Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Support Your Local “Pornographer” or Why Does Blogger Call My Blogs “Porn”?

Here's my upcoming book cover. Are you shocked?

You think you’re an average citizen following the rules of civilized society and then something hits you from out of the blue to convince you of your true criminal intent. Yesterday I opened an email from Blogger (Google) saying that my blog has “adult content” and that it can be taken down (or made “private” against my will) so that no one can see it but me unless "sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video" aren’t taken down by March 23, 2015.

Okay, my romantic fiction book covers feature mostly clothed individuals and any “skin” you see on my erotic-romance covers is legal at any beach or poolside in North America. My publishers make extra-sure our book covers aren’t breaking the rules of decent society so that Amazon and other online retailers won’t list our books. What’s the deal?

I went to a Blogger forum to ask for clarification. “Why were my particular blogs targeted for this treatment?” I asked, and this is the answer I received:

The policy is designed to remove porn from Blogger.  It's a fuzzy policy.

Several questions from me (and others) later, and there was no one who could tell us what “pornography” our blogs contained or what Google means by “porn that it wants removed”. Frustrated, I stated, “I think there's just blatant censorship happening here.” And the reply to my statement was:

            No, there really is a problem.  You just make sure that your blog does not contribute.

I’m not saying that there are no blogs on Blogger that contain images or text that could be considered in violation of pornography laws of local jurisdictions—because there are millions of blogs out there and I’ve seen only a handful—but I am saying that indiscriminately labeling blogs with “adult content” as “porn” is painting a picture that many bloggers are somehow social deviants and possible criminals who produce “porn” for an unsuspecting audience. Does this mean our readers are “deviants”, too?

I don’t know about you, but I despise being labeled with a word that carries so much hate and negativity such as “pornographer”. I hate not being able to defend myself and my writings against a faceless corporation who gladly takes our advertising revenue but tells us what we can or cannot post. Why am I and other bloggers being labeled “guilty until proven innocent”? Isn’t Google located in the United States of America? I thought it was “innocent until proven guilty” here. My mistake!

I take the statement, “Make sure that your blog does not contribute,” to mean that at least some of my blogs contain “porn” and, essentially, Google is prepared to censor all blogs it feels qualifies as such. So, what is exactly constitutes “porn” for Google, Inc., and how are they measuring these “adult content” blogs for “porn”? Are they using a computer algorithm or program? A human being with half a brain? A political group with an agenda?

And what exactly is “adult content”? Adults read romantic fiction, so all romance novels could be labeled “adult content” in the broadest sense, including my PG rated books, but so could true crime novels with horrifically graphic murder scenes. You wouldn’t want your children reading those sorts of stories, would you? And non-fiction about war and war crimes…ugh! That’s not G rated stuff, is it? 

Why am I hearing the Rev. Lovejoy’s wife from The Simpsons crying, “Think of the children!” over and over in my head? 

Why aren’t parents doing their jobs and keeping the kids off the computer and away from things they shouldn’t be seeing until their old enough to understand them? Why is Google so anxious to play “Net Nanny” for these lazy parents? Will they make money off of the exercise?

The more you think about it, the more abusive and potentially dangerous this new policy of Blogger sounds.

Do you believe Google, that is Blogger, has the right to censor blogs just because they (or whatever or whomever they’ve hired to screen blogs) consider them pornographic? Who gets to decide how narrow or how broad the definition of “porn” is when it comes to freedom of speech?

Please leave your comments below. And please sign up for my e-newsletter on the sidebar so we can keep in touch because you never know… This could be my last public blog post. I’m a “pornographer”, you know?

UPDATE: Blogger announced on February 27:
This week, we announced a change to Blogger’s porn policy. We’ve had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. So rather than implement this change, we’ve decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.  

Blog owners should continue to mark any blogs containing sexually explicit content as “adult” so that they can be placed behind an “adult content” warning page.

Bloggers whose content is consistent with this and other policies do not need to make any changes to their blogs.

So... I guess the majority of my blogs are "safe" from being shut down for the time being. Of course, Blogger probably still sees a blog that features erotic-romantic-fiction as being "sexually explicit" even when an individual blog post isn't necessarily "adult" in nature. This means I've placed the "adults only" warning interstitial page on Celine Chatillon's blog and web site. I suppose it's a small price to pay to continue blogging via Blogger. What do you think?


Nancy Gardiner said...

Let me see if I have this right...the powers that be want you to remove the "offensive" material, but they won't explain what material is "offensive". That is one twisted little game they've got going.

A J said...

I think this is just one of those periodic knee-jerk reactions Blogger goes through from time to time. Someone complains so Blogger corporation feels it has to appear responsible to the public (when it couldn't care less). The real problem probably originated from all the self-published dreck out there, where there's no publisher/editorial control over what's posted ("You can't write THAT!") This too shall pass.

Cindy said...

I've been told that I've actually survived a couple of earlier "cullings" by Blogger/Google. I wasn't informed I was a "pornographer" then, so I didn't change my ways and now they've caught me on this round... But, no, they didn't give me or anyone a specific run down of WHY we received their notice and have been warned that if we don't change our ways we could find our blogs "privatized", which essentially means no one will be able to find our blogs online unless we sign them up personally to do so. For a writer, that just kills all promotional opportunity for our books, so a private blog is not a desirable thing.

I hate the idea (and the stress) of moving my blogs/pages over to another provider, but this sort of blanket censorship is worrisome. Yes, take down the "porn" (selling sexual videos online) but why are we targeting legitimate authors and bloggers who want to express themselves in an intelligent manner?

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