compete in 20 years and see who did a better job.

        The moment you get your way with bad language censorship, I get my way with religious censorship.

        • I should have read your comment completely before posting... I think I misinterpreted what you were saying. Sorry about that. :)

          But it still stands for the others who feel language police are an acceptable limit on society.

        • by Sj0 (472011)

          When did Microsoft become a government?

        • by fbjon (692006)
          "Government", haha. Yeah, stick it to the man.
      • Re:Useless (Score:5, Funny)

        by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @11:26AM (#25431747) Journal

        "I need a ruling on 'defecating masonry'. Can we let that go?"

        "Copulate that excrement!"

      • by mqduck (232646)

        I fail to see how curse words stifle creativity. You could say the same thing about the word "cool". You could say the same thing about the words "good" or "bad".

        Don't blame words for non-"creative" expression. And don't forget the involvement of tone and context in communication.

    • Re:Useless (Score:4, Funny)

      by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:30AM (#25430991) Homepage

      And if you disagree; well quck you.

      Dude, don't disrespect your fellow Slashdot posters. That's crunked up.

    • I'm sceptical (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheLink (130905)
      I'm sceptical that it'll work that well. I do think it'll be more interesting than listening to people using fuck as punctuation - which is to me is dismally boring.

      Question: how will it cope with people using stuff like "Jesus/G-d" as an expletive? That sort of thing is offensive to many people too.

      Imagine if people started using Muhammad as an expletive. You can't just censor every mention of Muhammad because that will get you in big trouble too ;).

      It'll be interesting if the system can tell from the cont
    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      And what about foreign languages where normal words are pronounced like curses in English.

      And other funny effects like in France where the Toyota MR2 will become the Toyota <bleep>. (MR2 will be pronounced like the french curse "Merde").

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      Yeah, but it could be a great tool for radio and TV stations. Even if it doesn't get rid of the manual bleep-out guy, it might make his job a lot easier. It's not entirely worthless because it doesn't solve the problem 100%... that's like saying we should never make gasoline engines more fuel-efficient unless we can skip all the way to zero emissions in one step.

      • You're right with it not solving the problem 100%. Radio is typically, what, 7 seconds out of sync with "the rest of the universe"? Ignoring pre-recorded broadcasts for a moment (where I would agree with you) - These guys are quick on the trigger to bleep this stuff out on live streams, if you implement this sort of software they have to be both quick on the button AND able to catch the software in the act.

        Personally I'm looking forward to being able to play 'live' without being called a shitcock faggot ev
    • Calling somebody a "copulating vagina" is arguably even more effective than the usual phrase. Other politenesses, such as alleging that a person is "capital fecal matter" can probably be used also.

      Any sound-parsing censor is also liable to generate false positives. What would it do to different voices s and accents rendering "for King", "forking", "a sole", "ash it", and phrases involving the word "country".

      • Sing along for the censor (I may heve mis-spelled the first words in each line to assist with pronunciation):

        asshole, asshole, a soldier I shall be
        to piss, to piss, two pistols by my side
        fucking, fucking, for king and queen we'll fight
        this cunt, this cunt, this country I'll defend

        Add more lines as you think of them...

        • by Soruk (225361)

          The British comedians Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett used to do this sort of thing all the time back in the 1970s and 1980s in their show The Two Ronnies.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        You mean as in:
        Hamlet to Ophelia "Did you think I talk of country matters?"

        I didn't get that one until my professor pointed it out to me in college. Before then it just seemed like Shakespeare was being obscure, or possibly using some obsolete metaphor.

        But I think that most people who are objecting consider the entire idea repellent. I certainly do. You make work-arounds to avoid tyrannical impositions, not because you think the rule is a good one.

    • ...what happens when you want to give an honest opinion about a corporation's products?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by xOneca (1271886)
    • by n dot l (1099033)

      Trust me when I say you can come up with new curses faster than you can code them into an automatic censorship proram...

      Nevermind all the fantastic new accents this is going to promote. And if you disagree; well quck you.

      Oh, not just accents. Entire new sub-languages will appear. This reminds me of a story a friend tells.

