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Censorship Social Networks Communications Google Your Rights Online

How a Gesture Could Get Your Google+ Profile Picture Yanked 262 262

SharkLaser writes "It turns out that Google has started to remove Google+ pictures that have persons giving the middle finger in it. 'Our policy page states, "Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content." Your profile photo was taken down as a violation of this policy.' Google+ is supposed to be a universal social network and 'identity service,' and to allow sharing like in real life — a public venue for free expressions. Since the middle finger is such culturally-specific issue, will Google+ also start to remove things like showing the palms of your hands to people (considered an insult in Greece), showing the soles of your shoes (insult in the Middle East), and patting someone's head (an insult in Buddhist countries)? A good number of Google+ users have started to change their profile picture to include the middle finger to show support to MG Siegler, who got his profile picture removed by Google."
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How a Gesture Could Get Your Google+ Profile Picture Yanked

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  • by nman64 (912054) * on Thursday December 29, 2011 @11:52AM (#38526498) Homepage

    I am offended by all pictures containing mirrors. I demand that all social networks immediately terminate all profiles featuring photographs with mirrors in them! Or displaying their captive animals they call "pets" (how abusive!) Or holding alcohol - don't they have any respect for the alcoholics they're teasing?! Then there are those photos of people grappling others. They call it hugging and try to make it look all chummy, but I can see their unbridled violence! While they're at it, they can get rid of all of those profiles with pictures of people baring their teeth - there are so many of those! There are also many profiles with pictures that are straining to look at - out of focus, poorly lit or colored, or otherwise difficult to look at. It is so very offensive for people to post such pictures. I'm sure if they remove all of these offending profiles, the social networks would be better, happier places!

    • by Quanticfx (2443904) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:16PM (#38526822)

      While they're at it, they can get rid of all of those profiles with pictures of people baring their teeth - there are so many of those!

      I never smile if I can help it. Showing one's teeth is a submission signal in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life. - Dwight Schrute

    • Re:Other Offenses (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday December 29, 2011 @01:08PM (#38527666) Homepage Journal

      I'm offended at Google's immaturity. Minors aren't allowed to have a G+ account, right? Then what's the problem with someone flipping the bird?

      Jesus, Google, grow the fuck up.

    • by forkfail (228161) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @01:29PM (#38527964)

      I have Anthropophobia. All pictures of people scare me. My lawyer says I should sue for a million billion trillion dollars.

    • by datavirtue (1104259) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:05PM (#38529234)

      I understand that in the Muslim world an open mouth (wide) is an offensive sexual gesture, or so I hear. Anyone know if this is true? If you don't want it turning into MySpace I wouldn't allow alcohol or branded items to appear either. With the gradual move towards specialized social media they should develop Google+ to be an effective hub for all of your other social media sites you like to visit. FaceBook is not especially tuned to this and its current setup is not good for organizing your on-line social presence. There are other sites like Project Noah, and Etsy that are strong specialized social media sites, but using FaceBook to tie them all together is a pathetic mess. You need a way to organize and segregate all of your social stuff under one hub AND make it easy to search AND easy to use. FaceBook is a mess, it reminds me of that mission critical enterprise app developed in Excel by someone in marketing.

  • The advertisers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @11:55AM (#38526526)

    Don't like it. It damages their image.

    • Re:The advertisers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:05PM (#38526656)

      There might be some truth to it. Or Google is looking at MySpace, and how it was derided as the social network for angsty teens who are trying to shock themselves into relevance.

      I think it's simpler than that though. Google is trying so hard to make a relevant social network that it is managing it from the top down. Unfortunately, Social Networks don't work that way. The only reason people will use one is because they get some benefit from it. If the main thing they get from is constant aggravation about playing by some arbitrary rules, they are going to leave.

