Friday, 14 June 2013

The abusive rose

The picture of the rose above was tagged as "abusive content" and blocked by Facebook when I tried to post it. Ridiculous, of course, but it is more than that.

Censorship on the Internet can easily turn into a big problem, a larger problem than the, sometimes nonexistent, problems the censors try to solve.

All censorship is based on rules. These rules are based on cultural standards. When we have a cultural melting pot, like the Internet, there is a strong tendency to create very tight rules of censorship, so as not to offend anyone.

The problem is that no matter what you show, say, or do, there is always someone that will take offense:

There are people who are deeply offended by: The sight of female hair (on the head), scientific methods (for example creationists), nipples, voting rights for women, people with dark skin, people with white skin, female hair (in armpits), nudity, the hijab (Islamic veil)... The list is endless.

If you create ethical standards based on the idea that you may not offend anyone, then you end up creating algorithms that ban roses.

I must admit, I am deeply offended by this.

Awhile ago I had another photo banned by Google. It was a photo of Carl Milles famous Poseidon statue. The statue is located at Götaplatsen in Gothenburg, right at the end of the Avenue, the largest, busiest street in Gothenburg. The Poseidon statue is nude. Thousands of people pass by every day, without any ill effects.

I made a censored version of the Poseidon picture and put it on a t-shirt. You can read about it here.

Google lifted the ban after a couple of days, but the problem remains: The idea that what can be shown or said, discussed, and thought, should be defined by the most narrow minded among us.

Maybe it's time for a new t-shirt, with a rose this time.