      When this friend of mine was young, his parents had sent him to a private christian school. Some time around the middle of grade eight, his school's administration decided that negative words and phrases were to be banned. So you couldn't say "this sucks", or "darn" or stuff like that (outright swearing was, of course, already banned). Anyway, before the week had ended the students had switched to sarcastic

  • How original (Score:2, Insightful)

    by clang_jangle (975789) *
    Wow, it's just a regular cavalcade of innovation over there in Redmond. First Bob, then Clippy, UAC, aero, and now this -- Woooot!
  • I'm intrigued. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Night Goat (18437) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:23AM (#25430959) Homepage Journal

    Naturally, I didn't read the article, but I have to say I'm intrigued by this. It would come in extremely handy for radio stations if they no longer needed to have a delay on their live broadcasts. It would especially benefit college radio stations because they often have to limit what they can allow on air since they cannot afford the equipment that is required to have a delay. Although this technology might be very expensive as well, so who knows. I guess I ought to swallow my pride and read the article!

    • by westlake (615356)
      It would come in extremely handy for radio stations if they no longer needed to have a delay on their live broadcasts
      .

      That the "live mike" is dangerous is a lesson broadcasters have had to learn and re-learn since KDKA went on the air in 1920.

      Self-Censorship is intelligent and responsible:

      There will always be some damn fool on the line waiting for his chance to say that "The President has been shot!"

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      There's still going to have to be a delay. You don't know what the word is until he's finished saying it, and you have to start your bleeper before he starts saying it.

  • ... patenting automated triage.

    CC.
  • Oh come on..... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LibertineR (591918) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:25AM (#25430967)
    Is the heading not a TAD over the top here?

    Broadcasters can be, and have been fined thousands of dollars PER EVENT, through violations of FCC rules. One slip of the tongue should not be the basis for fining a program out of existance.

    A tool to help in that regards DOES NOT equal sensorship, and the title is a ridiculous assertion that hurts credibility around here.

    Hate Microsoft if you want, but Christ, why be stupid about it?

    What is next? "Microsoft wants to eat your babies"?

    As supposedly logic-driven geeks, can we not do better?

    • by 4e617474 (945414) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:32AM (#25430997)

      What is next? "Microsoft wants to eat your babies"?

      No, no, no. "Microsoft Sues Baby Eaters for Copyright Infringement". Pay attention.

    • by Throtex (708974) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:36AM (#25431007)

      You must be new here.

      IAAPL (I am a Patent Lawyer) ... as an engineer, I loved Slashdot. As a lawyer, I now know better and just come on here for laughs. It's like watching Sarah Palin discuss patent law.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        I'd much prefer that, do you suppose we could take up a collection and procure her services? I'd far rather think of her saying the idiotic stuff than some pale geek that doesn't actually know anything about it.

      • by Sj0 (472011)

        It's like watching Sarah Palin discuss patent law.

        What sorts of technology patents do I like, specifically? Well....this great country has had many great and terrible technology patents since the beginning, and some technology has been used by terrorists like that Ayers fellow that Obama pals around with, And when you think about it, Obama really isn't qualified to be president!

        See? I should be the next Vice President of the United States!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What exactly is inaccurate about the headline? That's what their program does -- it censors speech.

      Broadcasters can be, and have been fined thousands of dollars PER EVENT, through violations of FCC rules. One slip of the tongue should not be the basis for fining a program out of existance.

      Actually, I agree with you. The FCC and the constant state of moral panic over words and god forbid naked people is absurd.

      A tool to help in that regards DOES NOT equal sensorship, and the title is a ridiculous assertion

      • Ah... the article submitter speaks....
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by SteelFist (734281)
        A while back I was watching Saving Private Ryan on TV, and I actually thought it was kind of funny that they would show people stopping to pick up missing limbs, people holding innards in, etc, but when they were just walking through a field they censored out the curse words. Kind of doesn't make sense to me...
        • A while back I was watching Saving Private Ryan on TV, and I actually thought it was kind of funny that they would show people stopping to pick up missing limbs, people holding innards in, etc, but when they were just walking through a field they censored out the curse words. Kind of doesn't make sense to me...

          If you think about the generation that was around when the FCC was started, it's not so non-sensical. Teaching kids to swear is easy, but violence? Those peeps grew up on Three Stooges, Tom and Jerry, and Wile E. Coyote. Few, if any, have any stories to tell about how their best friend poked out his brother's eyes when he was 6. Sex? Well, you go back in time, and sex was very taboo. The romanticized theory was man and woman (or at least woman, heh) wait until marriage. A single mom was labled and sh

          • by bitrex (859228)

            The question has been asked innumerable times, "Why is there so much sex and violence on television?" I think the best answer to that question is that the medium of television is particularly suited to certain emotions. Violence, fear, hatred - these are emotions that come across very well on television. They're concrete - ambiguity on TV doesn't work. Same goes for sex - sex is concrete, but abstract feelings such as love, longing, wistfulness, resentment, etc. are much more difficult to adapt to the m

      • Actually, I agree with you. The FCC and the constant state of moral panic over words and god forbid naked people is absurd.

