Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Support Your Local “Pornographer” or Why Does Blogger Call My Blogs “Porn”?

Here's my upcoming book cover. Are you shocked?

You think you’re an average citizen following the rules of civilized society and then something hits you from out of the blue to convince you of your true criminal intent. Yesterday I opened an email from Blogger (Google) saying that my blog has “adult content” and that it can be taken down (or made “private” against my will) so that no one can see it but me unless "sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video" aren’t taken down by March 23, 2015.

Okay, my romantic fiction book covers feature mostly clothed individuals and any “skin” you see on my erotic-romance covers is legal at any beach or poolside in North America. My publishers make extra-sure our book covers aren’t breaking the rules of decent society so that Amazon and other online retailers won’t list our books. What’s the deal?

I went to a Blogger forum to ask for clarification. “Why were my particular blogs targeted for this treatment?” I asked, and this is the answer I received:

The policy is designed to remove porn from Blogger.  It's a fuzzy policy.

Several questions from me (and others) later, and there was no one who could tell us what “pornography” our blogs contained or what Google means by “porn that it wants removed”. Frustrated, I stated, “I think there's just blatant censorship happening here.” And the reply to my statement was:

            No, there really is a problem.  You just make sure that your blog does not contribute.

I’m not saying that there are no blogs on Blogger that contain images or text that could be considered in violation of pornography laws of local jurisdictions—because there are millions of blogs out there and I’ve seen only a handful—but I am saying that indiscriminately labeling blogs with “adult content” as “porn” is painting a picture that many bloggers are somehow social deviants and possible criminals who produce “porn” for an unsuspecting audience. Does this mean our readers are “deviants”, too?

I don’t know about you, but I despise being labeled with a word that carries so much hate and negativity such as “pornographer”. I hate not being able to defend myself and my writings against a faceless corporation who gladly takes our advertising revenue but tells us what we can or cannot post. Why am I and other bloggers being labeled “guilty until proven innocent”? Isn’t Google located in the United States of America? I thought it was “innocent until proven guilty” here. My mistake!

I take the statement, “Make sure that your blog does not contribute,” to mean that at least some of my blogs contain “porn” and, essentially, Google is prepared to censor all blogs it feels qualifies as such. So, what is exactly constitutes “porn” for Google, Inc., and how are they measuring these “adult content” blogs for “porn”? Are they using a computer algorithm or program? A human being with half a brain? A political group with an agenda?

And what exactly is “adult content”? Adults read romantic fiction, so all romance novels could be labeled “adult content” in the broadest sense, including my PG rated books, but so could true crime novels with horrifically graphic murder scenes. You wouldn’t want your children reading those sorts of stories, would you? And non-fiction about war and war crimes…ugh! That’s not G rated stuff, is it? 

Why am I hearing the Rev. Lovejoy’s wife from The Simpsons crying, “Think of the children!” over and over in my head? 

Why aren’t parents doing their jobs and keeping the kids off the computer and away from things they shouldn’t be seeing until their old enough to understand them? Why is Google so anxious to play “Net Nanny” for these lazy parents? Will they make money off of the exercise?

The more you think about it, the more abusive and potentially dangerous this new policy of Blogger sounds.

Do you believe Google, that is Blogger, has the right to censor blogs just because they (or whatever or whomever they’ve hired to screen blogs) consider them pornographic? Who gets to decide how narrow or how broad the definition of “porn” is when it comes to freedom of speech?

Please leave your comments below. And please sign up for my e-newsletter on the sidebar so we can keep in touch because you never know… This could be my last public blog post. I’m a “pornographer”, you know?

UPDATE: Blogger announced this week:
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.

So... I guess the majority of my blogs are "safe" from being shut down for the time being. Of course, Blogger probably still sees a blog that features erotic-romantic-fiction as being "sexually explicit" even when an individual blog post isn't necessarily "adult" in nature. This means I've placed the "adults only" warning interstitial page on this blog and my web site. I suppose it's a small price to pay to continue blogging via Blogger. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

This decision is of concern and has wide ramifications. As you say any tame "romance" could be considered porn if it has a sexy cover. And it is okay to have violence and such portrayed on books, blogs, etc - is there censorship of this? Bewildered.

Celine said...

I was accused of writing "porn" back in the day before I was writing erotic-romance. These were PG rated stories, and yet somehow they were "smutty" I was told because people kissed and "lived happily ever after." Damned if you do--damned if you don't! And I agree with you--why do we condone violence and war, yet love and love-making is suspect? Make love not war, I say!

Censorship is a double-edged sword. What is "offensive" today might not be tomorrow and vice vesa. Google is playing with fire.

PJ DEAN said...

It's all very subjective. One just feels helpless because the morality police can impose their will when they so fit. Tiny goals fueled by tiny minds.

Mindy said...

It sounds very subjective. I'm an unmarried adult woman & I feel I should be able to read/look at what I choose without fear of the "Moral Minority" deciding what is acceptable & what isn't.

Mindy :)

A J said...

It's censorship. The trouble is, since Blogger is a private company it can determine what is or is not shown on their service, and who's to say otherwise? If enough tiny minds make complaints about tiny issues then the company will have to take notice. There's a certain air of Westernized 'sharia law' about these days. Even so, I recall there was a similar outbreak of Puritanism on Blogger about a year ago, and nothing much came of it. I think this, too, will pass.

Celine said...

I really hope this too shall pass, AJ. I guess they weren't as good as they thought last time at "cleaning house", so they had to go after more blogs this time. I'm just confused as to what exactly they want me to do with my blogs? I can go in and look for "offensive words" and delete them like this **** but will they still find something to object to? Without guidelines, we are just whistling in the dark here and Blogger can bully us all they like and claim we didn't go far enough to stop purveying "porn".

Tiny minds... I agree, PJ. And you're spot on, Mindy. You're an adult and you can make your own decisions about what you want to see or read online. Proposing widespread censorship to shut down perhaps a handful of genuine "smut peddlers" is overkill, IMO. Parents should act as censors for their children online--it's not up to Blogger to play parent for everyone.

If anyone can find anything "offensive" or "pornographic" on my blog pages, please let me know right away. I'll rectify it. Until then, I'll leave things as they are and see what happens on March 23. (The day before my birthday!)