Sexually suggestive content: YouTube knows it when it sees it


YouTube, the largest video-sharing site in the world, is cracking down on sexually suggestive content. It already removes sexually explicit acts and actual pornography, but now it’s going a step further. Videos that the company defines as sexually suggestive will be more heavily restricted based on users’ ages. Even possibly offensive videos that the company still allows on the site will be demoted within the site’s auto-recommendation features to shield them further from sensitive eyes.

The Google-owned property is still trying to figure out how to make lots of money, even though it racked up an impressive 344 million unique visitors in October, according to comScore. Suggestive content could scare off more advertisers. More on YouTube’s new definition of what “sexually suggestive” means:

Other content like nudity and dramatized or implied sexual conduct may be considered sexually suggestive depending on whether or not it is intended or designed to arouse viewers. Nudity includes exposed or partially covered genitalia, buttocks, or breasts, as well as sheer clothing. Videos featuring individuals in minimal or revealing clothing may also be age-restricted if they’re intended to elicit a sexual response.

YouTube goes on to provide even more specific examples of what is and isn’t acceptable, but I’ll leave you to read the rest of those details yourself.

This all reminds me of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s effort to define obscene porn back in the 1960’s: “I know it when I see it” (much more on the legal issues around porn, here). In other words, like Stewart, YouTube’s definition of what is and isn’t inappropriate is not shared by all. Instead, the company is trying to preserve its family orientation — and likely acceptance among major advertisers.

In related news, Ning, a company that also lets you create your own social-networking site, has until now allowed “adult” sites. Starting next year it will ban them. Company chief executive Gina Bianchini says that: advertisers don’t like the adult sites, legal adult sites prompt more illegal adult sites (NAMBLA?), and adult sites generate far more copyright take-down notices than others, meaning more work for the team.

The good news, for those looking for porn, is that the rest of the web is full of it.