A new policy on adult content from Google means tons of old blogs, including one of mine, will be effectively deleted. Here’s why that is bad for the whole internet.
Yesterday, I received an email from Blogger letting me know that my old blogspot.com site would be effectively shut down next month because it contained adult content. Technically, it won’t be deleted, it will be made “private.” But, like…what is a blog that no one can see?
“If your existing blog does have sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video, your blog will be made private after March 23, 2015. No content will be deleted, but private content can only be seen by the owner or admins of the blog and the people who the owner has shared the blog with.”
This fucking sucks.
My blog, which will no longer available to public viewing after March 23, was called Gross Nudes. It was a collection of found photography from a very specific community that thrived on Flickr: middle-aged married couples who posted nude images of themselves for others in the community to enjoy. I know what you’re thinking, but look, it was thoughtful, OK?
It was meant to be a comment on the way the internet had opened up a level of semi-publicness that people were still figuring out. “Gross” was meant to be a play on “gross anatomy” and also the fact that these images did not depict typical lithe pornographic bodies; they were older, suburban, fleshy, with smiles that lacked coyness. (See what I did there? It was freaking art, man.) Put my fucking blog in the Louvre. [A rep for Google confirmed that adult content with artistic or educational merits would be safe, but there are no instructions for how a blogger can try to claim these exceptions.]
Also, whatever, I just thought it was funny.
Fine, so I hadn’t updated the blog in a while, since 2011 to be exact. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still pissed. I spent time and energy on creating something and now it’s going to disappear. I’m proud of it, and I still want people to be able to read it. I don’t want it to go away.
In June 2013, Blogger made a change that banned monetizing adult content and removed blogs that had ads for adult sites. However, as long as you weren’t trying to run ads, it was fine to have adult content.
What’s strange is that now — in the year 2015, at least five years after the blogging platform went out of style — Google is making a sweeping change in the policies. Why now? How many active adult content blogs are there? Why not set the policy back in 2008 when people were actually setting up blogs for the first time?
Jason Shellen worked on Blogger before it was bought by Google, and followed along to Mountain View after the acquisition. He had thoughts.
“The original Blogger team fought really hard that freedom of expression was an important thing,” Shellen told BuzzFeed News. “We believed it; we believed every day that people could put up whatever they wanted. There was pressure at Google that you had to flag unsafe or child pornography. The legal team was great, and those people went on to great things and understood well that people were going to use the platform in ways like adult content.”
Shellen hasn’t worked at Google or Blogger for some time, but he thinks the change may be part of restructuring and reprioritizing at Google. “Google+ efforts have been odd, and they’ve reshaped those. From what I understand internally, things are getting broken out.” As part of this, he’s watched Blogger fall to the wayside. “I’ve been disappointed as Blogger was not seen as a priority over the years.”
What makes me extremely nervous is what this means for the fate of my other non-adult blogs on Blogger, and the other ways it might retroactively try to police my content. Imagine this: What if Google wakes up tomorrow and decides profanity is too offensive for decent fucking people? What if it decides to set any blogs with profanity to private? Fuck.
Worse, I worry that it could be a first step in eventually sunsetting the whole thing. It doesn’t seem that unlikely to me that in the next five years, I’ll get another email warning that all Blogspot blogs are being shuttered.
Google has a vast graveyard of products, some that used to be very popular (like Reader, which happened to be founded by Jason Shellen). “I’ve been part of product shutdowns before and they’re ugly,” Shellen said. “I’ve had to be the person who pressed the button that deletes a million photos before and it never feels good … It’s definitely sad, and it’s definitely something I’ll think about making thing that last as I make new things.”
I also made things on Blogger, and I’m sad they’re going away. Jason Shellen helped make a thing for his job that let me make things for fun. I’m sorry for him and I’m sorry for me. I’m bummed about all the weird corners of the internet and quasi pervy Blogspots that I’ll never be able to stumble across now. I’m sad for the internet, which will be less wild and weird without these blogs.
Most of all, I’m pissed that I was wrong for trusting you with my cache of questionably artistic nudes, Google.