      I would love for there to be a social network around that competes with Facebook. The reality at this point though is that Google+, despite its nifty circles, ain't it. I should be their main evangelist, but I can't endorse a social network where some arbitrary and unknown rule is going to get the entire thing yanked. Dear Google, please let me fuck up my own social network. If I can't be trusted to not put up pictures of me that aren't offensive, will piss off my boss or have my girlfriend walk out on me, then please don't try to help me. You have no idea what is acceptable for 7Billion people, and shouldn't try.

      This is the kind of thing where Google ought to keep in mind the old mantra about asking for permission vs for forgiveness - keep the heavy-handed stuff for when you're successful. Kinda like Facebook.

      • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:12PM (#38526764) Homepage Journal

        angsty teens who are trying to shock themselves into relevance.

      • by future assassin (639396) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @02:25PM (#38528718) Homepage

        >I would love for there to be a social network around that competes with Facebook.

        You got one right under your nose, its your friends and family. If they don't talk to you outside of Facebook then you got a bigger problem than wishing for a Facebook competitor.

  • by BenFenner (981342) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @11:56AM (#38526550)
    I assume all those reverse peace signs are offensive to the English and we'll see them all taken down too?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @11:57AM (#38526554)

    "Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content."

    Then, they should not have removed it. I find this to be quite immature...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @11:59AM (#38526584)

    In my country, we believe showing our genitals to others is a sign of respect. Likewise, not showing our genitals (and anus and mammaries) is offensive. To have google+ picture that does not demonstrate pubis or arsehole etc would be deeply offensive.

    Gerald Oatse
    Christmas Island.

  • Choice? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jstg (2541828) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:01PM (#38526606)
    They caught enough flak with the making users use their real names. I can't see this going over much better. In order to compete with the Facebook's and Diaspora's you'd think they would need to take a more open minded approach to things.
    • Re:Choice? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RicardoGCE (1173519) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:21PM (#38526928)

      COMPETE with Diaspora? Give me a break. Diaspora is alpha software that requires users to run their own web server. It's a fucking great concept that will nonetheless never catch on with a large enough audience to ever matter to anyone but its users.

      The same could be said about desktop Linux, but Linux has found plenty of life in other markets. Until Diaspora finds that niche, there's no "competition" to speak of.

      • by ianare (1132971) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @02:03PM (#38528396)

        Diaspora doesn't require you to run your own server (a node called a "pod"), what it does is allow you to run your own node and still interact with all other nodes. This is is why it's a distributed social network.

        I think most users are still on the main node, however there are a bunch of pods [podupti.me] that you can choose from.

    • Re:Choice? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @01:01PM (#38527578) Homepage

      In order to compete with the Facebook's and Diaspora's you'd think they would need to take a more open minded approach to things.

      Competing with Facebook means competing for the thirty-to-fifty crowd - and your "open minded" scheme is precisely the opposite of what attracts them. The absolute last thing Google wants is to repeat the mistakes of MySpace and LiveJournal and have a reputation as being a has-been that attracts mostly teen and young adult drama. Facebook is already getting something of that reputation with all the party pics, etc... etc...
       
      Why the thirty to fifty crowd? Because, as many Slashdotters fail to realize, Facebook introduced a seismic shift in the social network paradigm - it's not just for kids anymore. Social networking is now used by a variety of businesses and professionals, and where they go, people will follow. (Though Google seems to have missed that.) Where the older folks go, the slightly less older folks will follow to stay connected. You can't build a stable social networking system on fly-by-night, short attention span, follow the fashion, teens and twentysomethings. The name of the game now is slowly grasping each demographic in turn, and building a solid base from there.
       
      As far as competing with Diaspora - that's like claiming the NY Yankees are competing with the little league teams that plays down the road from me. It's laughable. As popular as Diaspora is with the disaffected Slashdot and/or techie crowd... It's meaningless in the larger scheme of things. Those enamored of Diaspora are those pissed at other networks, and they'll get pissed and move on again. They're unstable and marginal.

