LOL: New Apple Patent Hopes To Squash Sexting, But It Ain't Happening

Last Updated Oct 13, 2010 3:39 PM EDT

Apple (APPL) has a new patent that will prevent "unauthorized people" from sending explicit texts. It may sound like a blessing to parents concerned about underage texting, but the chances of it curbing "sexting" are nearly nil and the concept sounds like Steve Jobs' latest vain attempt to whitewash the Apple ecosystem.

According to Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch, the Apple patent is as follows:

In one embodiment, the control application includes a parental control application. The parental control application evaluates whether or not the communication contains approved text based on, for example, objective ratings criteria or a user's age or grade level, and, if unauthorized, prevents such text from being included in the text-based communication.

If the control contains unauthorized text, the control application may alert the user, the administrator or other designated individuals of the presence of such text. The control application may require the user to replace the unauthorized text or may automatically delete the text or the entire communication.


Let's get one thing out of the way: regulating "unauthorized texts" isn't going to prevent sexting, slurs or other concerns from happening. Like email spammers and adult content creators, kids will easily be able to avoid obvious filter traps by misspelling words. "Isht" and "pron" are nonsense words, but they make perfect sense when put into context.

Beyond the limitations of the filtering, Apple is trying to censor one of the smartest texting groups on the planet. As Family Circle's Scott Alexander recently noted, the average high school girl sends 100 text messages per day. The group virtually invented the modern abbreviated conversation, as tween and teenage text messaging was commonplace before Twitter was even invented. It's doubtful the patent will be dynamic enough to catch the latest hip phrase or abbreviation for a deviant act.

The more bothersome part here is that the patent fits into Jobs' agenda to keep any Apple product free of potentially offending content, not trusting that the consumer has the sensibility (or, in this case, the parenting skills) to deal with it on his own. Here are just a few Gadget Watch censorship posts since the iPad was announced in February:

The shaky track record makes one question if the patent is really about protecting kids or is it just another step towards Apple protecting the consumer from herself. Considering how ineffectual a text blocking tool would be, it's probably the latter.

Photo courtesy of The Accent // CC 2.0

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