Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Community standards

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  • Euan Mason,

    It hasn’t taken long for Cameron to jam things into reverse and declare that his filter wouldn’t block"soft” porn (while remaining hopelessly unclear about what it would block) but what’s remarkable is that he genuinely doesn’t appear to have thought through any of it before making his announcement

    ROFL! Thanks, Russell, for making me laugh. This is absolutely priceless.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    A mandatory family-friendly filter would almost certainly take out the websites of two of his biggest backers in the media.

    Which I don't actually give a breast-implant full of whatevs about, to be honest, but here's the question that comes up every damn time some politician goes on a Luddite moral panic. Would a "mandatory family-friendly filter" also take out the websites of folks providing free, frank and not-designed-as-wank-helper sexual health advice to teenagers? Or GLBTI folks? Or anyone with non-vanilla sexualities that are still based around other consenting adults? "Porn" is a rather loaded term -- and it funny how often the people who know it when they see it are (surprise!) straight white middle-aged cis-men who are more interested in polling and focus groups reports than anyone's actual well-being.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Ms. Naughty has a post on Tumblr's pornocalypse, from the point of view of a commercial pornographer who's just started using Tumblr and finds it... problematic.

    The problem is this: in creating the Tumblr for Bright Desire, am I being “spammy”? Am I “not-so-nice”? I’m not putting affiliate links on that site but I am advertising my own paysite by posting gifs and pics from Bright Desire that I hope people will share. It’s a way of getting my site in front of people who might like my content. If I’m doing this for self-promotion rather than the simple “love” of sharing porn images, does that mean I’m violating the terms?

    And consider this: the images I’m posting are licensed to me, chosen by me and authorized to be shared in what I consider to be a promotional manner. I also have the 2257 documents for those images.

    Compare this with the millions of Tumblr porn blogs that post unlicensed, unauthorized, un2257′d images without so much as a link to where they came from. It doesn’t matter that their terms state you can’t post copyrighted content; Tumblr is built on stolen, unreferenced porn.

    The British approach to porn is just fucking hopeless. This is a total failure to learn from their own "extreme pornography" legislation. This (assuming "this" is, as it appears to be, stopping adults looking at pictures of things adults do) can't be done well, but by God they're going to do it badly.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I think Yahoo/Tumblr’s biggest risk is if they’re taken to task for the huge amounts of copyrighted material they host. While they do have some talented content producers, the vast majority of their sites rely mostly or exclusively on work from elsewhere. With porn, that’s especially so. The users have however fostered a culture of expression and self-representation (particularly in staging the self) which is still growing. That's not enough to sustain the platform, however.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    The Tumblr thing was interesting, and as with most "official" changes on Tumblr, it wasn't announced in advance or (clearly) explained afterwards.

    It's not that posts with those tags were blocked per se, but that a person browsing those specific tags could only see posts on their own blogs and blogs they follow, rather than every post on every blog that used those tags. (For context, most people on Tumblr find new blogs and posts by searching tags, so this was a pretty big deal.)

    There was also a setting added in the user account page to allow these posts to show up in searches again. It appears that this setting was set to block posts by default for many people (although not everyone-my account didn't have this setting enabled, for example.) Because there had been no announcement, no one even knew the setting was there until well after the collective freak out started.

    This isn't the first time Tumblr has altered the way tag searches work-prior to the Yahoo acquisition, a change was made to prioritize "popular" posts (with more Likes and Reblogs) in searches, effectively hiding some posts in specific tags. Again, this was an unannounced change, and again there's a workaround that appears to be as simple as adding /everything to the search URL. Third party extensions like Missing E, xKit and Tumblr Saviour also have options to handle this sort of personalized filtering, which is why they're so popular, but unfortunately Tumblr historically has a very poor relationship with authors of Tumblr extensions.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to George Darroch,

    I think Yahoo/Tumblr’s biggest risk is if they’re taken to task for the huge amounts of copyrighted material they host. While they do have some talented content producers, the vast majority of their sites rely mostly or exclusively on work from elsewhere. With porn, that’s especially so.

    Indeed. Otoh, there's a useful curatorial role being played, especially on the more niche porn tumblrs. They've looked at all the porn in the world so you don't have to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    Thank you. I'm even more confused now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Darlington,

    the banality of politicians who want to be seen as our moral protectors.

    Given that politicians generally seem to have a moral compass more appropriate to members of the mustelid family than to homo sapiens, you have to wonder what credibility they have to be our moral protectors.

    Since Nov 2006 • 56 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I think we're all in the same boat then! Jill Pantozzi over at The Mary Sue has a crack at summarizing what happened, along with Tumblr's official response.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason, in reply to Tim Darlington,

    the banality of politicians who want to be seen as our moral protectors.

    Given that politicians generally seem to have a moral compass more appropriate to members of the mustelid family than to homo sapiens, you have to wonder what credibility they have to be our moral protectors.

