Sound of sex could alert internet porn filter

Jacob Aron

It doesn’t take much imagination to guess what a porn video sounds like. It’s more impressive, however, when it’s a computer that’s doing the guessing.

Automatic image-analysis systems are already used to catch unwanted pornography before it reaches a computer monitor. But they often struggle to distinguish between indecent imagery and more innocuous pictures with large flesh-coloured regions, such as a person in swimwear or a close-up face. Analysing the audio for a "sexual scream or moan" could solve the problem, say electrical engineers MyungJong Kim and Hoirin Kim at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, South Korea.

The pair used a signal-processing technique called the Radon transform to create spectrograms of a variety of audio clips, each just half a second long. They found that speech signals are normally low-pitched and musical clips have a wide range of pitches; both vary only gradually over time. In contrast, pornographic sounds tend to be higher-pitched, change quickly and also periodically repeat.

These characteristics allow software to distinguish smutty audio from other content. The researchers used a statistical model to classify sounds as pornographic or non-pornographic according to their spectral characteristics, and tested it on audio taken from online videos. The non-sexual audio clips included music, movies, news and sport.

[Caption censored] (Image: Yuri Arcurs Media/SuperFusion/SuperStock)

[Caption censored] (Image: Yuri Arcurs Media/SuperFusion/SuperStock)

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