Friday, February 27, 2015

Why this blog can still feature pictures of women driving

Louis Gray shared something from the Blogger team, which I will reprint in full.

Hello everyone,

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. So rather than implement this change, we’ve decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.

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.

Bloggers whose content is consistent with this and other policies do not need to make any changes to their blogs.

Thank you for your continued feedback.

The Blogger Team

Gray, who happens to be an employee of Google, added the following comment when he shared the link. While the "our" in Gray's comment presumably refers to Google, the "I'm" is presumably a personal comment.

This reversal is actually a very important stance that highlights our belief in supporting free speech and keeping the web open. I'm very happy this has been reversed. It's the right thing to do.

Why is this the right thing to do?

Because Google, like many multinational companies, has to operate in different countries and in different cultures.

Such companies have to tread a very delicate balance between the company's own principles, and the principles of each country in which the company operates. Some of these are cultural - for example, there are certain people in the United States who are culturally offended by the sight of a woman's exposed breasts. Of course, others are offended by attendance at movie theaters.

Some of these principles, however, are legislative. Men wearing skirts in Italy (what does the Scotsman do?). Doing bad things on the Internet in the United States. Doing bad things on the Internet in China.

And doing bad things on the Internet in Saudi Arabia - specifically, violating the Council of Ministers Resolution from 12 February 2001, reproduced at the end of this post.

Looking at the Saudi example, what if someone wanted to speak about the problem of porn in the United States? And what if that person was Sarah Palin? And what if she wrote this?

Jesus Christ the Son of God says that porn is bad, and I'm going to drive my car to Washington DC and tell that to that idiot Obama!

...that statement (which infringes the sanctity of Islam, promotes the subversive idea of female drivers, and damages the dignity of a head of state) would never be seen in Saudi Arabia.

But this goes well beyond morals. Multinational firms have to comply with the laws of each country in which they do business. As a result, a current visit to the Spanish Google News page - - yields the following result (this is the English version):

We’re incredibly sad to announce that, due to recent changes in Spanish law, we have removed Spanish publishers from Google News and closed Google News in Spain. We understand that readers like you may be disappointed, too, and we want to share the reasons behind this decision.

Google News is a free service, loved and trusted by hundreds of millions of users around the world and available in more than 70 international editions, covering 35 languages. It includes everything from the world’s biggest newspapers to small, local publications and bloggers. Publishers can choose whether or not they want their articles to appear in Google News -- and the vast majority choose to be included for very good reason. Google News creates real value for these publications by driving people to their websites, which in turn helps generate advertising revenues.

But sadly, as a result of a new Spanish law, we had to close Google News in Spain. This legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach was not sustainable.

We remain committed to helping the news industry meet challenges and look forward to continuing to work with our thousands of partners globally, as well as in Spain, to help them increase their online readership and revenues.

So while Louis Gray probably doesn't want to see naked handcuffed women sleeping (the "sleeping" part would really be offensive to Gray), he understands that it is better than the alternative in which all "objectionable content" is removed.

Here is the Saudi resolution that governs Internet use:

All Internet users in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shall refrain from publishing or accessing data containing some of the following:

1.Anything contravening a fundamental principle or legislation, or infringing the sanctity of Islam and its benevolent Shari’ah, or breaching public decency.

1.Anything contrary to the state or its system.

2.Reports or news damaging to the Saudi Arabian armed forces, without the approval of the competent authorities.

3.Publication of official state laws, agreements or statements before they are officially made public, unless approved by the competent authorities.

1.Anything damaging to the dignity of heads of states or heads of credited diplomatic missions in the Kingdom, or harms relations with those countries.

2.Any false information ascribed to state officials or those of private or public domestic institutions and bodies, liable to cause them or their offices harm, or damage their integrity.

4.The propagation of subversive ideas or the disruption of public order or disputes among citizens.

5.Anything liable to promote or incite crime, or advocate violence against others in any shape or form.

6.Any slanderous or libellous material against individuals.

Furthermore, certain trade directives stipulate that all companies, organisations and individuals benefiting from the service shall observe the following:

1.Not to carry out any activity through the internet, such as selling, advertising, or recruitment, except in accordance with the commercial licenses and registers in force.

2.Not to carry out any financial investment activity or offer shares for subscription, except when in possession of the necessary licenses to do so.

3.Not to promote or sell medicines or foodstuff carrying any medicinal claims, or cosmetics, except those registered and approved by the Ministry of Health.

4.Not to advertise or promote or sell substances covered by other international agreements to which the Kingdom is a party, except for those with the necessary licenses.

5.Not to advertise trade fairs or organise trade delegations visits or tourist tours or trade directories except with the necessary licences.

All private and government departments, and individuals, setting up websites or publishing files or pages, shall observe and ensure the following:

1.Respect commercial and information convention.

2.Approval of government authorities for setting up websites or publishing files or pages for or about themselves.

3.Approval of the Ministry of Information for setting up of media-type websites which publish news on regular basis, such as newspapers, magazines and books.

4.Good taste in the design of websites and pages.

5.Effective protection of data on websites and pages.

6.All government and private bodies, and individuals shall take full responsibility for their websites and pages, and the information contained therein.

The Resolution refers to a set of regulatory and technical procedures aimed at ensuring the safety of the constituents of the national network (the internet inside the Kingdom) through effective programming and mechanical means. These include the following:

1.Service providers shall determine internet access eligibility through access accounts, user identification and effective passwords for the use of the access point or subsequent points and linking that through tracing and investigation programmes that record the time spent, addresses accessed or to which or through which access was attempted, and the size and type of files copied, whenever possible or necessary.

1.The use of anti-virus programmes and protection against concealing addresses or printing passwords and files.

2.Endeavour to avoid errors in applications that may provide loopholes that may be exploited for subversive activities or to obtain data not permitted for use for whatever reason.

3.Restriction of the provision of internet services to the end-user through the internet service unit at King Abdulaziz city for sciences and technology.

1.Keep a manual and electronic register with comprehensive information on end-users, their addresses, telephone numbers, purpose of use, and private internet access accounts, and provide the authorities with a copy thereof, if necessary.

4.Not to publish any printed directories containing subscribers’ and end-users’ names and addresses, without their agreement.

Al-Watan newspaper 21/11/1421
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