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Censorship Businesses IT Your Rights Online

You Can't Say That On the Internet 432

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-what-you-say dept.
hessian writes in with a story about the arbitrary and often outdated online decency standards being imposed by companies."A bastion of openness and counterculture, Silicon Valley imagines itself as the un-Chick-fil-A. But its hyper-tolerant facade often masks deeply conservative, outdated norms that digital culture discreetly imposes on billions of technology users worldwide. What is the vehicle for this new prudishness? Dour, one-dimensional algorithms, the mathematical constructs that automatically determine the limits of what is culturally acceptable. Consider just a few recent kerfuffles. In early September, The New Yorker found its Facebook page blocked for violating the site’s nudity and sex standards. Its offense: a cartoon of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Eve’s bared nipples failed Facebook’s decency test."
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You Can't Say That On the Internet

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:53AM (#42026169)

    Must.

    Not.

    Offend.

    Anyone.

    (unless the target is white males)

  • filters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Custard Horse (1527495) on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:55AM (#42026187)
    Perhaps if we could set our own content filters this would solve the problem? I'm uncomfortable with others deciding whose nipples I can and can't see.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:57AM (#42026195)

    It's your white male privilege to withstand being offended by anything.

  • by aicrules (819392) on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:59AM (#42026231)
    go use some other internets! Oh wait, you mean to say it's not the internets that is being censored? It's actually company or privately-owned websites that are accessed using the internet? And these companies and people who own these sites are able to set the bar for what is allowed on their site? There are many wonderfully open sites out there that will gladly let you post whatever you want despite you not being owed anything by them. Why is this a problem? And kerfuffle? Seriously?
  • Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Monday November 19, 2012 @09:59AM (#42026233)
    Some Google autocompletes are almost comical. Enter "peni" and you get "penicillin", "peninsular", and "panistone paramount". Who would have known that a small town cinema would appear to be more important to Google than the male organ!
  • Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:00AM (#42026241)

    You can show any type of violence. You can't show any kind of nudity. And it's not the "digital culture" in general that imposes anything. It's the religious fundamentalists of the USA who are responsible. I think the world would be a better place if we allowed children to watch porn and didn't allow them to watch violence.

    Captcha: morale

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:02AM (#42026271)
    "We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won't allow them to write "fuck" on their airplanes because it's obscene."
    - Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, Francis Ford Copolla's Apocalypse Now!

    What about sexualised imagery (not just the videos; Some of the lyrics are plainly obscene) in pop music, when showing just a boob gets a show an adult cert in the US. Not a problem seeing real boobs at the beach, though!
  • by concealment (2447304) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:09AM (#42026319) Homepage Journal

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    The original idea behind free speech was that no one could prevent you from making a political statement.

    Then, by popular demand, free speech got cheesed out to mean "any public statement," whether relevant or not.

    This blurred the line between important speech and everyday raging around with emotions through words.

    Now, we the people see all speech as a matter of flavor. Don't harsh my buzz with your unkind words, man.

    As a result, the free markets are responding and are removing words that generate expensive customer complaints.

    They're removing them whether there's validity to them or not.

    Good work, We the People.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:09AM (#42026329) Homepage

    Must.

    Not.

    Offend.

    Anyone.

    (unless the target is conservative Christian white males)

    FTFY.

    You ever tried to offend a christian?
    Trust me; you must not offend a christian. It's worse than offending a muslim.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:10AM (#42026341)

    It's your white male privilege to withstand being offended by anything.

    ANYONE can learn to withstand being offended by anything. Why, after a time you get so good at it that the offended types look like a bunch of pathetic whiners who only cry about what somebody else said (that they didn't have to listen to) because they've never once faced a real problem.

    By the way, who decides this shit? You can show almost all the breast, or lots of cleavage, but not the nipple, and that's okay. If you show the nipple but not most of the breast then that's indecent. But we see male nipples all the time seeing how they have no breasts and go shirtless if they want. Guess nipples aren't a problem there. Maybe being unable to nurse an infant is what makes them non-obscene? I'm confused.

    Can the prudes at least learn a little consistency?

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:10AM (#42026343) Homepage

    In parts of the Middle East, a woman showing her hair is considered harlotry, while in parts of Polynesia a woman going topless is not. In some areas of sub-Saharan Africa, women going topless is ok, but showing her thighs is obscene. If you're operating globally, who's cultural norms do you use for censorship? Because about the only pictures of women that are universally acceptable would have everyone in burqas.

