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Dear +MG Siegler, Are you seriously upset about your photo removal? (MG's complaint here: I thought I'd offer an alternate opinion here in the public and see what happens. (An opinion that PR from Google+ will probably not take the time to express, because they're busy and have better things to do. I on the other hand, have copious amounts of free time these days. :-) heh)

Every social network has the policy you're decyring, and why shouldn't they? It's a public sphere. If you had a T-shirt that said "I hate White People" (you can imagine another ethnic group to make it more offensive, if you'd like) and you walked into a mall wearing it, the security would probably ask you to leave, or ask you to cover up your shirt. If your T-shirt said "F*ck you" (which more closely parallells your hand gesture, you'd probably get the same treatment.)

All Google+ has done here is execute on its stated plan: removing offensive photos. This is Facebook's plan, Twitter's plan and MySpace's before it. When you're processing hundreds of thousands of photos a day (and in Facebook's case, millions a day), it's not easy to spot such material (even with algorithms). It's not that Google+ has decided to do things differently, it's just that they're ahead of the game and doing things better. (As they are also doing with their spam detection and removal algorithms. I don't know what you're seeing, but they catch and hide 95% of the spam comments that appear on my posts.)

In any case, I would respectfully submit that we, the users of Google+ (and Facebook or Twitter) don't need to see you flipping us off, nor do we need to see you naked, or displaying something else generally considered offensive. When a social network let's that stuff slide, it turns into a cesspool that no one wants to visit... sorta like MySpace was.

It was very difficult @ MySpace to keep up with the "offensive" photos, and we had decent technology and many warm bodies on the case. (In fact, I'd guess the average person would be shocked how much time and resources we had to put into trying to stop that.) Your suggestion that you should get "warned" is too time-consuming. You want someone to check up on you and make sure you complied with the warning? The limited resources Google could use for something like that would be better spent giving human interaction to questions on how to use the service, technical troubles, etc. Things that seem simple are not as soon as you have 10s of millions of users.

I don't think this issue deserves attention really, but seeing as how your post has been so popular (making the top of Techmeme, no less!), I thought I'd see how "popular" (or unpopular) this alternate opinion is. Maybe I'm drastically wrong here... I do think Singapore is a wonderful place, after all. :-) I'm kinda curious if people think I'm way off base here. I'm wondering if your post made the top of Techmeme not because people agree with you, but because people generally like controversy. Or maybe people just like you... even if you are flipping us all off. :-) You are a loveable renegade. :-)

P.S. As +Danny Sullivan and others have pointed out, Google is not just concerned about its "public sphere" on G+ itself, but our profile pictures are used in search results as well:

P.S.S. Pictured: +MG Siegler looking as innocent as my "MySpace Tom" photo. He is clearing not roaming the badlands in this shot!

UPDATE Added after initial post: +Jeff Jarvis and +Mike Elgan have written some interesting counterpoints that disagree with my post:


So has +Rob Beschizza:
Angel Calzadilla's profile photowilliam ashbee's profile photoJosh Dillard's profile photoN Likes's profile photo
If this had happened to me I would have LOL'd and gone on with my day.
wow sounds like a bunch of whining...Google doesnt have to tell this guy to take his pic down they can just do it...
Joe Ohio
Amazing that this even has to be said.
I think you're spot on, +Tom Anderson. This is Google's playground, so they set the rules. And it's a good rule. The average person doesn't want profanity in a public place. This is a public place.
Completely agree! Good post Tom
Popularity garners lots of allegiance for issues.
Ah +MG Siegler is just being a tool. If people and G+ find it offensive why be a brat about it?
I kind of see both sides, and on the other hand nothing Google has is more "public sphere" than Google Earth, and people flip off those cameras all the time, all over the world. Google blurs faces but not "birds". And Google Earth is often recommended for use in public schools.
Well said +Tom Anderson IMO. Some people think any standards are censorship. Clearly lines need to be drawn somewhere....and I am not a fan of censorship or the nanny-state. A complete free-for-all is attractive to some people, but if you want a Chatroulette type of social network [at least in it's initial incarnation] then G+ probably isn't the thing for you.
I so agree. This is not one persons forum to do whatever they want just because they want. This is Googles space. They let us be here as their guests. We don't have to agree to the TOS, and we don't have to be here. If you are hear, you agreed to the rules, the rest of us expect a decent place to be, just as if we were at the mall. Thanks for writing this.
the problem isn't the policy. It's the enforcement of the policy. Look at the hullabaloo over breast-feeding pictures on Facebook, for example. "Offensive" is a very personal thing, and when you homogenize it to meet a policy affecting tens of millions of people, you're going to end up with very bland content indeed.
+Matthew McDonald Just for the record, I didn't mean to "serve" anyone -- I like +MG Siegler and his writing / contribution to tech... My smiles and compliments for him at the end are not facetious :-)
I don't think that what MG did was so repulsive but I do agree with you and G+ policy. Maybe MG was having a bad day and decided to go on a rant. Or maybe he doesn't have enough work to occupy him these days. Let's move on, shall we?
Never been a fan of MG, always seemed a bit of a little b**. This pretty much seals the deal. "Oh no, G+ did its job and removed my profile picture because I was performing an obscenity! The horror!" I bet you if you ask him personally, Apple would've done it right.
just loved reading this.... MG is a known apple devout and likes to pick on Google... But still this was rather way too silly
I agree completely Tom. Google+ seems to actually be more classy and intelligent than other social networks like FB and (forgive me) Myspace, and that's what makes it feel like a breath of fresh air. If we start letting people use inappropriate profile pictures, it's just going to take away from the positive atmosphere that is G+. +MG Siegler needs to realize that he violated the T&C and move on, the same way anyone else would.

As for his post making the top of Techmeme, I can almost assure you that it's because of people disagreeing with his stance on this. I haven't seen one single post on here, twitter etc. that backs him.

This is a nice, friendly, highly intelligent social network. Let's keep it that way.
Btw +Mike Elgan I saw your comment on another, related post about the legal issues involved... I don't think taking down some pieces of content (and not others) moves Google into a new category of liability ... +Antone Johnson could probably tell us more. :-)
I think one of the problems is, we don't have a way to flag our content as appropriate for certain individuals of the public. I have a NSFW circle for which I share what some people would consider offensive, but that means I have to actively put people in that circle, rather than listing a post as "NSFW".
I must be more subversive than most, then. a whitewashed, vanilla social network where everyone plays by the rules, smiles, holds hands, has their tie and shoelaces buttoned sounds horrible. that's not reality.
Great counter, I agree. I un-circled +MG Siegler because of the whole episode. I'm no saint, but I don't need to see that, and don't want to hear him complain about it. It's a non issue, Google is a private company, they can do what they want and their TOS are out there. If you don't like it, post your stuff somewhere else.
Slight oversight on choice of profile image -- not considering that kids use Google search. If he wants to use his image, he should opt not to be shown in search results.
I'm sorry, but no. This is yet another example of Google being ridiculous.

Don't censor the net, Google. Why the fuck anyone against SOPA supports Google doing this, I am at a loss to understand.
Well, I'm more than happy to say MG was never in my Google circles and due to his little hissy fit never will.
+Drew Nicholson I'll take "bland" profile photos in this case... the thing about G+ is you can share photos to specific circles -- I bet Google has a different policy regarding that content than they do on the profile photos (though I'm not sure about this...)
- +Drew Nicholson Yes, and that was one of the main argument of +MG Siegler, define "what is offensive", especially with gesture. But in that case we all know that +MG Siegler is of bad faith, that was a rude picture. However, that has the merit to throw the debate on the public place.
When someone is denied to enter a disco, the physionomist does not have to justify himself, the disco's boss trusts them. Google+'s physionomist is a bot that Larry, Sergei and Eric trust, and has +Tom Anderson said, this bot is pretty damn good at its job.
This is such a gray area What might be offensive to some, is not to others. This is censorship, but I understand the need. Without sanitizing the streams and having some kind of policy in place, the social network becomes a cradle of filth. G+ would turn into pron central. The Hangouts would be like ChatRoulette on steroids with a bunch of people waving their dicks at each other. While that might appeal to some, considering how much Muppet action is see on here, it's probably not an avenue Google wants to go down (so to speak).

With that said, it's still a fine line. We're subject to Google's perception of "offensive", and have to live with their policy, even if it is asinine. Many have pointed out that there are different gestures in different countries that are just as offensive. As the network matures, so will the tools and filters. This is a growing pain.

..and to answer your question, it's because people like controversy.
+Tom Anderson I'm hearing a lot of buzz about general content photos being censored as well. So I don't know.
you have a good case there tom, google needs to spend resources where they are really really needed. like you, i do enjoy mg's antics a lot. i guess his comments and observations on photos was just meant to kick us out of some numbness that we tend to experience at times on g+. 
i personally lost respect for MG after this stunt. He was a respected journalist but ever since leaving TC, he's become an Arrington follower. His anti android posts and anti google + posts are getting boring. Loves apple, yes we get that, but have an open mind.
With your deep insight into these matters +Tom Anderson you should start your own social network. :) :) :) :) :) :)
It's nice to see a response to this issue from a subject matter expert.
Count me as one that is shocked someone is shocked a picture of them flipping the bird was removed. Maybe I'm just old but it seems like common sense Google would take that stance, even if I didn't read the TOS. I would not be surprised if my picture was removed some day. At least now I know the proper reaction... indignation that my actions my actually offend anyone. I'm looking forward to my 15 minutes of fame.
Computers don't create ethical dilemmas, we simply forget what our ethical behaviors were before them.
No matter what anyone's opinion is, if the terms say not to post offensive photos, don't post obviously offensive photos. I know everything offends somebody, but some things are more obviously offensive than others. Most people agree, giving the middle finger is meant to be offensive by the giver, and taken to be offensive by the viewer.
Agree with what you said +Tom Anderson . Don't know why this is such a big deal. Like you said, if you wear a T-shirt flipping people off the security would ask you to cover it, or ask you to leave. Same thing happened here.
Thank you, Tom! This is the most asinine complaint I've heard in some time, and really makes MG seem like a jerk.
The big issue here is a service dictating what we should or shouldn't see because a few may be offended. And truthfully in my eyes, an image shouldn't be deleted. Move it, disable it from being seen, but do not delete it, they are our photos. Make a new collection or whatever for it.

I realize Google is creating a lot of integration with profile pictures, but its a 1/2 inch square that is fairly easy to ignore. If it offends you don't circle the person, and don't look at it. Everyone has different ideas on what is offensive. I don't think its up to a major corporation to use a blanket system that really won't ever cover all the bases to police something like this. Although my personal bias is towards having a blanket policy about nudity. But again, if its there I really don't have to look at it.

Just think about all the blanket policy that are already affecting your life and see how many of them stop you from doing things that you might enjoy that won't hurt anyone. Until we stop acting like we aren't allowed to offend anyone we're just going to continue taking away people's rights.