    Some seem to have mislaid their moral compasses, as evidenced by the GCSB bill. :)

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    the tumblr problem sounds just like the flickr problem, once flickr became a yahoo thingy. Because yahoo operates under multiple jurisdictions the rules for say geman flickr users are different from american and terms of service for all users changed and oh wow what a mess.

    i feel extremely sorry for all the community managers who get to sort this fun out

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 527 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Euan Mason,

    Some seem to have mislaid their moral compasses, as evidenced by the GCSB bill. :)

    Not mislaid, lost. Permanently. Long ago.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Not mislaid, lost. Permanently. Long ago.

    Lost in the way that a dog loses its bones sometimes. And roughly the same level of amusing when they go to bury a fresh one in the same place and then get all confused about what to do when they find the old one.

    Admittedly, I've done the same thing when hiding my stash.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Call that a porn post? pfft I didn't even have to look up any new words!

    It seems like there are lots of different pieces to this, foremost is the politician pretending to have morals. You get the same from numerous editorials. All supposing that some external morality should apply to x or y, yet failing to actually notice that morality is flexible over time and a product of a society as a whole. It doesn't take much effort to realise our society does not believe boobs and bums are a moral issue any more at all. Most depictions of sex are fine with the bulk of our society. Basically if a significant portion of society are keen on viewing or doing these things then you need a good case (eg abuse of children) to argue they are immoral and should be controlled. This rule fails because most folks don't agree on the rule.

    But the other part to this is the technology just shifts too fast to make any such system viable, even if you could get a moral restriction agreed upon. For the people who we mostly agree are sick bastards there are just too many ways around any measure we put in place. Had tumblr stuck with their restrictions on hashtags, how long before someone rigged up a search engine worked around the restriction?

    And then you get the problem of how does anyone make a living (not get obscenely rich, just a living) by providing a decent curated place to view content on the internet? The creators of tumblr had a great idea that worked really well but they quite reasonably wanted to make money from that effort and at the moment the only way to do that is to sell the whole thing to someone big who may have different motivations.

    Is any of this new? Or will it change ever?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    banality of politicians who want to be seen as our moral protectors.

    The moral protectors dial is set at, oh shit, 1950 sumthing? I dont know pick a date when humanity were obsessed with being prudish, backward looking, missionary positioned. I cant help but laff OUT LOUD.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But the other part to this is the technology just shifts too fast to make any such system viable

    Mitch Benn had a great tweet on this:

    The government may be ENTITLED to close down porn traffic. I'm ENTITLED to hover six inches above the ground and I can't do that either.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Emma, I read ENTITLED to, then six inches. My mind's in the gutter.

    We're shifting our standards rather rapidly, and some people will always be on the forefront. That's clear enough to me. What's clear about this is that Yahoo is tidying up Tumblr so it can be accessible to advertisers, who want clean brand associations. Coca Cola doesn't want to be set down beside penetration close-ups, no matter how they're curated. (Tumblr did, a year or two ago, restrict its terms in order to shut down pro-anorexia and pro-selfharm sites, of which there were many).

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to George Darroch,

    My mind’s in the gutter.

    Mine must be in the sewer. I read hover as hoover.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Some seem to have mislaid their moral compasses, as evidenced by the GCSB bill. :)

    Nope. Just swallowed a magnet and now, no matter which way they turn, their compass points up their arse.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to George Darroch,

    What’s clear about this is that Yahoo is tidying up Tumblr so it can be accessible to advertisers, who want clean brand associations. Coca Cola doesn’t want to be set down beside penetration close-ups, no matter how they’re curated.

    But there may well be advertisers who don't mind so much But I think one of the problems with monetising Tumblr is that the use of third-party themes is going to make it really hard to sell inventory on the pages, which depending on theme don't just look different but work and occupy the screen in very different ways. Compared to Facebook, which dictates how your page looks and works and how you interact, it's going to be hard.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Tumblr did, a year or two ago, restrict its terms in order to shut down pro-anorexia and pro-selfharm sites

    Which presumably were put there by people who believe that anorexia or cutting themselves are valid forms of self-expression. They do not, I notice, suppress anti-vax sites which are probably a worse public health issue than self-harm (not to mention the harms-self/harms-others thing).

    I think that basically, one can have a "published" site like this (or CIF) where the publisher chooses what they want to present, or one can have a communication service like Twitter, etc. I don't think the former scales, and I don't think the latter should be in the censorship business.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Le Gros,

    I suggest reading this blog post to get an insight into how poorly the British Government understand the technicalities of what they're trying to introduce. It seems that the MP behind this filtering proposal has had a run-in on twitter with a British political blogger - hilarity ensues.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    I will note that one way some people in the U.S. are trying to defend against porn copyright trolls is with the claim porn in the U.S. is not copyrightable. Some claim this is not an entirely settled point.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Smith,

    Politically this feels to me like David Cameron is trying to rebuild his conservatism cred after the marriage equality vote. "Sure I pushed through marriage equality but LOOK! I'm still a conservative. I'm cracking down on porn! What conservative doesn't hate porn!"

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Smith,

    What conservative doesn’t hate porn!”

    Heh. More accurately, what conservative doesn't hate other people having porn?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

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