Clean Reader App – self censorship for babies

Part of the benefit of living in a democracy is that every person has the right to choose. We exercise that right every moment of every day. Tea or coffee? Bus or train? Free to Air TV or Netflix? Liberals or Labor? A book or a movie?

What we choose does not matter, only that we possess that right.

But rights are not bestowed like magic, they have to be earned in some way. We have earned our right to choose by defending other’s right to property. When I go out and buy a book in whatever format, I am buying the ‘object’, not the words and ideas in that object.

Thus I can choose to buy or not to buy that object, but I cannot choose to copy all the words and pretend I wrote them. By the same token, I cannot snip out the bits I don’t like and substitute something more palatable for them.

Yet that, apparently, is exactly what Clean Reader App is doing.Β  Because the medium of the book is digital, this app can come along, hoover up the words and replace them with ‘clean’ words.

Unfortunately, as D.V.Berkom points out in her post, this computerized CENSORSHIP changes the meaning, intent, pace, flow and music of the prose. That is just notangry on.

I’m all for choice. In fact, I’d like to see even more choice in our lives, but this is not choice, this is censorship pure and simple and by a ‘machine’ no less.

Are we truly such babies that we can’t trust ourselves to close a book that contains content we think we shouldn’t read?

-makes rude noise-


About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

20 responses to “Clean Reader App – self censorship for babies

  • Stephanie Allen Crist

    I’ve heard of people doing this–though more labor intensively–with movies. I don’t know how they acquire the rights or whatever, but they make “clean” copies of popular movies for those people who enjoy the entertainment, but not the violence/sex. Of course, in this case they don’t replace the scenes they cut with something else.

    I suppose if the artist(s) agree, then that’s their choice and their readers/viewers then have the option. Kind of the way satirists ask permission to use music or movies that other people have created and make a satire out of them, though I only know of one (Weird Al) who actually asks for and gets permission.

    But for an app to do this to a book without the writer’s permission is not okay; it’s worse than censorship, because it combines censorship and plagiarism in one neat little package. I’m American enough to suspect a lawsuit will be forthcoming.


  • Candy Korman

    Given the hysterically funny word changes that come from auto spell correct on my iPhone, I wouldn’t trust any app to makes changes in a book. I guess if you’re terribly afraid of objectionable words, you should just read Jane Austen and give it a rest.

    People joke that there’s an app for everything β€”there isn’t.


  • anne54

    Is the world becoming seriously weird, or is it just me because it is late at night and I am coming down with a cold? Is this the ultimate in First World Problems? Really, who would even consider creating such an app, much less buying it? If you don’t like what you are reading, close the book and give it to an op shop or put it in the recycle bin. And are there already people who cross out words in books and substitute what they would like to see there? Time for bed and the sanity of dreams. (Although, if it makes the changes that David has said it could be fun for a short time!)


    • acflory

      Our world is in transition Anne! This is just one possible, unexpected outcome of the new digital age. Like you, though, I can’t imagine who would want to use it, leastways not in Australia. lol We’re born swearing! Can you imagine a big blokey bloke in a blue singlet reading on his mobile phone with the app running?
      -rolls on floor laughing-


  • davidprosser

    I read a similar piece a few days ago where I believe the writer has either used the app or seen it in action. What they had to say had me in stitches, that this app can actually clean up a piece and make it far worse than it was originally.Instead of the usual, his penis entered her (insert word of choice) it’s changed to his man parts enter her bottom. Or word to that effect. So what was an ordinary sex scene now becomes sodomy and is supposed to be cleaned up?
    Seriously though. I doubt anyone who buys my work and is offended by parts of it is about to leave a review because in effect hey’r reviewing their own work and not mine. They’ve paid me for the book so I don’t care what they do to entertain themselves. Others would buy the book and hopefully see that whatever had rendered the first person speechless with offence taken ,was a necessary part of the story. At the end of the day this app is only a form of self censorship. The book itself would stand or fall on it’s own merits with those who don’t buy the app.

    Massive Hugs Andrea xxxxxxxx


  • EllaDee

    I went to Goodreads quotes because I figured writers wrangling forms of censorship isn’t new.

    Here’s a few gems from a very entertaining compilation.

    β€œWhat is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
    ― Salman Rushdie

    β€œThere is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it’s going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.”
    ― Frank Zappa

    β€œIt’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”
    ― Stephen Fry

    I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d want to read a book but want to blank/change some of the words. I just wouldn’t read it. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we have to!


    • acflory

      More laughter! God bless Stephen Fry et al. πŸ˜€

      In most of the mmo’s I play there is actually a button you can select that will bleep out offensive words. Given how some gamers talk this might not be such a bad idea except….it just comes out sounding really strange. Needless to say I don’t use it.


