Google Gets Prude: Says No More Adult Content On Blogger

from the paternalistic-nonsense dept

Apparently, Google is getting prude in its old age, suddenly deciding that it will no longer allow “adult” content on its Blogger platform, giving bloggers on the site just 30 days to find another home or have their content set to private. Here’s the note that some bloggers received yesterday:

Frankly, this is ridiculous. Yes, Google is a private company and has the right to do whatever it wants, but this sort of prudish, paternalistic role in determining what content is appropriate and what content is “artistic” or “educational” is a path with a lot of landmines that will lead to stifled speech on a platform that used to be celebrated for enabling free speech around the globe. On top of that, you have people who have used the platform to post this kind of information and content for over a decade suddenly being evicted with 30 days notice. Yes, this is always a risk that you take when you rely on someone else’s platform, but it’s a really unfortunate move from a company that one would hope would know better than to take such a hamfisted position on what content it “allows.”

Of course, as Violet Blue notes, this is only the latest in a long line of moves by Google to stifle, hide or block any content that is sexual in nature. Here’s just a snippet of a much longer piece by Blue, detailing the timeline of recent decisions by Google, all of which push content the company deems inappropriate further and further away:

It was one thing when Google Plus rolled out in June 2011 with a strict anti-adult, no sexual content policy for its troubled attempt at a social network; many of us just didn’t bother participating, knowing how the content-policy ax always falls (not on the side of artists, writers, activists, LGBT people, or cultural outsiders who speak up).

But Google began its palpable aggression against erotic content in June 2013 when Google banned adult content from Google Glass apps, as well as enacting an affiliate porn purge across its Blogger platform.

December 2013 saw Android’s Google Keyboard updated to exclude over 1,400 “inappropriate” words, returning no results for typing or swiping words including “intercourse,” “lovemaking,” “condom,” “panty,” “preggers” and “STI.”

In February 2014 adult and erotic content was banned from Chromecast, followed by March 2014’s ban and purge of adult and erotic apps from Google Play (Android’s app and media hub).

April saw an ongoing series of Google Search algorithm updates that savaged existing adult website rankings, causing major disruptions in traffic and revenues for many websites.

So it’s no surprise that many people believe that Google won’t uphold its “freedom of expression” stance when it comes to organic adult search results.

I’m sure there are plenty of good business reasons why Google no longer wants to have this kind of content available on its site, but it’s disappointing on multiple levels. It’s not “censorship” in the classical sense, but it does seem like a really bad move by Google. It’s a company that should know better, and often holds itself up as enabling more speech around the globe, and avoiding making any sort of “artistic” decisions on the worthiness of content. It is immensely troubling that this company now suddenly wants to determine which content it thinks is “appropriate” and which is not, not based on any legal requirements, but on a very subjective standard. Facebook did this sort of thing from early on in doing ridiculous things like banning “breastfeeding” images, and one would hope that Google would take a more reasonable stand. On top of that, giving people just 30 days to figure out where to go, when many have built up their blogs for over a decade just seems tremendously callous.

Google is a private company and can make its own choices, but this one seems like a particularly bad choice, which may have other consequences as well. For years, Google has pushed back on demands from copyright holders to magically monitor all its content, saying that it’s just not possible. Yet, here it is now saying that it’s willing to do exactly that, including making “artistic” judgments on the merits of whether adult content is purely prurient or done for a more artistic or educational reason. The company seems to be opening itself up to charges that if it can make such determinations for that type of content, it can also magically figure out what other content is “infringing” or not. This seems like a move that the company will regret.

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Comments on “Google Gets Prude: Says No More Adult Content On Blogger”

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78 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Good

The company seems to be opening itself up to charges that if it can make such determinations for that type of content, it can also magically figure out what other content is “infringing” or not. This seems like a move that the company will regret.

If this move causes them some serious headaches dealing with the fallout, all the better, they deserve it for yanking the rug out from those that have been using their platform in such a short period of time, and for a reason that seems to have nothing to do with legal obligations, and everything to do with the prudishness of whoever is making the decision.

