In an effort to crack down on China's ban on pornography, a device that can detect when the wearer is watching porn by monitoring neural spikes has been developed in China, allowing for the device to effectively read the wearer's mind, according to the research team in Beijing behind the project.
The tough job of "porn spotters"
The device isn't intended to be used by your average citizen, however, but by China's "Jian huang shi," or "porn appraisers" who monitor videos and photos posted on the internet or social media platforms to spot explicit content.
Each time an indecent photo appeared, an alarm went off, signaling the neural spike in the wearer.
Worn on the head by the subject, the device can pick up a spike in brainwaves triggered by explicit content, according to the researchers.
The main issue with porn spotters, whose job it is to search the internet for illegal explicit content, is human fatigue.
Sitting in front of a screen and flipping through images all day can dull the mind, making the spotters miss some of the targeted content they are required to remove. Additionally, fatigue can also affect the amount of content they could manage consecutively over time.
A myriad of ethical problems
Using the helmet, a Jian huang shi only needs to sit in front of a screen passively, and the device would work independently to cover a large amount of rapidly changing content until the censor device blinked.
A researcher studying brain-machine interface at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, Anhui, said the technology could cause ethical problems, such as privacy infringement.
“There is no law to regulate the use of such devices or protect the data they collected,” the researcher, who asked not to be named, told the South China Morning Post.
“There is no law to regulate the use of such devices or protect the data they collected.brain-machine interface researcher
In some countries, including China, watching porn is a crime. Chinese authorities and companies have been using artificial intelligence, among other methods, to flag said content.
Any kind of sexually graphic content has long been illegal in China, whether it’s visual or literary. In 2018, a writer under the pseudonym Tianyi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling 7,000 copies of an erotic novel that contained “graphic depictions of male homosexual sex scenes,” according to the South China Morning Post.
The most intense censorship campaign, called “sweep porn and attack rumors,” came under President Xi Jinping’s government in 2014.
The then-new campaign not only promised to arrest website operators, but also banned the use of television satellite equipment that allowed access to foreign broadcasts, confiscated hundreds of thousands of illegal publications in print, and prosecuted what officials called “fake journalists” along the way.
China's stances on sex
The Chinese government has long expressed its politics through public stances on sex, the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s dubbed sex as "distracting the proletariat" from the Marxist cause.
The state urged contraception and even the sale of sex toys while implementing the one-child policy in the 80s.
Similarly, its campaigns against pornography have more in mind than just concern over young men's health and people's sexual life.
Yet today, the Chinese government, armed with cutting-edge technologies, has the power to monitor and intrude on people’s private affairs in ways that the Communist party never could, and it has shown no hesitation in doing so.