CrunchFund partner and TechCrunch contributor MG Siegler made quite the stir over the past few days, when Google removed his Google+ image that showed him raising his middle finger. Once Google removed the image, Siegler uploaded the photograph a second time, only to be removed again. The second time, Google provided the following explanation to Siegler:
As the first point of interaction with a user’s profile, all profile photos on Google+ are reviewed to make sure they are in line with our User Content and Conduct Policy. 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. If you have further questions about the policies on Google+ you can visit http://www.google.com/intl/en/+/policy/content.html, or click the “Content Policy” link located in the footer of Google+ pages.
Google explained that this is not directed just towards Siegler. Google revealed that it reviews every user’s profile when it is first created, and that all profile pictures are reviewed. Siegler himself wrote a post on the subject, and then later followed up. Marketing Land pointed to the rule Seigler broke that some might call debatable:
10. Sexually Explicit Material Do not distribute content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Do not drive traffic to commercial pornography sites. Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content. For example, do not use a photo that is a close-up of a person’s buttocks or cleavage.
In his first post, Siegler commented on why he thought this is an issue:
My problem isn’t so much with the fact that I couldn’t have a profile picture of myself giving everyone the finger — which I can and do on Twitter and elsewhere — it’s that no one bothered to tell me or warn me before they just went into my account and deleted the picture. What if this was the only place I had stored the picture?
Meanwhile, MySpace’s founder and avid Google+ user Tom Anderson made a comment on the whole situation. Surprisingly, he seems to strongly disagree with Siegler, and he said that MySpace did similar back in the day, and that Facebook and Twitter do it too. Anderson backed up Google+, almost calling their actions necessary.
“In any case, I would respectfully submit that we, the users of Google+ (and Facebook or Twitter) don’t need to see you flipping us off, nor do we need to see you naked, or displaying something else generally considered offensive. When a social network let’s that stuff slide, it turns into a cesspool that no one wants to visit… sorta like MySpace was,” said Anderson.
It is debatable whether Siegler’s image could be considered sexual, but some might consider it offensive nonetheless. In the end, it comes down to personal standards, but it is nice to know Google’s stance on the matter. You can read their full list of policies here.
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