Flickr has recently introduced content filters, allowing users more control over what images they view, and to ensure that they don’t get nasty surprises by accidently viewing some of the more adult images that are hosted. However, while this is a useful option, the option of turning it off has been removed in Germany, which means that those users are unable to see images that users from other countries can. This has led to some very unhappy users indeed, drawing parallels with recent situations with some other high profile Web 2.0 companies.
In the Flickr Forum a staff member has said Flickr’s intent is never to censor content, but rather to comply with local legal restrictions. In Germany, local law (Jugendmedien-Staatsvertrag JMStV) requires stringent age verification in order to display online content that could be considered harmful to minors.
This has not however satisfied many irate users who are claiming that Flickr is censoring images, limiting freedom of speech and so on in a Flickr group ‘Flickr: Against Censorship’ (the irony of which is not missed). Flickr has recently changed their initial stance and is now allowing pictures rated as ‘moderate’ to be viewed in Germany, so it would seem that the group can claim some level of success.
However, what is more interesting is that this is yet another example of the way that users are flexing their muscles when companies move in directions that they don’t approve of.
We’ve already seen this happen with Digg and LiveJournal also recently found that the decision they took to ban or limit some journals did not meet with the approval of many of their users either.
In all three cases the grass level revolts seem to have taken the companies by surprise and they have, in relative terms, been slow to respond. There is still no comment on the Flickr blog or their news section, discussion from staff members being concentrated in the forum section of the site. While this may in practical terms be the best place to have such a discussion it does at least give the appearance that they are trying to keep this dispute as hidden as possible.
Clearly there is more to creating a Web 2.0 based resource than coming up with a good idea and some funding – customer relations would also appear to have to be close to the top of the agenda as well.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.