This week I was informed by Flickr that due to a complaint from another user, every photo in my account was now labeled moderate rather than safe. It was tough to care about something so arbitrary. But then I discovered that fashion groups would not accept any of my pics because of the moderate label, which must be, for reasons that I can’t imagine, undesirable. In the notification email that Flickr sent me, I was instructed to go through my photos and ensure that all the not safe images were filtered as moderate before asking that my account be re-reviewed. Only after the re-review could the global status of the account be restored to safe. The posted guidelines for photos that are moderate rather than safe read: “A good rule of thumb is, bare breasts and bottoms are ‘moderate.’ Full frontal nudity is ‘restricted.’”
Because Flickr does not identify the photo that offended someone, because Flickr’s guidelines are unhelpfully limited, and because Flickr impounds every one of a user’s photos, Flickr coerces the user into taking a paranoid approach to self-censorship. I ended up filtering as “moderate” many images that no sensible person would judge not safe, even for a child. (A child who is, one presumes, not scarred by images of pointed guns and sad clowns.) I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what Flickr meant by “bare breasts.” Usually in North America, it’s nipples that upset people. (Did anyone else notice that Angelina Jolie wore that crazy two-inch-thick, nipple-obliterating bra everywhere in Tomb Raider, including when she went to bed?) But what if nipples were only the tip, so to speak, of the iceberg, as it were? Cleavage is, technically speaking, a portion—or rather two portions, usually generous, ideally symmetrical— of female breasts laid bare to the camera and thus to the human eye. Is cleavage not safe? What about breasts that are technically bare but covered by an arm or washed out with a lighting effect? What about breasts that are bared for feeding an infant? Are the breasts of skinny models in avant-garde costumes not safe? Or is it just the genuinely “erotic” breasts, the ones that are ginormous and busting out of a bustier, that are not safe?
Once I had filtered my photos, I asked Flickr for the “re-review” and requested that they provide me with three things. First, a more detailed definition of what is not safe. Second, a list of any not-yet-censored photos that they consider to be not safe. This would save me from going on another wild nip chase. Third, the rationale behind Flickr’s absurd and lazy way of handling complaints. This last they did not supply, which surprises me, since Flickr is a business with paying customers who want to be reassured that they are not handing their money over to irresponsible or irrational or just plain bigoted people. I was sent a fuller description of not safe T&A. This list spoke directly to what one might see in my photos, so I have to wonder whether it is actually company policy, or just the things that the person who worked on my case discovered while reviewing my photos. I quote: “A good rule of thumb is, female breasts, bare/thong bottom, see through topless nudity, nipple covers, etc. images need to be marked as ‘moderate.’ Genitalia/pubic hair images need to be marked as ‘restricted.’” And I received notification that the two photos in this post are not safe. There are no nipples visible in the image featuring the pink lingerie by Chocolate Atelier. The darkening is part of the pattern of the lace, something that is obvious to anyone who looks long enough to see. When it comes to the photo featuring the Graves latex suit, I have to laugh. Anyone who thinks that a latex-covered bum is a bare bum needs to try latex him or her self. Or at least imagine it: imagine the talcum powder, the sweat, the sound of the fabric, the way it encases you in an impenetrable cocoon of taut tautiness… Ahem. Well, now that I’ve thought about it, I have to admit that that pic really is not safe after all. It made me think about sensual experiences and, forgive me for putting this so bluntly, sex. Something I would never have done without its nasty prompting. Speaking of, I want to thank the person who objected to my pic(s). This is probably one of the best pieces of writing I’ve done all year.