    It gets even more complicated than that: Do you allow Eve topless, but not the Virgin Mary? Do you allow Venus de Milo or Michaelangelo's David, but not modern nude art? If you allow nude sculptures or paintings, do you censor nude photographs? If you allow nude photographs, what's the line between works of art and porn?

  • Not algorithmic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ronin441 (89631) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:14AM (#42026371) Homepage

    That bared nipple in a cartoon thing? Not an algorithm (at least not one implemented on a computer) -- that was censored by a plain ol' minimum-wage human.

  • Cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:16AM (#42026381) Homepage Journal

    Many more people will complain about offences to their Victorian sensibilities than will complain about removing cartoon nipples. So, these policies keep their administrative costs lower. If you want this to change, attack their cost assumptions. Complain about their intolerance. I'm not typically one to advocate for being a complainer, but if these companies are putting in systems based on complainers, then those are the rules as constructed. Worst case: the rules about complainers are decommissioned.

    The main problem with that strategy is that tolerant people tend to not be complainers. You won't find a Million Moms against Intolerance marching on the Capitol. But as the saying goes, "only be intolerant of intolerance."

    The other approach is to accept that these services will reflect the Xth percentile opinion and the only way to change that is to change the X position in society. I can't see kids raised on today's Internet being particularly offended by cartoon nipples when they're in their 50's.

    My hope is that we can move to a society where posting a war photo of a blown up baby isn't more socially acceptable than posting a picture a baby being born.

  • by joaommp (685612) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:17AM (#42026389) Homepage Journal

    Only ten friends? How sad :(

    Wait, you have friends?!? Good for you!

  • by westlake (615356) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:19AM (#42026403)

    Silicon Valley imagines itself as the un-Chick-fil-A. But its hyper-tolerant facade often masks deeply conservative, outdated norms that digital culture discreetly imposes on billions of technology users worldwide.

    Silicon Valley is tech. It enables. But it is not in control. There is no such thing as a unified "digital culture."

    Online communities --- like any other --- form around people who share the same interests and values. The geek is not always going to like what he finds out there.

  • by aicrules (819392) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:21AM (#42026421)
    Summary writer is clearly a progressive bomb thrower. Maybe not actually a progressive him/herself, but the whole summary is meant to be pot shot after pot shot at conservative ideals while trying lamely to appear as a real discussion on the topic. The use of the term kerfuffle sealed this assessment for me. Tries to sound like a terminally serious issue that evil people like Chik-Fil-A are on the wrong side of and then uses the term kerfuffle which, RIGHTLY, puts the topic back in the "no one really gives a shit about this because it's not actually an issue" category.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:25AM (#42026459)

    Personally I find burqas obscene.

  • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:28AM (#42026479)

    And how is an outsider to distinguish between a Christian and someone just calling themselves one? Remember that the Crusaders, the Inquisition and Fred Phelps call themselves Christian. I am not concerned about the inward doctrine - many intolerant people claim the legal protection and public recognition of being Christian.

    I an an atheist, but I honour the teachings of the Gospels (but not the rest of the Bible) as admirable and compassionate. But, in my opinion, nearly all southern republican politicians who claim to be Christian are in deep breach of that loving doctrine. I cannot recognise the teachings of Jesus in anyone, for example, who supports the death penalty. Nor in those who support lifetime benefit caps. But if I insult them, they will wrap their claimed Christianity around them and spit venom at me.

  • by 0a100b (456593) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:33AM (#42026529)

    Right, then the offended person is no true Christian. Maybe a Scotsman?

  • by sycodon (149926) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:34AM (#42026535)

    At least he won't cut your throat.

  • un Chick-fil-A? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:40AM (#42026593)

    The un- Chick-fil-A?? Who did that company try to silence? No one at all.

  • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:41AM (#42026601) Homepage

    Not that I agree with your parent; I've met prickly people of almost every faith and creed who can become unreasonable at the least provocation. That said, your reply is a pretty poor counter. Such a "No True Scotsman" argument can be applied to almost anything: "No true Muslim would be so offended, after all Islam means "peace"", "No true liberal would be so offended, we're all about inclusiveness of ideas", "No true conservative would be so offended, we always argue from a position of logic", No true Buddhist..." etc.

