Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paranoia Strikes Deep...

Should we feel protected or outraged by government (and non-government) surveillance? Kristen Lamb wrote a brilliant post a few days ago, "Santa Claus Recruited to Improve NSA’s Public Image & Head Intelligence Operations." Stop right now and take a few minutes to read it. You'll be glad! 

Edward Snowden is all over the news. Is he still in the Moscow airport? Will Ecuador grant him asylum? Is he one of the heroes or one of the villains of the 21st century?

The US Supreme Court has nullified a major provision of the Voting Rights Act. States have already begun to enact changes to voting laws.

"For What It's Worth"

Maybe because I grew up in that era, this song by Buffalo Springfield sums up where my mind is about now.

''There's something happening here
But what it is ain't exactly clear...

All of the recent intrusions have confused, annoyed, worried, and unsettled me, but it took a more personal announcement to bring it all home.

The Catalyst

A friend of mine shared an email she had received.

Important Update to Adult Content Policy on Blogger

You are receiving this message because you are the admin of a blog hosted on Blogger which is identified to have Adult content.

Please be advised that on June 30th 2013, we will be updating our Content Policy to strictly prohibit the monetization of Adult content on Blogger. After June 30th 2013, we will be enforcing this policy and will remove blogs which are adult in nature and are displaying advertisements to adult websites.

If your adult blog currently has advertisements which are adult in nature, you should remove them as soon as possible as to avoid any potential Terms of Service violation and/or content removals.


The Blogger Team

The Questions...

Whew! Can you get any more ambiguous than this email? What exactly is adult content? What exactly is monetization?

Though I didn't receive this email directly, these questions socked me in the gut. Is adult content a cover word now for both erotica and pornography? This blog is PG 13, but my novels aren't. Is showing the covers of my novels with links to Amazon monetization of Adult content? The deeper question is, Why is adult content (not just exploitative pornography) being demonized?

What is Adult Content?

I support the prohibition of pornographic content, which to me includes depictions of victimization in any form, whether by drugs, violence, age disparity, power disparity, or even vampirism!

Google Blogger's own rules are clear, and I fully support them and might even add a few more.

  • No incest or bestiality content: We do not allow image, video or text content that depicts or encourages incest or bestiality.
  • Child safety: We have a zero tolerance policy towards content that exploits children. Some examples of this include:
  • Child pornography: We will terminate the accounts of any user we find publishing or distributing child pornography. We will also report that user to law enforcement.
  • Pedophilia: We do not allow content that encourages or promotes sexual attraction towards children. For example, do not create blogs with galleries of images of children where the collection of images or text accompanying the images is sexually suggestive.

All adult content isn't pornographic!

But slow down. The Blogger Team email nowhere mentions pornography. To me, there's a huge uncrossable line between pornography and erotica. In a word, the line is VICTIM. Erotica is the visual or verbal exploration of sexuality between consenting, fully conscious, adult individuals. Erotica doesn't include victims or exploitation. Google itself states that  

We do allow adult content on Blogger, including images or videos that contain nudity or sexual activity. 

So, is ALL adult content now a not-to-be-promoted evil?

What is monetization?

According to Google, we may not use Blogger as a way to make money on adult content. 

Many of my good friends own book blogs for erotica and erotic romance. Many of these blogs have hosted my novels over the last few months. All of them contain links to every site that sells each author's books. Is this monetization? Is Amazon now banned from Blogger links for being an adult-content-including website? It certainly sells adult content by Google's definition. Are many of my friends' blogs in danger of disappearing?

''Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away

On my own blog, do I have to take down the links to Amazon for my own books? Kind of defeats the purpose of an author blog, yes? Daily, I thank people who host my books by sharing links to their blogs. Do I now need to remove all those links? If one of those blogs is eliminated, am I then guilty by association?

Thought police

What bothers me most about the Google email is that somebody, somewhere is going to decide, behind closed doors and probably with little recourse or explanation, whether or not the content of a blog breaks the rules. Google encouraged millions of people to use Blogger to make a living. Now Google has announced that it will modify its enforcement of standards with a few days' notice in a way that could put a lot of people out of business.

The fact that adult content is being cracked down on strikes me as way too close to extreme religious ideology. The choice of words is suggestive. Google isn't cracking down on pornography (something we'd probably all support), but on the amorphous, ill-defined adult content. Don't we have bigger problems, like global climate change, starvation, disease, and overpopulation? Seriously? Google is cracking down on monetization of adult content? 

To me, Google has always been one of the good guys. Call me naive. My conspiracy theory would run something like extreme pressure in a quid pro quo. No notion what the quo might be, but cracking down on adult content seems to be the quid.

I think it's time we stop
Children, what's that sound?
Everybody look - what's going down?

What do you think? Is the Google email a tempest in a teapot? A prank, a hoax, a late April Fools' joke, even? Do we sit back, and wait and see what June 30 brings? Or do you think something bigger is going on? Another adjustment in the grand compromise between freedom and protection? If we can't beat back gay marriage, let's attack adult content? Trot out your favorite theories in the comments, folks. Can't wait to start the conversation!

Hmmm... Think I'll wait until after June 30 to resume the #TBSU blog luv links. In the meantime, mega-hugs and gratitude for you all!


  1. My interpretation for authors of erotica is: tempest in a teapot. A monetization program such as Amazon Affiliates, for example, pays you if someone clicks on a link in your blog to go to Amazon and ends up buying a book. You get a little kickback from Amazon for every book that's bought through a link from your site. It's all legal and is a benefit to the reader and brings income to you as a blogger. I've considered doing it for my site because I spend a HUGE amount of money on that blog, but I haven't pulled the trigger yet.

    Now, apparently, there are porn sites that use a similar monetization model. You'd let them place an ad on your blog, perhaps charging them for it, and then if someone clicks on it and buys something pornalicious from it, you'd get a kickback payment. Then you've monetized your site in a way that Google could be legally seen as promoting pedophilia or whatever the ad was for.

    I think some bloggers might get sucked into one of these kinds of arrangements not knowing really what it is--only that they can make some money doing their blogs.

    1. I think you're right, Susannah, and none of this is aimed at Amazon sales.

      What strikes me, though, is that the wording is so loose, it could be interpreted at any time by anyone who wanted to use it that way as an embargo against erotica and erotic romance. The lumping together of illegal pornography and freedom-of-adult-sexuality erotica into "adult content" frankly worries me.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. It will be interesting to see what happens on Sunday, to put it mildly! Hug,


  2. I don't have any "adult content" sites, but this is one of the reasons I was always taught to self-host my blogs rather than keeping them on a service like Blogger. With a self-hosted blog, you own your content and have all the rights to it. On a site like Blogger, someone else owns it and has the right to take down any of your content, for any reason, whenever they choose. And you won't necessarily get your content back, especially all of your comments and reader interactions.

    1. You're right, Nathalie, of course. I'm going to look into self-hosting. I wonder if Blogger will lose a few blogs over this. Probably not enough to make a dent.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note! Hug!


    2. If you do switch over, let me know. I can recommend a really good web host if you don't already have one. I can also help you with WordPress, too. :-) Hugs to you!

    3. Thanks, Nathalie. I had a less than great experience with a web host years ago, and it's made me leery. I appreciate the offer of a recommendation.