Flickr Criticized For Regional Censorship

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Yahoo’s Flickr is the latest target of criticism after restricting access to erotic art photos in Hong Kong. Though Internet companies self-censoring in certain countries is not a new dilemma, this incident coincides with a blogger that faces fines for just linking to offending material.

It’s the timing that’s the fishiest, as Flickr Hong Kong disallowed users from turning off its safe search function and only allows access to "safe" photos, just after censoring Oiwan Lam’s posting of a (rather tasteful) artistic photo (NSFW if you’re boss doesn’t like breasts) of a topless woman.

All of this occurs just as Owain refused to remove the photo or the link to the photo, and was found guilty of violating local decency standards by Hong Kong thought police…er, the Obscene Articles Tribunal.

Interestingly, according to Rebecca MacKinnon, Electronic Frontier Foundation staff photos have also been censored.

Oiwan, already a target for calling on readers to hyperlink to pornographic material in a kind of protest, and thus facing fines up to around $50,000 for doing so, thinks Flickr’s local censorship of the photo is suspicious. From an interview:

Flickr had a new localized policy: from mid-June, the policy was directed specifically at the users in four regions such that the users from those regions will not see some of the photographs. These four regions are Germany, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong. This policy went into effect in mid-June. TELA referred my photograph to the Obscene Articles Tribunal on June 22nd. The Obscene Articles Tribunal determined within one week (that is, on June 28th) that the photograph was Category II: Indecent. This was some kind of coincidence — Flickr changed its policy and then the Obscene Articles Tribune received my photograph for classification purposes.

There’s no proof at this point whether there is an actual connection between Flickr’s new "regional censorship" policy and Oiwan’s troublesome outcome. But given Yahoo’s notorious cooperation with speech-oppressive governments in the past, no one would be surprised.

Flickr Criticized For Regional Censorship
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