    "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is only one line from one Testament, from one half of the book. There's plenty of arguments in Christian scripture for being an asshole too, and lots of Christians use those to justify the very behavior you say they shouldn't engage in. There are lots of Christians in the world. There are lots of prickly easily offended people in the world. The intersection of those two sets is also quite large.

  • by Tsingi (870990) <graham.rick @ g m a i l .com> on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:45AM (#42026655)

    At least he won't cut your throat.

    And the government won't either. It's a struggle keeping church and state separate, but worth it. For the most part the west has gotten rid of ridiculous blasphemy laws.

  • by jnelson4765 (845296) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:45AM (#42026657) Journal

    Um, it's not just that. Me and my friends use FB for organizing social events - parties, performances, etc. The fire performance troupe I'm involved with does most of our organizing on Facebook too - we have jobs, and kids, and school, and live all over the area, so having quick discussions there makes life much easier.

    Look, I go to Burning Man. I've seen more people naked than anyone short of a doctor or a nudist tour guide, and I have to say the ban on nudity on Facebook is a good thing. There are creepers out there who post pictures of people having a nude stroll. Without the subject's consent.

    Being able to complain about it means that they get taken down.

    Facebook is for real life, and some people (myself included) like having an area where there isn't soft-core porn all over the place. See, if I had to deal with that, I'd return fire with some of the better pictures from /r/gaybears - not everyone is into the same thing, and you get rather tired of being shown something you're NOT IN TO.

  • by DrgnDancer (137700) on Monday November 19, 2012 @10:57AM (#42026803) Homepage

    This guy isn't saying that these companies are violating the law, or that they should be somehow forced to change their algorithms. He's simply pointing out the hypocrisy of their advocating for free access to information while simultaneously directly and indirectly censoring the content they present. Whether the hypocrisy is a problem or not probably depends on who your are, what your goals are, and what level of censorship the company is presenting you with. Google for instance doesn't censor its results (except in rare cases where it's required to by law), but does censor indirectly through blocking certain search terms in auto-complete. Arguably that's a pretty mild and indirect form of censorship (you can after all simply type the your search terms out completely), and it may not bother many people. Facebook is more explicit in its censorship, but also arguably has a greater legal compliance requirement.

    It's a discussion that's worth having, even if the most we can do about it is avoid or support companies that either support or reject our own opinions on the matter. It's certainly not as important a subject as some others, but it's not trivial either. It's worth looking at.

  • by Infernal Device (865066) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:04AM (#42026855)

    The New York Times got caught in the same filter that catches everyone else while posting in corporate forum. Their problem is that, for some misguided reason, they, being the NYT, believe that they have some sort of free speech rights in a private space. Facebook is not a public space - it's corporate-owned and controlled. It's private space, open to some members of the public to post in, but with whatever restrictions FB feels like applying.

  • by bickerdyke (670000) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:07AM (#42026897)

    By the way, who decides this shit?
    Can the prudes at least learn a little consistency?

    Oh that's simply. Facebook decides what is acceptable on facebook, twitter decides what is acceptable on twitter. You neither have to agree with nor use their service. And as you're free to run your own website, this isn't even censorship. The internet is much bigger as facebook, you know?

  • by bickerdyke (670000) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:14AM (#42026957)

    And how is an outsider to distinguish between a Christian and someone just calling themselves one?

    There is 100% sign: Anyone who calims to know God's will is more subject to hybris than to christian teachings. Christians should take responsibility for their actions and not blame them on "God's will".

  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:37AM (#42027229)

    ...it happens to a New York media person, instead of by them like God intended.

    The author has three examples for his "censorship" arguement: Facebook blocking a page containing cartoon nipples (but it was the New Yorker's page, so that's bad!), Apple asterixing out some letters in the name of a book, and various autocorrects not helpfullying filling out dirty words for you. That's it.

    The first two are pretty damn obvious. iTunes and Facebook operate walled gardens. Monolithic control of the content, whether you like it or not, is exactly the problem with such systems. The only thing annoying about this is that Evgeny and his buddies at the Times saw no problem with this until it inconvienenced other New York media types like themselves. The obivious solution here, which I and a good portion of the rest of us here on Slashdot implement, it don't use them.

