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Photographers And Social Networks: Why The Major Social Networks Disappoint.

If Myspace taught us anything, it was that if you give a teenage girl a cellphone with a camera, she will invariably hold it at arm’s length at a sixty five degree angle above her head, take a picture and post it as her profile photo.  That demographic of youth, with their oft-photographed cleavage, has since migrated to Facebook.  Before they can migrate further, many serious photographers are using the infancy of Google+ to jump ship from Facebook and establish a serious presence on Google+ that promotes art and adulthood.

Nudity, even artistic nudity, is a violation of the Terms of Service of both Facebook and Google+.  Facebook’s policy is written in abstracts, but enforced as absolutes.  While the policy on nudity and pornography reads “Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and imposes limitations on the display of nudity. At the same time, we aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo’s David or family photos of a child breastfeeding,” innumerable examples abound of users having their accounts frozen for posting photographs that include partial or artistic nudity.  Facebook has even been known to flag accounts featuring subjects in more risqué, but publically legal, swimwear.

Google+, in its terms of use, actually spells out more explicitly what they allow: “Do not distribute content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. . . Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content. For example, do not use a photo that is a close-up of a person’s buttocks or cleavage.”  While Google+ is apparently less tolerant, it is rapidly becoming the social network of choice for serious, artistic, photographers.  Despite many artistic photos violating the Google+ Terms of Service, savvy photographers have quickly discovered that it is an easier site to use with the intent to circumvent the Terms of Service.

From the perspective of the photographic artists, Google+ pretty much had it coming from the outset.

Google presented Google+ as a legitimate alternative to Facebook, which it is becoming.  Many artistic photographers who made the initial switch to Google+, however, felt betrayed when Google+ detailed a potentially more repressive Terms of Service for their photography.  They quickly realized, however, that the mechanics of Google+ itself all-but encouraged the violations of their own Terms of Service.

Because Google+ allows you to specify who among your friends receives the content you post, artistic photographers have discovered an easy way to share their photos with other artists.  By creating circles of artistic adults, Google+ users eliminate any risk of children seeing the artistic photos they wish to share with one another.  Moreover, these photographers have discovered that because they are sharing with likeminded adults – and only other likeminded adults – no one is reporting the Terms of Service violation to Google+.  Google+’s own mechanic is working against it, though it is creating a more free social network for adults.

Google+ and Facebook are both working hard to expand their influence outside the United States, but their enforcement of somewhat puritanical views on nudity may be inhibiting their growth. While it is understandable that the companies would like to avoid legal entanglements that come with each nation’s views on nudity and no one would ever advocate in favor of the spread of child pornography, there is a clear difference between adults sharing artistic photographs they have taken with one another and child abuse/illegal photographic content.  Perhaps the next big leap for the Internet social networks will be a network sophisticated enough to treat adults like adults, instead of chasing the dollars generated by courting the 13 – 18 demographic.


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