That's my 2 cents about it. Take it as you will.
if people dont like what they see, then they need not look. one cannot create a social network and expect everyone to have profile pictures that everyone else will approve of, yet at the same time allow them to post whatever text they should so desire. a simple solution. dont look. dont cry. its not life nor death. just shrug it off and go about your way.
So I don't know much about +MG Siegler, but from his little rant he sounds kind of whiny. His argument sounds to be essentially, "I should be able to do it cause I wanna" and Google is taking away my ability to have a profile photo a 13 year old would be proud of.
+Tom Anderson You're touching on the central point here: Is the objection to Google's take-down of +MG Siegler's post that they remove offensive profile pictures categorically, or is it a disagreement over whether that picture is offensive enough. For example, let's say another user had a profile picture showing someone naked, violently cutting themselves while wearing a racist T-shirt (I'm trying to incorporate nudity, violence and racisms). Should Google+ delete that one?

Those who say no are arguing that Google+ shouldn't remove any legal picture no matter what. Those who say yes are merely disagreeing with Google over what constitutes "offensive."
Amazingly said! I don't agree that all offensive photos posted to G+ should be removed censored, but I agree with you that the profile pic is something that is public, especially because profile pics appear in search results.
Well, if nothing else, it got traffic to his blog. Could Google also put a policy in regarding trout pouting, do you think?
Google can set whatever policy it chooses, but I'm not so sure this is black/white.

First off, on notifying someone before pulling the file, it's about a day's worth of coding (and maybe two for testing) to automate a warning followed by removal.

Second: Flipping the bird? Really? If that's the standard, one can find reason to remove another 30% of the images posted on G+ every day. Talk about dumbing-down to the lowest common denominator...

Third: Since this is G+ we are talking about, why not develop a way to allow users to indicate whether or not it is considered offensive. Apply some scoring and let 'er rip. That would be more inline with the culture of G+, IMHO.
+Roxanne K : Google are not 'censoring the net', they are censoring their own website, which you use on their conditions and at no cost to you, and they are doing it according to principles which they have made clear. SOPA has no relevance here.
Let us consider for a moment a few different viewing scenarios...

1. Just me - I could care less about the offensive picture

2. At work, opening my web browser with colleagues around - I and they probably would care and may be offended. At a minimum it would be uncomfortable.

3. At home with family, including children - Damn right I would be annoyed since that is not the kind of thing I want my young kids to see.

So, viewing context is of importance here. MG probably never thought of that and probably just thought it was only a few drinking buddies that would see that picture and would be just funny....

Thank you +Google for avoiding scenarios 2 and 3 and applying the TOC that we ALL signed.
You're not way off base here +Tom Anderson .
A public post on G+ is the equivalent to posting something on a public billboard and should be held to the same standards... the job of deciding what's acceptable must be a tough one though.
+Kari Swenson Thing is, people don't have free speech "rights" on a company's service. If this was government property, sure. But like, on my private thread, I'm the judge, jury, and executioner. If I don't like someone's comment (offensive), it's gone. Free Speech doesn't exist in that case, it's my private property.

Same position Google is in. They choose what they want displayed. It sounds simplistic, but if the user who agreed to the terms doesn't like it, there are other services. +MG Siegler is in no way obligated to use Google+.
Huzzah huzzah. Here's hoping you continue to have copious amounts of time to craft such thoughtful entries.
I have never understood where people get the notion that they have the right to not be offended. If your speech offends me, that doesn't mean I have the right to silence you based on my arbitrary standards.
I think the "what if this was the only copy?" Argument is pretentious. Especially if referring to a photo that may have been irreplaceable to the user.

If I uploaded something to a private album on Flickr or Picasa that got deleted, I might care. But a social network? No.

Grow up, man. This is a fine social network in my opinion. Even the real name policy I was okay with. I thought it was questionable, but still fine if that's how they choose to run it.
+Roxanne K I'm against SOPA, but I also believe in selective censorship. If a site has something like kiddie porn on it, it should be taken down by any means necessary. As for this case here, Google+ is a private network. If your picture violates the terms and conditions, Google has every right to delete it.
+Mike Elgan +Robert Dewey I get the point that allowing a group / small body of people to determine what is "offensive" is some sort of slippery slope. I can't think of a easy way (or other way) to make those judgments. Considering all the problems, struggles and other key issues in the world -- this one, that borders on "free speech" issue -- just feels like a non-issue to me. Personally I don't really care if my "free speech" is squelched over my desire to put up a certain photo on someone else's website... I like the site and get enough from it that I'll play by their rules. Somehow I think +Mike Elgan is going to say something here that may make me change my mind ... haha :)
Thank you Tom. I think +MG Siegler is just looking for the outrage de' jour to get behind. Quick, someone say something mean about Apple.
Lily L
Great response. Are you SURE google doesn't have you on their payroll?

I was surprised some bloggers defended the picture by saying that the flip off should be considered inoffensive when it has clear negative connotations in our society. It's kind of insensitive really especially if you're putting it as your profile picture, so that you visitors are welcomed onto your profile by your poor opinion of them. I can just imagine grandma and grandpa browsing the recommended users list and coming across MG's profile.
I wonder if Google could add something along the lines of SafeSearch to Google+ that would be set to filter all potentially offensive material by default, but could be relaxed if the user chooses to do so.
Yeah you're way off base. It's a middle finger. Block it if you don't like it. Stop circling that person if you don't like it. It's like when I use the word fuck in my posts. If you don't like it you can't stop from seeing it again.

Will google begin to censor individual words we can use now? Soon we won't be allowed to say George Carlin's 7 worst words you can say?
+Shane Steinkamp If your speech offends me I have the right not to let you into my house, or to ask you to moderate your speech while you are here. Google are not 'silencing' anyone, they are just enforcing their own rules on their own site.
+Steven Mautone Agreed. Is one's profile picture really different than one's posts? It's all content after all.
There are no such restrictions on Flickr.
You can just tag your photo 18+, and it would not be visible to all people by default.
You need to click on one more button to agree that "you are entering to restricted territory"
+Lamarr Wilson I'm not saying Google doesn't have the right to do it and shouldn't. They're sticking with the norm. And frankly trying to keep a professional looking and appealing service. Maybe a recommendation would be to send a notification for something like this.

Google is completely within their rights. They made up a service agreement, and whether you choose to read it, its not their fault. No personal issue with them doing it really.

I was just more stating a response to +Tom Anderson's post, about why I didn't see an issue with it.
+Tom Anderson i agree with your opinion and coming from someone who has been there, done that.

No offense, one of the reasons why I quite Myspace was because of flood of inappropriate photos and comments on the site. In today's standards, I wouldn't even look at Myspace as my social media platform because of all the crap the ended up in the site (which i don't blame you).

Personally, I was not offended by +MG Siegler 's so-called offensive photo so I did not flag it as offensive. However, not everyone would as cool with it as I am so maybe somebody flagged it and Google needed to respond to the request. Whether or not this is a form of censorship is a topic of debate in a bigger platform.

I guess the missing point here is whether people should or should not be allowed to post inappropriate photos in their profiles (Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc). Should a private company self-censor or should it be a responsibility of the user? Facebook had an issue like this a few years back when they blocked/pulled down a breastfeeding group because the profile photo was of a breastfeeding mother. I did not see the picture but from the articles I read, it was tastefully done (no real nudity) and it is a depiction of a natural real-life situation between a mother and child. Facebook was mainly criticized for blocking this group while a simple search would yield a good number of hate-speech groups that are "allowed" in Facebook. As this case study has shown, self censorship is a very slippery slope for a company to take.

I guess the better option is for the users to be smart and think before they post. If I uploaded a similar photo as my profile photo and a potential employer sees that, i wouldn't be surprised if I don't get hired. It is a sad reality that we are judged by our behavior in social media sites and no amount of privacy promises would protect us from ourselves if and when we do something that others might find offensive.

Perhaps +MG Siegler thought it was funny to flip off someone in passive aggressive by using his G+ profile photo.

Unfortunately for me (and mere mortals), I do not have the luxury of clout/Klout/internet fame that would bring me the good will of internet users and I must keep my social media profiles as professional and at most PG-13 if ever I want to keep my reputation intact.
I agree Tom. His profile picture is public so seen by anyone. If this were a picture he posted in an entry I'd likely say it should be left alone.

The profile pic is different. I think this is just one of MG's ways of doing a negative Google post. I love reading his stuff but he's definitely getting more and more biased stretching things farther than they need to go. But that part is his right.
Actually I was wondering why he did it in the first place. It is offensive, but I guess if that is how he wants people to think of him, then whatever. I don't follow shirtless men and women with their boobies all hanging out. Why? Because I think it makes them look cheap and not someone I would want to fill my stream with. If he wants to fight with Google, fine, and just remember all those bloggers who are so offended by Google+ having rules, are probably the same ones who were all in a huff about the so called blogger who got fined over $2 million, until they found out she was a loon.
+Kent Smith If no one paid him any attention, or followed him, he would have the freedom to pull this sort of thing. I encourage everyone to just ignore him, and thus grant him his freedom to be a tool.
People do not have freedom of expression anywhere they go. They are limited by the rules set by the owners. If someone came in your house and wrote F**K on your walls, would you allow that? Then if you didn't allow it would the person be screaming about oppression and the first amendment? Just because G+ is public access, does not alleviate the ownership rights that they maintain. If you want to have freedom of expression, feel free to use any of the other available channels that you have ... websites, blogs, pencil and paper, whatever.
I think +MG Siegler after taking the additional responsibility of crunchfund thinks and acts like Steve Jobs. He definitely is on a meth or a tiger blood. I think the entire gang of techcrunch and their poorly written posts has one agenda - "Look at me...I need attention". It is just a horses**t about what MG or the entire techcrunch has to say about technology, because their agenda is to sell controversy.
Although I agree with you in the sentiment of the post, I have to say that I agree a bit with +MG Siegler here. As many people pointed out, there are many symbols that are considered offensive in different countries, so trying to control it (I'm not using censor on purpose, because it's a private company) is really difficult and pervasive. What if I had a profile picture with my thumb up ( As Google+ is international, they should try to control it.

What I believe is that neither solution is great (allowing all offensive content or allowing none), so I think +Google should try to think a solution in the middle. Just from the top of my head, I think that it would be better to have the picture hidden as offensive (with black, explaining that it may be offensive to some people), and appear on rollover or something like that. Of course, it should not appear on search results with Safe Search on.

I think is just too difficult to control all offensive images and if you don't allow people to express themselves in any way possible (offensive or otherwise) you are shutting yourself to a particular public.
If Apple deleted his picture he would praise their protection.
There are a couple of things at play here - obviously there is a bit of entitlement that goes into 'my profile' and 'my picture'. People feel like they own these things (which to a degree they do) but also neglect to remember all the Terms and Conditions that they agreed to when they checked the box when signing up for G+ (or whatever other social media site).

