You can’t censor my books!
There is always an ‘app for that‘ as we all know, but I think I stumbled on one of the most insidious today. One that censors my books. It is an app that blanks out all words that the app deems as bad words from an ebook, and has an option to replace them with acceptable words. This is censorship of books, and this is always dangerous. Why only replace words? Why not just burn the books?
If this app is allowed to continue to be made available, it is going to change the world for writers, especially for those who like to add a little spice, a little aggression, a little violence, a little of the vernacular or simply, plain bloody everyday reality to their writing. You are now about to be electronically censored! Worse, is that many of the words that this app finds unacceptable would likely appear in almost any work of fiction, apart from perhaps, Alice in damned Wonderland. To censor my books is to kill my writing. How dare you!
The settings available in Clean Reader are Off, Clean, Cleaner and Squeaky Clean. Depending on the setting, when the app comes across what it deems as a naughty word, it is boxed out, but if the box is clicked, alternative words can be suggested. In other words, this app has the potential to re-write just about a whole bloody book! Well pardon me, but who gave anyone the right to edit, change or delete the words I, or any other author has written?
Authors should be alarmed about what this app does. But like many dangerous ideas, this app is also a bit dumb arsed.
Joanne Harris makes a valid point about the stupidity of this app in her great blog post about this shitty app:
Body parts have often been the target for censorship, and Clean Reader seems, not only determined to remove all mention of them from your reading experience, but also to make it as difficult as possible to distinguish one from the other. Therefore, “vagina”, “anus”, “buttocks” and “clitoris” all become “bottom”, which seems to me not only anatomically incorrect, but also pointlessly repetitive (as well as potentially dangerous).
I can only wonder if penis, cock and dick become bottom as well. Now that would make for a lot of confusion in even the mildest of sex scenes. He blanked her bottom with his bottom?
In another post by Jennifer Porter, she notes how silly it all becomes:
Apparently, all sex (which of course is a bad word itself) is actually anal sex (or bottom love) as vaginas are entirely erased by the Clean Reader app. I am willing to be that this wasn’t intentional but it makes a very profound and dismissive statement about female sexuality.
Included in Jennifer’s post is a table of some of the bad words and suggested replacements. It makes for quite a laugh, when pissed is listed to be replaced by angry, because, when I’m pissed, I’m shit faced drunk, so clearly this is a US English censorship tool, which will totally cock up any texts written in British English.
My feelings about this app are summed up perfectly by Joanne Harris:
Apps like Clean Reader change the text without the author’s permission. They take the author’s words and replace them – sometimes very clumsily – on the basis of some perceived idea of “bad words” versus “good words”. No permission is sought, or granted. There is no opt-out clause for authors or publishers. This is censorship, not by the State, but by a religious minority…
Censorship is censorship. And this app definitely is that. My own belief is that Apple and Google should act to protect the integrity of authors’ works published on iBooks and Google Play, and on any other platform for that matter, by removing this holier than thou, US Bible Belt app immediately. Not only does it suck, it is dangerous.
I am sure my feelings as a writer will be understood and shared by all writers. I wrote my books, and every single word was written with thought and purpose, so I do not want my words fucked with by a mindless US Christian censorship app. What next? An Islamic version? A Scientology version? A Nazi version? If you don’t want to read my books, that’s fine. Don’t buy them, and don’t read them. But DO NOT buy one and then fuck with it! Do not censor my books!
I agree totally with Joanne Harris and her final words on the subject:
Is that where we want to go?
Note: I have highlighted all bad words used in this post in red and bold to make them easier to be cleansed by whichever automated censorship app you may be using while reading my blog. If your app fails however, replace them all with, oh dear me.
Update: Very pleased to see from these Tweets that action has been taken regarding this app.
— Page Foundry (@pagefoundry) March 26, 2015
In response to authors wishes that we not sell their books, we have asked @pagefoundry to remove the bookstore from our app.
— Clean Reader (@CleanReader) March 26, 2015