US 5796948 Offensive message interceptor for computers

ABSTRACT – A network profanity interception that is installed on computer networks, such as a network mail system, for screening outgoing communication files for profane or offensive language according to a set of pre-defined criteria. Marking profane language for user identification, it places intercepted messages into users’ inboxes along with explanation of undeliverable message status; flags return of intercepted messages; and provides for editing of profane language as identified so that intercepted messages can be re-sent.

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates to computer software and in particular to a software program that is incorporated into a computer system for intercepting offensive messages delivered through the computer system.

BACKGROUND OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

Private companies, state agencies, and schools providing electronic communication or mail services usually make clear in their user contracts that use of profane or offensive language is prohibited. However, enforcement of such “netiquette” is through human inspection of senders’ messages upon complaint by a recipient of the offensive message. As a result, enforcement of these contracts is inconsistent and requires interference with senders’ privacy inasmuch as senders have their private thoughts read by other persons. The 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act makes it a federal offense to annoy others by sending lewd or obscene messages across a computer network. Insofar as the aim of said legislation is preventing network users from sending such messages, a method thereof is needed that serves the law without inconsistent legal enforcement and without increasing the burden on an already overcrowded justice system.

Prior art in the field of network technology includes U.S. Pat. No. 5,023,911 which discloses a method for word recognition in a speech recognition system without predetermining endpoints. This program would compliment a software program in providing the endpoint definition which analyzes the length of a sentence so as to determine an endpoint through mathematical calculation. U.S. Pat. No. 5,101,424 discloses a program capable of monitoring text streams, in particular monitoring of telephone switches which are created by the AWK programs. This device is directed to field telephone installers who must do remote programming of the computer wherein speech recognition is possible for creation of code, particularly to a situation. U.S. Pat. No. 5,524,127 discloses a word detector which is programming as directed to software programs in a cordless telephone. U.S. Pat. No. 5,247,517 discloses a method and apparatus specific to analyzing token ring networks such as monitoring token ring delay, token rotation and bandwidth utilization in order to locate network problems, plan expansion and troubleshoot. U.S. Pat. No. 5,503,561 discloses a detection and diagnostic system for diagnosing and detecting reasoning errors known as fallacies in cognitive therapy, education, and employee training and management programs.

Thus, what is lacking in the art is a method for intercepting network profanity or offensive language without human intervention.

SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a method for network intercepting electronic communications or mail containing profane or offensive words, word fragments, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or any other unit of language as may be formulated in any natural language including but not limited to English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew; and as may be formulated in any artificial language. Network profanity prevented and screened by said method includes but is not limited to vulgar language; hateful, threatening and defamatory speech; derogatory labels and terms of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation; and sexually degrading, obscene, lewd, or pornographic language.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a method of profanity interception and return that is fully automated and therefore does not involve human intervention in screening for offensive messages. Advantages of such automation are several. First, senders’ privacy is not violated. Second, providers’ contracts are efficiently fulfilled without requiring use of message recipients turned informants. Third, profane or “x rated” communications considered unacceptable for audiences such as children are automatically intercepted and returned before reaching these audiences. Fourth, senders are not confronted with the possibility of sanctions such as cancellation of network privileges, imprisonment, payment of fines, and humiliation. Network customers who wish to use a network guarded by network profanity interception technology simply agree to accept the parameters for use of the network as they did prior to the advent and application of this technology; however, privacy rights are better protected and state and private contracts as well as federal law prohibiting network communication impropriety are efficiently satisfied.

It is a yet another object of the present invention to provide a method of computerized network profanity interception and return which installs onto diverse network kinds including, but not limited to, local area networks, wide area networks, and internetworks. Furthermore, whereas the present embodiment of the extant invention displays interfaces with a network’s front end, host computer’s mail software program therein serving to intercept outgoing messages containing profanity, the junctures at which network profanity interception technology may be positioned in a network system are various. For instance, further locations include remote, back-end computers or routing computers within the Internet.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide a method whereby network users whose outgoing messages are intercepted and returned for profane language are afforded explanation for a message’s undeliverable status including a method for users’ reliable profanity identification and editing, and subsequent re-sending of said message.

In meeting the aforementioned objectives, the present invention, in its present embodiment, installs onto a host computer in a network system, reads text from outgoing communication files, and screens for profane or offensive language according to a set of preprogrammed definitions. If no instance of said definitions is satisfied by said text, the file is sent. If at least one said definition is satisfied by said text, the program places brackets around each profane word or phrase that satisfies a definition, and places the file in the user’s inbox. A general error message flag prompts the user to check said inbox regarding undeliverable mail. Upon opening new messages, the user receives explanation for a message’s undeliverable status followed by the undeliverable message with each instance of profane language marked by brackets. Editing facility is provided and the user is allowed to “edit out” said bracketed language and to re-send said message.

Other objects and advantages of this invention will become apparent from the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein set forth, by way of illustration and example, certain embodiments of this invention. The drawings constitute a part of this specification and include exemplary embodiments of the instant invention and illustrate various objects and features thereof.

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