Censoring web images

When I linked to my recent Tom Bianchi posting (complete with photos) in a Facebook posting, Emily Rizzo pointed us to

An article in the NY Times [“Policing the Web’s Lurid Precincts”, in the Technology part of the Business Day section for today] on the low wage workers who screen and censor web images including, presumably, this photo. Not a good job to have…

Apparently the job of dealing with “despicable and illegal images” (in the words of a former MySpace security officer) is very stressful, and the company reported on here, Telecommunications On Demand, tries to help the screeners over the rough spots (decent pay and reasonable hours might be a big help — I suspect these are contract workers who don’t get benefits, either — but that would cost more than the current arrangement). Other companies actually hire counselors for the purpose.

Then again, Facebook relies on its users to turn potential offenders in.

I wonder when They will come for me.

(Note: none of this counts as censorship, within the meaning of the law in the U.S., since it’s regulated not by any sort of government entity, but by private companies — there’s that problematic private again — who are merely enforcing the rules they have obliged users to agree to.)

One Response to “Censoring web images”

  1. IrrationalPoint Says:

    The NYTimes article includes this passage:

    Workers at Telecommunications On Demand, who make $8 to $12 an hour, view photos that have been stripped of information about the users who posted them. Rapidly cycling through pages of 300 images each, they are asked to flag material that is obviously pornographic or violent, illegal in a certain country or deemed inappropriate by a specific Web site.

    Which seems to me to suggest that the images are stripped of context. I can understand the reasons why some websites might want to have their regulations that way, but can also see that there might be (at least) some situations where the context of the image is crucial. Curious.

    I wonder when They will come for me.

    The NYTimes article suggests that adult porn is the least of Their worries.


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