Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Blogger Pursues Censorship Regime

I've just received a disturbing letter in my email inbox:

"Dear Blogger User,

We're writing to tell you about an upcoming change to the Blogger Content Policy that may affect your account.

In the coming weeks, we'll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video. We'll still allow nudity presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking action on the content.

The new policy will go into effect on the 23rd of March 2015. After this policy goes into effect, Google will restrict access to any blog identified as being in violation of our revised policy. No content will be deleted, but only blog authors and those with whom they have expressly shared the blog will be able to see the content we've made private.


The Blogger Team

Here's a link to more information about the policy change: https://support.google.com/blogger/answer/6170671?p=policy_update&rd=1

And an article discussing the repercussions of this egregious infringement of the freedom of speech: http://www.zdnet.com/article/google-bans-explicit-adult-content-from-blogger-blogs/

What does this mean? Well, if my blog suddenly disappears from the internet in a month from now, it's because Google decided that the world can't handle what I'm laying down. It's hard to predict which side of the line my blog is going to fall on - but that's kinda the point, because from here on out, Blogger is going to be making arbitrary distinctions between protected speech and restricted speech. It's exactly the same kind of discrimination that the federal government employs in singling out sexual speech as uniquely devoid of first amendment protections, simply in light of generations of religious moralism that idolizes sexual purity (a strategy that is itself in violation of the Constitution's separation of church and state).

If your speech involves sex, then it has to be benign enough (not too explicit), and has to carry some socially redeeming value, otherwise the governing body (whether that's Google Inc., or the United States Government - can anyone even tell the difference in this corporatocracy anymore?) has the authority to tell you you're not allowed to say it (and others aren't allowed to hear it), first amendment be damned. No other category of speech has those requirements. And you know why? Because it violates the whole principle of freedom of speech. But where sex is involved, the normal rules don't apply. Not even those of the United States Constitution.

Maybe I'll get lucky, and my blog will have enough "redeeming value" (so Google employees are sociologists and anthropologists, now?). But the best case scenario is that I'll be more wary of what I post from here on out, lest I lose the privilege of hosting a blog on Blogger (one of the biggest blogging platforms on the internet). This is called a Chilling Effect. It inspires self-censorship via a regime of fear. It's the kind of strategy employed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And where sexual speech is involved, it's fast becoming the norm here in what we thought was supposed to be the free world.

Seriously, I'm terrified of the trend I'm seeing towards censorship of the internet, where speech is supposed to reign free. We take it for granted that sex is singularly damaging to the human psyche (despite the fact that it is entirely natural, much less harmful than violence, and that crippling people with sexual shame is unhealthy and inhumane), because that's just the way we've always known it to be. But the free-thinkers, the sex-positives who would suggest an alternate strategy, have as much right to express their opinions in public as anyone else. Except they're rarely given the opportunity. You're allowed to praise dogma, but dissent will be silenced. Is this how we do it in America? Is this how we do it on the world wild web?

Increasingly, the answer is becoming yes.

God, I'm just shaking with the rage and frustration of this decision. Please, tell me what I can do to protest.

Update (2/27/15): It appears that Google is backing down on this policy change in an unprecedented move that actually takes into account user feedback, and can be considered a rare victory for free speech.


  1. Actually, I think you are the perfect man to write a text for a petition. You know why and for whom this new policy sucks so much and you can write it down well.
    Even much better than this lady:


    You know Avaaz? It's a very big community, their petitions are a big success. And guess what, everybody can start a petition:


    If it doesn't help, at least it could be a BIG signal to Google...

    Since you asked...


  2. Thanks for the advice! I've been thinking about you ever since I read that email, because of the discussion we had a while back about how blogging gives you more freedom than those photo sharing websites. How ironic that that seems now not to be the case!

    I hate to be cynical (though I often am), but I don't think "the people" have any influence whatsoever on Google's decision. (Having lived in the United States all my life, I'm afraid I don't have very much faith in democracy). And neither is this issue isolated to this one decision on this one blogging platform - it's symptomatic of a total social consciousness that I honestly have no idea how to fight.

    I hate to be so pessimistic, but facing decisions like this left and right, with too precious few people on my side, is incredibly demoralizing.


  3. Todays statement on the Google forum sounds different, very much softer:


    I guess there is still hope...
    I'm a hopeful girl, so, when they say you don't have to worry if you publish erotics but not porn, as long as you put up the adult content warning... I hope they don't mean it's nothing to worry about if your blog is made private.

    Yes, you are pessimistic, oh my ... And that for a young guy...
    But I can't blame you, living where you do.
    Maybe they won't change their mind for a petition, probably not, but it would still be a good occasion to tell people about this, and about the bigger picture. The things you rant about. At the very least, millions of people would read it and start thinking about it. Check out the Avaaz site... and how many people that sign the petitions... BIG, BIG audience...

    Maybe somebody will. They held petitions for other internet related stuff before.

    Anyway... wait and see, I guess, what Google defines as porn and what not. They can use the new policy at random, if they wish. Or maybe they are just covering their asses, legally.

  4. I'm so sorry to hear about this, both for what it is but also for how it has affected you. What a shame. It seems to me that having to click a button saying yes, you want to continue is all the protection that's needed. I don't get it, but this kind of thing just has a chilling effect on everything. Sad.

    I think the suggestions above are good. The only other suggestion I would have is to simply have your own website, that would be under your control entirely. You could even run a site like Deviant Art or something that would host others work in addition to yours.

    I hope things aren't as gloomy as they appear, and that there will be a way to a future that will be even better than what we have now.

  5. Nadja: I'm afraid that statement doesn't make me feel any better. I've seen too many arbitrary definitions of "pornography" to hold out much hope that anyone in an administrative (versus a creative) position will be willing to make any real artistic exceptions for the kind of stuff that parents and politicians and community leaders would just love to send in angry complaints over. Most of the art I share is tasteful and artistic, I would like to think, but much of it falls under the definition of pornography on art sites like deviantART etc, which consider even something like a solitary erection sexually explicit and not merely erotically suggestive.

    And then you have the great ambiguity over language. I like to distinguish between pornography and erotic art the way the adult industry distinguishes between hardcore and softcore pornography, but in other circles, the term "erotica" is used to indicate /written/ pornography, as opposed to graphic images, which tend to be subject to a lot more restrictions, considering their more immediate nature (and, therefore, their greater potential to shock and offend unsuspecting - or not, given the interstitial warning that has heretofore been required on all adult content Blogger blogs - persons). So it could entirely be the case that Google is merely providing some wiggle room for blogs that address mature themes, but I doubt that means they're going to let provocative images slide only so long as they're "artistic" enough.

    But I could be wrong. Still, as I said above, the best case scenario is that the best of us don't lose our blogs, but you can bet that we'll all be more cautious about what we post in the future, knowing that at any time Blogger could arbitrarily change their determination of what constitutes "socially redeeming value" for provocative images, resulting in us sexual pioneers losing one more platform for our voices in this not-so-free society. It will be interesting to see what happens come March 23, but I can tell you this, if I'm still around, I won't feel very much relieved.

    Anyway, I am looking into the petition possibility. Thanks again for recommending it. :-)

    Eye Candy: Thanks for commenting! Your words are very uplifting. The obvious choice is for me to host my own blog, and I've looked into that possibility, but there are some aspects to it that I find confusing. Running a social site like deviantART is most likely beyond my means, both technically and financially. I've always wanted to have some kind of a paid membership site, but I could never figure out how to do it (and I'm not sure there'd be enough interest to make it worthwhile).

    Anyway, you're right, I try to look at situations like this in terms of opportunities to make changes for the better in the way I do things. Like when I left flickr. I decided it was good for me to focus more on my blog, and start branching out to some other social sites like deviantART, and (more recently) FetLife, and also to spend some time building up a video library on XTube. I know I'll get through this, and I intend for the future to be always brighter than the past, but as of right now, I'm not sure how that's going to happen, and, well, this whole business of the policy change has me really pissed off.

    It's just one more corner of the internet where our voices aren't welcome. How many times do we have to be kicked out of town until there's nowhere left for us to go?

  6. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/27/google-backtracks-on-porn-ban-in-blogger

    Haleluja! :-))

  7. Wow, I am legitimately surprised. I hope they send out an email to everyone they announced the previous change to, to let them know, so they can all stop worrying, too.

  8. Yes... Imagine how many people were searching their blog to see what photos and stuff they should take off...
    Not me, I posted some of my most explicit photos in one post! I rather know instantly if I can still blog without having to worry with each nude I post.

    Spread the word! Take off those pants and shoot, people!

    But, see... there is always hope! Well, almost aways.
    Still, hope or not, I refuse to lay down and die before they really kill me off.

    I am happy about Google now, they scored good points in my book! Although it's probably more about money than anything else, they were losing 'credit' in the whole world.
    I was already thinking to drop everything that had to do with Google should they have sabotaged my blog.

    Come on, Zarth, hurry up, go make make some more dirty educational porn, I'll be waiting to admire it!

  9. Yeah, I hesitate to give my full support to any kind of multinational corporation, but this is absolutely a point in Google's favor. So few people (much less corporate entities) are willing to come down in public support of sex in these erotophobic times. Every little victory for free speech matters!

    I think this definitely calls for an artistic, erotic celebration. -_^