Today, Google announced a sudden and unexpected change to its blogging policy: As of March 23, it will be impossible to publicly share pornography and “adult” content on Blogger platforms (those websites with “blogspot” or “blogger” in their URLs).
At best, such content will be made “private,” meaning that it will only be visible to the blog's owner, and those individuals whom the owner personally chooses to share the blog with. At worst, Google might delete the content, or disable access to the author's Google and/or Blogger accounts.
Paradoxically, Google's online Blogger Content Policy still starts off with a paragraph condemning censorship, followed by several paragraphs explaining that Google will henceforth engage in censorship of sexual content:
Blogger is a free service for communication, self-expression and freedom of speech. We believe Blogger increases the availability of information, encourages healthy debate, and makes possible new connections between people. It is our belief that censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.
However, in order to uphold these values …. [several paragraphs negating that previously stated belief about censoring deleted.]
Google announced the upcoming policy change in a post on its support forum:
Starting March 23, 2015, you won't be able to publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger.
Note: We’ll still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts.
Problem is, Google's idea of what exactly constitutes “artistic, educational, documentary or scientific contexts” might be difficult, if not impossible, for ordinary Google users to fathom.
As Emma Wollacott noted in Forbes, “Many of the blogs currently labelled “adult” have had that tag slapped on them by Google itself – and the blog owners don’t necessarily agree. Affected blogs have included those covering LGBT issues and sex education, for example.”
For those who'd rather migrate to a blog on a different platform with more liberal policies (such as WordPress or Tumblr), Google provided a link to a page providing instructions on how to archive or export your posts and other content.
That will likely prove a necessity for most blogs with adult, or potentially adult, content. As Jason Scott of the Internet Archive Tweeted:
It is entirely possible Google will censor/disconnect websites over a decade old because of an arbitrary policy change. Guess we're grabbing [content.]
On the Blogger user forum, Derren Grathy from the Impregnation Erotica blog complained: “Set to private and by ‘invitation only’, our websites will be all but destroyed. The fact that you haven’t deleted our content is of grim consolation when you kill off our entire userbase!”
Other users pointed out that Google's vague descriptions of what exactly constitutes objectionable adult material (as opposed to adult material with educational, scientific or other redeeming value), combined with its policy of allowing individual users to report blogs which they claim are in violation of those vague descriptons, might result in bloggers being censored for adult content without even producing any. Fantasy and romance [not pornography] writer Cynthianna Matthews, for example, posted this complaint:
What is the definition of "porn"? I received this Blogger email, but it doesn't tell me WHICH ONE OF MY BLOGS IS PORNOGRAPHIC. Are all of them suspect now? One small posting that someone made in the comment section? What is exactly are they objecting to? If they can't give me a specific answer, how am I to fix the "problem"[?]
The thing is, I don't think there is a "problem"--I think there's just blatant censorship happening here. Someone is jealous of my lovely romance cover artwork and they're wanting to excise it off of Google so they can promote their own work ….You can see where how abusive this policy can be in the hands of jealous or narrow-minded individuals. Unless Google can give specific examples of "porn", then really they're just bullying people indiscriminately.
To prove how "pornographic" my romance book covers are, I'll attach my soon-to-be-release[d] title cover art … for your perusual. I hope you are suitably "shocked" at its "pornography". If not, then I don't think your policy has a leg to stand upon. (If you're a Doctor Who fan--enjoy!)
The attached picture showed a TARDIS (the magic, closet-like “police box” which Doctor Who uses to travel throughout time and space in his TV show). Through the TARDIS' open door is visible a deserted tropical beach. The picture is thoroughly non-sexual, and doesn't even show any living beings who might, theoretically, have sex together at some future point.
So, to reiterate: if you're a blogger on Blogspot or Blogger.com, and your blog contains any sexually explicit content, you should probably export everything to a non-Google platform as soon as possible. And if you're a blogger whose blog does not contain sexually explicit content, you might still want to go ahead and export everything to a non-Google platform as soon as possible, just in case.
If you disagree with Google's new policy change, take heart in the uplifting commentary Google posted about “Content Boundaries” on its Blogger Content Policy page: “Our content policies play an important role in maintaining a positive experience for you, the users.”
More examples of users discussing the alleged positivity of their experiences with Google's new content policy can be found here at the Blogger user forums.