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Flickr Censors Egypt Police Photos 163

Posted by Soulskill
from the state-of-de-nile dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday Flickr removed a photoset of Egyptian Secret Police photos which had been posted to an Egyptian journalist's Flickrstream. The photos were obtained when the journalist acquired them from what he called 'one of Mubarak's largest torture facilities.' Flickr cited the fact that the photos 'were not the user's own work' as justification for the censorship, even though Flickr staffers themselves frequently upload work that is not 'their own' to their personal photostreams."
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Flickr Censors Egypt Police Photos

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  • Shame (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mr100percent (57156) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @11:35PM (#35468762) Homepage Journal

    Shame on you Flickr, they're not even explicit.
    Hope someone has a mirror, and this time posted elsewhere on another site. Let's not reward them with more traffic.

    • Re:Shame (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @11:40PM (#35468786)

      I grow tired of the evil enabled by fools. Let us together remove it, and breathe once again the fresh, honest air.

    • Re:Shame (Score:5, Interesting)

      by grcumb (781340) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @12:26AM (#35469000) Homepage Journal

      Shame on you Flickr....

      Shame indeed. I live and work and write occasional newspaper columns in the tiny nation of Vanuatu, Last week, our Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities arrived in the offices of our national newspaper with a gang of 8 thugs and proceeded to beat the crap out of the publisher [aut.ac.nz]. His sin? Telling the truth about a litany of crooked dealings the Minister was involved in.

      This prompted people from all walks of life in the Pacific Islands region to stand up and make themselves heard. The staff of the Daily Post newspaper - and contributors like myself [imagicity.com] - were defiant in the face of overt coercion and threats.

      Why, I would like to know, is it easier for pipsqueaks like us to stand up to government coercion than for large corporations with a stable of capable lawyers on hand and not a fear in the world for their own safety?

      Of course, we already know the answer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ibsteve2u (1184603)

        Why, I would like to know, is it easier for pipsqueaks like us to stand up to government coercion than for large corporations with a stable of capable lawyers on hand and not a fear in the world for their own safety? Of course, we already know the answer.

        The CEOs of all of the world's great corporations are scaredy-cats?

        • by grcumb (781340)

          Why, I would like to know, is it easier for pipsqueaks like us to stand up to government coercion than for large corporations with a stable of capable lawyers on hand and not a fear in the world for their own safety? Of course, we already know the answer.

          The CEOs of all of the world's great corporations are scaredy-cats?

          Well, not to put too fine a point on it: Yes.

          The column I wrote on the topic (and linked above) makes pretty much exactly this point. Once introduced to the corridors of power, people suddenly become controlled by their fear of being cast out again. This explains the corrupting influence of both Washington and Wall St.

        • by kdemetter (965669)

          The more you have to lose , the more vulnerable you are.

          The government is not going to concern itself about us : we are not worth the effort : to many of us , and there's not much we can do to the government anyway

          Corporations, however , can do much more , but they can be taken down very easily by governments.

          Whether the governments control the corporations , or the corporations control the governments , doesn't matter much : the end result is that they will work together , as this is much more profitable

      • by mhajicek (1582795)
        You know they brought a lot more attention to it by trying to hide it. I never would have known otherwise.
      • Has mainstream media picked up on this? Scoop [scoop.co.nz] might be interested...

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      And also shame on the journalist who believes that a third party host is the good place to put political pictures.
    • I urge people to switch away from FlickR, to other photosharing sites like SmugSmug or others.

      IPernity is a community-oriented photo-sharing site, with an interface similar to the original flickr interface.
      Here is a Monkeygrease script to automatically import your flickr photos to Ipernity :
      https://www.ipernity.com/apps/gm [ipernity.com]

      I am uploading my new photos to both site, and when Ipernity community is large enough, I will definitely close my Flickr account.
  • It's hard to comment without knowing what we're talking about. If those were pictures of people being tortured, then if you were one of those people would you want your suffering and humiliation shown around the world? There are ways of getting the word out without harming the torture victims again.

    On the other hand if the faces were blurred, or the photos were just of implements of torture, than I don't see the need to remove them.

