unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
[personal profile] unjapanologist
After I ruminated on why Diigo is probably not a good haven for fannish bookmarks, [personal profile] lian linked to this report. Apparently, Diigo has an algorithm in place that automatically turns private any bookmarks that contain 'inappropriate' words like 'sex' or 'sexy'.

This was news to me. I have no idea when this algorithm was implemented; it seems to be another one of those magic rule/feature changes that Diigo sometimes trots out without warning. I went to have a closer look at my Diigo bookmarks, and indeed, every bookmark with 'sex' in the title has been turned private. I never received any sort of notification or explanation about this.

The full list of bookmarks I'm not allowed to show the world is over here, and it contains links such as:

Fanfic Symposium: The Erotic versus the Realistic: Sex in Slash Fiction
Sex and the single cyborg: Japanese popular culture experiments in subjectivity
Pornography, Rape and Sex Crimes in Japan
Measuring sex stereotypes: A multinational study (revised ed.).
Children's human figure drawings in the UK and Japan: The effects of age, sex and culture
Japan only now confronting rising HIV rate / Women in sex trade most at risk
popblog: Sex in Polish Sci-Fi Fan Fiction – Part II

I don't think I was waving dangerous pornography in the public's face by linking to academic research that happens to be related to sex. Also, way to shut down discussion of any topic that includes words like 'sex crimes' or 'sex trade'. I've used Diigo to signal-boost links about social problems and injustice in the past, but clearly, that's not an option anymore.

Extensive whining about education and research values to follow in the paragraphs below. But first of all, let's call this what it is: silencing, perhaps just as unintended as the kind of silencing that happened during strikethrough, but just as wrong, and just as symptomatic of the ills of corporate-controlled web services that resort to censorship the second someone complains about seeing a boob. This is exactly why it's not unrealistic or unnecessary to talk about a dedicated fannish bookmarking service. Right now, I can't think of a single bookmarking service that I'm sure could be trusted to protect the interests of fans. Maybe Pinboard is cool and awesome like that - I'm not familiar with it at all, and I look forward to hearing about people's experiences with it. But I'm not very inclined to give the benefit of doubt to any service that isn't explicitly controlled by fans, no matter how much it says it likes them.

(By the way, I don't have a 'sex' tag on Diigo, but I do have tags for 'sexism', 'sexual_content', and 'sexual_abuse'. Those have been left completely alone. I suppose I should be glad that I used underscores like a prehistoric netizen. Also by the way, that full list of links contains a few fics that happened to mention sex in their titles. These bookmarks were always private; I keep all my bookmarks in one place, but the purely fannish stuff private. This is a personal decision, and I think people should be perfectly free to make public links to racy content.)

Joel Liu, one of Diigo's founders, explains deep down in a forum that ''Since there are many k-12 students and teachers in diigo, we implemented an algorithm to detect whether a bookmark contains porn content''. Funnily enough, I am a teacher, even if I'm taking a temporary research break right now. I was one of the first testers of Diigo's educator accounts. I've used Diigo to create resources for and teach classes to people who are allowed to know that the word 'sex' exists.

Needless to say, for a service that markets itself as a research tool and ideal resource-gathering place for educators, using an algorithm in this way is beyond absurd. It makes no sense whatsoever to impose blanket censorship of anything that uses a particular word. If you wish to keep certain kinds of content (pornography, hate speech, whatnot) from appearing in the publicly visible link lists on your homepage, then you need to have real people policing that content and making rational judgements about what is appropriate and what is not. And yes, the spam problem is probably very hard to fix, but this is not a solution to that either.

But fear not, people who want to use the word 'sex' like a normal person! You can still enjoy my bookmarks with 'sex' in the title at this public Diigo group, where I shared most of them as part of a repository on manga-related academic research that my uni colleagues and I built a couple of years back. No links have been turned private there, although the group has many more followers than my personal account. I'm sure there's a reason for this happy marvel of inconsistency. At the very least, I'm relieved that the resource I spent years developing hasn't been rendered completely useless by an algorithm that tries to stop me from teaching about naughty words.

I'll be off to discuss this with abovementioned colleagues and see if we can move our repository to a place that better reflects our values as educators. And to cancel my paid Diigo account, which I signed up for after much deliberation earlier this year because I was afraid to lose functionality for said repository. Clearly, whether I pay or not has very little impact on whether I get the functionality I signed up for. (Yes, I'm still mad about that e-book.)

EDIT: It gets worse.

H/T to [personal profile] lian[personal profile] bluemeridian , and [personal profile] bookshop  for links and info
Date: 2011-09-28 06:04 am (UTC)

linbot: Man in stockings (stockings)
From: [personal profile] linbot
This is the main reason that I went for a new Pinboard account: because it looks like Diigo has had an overreaction to pornography and pornography is the entire reason I share links. :D

And in my experience, these overreactions don't tend to go away.


unjapanologist: (Default)

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