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Arkangel: Automatic Visual Censoring

The Netflix series Black Mirror episode Arkangel a revolutionary technology that will permit parents to see exactly what their child is seeing and even censor visual input that is considered upsetting.


(From Black Mirror episode Arkangel 1977)

In a recent TED talk, researcher Lonni Besançon describes an attempt to create a plug-in for a web browser that will alter or delete unwanted content in real time for the user. Their application is called "Arkangel" after the show.


Despite clear concerns with ethics or privacy, automatic visual censoring is a research area addressing real user needs. While aversion to shocking content is natural, it tends to limit people’s ability to educate themselves or make informed decisions. Our research has focused on images of medical procedures and has shown that existing image-processing techniques can reduce the emotional impact of medical procedure images, while, at the same time, preserving important information. In addition, we have developed a google chrome extension that automatically detects and processes potentially shocking content in the hope that it will help people inform themselves through media that they know they would otherwise find difficult to watch.

Fans of George Orwell's 1984 recall that fancy cranial implants are not necessary for a person to censor their own visual input. How many fingers am I holding up? Is it four... or is it five? It's whatever the Party says it is.

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