Flickr's in hot water again

June 14, 2007 // Tagged in: cencorship, flickr, Impressions, Internet

Yesterday Flickr released localization for their service in German, Spanish, French and a few other languages. Which would be a good thing, if they wouldn’t in return censor search results for certain users of these localizations. Images that are flagged by Flickr as “moderate” or “restricted” will not show up in search results for German users for example. And you can’t turn this so-called “safe search” off either.

Considering that only last week famed blogger Violet Blue had her account more or less turned off, this doesn’t seem like coincidence anymore. While Violet Blue has had her account restored (with a personal apology by Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Flickr), the issue with the safe-search result is still unresolved.

In a Flickr group discussing the drama, Stewart replies too, but what he says really is too vague to mean anything:

We really apologize for the delay in responding to these threads. The whole Flickr team has been in ongoing discussions, trying to hammer out a solution.

We have absolutely no intention of censoring the content on the community’s behalf. It is always been our intention that Flickr members participate to whatever extent they want and are as free as possible create their own experience. Currently, switching the SafeSearch function off is not available for German members. It is a really complex situation — we have been in deliberation on this for a while, and we had to make the decision whether or not to leave Germany and the German language out of the international launch.

The decision came down to the wire, but we decided to include Germany. We’re still hoping that that was the right decision. It definitely was not a decision that was made lightly and there is no intention to annoy, frustrate or inconvenience Flickr members in Germany. Rest assured, we do hear you loud and clearly (painfully loud, even) and are doing our best. We hope to have more to say soon.

And about seven hours and hundreds of still furious Flickr-users later, this comment:

Unfortunately I can’t give a more detailed update yet or any concrete good news, but please don’t take our silence to mean that nothing is happening. We are doing our best to make the situation better as quickly as possible. I’m sure it doesn’t make a lot of sense from the outside, and we would prefer to be able to share all the context — believe me, this is extremely uncomfortable and we’d strongly prefer not to be in this position — but we don’t have a choice at this time.

Again, we will post more as soon as we can — in the meantime, all we can do is apologize.

While I do sense honest discomfort on Stewart’s side, I just can’t help but feel that there are things in the universe a lot more complicated than the fact that some people display their tits in public. Enraging your loyal fanbase because somehow you’ve turned the issue of potentially offending images into rocket-science, really looks ridiculous from where I’m standing. And considering that many of those fans actually pay good money to use the service, it’s just not ridiculous, it’s downright bad business-sense.

Take that from me, the man who’s as much a business man as Donald Trump is a sensitive singer-songwriter. Which I’m not either, by the way.