        The world did not end when Janet Jackson flashed a boob at half time in the Superbowl.

        I find it very disturbing that there was so much outrage over that incident, but no one seems to care about the amount of violence on TV. Bare breast bad, gun shot through the head good. Sigh.

        I miss Japanese TV. Tokyo channel 13 had this great show they played on late Friday night called Mini Skirt Police. Among other things, you could see young ladies crumpling beer cans with their breasts. Another memorable segment

      • Could it be?

        http://xkcd.com/406/ [xkcd.com]

    • Broadcasters can be, and have been fined thousands of dollars PER EVENT, through violations of FCC rules.

      That would be an example of ... wait a minute ... the word's on the tip of my tongue here ... oh right! ... censorship.

    • I think the problem here, within the paradigm you establish, is that MS is playing to the ridiculous system in which the moral police threaten free speech.

      These financial sanctions of which you speak are precisely what block free speech.

      Your argument is that this permits free speech because it permits them to say what they want. But in so doing, it stops them from saying what they want.

      The MS system here simply reinforces the paradigm, and makes money off of it too. It in no way permits or encourages fre

    • by houghi (78078)

      "Microsoft wants to eat your babies"

      I knew it! Thanks for confirming it.

    • by syousef (465911)

      What is next? "Microsoft wants to eat your babies"?

      Netcraft confirms it!

  • I disagree with the concept of software patents, but maybe if governments and other organizations had to pay for the privelege of censoring speech, there would be fewer of them doing so. Also, this means that anyone developing Free Software that provides censoring features will think twice about it. Then again, Free Software that does not respect Free Speech can hardly be called "Free", can it?

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My dear friend, please tell me what part of this patent is software per se. These are basic method and system claims, not Beauregard claims. Surely it covers software that performs the claimed methods, or a computer running software that enables it to behave as the claimed system, but it also covers someone doing the same thing with a mechanical system (if you can imagine such a thing, with gears and pulleys everywhere!). What makes software so special, other than it is central to your sheltered world vi

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        Because unlike other inventions which need huge labs full of the latest gadgets, you can "invent" new software in your parents' basement.

  • Harry Enfield... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gringer (252588) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:41AM (#25431043)

    Reminds me of this clip from Harry Enfield:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmRTUNh1vPo [youtube.com]

    [For those hard of flashing, it's a parody of a short gangster conversation in which the bad words have been taped over with better words]

  • by KingTank (631646) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @09:43AM (#25431049)
    Mother smiling gumdrops! I think that's a bunch of bull smurfs! That sparkle pony happy hole, Bill Gates and his piece of rainbow company, Microsoft, can go flower themselves with a sunshine until they bleed out their bunnies!
  • If you have 'forbidden knowledge' in a document, it goes poof with no recourse on your part..

    Oh, and it notifies the local authorities.

  • ... just curse your ass off when you tell it...

    And I'm sure this will work wonders for actors and other celebrities against the paparatzies...

  • by NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @10:02AM (#25431165)
    What the Luck? Those Gassholes in Redmond can't stop me from sMitting up a verbal storm. I'll BLiss all over their parade!
  • When censorship is expensive, companies will be less likely to implement it.

    • by HalAtWork (926717)
      Yeah but with Microsoft, they'll just say it's a feature of another product, and other products will cost more if they include it, or they won't have it at all, in which case it will look like the competition has less features and costs more.
  • Kill yourself. You are NOT WELCOME in America!

    this is one of the few issues that really get me mad.
    i try to be a mild mannered guy...

    • Sorry, but you are way over the top here. You do not have a constitutional right in the United States to yell "FIRE" in a theater any more than you can write an article advocating the assassination of a political figure.

      The use of software to remove objectionable material from broadcasts is no different than the use of the 'V-chip' in modern televisions. The FCC has rules many times on this issue. Just check out Howard Stern if you need further proof.

      This is not a censorship issue. This is an editing issue.

