On Monday, Google sent an email to Blogger users who had blogs with adult content saying that there would be a chance in policy next month, effectively banning any adult content blogs. Now, Google has reversed that decision, allowing people running adult blogs to continue.
Last night, a rep from the Blogger team posted to the support page:
This week, we announced a change to Blogger's porn policy. We've had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities. Blog owners should continue to mark any blogs containing sexually explicit content as "adult" so that they can be placed behind an 'adult content' warning page.
This message was also given to bloggers who had written into the Blogger support page seeking help with what to do with their accounts. A rep for Google confirmed the change in policy to BuzzFeed News.
I thought the ban was a terrible idea — it meant that people who had devoted huge amounts of time, labor, and love into their blogs would have that taken away (adult blogs wouldn't have been technically deleted, they'd be turned "private," which means they'd be invisible to readers). While porn spam on Blogger may be an issue, there are myriad other types of blogs that contain adult content. I talked to several bloggers who would have been affected, across a variety of topics.
One such blog, Slut Sistas, is a literary review blog for romance novels run by three woman. They interview authors, review books, and post images of racy book covers. The women were particularly worried that while Google said that adult content with artist merit would be exempted, they didn't indicate clearly how individual blogs could be considered. "We have been worried about the new policy as we commit to help authors with new releases & in doing so must be able to post on certain days during certain times," one of the bloggers told BuzzFeed News via email. "We can't have our blog randomly go private if it is deemed as having explicit content. This process of review by Blogger/Google is also very vague. How many days would our blog be stuck in private & who determines if it's art or porn?"
Another sex blogger was upset because of the potential loss of the blog that had been both his creative outlet and a way to find a community. "In addition to having a record of our sexual life both together and apart, we sought a community of like-minded individuals," Jack from the blog Frisky in the 916 told BuzzFeed News. Jack's wife co-authors the blog. "The majority of those we know offline are far less candid about the subject, and it pained us to consider that those few who viewed sex as we do had grown more conservative with age or parenthood. Additionally, I enjoy writing, and I'm fairly certain that more people have read this blog than literally anything else I've written."
An early employee of Blogger, Jason Shellen, told BuzzFeed News earlier this week that he thought the new policy may have been a result of Google's shifting priorities. The original Blogger team had staunchly believed in it as a platform for free expression, and he was disappointed to hear about the change. Ironically, former Blogger founder Ev Williams, who went on later to found Twitter and then Medium, posted on Monday about new changes on Medium that would make the platform even more blogging-friendly for users and readers.
Turning all adult blogs private would have been a devastating blow for the fabric of the internet. What was likely meant to be an anti-spam measure would've taken away not only people's beloved works of art and communities of readership, but also would've deleted incomprehensible amounts of internet history. Google is a big company with deep pockets, and to remove who knows how many (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of the works that its users had been making for more than a decade just because of some pesky spam seemed like a massive overreaction.
I'm glad that Google listened and did the right thing by reversing this decision. I hope that whatever weird interdepartmental power struggle that led to the bad idea in the first place won't be revisited.
Owning Blogger means being the steward of millions of people's deepest creative thoughts and feelings and art (or even just crummy blogs! whatever!). As that steward, Google has an ethical responsibility preserve that for the internet. This is a happy day for the internet.