Last week, Google’s social network Google Plus (Google+) opened its doors to users 13 years of age and above. In order to prevent minors from accessing adult content that sometimes appears on this blog, our editrix created a Google+ Page to disseminate our posts (you may have noticed the button on the far right column). To illustrate the page, we put up the same image we have on our Facebook page.
The very next day, we noticed that the image had been yanked. To make sure it wasn’t a glitch, we uploaded it again. No more than six hours later, the image was gone once again.
In protest, tireless anti-censorship campaigner Brandon Campeaux, issued a statement to the network’s photo team this evening, asking why the photo had been censored:
Is it because of the darker skin as we near the pubic region that gives us the impression that there is in fact pubic hair? Or are we offended by the belly-button, ribs, or can we simply not handle the curvature of the female form? I wonder because I don’t see anything wrong with this image and while it was banned twice, this other image (right) of a man’s curves went unscathed.
The Google+ Photo Team will go after this innocuous page avatar for a sex column but pay no attention to images that show up for common keywords relating to porn. First of all, I don’t think anything should ever be censored unless the content is illegal (e.g. child pornography). But the mere fact that Google has not penetrated their porn problem by filtering images that match frequently used keywords for review is a sign that the team isn’t reinvesting their talents in the company. Any first year programmer could write a script that culls images that might violate policy. Instead we have a focused effort to go after the accounts with the most followers — but only some of them, and never in a consistent manner.
Campeaux included the following image as a means of illustrating his point:
Our editrix responded to the post with some critique of the network: “This yanking of content or limiting viewing to the post without warning makes it a little anxiety-inducing to post, which is what I wanted to avoid in the first place when I created the page for Sex and the 405.”
Later that evening, Brian Rose, the community manager for Google+ photos, responded the thread:
I don’t believe … photos of men from behind violate our content policies. You can show a person’s bare buttocks on network (non-cable) TV, like ABC’s “NYPD Blue”. Likewise, the image in your screenshot titled “Banned” should not be flagged as far as I can tell. If what’s visible in your screenshot is the entire image, if you send me a link to the original flagged photo I’ll follow up with our Review team so I can clarify why this judgement was made or un-flag this photo.
When Rose realized the image was a profile picture he added:
Oh, that’s likely the reason — profile photos are held to a stricter standard than photos shared in the stream, I believe because they may also show up on Google.com search result pages, other Google services, etc. I’ll still raise A.V. Flox’s photo with our Review team, and thanks for continuing to share your feedback.
He pointed to the Google+ content policy, which states: “Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content. For example, do not use a photo that is a close-up of a person’s buttocks or cleavage.”
“I believe you can share photos of buttocks in a post, but that same photo can’t be used as a profile photo,” Rose told another commenter on the thread.
What happens when the profile picture depicts neither breasts nor buttocks? Or are abs really so very inappropriate?
The content on the actual Sex and the 405 page has not been censored or limited and remains accessible to people following that stream.