Apple’s Anti-Sexting Patent Approved


It seems Apple has taken the moral well-being of the world’s teenagers into their own hands and been granted a patent (filed in 2008 but just approved) that prevents certain devices from sending and/or receiving certain content.

A humerous look at the patent comes from John Davidson in the Australian Financial Review of Tuesday 19 October 2010, reproduced for your enjoyment here:

It could be just the prick language educators have been waiting for: Apple’s ‘anti-sexting’ technology patent that could finally force teenagers to polish up their written and oral skills if they want to slip naughty messages past their parents.

You may have read about the technology. Apple, the World’s Most Righteous Company, has just been awarded a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office for technology preventing mobile phones from sending or receiving sexy text messages known as ‘sexts’.

The patent covers software and circuitry in mobile phones, allowing parents to impose various controls on incoming or outgoing messages.

The controls might, for instance, prevent obscene, objectionable, sexy or romantic language from appearing in text messages or emails by refusing to send or receive such messages or by simply replacing the language with warnings or just blank spaces.

The sext ‘I want to hold your hand’, for instance, might be rendered ‘I want to BEEP your BEEP’, or “I want to … your …’ by the time it reaches the other party. Either way, the technology will have the dual benefit of preventing unwanted teenage hand-holding and boggling the teen’s under-stimulated imagination, both at the same time.

Obversely, the technology could be used in positive ways to educate mobile phone users. In the example Apple provided in its patent application, parents could require a certain number of Spanish words be used each day in emails for children who are learning that language.

Thus ‘I want to tener your mano’ might get past the censorship engine, encouraging the child to improve his or her Spanish vocabulary, especially when it comes to parts of the anatomy that are typically overlooked in Spanish 1A.

Most excitingly for those of us more afraid of teenage stupidity than teenage pregnancy, the patent also calls for technology which would either pass or prevent a message, depending on ‘vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and punctuation based on the user’s designated skill level’, which would be set by the parent.

Now, as everyone knows, any attempts to stand between teenagers and their hormones are destined for failure, but Apple has artfully crafted its system so all its elements work hand in glove with each other, ensuring it fails in creative and educational ways.

For instance, programming a mobile phone so the word ‘boobs’ is omitted from all communications will only force teenagers to come up with a euphemism for ‘boobs’ such as ‘sweater puppies’.

Realising this, parents will soon ban ‘sweater puppies’, forcing the kids to come up with a new euphemism, which will in turn be banned, and so on and so forth until the teenagers come up with something truly creative: ‘banian younglings’ comes to mind. Kids will have to carry around a Thesaurus just to get their lapillis off.

And that’s just from the anti-sexting controls. Add in the others, such as the control that enforces advanced vocabulary, and hormones will drive teenagers to linguistic feats so cunning their parents can only sit back in pride and amazement.

Parents could, for instance, set their children’s phones so every outgoing text has to contain a Word of the Day from the past six months if the text is going to make it past the control circuits. With nothing but sex on their mind, the teens will become positively Shakespearean in their language skills:

‘Your ripe mangosteens are like nepenthe to me: lost in their plicatures, I momentarily forget all about the raspberry slushie incident. Who needs the polygonous azure medicament when I have a roborant like you sitting near me on the bus? I want to clamp your prehensile extremity.’

There’s another incentive too for kids to improve their language skills under the Apple patent: the censorship controls can be set according to the ‘grade level’ of the child. That might mean the grade the child is attending at school, or it might mean the grades the child gets.

Either way, it’s easy to see how parents could use the filters as a carrot rather than a stick: make it to Year 9 and you’ll get to write ‘kiss’ once a week. Get an A in English and you’ll get the sweater puppies back.

I can’t wait for the patent to find its way into the iPhone. It will probably take a while, which should just about give me enough time to make some teenage children of my own. I better get cracking with the hippity dippity.

© Lyn Prowse-Bishop –

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