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Is Apple music’s new “big brother”?

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.


FILE - In a Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, file photo, a person stands near the Apple logo at the company's store in Grand Central Terminal, in New York. There's a shadowy global industry devoted to unlocking phones and extracting their information. For digital forensics companies, success can mean big bucks in the form of government contracts. And the notoriety that could come with cracking an iPhone used by a purported terrorist could rocket them to cyber stardom. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Apple is well-known for living at the front lines of technological development. However, their patent currently generating headlines isn’t for a new phone, computer, or tablet. No, Apple’s looking to get into the censorship business.

As James Cook writes for Business Insider, Apple’s new technology has the potential to automatically scan songs that are streamed online and analyze the lyrics for explicit content. The patent, filed in September of 2014, could potentially streamline the censorship process by replacing swear words with a beeping noise, non-explicit lyrics, or background music in order to help the song continue seamlessly. The new technology could also work with audio books to help filter language, as well as with sexual scenes by comparing the original content against a database of explicit terms.

It’s unclear when, if ever, Apple will implement the new technology. But between iTunes, their online radio station, Beats 1, and their streaming service, Apple Music, the company has several potential testing platforms. Given that the company already forbids some explicit content, such as pornography and a dictionary that included definitions of swear words, from being sold on its App Store, their censorship software seems likely to make an appearance before too long. While it won’t prevent people from accessing explicit content, it can make it easier to avoid, and that seems like the program’s ultimate purpose.

As Christians, we are called to be cautious with the content we allow into our lives (Ephesians 5:3–12). That truth is neither groundbreaking nor shocking to most believers, but that is exactly why it bears repeating. Far too often we take for granted the potential damage from the seemingly benign sins Scripture warns against. Each of us can think of a time when we heard a song on the radio that used explicit language, demeaned women, or spoke casually about sex and didn’t give it a second thought because it was just a song. But how often do such lyrics play on a loop in our head as we go throughout the day? How often does the music linger long after the song ends?

My point is not that we should only be listening to Christian music or that every song with explicit lyrics is of the devil. Rather, I encourage us to be more cognizant of the content we put into our brains—especially that which comes from the music we listen to. It can have an effect that lasts much longer than any particular song, but one that is often so subtle that we never fully realize it.

Studies have shown that music enhances memory and internalizes information in a way that other mediums simply do not. That’s why we can sing along to a song we haven’t heard in years but often struggle to remember phone numbers and other information we use far more often. There’s just something about music that engages us on a much deeper level than we are typically aware.

The impact of that engagement can be good or bad for our souls depending on the content echoing within our minds. But, we should never take for granted the power that music can have in shaping other aspects of our lives. So take some time today to ask God to help you evaluate what you put in your head, and thus in your heart, on a daily basis, and be open to any correction he might offer. Apple’s efforts are commendable, but ultimately God should be the only censor we need. Is he?