Google Will Sell You Text Porn, But No Icky Images

6554315319_f17f17d13d_bGoogle has  just been caught applying the same double standard that continues to trip up Apple.

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has the sad tale of John Linton Roberson, an indie comic creator who publishes works with an adult edge.

Roberson’s current work-in-progress is Lulu, a contemporary adaptation of German playwright Frank Wedekind’s 19th century sex tragedy. His previous work has included Vladrushka, an original satire about a Siberian porn star, and the art for The Story of OH!, a spoof of Italian comic artist Guido Crepax’s 1975 adaptation of the 1954 French erotic novel The Story of O. Featuring complex female protagonists and frequently alluding to art, literature, and film of various eras, Fifty Shades they’re not.

Roberson's works are certainly out there, and apparently they're too far out for Google. He shared on his blog last week that Google has recently started pulling his comics for alleged non-compliance with content policies.

According to the message that Google sent Roberson, the titles were removed because Google doesn't "allow images of nudity with no educational or artistic value, pornographic text or depictions of extreme sexual acts, including rape, incest, and bestiality, nor do we permit pseudo depictions of these acts".

The first title Google pulled was The Story of OH!, but before Roberson had a chance to respond Google also pulled another couple titles:

They just banned LULU Book 1, which is a literary work that happens to have nudity (and only really in book 1) and is NOT erotica, as well. If it were a movie, it'd be an "R." This is the one that has been banned by no one till now, because Google is simply against any kind of nudity whatsoever, no matter what the context. It can be shown in the opera, but not via Google goddamn Play.

...

As well as MARTHA (which is still available at Amazon). So only SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF is still available there. Because it's a play. But you know what? I'm taking that down too. If the fucking worms at Google Play don't want the rest of my work, then they get nothing. Buy it at Amazon instead.

And to add insult to injury, this time around Google didn't even bother to inform Roberson that the titles had been removed. They were simply gone.

Google is a private company, and thus can set any policy they want, leaving us no right to argue.

Unfortunately, Google isn't applying its content standards consistently.  Instead, it only follows the policy when it gets a complaint. This leads to ridiculous situations where the comics section is purged of adult comics (because THINK OF THE CHILDREN) while Google Play Books continues to carry titles like 50 Shades as well as dino-erotica and the works of Leonard Delaney (erotica in a category all of its own).

It's really hard not to see this as a double standard. On the other hand, this double standard has almost become the industry double standard.

Today's story reminded me of, well, a bunch of incidents. But the one most similar to Roberson's experience is a similar stunt Apple pulled in 2013 when they bullied Izneo into censoring its own comic book app.

Izneo is a French company which largely distributes French and Belgian comics, while Apple is a US company with a sometimes puritanical bent.

As you might expect, the differences in standards did not go over well. Late one Friday night in March 2013, one of Apple's censors discovered that Izneo sold adult comics. Rather than apply its standards consistently (or accept that different countries have different standards), Apple gave Izneo 30 hours to remove all adult content from its app. With no real guidance from Apple, Izneo cut 40% of its catalog.

Izneo drastically pruned any comic that showed a breast, cleavage, and even comic books with characters evoking a suggestive gesture.

This, while at the same time Apple continues to sell dino-erotica, 50 Shades, and works by the aforementioned Leonard Delaney (including his latest work, Humping the Hambandit).

Again, it's hard not to see this as a double standard.

images by opensourcewayJemal

About Nate Hoffelder (11591 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

2 Comments on Google Will Sell You Text Porn, But No Icky Images

  1. Some weeks ago, when I was navigating through the new releases in Comixology, I wondered when a news like this is going to hit this digital store. Because since they began adding French comic books to their catalogue, it’s kind of amusing to look at the differences between European and American (as in North America) comics. Maybe as an adult I’m able to navigate the entire catalog, but I don’t remember configuring anything special to accomplish that, so even though they have the age band perfectly identified, sure they’re going to hit the news in the near future when some “proper” American checks the Tuesday new releases without applying any filter… Gasp!

  2. Thanks for writing about this. Sadly, Google Play hasn’t changed a thing, and has not allowed me to even put LULU Vol. 1 (which is just “R-Rated”) back up. (BUT you can get it at Amazon & Comixology) Though they have let me put up my most recent release, THIS SICKNESS #8. (also available at the places mentioned)

    At the moment, all I can do with the old VLADRUSHKA stuff published by Eros is put it up online for free. Leavened a little by the fact I was paid for that stuff at least once, though very little. But I cannot continue the new story bringing in Octobriana because I have to concentrate on what I can publish. Which is a shame–the beginning of this story attracted attention & was featured in a book on Octobriana.

    It still makes me mad I have to limit my content if I expect to put it in saleable form, and I still think Google Play are bastards and hypocrites. And also, each time this happens to me people stop paying attention; I look like I’m producing vaporware. Something will go up for sale, I’ll promote it, and within a day I’ll find it’s “suppressed.” How can anyone build even the smallest audience then? 19 years I’ve been doing this and that’s where that puts me.

    Again, thank you for the support.

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