Monday, March 17, 2008


Several persons have been surprised because YouTube censures one of my videos. I would'nt understand their surprise of not being for their faith (not less surprising) on the unquestionable legality of the contents that I risk to raise to the Net. Indeed, my contents are not exactly illicit, but this does not mean that they are always immaculate. This slightly confused shade and the consequences that it transports in the practice deserve an explanation that, beyond my personal case, probably spills something of light on a matter little known about Internet's restrictive nature.

Internet has very based its reputation of free space lacking in restrictions, with two qualification very known by all: the censorship imposed by political reasons in some countries (Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Iran, China, etc.), and the police repression of criminal activities that use the Net as shop window, method of captation or scene of the events (violation of personal information, pederasty rings, weapons traffic, etc.). They are not these qualification that us occupy here, but the restriction of not criminal contents hosted at suppliers located in democratic countries, a restriction perhaps slightly evident but real that is not exercised on the Net, but it comes from the Net itself.

In general there is had the impression of just a line divides all the contents between "spreadful" and " not spreadful", awarding to the first ones the condition of lawful and to the second ones the illicit. But this impression neither answers nor has answered accurately to the truth, either in Internet or in any other way of communication ever. It suits to remember that the illicit term means "not allowed legally" and also "not allowed morally". So another line, more discreet, divides the "spreadful" contents group in two subgroups: the lawful contents and the morally illicit (not illegal) ones that easily will be going to join the legally illicit group, increasing the bundle of "not spreadful". Or, speaking blunty, against the morality we have run.

It is, certainly, neither the first nor the last time that one of my pieces is banned in the Net. In fact a good number of videos uploaded by respectable citizens are banned every day. The reasons are very diverse but in the main they are what we might name "breach of contract": the video hosting company imposes few conditions of which we give well-informed when we upload a video and, naturally, it also saves itself the right to remove the clip if the agreement are disregarded.

YouTube, for example, puts the accent in the following obstacles (which it presents as "of common sense"):
- Pornography or sexual explicit content.
- Mistreatment of animals, improper consumption of drugs and making of explosives.
- Graphical or free violence.
- Vile images of accidents and corpses.
- Violation of copyright.
- Assault or contempt to races, religions, sexual orientations, etc.
- Assault against people's honor, dignity, privacy, etc.
- Spam.

Guidelines are very similar to those of other video networks. Revver notices against pornographic, discriminatory, violent contents and, certainly, illegal. Myspace rejects nudity, violence and offensive topics. Metacafe, bolder in principle, allows the author to autoqualify the videos depending on the content: for over the age of 13 when there appears real or fictitious violence, and for over 18 for the violence with real wounds, strong scenes in general and offensive expressions.

The network sites are responsible in the eyes of the law for the contents that host and the lists of guidelines act as safeguard. In principle everything seems to be very simple: if you have a legally illicit content do not upload it to the Net. Or better, destroy it. If it shows a vile, violent or pornographic content upload it to a site specializing in this kind of material.

This websites' reserve of the right to refuse of admission for all the general public websites would not constitute a trouble if it was not because indeed, since already you will have suspected, concepts like "pornographic", "violent" or "vile" they are not by no means monolithic. Very on the contrary: they are accustomed to define almost more the observer that the thing itself and they are characterized not so much for delimiting a genre of contents as for be wrapping in a bulky coat of often very opaque ambiguity.

What is exactly, for example, pornography? Pontifical Council for Social Communicationsoffers this definition: "Pornography in the media is understood as a violation, through the use of audiovisual techniques, of the right to privacy of the human body in its male or female nature, a violation which reduces the human person and human body to an anonymous object of misuse for the purpose of gratifying concupiscence". And it finishes off: "Thus, one of the clear effects of pornography is sin". It is such a coherent, legitimate and useful definition as others. Nevertheless you will agree with me that it is definition ballasted by moral apriorisms of religious nature that we can not share legitimately also. And this leads us to another question: there can be some definition of pornography not rooted on ideological apriorisms of some type, religious or of another kind? Surely not and because of it, in spite of all the regulations that they come applying and they will apply in the matter, the own jurists have not managed to agree a satisfactory definition that is not a strainer of paradoxes. Of there that in 1964, in the course of a famous judgment that it had to fight out if a movie was pornographic or not, the judge of the United States Supreme Court Potter Stewart was sentencing for the posterity: "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [pornography], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it".

As for the "violent thing" and the "vile thing", and passing on tiptoe on the respective definitions so opened as that of pornography, an interesting question would be: up to what point is it violent to show the violent thing, or vile to show the vile thing?

