Yahoo, How Does Censorship Make Yahoo and the Web More Open and Social

Yahoo, How Does Censorship Make Yahoo and Web More Open and Social?

If you want to see if Yahoo is censoring any of your photos go to the Flickr organizer here. Once you are there, click on “more options” at the bottom of the page. Where it says no privacy/safe search filter, change that to show restricted or moderate content. This will show you what photos of yours that Flickr is currently censoring.

Yahoo today announced that as part of their 2008 “Yahoo! Open Strategy (Y!OS) initiative” they are integrating with Facebook. Every time I hear about this so called Y!OS “open” strategy I’m puzzled.

So Yahoo will integrate with Facebook. But will they do it with the full version of Yahoo content? Or will they do it with the censored version of Yahoo content? At present Yahoo censors Flickr photos on the web institutionally. From the Flickr FAQ:

Note: If your Yahoo! ID is based in Singapore, Hong Kong, India or Korea you will only be able to view safe content based on your local Terms of Service (this means you won’t be able to turn SafeSearch off). If your Yahoo! ID is based in Germany you are not able to view restricted content due to your local Terms of Service.

So this means that photos of mine (like this 1874 painting from the Art Institute of Chicago) are effectively filtered out of view as indicated by Yahoo above.

Further, these photos are also completely stripped out of all RSS feeds even for all *USA* based accounts. So if I want to feed my Flickrstream into FriendFeed or Google Buzz these photos will be censored from that feed.

My Pal Merkley does some amazing work with fine art nudes. These are not pornography, these are elegantly structured intensely detailed productions. Right now there is only one way to see these photos of Merkley’s. You have to go to Flickr itself, change your default settings from “safe search” to allow moderate and restricted content and then I can see them on Flickr. But what if I don’t want to see them on Flickr? What if, you know, with a more “open and social Yahoo/web” I want to see these photos in my RSS reader or on Google Buzz or on FriendFeed or (apparently soon) on Facebook? Will I be able to see them? No, I will not. Because Flickr feels that RSS feeds must be sanitized of most of Merkley’s art, even for adults in the U.S. Even though I’ve designated on Flickr that I want to view this content. Even though I’ve certified that I’m over 18. Still, the only place that Yahoo will let me see these photos is in the official Flickr silo itself. (And not even then if I unfortunately happen to be from India).

Unfortunately Yahoo seems to be unwilling to have an open and transparent conversation about this problem. I’ve been permanently banned from the Flickr Help Forum for asking pesky questions like this. I posted a very respectful question about this subject to the Yahoo Corporate Blog (see screen shot above) and it’s presently be censored (er. moderated). The Yahoo Corporate blog has no problem posting comments that kiss up to them. But dare criticize them and your comment is “moderated.” How is this more open and transparent?

If Yahoo truly wants to make Yahoo and the web a more open and social place, then they should stop censoring places like India and Germany and Korea. They should also stop filtering RSS feeds in the U.S. Believe it or not, some people actually don’t find paintings from 1874 at the Art Institute of Chicago offensive, even if the nanny’s at the Flickr Censorship Bureau do. By the way, I tried to appeal Flickr’s censorship decision on the painting from the Art Institute of Chicago and they refused to uncensor it.

Apparently full frontal male nudity on Michelangelo’s statue of David is ok, but a tasteful painting by Lefebvre showing the backside of a woman is not ok. How’s that for a double standard.

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  1. Gordon Reece says:

    I’m curious. When you informed The Art Institute of Chicago that Yahoo finds their collection to be pornographic, what was their response?

  2. vicky says:

    Isn’t it just about giving people a choice on what they feel comfortable with viewing?

  3. sporty883 says:

    Just ran into your post about LR3 via Daring Fireball and what do I see – yet another “censorship” discussion.

    I’m sitting in front of a MBP in Frankfurt/Germany and I can assure you that I can view all of your photos (as well as the gay pride examples mentioned above) even without being logged into Flickr.

    Also I would ask you to not mix up the “censored” attribute that can (or can’t – I cannot prove this) be used for content shown in Korea or Singapore with the “restricted” content for Germany – these restrictions have *nothing* to do with nudity, political statement or else but *only* with usage rights set by the content owner.

    Never – not even in German Kindergarten – would we “hide” nudity as shown in your art picture (Of course that’s different with true pron).

    If you still think Germany is a country where censorship takes place, I invite you to translate some of the recent articles in German press about how Apple “censors” the internet and their opposition to that (stupid idea).

    For a glimpse, visit for some public nudity on a tabloid press web site.

    I’m really sad about overrated “censorship” discussions as they put a shame to those who really have to suffer censorship, which is a bad thing for sure!

  4. sporty883 says:

    I read my text again and want to apologize in case it sounds rude.

  5. I’m so glad I don’t have to make those kinds of judgment calls about what should be shown on a website and what shouldn’t. I have seen flickr censor some accounts that it really shouldn’t have.

  6. Arty Smokes says:

    Thomas makes some good points here, but it should be pointed out that the photo of the Lefebvre painting on his flickr stream has not actually been censored, or at least it’s not being “hidden” at the time of writing. Viewers from around the world do not need to be over 18 or even over 13 to see it. They don’t even need to be a Yahoo/Flickr member. The link should work perfectly well for all.
    It is disingenuous at best to claim it is being censored. It so obviously is not.