Want to Know What Flickr Thinks Should be Censored, Public Art, Museum Paintings and Screenshots of the Flickr Blog When They’re Critical of Flickr

All Your Sensual WaysMel Ramos NudeBlack Star Rising Interviews Me About Photography and the Photo Sharing BusinessFlickr Does the Right ThingTaken From the Flickr Blog Announcing the Yahoo Acquistion, March 2005

Recently when my Flickr photostream hit 20,000 images I blogged a post about my 20,000th image on Flickr. I got a number of messages though from people telling me that I’d done my math wrong, that I hadn’t actually hit my 20,000th image. I was surprised by these notes and so I logged out of Flickr myself and sure enough, when not logged in, my Flickrstream showed five less images than I saw when I was logged in.

So earlier today I posted in the Flickr Help Forum about this to see if someone from Flickr Staff could explain why my stream showed five less images than it should. It turns out the answer to this was easier than I thought and that I could use the Flickr Organizer to see if any of my photos had been marked as “Restricted” images by Flickr.

It turns out that five of my images on Flickr were actually marked “Restricted,” the five images that you see above.

The first of the images of mine censored by Flickr is of a sculpture that sits in the middle of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. It’s public art approved by the City of Beverly Hills and seen by thousands of children every year. Unfortunately Flickr deems the image too risque for the public view and has instead chosen to censor it.

The second image of mine censored is of a painting by artist Mel Ramos that hangs in the Oakland Museum of California. Again, a public museum visited by children every single week of the year.

The third image of mine censored by Flickr is of a screenshot of the Flickr Blog announcing the Yahoo acquisition of Flickr from back in 2004 stating, “…but we’re going to stay true to our vision and to the people who made us what we are — that’s you, the Flickr pioneers…” The post was critical of Flickr who many feel have not stayed “true” to their original vision.

The fourth image of mine censored is a screenshot of an interview that I did with the website Black Star Rising.

The fifth image of mine censored is a screenshot I took of a Flickr Help Forum post when Flickr reversed their decision to cap the number of contacts you were allowed to have at Flickr at 5,000.

What bothers me as much as the censorship at Flickr is the fact that when you are censored at Flickr there is really no way to know. When you are censored at Flickr it is done by some nameless faceless Yahoo staffer. You are not notified that you were censored. You are not given a chance to object to the censorship. You are just quietly censored and they hope you won’t notice.

As much as I love Flickr and enjoy using the service I’ve long been critical of the rampant censorship that continues to take place on the site and object to the images in my photostream being marked “Restricted” by Flickr staff. Certainly there may be some things that Flickr should mark as restricted — pornography, hate images, etc, but restricting public fine art paintings and sculpture or screenshot posts that are critical of Flickr should not be how they use their censorship tool. And even when they feel that stuff should be censored, I think that Flickr owes the community at least some sort of notification that their images are and have been censored and why, with an opportunity to appeal or object.

If you’d like to see if Flickr is censoring any of your images as well, go to the Flickr Organizer and click on “more options” under the search function and then tell the organizer to show you only “Restricted” content. You might just be surprised that Flickr has censored some of your images as well.

Update: Flickr has uncensored 4 of my 5 images that they were censoring now. I’m working on trying to get the remaining image uncensored as well. I’m also hoping that Flickr will agree to notify people in the future if they censor their work. I think that’s only fair. The Flickr Help Forum thread above is a long one and worth reading if this is an area that interests you. One of the things debated in the thread is the question as to why it is ok on Flickr to publish photographs of male nude sculpture (like Michelangelo’s David) which clearly show male genitalia, but it is not ok to publish photos of female sculpture that show genitalia. Personally I don’t think any photographs of sculpture on Flickr should be censored, but they have not agreed to that point yet.

Loading Facebook Comments ...
7 comments on “Want to Know What Flickr Thinks Should be Censored, Public Art, Museum Paintings and Screenshots of the Flickr Blog When They’re Critical of Flickr
  1. Jake says:

    Oh come on. How about some context, like the 60+ other photos of naked statues/ paintings that aren’t filtered.

    Safe nudes.

    The notification sucks, but this is too much even for you.

  2. Scott Bourne says:

    Thomas is it possible they are censoring the nudes because those are protected by Copyrights or Trademarks that you do not own?

    Most fine art is protected by Copyright. Your photo could be determined to be a reproduction of the work. Absent written permission from the Copyright holder, that is probably an infringement.

    There decision to reject in that case would be a reasonable business decision in my opinion. As for notification, if the TOS says don’t do this or that, and one does indeed do this or that, I am not sure that you haven’t already received notice. But if there is an efficient, no-touch way to offer some sort of notification when an image is rejected, I agree it would be nice to have that information.

  3. Thomas Hawk says:

    Scott, usually with copyright issues Flickr removes the image entirely. This happened to me a while back when someone lied and said that they had copyright on an image when they in fact did not and flickr deleted the image and all of it’s comments permanently.

    These images are not deleted, they’ve merely been set to restricted by Flickr staff. Copyright could be the reason why but I doubt it since both are nudes of public art. But we’ll see if this is the reason they site if I hear back from them.

  4. Jim says:

    Interesting – I had a photo with some guy’s penis visible (nude at a crowded festival) so they restricted my entire account. I posted a screenshot of the letter I got informing me of that censureship, and what the heck they have marked that automatic notice as restricted! Can’t have children viewing it. Image is here is anyone cares:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdory/2239958898/?addedcomment=1#comment72157612990665038

  5. Anonymous says:

    I thought you were going to stop worrying about Flickr and just post your pictures on Zooomr. Didn’t you make a promise that Zooomr would never censor anything? So go there already…

  6. Hey.
    Id be very interested to hear if the debate on male vs female sculpture genitalia had been approved.

    thanks!