    • by mr100percent (57156) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @12:09AM (#35468920) Homepage Journal

      No, they weren't torture photos. Some were photos of empty jail cells, some photos of bags of shredded documents, others were stacks of VHS tapes with some 'explicit' Arabic writing (they had sex tapes of some Egyptian and foreign celebs, likely as blackmail). I'd show you, but of course they're down. I'm sure some news articles and twitter posts mirrored a few of them.

    • by grcumb (781340)

      It's hard to comment without knowing what we're talking about. If those were pictures of people being tortured, then if you were one of those people would you want your suffering and humiliation shown around the world? There are ways of getting the word out without harming the torture victims again.

      On the other hand if the faces were blurred, or the photos were just of implements of torture, than I don't see the need to remove them.

      They were photos of the torturers themselves [arabawy.org]. All you had to do was visit the guy's site to find this out. But now that you know, how tough does the call feel to you?

      • by Jiro (131519) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @04:44AM (#35469756)

        Actually, putting up photos of torturers has ethical problems that are just as bad, Saying "this guy is a torturer" and spreading it around the world is like saying "this guy is a terrorist" or "this guy is a pedophile" and spreading it around the world. It's not as if Flickr has any reason to trust a random guy off the street accusing a third party of a serious crime.

        If I posted a picture of you and said "my neighbor is a terrorist", shouldn't you hope that Flickr would remove it?

        (And if you say, well, these guys really are torturers, but you aren't really a terrorist, tell me how Flickr is supposed to know that?)

        • by h4rm0ny (722443)
          And further, if you said your neighbour was a terrorist in the USA, it might result in some investigation or difficulties, but it would get cleared up. These people could well be killed in Egypt right now. Does Flickr want to be part of that extrajudicial process? Now if a guy knows that people are torturers and a threat to others, then he has almost an obligation to put those pictures up. But Flickr can't distinguish his actions from anyone else. Help someone get killed or decline to do so - don't see much
        • by grcumb (781340)

          If I posted a picture of you and said "my neighbor is a terrorist", shouldn't you hope that Flickr would remove it?

          Not if it's a photo of me wearing a bomb vest.

          Okay, jokes aside: They should not touch the photo until my lawyer has got the proper clearance from a court of law to force its removal. I'll need the evidence at the libel trial.

          See, the problem is that I don't want Flickr to apply its own arbitrary sense of what is moral/ethical and what isn't - at least, not beyond a few basic unavoidable commun

        • by camperslo (704715)

          It'd be funny if they just removed his pix because of assuming the name "SS DVD" implied he'd ripped them from a DVD.

    • If those were pictures of people being tortured, then if you were one of those people would you want your suffering and humiliation shown around the world?

      Of course!

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @11:47PM (#35468820)
    I grow weary of this. PayPal, Amazon, card companies, and others over their BS decisions regarding WikiLeaks. Flickr protecting despots in Egypt. Where will it end? How many services am I going to have to boycott before they get a damned clue?
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday March 12, 2011 @11:47PM (#35468824)

    Flickr is very clear that you are sharing your OWN WORK. These are images taken by someone else.

    Regardless of how you feel about breaking into government files and sharing things you find there, a place like Flickr with a very clear TOS about not publishing other people's work has every right, and should be expected to take these things down. Flickr is not Wikileaks. Find somewhere else to put the images.

    • by ScentCone (795499)
      Yes.
    • So just because a corporation's terms of service were allegedly violated means it's not censorship to take down someone's speech. Particularly as it pertains to a government.

      Okay.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Here's reality, you don't have free speech rights on some corporation's website. If you want to host your own site and put your free speech up there, don't think anyone's going to interfere.

        This could have been handled a bit more gracefully. I am defending the right for an individual or business to be able to dictate the terms of content that is hosted or stored on their property. Call it whatever you want. There's a multitude of sites that will host those images no questions asked. So, why not do it?

        • by Chaonici (1913646) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @12:21AM (#35468980)

          You're the one who brought up free speech, not me.

          Their policy might be fine when it comes to actual creative works. Deleting pictures like these based on the justification that you must upload your own work is valuing the letter of the rule above its spirit.

          They will now get the backlash they deserve.

      • Ah, so if I taped the photos all over your car, you'd be obligated to keep them there permanently? After all, removing them would VIOLATE MY FREE SPEECH AMENDMENTS! OMG YOU CENSORIAL WHORESON!

