Recently, I opened a journal asking for your questions about points in the mature content policies in regards to Artistic Nude photography that confused you, or that you wanted clarification on. This interview is a direct result of your questions - thank you to all of those that contributed!
Daniel, thanks for joining us, and answering our questions! The Mature Content policies can certainly be a hot topic, and clarification straight from the source is wonderful!
First question, which definitely came up a lot, and seems to be causing some confusions Could you clarifying the policy on erections? Many people wonder why dA allows "spread vulvas", but no erections, and specifically, could you clarify the "medical reference" aspect of the erection policy?
First let me clarify a common misconception here; deviantART absolutely does not allow the posting of content which depicts a vulva being manually spread open by some external means. In any case where content shows the vulva is being manipulated into an opened state our staff will remove that work. I'm not certain exactly why people have come to the conclusion that this sort of content is allowed but I believe that it is most likely because the majority of people mistakenly believe that showing the female model with her legs opened or spread apart somehow qualifies the vulva as being "spread open" but this is not the case; the policies are actually referring to the use of hands or devices to really pull the vulva open.
In the case of erections, the vast majority of content displaying an erection will be removed, we make a very small number of exceptions for works where an erection might be shown in a more objective or scientific manner (such as an anatomical diagram) or when it is displayed in some sort of primitive or "tribal" style abstract art but these exceptions are nowhere near as common as some people would like to believe and I'd appreciate it if certain people would actually stop noting me and fishing around for some sort of loophole which they can exploit.
The obvious hot button issue - "Why don't you delete this stuff that I don't think is artistic enough? Obviously, it is porn." How does the CEA team deal with Mature Content reports that aren't actually reporting any violations of the rules, but are rather reporting something for not being "artistic" enough?
The perception of what is or is not actually pornographic is obviously a huge issue and it's one which I've addressed on several occasions with my most recent one being in the news here [link]
Basically the main problem is that different cultures and communities have varying standards which make the subject of "pornography" extremely subjective. At one point many years back deviantART actually attempted to moderate and remove what we considered to be "gratuitous nudity" but we don't do that sort of thing now because what we discovered is that judging such a thing is highly, highly subjective and regardless of how much training you do you simply cannot guarantee that an objective and even standard is going to be enforced.
Because the subject is so highly subjective and personalized we moved away from using subjective opinion towards using a set of very specific themes and circumstances which rely entirely upon the facts of what is or is not shown in the content and this helps our staff to enforce a standard which is far more consistent.
The community is free of course to use their own opinions to make whatever judgments they wish about a particular work but when it comes to policy the fact is that we strip away subjectivity entirely; it doesn't mean that we personally don't agree that this work or that work is complete rubbish but from an official stand point we will tell you that it doesn't meet our standards for ruling it pornographic and we won't remove simply because a person or group of people don't think that it meets a subjective "artistic standard".
If possible, could you provide some examples of images that are reported frequently, but that are NOT violations of any policy, and why?
As much as it would help clarify the issue I'm going to decline to cite any examples because I've seen too many situations where someone is used as an example (for whatever reason) and the artist suddenly gets a lot of grief heaped on them and I don't want to be the catalyst for something like that to happen.
Suffice to say, when you go to file a moderation report you'll be shown whether or not that particular deviation has any closed cases associated with it and you should also be able to see any comment which was left by the administrator who closed the case; if that comment states that the work doesn't meet our current standards for defining something as pornographic then you probably shouldn't bother reporting it again because you personally think that it is pornography - the common belief that getting a large enough number of people to report something or reporting it over and over again will eventually get anything removed is incorrect.
While your recent journal Clarifying the Definition of Pornography was a great review of what dA does, and does not consider pornographic, could you provide a brief summation of those policies for those that may not have seen that article?
As I stated in an earlier question deviantART official policies in regard to judging content to be pornographic or not are completely devoid of subjective opinion; they rely entirely on the facts of what can be found in the content itself; a lot of confusion arises from people to interpret those objective restrictions in a much broader fashion than intended.
For example; we prohibit the submission of content clearly showing the act of masturbation but many people interpret that in an extremely broad manner to include things like simply placing a hand on the genitals or near the genitals and of course the prohibition against showing the vulva or anus spread apart is often misinterpreted as including the act of having the model spread their legs apart in a wide stance.
There have been many mentions of wishing for a more advanced mature content filtration system. Could you give us some insight into how the current system works, and if there are any plans to update the system in the future?
Right now the mature content system is somewhat basic. The system has two basic types of tags, "standard" and "strict", with the "standard" version allowing any member to 'click-through" a warning screen to access the content and the "strict" version blocking access to any registered member under the age of eighteen (18). For those who wonder why we have a "strict" tag while we prohibit the submission of pornography, that particular tag exists for the comfort of those artists, primarily photographers who use nude models, who were uneasy with the idea of minors being able to click-through the standard tag.
The "standard" tags carry a variety of different labels for language, violence, nudity and so on but the system itself can only be set to either display tagged content (turned off) or to mask tagged content (turned on).
Registered members over the age of eighteen can select to turn the system on or off while members under the age of eighteen have it "locked" and turned on until they hit their eighteenth birthday. Tagged content is also hidden completely from logged out viewers anyone trying to view a tagged deviation will be prompted to first create an account.
One of the things on our wish list of enhancements is improving the system to enable members to display content carrying certain types of labels while masking other types. Other than that we aren't looking to make the system any more complicated because we prefer to keep it simple and approachable rather than a tangled maze of options.
Daniel, thanks so much for your time and clarification on these questions, it's very much appreciated!
Please check out #projecteducate for the rest of Artistic Nude photography week!