Open Thread: Well, There Went My Year

Content Note: Rape, Pedophilia

Apparently TVTropes -- which, as many of you know, is my personal utopia -- is going to be vastly less useful in the future:

I'm a moderator at TVTropes, speaking in a personal capacity.

We removed all our trope articles about rape [link added by Ana] due to Google telling us that we must or they'll suspend our AdSense account again. Since they've cut us off twice in the last two years with no warning, we're obviously treating this seriously.

Note that we already did not show Google ads on any page that had the chance of being problematic. This apparently is not enough for them. We're asking for clarification and to escalate the issue, but nothing back so far from the Googleborg.

We certainly don't wish to not cover the topic at all -- how rape is treated in media is an important thing to look at, it seems to me -- and we'd like to bring those pages back.

This is not connected with our somewhat recent decision to not cover works that are pornography or pander excessively to the tastes of pedophiles.

Since we're a site built as a labor of love by volunteers, the effort of having to repeatedly defend what we do to Google's incomprehensible procedures is draining.

This is why Wikipedia doesn't have ads and instead relies on donations. I believe this is also why Melissa chooses to run Shakesville that way. Advertisers and advertising networks buy you with their money.

~ Morven posting at Shakesville

What this means, among other things, is that all of the tropes dealing with rape have been taken down. Which is kind of a really big freaking deal because how rape is treated in media matters. Note that most of these compiled examples were meaningful social commentary if only by their sheer weight and number. Now it's all gone.


Ana Mardoll said...

More infor here:

Patrick Knipe said...

Today is a bad day. ._.

Bificommander said...

I assume they did keep a backup of the pages, in case they manage to get a deal with Google or find a loophole. Still, since Google doesn't really have much to gain from changing their minds there's a good chance this may be permanent I suppose.

Reiko said...

Wow. It's pretty awful that Google can apparently just impose arbitrary whims on them like this. Not just for the consequences of this one instance, but because it runs so strongly against the idea that websites are generally independent entities. But then, maybe this is just common practice and it's the first I've heard of it, I dunno. Either way, I find it pretty alarming.

At the very least, I take comfort in knowing that the pieces are still there to be picked up by others. One thing I'm sure will always hold true is that it's very hard to completely expunge a piece of information from the Internet.

Yamikuronue said...

Last time this happened, there were a few solutions kicked around; the segregation they eventually implemented was deemed the easiest and best solution, but there's also the idea of totally separating the site into TvTropes and TvTropes Adult, where all sex-related tropes could be hosted ad-free. There were dozens of offers of hosting to move the backups, though no one person really has the space for a permanent solution. In short, there was a hue enough outcry that I doubt this will stick.

If I was still in the community over there I'd have more information, but I've fallen out of touch.

Ana Mardoll said...

If anyone hears anything more about a solution, will they let me know if they can? I literally only found out about this because I read Shakesville.

GeniusLemur said...

Trigger Warning : Rape, Child Abuse

Does Google also want the AP to take down all their articles on Jerry Sandusky?

chris the cynic said...

As near as I can tell there is no way to send online feedback to Google. You can report a problem with one of their products, but if you just want to say, "That thing you just did is fucked up," there's nothing. For comparison, if I want to say to the President of the United States, "That thing you just did is fucked up," it's two clicks away.

Regardless, my proposed solution would be to organize a petition that says something to the effect of:You have demanded that stop criticizing rape or lose their adsense account.

Stop using adsense to protect rape in fiction from criticism, literary or otherwise.

Get as many signatures as possible, then send a physical copy to:

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View
CA 94043

Since that seems to be the only way to actually critizce anything they do.

Ana Mardoll said...

Chris is right: It's almost impossible to SPEAK to someone at Google. This is particularly frustrating when you're using Blogger.*

(* Much as I love Blogger. I mean, I just created another Blogger site last night to host my Acacia Moon Publishing site because... you people? Who use Wordpress? YOU ARE GENIUSES BEYOND IMAGINING. Wordpress gives me headaches.)

Of that "all the rape tropes" I linked above, it looks like all the ones that don't have "rape" in the title still exist. That leaves the following cut:


I can't even find Google cache backups for these. I've written Morven because zie seems very nice and asked if I could have a copy of the backups to refer to locally because I blog about feminism and rape a lot. (Ironically, I have Google AdSense too. I guess I'm not a big enough fish to go after.) I'm really hoping that zie will send me copies to hold onto.

I've also -- in an unrelated salvage campaign -- been locally storing all the TVTropes info on F.A.T.A.L. since they started scrubbing the blog walls. I'm not happy with the conflation (by FastEddie re: pedo/porn and by Google re: rape) of CATALOGING with ENDORSING and this new move to scrape away all the bile bits of media really concerns me a lot.

Ana Mardoll said...

If someone made one of those petitions, I'd sign it, FYI.

chris the cynic said...

Looks like it's pretty easy to make one, the trouble is finding the right words to say.
Start a Petition
Your grassroots campaign for change begins here

1. Who do you want to petition?

2. What do you want them to do?

3. Why is this important?

1 Google
2 Stop silencing criticism of rape
3 Because....

Because 101 explanations about how popular media influences people's mindsets and thus has a powerful effect on the treatment of claims of rape, treatment of rape victims, thoughts about rape cultures, treatment of rapists, and so forth and how the hell do you make that into a single coherent message to anyone who might stop by the look at the petition?

Because it's important to have someone out there cataloging the frequently reoccurring patters in the stories that surround us in order to understand the culture that we exist in if we ever want to improve it.

Because ... seriously, shouldn't being able to preform criticism of rape be pretty non-controversial?

