Porn ban: Twitter talks about Vine's new 'no porn' policy

Summary:Twitter changed its popular six-second video sharing app Vine to a strict "no porn" policy and answered our questions about the change.

Twitter on Thursday launched Vine's official new "no porn" policy. Vine users are no longer allowed to post sexually-explicit content on the popular six-second video sharing service.

At the same time the porn ban was announced, Vine added a data portability feature so users can now download their videos.

Vine Twitter

Twitter explained the changes, guidelines and new procedures for offending accounts to ZDNet in a phone call about Vine's velvet-glove porn crackdown.

At the same time Vine's policy-change post went live, in-app notifications were sent to Vine users who have been identified as having sexually-explicit content and instructs the users to bring their accounts into compliance — or risk suspension.

Notified users, Twitter explained to ZDNet, will have one week to make changes and avoid account suspension. Users who believe they're the victim of a mistaken content judgment are told to submit an appeal through Twitter's Vine support form.

The social media giant posted the changes to Vine's Rules and Terms of Service.

Twitter told ZDNet that prior to making Vine's rule change it gave close consideration to adult content changes at other social sites — such as Tumblr — and aims to "strive for clarity" with users.

Twitter's spokesperson explained that this consideration also meant Vine's rule change would have a clear appeals process, reported accounts would not be put through an automated process — and will instead receive human review — and that reported accounts will not be immediately suspended.

We asked about the suspension and appeals process in light of widespread abuse of the "report content" function across many internet services such as Facebook. For instance, at Yahoo's Flickr, an automated system has become a harasser's delight, and users with years of artistic content and rule-abiding behavior routinely lose accounts with no recourse.

Instead, Twitter explained that accounts on Vine that were reported for adult content violation would go under review by teams that Twitter has been training specifically for consistency.

Twitter: 'It's for the community'

Until now, Vine users have been allowed the same freedom of expression — no matter how adult in nature — as on Twitter, with content similarly marked as "sensitive" and sidelined in broad searches.

When asked whether the move was to please advertisers, Twitter told us plainly that there was no advertising on Vine and that it has no intention to introduce advertising to the service.

Twitter's blog post states that it is bringing Vine's community in line with content habits of the majority of Vine users. Twitter's spokesperson told ZDNet that one year into Vine, Twitter believes its Vine community "is different" and wants Vine's wider community "to be comfortable."

"It's not about who we want to be," Twitter's spokesperson said. "It's about who we are now."

Twitter explained how Vine will now be assessing user content in refreshingly specific terms, including a Sexually Explicit Content FAQ.

Vine describes explicit sexual content as "depictions of sex acts, nudity that is sexually provocative or in a sexual context, and graphic depictions of sexual arousal."

Vine users are no longer allowed to post "Sex acts, whether alone or with another person; Use of sex toys for sex acts; Sexually provocative nudity, for example, posts that focus on exposed genitalia or depict nudity in a context or setting that is sexually provocative; Close-ups of aroused genitals underneath clothing, and; Art or animation that is sexually graphic (such as hentai)."

Vine will still allow nudity as long as the nudity is not sexually explicit.

Vine said it still allows "depictions of nudity or partial nudity that are primarily documentary, educational or artistic in nature. We also allow suggestive posts, just not sexually explicit ones."

Vine's users can post videos of "Nudity in a documentary context, e.g. videos of nude protestors; Nudity in an artistic context, e.g. nude modeling in an art class; Nudity that is not sexually provocative, e.g. a mother breastfeeding her child, and; Clothed sexually suggestive dancing."

Vine has grappled with sexually explicit content from the beginning.

Shortly after Twitter launched video-sharing iOS app Vine in January, 2013, Vine was kicked out of the iTunes store for its users' creation and sharing of explicit adult content.

Twitter acquired Vine in October 2012, when Instagram was grabbing headlines with a $1 billion Facebook buyout.

Apple banishes Vine

Vine subsequently launched as an iOS app in Apple's iTunes store January 24, 2013, instantly soaring to the top of the charts.

On January 28, Vine was yanked out of the iTunes Featured section for violating Apple's notoriously Victorian (and hypocritical) content guidelines. A clip called "Dildoplay" had accidentally ended up in the Vine Editor's Picks selection. Apple's App Store policy does not allow nudity.

Vine responded to the "Dildoplay" snafu and immediately began to hide adult content.

By the end of the day January 28, hashtag searches for terms such as #sex, #porn and #boobs no longer returned results.

Twitter pushed further explicit content changes to Vine on February 6, 2013.

An app update added functionality for reporting or blocking users, a warning about age-restricted material, and forced Vine users to confirm their age — changing the app age requirement from age 12 and up to age 17 and older.

A year later, Twitter has taken the final step to begin eliminating adult sexual expression from Vine's creative and diverse panoply. The change makes Vine into a content creation service where a whole spectrum of users now simply don't exist.

At least if Vine users can't simultaneously keep their accounts and their range of expression, users can now take their creative work with them — instead of losing it to the ether, as with nearly all other content creation and sharing services.

As socially informed by the community — or not — as this decision may be, its act is certainly a reflection of the influences and pressures of the world in which Twitter has placed itself.

So basically, there won't be another Unofficial Vine NC-17 Very Short Film Festival. Apple will be pleased.

Topics: Apps, Apple, Censorship, iOS, Privacy, Social Enterprise

About

Ms. Violet Blue (tinynibbles.com, @violetblue) is a freelance investigative reporter on hacking and cybercrime at Zero Day/ZDNet, CNET and CBS News, as well as a noted sex columnist. She has made regular appearances on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show and is regularly interviewed, quoted, and featured in a variety of publications that inclu... Full Bio

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