Censorship on Flickr

Today I received a threatening email from Flickr HQ claiming that I had violated the Flickr terms by posting this video clip of the World Naked Bike Ride in London. It said that if I continued to post questionable material my account would be suspended. I find this totally absurd, and it would be laughable except that increasingly Flickr has become a place of low-grade harassment for me. Other women must also experience this– smarm-spam in your inbox, asking you for pictures, or your own pictures favourited by someone who is collecting women’s bodies. Through looking at these sites one can see all manner of amateur porn, which is often quite voyueristic and disturbing. I don’t wish this content to be banned– I just click away. But I find it very ironic that there is so much of this on flickr and yet my super-low-res footage of nude people riding bikes is deemed so inappropriate that they are threatening to suspend my account. When I was a women studies major we often debated the idea of porn. Since I never looked at porn that often it was totally academic– that is until I started exploring the idea of nudity in my artwork. Suddenly the pro-porn feminist argument that said that anti-porn laws are used first against women doing body-positive things rang true. This is an example of just that. On a cursory level, it’s just (American) stupidity. But go a bit deeper and it becomes obvious this is indicative of a culturally-determined body hatred. It is easy to find pictures of women naked and subjugated on Flickr and across the web. Often women’s bodies have been concocted unnaturally for this kind of display. They are not “real”– they are coded for consumption– tanned, shaved, surgically altered, posed. The images I uploaded of the bike ride are human, playful, fun. It would be a stretch to even claim they are sexual. But looking at them you can’t help but feel the infectious happiness of the event, and even, as one of my friends put it, a little better about your own body. If Flickr is trying to save children from nudity, they are failing. What children will see on flickr are pornographic images which, to a sensitive child, will be disturbing not because of the lack of clothing but the demeaning/voyueristic/taboo aspect of the image. Healthy images of the human body, like the one I uploaded (which you can’t even see the ‘naughty bits’ frankly) are a violation of their code. No wonder children (especially little girls) grow up to hate their bodies.

4 thoughts on “Censorship on Flickr

  1. Yes, Flickr have suspended my stream from Public Searches for a logn time. You don’t want to ask them to review the account because there have been incidents of complete account deletion with no explanation and no chance of recovery for fully paid-up members.

    I have a 2-year account so I don’t want to lose my stuff. It’s ridiclous but we can’t do anything about it.

  2. It seems Flickr places different rules on their video content than their photo content. I wasn’t aware of that. Or maybe it’s just the typical “images of women naked are fine, but you show one wang, and you’re out!” mentality.

    I’ve had a minor bit of trouble with Flickr’s legal lords and/or ladies in the past, and my biggest beef is that if you have an issue of any sort, then they throw you at the form letter ninjas of Yahoo’s legal department, who do everything in their power to make you know for certain that you are helpless and without any rights or recourse.

  3. Hello RQ– what amazes me is ths level of smarm I encounter there– directed at ME and I’m sure other women who take pictures of themselves (clothed, doing non-sexual things) and yet when I document this newsworthy event I’m threatened.

    I also have a paid account. I sent them a letter in complaint and have not heard back. This might be a good thing, from what you have heard.

  4. Yes, I see a lot of this and this sort of censorship is on the rise at Flickr. It’s really not that Americans are so prudish as much as Flickr is taking too much advice from people whose only priority is to reduce their legal “exposure” through censorship. Hence the censorship against Germans and on anyone in the world with images involving nudity or which are the slightest bit sexual in nature.

    It’s this kind of censorship that has kept me from renewing my Flickr subscription. I’ll be happy with 200 photos.

    As an aside, when Flickr introduced the film clip feature, they only allowed it for their so-called “safe” content. I imagine that someone didn’t want to turn Flickr into a porn repository or similar, but since no nudity is “safe” on Flickr, you got caught by their police.

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