  • christiemeierz

    Good ghod, movies change the words all the time. The latest Hobbit movies, anyone?

    You can’t control what people do with books once they’ve bought them. If you do, you’re getting perilously close to mind control.


    • acflory

      Mmm…movies do, but would you be happy if someone bought your books and took out all references to how the Tolari feel about children and relationships?

      I don’t want to control anyone’s mind just… hands off my words. 😦


      • christiemeierz

        If someone buys my books and uses the app, it doesn’t affect anybody who buys my books and *doesn’t* use the app. They’re missing out, but that’s their choice. It’s only censorship if they try to restrict what other people read. To restrict what they themselves read? That’s their choice. I choose what I do and don’t want to read all the time, although I do it by not buying the book in the first place. I don’t generally read murder mysteries, for example, but that doesn’t affect anyone but me, and it never will unless someone elects me Queen of the Universe and I decide that no one else can read murder mysteries, either.

        Honestly, someone could buy a print edition of one of my books and scratch out anything they want. For me to get my knickers in a twist over it is… entirely ineffectual, and rather childish.


        • acflory

          -grin- As you’re not a morning person we can’t do the pistols at dawn thing so we’ll have to agree to disagree. Seriously? I can see your point, but my gut tells me this is a terrible precedent to set. I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if someone wanted to burn my books at the stake or something but changing them….that feels wrong. It feels like a lie. -shrug-

          Incoherent mumblings aside, I have really enjoyed this debate and I just want to make the point that brain cells never grow if people always agree. πŸ™‚


  • Carrie Rubin

    I’d much rather see books get ratings like movies do than to see the words get changed. Meaning could indeed get lost. And where does it end? Is it just the changing of one word or entire paragraphs? It’s a slippery slope for sure.


    • acflory

      I agree, Carrie. I don’t swear [hardly at all] in real life but I’ve actually written quite a few F bombs into my current WiP, because the character thinks and talks that way.

      If people want to give me an X rating on the basis of language then that’s fine. I can live with that, no problems. Not sure about my reputation as a nice little old lady but hey… can’t have everything, right? lol

      Liked by 1 person

  • christiemeierz

    Okay, I’ve been arguing about this with some people. And I want to make it clear from the start that I think the Clean Reader app is stupid. In my opinion, if you don’t like a book’s language, you should put it down. But that’s *my* opinion, with which other people need not agree.

    Other people have a different opinion, such as that they can bleep out the profanity in a book and replace it with language they find more acceptable. And you know what? They can. It’s absolutely no different from scratching out the words in a print book and replacing them with others. You bought the book, you took it home, it’s yours to do with as you please, including changing the words. The author still has their money from the sale, and no one else has to read your bowdlerized version if they don’t want. What the reader can’t do is say that’s what the author actually wrote.

    Similarly, you can go to an art gallery, buy a painting, take it home, and cut it into little pieces. Or whitewash it. It’s your property now. (For the sake of argument, let’s leave aside the issue of priceless works of art for now — I’m presuming something contemporary.) The only thing you *can’t* do is claim that’s what the artist did.

    Honestly, I think it’s childish for an author to have a hissy fit because someone is replacing words they don’t like. As long as they’re not forcing other people to read it that way, as long as they’re not claiming that’s what the author actually wrote, then trying to forbid it is like trying to institute mind control. What are we going to do? Go into their house and take their ereader away?

    Do I think it’s childish to use the Clean Reader app in the first place? Yes, I do. I think it’s stupid. But you can bleep out every third word in a book if you want. It’s stupid, but you can do it. As long as you’re not forcing it on other people, there’s not a blessed thing the author can do about it. And trying to just makes us look like a bunch of petulant children shouting, “zOMG SOMEONE ON THE INTERNET IS WRONG!!!”


    • acflory

      -giggles- Okay I read the comments from the top so I only just reached this one.

      You make some very important points, and if this were just a case of an individual messing with something I would probably feel the same way as you do.

      But having an /app/ doing it? Now that smacks of something far bigger and nastier. If we accept the principle of the Clean Reader App then we’re opening a door that can never be closed again.

      I haven’t used the app., obviously, but I assume you tell it which words you don’t like and it uses a digital thesaurus to substitute something else. At least that’s how I think it works.

      But if we accept that an app., is allowed to do that then what do we say when the app becomes more sophisticated and starts censoring ‘themes’?

      Suddenly we might have half the readers in the world talking about a sweet romance simply because the ugly, dark, realistic theme of rape has been expunged by an app that edits out such themes in every book fed into its maw?

      In that kind of scenario, a book could become nothing but a vanilla template for the reader’s preferences.

      Honestly, I’d rather not write at all than have any of my books face a future like that. 😦


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