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Regionalism and the Influx of Asian Eyeballs

Boingboing reports an alarming case of an art photographer being censored by Flickr:

As I understand that statement, it is because of Flickr censoring my account that the tribunal moved forward with their prosecution. A direct result of censorship on Flickrs part. Flickr doesn’t like the word censorship but that’s just what they’re doing.

Let me be clear: Flickr is instituting a global censorship program that allows for regional censorship of photos. As a Flickr user, I was not informed that I fell into such a program or even in fact that such a program existed.

Flickr won’t even respond to my emails about the specific problems with my account or as to why it’s being filtered. It took outsiders contacting me before I realized I was being censored. I managed to get a form letter about how I could go through all of my photos and ask for a re-review. I did this and most, if not all of my photos are properly tagged. Still, I wasn’t told of any specific offending photos. My re-review included the the previously mentioned photo that’s causing Lam so many problems. After writing several more emails, I am still waiting to hear back. Flickr doesn’t seem to care.

My random thoughts:

  1. Yahoo doesn’t have a good track record on privacy and turning over user account to local governments. That’s a given, and that’s bad.
  2. It seems inevitable that portal sites will implement regional domains for content. Yahoo and Google face multiple legal challenges around the globe to comply with local standards. The only way they can comply and still have a local presence (in terms of ecommerce) is to comply with these local standards.
  3. Flickr has a significant amount of adult content (usually private material), and there are lots of blogger accounts on google catering to porn. Also there are lots of yahoo groups catering to that audience as well.
  4. Many regions in the world are porn-free zones, much as it may surprise people in the West. Often, it simply means local networks need to have content filters (either at the desktop or LAN or maybe ISP). In China, the solution is much more ornate (and insidious). We may not agree with this attitude towards the web. However, we have to acknowledge that this attitude might be more common than our own.
  5. The rise of China’s internet population poses a bandwidth threat — yes a threat  — to free web applications. Suppose you are an upstart video sharing service in Mexico where people can upload videos.  Suppose it is free. Can you imagine the throngs of Asians who will want to use these services outside the purview of the Chinese firewall (far outstripping Western demand). How do you set up a profitable advertising scheme in a world where the influx of Asian eyeballs bring you insufficient revenue?

Maybe I haven’t thought that last point too clearly. It’s relatively trivial for web 2.0 companies to redirect international visitors to another portion of their site or to a page that says (Americans only can use this service). I have to wonder how often people from Asia report being from a Western country on registration   to gain access to a free service?Perhaps bandwidth will continue to fall in price (making my concern irrelevant), but isn’t the logical conclusion for Web 2.0 startups to limit access from Asian countries?

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