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Program Sniffs Out Scathing E-Mails

October 21, 2000

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Authors of scathing or obscene e-mails can now have one last chance to think about what they have written before hitting the "send" button.

The San Diego Union-Tribune said that Qualcomm's new version of its Eudora e-mail program automatically flags messages containing words that could be, or are, offensive, giving the writer the opportunity to avoid firing off something they wrote in haste that they might later regret.

The feature, called Mood-Watch, issues chili pepper icons when it finds words contained in a vast computerized list of 2.7 million insults, obscenities and sexual slang that could change the tone of an e-mail to something that could cause hard feelings on the part of the recipient.

The scale ranges from one pepper for a mildly questionable message to three peppers for a particularly salty missive. An ice cube icon appears on the most civil of e-mails.

"E-mails tend to be more aggressive and often the sender doesn't realize it," said Rod Chandhok, director of engineering for Eudora. "Unlike face-to-face or telephone conversations, you don't have the social cues to ameliorate any offensiveness. You can't always tell if I'm being sarcastic or making a joke in an e-mail."

Qualcomm decided to develop Mood-Check after studies showed that e-mail has become the most popular mode of communication among U.S. workers, the newspaper said Saturday. The San Diego company said that around 400,000 users had downloaded the program from its Web site in the month that it has been available to the public.

Eudora engineers are also considering developing a feature that would prevent a three-chili message from being sent for 15 minutes in order to give an angry author time to cool off and either delete it or tone it down.

"E-mail interchanges can escalate fairly quickly, even when people aren't intending for it to happen," said Chandhok. "You can't call back a message."

United Press International


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