Vidangel is a stupid censorship service and we should welcome it anyway

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Did it ever fucking work? The hell it did.

See also:


The question of copyright came about when home video censoring services were essentially pirating movies on VHS in order to bowdlerize them and then resell them. That was clearly illegal.
But I have to admit that I too would reserve the right to use my purchased home entertainment any way I like. I may not have put a favorite CD on “shuffle,” but I have exposed my young child to the great music in “The Blues Brothers,” while skipping past the “Fucking Illinois Nazis” dialogue.
While I would still question the judgment of someone who thinks the message of a certain film is worth hearing, but the words or scenes used to make the message must be filtered. But today, when an artist can sample or remix another artist’s work and sell it for a profit, I would say the right of the home user to alter the viewing experience in their own home is a minor adjunct to it.
As a postscript: I recall that when the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” underwent the first of many CD reissues, it was kept in mono because Brian Wilson did not like stereo mixes, which allowed the listener to change the listening experience.


While I appreciate your defense of Vidangel, Cory, you’re painting with too broad of a brush in the opening paragraph:

Vidangel is the latest attempt (along with services like Clearplay and Sony’s own filtering tool) to sell a product that allows cringing, easily triggered evangelicals to skip swear words, sex and blasphemy in the media they watch.

Vidangel users aren’t all “cringing, easily triggered evangelicals.” I often use it to cut out unnecessarily rude/crass parts of kids’ movies so that I can watch them with my son who has ASD and is quite prone to perseveration and imitation. The fewer butt jokes in my house, the better.

And the filters aren’t just for language and sex. There’s also “Violence/Blood/Gore” and “Alcohol or Drug Use.” I can share the joy and exhilaration of “Back to the Future” with my younger boy, but can also easily skip over the part where Doc Brown gets murdered by the the Libyans.


What? It worked great. All those people who thought they should read Shakespeare, but couldn’t tolerate the naughtiness got what they wanted. Nobody else was forbidden to read (or perform) the original. Yay freedom.

That’s the whole point of this post. Suppose I wanted to filter out hate speech. I could try to outlaw it, but that never seems to work. What if I create and sell a browser plugin called Kumbaya-soft? 4chan is certain to mock me, but everybody’s freedom is preserved. (Except the trolls’ freedom to piss off liberals.)


I agree people should be free to use tools like this, and we shouldn’t reify the right of media “owners” to dictate how works are (or aren’t) seen. But this specific type of remixing is a special case, because it involves users giving up their control of what they see; it creates a new role for someone to do mischief.

Say you made a documentary about LGBT rights, which lots of evangelical christians would have found persuasive and worth watching. But Vidangel prevents them ever seeing it, and implicitly lumps it in with porn so that they’ll never want to give it the benefit of the doubt. You can end up with cases where you want people to see something, and the audience would have wanted to see it too, but there’s this unaccountable third party who’s blocked that.

I wouldn’t say it’s about copyright exactly, but I think the censor has injured the author in some sense.


Hall: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Doctorow: “I think what you’re doing is silly, but I will defend to the death your right to do it?”


Vidangel doesn’t apply blanket filters to each movie. It’s a VERY granular system that lets the user drill down through a tree-style menu to filter or allow each individual curse word, sexual clip, moment of violence, etc., if they want to. You can click on any branch of the tree to block or unblock everything from that point down. Example:

You can select PROFANITY to mute all the listed curse words below that. Or you can expand PROFANITY (as shown here) and select F-WORD to mute all the variations of “fuck” that are used. Or, if you really wanted to, you can expand F-WORD and choose to mute the first four instances of it but allow the last two.

(NOTE: I’m not affiliated with Vidangel in any way, shape, or form. I’ve just used their service quite often, so I know how it works.)

So, in the case of a documentary about LGBT rights, any audio or video clip in the movie that’s made available to filter can be done so by the end user. They can still watch the movie (as long as it’s been reviewed, flagged, and entered into Vidangel’s system), but they can choose to filter everything in the list, or just one thing, or anything in between those two extremes.


Is anyone else bothered that it’s “F-WORD” instead of “F*CK”.

Consistency people!

Also, I want access to their metadata. Can you imagine the supercuts that could be created?


Isn’t that part plot critical?


Well, yeah. But the scenes right before it (the Libyans chasing Doc Brown in their van with their guns drawn, then holding him at gunpoint), and the scene right after it (Marty yelling “NO!!!”) should be enough to imply what happened. I don’t want my boy to see Doc getting riddled with bullets and thrown to the ground; too violent for him, IMO. And if he still doesn’t get it and asks what happened, it’s easy enough for me to say “they shot and killed Doc.”


If these kinds of tools become more ubiquitous, could it result in broadcast television becoming uncensored?

If it means I would be able to enjoy The Daily Show or @midnight without bleeps, I say let’s make it happen!


As a parent of young kids I agree this would be a useful feature.

Now the situation is that when the parents want to watch, for example, a crime drama I spend the episode with my finger on the pause button in case there’s a sudden scene of someone being murdered. When a scene like that comes up I end up skipping it manually.

Why would it be “stupid censorship” for me to want to automate this manual operation that now takes away from my enjoyment of the episode? I don’t want to expose a preschooler to violence but I also don’t want to limit my viewing to strictly child friendly stuff. Even an episode of Poirot has the murder at the beginning.

(My situation is perhaps different from the majority of the users of this service, since the visual media we consume is mostly in a different language from the child’s native language. So the verbal portion is usually of no concern.)


I sat down with my young’uns a few years ago to share with them the wonder that is The Goonies.

Fifteen minutes in, I turned the movie off and put on something else. That movie has tons of swearing and a part where a kid knocks the genitals off of a statue. I didn’t want my kids emulating any of that. I wish I had VidAngel to help skip some of the crass parts that don’t really have anything to do with the plot.

And yes, I’m an intelligent, educated Christian man who wants his kids to grow up to be good people. Trying to paint all of us Christians as sniveling wimps is condescending and, dare I say it, bigoted.


That makes it sound like it will add profanity to an otherwise tame episode.

On this week’s Cheers:

[Norm enters bar]
Crowd: Norm! Fk You!!!
Norm: Give me a beer, Sam, you c
* s*****!!!


Oh my God! That’s my mom’s most favourite part.


My problem is that there’s usually an “Occult” filter which lets you remove any reference to my own religious beliefs (which have little or nothing to do with “occult” anything), but no filter to remove the Christian filth that pervades so much of our media.


interesting thought!

Though a daily show with muted audio in place of the confounded beeps might just alleviate my discomfort.

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There doesn’t appear to be an Occult filter, FWIW. The “Blasphemies” category for movies I’ve watched through their service covers the usual “God,” “Jesus,” and variations on that theme.

Genuinely curious: what are some examples of Christian content that you would want to filter out of mainstream movies? Speaking as someone who’s on the opposite side of aisle, I don’t see a pervasiveness of Christianity coming out of Hollywood.

Or you could, y’know, limit or otherwise control your children’s television viewing?