CAPTCHA With A Conscience
CAPTCHA With A Conscience
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 08 October 2012

This CAPTCHA asks users to read factual statements and choose an appropriate response. While distinguishing humans from robots, it draws attention to civil rights issues. 

The problem with CAPTCHAs are that humans get annoyed with ones that are difficult to decipher and bots are capable of finding ways to defeat easier ones, see Audio CAPTCHA Easily Cracked.

The new CAPTCHA system is from the Swedish activist organization Civil Rights Defenders and serves twin purposes: distinguishing humans from robots using their ability to feel empathy, a characteristic that is considered essentially human, and informing web users of global civil rights issues.


Natasha Jevtic Esbjörnson, Head of Communications at Civil Rights Defenders, explains the rationale for providing this facility:

“Ironically, we are asked by computers to prove our humanity by interpreting and decoding words. But what really tells us apart is our ability to express emotions. Therefore, we’ve built a CAPTCHA that lets us prove our humanity by showing empathy, while simultaneously highlighting injustice in the world”.


Instead of visually decoding an image of distorted letters, the user has to take a stand regarding facts about human rights. The CAPTCHA generates six random words from a database, which vary depending on whether the described situation is positively or negatively charged. These words describe both positive and negative emotions. The user selects the word that best matches how they feel about the situation, and writes the word in the CAPTCHA. Only one answer is correct, the answer showing compassion and empathy.

Civil Rights Defenders offers a free API and a PHP library, together with its jQuery database that has to be included and the program can be used in both English and Swedish. 

Potential problems fall into two categories - humans who fail to choose the correct response and robots who learn to identify the correct emotion from what must be a limited set of options.

As with all limited Turing tests the software can usually be developed to learn to solve the niche problem presented as a test of humanity v machine. However in the race to stay one step ahead any new idea is an advantage.



More Information

New web tool detects human empathy

Civil Rights Defenders

Download the CAPTCHA

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Audio CAPTCHA Easily Cracked






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