Censorship, Community Filters, Parental Controls, and Flickr

flickr still not fixed?
Originally uploaded by violet.blue.
There has been a lot of blogging lately about Flickr and Censorship. Flickr is the favorite photo site of much of the blogging crowd. Flickr was the first photo site that understood social networking and community. It gave them a big head start over everyone else.

One thing that gets a lot of attention is when people think that Flickr is censoring them. Last month there was a big dust up when Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir had one of her photos deleted. The photo could be restored but none of the comments could be restored. Her are Rebekka's final thoughts on the flickr event.

I want to say here that I loath calling what Flickr is doing censorship. I was always thought that censorship we denying someone their right to free speech. To truly deny that you need force of law, force of violence, or force of economics. Flickr has none of these things. There is nothing stopping a Flickr user from posting their photos someplace else. Flickr users are not a captive audience, they can go anywhere else on the web to see photos. A business can set their standards what ever way fits their business model, as customers we can vote with our wallets. Censorship to me are things like insult laws and journalist getting killed.

Yesterday I read that Violet Blue received a message that her account was being moderated. Some of her photos were being blocked by safe filters on Flickr. Over the last few months on flickr I have noticed that a lot of photos get blocked by these filter. Few of the blocked photos are pornographic. Many I cannot figure out why they are being blocked at all. Violet Blue is a sex writer, but most of her photos are not unsafe. Some are risque, but she has some good questions about why they were blocked.

To be honest, I have no problem with Flickr blocking photos. They have a business they need to run. They need to create a landscape where families feel welcomed. They need to be able to offer their service to the wider world. I understand why they want to have some rules.

My problem is with how vague the Flickr Community Guidlines are. They want people to figure it out themselves. This worries me some. I feel in a situation like this you have to spell out users rights. This means that as a member of the community I can complain if I do not like the political or moral message of a photo. I do not have to respect anyone's rights. Every photo I don't like I can say it should be blocked.

The Flickr Filters page is a perfect example of this.

How do I know if I'm doing the right thing?

What an excellent question.

Flickr will never be able to provide a comprehensive list of what content should fall in which bucket. This is simply impossible to do on a global scale.

That's why we wrote the Community Guidelines, to give you a sense of the sort of things that are allowed or not, and what will happen if you publish content that doesn't follow those guidelines.

The most important thing for you to remember when you're moderating your own content is that Flickr is used by millions of people of all ages from all over the world. We're relying on you to use your best judgement about whether or not you think the content you publish would be offensive to anyone in this enormous public space. If you even have a hint of a doubt, you should use a different safety level.

The other simple question is whether or not you'd feel comfortable showing the content you publish to a child, or your mother, or someone you're sitting next to on a bus. If the answer is no, the content should be restricted.

If it turns out that you judge "the right thing" poorly, the community will probably speak out. If we receive complaints about your content, we will take action, in line with the Community Guidelines. You really should take a moment to read them.

Hey, I want some guidelines. I want to know when I am on the wrong side of the line. Flickr is a world wide community. Anyone in the world can see my unfiltered photos. That means that standards should be easy to set. Either I can have a woman in a bathing suit, which would be fine in the US, but considered wrong in Saudi Arabia or I cannot.

There are two things I want from Flickr:

1) Better defined guide lines. If you are going to have rules you need to protect your users rights also. You need to give me the right to political photos and social photos that other people might find offensive.

2) A tool to report photos that are behind the SafeSearch filter that seem they should not be there. I have seen photos of cats, apartments, and cars where I have to click through the safe search filter. I would like to be able to report when I think the safe search filter is wrong. I would like other people to request this of Flickr also.

I found this via Thomas Hawk.


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