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:02PM (#38526618)

    (yes I know there is a lot of overlap between these sites)

    7 innocent gestures that can get you killed overseas [cracked.com]

    5 common american gestures that might insult the locals [matadornetwork.com]

    Top 10 Hand Gestures Yu'd Better Get Right [languagetrainers.co.uk]

    List of Gestures [wikipedia.org]

    Will these be banned by the Google Censors as well? Or don't the Google Censors use Google to easily find lists of gestures that are culturally specific?

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:05PM (#38526670) Homepage

    Is Google doing this automatically, like face-blurring in StreetView? Or do they have thousands of low-paid employees somewhere doing this? It doesn't seem cost-effective.

    • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:17PM (#38526840)

      Is Google doing this automatically, like face-blurring in StreetView? Or do they have thousands of low-paid employees somewhere doing this? It doesn't seem cost-effective.

      They probably only look at it once someone flags it as an inappropriate image.

      • by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:22PM (#38526938)

        hey probably only look at it once someone flags it as an inappropriate image.

        And there's your solution: flag all images as inapropriate (... or have a script do it for you...), and it becomes prohibitively expensive for them to check them all...

        • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @01:10PM (#38527694)

          And there's your solution: flag all images as inapropriate (... or have a script do it for you...), and it becomes prohibitively expensive for them to check them all...

          Simply scheduling the order of review in a way which causes people with lots of flags to get their pictures scheduled for review less frequently neatly makes it so that this attack has minimal effect on the speed with which Google can review flags of pictures by people who aren't adopting this attempt to bog the system down, without consuming substantial additional resources.

          And its easy to go a step further, and include a weighting factor incorporating how reliably the users previously-reviewed flaggings were found to be pictures that Google found inappropriate so that frequent-but-accurate flaggers aren't pushed back but frequent-but-useless-to-Google flaggers are.

          Given that all of this is pretty basic to effectively managing review of user-flagged inappropriate content when you have potentially a lot of content that might get flagged, whether or not you are worried about people abusing flagging as a protest against your policies, and given that Google has had facilities for flagging inappropriate content a lot longer than Google+ has been around (e.g., in blogspot), and given that this kind of data analyis and application to processes is the kind of thing Google is known for, I'd be surprised if they didn't already have something like this in place.

  • by TheTruthIs (2499862) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:06PM (#38526680)
    Cause I had the feeling that google was giving me the finger.
  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:08PM (#38526702)

    ... think of the children [crunkcodes.com]!

  • by assertation (1255714) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:08PM (#38526704)

    I gave up on Google+ and this article makes me glad I did.

    Their real name policy turned me off by seeming draconian. Google's reason for it, to get more money selling my information.....made me feel victimized.

    I used a fake name, with a brand new Google account anyway, but I found it to be a pain in the ass to log out of my primary gmail account just so I could check Google+.

    On top of all of that 99% of my FB friends didn't want to get on.....or regularly use G+ on top of FB.

    So, I just post to FB less, don't use G+ at all and am waiting for diaspora to eventually get its act together.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:09PM (#38526712)

    They want profile pics to be inoffensive. The middle finger gesture is offensive, and intentionally so. They're not going to remove things that might offend specific foreigners because those foreigners make up a vanishingly small segment of their user base. To complain about this seeming contradiction is to commit a line drawing fallacy.

    • by InterestingFella (2537066) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:24PM (#38526972)

      They're not going to remove things that might offend specific foreigners because those foreigners make up a vanishingly small segment of their user base. To complain about this seeming contradiction is to commit a line drawing fallacy.

      Actually, non-US people make up majority of the worlds population. Should they remove anything that can offend someone somewhere? Because then we have nothing there.

      • by artor3 (1344997) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:33PM (#38527092)

        Way to commit the EXACT fallacy that I just said you would commit. Hey, let's try it in the other direction... "If they can't disallow offensive content, then should they allow child porn?" It's no less absurd then thinking that disallowing the middle finger means they have to disallow all content.