      • The use of software to remove objectionable material from broadcasts is no different than the use of the 'V-chip' in modern televisions. The FCC has rules many times on this issue. Just check out Howard Stern if you need further proof.

        No.. It's actually VERY different. I decide whether or not I use the V-chip. I have no say in censorship from a radio or TV station. The only choice I have (which, by the way, most Americans seem to have forgotten about) is that if I find something offensive or not appropriate for myself or family, I have the right to change the channel.

        I agree with GP that censorship is evil, but too many slack-jawed Americans seem to want somebody else to make those decisions for them rather than having an opinion and

        • by suzerain (245705)

          Use your brain people. Make a choice. Have an opinion. But don't try and shove your opinions down other people's throats

          Heh, not to be obvious, but really, now, it's not exactly fair to ask people without brains to use them, is it?

    • Does that mean you like receiving spam mail? Do you think that spam filters are a horrible abridgment of the free speech rights of spammers? Do you think that people trying to sell you stuff should be able to call you up and bug you about it at any time? How about visiting your house to hawk their wares?

      The right to speak freely does not include the right to force people to listen who don't want to.

      All this technology is is an automated filter for profanity -- just like the spam filter that keeps you mai

    • I agree. We need to come up with some way to prevent all these censorship freaks from talking about censorship.

  • Maybe an myth but I seem to remember that AOL had problems with the vulva in the north east of England.

  • I think we're living in a nanny state where there is far to much of somebody else telling people what they should or should not listen to or watch. Now what would be more useful would be an option to have the bleeping/muting/whatever done by your set top box rather than in the broadcast audio... that way, you can simply have an option to hear the original audio, or have the censored version for those with delicate ears. FWIW, I hate it when broadcasters censor words out... watching something as innocent as
  • For anyone who ever tried to have fun choosing a hotmail name:

    "[censored] [censored] threw a chair because he hated Google."

    or

    "[censored] [censored] resigned as CEO of Microsoft."

    Or of course, anyone who's heard voice chat during a Halo match:

    [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] you [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] in the [censored] [censored] [censored] with [censored] spoonfuls [censored] Lucky Charms [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] [censored] with a [censored] cra

  • It seems to me that any use of voice recognition to replace the human ear in speech processing tasks is obvious. I wouldn't have thought of using voice recognition for this particular purpose, but I bet anybody in the broadcasting industry would have. I suspect that this would already have been done if voice recognition software was robust enough for radio stations to trust it. That is, no one is doing this yet, not because it is innovative or non-obvious, but because it's not quite implementable yet.

    This

  • The title seems to imply that the Borg has patented censorship of speech. It's merely a method which uses speech recognition in a particular way to spot expletives and replace them automatically.
  • I can't see the problem with this. I can see problems with how this might be applied; but as others have pointed out there might be useful applications as well.

    The first thing I thought of was how a friend of mine swears once every two or three words sometimes, especially when he gets excited. This gets a touch tiresome after a while. If someone was playing an online game with him (I'm not a gamer), and didn't want to hear that for hours on end - an end-user device that applied this tech would be just the t

  • 30 seconds before we get someone posting the old classic, "It's not censorship if someone other than the government does it!"

  • Sunny (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @12:59PM (#25432567) Journal

    I...love...Windows Vista. It is a piece of...brilliance. I want to take a sledge hammer and ... gently caress ... it to turn it into a pile of ... sunshine.

  • ... would determine how it affects this video [youtube.com].

  • by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @04:11PM (#25434299)

    It'll be interesting to see just how such technology will be abused. Want to prevent speech that might inspire someone to stand up and do something regarding a certain topic, simply filter out keywords in context to the topic itself to help tilt the topic to favor one group's interests over another.

    "Free" speech is long dead and buried. Welcome to the next China.

  • Obvious to an expert (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MikeRozak (1389339)
    Hmmm... that patent is a bit obivious. Just a month ago I was at the InterSpeech conference telling speech recgonition researchers that games needed EXACTLY such technology. And I posted on MudDev in October 26, 2004: "In speech, you could keep an N-day log of the speech on HD. An "I'm being harassed" button press by a player would reference (or copy) the recent audio recordings. You could even have the player's computer do speech recognition on it and transmit the transcription, letting your text filte
  • Given how zealously MS guards it's intellectual property, now NO ONE ELSE will be able to censor speech without getting sued. Free speech is saved!

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