Google just launched a new search technology that speeds up the already mindbogglingly fast process by which you can find information online. I read about it in the New York Times this morning. It launched yesterday and it's called Google Instant. It works like this: as you type your search string Google begins finding results and displaying them before you hit "search." The list changes as you continue typing. If you begin to type "censorship" for example, by the time you type "CEN" you get search results for Central Park. Type the "S" and you get results for Census. Type the "O" and you get censorship-related results. This all happens at the speed of typing. Fascinating. I was wondering whether I thought this was distracting or helpful when I read something that really pissed me off:
I don't think that automatic filtering for "violence, hate or pornography" makes sense in the first place - users should be able to control their own filtering - but I certainly don't think that "nude" should be filtered because of a possible connection to pornography. I wondered what this looked like in practice, and I also wondered what else was filtered.
I went to my computer to try it out. I started typing.
N (Netflix) NU (Nurse Jackie) NUD (...nothing at all!)
It seems to me that Super Bowl Controversy is a sport unto itself. This year the controversy centers on an anti-abortion ad by Focus On The Family. The ad features football star Tim Tebow and his mother discussing her choice not to abort, despite medical advice that it might be best for her health, when she was pregnant with him.
Focus on the Family is an exrtraordinarily regressive organization when it comes to women's rights and sexual freedom and I would not expect to like any ad of theirs. But this one in particular is galling because the only reason it tugs at our hearts is that Pam Tebow HAD a choice, one that she exercised after private discussions with her family and her doctors. Yet her very exercising of this choice is being used to swing public opinion in a direction that would take choice away from other women.
Grand Opening of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health Censored by Pawtucket, RI Mayor in Response to Anonymous ComplaintSubmitted by BeckySharp on 22 September 2009 - 11:26am
By Rebecca Chalker, author of The Clitoral Truth and articles on sexuality and women’s health.
The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, new non-profit educational organization focusing pleasure and sexual advocacy issues, was scheduled to hold its Grand Opening in Pawtucket, Rhode Island on Saturday, September 26. The Center’s Director is Megan Andelloux, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island (1997) and a Certified Sexuality Educator of the American Association of Sexuality Education, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) and a Board Certified Sexologist by the American College of Sexologists.
Last week Andelloux, learned that the Pawtucket City Council had received a complaint “warning” about the Center’s opening and premier event. “I was then informed that without proper zoning and event licenses, I would be arrested if I held the event in Pawtucket,” she says. “Although I had landlord approval and the building is zoned for retail, business, entertainment, and office use, I was told that I had to get a special zoning application for ‘education’ and approval,” which typically takes up to two months. She had to scramble to find alternative space in which to hold the Grand Opening event and retained a lawyer.
The Grand Opening will be a three-hour extravaganza of sex-positive, health-promoting information featuring nationally recognized experts including Bill Taverner, former Director of Education for Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey, Gina Ogden Ph.D., psychologist and author of The Return of Desire, Barbara Carrellas, author of Urban Tantra, Elizabeth Wood, founder of Sex in the Public Square, an online community forum devoted to sexuality issues, myself, and Carol Queen, Director of the Center for Sex and Culture, a similar educational forum in San Francisco sex-positive sexuality education and support to diverse populations. It may be no coincidence that Queen and her partner Robert Lawrence, had a similar call about their Center recently.
I'm working on a research project about women's use of the Internet to get information about sexuality. I posted this to the site project partners use to communicate, about the site we use.
Many servers and forums are based in the US, therefore the US research team's description of context is relevant to each of Erotics Project research countries. Sex Work Awareness is the US organization, and co-founder Audacia Ray pointed out to me that Ning, the networking site used for the Erotics Project, instituted a policy excluding 'adult' groups on the site. The research project information is not 'adult' but this is part of the context that we will include, which we discuss on Ning, bringing this exercise to a meta-level. The real question is how this plays out and affects users.
