Oct. 8, 2012 at 4:23 PM ET
A free tool offered by a civil rights group promises to keep websites free of spam, bots and humans who hate free and equal citizenship regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin or disability. The unfortunate result: An alternate-universe analog to a Cosmo quiz titled “Are You a Psychopath?” Or maybe the Voight-Kampff test of “Blade Runner” fame.
Civil Rights CAPTCHA, developed by Civil Rights Defenders, turns those squiggly letters and numbers you must correctly input to gain website access (CAPTCHAs) into three possible responses to an emotionally charged question about human rights. The user must choose the “correct” emotional response from the set of three randomly-generated words supplied. It’s not enough to prove you’re human. You must also prove your humanity.
Civil Rights CAPTCHA was timed to debut just ahead of a now-cancelled gay and transgender march in Serbia. So, many of the auto-generated responses on the tool’s live example are gay rights-related.
Civil Rights Defenders, however, cover other human rights issues the group deals with in Sweden, Eastern Europe, Western Balkans, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. So there questions reflecting other concerns as well.
The "correct" answers should be obvious to anyone whose ever endured a bastardized version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator required at many a place of employment to ensure sure you're not the type to make off with the company water cooler. And the questions are more than a little bit leading. You don't need to be able to find Kosovo on a map to get that the expected answer to the question "Two people are tortured in detention. How does that make you feel" is "miserable," and not "hungry" or smart," the other options given in the CAPTCHA.
Further, a civil rights group endorsing such group think in exchange for privilege — even a small one, such as website access, is straight-up ironic, as well as unsettling.
So what’s the point?
Civil Rights Defenders says, in part, the point is this:
With over 200 million CAPTCHAs being solved every day, 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 noble in concept. If human rights organizations are the majority utilizing Civil Rights CAPTCHA on their websites, it’s also a the choir preaching to the choir.
The one case for Civil Rights CAPTCHA is education.
Oppressed citizens in Serbia and Kosovo are well aware of their circumstances. But as referenced earlier, more than a few United States citizens would be hard-pressed to find Serbia and Kosovo on the map. Get Facebook (where forced group think is a way of life) to institute Civil Rights CAPTCHA on its U.S. servers. Then, instead of, being asked to identify our friends in random pictures of their pets when Facebook suspects we're impostors, maybe we’ll learn something.