Wednesday, 25 February 2015

On Google's New Anti-Adult Material Policy

Those of us who have Blogger accounts will know by now that Google – the owner of the Blogspot platform – has “changed its policy” on a certain burning topic of the day.

So as of the 23rd March of 2015, people who have Blogspot accounts won’t be able to display photos and videos of this very, very divisive and controversial topic, not even if behind a warning page, in public.

I’m sure we’re all very thankful to Google for this action on our collective behalf, of course; but what exactly is it that they’re protecting us from?

Is it, let’s say, gun-worship and proponents of unrestricted firearms ownership? No? Well, is it at least against racism and Islamophobia? Has Google banned cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb for a turban or naked with his posterior in the air? No, too? Has then Google banned, say, photographs and videos cheerleading imperial wars of aggression on the far side of the planet? What do you mean, also no?

So what is this topic which is so divisive, so controversial, so abhorrent that Google has decided to wipe it off the face of that part of the earth it controls?

 I’ll just let the website state it in its own words:

Starting March 23, 2015, you won't be able to publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger. [1]

Which is, actually, a 180 degree reversal of its previous stand, which was:

"Censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression." [2]

But there you have it. It’s sex and nudity that Google has suddenly decided it doesn’t like. Of course that’s totally understandable. I mean to say, sex, the tender and beautiful activity without which none of us – including the people who run Google – would be in this world. How can one not ban it? And nudity, the state in which we enter said world and in which state we all are, under our clothes.

How could Google not ban these two terrible things, I say?!??

Meanwhile, of course, Google is perfectly happy to let, for instance, people set up multiple and anonymous accounts on its social network, Google Plus. Now on the topic of allowing net anonymity, I am a bit of a fanatic – I am totally, absolutely and without reservation against it. My stance is clear; allowing people to be anonymous online merely opens the door to trolling, lying, cheating, bullying, and spreading propaganda. If people aren’t willing to use their real names online, they should stay away from the net. If that inconveniences them, well, that’s just too bad.

Let me make this point: anyone’s “right” to online privacy ends at the very point where everybody else’s right not to be bullied or lied to begins. There is more than enough evidence that online anonymity strongly reinforces and promotes bullying and trolling [3]  [4].  Also, as the respective levels of trolling on Facebook – which has adopted an uncompromising anti-anonymity policy – and Google Plus, which explicitly uses its policy of allowing fake accounts as part of its USP – show, anonymity breeds trolling, lying, and spreading propaganda. But Google is fine with that. Just as it is with the fact that Google Plus, for example, has a page run by ISIS (yes, that ISIS) which repeated reports asking for action has done nothing to remove.

Yes, as you might have noticed, I am feeling a mite miffed about Google.

Not that Google is completely against nudity, of course. It does realise that there are situations in which nudity just might have to be shown. Therefore:

We’ll still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts. [1]

So, assuming we aren’t discussing vaginal anatomy, we can still get away with nudity as long as it offers “substantial public benefit”. What the hell is “substantial public benefit”? Who decides what it is? Google?

Let me say right now that this doesn’t particularly affect me, because the sum total of sexuality and/or nudity on my blog is restricted to a couple of paintings, one of which is by me, and a few photographs of the Venus of Willendorf. At least I think it doesn’t affect me, since nobody has ever suggested that the Venus of Willendorf is obscene, unless it’s ISIS and Google is obviously fine with ISIS. Also, Google has not contacted me like it apparently has done with other people.

However, the fact that I have not yet been directly contacted does not mean that my blog won’t suddenly be made private and restricted to members only on 23rd March. I mean, I’ve used the word “sex” many, many times, and

Currently, Blogger blogs marked as "adult" include LGBT and "outsider sexuality" diaries, erotic writers, transgender activists, romance book editors and reviewers, sex toy reviewers, art nude photographers, film-makers, artists such as painters and comic illustrators, text-only fiction writers, sex news and porn gossip writers, LGBT sex activism, sex education and information outlets, fetish fashion, feminist porn blogs, and much, much more [2]

Besides, censorship is a slippery slope. Once Google has begun censoring one thing, how long till it censors another? How long before those of us who have anything to say that Google doesn’t like are banned? That Google doesn’t care much about our concerns is clear, About a year ago, I lost a huge number of photographs and cartoons on my site, and repeated complaints to Google did nothing to even elicit a response, let alone resolve the issue.

Even though Google will be kind enough not to delete existing blogs which have nudity and/or sex, this is virtually a death sentence, since

Restricting blogs which contain explicit content to ‘private only’ effectively kills them off. This is like offering a library where all the books in it are invisible to the readers unless an author is standing there and personally hands each reader a copy of their book [5]

I have to say, of course, that Google has a right to change its policies if it wants. It can turn round and say this, or that, is displeasing to it, and therefore is banned henceforth. It can do all that, and those of us who use its services have no choice but to grin and bear it.

Or we can leave. Vote with our virtual feet.

