An app that blanks out swear words in e-books hasn't gone down well among writers including Chocolat author Joanne Harris,
who have explained that the app is censoring their work without permission.
The app operates on a sliding scale from clean , which removes only the strongest swear words, to squeaky clean which even takes out damn .
Harris wrote a scathing critique of the Clean Reader application which has been designed to help parents shield their children from strong language. Condemning the app on her blog, in a post titled why I'm saying "fuck you" to Clean
Reader , Harris likened the programme to examples of suppression from history. She said:
Anyone who works with words understands their power. Words, if used correctly, can achieve almost anything. To tamper with what is written -- however much we may dislike certain words and phrases -- is to embrace censorship. We've been down this road
before. We should know where it leads by now. It starts with blanking out a few words. It goes on to drape table legs and stick fig leaves onto statues. It progresses to denouncing gay or Jewish artists as "degenerate". It ends with
burning libraries and erasing whole civilizations from history.
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.
Laurie Penny, a journalist and author, added: There's now an app for taking the swearwords out of books. I find this fucking horrifying .
Charlie Stross, a science fiction writer wrote on Twitter: This - from an author's point of view - is an obscenity: algorithmic censorship of ebooks.
How it works is that you load your ebook into the app via iTunes; you can then select one of three filter levels, from mild censorship to the full monty; and the app does a find-and-replace using a database of "offensive" words selected by the
Maughans, replacing them with "clean" versions.
For instance, body parts in the genital region of women are all turned into "bottom"; "fuck" becomes "freak"; "breast" becomes "chest", "whore" becomes "hussy"; and "bitch"
becomes "witch" (which could get somewhat confusing if the book actually discusses dogs). "Sex" is changed to "love", "penis" to "groin" and "blowjob" to "pleasure". (See a fuller list
Drawing on the strong-men and -women archetypes in the Marvel and DC universes, and now in their 10th year, Naif Al-Mutawa's comic books have their own fleet of superheroes: an all-Islamic cast gifted with special powers embodying the 99 attributes of
Allah as named in the Koran.
Launched in 2006, first in Kuwait after the approval of the state's Ministry of Information, then in America and the rest of the world, The 99 was hailed as an exemplary model of inter-faith peace and tolerance by Barack Obama.
While the Kuwaiti government has endorsed his work, not everyone agrees with its message. In the past year, a Twitter campaign has accused him of being a blasphemer who should be brought to trial; and a legal case has been launched against him, not by
the state, but by a fellow Kuwaiti suing him for heresy.
Since then, Al-Mutawa has received a hail of abuse and death threats. culminating in an ironic sequence of events:
Shortly before New Year 2014, I received an email informing me that The 99 had won in the media category of the Islamic Economy Awards [in Dubai]. A few days later, I received an email from my lawyer updating me on the case lodged against me in Kuwait
for heresy and insulting religion through The 99. This is the same book President Obama, Sheikh Mohammed, even His Highness the Emir of Kuwait, publicly endorsed as being a bastion of tolerance.
He was particularly shaken by the chilling Twitter hashtag, #whowillkillDrNaif, that drummed up hate against him last summer. He is frustrated to be summoned to court on 26 March not least because the prosecution managed to secure a fatwa from the Grand
Mufti of Saudi Arabia, who called his work evil .
As previously reported, Malaysia's film censors at the Film Censorship Board (LPF) banned the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, claiming it contained unnatural and sadistic sex scenes, including ones involving a woman being bound and
Well it seems that it would have been a bit inconsistent not to also ban the book, so that's exactly what the government has dones
The ministry's order comes 3 years after the book was published in the country.
A federal gazette order issued by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi stated that the books were prohibited because they were likely to be prejudicial to morality .
The three E.L James book, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed , chronicle the bizarre relationship between a female student, Anastasia Steele, and a young billionaire, Christian Grey.
Apart from banning the sale of the books, the government has also prohibited the importation, reproduction and possession of the books.
The ban comes under the Printing Presses and Publications (Control of Undesirable Publications) Order 2015 and is dated Feb 24.
In an escalating campaign of harassment, Malaysian authorities seized copies of a new volume of political cartoons
by Zulkiflee Awar Ulhaque, also known as Zunar. In the past three weeks, police have confiscated three separate volumes of Zunar's cartoons and detained him for four days on accusations of sedition in connection with critical posts he wrote on social
Police seized approximately 200 copies of Zunar's new book, ROS in Kangkong Land , while they were in transit to a launch event scheduled to occur in Petaling Jaya city, according to news reports.