        And who cares what the global demographic is? What matters is the google+ demographic, which is predominantly American, with a bunch of Indians, Canadians, and British thrown in. The Muslim membership is miniscule. However, if there were an Iraqi version of the site in which the membership was predominantly Iraqi, it would make sense for them to allow middle fingers but disallow the soles of shoes.

    • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @01:09PM (#38527684)

      "Reasonable" is subjective.

      Again, so what if people get offended?

      The middle finger gesture is offensive

      Certainly not to me. I don't advocate removing things that are offensive to the majority for the sole reason that they are offensive to the majority.

  • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:09PM (#38526718)

    This is a very good policy to keep up the atmosphere in G+ and not deteriote so a myspace or facebook.

    It's another universe, if you want to put up "immature" material, don't go on G+. It's the same as with the Android store or AppStore of IPhone: "you are offered a free platform. But the platform is defined for you. IF you want to express yourself outside of the set boundaries, take your expression onto yourself and your own platforms/tools"

  • by bmo (77928) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:17PM (#38526834)

    While I dislike Facebook, it has one thing going for it:

    They don't do anything if nobody reports you. They don't actively seek out non-compliant accounts unless you are under 13 and are dumb enough to put in your real age. They don't care.

    I can quietly be myself under my assumed name.

    Facebook rapes your account for demographics.
    G+ rapes your account for demographics.

    Pick your poison.

    I am on both, but G+ lays fallow because G+ doesn't have anything that motivates me to move everything over to G+. The last brouhaha with real names turned me off. Active censorship of accounts like this also turns me off.

    As a side note, I didn't look, but I expect ESR to be licking Google's boots on this subject too, as it applies to his "civility" and "hotgirl69 problem."

    --
    BMO

  • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:19PM (#38526876)
    It's Google's business - they can run it however they want. If you walk into a McDonalds and start swearing and cursing out loud, I think it's reasonable _and expected_ to be escorted off the premises. Google is simply doing the same thing, just on the internet. And here's the important part: If you don't like it, don't use it. Easy. Stop bitching and complaining - if you don't like their product, don't use it. Move on.
    • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:34PM (#38527094)

      I suppose the difference is that you'll be escorted off the premises if someone complains. If no-one has a problem with it, what's the problem?

      Google, unfortunately, takes the approach usually preferred by dictatorships and fanatic groups where they decide what is and isn't allowed and then enforces it, regardless of whether the common userbase (or populace) has a problem with it.

      The argument of "don't like it don't use it" starts to fall apart when the service becomes large enough. For example, you may not like Facebook, but refusing to use it locks you out of the service that all your friends use - which is counter-productive. In such cases it is better to demand change. I think that all these services should become regulated when they reach a critical mass to prevent abuse from the owning corporations. If the corps don't like it, they should foster serious competition instead.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:37PM (#38527154)

      As you said it's business, and it's bad business for Google. That's the whole point of complaining. You write a complaint to a company to tell them that you care enough about an issue that you are willing to give them the chance to know why you are angry, instead of just walking out the door without an explanation. I don't agree in whining just to whine, but it's perfectly fine to critique actions from a company.

    • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @01:12PM (#38527734)

      The fact that they can do it doesn't mean they're exempt from criticism.

  • by karuna (187401) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:19PM (#38526884) Homepage

    In Ukraine showing thumbs up with your hand is considered obscene due to some vague reference to erected penis. I have been reprimanded for showing it by older Ukrainians. I think that younger people no longer care about this though.

    Wikipedia also mentions that it is also offensive in Iran but I have no direct experience about it.

  • by jonfr (888673) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:23PM (#38526964) Homepage

    This is why Google+ is failing now. Like other Google Serveries they maintain ridicules rules on what can and cannot be done. This rule problem is in all Google serveries, not just in Google+. This is also why Google+ is now failing. Because once Google+ removes your profile picture. People often remove there Google+ profile, for good.

