Friday, June 15, 2007


Recently I joined a group called 24 Hours of Flickr. The purpose of this group was to take photos all day on 05/05/07, then submit your best shot to the group for possible publication in a book with Flickr donating a very small portion of the proceeds to charity. What a cool idea! What a fun project!

What a big joke!

Now the group thing centered around a single day is nothing new to Flickr. In fact, just before they started their clever 05/05/07 campaign, a friend of mine started 07/07/07 with the intent of publishing the best photos submitted in a book in which all profits would be donated to UNICEF. Coincedence? Probably, but hey, Flickr's a big place and there's always room in the world for a little charity. However, this is not the big issue here. The issue is censorship.

A member of the group, licht_faenger, posted a topic about censorship and why he was leaving the group. He had some nudes on his page that were marked as moderate content and they were unceremoniously deleted. He had a problem with the fact that there were much more explicit photos on Flickr marked as safe content which were still up for all to see. (I've since visited his site and the remaining nudes were well done and not offensive at all.) People started discussing the fact that since Flickr is now owned by Yahoo, who caters to foreign powers and censors their content. Yahoo's position is that they're at least bringing a little bit of the internet to the poor oppressed people of those nations, (Germany, South America, China and others.) Popular opinion is that Yahoo is simply doing whatever they can to make a quick buck from those nations while not providing full access to the web. (BTW, licht_faenger is German and seems to speak Google-Translated English. His ire was further spurred by the fact that the first book release party for 05/05/07 was held in Germany.)

Well it started to snowball as more members joined the discussions. Two more similar topics appeared and were going strong until last night when Heather, a Flickr staffer, (and as far as I can tell, the only Flickr staffer,) deleted the topics with no explanation. (Can you see the irony?) Someone else started a topic asking what happened to the original censorship topics and it was quickly locked, directing the poster to search elsewhere for censorship discussions. I myself posted a topic explaining that yes, the threads had been deleted by Heather. This too was deleted less than five minutes after I posted it!

Forgive me if I'm out of line here, but if group members want to discuss censorship, why not let them? About the same time the deletions occurred, the folowing appeared on the group page: Please note that issues off topic from the 24 hours of Flickr may be removed from the group discussions as there are more appropriate and official topics where you can share your feedback with the team. Really? here's a small sampling of topics which Flickr deems "group related:" Do You Believe In God, Have You Ever Been To Kerala, Help On Buying A Camera, Mac or PC, Join "Group X", plus an incredible amount of people posting photos which have nothing whatsoever to do with the group. You know, cats and strawberries, your favorite shot, etcetera. There are even two new groups started by group members: Photos In The Book and Photos Not In The Book. Hello? Just look at the original group photos!

At the risk of infuriating Flickr further, I posted a goodbye message: You Win. In light of recent events, I also shall be leaving the group. I'm sure you'll survive without me. I enjoyed many of the photos seen here and had a pretty good time up until yesterday. Good luck. Amazingly it still stands, (40 minutes and counting) but I'm sure it will disappear soon enough. No big deal, I'll continue to post photos to my site until they grow weary of me but I'll definitely think twice before joining another "Official" Flickr group.

I really wish I had saved those initial threads. Some good stuff in there. One member thought it was ridiculous to compare Flickr to Nazi Germany. Indeed it was. Flickr is much more like Vichy, France, except that flickr is not currently threatened with immediate death if it does not follow orders. The real Nazis are the countries which demand censorship by Yahoo. Sadly, Yahoo complies in order to keep that cash flowing in. Being stuck in the middle, I guess that makes Yahoo the Gestapo or the SS. I dunno, the whole thing just sickens me.

Well, the positive side is that I remembered licht_faengers name and was able to track down a few more of the individuals involved in the original discussion. As soon as this is posted, they will be invited to continue on and so are you. At least until Yahoo buys Google.

For more on the German censorship issue, check out this Wired article.

1 comment:

M Styborski said...

Heather Speaks!

The recent kafuffle in 24 Hours of Flickr continues with a new thread surprisingly not deleted by the staff. In this post, Heather has actually commented:

I think of the 24 hours of Flickr very much as an online representation of an actual gallery/party. Prior to the 5th, our members were mingling, chatting amicably amongst themselves. Once the 5th came and went, the discussion slowed somewhat as people "got down to business" (so to speak) adding their slice of life from the 5th. There really haven't been any "new" topics since that time, only people adding to the new topics.

Given the wealth of venues (like this) for those who want to discuss recent events in the Flickrverse, I decided to draw a hard line so that we might continue to celebrate the 24 hours of Flickr.

I'm sorry if this seems heavy handed or unfair, but as previously mentioned, there are better venues to share your feedback with the team.

This simple statement could have diverted much of the resentment from members had it been posted earlier in the first censorship thread. It still doesn't excuse the fact that Flickr automatically censors anyone who chooses to voice negative opinions of it's policies in the groups though.

Indeed, there are forum topics for the discussion of censorship, but group members should be allowed to carry on the same within their own groups. It's really odd that Heather has such a wide definition of "group related" topics, but will not allow the censorship threads. As far as people celebrating the "24 Hours of Flickr," There were a few folks chatting about the book release parties, but mostly it was people posting photos in threads from almost any day but the 5th.

Also, if Heather had taken the time to address LF's initial problems, this issue wouldn't have been nearly such a big deal within the group. I can sympathize with him as I've had a few issues that I wrotwe to Flickr Help about and one was never addressed. It is now four months and counting after two e-mails with no response, but they certainly have time to travel the world for parties. Censorship is a tricky issue, but poor customer service is inexcusable.