Flickr = Censorship, Part II

Jonathan Moore and Violet Blue
Violet Blue and Jonathan Moore at the 2006 Vloggies

[I am CEO of Zooomr]

Digital Download By David M. Ewalt Well I took a lot of heat the last time I titled a post Flickr = Censorship when Flickr censored one of their most popular photographers Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir.

Flickr later called the incident a “mistake” and apologized for it. Flickr also said that they would take steps to ensure that these kind of “mistakes” didn’t happen in the future. The thread for this incident is now locked on Flickr.

The censorship thing with Flickr probably bugs me more than most because I was censored there myself and had dozens of comments deleted along with one of my images from my own photostream.

So it was with disappointment that I read today’s headline over at Forbes.com about yet another case of Flickr censorship.

From Forbes:

Flickr Censors Violet Blue

“Blogger, sex educator and web celeb Violet Blue has run afoul of the increasingly onerous content filtering system at photo-sharing site Flickr, having most of her photos removed from the site. Flickr (which is owned by Yahoo) recently started classifying user accounts depending on their content, ostensibly to make sure that any “dirty” pictures are behind walls where kids don’t see them. Problem is, though, that none of Violet’s photos displayed nudity; they were mostly things like vacation shots and pictures of her cat. A few non-nude pin-up photos may have tripped the automated system’s prude sensors; as a result, her account was reclassified and most of her pictures were yanked.”

You can read Violet’s own side of the story here.

Update: I’m not sure that Violet Blue’s photostream could be characterized exactly as Forbes has published this report. Forbes reports that “none of Violet’s photos displayed nudity,” when at least one of her photos would appear to be a public nipple shot that would not appear to have been self moderated. This case may be less a case of censorship and more a case of difference of opinion in what ought to be considered public and safe on Flickr.

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5 Comments

  1. Rich says:

    Looks like you got what you wanted. Her account was not deleted. Her photos were no longer blocked. It looks like it was given thoughtful review.

    1. Any deletions should not be permanent.

    2. All users should have a 48 hour period to dispute conflicts when Yahoo thinks censorship is in order.

    3. All disputes should involve a competent, thoughtful, review.

  2. Sign me up as one of those people who is getting sick of watching out for the “community”, which generally means “other people’s kids”. Pretty much all my work is photodocumentary and yes, there are shots that show nudity and activities that some might be offended by. I have ALWAYS made those private so as not to trip the censorship wire at flickr, but I’ll tell you, I don’t enjoy having to do that, nor do I think it’s right or fair. I pay for my account and as a paying customer I want to show ALL of my photos – if I choose to do that. It’s your job to watch your kids, or click back if you find something offensive. Violet Blue hardly has an offensive or pornographic photostream. I don’t get it.

  3. John Swifty says:

    Oh my, and after saying you were going to calm down and not be so hot headed about things.

    This looks like things going right and things going wrong.

    On the right side, it seems that Violets stream “tripped the automated system’s prude sensors”, which I’m sure are there for a good reasons. Then her account got reviewed, made public again with reviewed photos marked up. A sensible review system, apparently working. It probably captures plenty that *should* be pulled from the site.

    On the wrong side, maybe their “prude sensors” are too sensitive and the feedback given to the user, Violet in this case no informative enough as to what just happened and what to expect. Bad feedback to the user.

    However, as I understand it from reading the forums over at Flickr, this is a fairly new system they have in place. It’s fair to expect glitches with any new system, you of all people must understand that. I hardly think that in this case there are members of the Flickr team going around censoring people for the hell of it. There’s just a new system with bugs in it or whatever that has yet to be fine tuned.

    May be “Flickr = slightly over excited automated flesh detector” is more along the lines.

    Your Zooomr system had a bug in it which exposed everyones private photos to the pubic. With the advice to “just go and mark everything private again”. But that was hardly “Zooomr = quite the opposite of Censorship”, you brushed that off as a bug, why not make a blog post about “Photosharing site exposed users private photos for everyone to see”?

    Probably because you *know* it’s a bug because you’re inside the system. In this case you have no idea why what happened happened, but it’s probably just a good old bumps in a new system.

    But then that’s not quite as headline grabbing is it and you just can’t resist it.

  4. taratata says:

    Mr Thomas. Why don’t you stop criticizing flickr and take care of your own biz, which one could call a wreck at this point.

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