Google will soon disappear blogs on its Blogger platform that don't conform to its new anti-adult policies.
Every Blogger user behind an "adult content warning" page was told Monday by Google to delete sexually explicit content, or find their blog removed from every form of access except registered users.
Until today, Google's Blogger platform previously allowed "images or videos that contain nudity or sexual activity," and stated that "Censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression."
That changed on a whim Monday when Google ripped the rug out from under its previously-compliant Blogger users, who were told they'd be disappeared if Google decided their blogs contain "sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video."
Rather than leave its already-restricted adult content alone, Google has told Blogger users it will be eliminating all adult blogs from public access on March 23, 2015, (and taking them out of all forms of search).
Blogger blogs with adult content which -- at this time -- are findable in search will be deep-sixed from the Internet once the changes take effect.
There is a wide range of users on Blogger's fresh killing floor, most of whom routinely face sexual censorship. It's essential to understand that a good amount of those blogs have had the "adult" label applied to them by Blogger itself, deserved or not.
Currently, Blogger blogs marked as "adult" include LGBT and "outsider sexuality" diaries, erotic writers, transgender activists, romance book editors and reviewers, sex toy reviewers, art nude photographers, film-makers, artists such as painters and comic illustrators, text-only fiction writers, sex news and porn gossip writers, LGBT sex activism, sex education and information outlets, fetish fashion, feminist porn blogs, and much, much more.
Choice: Self-censor, or be 'disappeared'
The notice to all Blogger users marked as "adult" reads,
(...) In the coming weeks, we'll no longer allow blogs that contain sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video. We'll still allow nudity presented in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts, or presented where there are other substantial benefits to the public from not taking action on the content.
The new policy will go into effect on the 23rd of March 2015. After this policy goes into effect, Google will restrict access to any blog identified as being in violation of our revised policy. No content will be deleted, but only blog authors and those with whom they have expressly shared the blog will be able to see the content we've made private.
Removal from search in every way possible, and access by personal invitation and registration only, is the absolute closest thing Google could do to deleting the blogs altogether -- without actually having to come under fire for removing a percentage of its Blogger user base.
This isn't about illegal content. Or that Christians don't recommend using Blogger (not because of porn, but because they can't trust Google, either). Nor is it about malware, the actual Blogger user community, or even protecting minors from porn -- something Google's Blogger warning already does.
Because determination falls on Google deciding "other substantial benefits to the public from not taking action on the content" this is about content Google simply does not like.
Adult content has historically been at the forefront of fighting for free speech and political dissent, and this won't be changing anytime soon.
And when this crucial element of free speech and expression is minimized or disappeared (and in some cases, removed or prohibited altogether) because the utility controlling the content -- in this case, Google -- simply doesn't like the topic, we find ourselves mired in a new, deeply insidious flavor of censorship.
Google harms the Internet: Broken links, traffic suppression
When Google forces its "unacceptable" Blogger blogs to go dark, it will break more of the Internet than you think. Countless links that have been accessible on Blogger since its inception in 1999 will be broken across the Internet.
For instance, with this new Blogger policy change, my personal blog (since 2001) will see over 500 blogspot.com links go dead.
After Google's change is implemented, there will be no way find and discover adult blogs on the Blogger platform.
The only way to find a post from a blog marked adult -- or to find a Blogger blog that falls outside Google's moving-target definition for acceptable nudes -- will be to receive an invitation directly from the Blogger user who writes the blog.
Even then, to read a post, the invited person will be required to use a Google account to identify themselves, register for a Google account, or opt to view it as a "guest."
Holy shit Google just dropped the hammer. pic.twitter.com/0FDQspR04n
-- OJ (@tallglassofoj) February 23, 2015
Blogger blogs are already restricted for those who don't wish to see the content considered "adult" or sexual in nature, whether by local law, cultural or community standards, work restrictions, or personal choice.
Blogger's Content Warning, which is already applied to these blogs, pops up and requires agreement before proceeding, stating "The blog that you are about to view may contain content only suitable for adults. In general, Google does not review nor do we endorse the content of this or any blog". This is apparently no longer enough to satisfy Google's limits on acceptable use of speech and expression on its Blogger platform.
Google: Removing content it doesn't like
Tumblr attempted a similar move the following month (July 2013), and when Tumblr attempted to remove its adult blogs from every form of search and discovery possible, user (and observer) outcry prompted Yahoo's property to rethink its plans -- and come up with a less severe solution to increasing restrictions on its sex-positive userbase.
The last time Google moved to get the "adult" undesirables off its Blogger user base was June 2013, when Google gave "adult" users three days to remove anything Google considered adult advertising from their blogs, or face deletion.
Users then were furious, and confused by Google's vague wording, and scared that their links to racy Amazon affiliate products might get their blogs erased. Some opted to move to self-hosting, which is a safer option than trusting art, writing or creative speech to any conservative company.
Yet even then, we were inclined to think the adult ad purge was about neither adult themes (curtailing censorship or speech, simply because it's something Google or its controlling interests do not like) nor advertisement, but security issues with porn ads that contain malware.
With this move, Blogger -- Google -- isn't eliminating blogs that are raking in porn dough, or exposing innocents to objectionable content.
Google is removing sexual content because it doesn't like people posting it on Google's Internet.
Sexual and erotic expression is protected speech, and pornography is not illegal.
The search giant arguably controls the world's ability to find information online. comScore's March 2014 U.S. Search Engine Rankings show Google leading the core search market with 67.5 percent of all search queries conducted.
Google is a company, and may do as it pleases with its products.
But that maxim is a red herring when cultural shocks like domestic spying shine a light on the acute role Google embodies as a public utility, and our very real need for Google not to mess with open access to information, no matter if Google "likes" the content of that information or not.
Remember, Blogger's door started slamming shut on those deemed less deserving of its 'privilege' after Google walked through it.
ZDNet has contacted Google for comment and will update this article accordingly.
See also: Thanks for nothing, jerkface