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Good

The comparison is as baseless as when TD has used it in the past. The infringing/not infringing status is not at all related to the content so it is fundamentally impossible to correctly determine what is valid and what isn’t simply by looking at the content.

The check of ‘sexual’ in nature though is a check on the actual content itself and thus is a more doable proposition. And doubly so since this isn’t a legal issue, just their choice. They can make mistakes without the threat of massive RIAA/MPAA lawsuits.

Still a sad tack on the part of Google.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Good

The infringing/not infringing status is not at all related to the content so it is fundamentally impossible to correctly determine what is valid and what isn’t simply by looking at the content.

According to common sense and logic, yes. However, those that have been pushing to turn Google into their unpaid copyright policing force insist, constantly and without end, that it’s ‘easy’ to spot infringing stuff, as you ‘know it when you see it’.

As such, with Google restricting one kind of content, you can bet they will insist that they do so with other kinds of content.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Good

The road to global censorship always starts with the porn first. Well, the “CP” first, but anyone who cares about that deserves low level torture for the rest of their lives, but adult porn always follows, then well, take a look at the UK’s stupid filtering laws. I know somebody who moved in the UK so he could get the real internet without declaring to a nosy customer service person “oh so YOU want porn huh?” and be added to a list of possible offenders, just so he could subscribe to Zen Internet, probably the only worthy UK ISP (I’m not from the UK, this is not publicity). It’s funny in that in their online subscription form, if you click that you want filtering, it proposes that you move to North Korea.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Good

“The check of ‘sexual’ in nature though is a check on the actual content itself and thus is a more doable proposition.”

But that check requires a judgement call on the part of the one doing the censoring. Google says that they’ll allow tasteful or artistic nudes, or nudity that serves a public purpose. There is no objective way to make those determinations.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Oh I know, my comment was actually based upon a quote made by the author of the books, who noted that while he could write a scene detailing a skull being pieced by an axe, and not get any grief over it, a similarly detailed scene regarding sex would have people throwing fits.

Graphic violence? Not a problem. Graphic sex? Huge problem. Societal priorities are so very screwed up…

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Human intercourse

In the psych sector intercourse defaults to human intercourse (i.e. people relating to each other in any way possible) rather than the subcategory, sexual intercourse.

It is disturbing and revealing that Google’s policies can so easily be altered to conform to a social norm as regarded by a narrow demographic without some kind of committee intercept. This suggests that any of Google’s services can be subject to sweeping changes without fair regard of the rights or needs of long-term users.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Human intercourse

“In the psych sector intercourse defaults to human intercourse”

Maybe that explains why it is that when I encounter the word “intercourse”, sexual intercourse is not the first thing that pops into my mind.

Also why I can get laughs from certain crowds by commenting that I engage in intercourse hundreds of times every day.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Human intercourse

Also why I can get laughs from certain crowds by commenting that I engage in intercourse hundreds of times every day.

Probably the same group of people who blush when you tell them you masticate a bunch several times a day. I masticated this morning during breakfast, then again around lunch time, and will probably do it again around dinner time. Sometimes I even masticate in my sleep, though my dentist gave me something to prevent that.

Anonymous Coward says:

“It’s not “censorship” in the classical sense, but it does seem like a really bad move by Google.”

It’s not government censorship, but it’s most definitely censorship. People use Google’s services to communicate, but they aren’t allowed to say particular things. When those who control a channel others use to communicate end up suppressing particular kinds of speech, it’s censorship.

Jasmine Charter says:

Censorship

I disgree with your declaration that this “not “censorship” in the classical sense”. It is censorship in ANY sense, classical or otherwise.

Do they have the right to censor? Sure… it’s their ball, they can take it and run home crying. But, then they DON’T get the right to wear the great “internet freedom” hat they grew into popularity wearing.

