How Google draws the line between porn and art

Despite what users may believe, it’s not some sophisticated Google algorithm that decides if questionable YouTube videos are porn and get shut down.

According to Gizmodo, it’s simply human intervention that decides if a video containing sex and nudity is NSFW and gets yanked.

Pointing to a recent Robin Thicke music video that contained exposed breasts that was pulled only after a million views but then resurfaced when VEVO posted it only to have it then shut down in only 30 minutes, the article questioned YouTube’s censorship policies.

Google and the line between porn and art
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“According to YouTube’s guidelines regarding nudity and sex, any video that’s ‘intended to be sexually provocative’ is probably going to be taken down. That’s not to say that videos being uploaded to YouTube are being screened ahead of time.

In fact, questionable videos are only taken down when the community has flagged it as inappropriate or found it to be in violation of the guidelines.

That flagged video is then reviewed by actual humans in different YouTube offices in different countries around the clock,” Gizmodo said.

Like the question of obscenity — people know it when they see it —  the article maintained that it all depends on the monitor’s view, or in this case YouTube’s definition of questionable content.

One of three things happens when the censors get wind of a suggestive video: 1) nothing happens; 2) if the scenes are deemed artistic then an age gate is put in place; or 3) if it crosses the line, it gets taken down.

But what’s troubling is that YouTube’s not forthcoming with the actual rules. By playing it close to the vest, YouTube cleverly doesn’t give creators the opportunity to get around its guidelines.

The article also points out that many of YouTube’s “porn or art” decisions are very subjective, citing videos that are still running including Sigur Rós’ “Fjögur píanó,” that shows naked female breasts and actor Shia Lebouf’s penis.

And a recent Rammstein music video that had plenty of nudity made the cut — until it apparently was noticed (in the article?) and was then taken down.

So it seems like the door’s open for YouTube posters willing to play the cat and mouse game, chancing that their “porn,” or “art” videos will grab mega-views before they’re flagged or snagged by the YouTube cops.

Censorship By Degrees

YouTube’s judgment isn’t a simple yes or no, either; age gates are only put in place after videos have been flagged. A record label, for instance, can’t restrict a video to 18+ before uploading it. Only YouTube can do that, and only if it believes the video in question doesn’t violate its guidelines but also isn’t exactly appropriate for kids.

What Stays, What Goes

But what about all those other videos that are still up on YouTube that are clearly way more explicit in nature than anything seen in Thicke’s video? Like Sigur Rós’ “Fjögur píanó,” starring Shia Lebouf and his wang? That’s apparently art for the sake of art, and one that record labels point to when YouTube believes that an artist’s videos aren’t pretentious enough to be safe from the chopping block, as told to me by someone in the music business.

Read the complete article here at Gizmodo

Main photo courtesy of Porn Art 2 via *pixielovesyou by Adrian Crook


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