Google is requiring some major changes to various digital art depots featuring user generated content. ArtStation, a popular outlet for artists to post their work, look for freelance jobs, and get hired, has been flagged under the Google Play policy overhaul, which is now targeting any sort of female sexuality (especially aimed at straight males) as sexual content that is prohibited on the Google Play store. We saw Google recently target the music-rhythm game Zyon for featuring female cleavage, and now any female characters showing midriffs, thighs, and cleavage are also considered “sexually explicit” according to Google.
In a post published on December 18th, 2018 on the ArtStation website, CEO Leonard Teo addressed the current state of the ArtStation app being suspended from Google Play for the time being, until the outlet either bans all of its content that Google deems “sexually explicit” (even for content that’s not sexual at all), or prevents any of the content from showing up on the Google Play app. Teo explains that the major issue is that the images Google flagged as inappropriate aren’t actually sexually explicit, and the content that is sexually explicit aren’t allowed on the app…
“One of the concerns we have about the suspension is that the images Google flagged aren’t even as explicit as what is available on many other apps. For example, a few minutes of using apps such as Reddit and Instagram have proven to have far racier images.
“We have discussed internally about using Google’s Vision API to do AI image detection and assist in moderation, but Google’s Vision API doesn’t even flag one of the images as violating. i.e. we can’t even detect this without having moderators check every single piece of content being uploaded, and even if we did do that, the TB Choi image would not have been flagged as mature.”
One of the images that Google flagged was from South Korean artist TB Choi, as pictured below.
As explained by Teo, the image was perfectly safe for viewing on Twitch, but Google is now saying that the content is “sexually explicit”. This is despite the fact that Google’s own image appraisal tool labeled the images as being “very unlikely” to be adult content. So according to Google’s own image tools, the content isn’t sexually explicit, but Google is still saying that they are and are punishing ArtStation for it, even though Twitch.tv is completely fine with the art.
As noted by Teo, ArtStation decided to put TB Choi’s work and other flagged art behind a mature filter, even though the art isn’t sexually explicit. They appealed to Google about the decision but the appeal was rejected and Google added other images were added to the slate that needed to be censored, including a 2019 Christmas card featuring two scantily clad ladies.
Teo isn’t giving up, though. They have plans on resubmitting the app in 2019 after making some changes and likely censoring, removing, or flagging a bunch of content to comply with Google’s demands.
We’ve seen other services cracking down fan-service and sexually suggestive imagery in recent times as well, including Sony Interactive Entertainment, while porn has been outright banned on Tumblr, and Valve has been inconsistently banning games from Steam.
(Thanks for the news tip DreamofWinds)