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TV Tropes Self-Censoring Under Google Pressure 393

Posted by samzenpus
from the think-of-the-children dept.
mvdwege writes "The popular wiki TV Tropes, a site dedicated to the discussion of various tropes, clichés and other common devices in fiction has suddenly decided to put various of its pages behind a 'possibly family-unsafe' content warning, apparently due to pressure by Google withdrawing its ads. What puzzles me most is the content that is put behind this warning. TV Tropes features no explicit sexual content, and no explicit violence. It does of course discuss these things, as is its remit, but without actual explicit depictions. In fact, something as relatively innocuous as children being raised by two females, whatever the reason are put behind the content warning, even if the page itself doesn't take a stand on the issue, merely satisfying itself by describing the occurence of this in fiction."
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TV Tropes Self-Censoring Under Google Pressure

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  • Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkKnightRadick (268025) <the_spoon.geo@yahoo.com> on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:03PM (#34158012) Homepage Journal

    Doing evil that doesn't look evil.

    • Re:Google (Score:5, Informative)

      by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:21PM (#34158110)
      What is the problem? Just open the site with a disclaimer, "This site is not filtered for children or idiots. Enter at your own risk." Now everyone is happy.
      • Re:Google (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:49PM (#34158292)

        Except the idiots who don't realize they are idiots.

        Unfortunately, they have way to much say.

        • Re:Google (Score:4, Funny)

          by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate.gmail@com> on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:34PM (#34158776)

          On the flip side, there are plenty of mediocre people who are enamored with their supposed intellect. They have way too much say as well.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by ultranova (717540)

            On the flip side, there are plenty of mediocre people who are enamored with their supposed intellect.

            They're not the flip side, they are the "idiots who don't realize they are idiots".

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by phantomfive (622387)
          Honestly, is there any other kind of idiot? Be careful how much you insult them; are you so sure you aren't one? Like Socrates said, "be more aware of the man who thinks he is wise than the man who thinks he is a fool." OK he didn't say that exactly, but close.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            Like Socrates said, "be more aware of the man who thinks he is wise than the man who thinks he is a fool." OK he didn't say that exactly, but close.

            The exact quote was "I pity the fool who trusts other fools who don't know they be fools". It's from his tell-all scroll "Socrates It To Me! - The Life And Times Of A Gonzo Philosopher" published in 402 BC by Spartan Press. It was rated 4 Zeus lightning bolts out of 5 by the most popular news runners of the day.

      • Re:Google (Score:5, Informative)

        by ikkonoishi (674762) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:21PM (#34158458) Journal

        Google does not run ads on NSFW pages. It violates their TOS. People were editing in NSFW content on some pages, and one of the auditors at Google caught it. Now TVTropes has to make sure that any pages that may have NSFW content do not run Google ads.

    • Welcome (Score:5, Insightful)

      by turkeyfish (950384) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:27PM (#34158488)

      You have entered into the brave new world of privatized America. Do not attempt to adjust your internet experience. We will control all that you see and hear.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by feepness (543479)

        You have entered into the brave new world of privatized America. Do not attempt to adjust your internet experience. We will control all that you see and hear.

        Yeah, it was much better when website advertising was run by the government.

      • Yup (Score:3, Interesting)

        This however is NOT a brave NEW world, is the same old world the US has had for a very long time. He that pays the piper, chooses the tune.

        Advertising is NOT free money. The advertiser advertises in your media because he thinks that has the appropriate audience. That sound harmless BUT the eternal search for more money means that this isn't static. The advertiser will seek to influence the media he is advertising in to increase the effect of his advertising.

        Simple examples are easy to find. The disapparen

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bonch (38532)

      And yet people will continue to defend this company. Google has been guilty of way more stupid bullshit in the last few years than Microsoft, which has been a harmless, slow-moving relic since the antitrust trial a decade ago. I'd love to see how people would react if Steve Ballmer said that only criminals care about privacy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:05PM (#34158024)

    There's nothing like a family with two daddies and no mommies to really get a Republican arous... err... angry.

  • On my forum... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Google pulled their ads because some guy said "We should nuke China".
    ive seen sites with google ad's that got pulled because they linked to torrent files and other stuff. its stupid really.

  • Am I the only one who thinks if they DID take a stance, and make it an opinion piece, they'd have a better case as protected speech? But merely quoting the programs isn't?

    • by poptones (653660) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:27PM (#34158140) Journal

      Take a stance? They could easily take a stand - tell Google to fuck off with its ad dollars.

