Thursday, June 14, 2007

flickr plays it a bit too safe

i'd been wondering why my none of my camera toss pics were showing up in the flickr badge on my blog (and also why nobody seemed to be looking at any of them) and i finally figured it out. in my initial confusion over flickr's new(ish) content filters, i'd set my default safesearch to "moderate" shortly before uploading them, thus they were all flagged "moderate" (despite being completely unobjectionable), which meant that not only were a lot of people not seeing them, but they wouldn't show up on my badge either. i'm not sure if there's a way to create a badge that will display moderate- or restricted-tagged images, but now that i better understand how the system works, i think it's probably best if my badge doesn't show them anyway.

in the olden days, you just weren't supposed to have any "objectionable" photos in your public photostream. if you wanted to upload, for example, nude photography, you were supposed to mark all those photos as "private". private photos are only visible to users you have marked as friends or family, so effectively it was impossible to publicly share any such content. (the only real workaround was to join adult-themed photo pools, and then you could only share your work with other members of the pool.)

it was an overly restrictive system, and a bunch of users simply ignored it and publicly shared their photos, as i did with my databent nude work. but there was a danger in this: if you got caught, your account would be marked NIPSA and your photos wouldn't turn up in public searches.

the new content filter system works differently. users are expected to moderate their own content by flagging their photos with an appropriate "safety level". accordingly, flickr now has a "safesearch" filter that shields users from images based on these flags.

in theory, it's a much better system, because it allows artists who do nudes or other potentially objectionable work to share their art with anyone who wants to see it, while allowing people who don't want to see that stuff to never see it.

in practice, there's a bit of a snag:

Note: If your Yahoo! ID is based in Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong or Korea you will only be able to view safe content based on your local Terms of Service so won't be able to turn SafeSearch off.

a few days ago, flickr launched several new languages to make the site more accessible to users worldwide. but somehow, things got twisted. as staff member stewart explains:

Currently, switching the SafeSearch function off is not available for German members. It is a really complex situation -- we have been in deliberation on this for a while, and we had to make the decision whether or not to leave Germany and the German language out of the international launch.

later he added:

Unfortunately I can't give a more detailed update yet or any concrete good news, but please don't take our silence to mean that nothing is happening. We are doing our best to make the situation better as quickly as possible. I'm sure it doesn't make a lot of sense from the outside, and we would prefer to be able to share all the context -- believe me, this is extremely uncomfortable and we'd *strongly* prefer not to be in this position -- but we don't have a choice at this time.

no more is known about why this policy went into effect (or when or if it might change), but it would seem to have something to do with deals between upper management at yahoo! and these foreign countries (or yahoo!'s investors in those regions).

german flickr users are particularly upset, as it's particularly bizarre that countrywide censorship would hit a liberal country like germany (though it might have something to do with german laws restricting display of nazi imagery). and they're protesting up a storm.

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