Addicted to novelty since 2001

Flickr Goes All Baptist on Nudity

Boing Boing reports that the usually-non-evil Flickr has added a new community guideline to their site:

Upload photos that include frontal nudity, genitalia or anything else that your bathing suit should cover in public areas of Flickr.

If you do we’ll make your photostream private and remind you of this Guideline. If you don’t heed our warning and continue to make similar content public, we’ll terminate your account without warning. This applies to your Buddy Icon as well.

That’s their perogative, but it seems like overkill to me. Shouldn’t they attempt to discriminate between art and pornography? Maybe they should consider adding an ‘adults only’ check box or standard tag, so that young Flickrites won’t see naughty pictures? If I’m, say, a legitimate portrait photographer who shoots nudes (which, disappotingly, I’m not), and have hundreds or thousands of nude photos in Flickr, I’d be pretty ticked off by this new policy.

I figured I’d upload a photo of some genitalia (seen here), to see if I get dinged.

22 Responses to “Flickr Goes All Baptist on Nudity”

  1. Martin-Eric

    Deviant Art went towards the same direction recently. They still allow nudity, including frontal, but explicitely remove pictures where anyone has their hand on their genitalia, even in cases where someone is simply preserving their modesty by covering their private parts.

  2. Heron

    Darren, I have seen some *nasty* and extremely explicit stuff on the public areas of flickr in the last few months. I mean not just ordinary porno or nudity. I don’t care if people want to look at it, but maybe it’s just me, I think that people should keep that stuff where only the people who appreciate it can see it. And really, that is all that it says. It’s easy to set up private groups and I am quite certain that almost anyone can find groups to suit their tastes without looking too hard for them. But if I am sitting here looking at birthday party photos with my kids, the last thing I want to see show up in the “everyone else” pictures is some hardcore animal porno or something equally shocking. Naked people don’t bother me, but I don’t really wish to have to explain what “that man has in his ass” to my five year old.

  3. Heron

    Darren, I have seen some *nasty* and extremely explicit stuff on the public areas of flickr in the last few months. I mean not just ordinary porno or nudity. I don’t care if people want to look at it, but maybe it’s just me, I think that people should keep that stuff where only the people who appreciate it can see it. And really, that is all that it says. It’s easy to set up private groups and I am quite certain that almost anyone can find groups to suit their tastes without looking too hard for them. But if I am sitting here looking at birthday party photos with my kids, the last thing I want to see show up in the “everyone else” pictures is some hardcore animal porno or something equally shocking. Naked people don’t bother me, but I don’t really wish to have to explain what “that man has in his butt” to my five year old. And for the record, I am a pagan, not a baptist.

  4. gillian

    Somehow I became an administrator for the Narcissists group on Flickr (I didn’t create the group, I swear), where the posting guidelines state that the photos are to be self-portraits of one’s face. Specifically,

    This is narcissism, NOT exhibitionism. Please keep the photos safe for work, as anything that crosses the line of decency will be removed. After all, if Narcissus fell in love with his reflection in a pool, he was probably looking at something he couldn’t normally see by glancing downward.

    But still, I see quite a few “here’s a close-up of my penis” pictures posted to the group pool. I feel like a prude when I delete them from the group, but seriously, eww. If, however, a person posts a nude shot, but it’s tastefully done (I realize this is just my opinion), I’ll usually let it slide.

    I guess we’ll see in the next while what Flickr does with this new policy. I, like you, would like to see the artsy nudes stay up (for educational purposes, of course), and though I won’t miss the “isn’t my genitalia massive?” crotch shots, I agree that maybe there should be an adult section specifically for this sort of thing. I’d pretend to be 17 so I don’t accidentally see anything that burns its image onto my retinas.

  5. daisy

    Absolutely it is Flickr’s prerogative. Why should they be expected to pass judgement on what is art or porn? What expertise do they have to do so? What if they err in their judgement and get nailed for distributing pornography?…

    BTW: it is spelt prerogative, not perogative

  6. Darren

    Daisy: There’s a wide range between “any image goes” and “nothing your bathing suit covers”. Unfortunately, Flickr has apparently jumped from one to the other. Maybe they consulted people and this was the consensus–I’ll look around and see if there was some discussion in one of the forums.

  7. Ben Eastaugh

    Of course, there’s another possibility, which is that they’ve decided on this policy so that no one can object when they remove offensive photos from public view, but that they don’t intend to enforce it to the letter most of the time.

  8. Chris

    ‘nee – Flickr is a private website, so they have every right to censor. There are plenty of other places on the net where people can upload any kind of photo they want.

    Censorship only bugs me when it’s done by the government, and then it REALLY pisses me off.

  9. Naked Condo

    You missed out the large DON’T that was in front of “Upload” on the Flickr site (unless the DON’T is being covered up by David’s err, equipment).

  10. 'nee

    Chris: That doesn’t make it any less stupid.

    Besides, what if they were the only place? Then would it be wrong? Private companies are within their rights to censor, but what it means in practice, a lot of the time, is that they make the decision for clients who have no other place to go. Just look at the huge monopolies in all other sectors to see this sort of thing in practice: Walmart’s censorship has led many great artists to not be available at all in small towns, for instance. Granted it’s far-fetched to consider the Internet ever succumbing to such a state, but that’s not the point: it’s still stupid.

