The Germans get their Flickrs in a twist over ‘censorship’

Initially, there were few overt signs of Flickr’s change of status following its takeover by Yahoo. Yahoo closed its own photo-hosting service. Then Flickr users were required to acquire a Yahoo ID to access their accounts. But, overall, things continued as before; until a few days ago, when Flickr users in Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong and Korea noted that they were unable to alter one of their account settings: the ‘safe search’ option, which allows them to specify whether they want searches for images to filter out certain types of content. Under the new dispensation, Flickr users in these territories could only find images that had been flagged as ‘safe’ – which meant, as one disgruntled protester put it, ‘only flowers and landscapes for Germans’. Nothing irritates internet users like censorship, whether real or apparent, and a revolt spread through the Flickr community.

The Flickr firestorm is just the latest refutation of the enduring myth that the internet is uncontrollable. While technologically adept users can usually find anything they’re looking for, the vast majority of the internet’s 1.1 billion users are at the mercy of local laws, ordinances and customs. Flickr users in Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong and Korea are finding themselves at the sharp end of this, because Yahoo needs to conform to local laws if it is to continue to trade in those jurisdictions. The same forces explain why Google provides only a restricted search service to its Chinese users. Libertarianism is all very well when you’re a hacker. But business is business.,,2104594,00.html

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