Scribd Bans Pornographic Content to Appease Educators

Scribd goes 'Clean,' removing adult content. I totally disagree with this decision. No, it’s not because I necessarily support pornography one way or the other; instead it’s about support free speech, free expression and keeping their users happy. Making pornography a prohibited item in their Terms of Service makes me reminisce about what another large content provider did in 1996.

Who is to judge if a piece of content is pornographic? Maybe a scan of a medical dictionary of the human anatomy or a piece on breast cancer is classified as “pornography.” Don’t tell me that removing otherwise legitimate content is a way of keeping the site pure to educators. Please, don’t tell me you’re going to censor content contributed by users. Not only are they going to remove adult content that is public off of the site, they are going to purge it permanently from user’s uploads. WTF? Just tag the content as unpublished and let the user manage their own uploads in private.

This reminds me of all the censorship decisions that circled AOL in the mid ’90s. No matter how you slice it — AOL tried to please everyone — from parents to the media all the way down to content creators. They failed at it because everyone has a complaint about the content that was hosted by AOL. Either it was vulgar, profane or content contributed to continued path of moral indecency on the Internet; or people were censored and caused a great deal of swirl around the activies of AOL.

The point of bringing this up: Scribd will either stoke the fire with their adult-content creators and have a community backlash and/or the site will be so pure, no one will use it.

The solution to this is to create an area where it is dedicated to adult content. Every time a piece of adult content is accessed, place a NSFW barrier up, requiring people to affirm their age. YTMND tried this for their adult-themed content [for a while], I don’t see why Scribd couldn’t do the same. Also, content identified as containing adult content will never make it up to a promoted area, so they get to skate by Safe Harbor guidelines.

Additionally, a viewer must be able to quickly and easily report content that is adult-themed to their staff for review and recategorization. Equally as important, is the ability for content authors to request a second review on their content to have it published without a NSFW barrier.

It’s always interesting to watch newer Web 2.0 sites lose less and less of their “open and accessible” ideologies the more money, sponsors and investors gets involved. Regardless, I hope Scribd will make the right decision to support all their user’s content, no matter what they upload, but at the same time support the needs of educators. Think different, for once.