Spam Wars

A CAPTCHA That Asks How You Feel About Homosexuality

Well, they're already helping digitize books.
screen shot 2012 10 09 at 3 33 34 pm A CAPTCHA That Asks How You Feel About Homosexuality

Choose wisely. (Photo: screencap)

CAPTCHAs are a good way to sort the bots from the bodies, providing a bulwark against the never-ending flood of spam. But because proving you’re human requires a moment of your attention, captchas also happen to be a great place to embed a political message. That’s what one organization has realized, according to Sophos’s Naked Security blog.

The Swedish-based group Civil Rights Defenders is currently promoting its very own brand-new captcha system. The site explains:

“With over 200 million CAPTCHAs being solved everyday, we hope that by catching a tiny amount of those interactions we can help promote and empower our partners – brave human rights defenders, who often put themselves at great risk through their engagement for other people’s rights.”

It’s probably going to take more than mere integration with blog commenting systems to achieve such a lofty goal, and it doesn’t look like anyone major has signed up to use the system just yet. Perhaps that’s because Civil Rights Defenders only allows for one right answer, the one that agrees with their perspective. For example: “The parliament in St. Petersburg recently passed a law that forbids ‘homosexual propaganda ‘ How does that make you feel?” We wouldn’t want to meet the person who responds “almighty,” but companies might find it too polarizing as means of identification.

This isn’t the only nobly intended effort to make use of the technology, either–Google’s reCAPTCHA uses it as a way to bring human intelligence to bear on the problem of digitizing old, hard-to-read texts.

If only we had some technology to make it easier for humans to make sense of garbled, ancient typefaces.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com