The early, lean and mean beast that stood up against the status quo and dared to innovate is GONE… they’re just another mega corp now – the only difference between them and Apple is the way they lace up their jackboots.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Censorship

“It is censorship in ANY sense, classical or otherwise.”

It is not censorship in the “it violates the First Amendment” sense. I suspect that’s what he meant.

“then they DON’T get the right to wear the great “internet freedom” hat they grew into popularity wearing.”

They took that hat off years ago.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Historically, this is a bad policy.

Betamax was a superior product design to VHS, but Sony wouldn’t allow porn on it.

Sony wouldn’t allow a lot of things, like other manufacturers to manufacture the BetaMax tapes, while JVC allowed just about anyone who would pay the low licensing costs to manufacture their own VHS tapes. The result was that VHS tapes and players/recorders were far less expensive than BetaMax. Nobody is going to spend $999 on a Sony BetaMax VCR, especially when they can buy a Sharp VHS VCR for $60.

JVC won the battle by being cheaper and far more open and non-controlling, and Sony learned to be less of a dick when the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD battle appeared on the horizon years later (though, they are Sony, they will always be dicks…they learned their lesson and saturated the market with Blu-Ray players which helped them win that battle.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There may be enough legal frameworks around the world, where sexual content is explicitly or implicitly banned for such censorship to be more worthwhile than taking targeted actions. Majority of USA and western europe are just more free speech- and equality-oriented than the rest of the world.

When security feels like a given, it is difficult to see the need for more centralization of powers and when you are economically more than living on sustenance limit, it is hard to see the value of us versus them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: A better strategy for Yahoo would be to promise (and deliver) a free-speech nexus.

This. Frankly, artist blogs and ask blogs are the only reason I bother with Tumblr at all, and alot of those feature (not always exclusively, but still some) content that would be banned here…

I am so sick of sexuality being this ugly hidden thing, while violence is everywhere.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: If the option is to censor or cease all presence in a country...

…Google has already shown (e.g. China) that they’re willing to censor, or at least provide a content-censored version.

We can’t tell if this is the best decision on Google’s part for business unless we know who is behind it and the power they’re using to extort / bribe Google is.

Anonymous Coward says:

I encourage Google to continue on with it’s censorship program. Soon no one will want to use their services any more than they wanted to use Disney’s brand spanking new search engine.

Due to the constant spying, trying to figure out how to serve you more ads, I long ago gave up on the major search engines. I see no reason to have a change of opinion on that given this newest move on snipping one piece after another of it’s results.

Jim says:

Stupid Move?

Well, this effectively eliminates 90% of the outgoing traffic from the Blogger platform, by data volume, thus decimating Blogger as a viable product for Google on a go-forward basis. Perhaps this is a back-door way to get rid of a property Google doesn’t want anymore, without the negative PR of the Reader debacle.

Blogger has lost the blogging platform war to WordPress. They see their platform as being used pretty much just as a Tumblr alternative. And blogging isn’t as important anymore, especially when are alternative platforms, in general, that are better for specific types of blogs & applications.

From a bigger perspective, though, Google is over as a platform where a user can go to communicate, because one never knows when they’re going to pull the rug out from under you…ask Reader users. At best, people who wish to get their word out, will have to depend on a portfolio of services, including paying for their own site.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Remember Win8 Metro is a walled garden.

No-one cares at this point since no-one uses the metro, but yeah, in order for your App to be Win8 compatible, it has to past Microsoft Windows Certification, which precludes anything Microsoft has decided might squick an eleven-year-old.

At first, even M-rated games were outlawed outright, but the cert guidelines were loosened to allow M-rated games that didn’t have sexual content. And then it became a non-issue when all the desktop users disabled the Metro and bought third-party start menus.

But yeah, the big companies all want their own walled gardens where they can decide which porn is acceptable and which isn’t, and which news that disparages their company is fit to print, and which is not.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: What you consider right and good is offensive to others.

I guess it’s affirming to your own limited view when someone else pushes to ban what you find offensive. It’s when they want to ban stuff in which you do want to partake — and they will — that you might find it distressing.

Since you’ve already defined yourself as uncaring about the interests and well being of others, why should we have any interest in upholding or defending your rights? Reciprocity, much?

When we don’t protect the right of the lowest and most despicable of us, when we decide a given people, a given culture, a given hobby among our own doesn’t count, then we’ve opened the door to exclude the rights of others, until only a few — or only one — decides what is acceptable or unacceptable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: support

Not all of us wish to partake in the crude things that others think is normal.

So do not partake in that which you dislike or find offensive, there are off switches, other content, and even DNS services which filter the Net for you. There is no need to force your tastes and morals on others to avoid content you dislike.

Pragmatic says:

Re: support

Then be an example. Enforcing your views (though you may find I share them) on others is a bad, bad, bad idea.

Don’t get me started on the ways we may find things like the Bible being banned for prude reasons. Do a search on body parts in Bible Gateway and see what could end up getting that website taken off the index…

That’s the problem with banning All The “porno” Things because “Yuck.” It’s subjective. So be careful what you wish for because the censor might turn his attention to something you value. I’ve had to change my mind on this because I’ve discovered that the slippery slope is actually not a logical fallacy after all.

Prashanth (profile) says:

As a blogger who uses Blogger

I find this particularly disturbing for a couple of related reasons. Last year in January, my blog was made private because a third-party extension I was using had become infected. It took several weeks to figure out what the bad extension was and to appeal to have my blog become public again. In the meantime, I lost a significant chunk of my readerbase.
I blog about science and technology. I have absolutely nothing that anyone can consider to be adult content. Yet, now I’m scared that Google might mis-flag some of my content as being “explicit” and take down my blog, and that I will then have little to no recourse whatsoever. This goes doubly for other bloggers who write about somewhat more “controversial” (according to Google) topics.

Jesse Harris (user link) says:

What about liability concerns?

Google may be worried about the publication of “revenge porn” or other non-consensual material. Many states now have statutes barring it and it could create a liability problem for them far outside of traditional copyright. And even if they have DMCA safe harbor provisions, the number of lawsuits filed anyway may create more of a cost than they’re willing to bear.

Ryan (user link) says:

Blogging Adult Content, Yes

Bloggers that need to keep and continue their adult blog go to http://hunterbids.com/. We are a Free New Adult Social Site, offering a blogging platform, free webcam chat room, free market place, games, and much more. As long as the contents you post is legal then we allow it. But you must be 18 or older to use our site: http://hunterbids.com

Sunshine (profile) says:

I'm a Prude

Although I respect your opinion, I feel the same need to respectfully give you mine in defense of Google. You must be a “in your prime” man/woman. I’m an older person that gets what sex is about. It’s a beautiful thing until you see it exploited, and in the way you defended it. There are porn sites for that. I believe people should have the right to express themselves, but there must be boundaries, don’t you agree? I have grandchildren that I share posts with. They can sign in and check the “funny photo’s” community box, like I did, and be quickly educated in sex “education” way before their mentally prepared. Pretty sure most schools would agree on that. A bit much, don’t you think. I’m assuming you have kids? There is a place and a time for things, lets not try to grow up our babies too fast. Teaching healthy sex practices, or views too early without teaching the beauty of it taints the whole idea. That’s what’s wrong with exploiting sex. Women and men putting themselves out there, selling their bodies to entice, is demeaning in my opinion. I’m old enough to choose to report a post, it is offensive to me and I’m not even a prude, but my grandkids are not. Rated R should be in a site that is specifically built for that purpose. Google is a trusted, friendly site. PG 13, I believe is what a site like that should be rated if anyone wants to get technical. It pissed me off that “MY PRIVET HOME PAGE” was full of young women desperate for love, or loving themselves too much, in my opinion. That’s not art, it’s porn! Balance people! Draw a line on morals and values for public use. Keep the kids safe!

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