Also, nobody likes to be censored (especially with the aforementioned feelings of entitlement) no matter what it is. So I understand why he's upset but I don't think it's that big of a deal. It's in the rules, plain and simple.
Those people talking about Google "taking away people's rights" should realise that whilst on-line may seem like something sacrosanct and different, it is just a reflection of real life. If you go around in a public place swearing and making rude gestures, there are places you'll get away with it and places you won't. In a shopping mall with CCTV and security guards, such behaviour will likely get you kicked out, whereas in a public park with no CCTV or security guards, you'll probably get away with it. So it is on "the internet". Post rude, crude or offensive content on your own site/blog and you'll suffer no "punishment", but this social network belongs to Google and they have the right, just like that shopping mall, to prevent you foisting your behaviour on other users in here. If you don't like it, you're free to visit another social network, or set one up yourself, or just do it on your own site/blog. You have that right. As +Brad Reiter said above, Google is not the internet.
+Rob B. Wait, what? "People don't understand that homogenization is fundamental in programming. I wonder how many of these people complaining are doing so on their homogenized ipads!" The interface of my iPad is homogenized. The hardware is. But the content? No it's not. This picture isn't a fundamental part of the G+ architecture.
who dictates what is offensive and what is not?
MG Siegler loves attention almost as much as he loves taking swipes at Google. This incident or something like it was bound to happen sooner or later.
Very well said +Tom Anderson . +MG Siegler should realize that he is a tech celebrity and he is on some suggested users list. It is wrong for him knowing that to do something as controversial as that
As much as I would love to say that +MG Siegler is wrong as he is almost all the time in issues considering Google and Android,this time he is NOT.

Showing a finger cannot be compared with any form of indecent and vulgarity which could prove to be determinable to Google+. As an individual,I live my life the way I want to live.I portray my attitude in the form of a picture which if ultimately is a picture of me showing a middle finger ,it is a symbol of my attitude of not caring a damn about what the world thinks of me.

Surely social networks should not still be in Victorian Era where I should follow the society and its "rules". I have enough trouble following them in real life. Atleast let me be as I want to be in the virtual world.

After all it was just a profile pic...
Nav H.
MG Siegler is a douchbag.
If I weren't married and heterosexual, I'd ask you to marry me this is so spot on. Given your wealth, the hetero thing is negotiable.
+Tom Anderson great piece and I agree with your later comment that I bet they have a different policy related to content other than your profile photo. I also have commented in several other places that there is the chance that google isn't "policing" this and that multiple people may have flagged his profile as offensive bringing it to their attention.
+Rob B. a social network is made of people, not robots... thinking you can tame humanity with an algorithm is exactly why people say Google doesn't (and may never) get social. the free, open web persists as an alternative to these closed networks.

are you saying standardize and customize humanity? ridiculous.
I don't agree, Tom...I COMPLETELY agree. By the way, I miss from both G+ and Facebook the awesome ambiguous nature of making 'friends' "myspace" had to offer; it was and continues to be unique in crafting relations. kudos.
+Tom Anderson Well I'm going to try. ; )

Different things offend different people. For example, an OK sign and thumbs up signs are positive, uplifting gestures in America. But in South America and elsewhere, these are as offensive as a middle finger.

In Saudi Arabia, profile pictures of women with hair uncovered is considered obscene.

In America, a picture lionizing the World Trade Center attack is highly offensive. Yet in many parts of the world it's not offensive.

I could go on and on.

The point is not that offensiveness is a slippery slope. It's a cliff. If you choose one country's values, as Google is doing, and impose them on a global network, you're a cultural imperialist. If you choose to censor according to everyone's values, you remove nearly every profile picture. (I'm exaggerating with both statements.)

The best way is user choice. If I'm offended by +MG Siegler's profile pic, I can block him in one second. In other words, Google+ has already given us the tools to censor according to OUR values.

In still other words, this problem has already been solved. And now they're creating a new one unnecessarily.
Completely agree, very well said.
In some ways I agree and some I disagree. Google can have an algorithm (and probably does) that could analyse each uploaded photo for vulgar gestures and nudity. The algorithm would flag the picture and prevent it from being shown to the public. It could also warn the user that the picture may be inappropriate and allow the user to appeal the algorithm's decision by having a G+ employee review it. It could also put the picture in a queue for G+ employees to review and approve or deny. The user would be automatically notified that the image was offensive at that time. This is probably a bit like the current process, but the user could have been warned and the picture kept private until it was approved for public viewing.
haha i've had a similar profile picture for a long time, i like the image and also used on FB before, MG is well known for his anti-google stance so maybe this wouldnt have helped him much but if the google team determine its offensive and remove it, then thats entirely up to them. as people have said, you sign up to their terms so if you breach them, its no ones fault but your own. his rant just makes him look like an idiot in my opinion.
Tom, posts like these are why I follow you <3
Wowzers! I saw the link to his post and it was not ok. I think some people just do stupid things to get attention. It is unfortunate because he is a hot looking guy and could totally get attention by other means. Super sad face you had had to take your precious time...(even in retirement) to deal with this. I am happy he got his 2 minutes of fame.
I have to agree. And in response to his comment about "the terms of service nobody reads anyway", sounds like your own issue. If you don't read the terms but you click that agree button, you are still bound by those terms.

I swear, it's like people complaining about getting pulled over for speeding. You tried to push the law and got caught. Deal with it, pay the consequences, and move on.
What did he expect? I saw the the photo and the description "this is a test" a test for what? What did he think was gonna happen? I bet he was hoping to get it removed so he could moan and complain how Google is so horrible for not warning him. What are you, a kid? Grow up.
Tom, Great post. so many people complain about the smallest issues. Thank you for this post.
I think you bring up an excellent point, +Tom Anderson. I'd agree it isn't needed.

The only side affect that could eventually take place is who gets to decide what is offensive. Flipping the bird is an easy one, but to counter your T-Shirt example, what if someone was wearing a T-Shirt that displayed religious texts that are deemed by some to be offensive?

Perhaps that is a poor example. What I'm saying is... we do still have to on some level permit the freedom of speech. Gestures, albeit offensive or not, have long been protected as such.

Certainly the social networks are not obligated to comply with the U.S. Constitution's freedom-of-speech clause -- their terms of service are not legally infringing our country's constitutional rights, in my opinion at least - as we still have those rights and freedoms elsewhere. It is a service membership, not a citizenship, after all.

I don't want to see someone giving the finger in a photo - especially the primary profile photo - but where should we suggest the line be drawn? Perhaps, as I said, this comment is irrelevant, but I do feel as if, on some level, a general ability to broadcast the message of my choice is to be valued... even if I may some day change my mind on the content of such message.
Sunny D
I don't see the problem with him ranting about his image being removed. There was nothing whiny about the letter at all. He probably would have taken it down if asked and he has the right to be upset. His picture shows the finger...whoop-de-do.
"When a social network let's that stuff slide, it turns into a cesspool that no one wants to visit" ... Amen!
I don't think at all that Google doesn't have the right to pull the picture it found offensive. They clearly lay it out in their terms of service and he violated it.
However, I watched and waited THREE days for child pornography to be pulled from here with piles of people reporting it to goo+ and FBI, see tons of jiggly tit gifs and +Brandon Campeaux is getting jerked around about death threats
"Tonight I received 4 separate death threats through Google+. That brings the total for the month of December way over 10. I’ve reported each account & flagged the individual death threats. Google responded by doing nothing. Not one account suspension. " (

So, yes, they have the right to pull his middle finger picture. I just think their priorites are woefully out of whack.
+Del Williams what is offensive - depends on country/nation.
"Political correctness" in USA exceeds all reasonable levels.
Have also heard that you can't tell openly "eyes-to-eyes" to a girl that you want to have sex with her. Or you have risk of lawsuit in"sexual harassment". Ridiculous!
+Robb Weeks That is a terribly weak "argument". I'm surprised something like it wasn't used to explain why SOPA and PIPA are perfectly fine. If you weren't aware, the reason SOPA was so bad is the lack of due process, the censorship, not the fact that it was "breaking DNS". That was just the barebones technical argument backing up the morality of censorship. So, I am adamantly opposed to zero due process, which has been Google's problem throughout all of the #nymwars, and now this morality policing coming to light yet again.
You need to stop talking to girls
Has Google done something about that [far more] offensive content on the iGoogle page? Let's see... themes... "What's hot"... oh.
If the site needs to start displaying a ESRB-like rating because of the content found therein, it's gonna get a little messy. He can link to his blog and talk about it all he wants. But... as stated, Google+ is "publicly accessible private property", and I can guarantee that they will be held liable, at least in part, for what people find in here.

I honestly don't care ... but others that I associate with do. That's what matters to me. I want my extended family to be able to visit me on here and realize that it's "safe" and predictable enough to visit without finding something offensive.
Good call, +Google+ . Consider removing pictures of half naked women while you are at it, as much as I enjoy those photos.
Some people don't seem to understand what "censorship" means. The government saying you can't take or publish that picture is censorship. A private company saying "you can't do that here, take it somewhere else" is not censorship. When you cry censorship over things that aren't, you cheapen the meaning of the word.
As already have been said a few time or a million who is counting. As it is right now and most likely in the future. Google has to abide by every law in the countries where Google Plus is. So a nipple.. bad news in some countries. And since there is no age gate on peoples streams, the same goes there. Tumblr is ready for all the naked people to use :-)

Personally i am very much in favor of Google trying to make this at least one part of the internet where Trolling, f*ck words in every way it can be used and other classic forum speak is not a everyday thing. I am on those forums, i know how to handle myself with trolls but i just go the complete direction here and avoid people like that (block) and try really to post as cool headed as possible.

It´s my experience that the places where there is the most stringent rules on posting usually has the best posts :-)
Well... I'm sort of on the fence for this issue +Tom Anderson. I definitely agree with your comments regarding the resources it would take to handle it as +MG Siegler would like. The only thing that I may see differently than you is the linking of the middle finger and label "offensive." The line must be drawn somewhere of course, but such an example would also require a lot of (IMHO, too many) warm bodies to counter. I would also like Google to use less resources for flip-off-policing and more for innovating.

My $0.02...
I think you sum it up in the second paragraph... Love your post, as usual.
I hope they deleted the picture because he had his thumb out while giving the middle finger.
Nick C
You know how when your on the sidewalk and you give someone the finger you can get arrested?! No? Well then why should this "public sphere" be any safer from the evils of offensive content then the actual real world?
The photo in question is not offensive to me. I would prefer if Google would use their resources in more useful ways than deciding what information I am permitted to see.
+Mike Elgan So you're saying Google shouldn't delete any photo? Or no? Nudes? Picture of dead people? , KKK attacking people? People torturing animasl? (We got all that and more on MS)
Nicely put, Tom, and generous of you to take the time to elaborate on behalf of Google+,
Sure Google writes the rules of its services but removing a pic with a middle finger in it is a bit uhm "extra" to me...with these rules i couldn't even add some pictures of my favorites album covers of all time...and thats sad...i mean we're not arguing about pics of nudes or dead animals...but pics of a damned middle finger.
No +Robb Weeks I don't support it at all. I don't support Google's short sighted mono-cultural failures at community development here on Google+. They can do better, they should be doing better.
Mike W
I think the bottom line is that it is Google's world and therefore Google's rules. We all had to click that we accept their rules when we signed up for Google+. I liken this to the old standby response from parents "while you're living under my roof..." If +MG Siegler doesn't like their rules he can take his ball and go back home and play with himself...
This is such a touchy subject with so many here.... Clearly many of them never actually read the TOS initially and now what to cry about it. I am directly effected by many of the issues here as it relates to my photography but I put my big boy pants on and abide by the rules and have had a great time here on G+.

Sadly I see this +MG Siegler issue as simply a way to get attention on an issue that been over discussed here many many times from almost the first day i started on here...

All the arguments are pretty valid but it's not our service to run and in the end take responsibility for - it's Google's - We need to at some point understand the larger picture, thou many can never see this larger picture through all the anger.

I would be all for a way of tagging images as adult or mature - but only the law abiders will do it... and they are not the issue.
I bet if apple took this idiots picture down he would praise them. All he wants is attention and he's getting it each annoying post at a time.
It's funny Siegler decries Google yet doesn't seem to have an issue with Apple morality policing.
+Tom Anderson That's what I'm saying. They don't do it for search, and shouldn't. And we can't even block search results. On Google+, each of us is his own censor.
Offensive content is very personal and extremely subjective. Obviously the guy has a sense of humor and wasn't trying to offend people. It wasn't aimed at anyone in particular, how can you be offended by someone flipping the bird at no specific person?

Intent is very important to determine is something can be called offensive or not, which is why a lot of people demand that users should be warned first. Meet Phil: Modern family - if you aint white

Google claim that their social network's aim is to mimic real life social activity. You can't claim that and then demand everybody to act as if they're on a corporate site.

If Google wants to use our profile pictures in search results that's their problem, I did not ask for this. I don't care how many resources they need to make the system fair, once again not my problem.

To all of you who think Google is doing us a favor? Well where are Wave and Buzz now?! Guess Google really can't do whatever it wants, can it? If they piss enough people off and they stop using the service then it's over and out. so they do have an interest in keeping in mind what the public wants.

So yes +Tom Anderson people should receive a warning as to "why" their content is deemed offensive and be given a chance to explain themselves or decide to remove it themselves.

Otherwise Google need to change its tune and make it clear that they want G+ to be used as a business tool and it has nothing to do with socializing in real life.

For example if I stumble upon a sex shop while I'm walking around in the city, I don't write angry letters to the government and ask them to shut the store down, I just walk by and ignore and move on to stores that I do deem appropriate.
so +Tom Anderson are you in cahoots with Google+ now? :-)
This is an inquisitive question, not sarcastic as I agree 100% with your comments along with everything +Jorge Saldivar wrote. Just think if Google+ joined forces with you it was a smart move given your followers! ;-)
+Mike Elgan you admitted that your statements were gross exaggerations but then you proceeded to use them as your only examples to back your argument. So Google has to be a social imperialist or be a mass censor? Those are their options? Like +Tom Anderson said there has to be some line and Google gets to determine that line because this is their site. Maybe they felt that the majority of the people using their service would define the picture as offensive. They can do this without regard to political or geographic boundaries all they need to do is determine that a majority of their users would find it offensive to them or others (kids use the internet too).
Google doesnt have to provide this service. They choose to. In fact they choose to provide it for FREE. To that end, they get to decide (without question or argument) what is allowed online and what is removed. This means that some content, gestures, violence, sex etc wont last long here.

People inherently know what is in good taste and what is or could be offensive. if you want to share content that falls into those categories, don't post it here, post a link to your own site where freedom of expression or content is up to you. where you call the shots and have the right to show or not (depending on country of course) whatever you want on your site.

Until Google offers a way to flag potentially offensive items so users can opt out of viewing them (which is a mediocre technical solution that still involves policing by the community) then these things will be removed at their discretion. (you cant complain when its FREE)

Simply put, if you dont like the way they are running their FREE service then take the offensive content (regardless of what it is) and move it to a place where you can display it and use this platform to link to it and or promote it, but don't show it.

Little common sense and some HTML solves this problem.
I wonder if he flips his mother off?
I agree with your viewpoint, Tom. I think what's happened here, with everything else (and this is not a comment to Siegler, just a general, all-encompassing comment) is that we're becoming too entitled. Social networks, although they need us to survive, are not just this free-for-all where we can do whatever we want. They're companies, and like all companies, have rules, policies and compliance procedures.
+Mike Elgan I hear you ... But I do have to disagree. I've seen that stuff on MS and its not just "uncircling" people, as a user, you don't have as much control as one might think -- they come into "public" spaces -- discussions like this, leave comments, etc. When you give them an inch, they try to take it a mile and they start adding photos (remember on MySpace you could put photos in comments, forums, etc.) in public places beyond their profile pic. Nothing's perfect, but I think the "cost" of profile pic free speech outweighs the benefits of a community sullied by bad decorum, which is a slippery slope (or "cliff" to use your metaphor) to hate speech, bigotry, and people doing things for shock value. I'm not sure MG's hand gesture is the line to be drawn, or if they should allow it to go a little farther.. but personally, I don't really care where they draw it. I'm glad to have a mostly respectful place here... :) +Robbie Coleman (just tagged you so you'd see this Robbie)
I bet he named himself +MG Siegler, just in hope that his profile gets locked for not using his real name. He's a well known Google basher and Apple fan boy, so he uses dirty tricks and fake indignation, just to pour gas into any flame that could hurt the reputation of Google.
1. To the people saying that G+ is Google's playground and they have a right to do whatever they want: This is partially true. On the other hand, they are creating this resource for everyone, not just for themselves. It seems reasonable that they should listen to people's opinions. In fact, if they do something with "their own network", that everyone disagrees with, people will start leaving. This isn't an issue of what rights Google has and what rights G+ users have. It's really a matter of making a better network for everyone.

2. +Tom Anderson "When a social network let's that stuff slide, it turns into a cesspool that no one wants to visit" -- that's a slippery slope and a straw man argument. No one is saying that absolutely everything should be allowed. But +Mike Elgan makes a great point: with Safe Search turned off, nothing (I hope) is filtered out. Why should G+ be different? I understand that some people are offended by middle finger photos, half-naked girls, etc. And they should be able to check off a "Safe Environment" box in their settings and remain in their puritanical worlds. But I don't want that stuff to be filtered out of my experience. I'm not offended by it. And if I don't like looking at something, I'm capable of clicking "mute/block/ignore".
Wow, talk about "much ado about nothing". It's been a while since I've seen so much writing and hand-wringing over nothing. Yes, MG could have just mentioned it in passing and gone on with his day instead of his rant. But everyone else could have just read that rant and gone on with their day also. I myself could have just gone on with my day too, instead of posting this.

100% agree with you +Tom Anderson . And this is great, you throw the discussion in here and not in Techcrunch nor FB (because the only way to comment a post in TC is through FB). I'm so tired of +MG Siegler that I decide to stop following him and the rest of the TC in G+.
Thank you to let the people discuss this in here.
Oh and one more thing, if you are using the G+ service is because you are agree with their Policy, if you are not agree as MG is, then you are free to stop using it.
I love the 'warned' bit here: as if no one knew that offensive pictures are unwanted. The warning, iirc, is in the FAQs, isn't that enough?
Does anyone see what's wrong with this argument, which boils down to "It's a public place, therefore censorship is good?"
And now what? Is Google going to stop indexing all the pornographic images or other offensive pictures that can show up in its searches? Come on, +MG Siegler's photograph was just a joke! If +Google+ or anybody is considering such image as offensive is either because they're highly sensitive teenagers or because they're taking political correctness just too far. This +Google+ playing Big Brother and the Pope and +Tom Anderson, and most people here, applauding it is completely surrealistic...
I think a bit of perspective might be called for here. Some countries employ thousands of people to stop their own citizens finding out what is going on in their own country. That's censorship. Google stopped a man posting a photo of himself on their own website but is happy for him to use a tastefully edited version. That's something else.
If Apple did this to MG he would be peeing his pant with excitement about how fantastic it was. MG has long been on my don't read/trust list. Great post Tom.
I agree with +MG Siegler. Anyone offended by a middle finger that doesn't look all that different than the fingers surrounding it should invest in some George Carlin records and chill out. Google+ doesn't allow anyone under 18 to join. If you don't like someone's profile pic or opinion or something else about them, don't put them in a circle. We don't need tech companies to babysit insanely sensitive people. We need them to innovate. Google+ should spend zero time or effort protecting easily offended types.
Tom you have nailed it exactly: "When a social network let's that stuff slide, it turns into a cesspool that no one wants to visit... sorta like MySpace was." Well, except that "let's" should be "lets".
Just as a civilized society has to have limitations and rules, so does a civilized social network. We all live with censorship all day, like it or not. Try screaming fire in a crowded theater and see how it works out. So a zero tolerance stance on censorship seems unrealistic. We've delegated the authority to enforce that censorship to other powers as a necessity to living in a civilized society. In this case, I have no problem delegating that authority to Google in order to keep Google+ from turning into the cesspool Tom mentioned. Google+ will never grow if it has that reputation. So do we want limited enforcement of standards here and growth, or do we want complete freedom and roll the dice on the sites reputation.
+Gipsy Jules Thanks, interesting to hear... +Tu-Anh Tran I have a comment up above that I think addresses that. As +Gipsy Jules point outs, what Google allows you to search for is radically different than what they've chosen to allow in their own space. I think we've seen what Google will and won't do when it comes to free speech.
While both sides of the issue are clearly understandable, and easy to empathize with, what seems to me to be the actual issue at hand, +Tom Anderson, is that Google+ has not defined "offensive".

Yes, they are completely in their right to take down photos [albeit, with a reason as to why would be nice, not a warning, simply a reason] that violate their terms of service.

However, considering the Content Policy does not out-right determine what is and is not offensive ["Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content."], we end up with cases like this -- people disagreeing with the company about what should and should not violate this statement. Sure, some people are not offended by someone giving the middle finger. Others, however, are.

On the other hand, the middle finger is much more of a North American insult. With Google+ spanning worldwide, surely they should also take into account offensive gestures from other areas? What of someone giving the index and middle finger, that which is rather offensive in the UK? "But it's not offensive to me!" Well, it's quite offensive to someone else.

Of course, if they monitor and watch for hand gestures which are offensive anywhere then things may get messy: people may get pictures removed for being inadvertently offensive. However, on the grand scheme of things, that's okay. It's better to have no one offended than many people, since that risks them losing customers. Who wants to hang around a place that offends them?

If, however, those people who have innocently done something wrong react as +MG Siegler did, then there creates another issue. Those people may leave, creating another loss for Google+.

As such, the best way to deal with this issue is to simply outright declare what is offensive, what breaks Google+'s Content Policy. Define that, and you can no longer have people making a big deal out of nothing.

Yes, that will take time, but in the long run, it will clear up a lot of issues. [And create issues, such as whiny folk declaring that they don't want some big corporation to tell them what is offensive -- on the other hand, they're currently partaking in a private network that is owned by Google, as such Google holds the right to define and declare the rules for this playground.]
Good response +Tom Anderson. Seems like Mr. Siegler has copious amounts of time on his hands to post rants on his blog as well.
I generally appreciate articles and opinion pieces from +MG Siegler. I could understand the surprise, and I guess that an automated e-mail is not such a painful feature to add for Google.
However, this time, this is such an over reaction to a small event, that I can't agree. If I had the audience he has I hope I would use it more carefully.
We're all grown ups on the internet, I thought we could handle middle finger images. The line between offensive image and offensive text is only in processing capabilities.
Personally, I think that people shouldn't be so easily offended by a complete stranger BUT since they are, the rules (as well as their enforcement) are perfectly reasonable.
Hold on all you people jumping on +MG Siegler for his profile pic. If he had used the word "fuck" in a post would you expect google to remove his comment?
^agreed, but the response you'd get to this would be that a comment isn't viewable without opening his specific page...
+mike elgan should be the last one to oppose censorship considering he often bans people from his own google+ for saying things he doesn't agree with.

+mike elgan should start practicing what he preaches instead of acting hypocritically.
Good call on this +Tom Anderson , I agree and I was very confused why a tech journalist would have the reaction mg did unless he was going for page views (which he got) or just hating on google+ (which he does).
+Tom Anderson +1 however wouldn't it be very simple to allow users to either view or block "offensive material" that they could set the limits on? I mean if they are policing photos anyway why not just flag it as potentially offensive and users can either view it or block it depending on the profile settings.
+Joshua Megnauth +Tu-Anh Tran yes, as Joshua points out Google search is not Google+ ; seems like we're talking about different things here. Google search has always pulled up porn or anything else you want - and as +Mark Broom suggests for G+, Google search actually has an option to block "offensive" stuff from your search result.
Well Said Tom, its not a big deal there are more offensive things to be seen on G+, but I would think MG would be be slightly more grown up then this, and have much more to be concerned with then his immature photo being removed.
What a bunch of hypocrites. Now quickly close the door flip you finger at the world and watch some porn. What Google is doing (and most of you together with them) is trying to be holier than the pope … and believe me, they (you) aren't!! SOPA is a big riot … but censorship of a simple stupid photo is ok???
It is not the place of a private corporation to dictate what "offensive" is.
I understand your point, and also that there are legal issues related to some content. On the other hand that so much time and resources have to be invested to stop people from posting things like this says something.

People want to give the finger to the whole world sometimes. Sometimes people feel like sharing their naughty bits, or say inflammatory things.

Parental controls, and options to filter out content like this for people that have weak stomachs, are easily offended, or are too young to see explicit content are great imho. When things are implemented like this, it's just censorship.

It used to be that decentralized information sharing made censorship like this impractical. It's a shame that now not only is it possible, in some cases it is mandatory.

I believe we are moving in the wrong direction.
Summary for those who have recently joined us: +MG Siegler used a profile picture showing him making a rude gesture, G+ removed it, MG invoked the Declaration on Human Rights or something, lots of people with time on their hands over Christmas piled in. I suspect any moment now Godwin's Law will come into effect.
+Tom Anderson I completely agree with you. He should have read the privacy statement. If he didn't he really has no right to complain about them enforcing it anyway!
Someone likely wrote this, but Steve J would have said "Get over it" and that wouldve been the end of it. Well put Tom!
Thomas Paine, where are you when we need you?
i see what you are saying, but still it feels alot like big brother in real life
I didn't read all the comments but it seems Marco over here just beat me to it. It's funny Siegler is complaining about a controlled/censored environment, considering his favorite platform is the most uptight and censored walled garden on the planet. I don't know how anyone can take anything Siegler says seriously. He may know lots of people in the industry, but he sure as hell doesn't deserve to write about it - lord forbid someone actually believed any of the asinine things he writes.
I really like +MG Siegler 's replacement photo. It's very humorous and clever, not to mention appropriate both in content and context.
Is that Big Brother the TV series or Big Brother the leader of a totalitarian regime in Orwell's 1984, +Patrick Hake ? If the latter, perhaps you should re-read the book, you may find that it deals with weightier issues than a profile picture on a social network.
+Colin Wilding :-) heh .. Orwell is probably my favorite writer, the 1984 is probably my least favorite of his works! Love his collected essays.
Well said +Tom Anderson , i think his attitude, and a lot of others, is almost bordering on the petulant child . people forget this is a new network thats only months old still
I don't usually read your posts/articles on the web, but this was a good post. Completely agree.
+MG Siegler is a tool. I get tired of reading his rants against google. I use both Google AND Apple in my daily life (as most ALL professionals do these days) and I find his post pointless.

2011 Google Basher of the YEAR!!! +MG Siegler is the winner!
It's common sense ... right?

If you really want to piss off the planet... then go ahead and flip them off... but do it on your own blog, not in a conspicuously PUBLIC forum like G+

+MG Siegler Please take a minute and think about "Why" this is so important to you. Does flipping me off (when I see your posts) make you feel good inside? This really has nothing to do with freedom of speech, but rather an inherent disregard for mankind at large.
+Tom Anderson - you will be aware, then, that in 1984 one of the regime's tactics for suppressing dissent was to 'dumb down' the language so that the people lacked the vocabulary even to think 'incorrect' thoughts, let alone voice them. We should thank Google for giving us a forum where intelligent debate is possible, perhaps even encouraged, and rail against the tendency to sink into what Orwell would probably have called LOLspeak.
+Tom Anderson I agree with everything you said, but now to play devil's advocate.... Though personally I'm not a fan of +Alexia Tsotsis, she brought up a couple of interesting points in her TC post this morning ( ). The one that stood out to me was primarily about who's standards of offense are being used?

As noted in her post, in some places in the world, the showing the soles of your shows or the palm of your hands is considered offensive. While at the same time in some places the middle finger has no significance and is actually the finger they use to point at things.

G+ is a global platform and it does a great job of connecting us on a global scale. I agree they need to do what they are doing, but how do you balance and police what's offensive to one person's culture and yet not offensive to another when you're supporting a global platform?
I agree, Tom. Well said. I would hope that no one would hold me up to a standard of perfection that I could not meet, especially since what is standard and appropriate is subjective.
The only concern I have is where is the line on what is and what is not offensive? If you use the OK symbol in some cultures, that is offensive, but not in the US. I am sure equally that the middle finger is not understood everywhere. What if the person has a FU on their shirt and the person ASSUMES this is for something other than Fordham University? While I laugh at the level of 'press' this is getting, I agree that if the system can automagically remove the offensive picture, why couldn't it do so with a 8 hour notice explaining why? No offense to your experience at MySpace, but if you can do the one, the coding to do the other part would not be rocket science.
+Steve Anthony Herrera Well, if anyone was going to display or block photos based on location and make the whole thing more complicated, Google would be the one to do it -- they have more resources than anyone else... and maybe someday could even do what +MG Siegler suggests (i.e. ask people to remove, see if they comply).. That said, and though +Alexia Tsotsis's points are valid... I just don't think it's worth focusing on for Google. It's much ado about nothing right now. That's something you can worry about when you're as dominant as Facebook. Google+ has other things to focus on at this moment.
I need some help here. As I'm from Europe maybe we are "different". Funny cartoon app on Apple Appstore rejected. Riot. This is censorship!! Somebody uses the f* word on TV. Bleep. Smoke some marihuana. Nope, deadly, you go to jail. Want to buy a gun. No problem, what gun would you like? Assault rifle? And suddenly flipping the finger is offensive? At least offensive enough to remove it? Please help me. PS: I do understand the immature part of it, and support that point of view. But is that enough to remove it?
+Roxanne K This social network is Google's property. Now if any sort of external body was using SOPA or whatever to censor comments on G+, I would be with you. This is not a case of government censoring content or big corporations censoring content on Internet sites they don't own. By that logic, no one can even reasonably moderate sites they own. That would lead to chaos. The Internet is mean enough as it is, what do you think would happen if people who owned sites can't moderate on their own site? 
Tao Ma
Hmmm, maybe you should change/remove your profile picture first? That's not you, and in some sense, it's misleading by using public image.
Hmm, I think +MG Siegler is absolutely right. I do not find anything offensive in showing or seeing middle fingers, in my culture the gesture is meaningless. I do find hypocrisy disgusting, though.
+Tom Anderson I agree that too much time has been spent on this already. So much so that this will be my last comment on the topic. Though it is true that at this stage of the game for G+ dealing with issues like this would be them majoring in the minors, at some point down the road when G+ is a more prevailing force I think this is something that if not handled properly could create a real image problem.
Its all about the T&C's. I was pretty surprised to find a topless photo posted on G+ by someone this week... First time I never saw nudity on a social network. Maybe it has been censored since.
+Tom Anderson I think you're oiling the slope. On yesterday's TWiG, I raised the question of Google's own principles. It does not delete links to content some people think is offensive on search and we would not want it to. Google does not want -- and we should not want -- it to be in the position of the world's censor. When governments -- from Iran to India now -- demand that Google take down links to allegedly offensive content, I among many protest.

So should Google censor societies? Why is Google+ different from search. It is a platform that people use to communicate as they use the web and Google provides the means for people and what they say to be found.

Extend your principle here to words. So should Twitter have erased my #fuckyouwashington tweets? What if I gave Washington the finger in a photo? That is political speech (as I argue here, in defense of bullshit against the FCC:

Who's to say what's offensive? If anyone and everyone can, we end up with the lowest common denominator of speech and the highest watermark of regulation and restriction.

Beware, friend.
Lighten up. It's a finger. I'd seeing that offends you, I don't know how you can make it through a day. And stay off the internet, you're not ready for what's out there.
Well said, +Tom Anderson . Seeing someone flip the birdie as a profile pic is not necessary. It also doesn't make people like MG look good. If I did something like that, there's a good chance I'd probably get caught by my employer, and I'd probably lose my job.
Some of the common fallacy in human logic are... You are wrong so I am right. No... we both could be wrong. And the one that applies in this case and one of the common excuse for people speeding on interstate... Others are doing it so it's okay. No... they should stop doing it too.

Twitter is allowing it so G+ should allow it too? No... Twitter should enforce it too. It's the only reason why I don't allow my kids on Twitter.
+Carlos Balderas and you're alright with losing your job for what you do in your personal life? You think that's how the world should work?
Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body. I'm sorry if you support censorship as long as it's Google doing the censoring.
"I just don't think it's worth focusing on for Google. It's much ado about nothing right now. That's something you can worry about when you're as dominant as Facebook. Google+ has other things to focus on at this moment." Ugh, +Tom Anderson This is the saddest excuse for misbehavior by Google.
Ok, here's my opinion in a cnutshell*:
1. It wasn't really that offensive, was it?
2. G+ over-reacted, but that is their right.
3. MG over-reacted, but that is his right.
4. The edited picture was more effective, and amusing, than the rant.
5. Some of us seem to have far too much time to spare.

* a cnutshell is a brief contribution by someone who knows he has no chance of turning back the tide of argument. Named after Cnut The Great.
Studies tell us body language accounts for between 55% and 65% of our communication. Isn't this about "freedom of speech"?
Two totally irrelevant notes:
1.- The guy doesn't know how to give the finger
2.- I now understand why he always chooses a side face profile picture instead of a frontal one
For the people that are crying censorship over a controversial profile pic, what if the person posted their genitalia. Would that be okay with you, or are you going to say "oh, well, that's different!"? It's all or nothing, in my book. Also, you signed an agreement when joining a site, such as G+. It's their rules.
The idea that any one entity can decide for another what is or isn't offensive isn't just ridiculous, it is itself offensive. Our reaction to any stimuli isn't only a completely objective thing, but in most cases based on perspective. What if Mr Siegler was missing 1 or more digits on his hand, (lets say it happened through a tragic and socially accepted cruel trick of fate) causing him to use his middle finger almost exclusively. Would the same picture that is being discussed , with those facts in mitigation, no longer be offensive? Same finger, same person different background. My mother was in a tragic fire as a child which left one of her bands burned in such a way that a number of fingers are semi fused and bent permanently. If she were to have posted a picture of herself as a profile in exactly the same pose as Mr Siegler, she very well might have received the same treatment-which truly would have been offensive to her, my family and anyone with a clear mind and connected brain cells. If you are offended by something someone you have never met does in a photo-why look at the photo? But more to the point, why assume that whatever you think you see in that photo is meant to be offensive? and What the hell does it have to do with you anyway?
I really don't have any issues with freedom of speech and no censorship if it's for adults only. Once your kid in kindergarten starts flipping fingers and says the f words in front of you because of no censorship on internet, maybe then you would understand the meaning of freedom of speech.
+Roxanne K There's a time and a place for everything. Until someone (facebook, Google) perfects noise controls / adult content controls on social networks, it is inherently safer to block / remove (*gasp* censor *gasp*) "potentially offensive" content. This is not censoring the internet or even relevant to SOPA in any way, which you seem keen on stating. This is Google's social network, with its own Terms Of Service and the like. If they want to create a non-offensive environment for people to congregate, it's their network, their servers, their right.

You might have noticed a special relationship with the Muppets and Google+.
Now, imagine a child coming up to you and looking at your PC because they saw Kermit / Animal / etc in your stream, and then right below that post is a picture of a Blue Waffle, because someone in your circles thought it would be hilarious to post it. Congrats! You just subjected that child to awfulness. There will always be a few who ruin it for the rest of us.

The network would become a cesspool very quickly with porn spammers and other awfulness. Until the controls are in place, it's a necessary evil.

I'm not offended by the middle finger (hell, I'm not offended by Blue Waffles either), and I understand the uproar. Google+ is directing people to +MG Siegler's profile. If anything, Google should be chastised for having the awful taste in directing people to circle that fucktard. When you're controlling the content, you have to start somewhere though.
+Carlos Balderas All the same? I bet if you go into a bar you will hear f* plenty of times and see some flipping here and there (you probably do it yourself). How many times have you seen genitalia in your face on a night out??? For the T&C stuff: I dare people to honestly say that they read that stuff before joining a service. Or before installing some software? F8 F8 F8 F8 ... I agree.
+Carlos Balderas 1) Why is it all or nothing? That's an unreasonable approach to life.
2) If you were allowed to, would you post your genitals as your profile pic? I wouldn't. And i'm pretty sure 99% wouldn't. And I'm more than capable of blocking or ignoring the folks whose content I don't enjoy. I don't want machines doing it for me.
3) Again about the rules: they're made so that people can enjoy the network. They're not arbitrary. Google has to listen to its users, otherwise people will leave. Google had a rule about pseudonyms too, and it removed that rule because of the backlash from its users. There is no reason to think that rules are something that cannot or should not change.
+Tom Anderson +Mike Elgan surely the logical thing to do would be for Google not to remove the offending pic, but just blank it with a black square containing a warning along the lines of - 'This image has been obscured as its content is considered outside Google+ taste and decency guidelines. Please click here if you wish to remove the block and view the image.' Problem solved?
What mg siegler uses G+? As an apple fan shouldn't he be using ping?
+Maarten Seghers If he used Ping, he'd only be annoying 5 people at best. Far below his standards.
How would his profile photo be treated on Apple's social network, Ping? Or as the main photo or icon for an app in the App Store? Would he cry so hard?
Brent M
Google set it up so you have to be an adult to join. If they are censoring Google+ anyway what was the point of that? The only thing I am concerned about is the filtering and blocking of spammers. I don't have time to be personally offended because someone post something on the internet.
Great post Tom, most of the people voiced similar opinions there on MG's Post.
I have no idea what we'd do if Google wasn't there to protect us.
+Tom Anderson Argument by analogy is always suspect and definitely flawed in this instance. When I'm at the mall, I can't just wish that the wearer of the offending t-shirt disappear and make it happen. I did just that the other day when I uncircled someone who's content offended me. If we must use an analogy, the correct one is a cable TV operator. If you don't like the cussing on HBO, change the channel, don't have the cable operator block the Sopranos.
I agree with you Tom... I don't buy this as a legitimate thing for MG to be upset over. I've read the counterpoints and do acknowledge that this is a slippery slope overall, but I think a lot of folks on the web carry that free speech mantle a bit too far. I also understand it's a subjective thing and each of us has on own boundaries as well.

What's important here is that MG is considered an influencer on the web. His professional livelihood depends on what he writes (and how he represents himself) every day. When he chooses to pick a fight like this one, I think it feed into the stereotype that bloggers are nothing more than ego-driven opinionated blow hards. And to me that's one of the biggest reasons why executive types tend to disregard discussions that happen on the social web.

Maybe to him, this is important at some level, but I don't buy it. Seems like this is a stunt to draw attention.
What a heated discussion! I'm wondering if MG submit that photo not as a profile, just a regular one, will G+ accept? If yes, then I Side with G+.
It is truly awesome response. Social sites like G+ or Facebook, if allowed to post offensive thing, yes people will obviously leave. Some countries, it has cultural impact, there is thin line what to put and freedom but those thing should not affect others.
Where to begin... I'm going to assume you more or less speak for Google, since you have taken it upon yourself to be their advocate. Naturally this isn't strictly correct, but for the sake of linguistic simplicity I'm going to do it.

Firstly, "Everyone else does it!" didn't work with your parents when you were 13, and it doesn't work now. Similarly "We were just doing what we said we were doing!" didn't work at Nuremberg, and it won't work here either.

Secondly, it's not our job to tell you how to provide very basic services like warnings or feedback. That's not what we do. That's what Google does, or should do. You don't show up to tell me the difference between the past participle dreamt and the past perfect dreamed, because that's not what you do. That's what I do. See how that works? I do my job, you do your job, and the world goes along. You choose not to do your job, I choose not to do my job, and the world stops moving. It's a very simple rule governing a very complex system.

Thirdly, the idea that a lack of censorship causes a "cesspool" is profoundly sad coming from a company built on the web when it was young and free. The fact that you said it outright has a kind of poignancy which would be more affecting if it were less irritating.

Fourthly, as a rule, if something makes a huge splash on the web, it's because people think it "deserves attention" which means that your opinion (or that of your erstwhile coworkers on whose behalf you are speaking) on whether it deserves attention is not really relevant. It deserves attention if we say it deserves attention.

There's more, as I wish I could say I was sure you knew, but I think keeping it to 4 points is sufficient. To conclude, censorship is one of the great evils of the world, and Google of all people should realize that giving the people the ability to express themselves as they wish is the ultimate act of creativity. Google has always been one of my absolute favorite companies. At all levels it seemed to represent what was possible when brilliant people are free to do what they love. What does this represent Mr. Anderson? What facet of the Google mindset birthed this little bit of contortionist logic?
Some people calling "freedom of speech" don't even understand it. It follows "harm principle" which limits from racial, libel, slander, obscenity, incitement, and pornography.
Bullshit. The only people "offended" by the finger are people who are otherwise free to unfriend (or uncircle or whatever) this guy. This isn't a speech issue, it's a pedant move by Google. What's next, are they going to ban me because I have a picture of a pig in my profile? Pigs are offensive to Muslims. You see where this is going? Unless it's blatant pr0n or shock images or obviously racist, who the hell cares of some guy is flipping his friends? Jeez.
all this "it's googles/youtubes rules-playground defense" really does put the whole "free speech" is dead with SOPA into realities light now don't it? the google mindset?- binary coders showing their hypocritical delusions or self interested greed for power... decide?
Profanity in excess and as a mainstay of ones argument is intellectually inelegant and pointless. It is the hallmark of a daft mind better suited to excessive beer drinking and watching Cheech & Chong movies over and over. Lame.
It's kind of ridiculous to give Siegler any attention for this. Google has every right remove offensive content. He isn't special and should get no special warning before content is removed and if your profile pic on a social media site is your only copy of that image then you need to invest in an actual backup system.
+Klaus Probst That would be true if the profile picture only shows up on his page. It comes up on search and suggestions too. This wouldn't be an issue if he posted that picture on his private album and shared it with his friends only. Profile picture is open to everyone. And G+ as far as I know is not adults only.
I agree with you, +Tom Anderson , I don't need to see someone flipping me off. While these are personal profiles, children and families come on this site. I sure don't want to see it myself, let alone my little sister.
They're stepping all over my snivel rights.
+Tom Anderson = correct position. +Mike Elgan = wrong position.

Every private business has the right to enforce its standards, even if they are vague. If Mr. Siegler and his followers don't like it, they can go elsewhere and take their revenue or potential revenue with them. Meaning, if Google makes a mistake, it will cost them money.

By the way, I am not anti-Mike Elgan. Oddly, I'd just submitted a public post encouraging folks to circle him prior to stumbling upon this wildly popular subject of the day. I guess we simply disagree on this issue.
Maybe instead of taking it down, Google Plus can implement something akin to the age restrictions on YouTube's more mature videos where you have to be a certain age to see the video (i.e. image). I don't think you should delete the image...
There is nothing immature about it! He should have the right to post what he wants, after all I thought that we lived in a country that allow freedom of expression.
+Albert H. Andrade Profile picture comes up on search and suggestions. If it was on his private album available to his friends and circles only, that may be a different issue.
+Tom Anderson Well said Tom, couldn't have said this any better. MG Siegler loves to stoke controversies be it his review of Android devices or generally anything unApple :)
Funny you should mention that. A friend of mine ran the content department at MySpace, devoted to policing the "offensive" content on the network. And everything that he told me back then (circa 2006-2007) backs up this post - & then some.

