Blogger Backs Down on Adult Content

A few weeks ago, sex bloggers everywhere were freaking out over google's announcement that they were going to block any blog that had 'sexually explicit pictures' from coming up in searches. They claimed the move was an attempt to keep under-agers from accessing pornographic content through blogger. They probably thought they were being reasonable because they were not threatening to shut anyone down, just to block them from searches. That though, essentially shuts down the majority of traffic that a blog would get. It would mean that any search for anything, even the exact name of the blog or the person who writes it, would not come up in a search. The only way anyone would be able to access these blogs would be if they were invited by the site itself or if they new the exact url. That's just not the way that most people access content on the web.

There was a huge outcry about it and google actually backed down. Sort of. They issued this statement.

Hello everyone,

This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy. We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. So rather than implement this change, we’ve decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.

Blog owners should continue to mark any blogs containing sexually explicit content as “adult” so that they can be placed behind an “adult content” warning page.

Bloggers whose content is consistent with this and other policies do not need to make any changes to their blogs.

Thank you for your continued feedback.

The Blogger Team

What this means is that they will not block the sites from searches. Anyone who posts any kind of sexual content is asked to tag it with an adult content warning, but it has always been this way (you would have come through an adult content warning to get to this page).

What is unclear to me is what they mean by 'step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn'. What, exactly, is commercial porn. Does this mean that people are making money from the blogs directly? Does that apply to bloggers who make porn for sale but also have a blog or only to people who sell the porn or link to it through their blog? And what exactly is their issue with commercial porn? Why is it distinct from 'sexually explicit content to express their identities'?

This has always been the problem with the question of porn and sexually explicit content. How do you distinguish between the two? How can you draw a line and say 'that's porn' and 'that's just someone expressing themselves'. There is no reasonable way to do that.

And why do it anyway? What does google have to gain from this? Are they doing this to show that they are not in the porn business, that they want to protect children and teens from inadvertently accessing porn through their sites, or do they just want to cover their butts in case some parent gets upset that their kid saw naked people on blogger? The web is absolutely teeming with nudity and sex. Kids will find it whether they are actively looking for it or not. Does it really matter where they found it?

I was at a college presentation last week and a sociology professor made an excellent point about this fear of porn and attempt to keep kids away from it. She said that in addition to being a great place to get porn, the internet is also an amazing place to learn about sex in general and get answers to questions that you don't want to ask other people or that they won't answer for you. However, because all schools and a lot of parents have blocks on their networks, many kids cannot access any site that has any sexual content or not. Use of this potentially great resource is severely curtailed for a lot of kids because we are afraid of them finding porn.

As well, because of policies like the one google attempted to put in place, adults who have every right in the world to watch and read whatever they want, and could really benefit from the diverse range on information and support available on some of these blogs, might not be able to get find it - again because we are so scared of kids finding porn.

I have always felt a better way to deal with this is to talk to children and teens openly about the kinds of things they might find on the internet and help them to develop skills to understand and critically analyze what they see. I think it's up to not only parents, but also schools to do this. Simply trying to block stuff isn't going to work because there will never be a way to block every possible access without severely limiting the kinds of things adults can share and find on the internet.

I'm glad google listened to their users and backed off this idea. I would love to see them let go of the porn paranoia completely.