      When are y'all going to get this isn't censorship, it's marketing? Advertisers don't want to piss off customers, many of whom may well be backward hicks. Money doesn't care if it comes from a hick or an educated genius, it's still money. Google cannot keep its advertisers if they allow their ad software to be plastering ads for Duncan Hines and Soft Soap all over porn sites, or even sites some of those hicks who buy soft soap and duncan hines might consider questionable in their editorial content.

      This is completely protected speech - and they have made their decision: money is more important than "educating" (more likely alienating) a bunch of hicks who can't stand the notion of two people having sex. Whoopee.

      • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:40PM (#34158224)
        Yes, but Google in doing so has abused it's market position for it's own benefit. Theoretically the DoJ ought to be investigating the abuse of power. But then again, the DoJ ought to have used the Clayton Antitrust Act to prevent them from gaining so much control of the online advertising space in the first place.
      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:41PM (#34158234) Journal

        This is completely protected speech - and they have made their decision: money is more important than "educating" (more likely alienating) a bunch of hicks who can't stand the notion of two people having sex. Whoopee.

        I'm not sure you or the GP understands how protected speech works.

        If Google decided to drop advertising on all websites that discuss whether or not Glenn Beck raped and murdered a girl in 1990, claiming "parody" is going to get you no where.

        A private company is well within its rights to set standards and not do business with another private company because of protected speech that falls outside those standards.

        • it is censorship (Score:4, Interesting)

          by aepervius (535155) on Monday November 08, 2010 @01:43AM (#34159284)
          It is The worst kind of censorship. The one a quasi monopolist can do, and you CAN'T do anything to fight it, except taking a stand and losing revenue.

          Being born in the western europe, I never feared governement censorship. But private censorship done by all media, advertising, now that is the one which is difficult to fight, as the *conduit* which are supposed to be used to spread info, are stopping that info to go out. First amendement , lost schmamendement. I would wagger a bet that it is the same in the US: most censorship , is not done by the governement, but by private media. It is all nice that the govenrement can't stop your free speech, when all you can do is take a soapbox and go in the street yell your opinion, because NONE of the mass media will let you carry it. But with some form of speech, this is the situation where we are headed to.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tepples (727027)

        They could easily take a stand - tell Google to fuck off with its ad dollars.

        That'd need a lot more donors than TV Tropes currently has.

  • Song of Songs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:20PM (#34158106)
    Please, someone create a TV show based on the Song of Songs of the Bible to fuck with those people.

    What to do, what to do. It's the Bible and yet, it's porn!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Marcika (1003625)

      Please, someone create a TV show based on the Song of Songs of the Bible to fuck with those people.

      What to do, what to do. It's the Bible and yet, it's porn!

      They would mess it up, badly. Given that the English puritans intentionally mistranslated the reference to cunnilingus in 7:2, and the American puritans mistranslated it again in the NIV, you shouldn't get your hopes up. They might just make some sort of wishy-washy show saying it is an analogy for the love of God for Israel...

      (Well maybe if the Germans did it... Luther at least dared to get that translation right.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mdmkolbe (944892)

        Your navel is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine. Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies. (Song of Songs 7:2, NIV)

        The point in question is the meaning of the word "sharerech" (transliterated, it seems ./ doesn't do Hebrew script). Most (all?) English translations translate this as "navel" as a derivative of the Hebrew word for umbilical cord. Good evidence for this translation is the use of the word in Ezekiel 16:4 where the meaning is clear from context.

        Some claim that the word drives from the Arabic word for secret and thus is a woman's private parts, but the context is describing the looks of a woman dancing (see

    • Re:Song of Songs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Brian_Ellenberger (308720) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:16PM (#34158682)

      Please, someone create a TV show based on the Song of Songs of the Bible to fuck with those people.

      What to do, what to do. It's the Bible and yet, it's porn!

      Why do you assume that all Christians would be offended? I am a member of one of the most "conservative" Southern Baptist mega churches around, and neither my wife nor I have ever attended a Sunday School or sermon which said that Song of Songs wasn't about sex and wasn't an awesome book. If all you know about Christianity are the stereotypes on TV, I feels sorry for your ignorance. For most Protestant denominations, within marriage sex is considered an extremely wonderful and important part of a couple's relationship.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Out of curiousity, does it also come up that Solomon had a pile of wives and that means he had a different definition of marriage than our current/mainstream one?

