Great podcast Harper, Molly and Signs. When this whole thing blew up a few weeks ago, I’ve got to say I’m one of those people who didn’t run around thinking the sky was falling and that the “Pornocopolis” was upon us. I think there are three issues that you all touched upon that I think should be discussed more – the rights of a ‘private’ company (ie Google/Blogger, WordPress, Yahoo/Tumblr, etc.) to run their business as they see fit, the issue with using freehosts at all, and government censorship. This turned into a huge post, so I’ve put it up on my own blog.
Google (who own Blogger for those that don’t know), WordPress and all the other freehosts mentioned are (as far as I know) private companies. Now, as asshole of a move as it is for large companies like this to decide they want to limit the “adult activities” on their services, it’s their business to do so. They do what they feel is best for their bottom line, and for some reason, they think that ridding their worlds of anything adult works for them. Google has been getting rid of adult content from their services for a long while now – not allowing it on their advertising network, stripping it from their main search results by specifically changing algos to remove a lot of the ways that adult networks advertise themselves, changing the way that images are brought up in search, etc. This ‘removal of monetized adult’ from their Blogger freehost service is just the next step. I’d assume GooglePlus and other G properties are soon to come. Tumblr is in the process of doing it, Pinterest already does, and now WordPress is enforcing their TOS that limits adult activity. So why am I ‘defending’ these asshat corporations for their decision? Because I don’t want someone turning around and telling me what I can and can’t do with my own privately owned sites and services. If I want to shoot myself in the foot and piss off millions of people, that’s my own business to do so. The changes to adult obviously haven’t hurt Google’s bottom line, or they would have stopped it years ago. Does it suck? For me – absolutely. For my grandmother? Not so much. For Google’s sponsors who have told them they don’t want to see nipples on the internet? Great – and they are the ones signing checks over to Google, they get first bite at the censorship apple.
On the topic of Blogger and other freehosted blogs (sites like WordPress, Blog, LiveJournal, Weebly, etc.), I’m going to be quite mean here. (Some might even say bitchy.) The first two things I learned when writing on the internet is that my writing has value, and NEVER to store anything of value on a freehost. All of the sites that I run that I value are on paid-for hosts that accept adult content. In my opinion, if you can afford an internet connection, you can afford hosting. The cheapest plan on the host that I use works out at $5 a month for an “unlimited” number of sites. If you are writing on a freehost not thinking that it can go tits-up at any time, you are living in a dream world. The other thing with these freehosts is that the majority of them are anti-adult. If you aren’t reading the TOS for where your blog is hosted and think you don’t need to, you are back in that dream world again. Not backing up your blog/writing in the eventual event of the freehost going down? Might as well buy a vacation home in dream world. I really think these are all basics that any blogger – professional or not – should be doing on a most basic level.
Does that mean you shouldn’t use them? No – freehosts have their time and place. I have a number of blogs on Blogger and WordPress. All of them are very adult, and all of them have ads. None of them have got canned yet, but I’m assuming that the “your site has been deleted” email will come any day now. I’ve got the same on Tumblr and Pinterest. It’s their prerogative to be assholes and decide that flesh and sex is bad, but I knew what I was getting into when I made those blogs. There are also freehosts out there that are very much pro-adult. It takes a bit to find them, and they aren’t as big as the ones mentioned above, but they exist for those who honestly can’t afford hosting or a domain name. There is still the same ‘safety’ issue with them, though. Think of it like cashing your paycheck and storing the money in a hole in the ground at the nearby park. Someday it just might not be there.
So I’m not upset about the whole Blogger/WP thing. I don’t think the sky is falling as far as that goes, as the writing has been on the TOS wall for some time. What does upset me? The government side of things that Molly and Harper discussed right at the end. This isn’t a company making decisions based on their bottom line – this is actual control over what you read, see, and hear on a global level. Don’t like Google? Use Bing (unless you don’t like Microsoft). Don’t like WordPress? Use another freehost. Live in China and want to watch hardcore porn uncensored? Too bad – the government doesn’t want you to. You have no legal alternative. What the various governments around the world are doing by chipping away at the availability of adult on the internet is much bigger than WordPress actually enforcing their TOS. Soon there won’t be those alternatives where adult is OK. This is where ‘freedom of speech’ comes into play, and this is where you should be spending your time making your voice heard.
Sure – let Google know how much you hate their latest update that eliminates all monetized porn from the search results, email WP and tell them how pissed off you are that your years old blog has disappeared with no warning, snap at Blogger on twitter because you honestly can’t afford hosting for your affiliate-linked site, but if you’re doing that, you better be getting in touch with your MP/Senator next or all that complaining won’t be worth it.
Edit and added on June 9, 2013… So I’ve had a lot of chatter around how WP & Blogger should have behaved. I agree that as a whole, the way that the companies are handling this issue has been done poorly. It would have been nice for WP to send out a warning email to users saying they are now enforcing their 4 year old TOS in relation to adult blogs. Blogger could have given more than 4 days notice when their TOS changed. That’s just good business. I don’t agree that banning all adult content from either service is the right thing to do. But, I draw the line in some kind of government intervention saying that these companies have to provide services to individuals they do not want to, for whatever legal reason they choose.
Here’s my example. I write for a site that provides sex dolls to men. This company also supplies sex dolls that appear to be under the age of 18. These dolls are 100% legal and the purchase of said dolls are legal. When negotiating my contract with this company, I told them that under no circumstances that I would provide content about those youthful-looking dolls. I’m declining to provide them with a service involving something completely legal, but I personally feel objectionable. Should I be forced to provide this company with services that I do not feel are right? This is where I question the line being drawn in the sand.
Filed under: Ruby on Writing
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