Ignoring these difficulties YouTube emulates the judge Stewart's method on having distinguished what is pornographic, violent and vile of what it is not, and resorting to the "common sense". Most not psychopathic adults we can share, in a cultural common context, a comparable confusion (or the claim of this confusion) on having attended images that "break certain limits", though we are perfectly unable to indicate where those limits are. Hosting websites prefer to be on the safe side doing clean slate, conscious that susceptibility peaks can be very marked since the global nature of Internet exposes the contents to spectators of all kinds, origin, age, belief and condition. In addition some of them (YouTube specifically) do not exercise a censorship a priori, but it yields the first word to the chance spectator: he's whomarks the clip which alarms him. Only then YouTube team comes, attracted by this mark like a flare shot in the night, brandishing the guidelines to fall down on the clip with the whole "common sense" weight.

The result is that the hosting sites' level of restriction of non-pornographic videos is very similar to that of a broadcasting TV channel in children's schedule (between 6:00 A.M. and 22:00 P.M. in Spain). This leaves us in a very delicate situation all that, like me, we look in Internet for a platform for the diffusion of contents included in this gray band between "Mainstream" and "Adult". Compartmentalization, labelling and standardization, archenemies of freedom of speech and creation, they have not yielded very much area from the irruption of this supposed panacea that Internet is. There are a few lines marked (from subjectivity, convenience and prejudice, yes, surely, but marked) that must not be ultrapassed at the risk of staying at, literally, no-man's-land. Or, out.

Probably at this point you are asked what I did to obtain that YouTube (among other networkers) banned me. Well, let me to tell you it was easy to achieve it. Just doing simple pranks. Several times the culprit has been this great ununderstood one that it is nudity. In this case, and in spite of credit smoothed to the maximum the leather dose at sight (cutting stills away) I am fullly conscious of having transgressed the procedure and respect ado the penalty. We must to be able to lose. But if I did trap by the way (thing that I will continue doing) was because I refuse insistently to accept that nudity should be anything blameworthy in a civilized society (it is something that we might learn once and for all of others supposedly more wild). So we might leave it in a personal crusade which cost tasty payment.

In another time, the most recent, the reason was a small trailer. YouTube fulminated it without giving it not even option to fall in this access restricted sack for +18 that sometimes (with rather mysterious criteria, perhaps arbitrary) it destines to some pieces and what really constitutes a contradiction with its own guidelines (probably, having noticed it, they are stopping using it). Why they did it is something that escapes from me. Provided that the level of fragmentation of the images was so high I just can impute the responsibility to the general impression that the trailer should have provoked in some pusillanumous surfer, you know: "I don't know what the Hell it is this but seems to be very immoral, so I am going to touch to alarm ". Ah well.

But my favorite case is the happened one a few months ago, when the target of the politically correct contingent's antiaircraft guns was a fragment of a sequence which has certain reputation in circles restricted of the underground, which I baptized as the Morfing's Morfing (since it forms a part of the short film Morfing, included into the CODEX ATANICUS). This case has a special grace because its censorship was too predictable even lacking any justification, since it is not a question of a sequence that could, strictly speaking, be definited (not at least in the light of the most common of the senses) as violent, pornographic, vile, offensive or discriminatory. It just shows three actresses' faces opening their mouths for a generous emanation of thick white liquid. There is not any more for the one who does not want to see any more. Then, where is problem? For the evil-minded ones (among whose are those who have censured the scene and probably... me also) this sequence pays homage to an ancient Japanese fetish practice, thebukkake (surely all of you know what it consists of and practise with your friends often at home) that got in the cinema immediately after the prohibition of genital iconography introduced by the US in defeated Japan legislation after the Second World War. The joke consists of the fact that an American company, YouTube, censures precisely that one that its government allowed Japanese should film in exchange for not filming what West was understanding that it was the really pornographic thing: genitalia into action (before the inability to photograph masculine genitalia and even the pubic down, Japanese invented subterfuges to evade the censorship showing not the prohibited object, but the visible consequence of its use, which constitutes the mentioned subgenre, or the filming of feminine genitalia devoid of down, which abounds in this infantilization of players that turns out to be so suspicious to western eyes). This case looks like a haughty paradoxes conjunction to me, and an universal solvent against dogmatic intentions of classification. Without the contribution of the censorship this game there would no be the perfect one completely, since then it would not have become evident the boomerang essence of moral censorship.

From always the artistic creation has developed a prolific activity in this twilight zone that borders and contaminates the conventions, questioning the limits of the socially accepted or imposed. This incursion in ambiguous territories provokes reactions often "negative" (even not for it counter-productive or unwanted): scandal, reproof, censorship. To investigate the limits of the acceptable thing, looking and emphasizing the contradictions, is an exciting, necessary task and, how not, very enterteining. That's a purpose of art, thought, humor and science: to put the finger in the sore to incite to the reflection. I might not complain, on the contrary, I am delighted at this smooth censorship that allows me to be naughty different where, in less lucky circumstances, I would be like fuel for the fire.

Carlos Atanes

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