So here is the problem. I have already moved my online home twice in my life, from Orkut to Multiply in 2006, which was relatively easy because I had little content online back then, and from Multiply to Blogger in 2012, which was a much more difficult and painstaking procedure. Each time I started off new and had to slowly build up a readership, which in the case of Blogger is still very poor. On Multiply, any one of my articles would elicit perhaps twenty to a hundred or more comments. On Blogger, I’m lucky to get two, and amazed if I achieve five.

However, I am seriously beginning to consider moving again. If I do, I will not, ever again, trust my online creations to a third party host. I’d rather have my own website where I, and nobody else, set the terms of service. I had considered that in the past and the only reason I had not done so was the fact that it would be too expensive (I priced how much it would cost, both as a first time expense and as a recurring yearly rental, which, of course, I don’t have to pay on Google). The time is coming, though, where there might no longer be a choice about that.

So if on 23rd March you find this blog inaccessible, that means Google has attacked it, even though there’s nothing in it to attack. Too bad, but there’s going to be nothing I can do about it.

Until then, aux barricades, mes amis.


Meanwhile, here’s a photo that should be totally acceptable to Google, just for you.

Oh, wait, her feet are showing, So sorry about that.


  1. I really need to comment on this because it is so well-written and says so many things I agree with. But I find that, at the moment, my mind is sponge cake, so a more coherent comment will be forthcoming. Presently.

  2. Well, damn, there goes the weekly "Chuck Reviews Feminist Porn Fetish Sex Toys" feature I was going to start doing on my blog. :P

  3. I've just sat through a TV doc on the so called whistleblower Edward Snowden, which left me paranoid and almost afraid to write any thing, any where, at any time, to anyone. Then I read this and on top of the paranoia I'm now feeling pissed off for all the reasons you mention. Not that I have cause to post about sex or nudity very often, if at all, except maybe occasionally something in support of gay rights or same sex marriage. But I do post about art and I'm wondering if they consider works of art of be of 'substantial public benefit'? And if they do how do they decide? Is there a Google moral adjudicator somewhere who decides which art is depraved and which is of public benefit? Anyway……..before you move AGAIN….. Oh I really don’t think I could face another move, I’ve already done 360, Multiply, then here, then Blogster for a while then FB and now back here again; have you considered doing what I’ve seen a lot of others do which is to post here and then leave a link on FB page back to the original blog here? I notice that’s what AAV ‘another angry voice’ does and it seems to get a lot of response. ‘Bella Caledonia’ is another blog that links to a FB page and has a lot of followers. I know exactly what you mean about finding it hard to get followers on Blogger, which is a pity because up until now it’s probably the best there is in a post Multiply cyber world. One of the things Edward Snowden said in the documentary was that the internet used to be a very different place, a place of total freedom and now it’s locked down, controlled and monitored. How very bloody depressing is that??

    1. I already link everything I write to Fakebook. It's mostly all the Fakebooking I do.

  4. oh... and now I've seen your little 'share me' thingy, and I shared you on my FB page :-)

  5. Well Bill, all I can say is Giggle has control and trusting Giggle is not a good thing. Of course trusting Farcebook is even worse. I refuse to even have a Farcebook account. Why? I found out that anything you post to farcebook belongs TO Farcebook. Personal photos? They belong to Farcebook if you post them on YOUR own Farcebook page and they can USE them any way they want and you get zero for it.
    Wanna bet that Giggle may be working towards a similar deal with their accounts?
    I moved to Wordpress ad I blog under a different name, so there. Any who know me, know why and understand. I'd let you in on it if you wish to know, but NOT as an open post on a blog. Since we never exchanged emails, oh well, y crap isn't worth your time any who.
    Stay well Bill. I'll keep reading your work as long as it is available, but will limit my comments here. I feel like I overstay my welcome.

  6. Wondering what is behind this decision on Google's part. Were they deluged with pornography sites? I dislike pornography but have a difficult time defining it. What is the difference between nudity and "graphic" nudity? I knew an older woman once who believed that many "classic" painting with nude women in them were simply the porn of centuries past.

    Google seems to have made no statement on violence porn or images/videos of graphic (that word again) violence. And if they did, that would eliminate images of the effects of war/genocide.

    Facebook killed serious blogging. People can write their hearts out and just get a handful of "likes" with no clue as to what (if anything) was liked.

    I stopped writing/blogging a year ago. I post pictures now, on FB, and get likes. Yippee.

    1. I really wish you'd write again. One of the reasons I mostly just link to Fakebook is that it sucks people's brains out through their fingertips.

  7. Hahah, love the ending! :D Luckily, I'm not sharing nudity - just shirtless guys... But I feel for you guys who do. There are talks Google is gonna back down from this decision.


Full comment moderation is enabled on this site, which means that your comment will only be visible after the blog administrator (in other words, yours truly) approves it. The purpose of this is not to censor dissenting viewpoints; in fact, such viewpoints are welcome, though it may lead to challenges to provide sources and/or acerbic replies (I do not tolerate stupidity).

The purpose of this moderation is to eliminate spam, of which this blog attracts an inordinate amount. Spammers, be warned: it takes me less time to delete your garbage than it takes for you to post it.