How Dare You Censor My Books?

How Dare You Censor My BooksYou 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!

An example of app created censorship.

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.

5 thoughts on “How Dare You Censor My Books?”

  1. What tosser came up with this app? Clearly they haven’t thought it through. I can just hear the angry responses in the boardrooms of the big five publishing houses, let alone what everyone within the Indie community thinks, can’t you? It’s bad enough having to deal with bad spelling, typos, doubled up words etc, without something like this being foisted on the market!

    1. Luckily Jack, sense has prevailed and Page Foundry have withdrawn ebooks being available on the dumb arsed Clean Reader app. Or perhaps it was a reaction to the outrage of so many authors.

  2. Michaela Tschudi

    Whoever developed the app must have a very dull reading experience. Imagine reading Dorothy Porter’s poetry with all the fucks and cunts blanked out? This app might disappear but soon enough, another will replace it. Such is the law of the App Store. Enjoyed your blog.

  3. Does it censor part words? For example the biography of a young Arsenal football club player talking about the time he spent with Scunthorpe United on the way up the footballing ladder. That would become a bizarre read.

  4. It is a very troubling trend, book censorship. Goodreads allows users to mark books with all manner of what may be “offensive” material. Of course, then you’ve have Game of Thrones what is just loaded with what some would consider “offensive” material, and the show is insanely popular. Are books then really in danger of being completely censored? Reading this post, I recall watching movies on TV that would *bleep* out or change an offensive word to something else. That’s certainly a form of censorship, but as we can see, movies and TV have virtually ignored that censorship and continue to push the boundaries even further.

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