    The third is just plain sillyness. Of course you don't want autocompletion software to fill out explitives for you. You have to look at how things fail here. Autocomplete is a prediction, but it isn't perfect, and the last thing you want is the damn thing changing innocuous words to one of the Carlin 7 when you are texting your family or employer. Duh.

    If I want a "bad" word, I'll go through the effort to manually spell it. It's typically only 4 letters anyway. :-)

  • by icebraining (1313345) on Monday November 19, 2012 @11:47AM (#42027365) Homepage

    Oh, I have no doubts that there is much more violence begin carried on today in the name of Islam than any other religion, possibly combined. I just don't like whitewashing.

    And there is nothing tenuous about what the Catholic Church did during Franco. They were Catholic priests and nuns - not just the average believer - stealing thousands of babies from their mothers for decades.

  • by Gonoff (88518) on Monday November 19, 2012 @12:50PM (#42028167)

    Christianity does not politicise.

    What US conservatives describe as "Christian" often does not fit in with anyones reading of the Bible outside your country.
    I recently came across someone stating that he could not support universal health care because he was a Christian. I told him that my being a Christian was a major deciding factor in my working for the NHS in the UK. Stopping people being looked after when they need it is what most Christians in the UK would define as a bad thing.

    As a Christian, I also support the universal availability of contraception, social security and welfare. Perhaps this may have confused some people on your side of the pond but your Christians seem to be different from other ones. I am a white male Christian- just not a conservative one. I am also hard to offend (please do not take that a a challenge!)

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday November 19, 2012 @02:05PM (#42029229) Homepage Journal

    You guys just need to find a better church. I was going to one about ten years ago, when the preacher prayed for President Bush to have continued wisdom, that was the last time I attended that church, it's like praying for the ocean to have continued dryness.

    A good clue is, does the preacher wear a tie? If so BAD CHURCH. The tie is Satan's leash, symbol of wealth and power, things Christ was decidedly against. I've noticed that the tie-wearing preachers don't preach what Christ taught.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday November 19, 2012 @02:12PM (#42029325) Homepage Journal

    Very fitting sig, sir. Tea party? "Render unto Ceasar". Universal health care? Christ did it for free. Welfare? Conservatives hate poor people, "blessed are the poor". Abortion? "Judge not, lest you be judged yourself". Homosexuality? Why do right wingers think gays' sins are any worse than their own? Jesus was not only a liberal, he was executed for his liberalism by the conservative clergy!

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday November 19, 2012 @03:27PM (#42030247) Homepage Journal

    When you can offer an example of 3000 instances (to start with) then people might pay attention.

    I know it will do no good as you'll just move the goalposts again, but I'll humor you anyway

    Where are your links to major Christian clerics advocating murder? Where are your links to entire Christian (if you can find any) nations being dedicated to the destruction on non Muslim nations?

    Man, can I call 'em, or what?

    And the Crusades? Please. Even if you wanted to say that something that happened in the 12th Century is relevant, those were regional power struggles under the guise of religion.

    A) Malarkey, you just don't want to admit to being wrong.

    B) I take it, then, you didn't even bother to visit the Wikipedia link I provided in that same paragraph, that details many instances of Christian terrorism dating no further back than 60 years? Oh, right - doing so might have shown you facts that counter your pre-conceived notions, I should have known better than to try and taint your worldview with reality.

    You want Evidence?

    Yes. Preferably, reputable sources such as university studies, but I'll take a random news clip or two provided they aren't supplied by blatantly biased propaganda machines thinly disguised as "journalists," ala InfoWars or FOX news.

    Hell, quote FOX if you want, it's a better source than the none whatsoever you've presented so far.

    I encourage you to test it as I mentioned previously. Let us know how it turns out.

    Sorry, but I'm not one to stir a hornets nest just to see if I get stung. I'm also not so much of a bigoted asshole as to subsequently refer to all hornets as lunatic extremists as a result.

    You're welcome to your opinion, bigoted though it may be. What you are not entitled to is your own facts. I have laid out plenty, backed with source citation, whereas all you have offered thus far is vitriol, bigotry, and a complete absence of anything so much as resembling fact. While that may play out well for you at the Wonderland that is the RNC, here it only serves to prove how little you know about the topic at hand.

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