Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Blogger announcement on banning porn from public weblogs reminds us of the battle over COPA


Today, there has been considerable uproar and controversy over Google’s announcement of plans to prohibit nudity and pornography on public blogs from March 23, 2015 on, and applied to blogs retroactively. Blogs that violate the policy will be marked private and removed from search engine results.  I gave a detailed discussion on mu main blog today.
  
What is remarkable is how this sudden announcement parallels the controversies over COPA, the Child Online Protection Act, when it was litigated. Of course, a private company can set up policies as it wishes.  But the real practical problem has to do with determining exactly what content meets the criteria for redlining (eventual banishment).
  
There is some confusion, too, over the fact that Blogger allows users to mark blogs as adult content, which results in an interstitial screen requiring sign-on to a Google account to view. Google says it retains the right to mark blogs as “adult” itself, and that it is possible for a blog to be marked adult without actual images containing nudity, based on other considerations.  However, adult-tagged sites without nudity, it has said, will not be marked private or restricted.
  
Through the time of the court trial in Philadelphia in 2007, a lot of the debate over COPA concerned the issue of how “harmful to minors” was defined, and whether adult verification schemes could be reliable.  Industry entities, like the ICRA, proposed voluntary content labeling schemes, that could require some sort of age verification.
  
Another problem is that “adult content” might be construed as content that is disturbing to some younger people because of ideas that it presents, not because of what it shows.  For example, discussions of “attractiveness” are disturbing to some people, especially women, because they could be construed as conveying that some people should be “left out”. 

My own experience, by observation, is that Google has accepted sexually explicit content on YouTube if it us marked as adult and throws the interstitial screen.  It says it wants the same policies across all its platforms, but if so, that would imply that many of these YouTube videos should be "private" too.  What am I missing?
      
Google has already been very pro-active in eliminating child pornography from its services, as documented here previously.

Note: Blogger has deferred the policy;  see posting Feb. 27.

No comments: