You know when I’m writing a blog it usually means that we need to discuss a direction the site is headed in or recent issues on-site.
First off, let me start by saying the site’s administrators and moderators are all personally very supportive of freedom of speech. The stories contained in our archive, for example, still run afoul of the laws in many countries where gay and erotic literature is deemed obscene and pornographic. But even a commitment on our part to free speech must inevitably be balanced against certain constraints necessary to keep the site online and build an inclusive community where all are welcome.
I’m sure most are aware of how GA is funded, but I'll review for those that are not. When Myr first started the site, he covered the costs out of his own pocket. Needless to say that was a long, long time ago. And as the site grew over the last fifteen years, and boy did it ever, GA had more and more costs. Those costs became unmanageable for one, or even five or six people to shoulder themselves. Thoughts were bounced around to do pledge drives, much like a certain Wiki organization regularly does. Luckily, in the end we were able to weigh the advantages, and the cash, that Google AdSense can provide to the site. This allowed us to continue to remain completely free by including advertising on the site rather than having pledge drives to pay the expenses. Eventually costs soared and we had to re-evaluate our funding choices again, and that’s when we came up with the Premium membership option. This still makes 98% of the site free to all members. In our opinion, this was a win-win scenario as the site remained online with the combined funding and our Premium members get to read stories that would otherwise not be available on-site.
As I mentioned earlier, there are constraints imposed upon the site by participating in the Google AdSense program. Google often changes their policies and decides what content, or speech if you like, is allowed to exist on sites that carry their advertisements. We must therefore make certain trade-offs at times and implement new policies to protect the site’s primary revenue stream so that we remain in Google’s good graces and also do what’s right for our community.
We had a discussion going on in a topic recently which involved some words that included, and this is my summary, racial slurs and vulgar terms. I don’t think I need to spell them out or obfuscate the words by replacing the letters with ***s. Think of words that you probably hear in everyday speech or maybe in movies. Words that most wouldn’t use in polite company. These words now have a filter on them that will not allow the post to be public unless it is approved by one of our moderators. So if you are typing up a post, and it doesn’t immediately appear, it might be because of the language within the post. I must thank the people who were involved in that topic for working with us to get their posts edited in a way that meets these standards.
Personally, myself, I have issues with racial slurs or racially hateful names/labels, and bigoted and sexist language. I also realize that others don’t see this speech as an issue and get upset at the idea of not being able to freely use it. I know here at GA, we strive to be an inclusive community where our guests and members feel welcome, and some of our site’s visitors include minority groups that might feel targeted by this language. Why would we want to be a place that openly welcomes and supports members of any sexual orientation or gender expression, but in turn have racially hateful language making them feel like a minority within a minority? One member shared with me his own experience that there are some major ethnic groups that feel like ‘gay groups’ can be as alienating, if not more so, by their language and derogatory slang used to refer to them. Is this really what we want for GA? I do realize that maybe certain words are used in your circle of friends, or maybe within your family or your area of the globe, but that doesn’t justify their use on this site. If we had someone join and find a fair bit of language that they find hateful, what does that say about us as a community? Do you want them to feel unwelcome?
There are a few ways that we are allowing certain language which might be considered ‘real language’ by some to remain visible. In Stories, if you want to keep your characters real and you feel the only way to do that is to use language that you won’t find on Network TV, then you can do so—as long as the story is rated Mature. The Pit is also an area not open to Google AdSense so, if needed, these words will be permitted there as long as they are not being directed at others. Other than that though, we will be enforcing automatic filters going forward and not allowing certain words that I’m sure you all know to be used on our Forums. And, as always, if you are making a personal attack on someone using any language, this will be treated as a personal attack first and foremost.
The next category to discuss is vulgar words. Without using the actual words or *** again, I will specify the slang use of a female’s vagina will not be allowed on-site except for the same guidelines as the racially-charged words above. I really don’t see how a conversation is made better by using this word. Once again, I realize this is only me, but in general it is not used in polite company.
So what exactly does this mean going forward? If a restricted word is used in a post on-site, your post will not be seen and the moderation team by alerted to your post with the following warning:
The Site Moderation Team will contact you and review that the post made contains a word that is not acceptable on our Forums and give you a copy of the post so you can modify and re-post it should you choose.
If the post appears in the Pit it will be approved as long as it isn’t being used as a personal attack on someone.
It will be up to you to determine if you will be posting again. I’m sure you can be creative enough without trying to get around the filters to get your point across. Unfortunately, if your creativity is just hiding the word with other symbols like ***, spelling or similar words that will sound out the word, they will be blocked too.
There will be no warnings or punishment if you get a message of this nature for a post unless staff are forced to moderate a member’s posts repeatedly when it is clear they have been made aware of these rules. Remember, though, that Rules Lawyering is not allowed under the site rules already. Please understand that we are doing this entirely to protect not only our members who may be alienated by this language, but to protect the revenue that keeps the site online.
Is it really worth losing the nearly 124,000,000 words entirely over the use of a few words?
I encourage you to use this blog to discuss the issue now, instead of having to rehash it later. Can we just do it without the use of certain words?