Earlier this week, TechCrunch writer MG Siegler’s Google+ profile pic vanished without explanation. The profile picture featured MG looking away from the camera with middle finger extended (seen here). After thinking it may have been a bug, the photo was uploaded again, and once again removed – this time with the following message from a Googler:
As the first point of interaction with a user’s profile, all profile photos on Google+ are reviewed to make sure they are in line with our User Content and Conduct Policy. Our policy page states, “Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content.” Your profile photo was taken down as a violation of this policy. If you have further questions about the policies on Google+ you can visit http://www.google.com/intl/en/+/policy/content.html, or click the “Content Policy” link located in the footer of Google+ pages.
So Google is now modifying user accounts when they think content is offensive. Manual content censoring around a very loose content policy is a very tricky standard to set. The section of the content policy that Google states that MG broke is actually the Sexually Explicit Material section of the policy:
10. Sexually Explicit Material Do not distribute content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Do not drive traffic to commercial pornography sites. Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content. For example, do not use a photo that is a close-up of a person’s buttocks or cleavage.
This censoring has created quite a stir, and brings about a good point – what exactly is offensive? Will images of a “thumbs-up” be pulled down due to the meaning in Iraq? Should “Ok” gestures be removed as they are offensive to Brazilians? Is the use of “offensive” language next? This will be a very interesting topic to see play-out on Google+ and may be a deciding factor on the success of Google+ overall.
Postscript From Danny Sullivan: One major reason Google has boxed itself in a corner here is best illustrated by looking at this search:
Earlier this year, Google rolled out a new way for authors to have their images show within search results. Since that time, it has actively pushed and promoted this feature, while more tightly linking it to Google+ profiles.
Now Google’s push kind of comes back to haunt it, because if those profile pics are deemed offensive to some, they show well beyond Google+, because of the companies continued insistence so much be tied to Google Plus.
Related Entries About Author Pictures
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