        If I had a dollar for every libertard who though that freedom meant "I can do anything I want and everyone else must bend to my desires"...

        • Come back when you can provide an argument that doesn't rely on personal attacks for support. Or at least don't randomly throw epithets at people about whom you know nothing.

          • Censorship is an attempt by a controlling body to actually prevent information from reaching the public. If Flickr broke into the guy's house and stole his originals, or contacted the operators of every other file hosting service and threatened to break their legs if they put the images up, then Flickr would be censoring this guy.

            But they aren't doing that. They're just choosing what goes on their own web site, and in this case enforcing their own TOS. Was it a bad decision? I'd say so. Was it censorship?

            • Re:lol libertard (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Bobakitoo (1814374) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @01:16AM (#35469188)

              What happened here is censorship. What you describe is merely legal censorship. Because it is legal, it dont mean it is the right thing to do.

              There is no recourse against legal corportate censorship. But peoples are free to complain and presure them anyway they see fit. Bloging, writing articles, posting comments are all acceptable way for the public to communicate its disagrement. It is up to them to see if, considering the shitstorm, that unpopular move was worth it.

              No one sued Flickr over some "VIOLATE MY FREE SPEECH AMENDMENTS! OMG!" claim, WTF is your problem?

              • I agree with everyone that this was a bad decision on Flickr's part. I'm simply trying to point out that calling it "censorship"—or just claiming that Flickr had no right to remove the pictures—is pure sensationalism. For something to be "censored", it has to be blocked by an entity or group that has control over (a) the content, (b) the distribution network, or (c) the audience. Flickr has none of these things. The owner of the images can take them anywhere else.

                Now, if every major hosting site

            • by Chaonici (1913646)

              > Censorship is an attempt by a controlling body to actually prevent information from reaching the public.

              Your definition of censorship happens to differ from mine. If someone with power (Flickr) blocks the speech or expression of someone relatively without power (a random Flickr user), it is censorship.

              Also, this is the second time I have to tell you this: I made no claim of being libertarian, so the final paragraph of your post is either a very misguided personal attack or a completely off-topic angry

              • If someone with power (Flickr) blocks the speech or expression of someone relatively without power (a random Flickr user), it is censorship.

                That is without doubt the stupidest thing that has even been typed.

                It is the most completely bone-headed comment I have ever seen in many years of internet use, that reflects an astounding disconnect from reality in any form as we know it.

                I would say it's a troll, except that you obviously believe this.

                Get used to disappointment in life if you think a place run by a pri

            • by migla (1099771)

              Sorry, but in a "free" world nobody has to do what you want them to do. Web sites don't have to post your images, gadget makers don't have to cater to the FOSS crowd, and movie studios don't have to give you their latest $100,000,000 film for free. Those are the breaks, kid.

              Sorry, but you just assume that your "freedom means freedom to enslave" is the correct definition of freedom, analogous to the BSD vs GPL debate on freedom.

          • Come back when you can provide an argument that doesn't rely on personal attacks for support.

            Actually he relied on very clear points for support, and then threw in the personal attacks as a bonus.

            In his defense, you are rather stupid on this subject, and totally lacking in understanding about what public speech is and what Flickr posts are in relation to that. So basically he had you pegged there,

            • His points were not clear. He misrepresented my position with exaggeration, hyperbole, and caps lock. Then, rather than offering counterarguments, he insulted me (albeit inaccurately, as I am not libertarian). The personal attacks are not a "bonus" - they do not contribute anything meaningful to the discussion. Posts like that are what the Troll mod is for.

              Additionally, the fact that I disagree with you does not make me stupid, and does not mean I lack understanding on this subject (such a premise assumes y

      • Re:Oh, I see (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Draek (916851) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @12:32AM (#35469020)

        Flickr isn't part of any government, and I see nothing that suggests they took the photos down under the orders of one. So, dick move? yeah, reprehensible? sure, but censorship? not really.

