TechCrunch is reporting that Flickr has cited “Community Guidelines” for censoring an Egyptian blogger’s uploaded photos of Egyptian Secret Police. The photos in question were originally uploaded by Hossam Hamalawy, aka Arabawy to his Flickr account here.
According to Arabawy these photos were taken from State Security Police headquarters in Nasr City which he says “hosted one of Mubarak’s largest torture facilities.” Attention was raised over this deletion yesterday after NPR’s Andy Carvin tweeted out concerns about the removal.
According to Techcrunch, Flickr issued the following statement to them regarding the content removal:
“The images in question were removed because they were not that member’s work. As stated by the Community Guidelines, ‘Flickr accounts are intended for members to share original photos and video that they themselves have created.’
Flickr isn’t a place for members to just host images but a place where members share original photos and video; and the Flickr community is built around that. For this reason, when we discover images that violate this provision, we may remove such images from the account and, in some instances, delete the account altogether.
While we regret that this action has upset the user, he must understand that this is not a decision we ever take lightly but only as necessary to ensure that Flickr remains a great place to creatively post and share original photos and videos with friends, family and the world.”
Personally I think that this is one giant cop out on Flickr’s part. Flickr knows that Flickr is *full* of photos that are “not a member’s work.” In fact Flickr staff themselves routinely upload photos to their own personal photostreams that are “not their work.” For example, is this Flickr Maps screenshot of a Rev Dan Catt photograph really Flickr Chief Matthew Rothenberg’s own work? What about this screengrab of an AOL advertisement? Is this Rothenberg’s “own work?” How about this screengrab of a Valleywag page? While I suspect that this “flickrhq masturbating dinosaur award for excellence in the field of community abuse and advocacy,” is in fact Rothenberg’s own photograph, his own stream, as well as the streams of many other flickr staffers are full of photos that are not “their work.”
Withdrawing Arabawy’s photos of suspected torturers by citing a technicality that the photos were not “his own work,” is disingenuous. The photos were pulled because Flickr was pressured to pull the photos and chose to respond to that pressure rather than to take a stand for freedom. Flickr knows that Flickr is chock full of photographs in photostreams that are not a members own work and this act on their part simply points to another act where they have selectively applied one of their rules to suit their needs using their overly ambiguous Community Guidelines as justification. Flickr should apologize to Arabawy and restore his photoset.
Certainly there might be times that Flickr ought to consider enforcing a policy of a user “not uploading their own work.” Blatant copyright infringement. An account by someone simply hosting eBay graphics. Etc. But using this technicality to remove politically sensitive and important public domain images from a Flickr user’s photostream is not one of them.
Update: While looking closer at the photo “flickrhq masturbating dinosaur award for excellence in the field of community abuse and advocacy” in Rothenberg’s stream, it looks like it actually also isn’t “his own work” either. At least according his tags, the photo was taken by Heather Champ. I suppose when you’re the boss of flickr you can get away with this sort of blatant community guidelines violation. If you’re a journalist exposing torturers from a corrupt government on the other hand, well, not so much.
Update #2: on Slashdot here.
Update #3: It looks like the photos that were taken down off of Flickr have been republished. Anonymous Operations posted a new link to the photos and tweeted that they are a “gift to the Egyptian people.”