Friday, February 27, 2015

Banned in the USSR

I was just perusing the content rules of the Google blogger website.  A couple years ago I opened my blog and found that an adult content warning had been posted on it.  My visceral reaction was anger and I resented the notion that my blog was being censored in the sense that potential leaders were being warned that they were going to see adult content and ask to make a decision about whether or not they wanted to proceed.  Now we all know that the basis of e-commerce is the lack of decision-making.  As soon as you force me to make a decision I'm just going to navigate elsewhere.

I realize that the  billionaires who are controlling Google have to walk a fine line between what is appropriate and censorship.  And this brings me to a very important part of our democracy. In ancient Greece matters of state, philosophy, medicine, and what is and is not appropriate for children were openly debated in the polis.

Indeed Socrates was sentenced to death for transgressing social norms of the corruption of youth as regarded traditional Greek religion.  I certainly don't wish to suggest that the United States of America has anything approaching the level of democracy of ancient Greece but I would like to aspire to such a level.

My undergraduate history advisor gave us a book called _Imagined Communities_ which was of the sub altern studies approach to history.  The basic premise underlying subaltern studies is that historical research , law, commerce, and government are all controlled by the upper classes.

Even as we peruse the available text of any given historical period we must take into account that the very documents we seek to examine for information are themselves colored by the prejudices of those who had access to academia in that period.

The history of the Indian subcontinent was not written by the untouchable class nor was the history of the Russian Revolution written by serfs, most of whom were illiterate, nor was African-American history written by slaves.

Indeed when I studied African-American history at the University of Cincinnati in 1992 the course was not taught by an African-American.   But I digress.

The polis no longer exists. We don't have a town square where we debate issues of finance, economics and politics. The new polis is the Internet and the closest thing we have to democratic expression of ideas are free blogging sites which are accessible to anyone with access to the Internet.

Now I don't intend to imply that Internet access is universally available worldwide.  But for those of us who do you have access to the Internet and the time and ability to create a blog it seems to me a huge problem with democracy that a third-party may arbitrarily decide that one of our blogs contains "adult content".

Orwell addressed this issue in 1984. In which the over arching State/Corporation of Europa controlled all references in all forms of media to certain events and geographic locations.  Winston Smith's occupation was to scour news items and remove references to this or that state being an ally or an enemy in order to maintain the illusion that the current state of political affairs had existed ad infinitum backwards in time.

If Europa decided to form an alliance with Oceana then Oceana would always be an ally and any reference to the Oceana being an enemy would be eradicated.

Of course the level of media control this related in this dystopian future seemed impossible in 1948 when the book was released but is not Google the Europa of _1984_?

Indeed Google is Europa in the sense that it is a western corporation protected by the world's most powerful democratic government.  Their reach extends worldwide.

If Google decides to classify this blog as "adult content" that affects every single person on the planet who may or may not read it based on that classification.  That level of control is unacceptable.

The rules are below.

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Blogger Content Policy

Blogger is a free service for communication, self-expression and freedom of speech. We believe Blogger increases the availability of information, encourages healthy debate, and makes possible new connections between people. It is our belief that censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.

However, in order to uphold these values, we need to curb abuses that threaten our ability to provide this service and the freedom of expression it encourages. As a result, there are some boundaries on the type of content that can be hosted with Blogger. The boundaries we've defined are those that both comply with legal requirements and that serve to enhance the service as a whole.

If you encounter a blog that you believe violates our policies, please report it to us using the 'Report Abuse' link located at the top of each blog under the 'More' dropdown. If the blog owner has hidden this link, you can still report abuse in the Blogger Help Center.

Content Boundaries

Our content policies play an important role in maintaining a positive experience for you, the users. Please respect these guidelines. From time to time, we may change our content policies so please check back here. Also, please note that when applying the policies below, we may make exceptions based on artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific considerations or where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking action on the content.

Adult Content: We do allow adult content on Blogger, including images or videos that contain nudity or sexual activity. If your blog contains adult content, please mark it as 'adult' in your Blogger settings. We may also mark blogs with adult content where the owners have not. All blogs marked as 'adult' will be placed behind an 'adult content' warning interstitial. If your blog has a warning interstitial, please do not attempt to circumvent or disable the interstitial - it is for everyone’s protection.

There are some exceptions to our adult content policy:

Do not use Blogger as a way to make money on adult content. For example, don't create blogs that contain ads for or links to commercial porn sites.We do not allow illegal sexual content, including image, video or textual content that depicts or encourages rape, incest, bestiality, or necrophilia.Do not post or distribute private nude or sexually explicit images or videos without the subject’s consent. If someone has posted a private nude or sexually explicit image or video of you, please report it to us here.

Child safety: We have a zero-tolerance policy towards content that exploits children. Some examples of this include:

Child sexual abuse imagery: We will terminate the accounts of any user we find publishing or distributing child sexual abuse imagery. We will also report that user to law enforcement.Pedophilia: We do not allow content that encourages or promotes sexual attraction towards children. For example, do not create blogs with galleries of images of children where the collection of images or text accompanying the images is sexually suggestive, and do not publish content of a sexual nature involving an underage participant.

Hate Speech: Our products are platforms for free expression. But we don't support content that promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics. This can be a delicate balancing act, but if the primary purpose is to attack a protected group, the content crosses the line.

Crude Content: Don't post content just to be shocking or graphic. For example, collections of close-up images of gunshot wounds or accident scenes without additional context or commentary would violate this policy.

Violence: Don't threaten other people on your blog. For example, don't post death threats against another person or group of people and don't post content encouraging your readers to take violent action against another person or group of people.

Harassment: Do not harass or bully others. Anyone using Blogger to harass or bully may have the offending content removed or be permanently banned from the site. Online harassment is also illegal in many places and can have serious offline consequences.

Copyright: It is our policy to respond to clear notices of alleged copyright infringement. More information about our copyright procedures can be found here. Also, please don't provide links to sites where your readers can obtain unauthorized downloads of other people's content.

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Impersonating others: Please don't mislead or confuse readers by pretending to be someone else or pretending to represent an organization when you don't. We're not saying you can't publish parody or satire - just avoid content that is likely to mislead readers about your true identity.

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Spam: Spam takes several forms in Blogger, all of which can result in deletion of your account or blog. Some examples include creating blogs designed to drive traffic to your site or to move it up in search listings, posting comments on other people's blogs just to promote your site or product, and scraping existing content from other sources for the primary purpose of generating revenue or other personal gains.

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Enforcement of Blogger's Content Policy

Please report suspected policy violations to us using the 'Report Abuse' link located at the top of each blog under the 'More' dropdown or by clicking here.

Our team reviews user flags for policy violations. If the blog does not violate our policies, we will not take any action against the blog or blog owner. If we find that a blog does violate our content policies, we take one or more of the following actions based on the severity of the violation:

Put the blog behind an 'adult content' interstitialPut the blog behind an interstitial where only the blog author can access the contentDelete the offending content, blog post or blogDisable the author's access to his/her Blogger accountDisable the author's access to his/her Google accountReport the user to law enforcement

We may also take any of the above actions if we find that a user has created multiple blogs engaging in repeated abusive behavior. If you have had a blog disabled, do not create a replacement blog that engages in similar activity.


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