  11. Ryan C

    ‘nee: And that would be a totally excellent point, you know, if Amazon and countless other online retailers didn’t exist, or countless mail-order retailers didn’t exist before them (Columbia House: Radio Free Red State? Oh brother). Or, more importantly, if there was some state-sanctioned limitation to getting music that Wal-Mart declines to stock.

    I think flickr is right to err on the side of caution. It’s a mainstream photo site. I think frontal nudity is a pretty reasonable line to draw, and it leaves you with a well-defined bright line, and they don’t have to ask “but is it art?” with every crotch shot. There’s also some legal issues that are . . . complicated for a site like flickr.

    If you think there’s a market for a photo-sharing site with a looser nudity policy, by all means start one. Indeed, I’ll bet (declines to google for you) there’s already one or more out there.

  12. Anne

    In a way I’m not surprised flickr took this route rather than implementing a “adults only” area which has been talked about for quite awhile now.

    On another note I see it is now verboten to, “Vent your frustrations, rant or bore the brains out of other members” on flickr (talk about subjective!)

  13. Darren

    Ryan and Chris: Nee’s Walmart model does somewhat apply. Arguing that there are plenty of other sites to host nuder photos on doesn’t tell the story. Flickr is about a lot more than an online wall to hang your photos–it’s a community. More importantly, it has a large, diverse. active user base. These are desirable characteristics for any photographer, and not necessarily available at any old photo-hosting site.

    More importantly–and no one seems to have addressed this–is that this is a change in policy for Flickr. It’s their perogative, but if they enforce this rule, they’re certainly going to shaft a portion of their users, which I certainly don’t approve of.

  14. George

    We’re not trying to shaft anyone. These guidelines are intended as just that: guidelines. General tips for living in a “large, diverse, active user base”.

    If you read the point you’re talking about it says this:

    [Don’t] “Upload photos that include frontal nudity, genitalia or anything else that your bathing suit should cover in public areas of Flickr.”

    I’m just not sure what’s unreasonable about saying that Flickr would rather not be full of full-frontal nudity and explicit images in public areas of the site.

    (This is partly because we don’t have any “safe search” functionality available, though this is something we’re working on.)

  15. Eric Eggertson

    Flickr has always gotten pushback when changes crop up unannounced.

    I’m sure if there was an explanation of their long-term plan, and it made sense, there would be fewer complaints and more discussion.

  16. Darren

    George: Thanks for stopping by. The addition of the guideline suggests a change in existing policy. If there won’t be a change, then there’s no problem. If there will be a change, then I think that’s unfair to existing users who may have been uploading nude photography over the past two-plus years.

    I wouldn’t have complained about this addition if it had been accompanied by a note like yours, saying that Flickr is working on ‘safe search’.

  17. Stewart Butterfield

    Darren, you’re right that this is a change, but you’re wrong about what it is: Flickr is much more liberal since having been acquired by Yahoo! — we used to just delete accounts that uploaded stuff that we found inappropriate. Now we’re working towards a policy-driven approach.

    If you have a piece of software that can unambiguously determine whether a given photo is “porn” or “art”, then we’d happily buy it, but (i) most relevant laws don’t make a distinction between “tasteful erotica” or “barely legal XXX” when it comes to what we’re allowed to show 14-year olds, and (ii) we have zero interest in debating with hundreds of thousands of people the merits of their religious beliefts, their artistic taste or their lust for flesh ;)

  18. Darren

    Stewart: Thanks for the feedback, and I appreciate that you’re evolving your ways of dealing with these issues. Does this information, or a discussion related to it, appear somewhere on Flickr’s site?

    I see no harm in implementing a self-selecting ‘adults only’ check box. That, combined with the existing ‘May offend’ link, enables both photo owners and browsers to determine what they want to show and see. If there’s ‘adult material’ (that is, photos that breach the aforementioned policy) that’s not flagged as such, then you could take whatever steps you deem appropriate.

    Of course, I have little understanding of how easy or difficult such an addition would be. It’s pretty easy for me to muse on such feature requests, but you guys are actually faced with implementing them.

    By the way, I hope you appreciate my Tag Police efforts (scroll down to the bottom of that entry).

  19. Stewart Butterfield

    Darren: “Does this information, or a discussion related to it, appear somewhere on Flickr’s site?”

    There are dozens of discussions (“my kid saw nasty porn!” and “you prudes don’t understand the beauty of the human body!”) on the site, and a few on the guidelines already. The guidelines aren’t really up for debate, but I think most Flickr users (who think/care about this stuff at all) understand that our intention is not to beat down artists, but to strike a balance between a lot of different users, laws, jurisdictions, etc.

    A system kind of like what you’re describing is in the works (it’s a little more sophisticated than that, allowing a few levels of safe search). But, it’ll be a while: it’s just technically a hard problem with a real-time index of a 100m+ photos, pumping out 500,000 images a minute at peak :)

    And yes! Tagspammers will die!

  20. jacques

    Euh, well,

    Human genitals? :-o
    I thought everyone has them, or did I miss something somewhere?

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