Belly Buttons And Napolean Poses: Google Play Flags Android Game For Inappropriate Content
from the inverted-nipple! dept
We’ve talked a great deal about the impossibility of getting AI or other automated systems to properly police content for moderation purposes. While all kinds of content fits into this generally, we can pick on the topic of nudity or sexual content to demonstrate the point. We have a slew of posts on the topic, almost all of which deal with a service provider, through automated systems or even IRL people, not being able to discern when content is inappropriate or not. For instance, Facebook has a ban on showing a picture of a penis. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, what about Neptune’s penis? You know, on a statue in Bologna? Now it seems kinda silly, right?
It’s not just Facebook and it’s not just automated systems. Take Hook Up: The Game, for instance. That is the name of a mobile game on iOS and Android that consists of a visual novel about a woman in her 20s that encounters a bully from her school days on a dating app. The game has some sexual themes, though it is apparently more about dealing with trauma and navigating the modern dating world more than anything else. No sex acts are depicted. It’s meant to be artistic. And Google has flagged it for inappropriate content.
Google Play does warn developers that content designed to be “sexually gratifying” is not allowed on the platform, but it can be tricky to know how exactly that’s being enforced. Take 7 Sexy Sins, for example, a game which has the player removing the armor from anime demon girls, only to “snap some pictures… for personal uses”. It’s got an age rating of 12+ and has been downloaded more than 10,000 times without being pulled from the platform. By contrast, Hook Up: The Game is a narrative game about dating, relationships and learning to deal with past trauma.
The developer, Artemigi, was very confused by the flag and appealed the decision. Google responded stating that the app “promoted sexual content” and also apparently indicated that the novel was about a sex worker. And then, helpfully in a way, it provided an image for the content that it deemed inappropriate.
Yes, the image on the right has boxes around the supposed naughty bits. Apparently pixelated bumps over a shirt constitute nudity, somehow. In addition, you may have noticed that there is a box around the woman’s navel. Now, perhaps I’ve been transported into an alternate universe where Google is run by a council of Puritans, but somehow I doubt it. Granted, some might want to argue that a belly button is really nothing but an inverted nipple, but you should probably run away from those people because they’re crazy-pants.
Oh, and the suggestive pose? That mirrors a statue of Napoleon’s sister, Pauline, on display in Rome.
“That pose was specifically based on classical statues because there’s a reference to Alex feeling like her bully was this Greek god,” said Artemigi. “It’s meant to be about objectifying yourself and finding beauty in one’s self.”
And so Artemigi continued the back and forth, before eventually asking that the appeal be escalated to someone that actually had a couple of braincells to rub together. Unfortunately, the response she received was… interesting.
The final response from her official Google contact once again pointed out that Hook Up was in violation of the platform’s policy, but this time ended with the following sentence:
“Regarding your concern about escalation, I am the highest form of escalation. Next to me is God. Do you wanna see God?”
In Google’s defense, the company has indicated that the person behind that particular message has been pulled off the support team.
And so the end result is that, while the game is still available for purchase on the Google Play Store, it remains flagged for inappropriate content. Because nipple-bumps and belly buttons. As a result, it is very difficult to find the game via the search function in the Play Store and Artemigi can’t push out updates to the game. The iOS version on the App Store, it should be noted, suffers from none of these issues.
Human or AI, content moderation is impossible. If we can’t even discern between a belly button and a nipple, we’re lost.