        • Re:Oh, I see (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tsm_sf (545316) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @01:12AM (#35469172) Journal
          I don't understand why censorship is always seen as something only a government can do. If you alter or remove something based on it's content (i.e. not because you need the disk space or similar) you are literally a censor. That's the definition of censorship.
          • Re:Oh, I see (Score:4, Informative)

            by toriver (11308) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @04:19AM (#35469694)

            Because the censorship covered by the First Amendment deals only with the Government.

            Your right of free speech does not imply that any third party has a duty to help you spread it. E.g. Hustler can print porn but Wal-mart are free to choose not to sell it.

            • If you are invited by a private party to speak or otherwise express yourself, and your speech or form of expression is removed after the fact due to its contents, this is censorship.

              • by toriver (11308)

                Even if you ware told (in writing) what the rules for that party was? You could have gone to a different party even though the "restricted" one was more popular.

            • This. Although I think that this is also something that we need to take a hard look at. In this age where the means of communication are so thoroughly controlled by monolithic corporations, is it still in our best interests to allow private entities to censor speech they do not approve of? This is simply a question, one that must be addressed very delicately, as there are huge potential problems. I don't think, for instance, that a science faculty at a private institution ought to put up with a biology teac
            • Because the censorship covered by the First Amendment deals only with the Government.

              Exactly. In the US, Republicans and Democrats alike have embraced outsourcing of government services to private companies as a means of saving money.

              But what we've lost as a result is accountability, regulation and Redress. No one seems to have considered the consequences of splitting up the Public Square into a million little private squares, each setting its own rules and standards. Or, perhaps, they have considered th

            • by tsm_sf (545316)

              Because the censorship covered by the First Amendment deals only with the Government. Your right of free speech does not imply that any third party has a duty to help you spread it. E.g. Hustler can print porn but Wal-mart are free to choose not to sell it.

              I get what you're saying, that the first amendment doesn't cover censorship by private citizens, but that doesn't have anything to do with my post.

              You seem to be saying that private citizens cannot be censors, and that only when governments remove or alter material is that considered censorship. This is an incorrect definition, and you can see that for yourself by looking the word up.

              There's nothing to argue about here. You can either look the word up in a dictionary and admit that you were wrong or go s

        • Well, but chinese stile repression yes though...

          I read somewhere that in China there's a law to throw you in jail for anything you could possibly do. None are enforced and repression systematically turns a blind eye on all; while conveniently taking note - just in case they need to nail you sometime later.

          This works well because it lets those in power give an impression of freedom, sometimes even showing off to westerners how all this chatter about human rights violations in China is just opposition propaga
    • Rat's ass. TOS's are very often stupid and overly restrictive. Some idiot typed up what he thought was a good TOS, a committee was appointed to approve it, and this is what you get. If my wife takes a photo of our grandchild, and I post it - the photo will be taken down because it's not my own work? How freaking STUPID!!!

      • by penguinchris (1020961) <penguinchris.gmail@com> on Sunday March 13, 2011 @01:09AM (#35469154) Homepage

        You're being disingenuous. They would never take down a photo in a situation as you described. They don't normally take down people's stuff that isn't their own anyway, because no one complains about it. They only look into these situations if they get complaints (typically), and usually those complaints are from the copyright holder. Presumably, your wife wouldn't complain to flickr if you posted her photo to your account.

        Seriously, flickr is not the place to host the photos you found on a CD you stole from the secret service headquarters. Flickr is not Wikileaks and doesn't want to get involved in that sort of thing. Flickr regularly takes down photos that are "stolen" in the sense of being blatant copyright infringement. In this case it's both copyright infringement and legitimate theft.

        Flickr *does not* remove politically charged, graphic (sex and/or violence), etc. images, either - they're neutral on such issues. You can find tons of stuff like that on flickr, including photos from protests around the world showing government officials committing crimes and violent acts against unarmed citizens (as an example). But typically you should have taken those photos yourself, or gotten permission, before posting them to flickr.

        As for the examples in the second FA of a flickr staff member posting things that aren't his own work - they're a huge stretch. It's FUD.

        • > As for the examples in the second FA of a flickr staff member posting things that aren't his own work - they're a huge stretch. It's FUD.

          How do you know?

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      However, if anyone on the Flickr payroll posts anything that isn't theirs and it isn't taken down, then they are committing a civil rights violation.