  • by mapkinase (958129) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:35PM (#38527114) Homepage Journal

    Offensive is not what you or somebody else find offensive. It's a statistically determined measure, determined by number of complaints (whether actual or predicted).

    Number of complaints is determined by number of g+ users who could be offended by gesture, number of people who used that gesture and how overlapping those sets are.

    The gesture will become an issue only if the complaints will be vocal. Nobody removes anything nowadays for theoretical considerations.

    So stop bringing your theoretical examples. This should be actually made an online offense: using theoretical arguments.

  • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:38PM (#38527174)
    I was recently stopped by a local police officer here in Texas because he thought he saw me shoot the finger at another driver ( I didn't but have from time to time ) . He informed me that it was against the law to make offensive gestures. I had never heard this so I did a little digging and discovered it was in fact...law. But these laws often use loosely defining terms like "offensive gesture". Well any gesture can be offensive depending on who interprets it. Perhaps that's why Ashley Esqueda has had a middle finger profile pic the last week or so but changed it today.
  • A better solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cro Magnon (467622) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:45PM (#38527306) Homepage Journal

    Photoshop any hand pictures to remove the offensive finger. Who care if they have 4 fingers on each hand? Or, technically, 3 fingers and a thumb.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @12:52PM (#38527432)
    So, are Google staff going through and flagging these manually, or do they have some kind of algorithm to detect whether a photo has a raised middle finger in it? I wouldn't be surprised if it was the latter, considering this is Google we're talking about. It opens up some interesting new Image Search possibilities...
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @01:19PM (#38527848)
    because some people could be offended by others wearing them... don't laugh... this PC crap is infesting everywhere these days... Google, you idiots, you've opened yourself up to every fringe nut group with an axe to grind to complain about items in profile pictures that they find offensive...
  • by lightknight (213164) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @02:13PM (#38528528) Homepage

    Another sign that Google is losing control -> loosing the morality police on average users.

  • by geminidomino (614729) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @02:40PM (#38528912) Journal

    Unlike most of the posts here, I support the rule, if not the reasoning which, I think we all know, is bullshit.

    The real reason is along the lines of:

    "If we let all of you idiots use your profile pictures to show what an unoriginal, angsty little twaffle you are, then the people who might actually want to join and add to the community are going to be run off. Not because they're afraid of naughty hand gestures that they doubtless throw around like rice at a wedding on every commute home from work, but because they'll go somewhere that it's not a given that they can expect their walls/circles/whatever to be flooded with shitty My Chemical Romance lyrics and whining about boyfriends forgetting your 8-week anniversary of copping a feel in a Jiffy Lube."

    That, at least, I could respect.

  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Thursday December 29, 2011 @02:42PM (#38528942) Homepage

    hey fuck you too, google+! http://lkcl.net/SANY0051.JPG [lkcl.net]

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @02:57PM (#38529138)

    ... they haven't blacklisted the gesture involving dropping your trousers, bending over and showing the camera a big gaper.

    If so, I'm really going to miss the Goatse Guy.

  • by Xeranar (2029624) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @03:33PM (#38529596)

    I mean clearly I should be free to display idiotic hand gestures to anybody in my circle and those who search me! GRR! Ok, really, it's google service and their decision to not let you have the middle finger as a profile picture is their business, something I passively support since we're all big boys and girls who need to use our words and not come across as popped collar pink shirt wearing frat losers. I know freedom of speech is a vague concept most of us understand but the middle finger isn't really protected and google is within their rights to do this.

  • by forgottenusername (1495209) on Thursday December 29, 2011 @05:47PM (#38531444)

    If you have an android device, or even an important email / google voice account, getting banned would be a nightmare. So now you're looking at multiple accounts, which loses the whole 'integrated' advantage.

    Google needs to take a serious look at their banning policies and how they have ripple effects. Being banned from their social media shouldn't affect any of your other accounts. Email abuses (like spamming) are a completely different transgression than not meeting google's (apparently puritan, also seemingly arbitrary) social media standards / rules.

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