Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blogger and adult content

Last week, a Blogger user posted about her impending departure from Blogger. A Blogger "interstitial" began appearing before users could visit her site, warning of potentially objectionable content. Becky believed the interstitial to be politically motivated, and many of the commenters tended to agree with her. I tried to clarify in the comments (search on my name to find the comment) on that post:
To be clear: at no time are any classifications applied to blogs because of their political views. That would be the antithesis of why Blogger was founded ten years ago, and is contrary to everything the team believes about giving our users a platform on which they can speak their mind.
I published my e-mail address on that comment, and in the last week have not received a single e-mail - from Becky or from anyone commenting there. Her post was picked up on Instapundit, and in announcing that she has shut down the blog today, others joined the conversation (Simple Justice, RedState, and Popehat to name a few). The common thread appears to be the conviction that Google was attempting to shut down a blog because we didn't agree with the views expressed on the blog.

To be clear: we wholeheartedly endorse an individual's right to express themselves. As I stated in the comment on Becky's first post, I would hate to lose Becky's voice in the blogosphere, and would be even more disappointed if Blogger's actions in any way contributed to her deciding to stop blogging.

That said, Blogger acted exactly as set out in our Terms of Service and our Content Policy: "there are some boundaries on the type of content that can be hosted with Blogger. The boundaries we've defined are those that both comply with legal requirements and that serve to enhance the service as a whole." We specifically outline the scenarios in which an interstitial will apply, including "image and video content that contains nudity" and point out that "we may put such content behind an interstitial."

We didn't take the blog down. We didn't prevent people from reading it (as evidenced by the many comments left on both of her most recent posts). We have in no way acted to prevent, restrict or otherwise skew the debate happening on her blog or any of the others discussing this that are hosted by Blogger. We simply responded to the fact that a number of posts there do, in fact, contain nudity. Visitors to the site flagged the blog as containing objectionable content, and as set out in our TOS, blogs that contain nudity may contain an interstitial to let readers know what they will find when they click through.

I want to be as clear as I can possibly be: I want Blogger to be a platform to encourage the free flow of ideas. Healthy debate from across the political spectrum is absolutely critical in a free society, and I'm proud that millions of users around the world rely on Blogger to publish their opinions.

Update: On Twitter, @popehat suggests that I should have realized that the people complaining were idealogically opposed to Becky (here and here) and that I should have personally used my discretion (here) to ignore those flags and chosen not to apply our TOS to the situation. As I responded, I can't see how us subjectively applying our standards helps anyone, as it would lead to precisely the situation we're accused of: deciding which ideas we embrace, and which peoples' opinions are worth paying attention to. I'd much prefer to objectively apply our stated policies to each situation, so that everyone involved - our users, the readers of blogs, us - know exactly what to expect.


  1. Rick,

    I'm not sure if you noticed the help group forum on this same topic..http://friendfeed.com/chrismyles/2a8d7758/why-is-just-girl-in-short-shorts-blocked-with.

    The worse part is they were taking it out on nitecruzr.. last time I checked, he was just an unpaid volunteer!! I tried to explain.. but..

  2. Well put Rick...now if we could just get the masses to read this so they will believe us on the BHF that we are not politically censoring the blog.

  3. Perhaps you could develop several interstitials to signify the reason the content is being flagged. I think if users had seen a note saying the site contained explicit graphics they would have laughed, rather than jumping to the conclusion that there were political censorship motives at work.

    Also, I'm not a lawyer so please excuse my ignorance, but does having actual bodies review content before placing the interstitial in place jeopardize your section 230 immunity? If so that may be a VERY good reason to objectively (programmaticly) apply your standards.

  4. Hi Rick:

    I read your comments on Becky's blog and have of course read your discussion above. I accept at face value your explanation as regards the application of the TOS policy.

    Becky is of course Becky, she is what she is. I love her content, both verbal and graphic and I'll miss her until she resurfaces elsewhere.

    She did note in her farewell post that for years she blasted the Bush admin apparently without complaint to Blogger from her conservative readers. It was not until she went after Obama and his enthralled minions that content violation complaints started being sent to Blogger. This suggests to me that she is correct in her assessment as to the motivations of the complaining parties.

    She says she's had enough, so be it. She is gone and likely will pop up elsewhere in a forum not content restricted by Blogger or anyone else.

  5. Just wondering about these flood of adult blogs on blogger. Are they really earning there? Most of adult blogs there were stuffed with links from affiliate porn sites.. tsk tsk tsk...

  6. Yup Long is correct as what my friend hafez said why is it that blogger did not ban any adult blogs here.

  7. Hi Rick,

    I red with interest your comment. I haven't seen the blog in question but from this and other posts/complaints I've read, I have come to the conclusion that the blog owner took umbrage at her blog being flagged as having adult content.

    It is clearly stated regarding adult content "If Yes is selected, viewers of your blog will see a warning message and will be asked to confirm that they want to proceed to your blog."
    Now, unless things have gone belly-up and we live in an upside-down world, I woould say that nudity and nude pictures/photos constitute "adult content"

    Instead of people whinging and whining (ie those who were "fans" of the blog) perhaps they should get down off their pedestals and stop with the reverse narrow minded outlook. Not everybody wishes to see nudity and if a blog does contain it then it is only right and fitting that the blog owner acknowledges this and ticks that little box.

    Personlly, I don't see what the big problem was in doing that in the first place. The blog owner sounds like she got in a snit and used the "discrimination" excuse.

    And to all the people who complained - get a grip people and take a chill pill. You don't mind seeing nudity? Fine - that is your prerogative, you are free to do so, but by the same token so to are people free NOT to see nudity. Live and let live.


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