        I kind of assume most of the conservative Southern Baptist megachurches would take to the implications of that like snails take to salt.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          > Out of curiousity, does it also come up that Solomon had a pile of wives and that means he had a different definition of marriage than our current/mainstream one?

          Only 300 of them were wives, the other 700 were concubines. No, I did not have to look those numbers up. I'm surprised you didn't instead refer to the part when King David was old and infirm, so they found a pretty young lady to keep him warm at night. Or maybe the story about how crazy Lot's daughters were... But they're seen as a condemn

  • by corbettw (214229) <.corbettw. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:29PM (#34158148) Journal

    Seriously, how the fuck is describing a family unit that is headed by two females in any way, shape, or form "family unfriendly"? What the fuck is wrong with the world?

    I hope the Human Rights Campaign (which my wife and I donate regularly to) takes note of this and lowers Google's ranking over it. It's just disgusting that they would act this way.

  • by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:29PM (#34158150)
    The real reason behind Google pulling their advertising is pressure from governments and schools to increase worker/student productivity, and if you think I'm kidding, you've never been to TvTropes. As far as a free-time black hole, it's orders of magnitude worse than Facebook.
  • by Yergle143 (848772) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:35PM (#34158186)

    ...plotlines if there is some damn website giving out all the magic tricks to the little ones. Battlestar Galactica: WOW! The crew is named Adem and Eeve and then named the primitive planet Urth. V: Wow! The Aliens want our water. Star Trek: Wow! An creature made entirely of some unknown energy. Glee: Wow! Will the gang of misfits prevail?!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:36PM (#34158196)

    As a mature adult, I object to having every aspect of my media dumbed down
    to avoid inflicting the truth on children.

    I'm entitled to be entertained at levels significantly above 5th grade.

    Not all of us are average ;-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "As a mature adult, I object to having every aspect of my media dumbed down to avoid inflicting the truth on children."

      As someone who isn't completely detached from reality, I object to censoring (yes, I know that this isn't necessarily censorship) anything in the name of children. Even children know what is fiction and what is not, and even if they don't, they won't magically become a murder/rapist because of content that they viewed.

  • I thought TV Tropes was being banned because you can waste *days* reading that website and end up destroying your vocabulary. ;)

  • Upside down world? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:38PM (#34158206) Homepage Journal
    So, some "non-traditional" values are worrisome to Google? More worrisome than dealing with authoritarian governments who truly have some terrible "traditional" values?
  • by Ron Bennett (14590) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:39PM (#34158218) Homepage

    Since they have years worth of AdSense data, surely they know who their primary advertisers are.

    They should approach those advertisers and deal direct, which would allow the site to operate more freely. As a bonus, cutting out the middleman (Google), would likely result in more revenue than before.

    Selling ads is presumably not their forte, so the site would likely need to find someone versed in on-line sales and price negotiations - could be well worth the effort in the long-run verses passively relying on Google.

    Ron

    • They should approach those advertisers and deal direct, which would allow the site to operate more freely. As a bonus, cutting out the middleman (Google), would likely result in more revenue than before.

      There's a reason why people use middlemen. Sure, they take a cut of the revenue - but they also do much of the heavy lifting. I seriously doubt that many websites can make any money off of advertising if they have to pay for all the legwork that 'approaching those advertisers and dealing directly' would require. (Assuming the advertisers are willing to spend the time/money/effort it takes to deal with individual websites - there's a reason why they are using middlemen too.)

  • Which family? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:41PM (#34158230) Homepage
    Sure as hell not mine! Most six year olds I know these days know of at least a couple same sex couples, and honestly couldn't care less.

    Now if you want to warn people away from America's Next Top Model, [cwtv.com] I'm with you - no child should be traumatized by watching that!
  • by Anon E. Muss (808473) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:42PM (#34158244)

    Google seems to have recently started enforcing AsSense TOS in ways that they were never enforced them before. It's their business, and they have the right to set whatever TOS they want. I also have the right to think they're a bunch of assholes.

