Flickr’s regional censorship causes legal problems

Rebecca MacKinnon blogs about a Global Voices regional editor who faces fines and jail time for posting a picture that the Hong Kong censorship board considers to be indecent. It is a strange story because it is intertwined closely with Yahoo’s recent decision to roll out content filtering on its Flickr service, and questions are raised about whether Flickr’s decision to mark the photograph as “mature” might have led to the legal justification for the charge.

I haven’t looked at Flickr lately, but when I went to check out the perfectly tame photostream in question, I was told that viewing it is outside of my “SafeSearch” level. I didn’t even know I had one. Clicking through anyway I see a picture of a lake followed by a picture of some houses, but up top is a banner that states, “If you’ve changed your mind about wanting to see this content, you can ESCAPE.” followed by a big blue button labeled “TAKE ME TO THE KITTENS!” Yeah, its cute and funny, I guess. Until arbitrary censorship and strange new account settings start contributing to people going to jail. Then its not so funny.