What defines ‘adult content’ and what exactly do you mean by explicit?


I’m working on a research project about women’s use of the Internet to get information about sexuality. I posted this to the site project partners use to communicate, about the site we use.

 

Many servers and forums are based in the US, therefore the US research team’s description of context is relevant to each of Erotics Project research countries. Sex Work Awareness is the US organization, and co-founder Audacia Ray pointed out to me that Ning, the networking site used for the Erotics Project, instituted a policy excluding ‘adult’ groups on the site. The research project information is not ‘adult’ but this is part of the context that we will include, which we discuss on Ning, bringing this exercise to a meta-level. The real question is how this plays out and affects users.

Ning’s blog points out that the adult groups were the subject of more complaints than others and required more work for the company than other groups because of this. This is reasonable. However, if complaints are the criteria, such justification could be used to shut down forums about any topic, including non-adult themes like our research project discussion, if enough people complain. In other realms, this fear leads people to over-censor their speech and actions. The lack of clarity about what constitutes adult content and groups could contribute to exactly this kind of self-censorship. For example, the US requires an "anti-prostitution pledge": grant recipients must have a policy "explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking". No aid agency promotes prostitution, but because there is no clarity or guidance on what this means in practice, organizations have become hyper-vigilant and in some places, this has led to excluding sex workers from services, including health clinics.

Ning has not eliminated sex workers’ groups and hosts groups like ours that address sexual issues. But where is the line where these groups become ‘adult’? It is imperative not to let complaints be the only criteria because then complaints become a tool that could be used politically to censor ideas and discussions that some people don’t want to happen. Sensitive topics could include sexual harassment, breast health, reproductive health, and many more.

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  • invalid-0

    I would hope the divide is pretty clear between sites addressing substantial topics associated with sexuality, and sites that exist only to titillate viewers. If Ning’s policy were to give you any grief, it would be only because they’ve lost sight of why it was instituted in the first place. Complaints schmonplaints, they’d get ten times as much grief from a site discussing abortion rights.

    • melissa-ditmore

      I could have agreed with you until today, when the sex workers community on Ning was deleted. I was told (I was not a member and didn’t see it myself) that the community had no adult content but existed to discuss issues. I don’t know if awareness of the community’s existence led to more complaints – about what? – and its deletion. I’m disappointed and discouraged by the discontinuation of an online community of a marginalized group of people who have real needs for  communication and community to share strategies about combating violence, stigma and discrimination.

  • invalid-0

    So much for giving them the benefit of the doubt. The Ning folks clearly don’t care about their platform hosting real discussion on real social issues—they just want to play it safe.

    I think this is a good example of when it’s worthwhile to set up your own site (on your own domain) and discussion platform, rather than being held hostage to someone else’s terms and conditions. Setting up and adminning a site is real work, of course, but the issue of software/speech freedom is a lot more significant for your community than, say, the community of Star Wars fans.

  • melissa-ditmore

    Ning reports that they are working to restore it, and that the sex worker community was hacked rather than deleted.

  • invalid-0

    Well, that’s good to hear! (The restoration part, anyway.) Looks like Ning doesn’t have such a limited perspective after all.

    I suppose you could make hay out of this by addressing how the “cyber-presence” of marginalized groups and safe-space discussions is often attacked by hacker/cracker types. (The hacking of Feministing.com some time back comes to mind, for one.)

  • http://www.travestisohbet.net invalid-0

    This is reasonable. However, if complaints are the criteria, such justification could be used to shut down forums about any topic, including non-adult themes like our research project discussion, if enough people complain. In other realms, this fear leads people to over-censor their speech and actions.Good thanks