Well said, +Tom Anderson . Well said.
I cannot believe the ridiculous "me-toos" being expressed here, and the condescension levelled at a user complaining that a self-photo that they had selected to represent themselves on G+ had been deleted by Google without any explanation whatsoever.

Do G+ users not believe in freedom? Are you so offended by someone's middle finger or the words "fuck you" that they represent that you're willing to hand over an arbitrary censorship role to a giant corporation?

It's my understanding that G+ is a place where I can express the real me. Maybe the real me is offensive and likes flipping people off. Or more likely, the real me thinks that people who are offended enough by middle fingers that they'll back up censorship should actually fuck off. This also includes people who are offended by the word "fuck'. It's a sound and has never actually hurt anyone. No ears have bled because they heard the word "fuck", no child's innocence was literally lost by hearing it.

The action of being offended is one taken by the offended. If you find a profile you find offensive, CHANGE PROFILES.

I'm far more offended by arbitrary censorship from a corporation proclaiming to provide me with a place to express myself than I ever would be by the seven dirty words or any combination of physical gestures used in their stead, and I'm outraged at the people backing Tom's post.

That the majority of you supporting censorship have have stooped to ad-hominems against MG rather than actually arguing the points shows you've got little rational to add to the discussion.

Dear Google: I'm offended by the lack of love for freedom and free expression in this post. Please have it removed as per your actions against MG's far-less offfensive avatar.

In short:
well ... you're now on techmeme too
+Tom Anderson Much ado about nothing on your part. I didn't even notice it was a "finger." Plus everyone knows what MG Siegler is like, and you're just giving him ammunition. Not a bad move, but a silly move and a total waste of your own time. By supposedly explaining things to us in a rational way, you're actually fanning the flames, and I think it's unfortunate - just don't respond. You don't need to. :P
I'm with +MG Siegler on this one, I don't want google to censor and decide what I can see or not.
Maybe, if anything, they could let you choose if you want to filter that kind of stuff, as they do with searches.

Either way, I don't think there is any excuse to don't inform the user about the reason the picture was taken away. It doesn't need to be a personalized message handwritten by the CEO. The same process that takes the picture off can send an automatized message informing the user.
What I don't understand is... Google search has Safe-search why can't they implement the same system into Google+ why instead have they backtracked on the stand they made on china's censorship. Surely they can't have one system allowing you to search for content and select to see uncensored results and then have another system with mandatory censoring.
There's been a bird finger profile pic in my stream since, what? June or July. It's still there.
From +Mike Elgan's breakdown:
Q1: "Should the most offensive images be removed?"
Q2: "Is this image actually offensive?"

As to Q2, I thought the image had roughly the resonance of shouting "By Saint Christopher!" on a lightly trafficked street.

A Google Image Search with "Safe Search" on "Strict" seemed to agree, offering a President, a baby, a little old lady, and Jesus all providing the gesture.
Maybe Q1 should be, "Should Google remove images arbitrarily, without any reference to its own standards?"

There was already a sort of Q3 rattling around here too...Q3: "Should Google be ALLOWED to remove content arbitrarily?"

Maybe this is the only question +Tom Anderson wanted to address in the first place. It's different than Elgan's or +MG Siegler's original complaint though. We can all admit, "Yeah, Google CAN do whatever they like," while still being interested in whether they are acting in good taste.
I'm impressed that Google cares and is paying attention
The Parents Guide on imdb says for the PG-13 movie Bean under Profanity:
"Mr. Bean waves hello to a man, the guy gives him the finger. Mr. Bean, thinking the gesture was welcoming, flips people off during that scene."
You can view the scene on YouTube: Mr.Bean - Middle Finger funny video!!! :)
There are versions of it depicting a preview frame with the actual finger.
When making a judgment call, as all moderation calls are, one can take context and intent into account. Am I to understand Google is acting as 'a good parent' here on G+ but not so much on YouTube?
Google is NOT in the business of censorship. They provide an open public community for people who want to play by their rules. If you come to my house and strip naked, I'm going to kick you out. You are in my house, you dress by my rules. We are in Google's house. This is not censorship when we know the rules when we come in. Go say/publish what you wish, in a community that is willing to listen to you.

When I am in the G+ community, I WANT A PUBLIC PLACE AS PROMISED IN THE TOS when I joined. If I want other stuff, I go to Flickr, 500px, etc. I have plenty of stuff I cannot publish here. I am not going to cry about it. I publish it where it is welcome.

Quit your boo hooing, make your own website with your own rules or quit crying.
I completely understand and agree. I never understood why people flick the whole world off for no reason, but I will just never know.. Oh well, great article, like always. :-)
Even more offensive than the middle finger was his decision to wear a denim shirt with a jacket and tie. Disgusting!
I especially like that you take the time to link back to some people with counter points. Although I can't agree with either of them since they more or less amount to fear mongering about what this all REALLY means. As if someone giving the finger is a sign of respect for half the world and google is forcing them to conform to American ideals.

As long as google targets obviously offensive things I see no reason to even give it a second thought. Go look at 4chan for a perfect example of giving the internet freedom to post any picture they want.
Could Google just implement the same algorithm in G+ as in the Google Image search? One could just choose not to see offensive photos. One could even take this further and enable users to set their account as "offensive" if they feel the need to upload NSFW images or links.
Um, too long of a response - we have short attention span - keep it short and to the point next time :)
I totally agree with +Tom Anderson here. I have a FB page for an app (Love and Romance), and I don't think twice before banning users who indulge in spammy behavior. Banning spammers helps the place remain clean safe for users to interact !
Got to agree with Tom on this one. Send that photo to Tumblr, MG, plain and simple. You can even link to the Tumblr image or wherever you put it. Flipping off the camera is about as "cool" as being photographed smoking (it ain't sexy).
I don't disagree with +Mike Elgan , I'm wholeheartedly for his stance, but Google's a business, it makes perfect sense to me that they choose to adopt the social mores of the country in which they're headquartered. They're trying to grow gplus, and I think u.s. adoption is critical for that to succeed, so they have to by and large cater to a u.s. market, and that means making some concessions and taking some stances. Even if they're not super popular.
Of course Female Hair is offensive in some cultures. Is that next?
Regarding your statement - 'f you had a T-shirt that said "I hate White People" (you can imagine another ethnic group to make it more offensive, if you'd like) [...] If your T-shirt said "F*ck you" [...]" - Isn't USA supposed to be a free-speech country? I most certainly can (and sometimes do) wear such t-shirts in Europe and would be rather shocked and offended if mall security would force me to cover up or leave because of this. Should I be worried that if I come to USA, then I should be double careful of what I say or write because it's full of censorship nowadays?
How did singapore come into the picture??
Mike Elgan have the best answer i think: "If I'm offended by +MG Siegler's profile pic, I can block him in one second. In other words, Google+ has already given us the tools to censor according to OUR values."
I found this posting via Techmeme.

The real problem here is not MG Siegler's whining; let's face it, posting meaningless crap is his full-time job.

The real problem here is that Techmeme, which used to be a great resource for finding good technology postings, is now close to useless. I typically find that 90% of the links on Techmeme these days mostly point to either crap or discussions about crap. That is a great shame.

There are not that many sources of good journalism left any more.
+Tom Anderson frankly I've found both large parts of TechCrunch as well as some of the old-timer bozos who write stuff there quite insufferable & unreadable. The person to whom large parts of your post is addressed to & who seems to be trying to create much ado about nothing is pretty much at the top of that heap.
Kudos to the +Google team for doing what they needed to do. +MG Siegler 's sense of entitlement & pretentious sense of outrage frankly is the most insufferable part of this whole episode.
This is were social media breaks. There's no global society yet. People get shocked or offended for very different reasons. I know americans tend to think their values already rules globally, but this is not true. I've seen many people on Google + asking to remove content because it was offensive to them. Which Google didn't, because it was fine according to american values / laws.
Siegler has a knack for just throwing shit into the fan and never adequately or eloquently explaining what all he means, which given his occupation is a little disappointing to say the least. While I agree with him in the matter of not censoring his picture it was due in no part to his childish post but rather the more mature analyses of the two counterpoints you cited.
Couldn't disagree more. While the way "Facebook does it" may be appealing to some, it is the reason I so desperately wanted to shift my online activity to a place where some censor doesn't determine what I can and can not see. I thought the whole idea of Circles was that one could filter his own content. If I feel that seeing a finger exposed is not shocking, others might choose to uncircle +MG Siegler at their option.
Are the Google+ censors going to prevent the bottoms of feet from being displayed in the Middle East? Will there be a country by country handbook? It goes to the absurd.

I thought the whole idea was to not be evil. What else is censorship but evil?
good bay for my friend it
Well said tom. I'm sick and tired of the link bait BS from MG and his 'ilk'
+Tom Anderson So friggin let it be offensive. Tag it "offensive" in Google+ Database and don't display it to people with "SafeSearch" enabled. Problem, Google?
I see many people confused here. Google does not provide a public space. Google provides a private space that many people visit. The US Constitution has been interpreted as giving people freedom of speech in public spaces, not private ones. I personally would prefer that Google provide a public space (in which speech is free) and use tools like search ranking, "SafeSearch" and spam blockers to help people ignore things they don't want to see -- but it is of course the right of any business to prevent free speech within their walled garden. For more on the law here, see the well-named legal paper 'Fuck' by Professor Christopher M. Fairman: Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper Series No. 59; Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper Series No. 39; March 2006. This paper can be downloaded without charge from the Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection:
+Nathaniel Whitestone Exactly. Somethings, like malls, are private property with public access. People think they can do whatever they want wherever they want cuz it's a free country. People are so ignorant.
Tony Ng
Its just a storm in a tea cup. I'm sure +MG Siegler wouldn't have complained if it was Apple doing it.

Contrary to +Mike Elgan , I have no problem to this instance of "cultural imperialism". I'm sure somewhere there's a culture that has no issue with public nudity, but I'd say its fair to delete nude profile pics.
They are hardly controlling anything aside from regulating their TOS. As if any website does anything different. I bet he was hired by FB.
Ultimately...people should have the right to write or speak whatever they want. There is absolutely zero...ZERO...guarantee that you will go through life without being offended in a public space. ZERO. People will be offended by a woman breast feeding, nuns, clan members, midgets, blonde people, guys named "Keith"...etc., etc., etc. Grow up, people! You're going to be offended. BUT, here's the other side of the coin - people should ALSO have the right to respond in whatever manner they feel is appropriate to that has been said. If someone tells your breastfeeding wife, "Ew! Put those things away!" - you have every right to tell him or her to shut the hell up. Someone posts something illegal like child pornography - send them to jail. If you're name is Keith...I sincerely apologize for the earlier wisecrack. See...action...reaction... The question is, are we going to keep trying to coddle society, or are we going to prioritize what we should be protecting people from and act like adults?
+Peter Overstreet I totally agree. People do not have the right to NOT be offended. Being offended is a personal choice based on personal, cultural, ethics and religious beliefs. If we start filter content just because someone will find it offensive we will end up with a totalitarian society.

