I spent Sunday in a furious flurry of house-cleaning before school resumes. In the background, Slacker Radio played -- hyperbole alert! -- the "66 Songs That Changed Everything." A notable moment happened after the DJ cued up "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols. Instead of hearing the punk anthem, I heard a baritone voice alert me that my Slacker settings prevented the song and its "explicit lyrics" from being played. The recording went on to detail how I could change these settings online if I so chose. I hadn't recalled monkeying with any filters; perhaps some default arrangement remained in effect? I shrugged it off, actually finding myself appreciating that Slacker was at least making the censorship transparent and adjustable.
What left me stunned were two other songs bracketing the Sex Pistols' number that I thought would be similarly scrubbed, but weren't. "Strange Fruit," Billie Holliday's haunting ballad about lynching? Play on, says Slacker. NWA's "F*** the Police"? Every F-bomb came through loud and clear, despite its explicitness. I was left wondering: What does Slacker have against the Sex Pistols? Is the station's filter somehow cross over the Brexit?
The next day, I had a similar experience via Twitter, seeing this message in my stream for the first time:
Fair enough to label gun violence as a sensitive issue, but why does Twitter choose to put that on the other side of the wall, while often permitting assorted spam body parts to flow through unchecked?
This aspiring critical consumer wonders: Who's filtering these wonky algorithms? According to Twitter support, we users are, at least indirectly:
P.S. Murray's piece is called "Identity Crisis."