Monday, January 26, 2009

Blogger's Circles of Hell

So... I follow a blog called Sexy Witch which is a really cool compilation of artwork, photographs, etc from all eras of the past that depict witches that are... you guessed it... sexy. The blogger in question has been totally responsible about warning in the blog description that there are images that contain nudity, and posting a tag on each entry indicating whether it is "safe for work" or "not safe for work." But some idiot decided to flag the blog and now Sexy Witch is in danger of becoming an "internet ghost." The blogger protocol for a flagged blog is to "unlist" it, meaning it won't appear on search engines or be featured on the main blogger site anymore, plus anyone typing in the address manually will come upon a Content Warning screen.

Blogger claims that the flagging tool cannot be considered "censorship," and from a legal standpoint I'm sure they're right. They aren't censoring anybody. They're still free to post what content they like; it's just hidden away behind a veil and not allowed to be brought to the attention of anyone who might actively seek it (example: type "sexy witch" into a search engine and I'm guessing you're looking for sexy witches; but you wouldn't find the perfect resource because of this stupid policy!). While not limiting the freedom of speech, they are limiting public access, which is the death of a popular blogger.

If such a thing happened here I wouldn't care, because I treat this page like a journal that I and I alone read. If someone else stumbled upon it and read a passage here or there, I wouldn't care. I wouldn't post extremely personal information. But all the same, becoming an internet "ghost" wouldn't affect me much because I already am one, and happily so. But Sexy Witch is a community endeavor. Lots of people enjoy the posts, the historical and background information, the skillful artwork, and, of course, the sexy witches. It just sucks when some asshole with a bone to pick flags something he or she doesn't like instead of just doing the right thing and NOT BOTHERING TO READ IT. It'd be one thing if this page was using hate speech or posting actual pornography instead of just artistic nudity. But this was obviously a case where somebody abused the flagging system by flagging something they personally disliked as opposed to something that was universally unacceptable.

I would perhaps not be quite so pissed off about this if blogger had a better system in place to challenge flags or at least to allow users to directly contact them to inform them of flagging abuses. Instead they have what literally seems like the circles of hell. A quick Help Search leads you to a link that informs you that you can "directly contact" them with a problem, which leads you to a page where you can select one of several pre-typed options, or, if your option doesn't fit with any of these, where you can click on another link to take you to the Help Forum. There you post your complaint in more detail and someone may or may not, promptly or with great delay, eventually get around to "helping" you. They will at least respond, though this is usually a form letter type response that gives you the idea someone is checking you off a list, not really trying to help. In these cases, the site always seems to side with the more conservative party: the offended person wins the day no matter what arguments might be raised from the other side.

I have cousins whose parents are very conservative, and who found "The Little Mermaid" offensive because Ariel was wearing a seashell bra and they didn't want their children exposed to a bare female midriff. If someone flagged an image of Ariel on a blog, do you think they'd block the site? I certainly hope not, but what I've seen here is enough to lead me to wonder... she is, after all, a sexy mermaid. But I think, also, that she is obviously fictional, whereas the types of people who flag sites like Sexy Witch usually believe that witches are real, and quite dangerous and evil. So perhaps this isn't an issue of nudity at all... perhaps the flagger was more offended by the occult references on the page. If so, while it's not "censorship," blogger could be accused perhaps of assisting in religious persecution.

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