Can a computer tell a dirty picture from a clean one?
October 31, 2000 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Can a computer tell a dirty picture from a clean one? This is a review of a product which claims to be able to filter pictures attached to your email and remove the naughty ones. Particularly interesting is its response to a portrait of Dubya...
posted by Steven Den Beste (10 comments total)
Good god, what stupid idea. AI is nowhere near that level of sophistication. It's just barely possible to create a program that can distinguish a circle from a square, let alone do something as complex as recognizing pr0n. I pity da' fool who actually spends money on this "product".
posted by Potsy at 6:44 PM on October 31, 2000

A while back I heard that Geocities and a few other free web page services have a program that scans all the pages on their network for large amounts of skin tones. It flags the pages that do, and then humans actually sift through those and boot people with porn on their page.
posted by Doug at 8:00 PM on October 31, 2000

It blocked Dubya because Bush is a wanker.
posted by kindall at 8:00 PM on October 31, 2000

Very nice piece, Steven.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the writer got the adjectival phrase "Zeta Reticulan" spelled correctly.

We have *so* much trouble with that.
posted by baylink at 8:13 PM on October 31, 2000

Until the product works 100% what's the use. This goes for all filtering products.
posted by Zool at 9:12 PM on October 31, 2000

I remember back in the mid-nineties they were talking about a similar program for the T.V. The only problem was that not only did it block out porn, it also blocked out a fully clothed Murray Walker (Formula 1 commentator, been around forever, currently working with ITV.) I think this was on Beyond 2000.
posted by riffola at 11:11 PM on October 31, 2000

The day a computer can reliably determine what's porn and what's not is the day we can sign our civilisation over to HAL 9000 and his brethren. The definition of pornography is a feat of mentation that so far has exceeded the abilities of the human race; if a computer can tell us that, the rest of our mysteries will not last long.

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:21 PM on November 1, 2000

An intelligent porn-filter could be enormously popular on both sides of the censorship fence. Sure, you could use it to block porn, but you could alse use it to seek it out. Can you imagine how profitable an automated Ditto-style porn finder web site could be?
posted by waxpancake at 4:28 PM on November 1, 2000

No, no, they DID try running a porn sweeper on HAL 9000. The first site it blocked was ...
posted by dhartung at 8:46 PM on November 1, 2000

Bah. First of all, it's a subjective "I know it when I see it" type of thing. Is a picture of Rich from Survivor porn? Not in my universe! It's a crime against humanity, but it ain't porn. Is a picture of a naked 2-year old in a tub taking a bath porn? Not to me, but there are some sickos out there who might get off on it (*shudder*).

Secondly, it'll just start an arms race between people who want to get around the filter, and the people who run the filter.

So, for instance, to combat an algorithm that makes judgments based on skin-tones, a porn purveyor might run the images through a filter so that the models look blue instead of fleshy-colored. And then some clever porn-admiring person would create a web plug-in or something to automagically tint the picture back to a more pleasing fleshy color when it's viewed.

Just one example, but I can see it going on and on and on and on...

posted by beth at 6:24 AM on November 2, 2000

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