Click here to read more
Heather Corinna (on her Amazon blog) explains:
In other words, it [her book] is no longer listed in the sales ranks with other books of its subject or genre, no matter how good my sales are, or if my sales are above others who are currently listed. As well, my book, as is the case with many others, is not currently listed anymore in the subject heading appropriate to it. That deranking can massively impact us as authors, and also can impact consumers, particularly those who are trying to seek out material on a subject broadly without knowing what books are available by title or author. And with books that serve any sort of marginalized population or subject matter, finding them offline is often tough. Deranking books like mine further marginalizes the already marginalized.(See also this article for more information on Amazon sales ranking, thanks to Dacia for sending me the link). Here's a list of some of the books from Meta Writer and another list from Jezebel affected by this. Up there at the top, I see Brokeback Mountain, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and The Well of Loneliness have had the treatment. Jesus. This is scary - what is happening here is actually incredibly disturbing. To be honest, I'm still absolutely stunned. So what can we do? Craig Seymour, who has been on this from the start, has a round up. Smart Bitches proposes Google Bombing - "As always, fuckwittery should not go unrewarded":
All you have to do is link to the page using these words: Amazon Rank. The more you do it, the higher up in rank the page will go, and the more successful it will be. One would hope.
The goal: that “Amazon Rank” points to the definition that underscores Amazon.com’s shortminded censorship and inconsistent policing of what ought to be accessible to the book buying public.
Also, there is an online petition you can sign, a call to boycott Amazon, fill out their customer complaint form, ring them or you could email them - here's an example of what someone wrote to them. Finally, keep an eye on what's being said on Twitter by searching for #amazonfail.
This is very reminiscent of Google's indexing, which makes it all the more disturbing. It's like the internet's being "cleaned up" by the damn Christian Right.
Edited to add: Don't you just love how Mein Kampf keeps its rank? Hell, Adolf fucking Hitler's books fine, that Winterson woman though? She dangerous.
Also, via a commenter at Jezebel's:
Wanna hear something that will really make your day? Now because of this who sales rank thing when you search for Homosexuality in the Amazon search engine guess what is the first book that pops up? A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality!
It's true, for both US and UK Amazon (click to enlarge).
What turns a person on? Is what arouses one person the same as what arouses every other person? Should it be? According to the current wave of successful obscenity prosecutions by both federal and state governments, the answer is not only a resounding “yes,” but exactly what is permissible under the law is subject to the whim of the FBI, the local and state governments, and a person's neighbor down the street. Video store owner Rick Krial was recently convicted in Staunton, Virginia, on one of two misdemeanor charges of obscenity and his store was likewise found guilty on one of two similar charges. He and his store still face trial on sixteen obscenity-related felony charges for selling pornographic DVDs to consenting adults for private viewing in their homes. Mr. Krial applied for and received all the proper business licenses and permits required of him, and the videos were made by legally documented consenting adults.
At the heart of this case and others like it is the legal definition of the word “obscene.” What is truly problematic here is that the definition of the word is as malleable as the sixteenth century definition of the word “blasphemy.” Current obscenity laws are based on a 1973 ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Miller v. California. From that precedent comes the Miller test, whereby an item is deemed legally obscene (and thus unprotected by the First Amendment) if it meets all three of the following criteria: “a) 'the average person, applying contemporary community standards' would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, b) the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and c) the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Each of these three standards is so subjective as to allow them to be brandished like Sixtus IV's pernicious bull of 1477.
(Continued below the fold)
What happened in Staunton, part 1: Store owner convicted for selling legally produced porn to adultsSubmitted by Elizabeth on 7 September 2008 - 6:59pm
So maybe this isn't your typical Valentine's Day post. This is in reaction to the letter Gene Nichol addressed to the College of William and Mary community yesterday announcing his resignation as President of the college. It was a love letter, of the sort that comes at the end of a sudden and painful breakup. (Mimi alerted me to it, and I found it published by the campus paper, DogStreetJournal.com, but it's widely Google-able. Here is the transcript and audio of a passionate statement he gave to supporters. Video is available here.)
Nichol resigned after being informed that his contract would not be renewed. The nonrenewal seems to be largely because of controversy regarding four important decisions he made.