      You can refuse service to anyone for any reason. However, you may not lie about the reason. If they have any employees (and from the posts here, there have been confirmed cases of that being done) that do it and don't have the images pulled, then they are selectively enforcing a rule. That's not a crime, but it is the basis for an actionable tort.
    • by sjames (1099)

      No matter what a government may claim, every thing it does is owned by the people it governs (and most certainly by the people it taxed). The people of Egypt are sharing their own works.

    • by hey! (33014)

      (1) Reporting is arguably a special case that wasn't taken into account in the TOS. Maybe a reporter posting a photo given to him by a source isn't posting his "own work", but it's really a different case than if he took somebody else's photo and posted it without permission.

      (2) Just because a company's TOS says you can't do "X", doesn't mean it is *obligated* to take action against "X" where there is reasonable justification for a user doing "X".

      (3) A service has a right to protect itself from legal probl

  • by Thomas Hawk (796343) on Sunday March 13, 2011 @12:50AM (#35469090)
    It looks like Anonymous has republished the photo and has tweeted that they are a gift to the Egyptian People. You can see the photos here: http://www.pdf-archive.com/2011/03/13/egyptofficers-rev-840/egyptofficers-rev-840.pdf [pdf-archive.com] and Anonymous' tweet on the subject here: http://twitter.com/#!/Anony_Ops/status/46799870304071680 [twitter.com]
  • by Quixote (154172) * on Sunday March 13, 2011 @01:45AM (#35469276) Homepage Journal
    Flickr just removed the photos from its own site. The people who uploaded the photos are free to host them on Picasa, Imageshack, Yfrog, etc. etc.
    This is not censorship. Flickr is not saying that they (users) can't host the photos anywhere; they're just saying that, for whatever reason, these photos are not welcome on Flickr.
    When we throw words like "censorship" around willy-nilly, we weaken the real meaning of the word.
    • They are free to upload it to other sites. It doesn't suddenly mean that - in he scope of their website - the textbook definition of censoring, or censorship suddenly doesn't appliey [since things are being edited, removed, or otherwise blocked from display on that site]... it just means that it may be an ACCEPTABLE FORM of censorship.
    • No it isn't censorship if I ban you from posting on my commercial service because any other commercial service is still available to you. Oh they censor too? Not my problem.

      you are the kind of person who thinks signs like "Geine Juden" or "Whites only" are perfectly okay because they can go somewhere else don't they? You disgust me.

      • He didn't say it was a good thing. He's saying it can't be called censorship. Censorship is an organized attempt to entirely prevent certain content from reaching the public. You shouldn't refer to one single media outlet's independent actions as "censorship", just like you shouldn't refer to one single bastard's hate crime as "genocide". Doing so promotes sensationalism and is disrespectful of the real victims of censorship (or genocide).

    • So your saying that Flickr is completely free of any and all content that doesn't violate copyright or it's own policies? According to Flickr's Wikipedia entry, "In September 2010, it (sic Flickr) reported that it was hosting more than 5 billion images." Over 5 billion images and not a single violation of copyright or Flickr's policies? Let's say Flickr had 100 employees verifying images for policy violations 40 hours per week at a rate of 100 images per minute, which of course is a gross exaggeration. It w
  • On the one hand, journalists have a responsibility to report the truth (even if they rarely do) especially in matters of corruption. On the other hand, they also have a responsibility to the public interest (even if they usually ignore it) and tensions in Egypt are sky-high right now.

    It is right and proper that the public have evidence of torture by the former Secret Police, and that documents are being destroyed, as this puts pressure on the military there to crack down a bit harder on said Secret Police.

  • ....the photos have been republished in several places, which the Piggipedia author, @3arabawy, has seen fit to broadcast on his Twitter feed [twitter.com]. The URLs for these are as follows:

    http://anonymiss.imgur.com/ [imgur.com]
    http://ge.tt/4LaxiU0 [ge.tt]
    http://cryptome.org/info/eg-ss/eg-ss-01.htm [cryptome.org]

    The dude behind this is one of the main voiced of the Egyptian revolution. History will not look kindly upon Flickr for their cowardice here.
    • They look like nasty bloodthirsty fuckers. Especially the one with the double chin. But maybe they also try to appear that way to scare obedience into their subjects/underlings.

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