This is not going to be a very coherent post, I suspect. More of an angry “I need to vent” kind of rant.
Hot on the heels of being censored by Vimeo came the news that Blogger (owned by Google) was giving users 4 days to remove any adult advertising from their sites. The email sent out to those who had voluntarily labelled their blogs NSFW didn’t bother to define “adult” or “advertisement” and it left thousands of people scrambling to move their blogs or delete content based on their understanding of the vague new guidelines. I have a couple of very old blogs with nice URLs that I did my best to “clean up”.
Long-time adult blogger Bacchus calls this the Pornocalypse and he says it comes for us all. It’s come to Ebay, Blogger, Amazon, WordPress, Paypal, Kickstarter, the iPhone, Google Glass and Tumblr among many others. I’m going to re-iterate some of what he’s said here, just for my own venty benefit. And excuse me if I put on my complainy Grandma Scrotum old lady hat while I’m at it.
When I started in 2000, the internet was a lovely free place. It didn’t have the kind of government censorship that saw the editors of Australian Women’s Forum getting out protractors to make sure the penises were turgid but not erect. I could put as many photos of hard, naked men up on my sites as I liked and no-one was going to stop me.
Of course, to do that I had to pay $200 for a CD of 150 photos of said naked men, pay for hosting and learn how to use html, but beyond that, life was good. Google came along and rewarded people like me who made useable, useful sites. I did my best to be an honest pornographer and offer up non-spammy content with a few ads and I was able to make a good living. I didn’t need to rely on social media for traffic.
In the 13 years since, Google and a small number of other large companies have bought up the most popular sites on the web and the censorship net has closed in. The more corporate and profit-driven a site becomes, the less it wants anything to do with porn. And the more social media has become the mainstay of online interaction, the more porn has been pushed into the corners.
I have long participated in social media but I’ve always had my own network of sites to feed me traffic. Like Bacchus, I’ve long known that it’s best to have your own domains when you’re in this business and not to rely on outside sites.
Then – about six months ago – Google moved to downgrade porn in its results. They are deliberately giving a lower ranking to any site that is considered to be adult in nature. And their ridiculous “exact match domain” penalty has meant that relevant sites have also kicked to the back of the index. Thus, my site Porn Movies For Women, with the domain name pornmoviesforwomen.com, which is absolutely all about porn movies for women, is now considered by Google to be spam.
I could cope with this, as I’ve coped with so many other changes to the algorithm over the last 13 years. I make changes to sites that were previously considered relevant, try and make more good content, try not to be spammy, try to follow the rules. But that’s not enough anymore.
What has me feeling angry and frustrated is the latest move by Google to give higher ranking to sites and pages with Google+ “authorship”. If you write an article and you have a Google+ account, you can claim that piece and Google will consider it more authoritative, moving it up in search rankings. This sounds entirely sensible until you realise that Google+ has a “no porn” and “no pseudonyms” policy. Their user policy explicitly states: “Do not drive traffic to commercial pornography sites.”
I would be perfectly happy to never use Google+ at all, though I was originally excited about it. In 2011 I was all ready to jump ship from Facebook and use it until they announced their idiotic “real name” rule*. When I heard that people were having their Gmail and Youtube accounts summarily deleted because they tried to use their regular internet handle, I backed away slowly and let sleeping dogs lie.
And yet now Google is pretty much insisting that I have a Google+ account if I want my articles, blog posts and sites to appear in their search results. They want to put an image of me and my real name next to anything I might write, to prove that what’s in the article or site is relevant. Never mind that I work in an industry where pseudonyms are necessary for safety and legal reasons. And never mind that any content I might produce will possibly break their typically vague user policy (define “commercial pornography”, please?).
So… the problem is this. I can no longer make my own happy porny way in the world because the world’s largest search engine has moved the goalposts. Indeed – if I may mix metaphors – it’s completely tilted the board Google is deliberately trying to hide my work from the world and is determined to ensure that anything erotic is less visible. And the new way of being seen – Google+ – is also closed to me. Being unable to make use of social media and video sharing sites is one thing; being shut out of the main search site that everyone uses is entirely another.
I’ve lost my independence and I no longer have any choice in the matter. I’m being forced to rely on Google while being simultaneously blocked by it.
Put simply, it’s not fair. It’s discriminatory. It’s anti-competitive. I’m being clitblocked and it’s making me mad as hell.
The double whammy of reduced ranking for porn sites and Google+’s anti-porn policy essentially amounts to large scale censorship on the part of Google. When you consider that Google now controls so much of the internet and our “public spaces” have become increasingly owned by major corporate interests, it’s a huge problem.
There is part of me that absolutely despairs at this. Why, in 2013, is sex still such a huge problem for people? Why does every corporation out there assume that I’m evil or criminal or not to be trusted because I want to make porn? How am I supposed to change porn from within and make it more ethical, more feminist, more positive when I’m blocked at every turn?
Vent aside, the only thing to do is just go with the flow. I have an existing Google+ account that is unfortunately linked to everything (Gmail, Youtube, Blogger) but I’m not going to risk it by actually using it. I wrote on Twitter that I was basically afraid to use Google+ but also felt obligated to do so – just the kind of user reaction you want from an online service, right?
I will make a new account, one that can be easily risked if Google decides to summarily delete it. And I’ll see if I can make this “authorship” thing work. The trick is coming up with a suitable “real name”.
And I’ll start hoping that the internet will shift soon. Maybe we need to make another layer of the web where governments and corporations can’t interfere. And maybe everyone will get sick of Google and start using IxQuick, which promises complete privacy and currently gives better results.
And meanwhile, there’s the alternative universe of porn-friendly sites that echo the main ones: Offbeatr (Kickstarter). Paxum (Paypal). Pornterist. Fuckbook.
Except that I don’t want to be shunted off to the porn ghetto. I don’t want the internet to have this sex-based apartheid. What I want is to share my erotic films and writing with people who don’t normally frequent porn sites. I want to get the word out to everyone about feminist and ethical porn. And I want my porn to be found by everyone when they are legitimately looking for it. Right now, Google isn’t letting them do that and, quite frankly, it sucks.
* Google+ apparently relaxed their pseudonym policy in January 2012 but it doesn’t seem to hold for porn folks. I know of some people who have applied to use their porn names and been denied. Also, given what we now know about Google’s collaboration with government spies and PRISM, it’s not surprising they don’t want pseudonyms.
** Pic above popped up when I was searching for a 2004 video that predicted the rise and conglomeration of Google called Epic 2014 (it made some rather accurate calls). The screenshot above shows how Google is now showing Google+ profiles in search results. You’ll see a lot more of these results popping up. I screenshotted that one because of the author’s wholly wrong call that Google might kill off Google+ this year. Nope, instead it killed off Reader, even though the latter was generating far more traffic.