    See also: the-great-google-adsense-purge-of-2010 [inmalafide.com]

  • Family safe.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:44PM (#34158268) Homepage Journal
    Do the ostensibly "pro-family" conservatives who seem to idolize the time before the industrial revolution realize that for most of human history children were exposed to their parents having sex with eachother(or other people for that matter) from a very young age. What do they think happened in those 1 room houses? The parents would kick all the kids out in the middle of winter so they could have time to bang out a quickie? I don't know where these people are getting information on children and sexuality, but it aint from the right place(hell, some of these people are Catholic so they seem to think it's ok for priests to diddle little kids, just as long as they don't talk about what they are doing.)
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:54PM (#34158320)
    TV Tropes has the first amendment right to say whatever they like. Google has an equal right not to support them. This is exactly how censorship should work. No government involvement, no heavy hand laws or hypocritical politicians to be seen. TV Tropes could still publish whatever they'd like, but TV Tropes has decided that profit is more important than keeping the warning labels off their content. This should be applauded as a shining example of the 1st amendment at it's best, not as if Google is trying to squash their speech. Everyone has the right to speech, but if they want a megaphone, someone has to pay for it.
    • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:19PM (#34158452)

      "This is exactly how censorship should work."

      A giant corporation with a large amount of influence dropping support for people that dare say something against their views? I mean, yes, if censorship exists at all, I'd rather have this happen than the government doing it, but that doesn't mean that censorship isn't completely pointless and an obscenity in and of itself.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps (1157495)
        I very much doubt this has anything to do with Googles views. It has to do with Googles customers having a reasonable expectation that their ads not show up supporting something they might think is questionable. And in this case, the exact same content is still there, it just has a quick warning blurb in front of it that in now way hinders it's affect. Google has every right to do this. This is how it's supposed to work. You just agree with the outcome. You have every right to boycott Googles goods and serv
      • by Hatta (162192) on Monday November 08, 2010 @10:32AM (#34161024) Journal

        I mean, yes, if censorship exists at all, I'd rather have this happen than the government doing it,

        Oh, no. I have to disagree. As Chomsky says, the government is potentially democratic, corporations are pure tyrannies. If I have a problem with the FCC censoring someone, at least I can pressure my representatives to change the policy. With Google, I have no sway at all. I don't even know who I would complain to.

        Economic power is political power. When we limit the power of government, private power fills in that void unless we limit that too. We haven't gotten that far yet, but we need to if we are ever going to be free people again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      U.S. of A., the United States of Advertising. Freedom of expression is guaranteed... If you've got the money!

      Everyone has the right to speech, but if they want a megaphone, someone has to pay for it.

      The megaphone part is exactly what is wrong with free speech in America right now. Go ahead and exercise your first amendment right in the woods (aka a “Free speech zone”), but good luck if you want to exercise that same right on any kind of mass media. Want to say anything on a national level that might upset a corporation? Not possible unless you’ve got the resource to outspend

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      TV Tropes has the first amendment right to say whatever they like. Google has an equal right not to support them. This is exactly how censorship should work.

      Saying that Google should have the legal right to do this (or to refrain from doing this) is not the same thing as saying that Google should do it.

      It is possible to believe both that the law should not prevent a particular course of action while at the same time believing that the actor that is legally free to take that course of action should not choo

  • *yawn* (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Altanar (56809) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:59PM (#34158344)
    Until Google actually makes a statement on this, I'm just writing it off as a single Google employee misrepresenting company opinion and a (relatively) small website complaining to a favorable audience instead of doing the appropriate thing and appealing to someone else at Google.
  • by Fallingwater (1465567) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:53PM (#34158874)
    I was in the TVTropes IRC channel when all this was going on, and what came out was: the contract for the ads that the tvtropes people signed with Google explicitly stated that no family-unsafe content was allowed. The wiki flew under the radar for a good while, probably because it has nothing explicit and so nobody thought of checking too hard, but ultimately someone did. Now, while the wiki has no porn or anything like it, it's undeniable that some of the arguments might be seen as not suitable for young children. Whether talk about lesbian erotica or massive amounts of profanity [tvtropes.org] harm children or not can be discussed at length, but the matter remains that the contract conditions were clear. I hate censorship as much as the next slashdotter and I hate self-righteous moralization even more, but in this particular case I find all this anti-googlism to be way out of proportion. Especially considering that TVTropes didn't really self-censore anything, they just put the relevant articles behind an "are you really sure" clickthrough barrier; all the content is still there.
  • Meta-Warning (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ardaen (1099611) on Monday November 08, 2010 @01:47AM (#34159296)

    If your a child with two mothers, finding that page is behind a this may not be family friendly warning could potentially be damaging... So not family friendly...

    Can we get a "the following page is a warning that may not be family friendly" warning on the warning?

    Am I trying to be funny or just applying logic?

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