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Opinion | Pop Culture

Apple Takes a Bite Out of Sexting

Is a parental-control device the best way to teach teens that sending sexually explicit texts is a bad idea?

Apple recently secured a patent for technology that would allow the company to read, and censor, iPhone text messages. The patent was almost immediately dubbed an "anti-sexting device," despite the fact the actual patent title is "Text-based communication control for personal communication device."

The idea is that text messages will be subjected to a control system—an algorithm or perhaps an underpaid intern—that will flag objectionable content and prevent it from being sent. The logic is similar to that behind the TV Guardian, a device that filters so-called "mature" content from television and movies, based on a series of filters that users can turn on or off. (Perhaps this reveals my immaturity, but when reading through the list of TV Guardian options, "Hell/Damn Filter" made me snicker.)

I couldn't find any statistics on how many homes own a TV Guardian, but I'm willing to bet it's less than the number of people who own an iPhone.

The proposed Apple technology contains some laughable aspects, such as a grammar option, which would allow parents to set up alerts whenever their children's texts contained an assault on the English language. This description, from the patent itself and quoted in PC World, sums it up nicely:

"A parent can … institute a condition to improve a child's grades. For example, the control application may require a user during specified time periods to send messages in a designated foreign language, to include certain designated vocabulary ...
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