I like what Jeff Jarvis said:
"Who's to say what's offensive? If anyone and everyone can, we end up with the lowest common denominator of speech and the highest watermark of regulation and restriction. "

Of course exceptions apply like a speech that entices people for violence.

Good read:
Did he pass the age test while getting registered with Google?
Where did G+ clearly state that "the finger" is verboten? Don't they just say "offensive"... w/o specifying what that means? Of course, "we all know what that means". No. We don't.
Remember Nipplegate? Here in Germany virtually everybody was in stitches about the fits you merkins threw over this... bit of breast exposed.
Checking the TOS... hmm, don't find anything of the sort. They reserve the right to pre-screen, filter etc. By what criteria, they don't say. The right, not the obligation, that is.
And: "you may be exposed to Content that you may find offensive, indecent or objectionable" So, user beware.
If someone could explain to my how anyone should be able to tell beforehand that "the finger" (or any other gesture, image or whatever) will not be allowed by Google, I'm all ears. Bear in mind, though, that I'm European (German, to be precise). We see things quite a bit differently.
+Antone Johnson The point is not that are or are not "arbitrary, vague," etc. The point I'm making is that there are none. Yup, G+ TOS (well, Google TOS, I didn't find separate G+ TOS) doesn't say "you shall not post things that are X, Y or Z". It just say that Google can filter and screen etc.
It does say, however, "user beware" in that "content can be offensive". And that they won't protect you.
Regarding Google+... if you don't like their policies, go somewhere else!! wtf
+Tom Anderson you make sense as sites like Myspace, Facebook and Google + has to make the site suitable as possible for everyone, not the select few. Right now there are millions of photos being uploaded, gods know what they all are. Also sites like G+, people can take offensive to photos like +MG Siegler and report as such. So what may be right for +MG Siegler is not right for others.
I think for public posts the public profile images and language can be expected to be moderated. If it were my show, I'd let anything go, but it isn't, and google is trying to appease the masses. The cesspool where near anything goes known as 4chan is also the birthplace of a subculture of art and humor that permeate the internet. 4chan is also the longest lasting social network as well, so those are both positive aspects with allowing more freedom of image posting. Yet, I can still understand the professional angle this network is trying to play. I think if people share images in a limited circle, they should not be removed unless someone complains or flags. I think that person should request to be removed from that circle if they flag, but thats a respect and common sense thing, not required.

As a networking tool, different groups may feel more comfortable or possibly have a professional reason to be involved in uncomfortable topics involving less generally socially acceptable images. The medical communty could make a good tool with g+, for an example of limited circle sharing that may not be as acceptable in public but could be of high quality in limited. As a public post, I don't like the policy to remove public things deemed offensive, but I can expect it - if that makes any sense.

I am still happy with the policy that they remove pictures in question rather than delete the entire user profile.
The internet is a public place isn't it!? Now shouldn't it drive us to behave accordingly!?
Give me the finger online you'll end up getting block. Give the finger to my brother on the street, you'll end up fingerless!

But wait this isn't online nor the street is it now? It's Google+! And it's free to use too! This implicates Googles rules doesn't it?
Removing MGs profile picture is common sense! Not censorship!
I thought G+ set the age limit so they wouldn't have a headache dealing with "mature" or "offensive" content. If they're gonna police the users 24/7, then why bother making it adult-only in the first place?
It's funny that at the end of his post he mentions that no on reads the terms and services. If he would have he would have known that google could have deleted his picture. What I'm willing to bet is maybe someone reported his profile picture. Seems like he is crying over spilled milk really. 
+Tom Anderson "we, the users of Google+ (and Facebook or Twitter) don't need to see you flipping us off".

You see, there you go ... speaking on my behalf, expressing an opinion on my behalf. One that I don't really agree with. I don't find the image in the slightest bit offensive but what I do find offensive is a large, commercial organisation deciding what I should or shouldn't see. It's not only wrong, it's deeply disturbing.

yeah, OK, it's their space and they have the right to decide what goes on here. But with that right comes a deal of responsibility and at least part of that responsibility is realising that a picture of someone flipping the bird doesn't actually do any harm except in the minds of those that choose to decide that it is.

If you don't like it, avoid it but please don't make these kind of decisions on my behalf. I'm a grown up.
I wasn't offended by the picture.
So who makes the rules about what is offensive? This is a slippery slope.
Why didn't they notify him regarding the take down?
Google makes money off of us using G+, a courtesy email would be the appropriate thing to do especially. It's like someone just entered your hotel room where you're broadcasting and removed your wardrobe because they deemed it offensive.
+Antone Johnson Interesting, thanks.
Now, how did you find them? How long did it take you? I see the "profile pic not offensive, please". And I learned something new: a close-up of a woman's cleavage is offensive (in general, or only when it looks like a person's buttocks?)
Maybe offensive is not the right word, i would suggest stupid and vulgar.
Well said Tom, G+ is too much open to anyone to allow people to behave just like they want in any moment, its not a question of decency, in my opinion, but of good taste. And good taste is very important to maintain a high level profile. There already are lots of sites winking to hot pictures and sex hungry people, i think it's enough for the ones of the kind.
MG, Mike and Jeff are a bunch of morons.

They are all about "freedom of speech" and Google trying to censor the internet. I submit that the concept of freedom of speech was not put in place to protect your right to be vulgar, and in fact that the founders of the concept noted that if your freedoms were not used responsibly, you would lose them. But I digress.

Google is not trying to censor the internet, and your "freedom of speech" still intact despite your efforts shove it up someone else's ass. Google is only trying to censor the content on the bandwidth and server space that they HAVE PAID THEIR OWN MONEY FOR AND CHARGE YOU NOTHING TO USE. It is laughable that you think your rights have been violated because you cannot use someone else's property to be juvenile and vulgar.

Here's an idea, jerkwad. Buy a computer, install a web server on it, buy a domain name, and then you can put up ultra-stupid and wasteful content until your fingers bleed. I promise, nobody will be able to stop you (yet). Not even google.

In fact, they won't even ask.

Oh, and I dare you to try and make some advertising money with your middle finger.
Mentioning "public spaces" and then, just in the next sentences, mentioning a mall as an example? A mall is NOT public space, it is a privately run spaces which purpose is to make people consume. Maybe that's why you brought this example up - 'cause that's a much more better comparison to commercially run social network - places where you are suposed to consume by "having a good time".

But, dear +Tom Anderson the public sphere is NOT something which is owned by a private company. Just take the regulations for Zucotti-Park in New York, it is privately owned and just because the civil watchdogs in the past decades took care that even than the people must be allowed to treat this place as public, the Occupy-People couldn't be removed by the "owner".
Many totally lost the awareness of public ground as a necessity to the very existence of democratic structures. Even if you think that a private company is taking care of some "proper" behaviour and most people agree obviously on that - this is not a sign of publicness, it is a very sign for privately controlled areas where security officer can delete everybody who is not wanted and moral officer taking care that nobody can overstep the housemade rules for free speech.

+Richard Blalock You right, being "vulgar" is most probably not the best use for speaking out. A T-Shirt saying "F%*k you" is most probably not the best way to express your own disagreement with the social or political situation. And yes, you are again right, that the owner of a virtual place like a commercially run social network (google+, facebook etc.) have the right to decide what can be done or not done on their property. BUT then this is not a public place.

But the question then is: Where are the common grounds, the agoras, the streets where public life can exist, grow and develop? Having a little website in some digital backyards is not a solution. If todays digital agoras - aka social network - where people are used to gather around and discuss are privately owned, then we have a big problem, 'cause then publicness virtually doesn't exist in the web - then these social network aren't even "Privately Owned Public Plazas" a term created in New York to handle exactly this problem in the physical part of reality.
If this were the only issue I'd be wholly in agreement with you. However, correlated with other attractive G+ features like the deletion of pseudonym accounts, this points to a policy of streamlining users - confining their self-expression to a very narrow range of behavior. It also tends to keep G+ from becoming more lively, which is why I have lost interest and now sign on about once a week at best.
" confining their self-expression to a very narrow range of behavior."

So self-expression devoid of vulgarity is a very narrow range of behavior. This is completely absurd. And if you need liveliness in the form of middle fingers to remain engaged, welcome to the internet where such behavior is an all-you-can-eat buffet. May I suggest

Good riddance. Here's to hoping even once a week becomes too onerous. I like it here and come here more and more often because it's more like a friendly social network and less like a truck stop rest room.
Every great company has haters. Apparently all of you agreeing with Tom are apart of said group. Go on haters. live your shitty life.
+Tom Anderson, +MG Siegler has said in the past that he is not a fan of Google. He's obviously a fan of Apple. Since there seems to be so much heated competition between the companies he sides with the dark side Apple. I think he's sort of paying a tribute to his idol the Sith Emperor Steve Jobs who has a photo flipping off his middle finger at IBM as you can see here. (Google Images)
+Jeff Jarvis This is America, we have a free market. If you don't like a companies free service, simply delete your account. It's easy to do on G+ because they actually try to not be evil, but on FB, it will take you over 2 weeks and hours of work to delete your account. After doing this laborious process I found an easy solution,, which I was going to use to remove my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

Unfortunately though, thanks to FB's C&D letter, it doesn't look like I can anymore. So I'll have to do it manually.

We should be way more concerned with companies that make it nearly impossible to remove your information from their servers, and actively bully those who want to provide a service to help us, then with a company removing potentially offensive posts on their service. Where's the outrage over FB's account deletion policy?
Considering that Google+ owns the service, servers that store your content for FREE, don't you believe that they might have some say or responsibility in determining what is offensive? It is their house, property. +Jeff Jarvis and +Mike Elgan, what is stopping +MG Siegler from posting whatever he wants on his own blog on his own domain with his own terms of service policy? Hell, Google doesn't own the Internet. :)
Jason M
This whole thing just reinforces my love for the policy settings of twitter.
Actually that pic is not offensive to me. Is just a pic. MG Siegler is just showing his low condition as a two-feet walking being. How many pople like him that shoudn't be breathing out there are in the real life????? Tons of them. My neighbor next door is even much more offensive to me with his peculiar and ramplant body languaje as if he was flipping metaphorically his bird everytime he shows himself outside in his front yard and there is no Law that could stop that. He just planted a pinetree 5 inches from my fence. Even I love Google+, I think is very inmature the removal of a pic like that. There are much more offensive things in life that we all have to turn our faces around rewardless.
"It's offensive to me, so ban it" is censorship. although, i doubt anyone would be consistent in how they apply their outrage.
I agree tom fight the good fight people need to stop being so mama they took my pic ok baby lets sue them use common sense i guess common sense is a grey area too lol
N Likes
This is precisely why Google+ will have such low penetration.
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