The book lampoons Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, and also touches on the trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim who stands accused of sodomy.
Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative explained:
The ongoing harassment and legal threats against cartoonist Zunar make a mockery of Malaysia's democracy. Prime Minister Najib Razak should use his authority to stop the harassment of Zunar and the bogus sedition investigation against him and instead
return his attention to reforming outdated laws like the Sedition Act that are too often abused to threaten and punish journalists.
The Scottish Labour MP Thomas Docherty has written to the British culture secretary inferring that Adolf Hitler's book, Mein Kampf should be banned.
He is calling for a national debate on whether the sale of the book should be banned in the UK.
Docherty has written to culture secretary Sajid Javid about the text, pointing out that it is currently rated as an Amazon bestseller . An edition of Mein Kampf is currently in fifth place on Amazon's history of Germany chart, in
fourth place in its history references chart, and in 665th place overall. He wrote:
I think that there is a compelling case for a national debate on whether there should be limits on the freedom of expression.
And of course the inevitable '...BUT...' He said i n his letter there are:
Many who would argue that the publication of books as repulsive as Mein Kampf is the price of living in a democracy, and that by allowing academic study of books such as this, we ensure that our society understands better the causes of fascism
and the origins of Nazism.
there are also many who would argue that such a book, which sought to incite racial hatred and fuel antisemitism, is too offensive to be made available.
And of course he doesn't want to be as vulgar as actually calling for a ban, he would much rather find somebody else to utter those words:
I'm not saying it should be banned, I am saying we should absolutely have a debate about whether or not it should be banned,
Could you have for argument's sake a system of academic licensing, a system in which institutes of learning were permitted to publish and teach it? Let's have the debate. Let's ask, in the 21st century, are there limits to free speech?
A critically acclaimed Indian novelist has announced his retirement from writing following threats and protests by rightwing Hindu and caste groups prompted by his book about a woman's efforts to get pregnant with a stranger through a religious
Perumal Murugan, whose sensitive portrayals of rural life in a little-known corner of India have won plaudits from literary commentators, announced on Facebook this week that he planned to stop writing and ask his publishers to withdraw all seven
of his works of fiction from sale.
The author's decision follows an 18-day campaign of protests in Tamil Nadu about his novel Madhorubagan (One Part Woman), first published in 2010 and in English in 2013. The campaign forced him to seek police protection for his family.
Murugan is the latest in a series of creative artists to be targeted by activists in India, raising questions about freedom of expression in India.
An editorial in the Times of India newspaper at the time condemned the growing power of bullying self-appointed censors displaying a Victorian hangover with a Taliban temperament .
Update: The case is examined in the Madras High Court.
The story of the latest victim of censorship by intimidation in India , the Tamil-language author Perumal Murugan, was taken up by the Madras High Court.
Activists affiliated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Hindu right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had called for the book to be banned because it offended them. Weeks of threatening phone calls to Murugan culminated in late
December with a mob burning copies of the novel in the town where it is set.
The main source of the mob's ire were passages that evoke an ancient temple ritual that Murugan, does believe occurred in the past. It involves consensual sex between anonymous men and married women who had failed to conceive.
The Madras High Court has wisely asked the group that filed the Murugan case, the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association, to broaden its petition to the larger issue of violent threats to freedom of expression. The court said: Our largest concern is extrajudicial groups wielding power to decide what is right and what is not right, and asking authors what to write and what not to write.
Jane Harley is primary publishing director at Oxford University Press. She has responded to press reports that the publisher has banned pigs and porn from children's education books on grounds of muslim sensitivities. She wrote:
In order to make an impact around the world, there are other sensitivities that, although not necessarily obvious to some of us, are nonetheless extremely important to others.
While we should be mindful of these cultural sensitivities, a healthy dose of common sense is also required. Cultural taboos must never get in the way of learning needs, which will always be our primary focus. So, for example, a definition of a
pig would not be excluded from a dictionary, and we wouldn't dream of editing out a pig character from an historical work of fiction. We also maintain entirely separate guidelines for our academic titles which are relevant to scholarly
rather than educational discourse.
What we do, however, is consider avoiding references to a range of topics that could be considered sensitive in a way that does not compromise quality, or negatively impact learning. So, for example, if animals are depicted shown in a background
illustration, we would think carefully about which animals to choose. In doing so we are able to ensure children remain focused purely on their learning, rather than cultural characteristics.
So Oxford University Press does indeed censor pigs from most contemporary children's books.