Google Bows to Pressure on Blogger Explicit Content Limits
Just 3-1/2 days after Google announced a ban on the public sharing of sexually explicit content on its Blogger Web site, the tech giant has reversed course, saying it will instead step up enforcement of its existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.
Earlier this week, Google had announced that as of March 23, users of Blogger.com (which is owned by Google) would no longer be able to share sexually explicit content with the general public. Instead, Google said, any blog with adult content would be marked "private" and the publisher of the blog would have to send out a personal invitation to anyone who might want to view the blog.
Just three and a half days later, however, Google abruptly reversed course and announced Friday that it would revert back to its original policy regarding blogs with sexual content, which are currently hidden behind an "adults-only" warning page.
Writing for Google's Blogger Team, Social Product Support Manager Jessica Pelegio said that users whose blogs were consistent with Blogger's existing policies (including the labeling of adult content) would not need to make any changes.
"We've had a ton of feedback," Pelegio said, "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."
The Blogger Help Forum was (and still is) crammed with threads complaining about the proposed change, with the majority protesting Google's abrupt decision to censor the content, and the rest trying to determine whether their site would be affected.
A particularly passionate objection was posted by Darren Grathy, a blogger operating a site called "Impregnation Erotica." Among other things, he warned that the new policy was just a prelude to greater censorship.
"Set to private and by 'invitation only,' our Web sites will be all but destroyed," Grathy argued. "The fact that you haven't deleted our content is of grim consolation when you kill off our entire userbase! We cannot possibly invite hundreds of thousands of people one by one. With no public access, our sites will wither from inattention and lack of new insight and comment. What will be left in mere months will be a collection of dead domains, dessicated corpses of once vibrant and wholesome adult communities laid waste by this policy decision. And I have no doubt that next year or the year after that, the plan would be to quietly delete it all, once the brow-beaten webmasters were too few in number to put up any sort of resistance."
Another user, a book reviewer named Johnnie-Marie Howard, wrote: "...sometimes the pictures and words have cussing. Am I really going to be set to private where no one can then see my blog? what's going to happen? I'm not really understanding anything I have read about it so far."
Following Google's change of heart, Blogger support staff were busy trying to reassure worried users.
"Does this mean nothing will change?" Howard asked.
"Correct! Have a good one ;)," a Blogger staffer replied.
Pressure from Overseas?
Largely overlooked by U.S.-based media was a gleeful article by the UK's Daily Mail, which took credit this past Monday for pushing Google to adopt a stronger anti-porn policy. The Daily Mail has been aggressively targeting major social media and content Web sites, arguing that they have a responsibility to help reduce the availability of online pornography. The paper also played a role in pushing the British government to adopt more stringent labeling standards for online erotica.
Interestingly, the paper's front page Friday lacked any coverage of Google's reversal of plans.