Because why wasn't it obvious to Google that this was a stupid thing to do?

How does one write point 3?

ZMiles said...

Rape of the Lock (the Shakespeare poem) has also been taken down. It appears that Fast Eddie (head of tvtropes) just went through the site and blanked every page that had 'rape' in the title.

They did (and probably still do) have the pages backed up. For a while you could get around the prohibited-viewing by messing with the capitalization of the links. That loophole is fixed now, but it does indicate that the pages did exist somewhere after the deletions.

TheDarkArtist said...

What the ... ? So, it's "family friendly" and "clean" to pretend that rape isn't something represented in media? It boggles the mind that Google would make a decision like this. Or maybe it doesn't, because [capitalism, patriarchy, rape culture, ad infinitum].

Very disappointing.

Aidan Bird said...

That is hard to find the right words for this. I've been whacking my brain to try to come up with something.

Let's see....

Rape within media and literature needs to be critically examined. provided a catalog of rape tropes, complete with thorough examples, to showcase how rape in media and literature can be highly problematic. Due to the high rape statistics in our culture, a critical examination of rape in all areas of our society is desperately needed in order to combat rape from all sides. Media and literature can influence people over time (maybe insert a study here if you can find one?), and we need to desperately understand the influence these portrayals have on our culture, especially if we ever hope to improve our culture.

*sighs* I suppose that's not much better, is it? Perhaps if we keep brainstorming we can mash one together that's coherent?

Will Wildman said...

There's a pretty consistent message from various directions (censors, bigots, allies of either) that pointing out the existence of a bad thing is vastly worse than perpetrating the thing to begin with. Because oppression and violence go away if we stop talking about them, OBVS. For all that I didn't always think TVTropes handled problematic stuff super-well, they were, as Ana notes, at the very least useful because seeing a repository of so many examples of a thing is an unquestionable answer to 'Prove this thing is happening'.

JonathanPelikan said...

Ah, yes, the 'ban the word gay in school as a measure against discrimination' school of enforcement. That was put into place after a kid a year or two my senior killed himself due in part to the stuff that happens to gay people in a modern Missouri town. So that was most of the school's response. Anyone saying gay would be harshly punished no matter the circumstances.

It worked great. I think it only lasted a year or so, too, and it was back with a force and nothing at all of the underlying causes had changed, or if they had, it was through generational stuff and young people changing and not an effect from the top down.

JonathanPelikan said...

Reminds me strongly of when I tried to actually contact somebody at Youtube with a problem. Like, an actual person.

I couldn't. Flat out. Period.

Good times.

Fourthage said...

This seems like a good thing to drop a note about. It's exactly the kind of bone-headed decision they like posting about, and they have a huge audience.

Comrade Day said...

I just fired off a tip about this to Jezebel, as I think what we really need is to get more people angry about this bullying by Google. If enough people become aware of this and become upset about the decision, there's a much better chance that the problem will be solved.... although, honestly, I kind of feel like switching advertisers would be a really good starting point. I understand that AdSense has the market fairly well cornered, but I do know there are other services out there as well. And maybe TVTropes should consider adding in an option to donate directly to the site. I know a lot of us would be happy to if it meant not being subject to corporate censorship efforts.

thousand said...

To play the devil's advocate here, a lot of TVTropes pages were/are hugely problematic in many, many ways; You can find a chronicle of fairly embarassing TVTropes stuff on Crazygoggs' channel on youtube, probably the worst of which was the following to my mind (note that TVTropes deleted the page in response at the time):
TVTropes has been in the process of extremely slowly getting it's act together and revising standards of what's allowed (as the 'everything' policy leads to certain problems). It's gotten much better in the recent past in this respect. I suspect that if left alone by official authorities (and just occasionally mocked by independent bystanders) it will continue to improve.

Because of that, Google's particular approach to dealing with TVTropes seems particularly ham-handed and ill-advised to me; a lot of TVTropes is good and interesting and worth saving, and a lot of the worst parts are mixed up with parts that could be good, so improving the state of TVTropes could best be done by a tonne of careful editing and not, for example, by deleting every page with a specific word in the title regardless of content. Besides throwing out a lot of important stuff as mentioned earlier in the thread, Google's demands aren't even that effective at removing possibly offensive material.

It really sucks that Google has what is all but a monopoly on 'good' web advertising these days; This gives them hugely unfair leverage to use against their client/customer (what's the right word?) websites.

chris the cynic said...

*sighs* I suppose that's not much better, is it? Perhaps if we keep brainstorming we can mash one together that's coherent?

Well if anyone can think up a good one it seems simple enough to start a petition. I could do it, or the person who thought up the good one could do it, or someone else could do it. Whatever works best.

depizan said...

Maybe I'm just failing at the internet due to heat and forest fires, but I can't find anything that states that Google AdSense restricts content of sites. Can someone point me in the right direction? Because I'm finding this whole thing extremely baffling.

chris the cynic said...

It's more complicated than that.

To be eligible for Adsense you have to meet their policy requirements which include:Sites with Google ads may not include or link to:

Pornography, adult or mature content
Violent content
Content related to racial intolerance or advocacy against any individual, group or organisation
Excessive profanity
Hacking/cracking content
Gambling or casino-related content
Illicit drugs and drug paraphernalia content
Sales of beer or hard alcohol
Sales of tobacco or tobacco-related products
Sales of prescription drugs
Sales of weapons or ammunition (e.g. firearms, firearm components, fighting knives, stun guns)
Sales of products that are replicas or imitations of designer or other goods
Sales or distribution of coursework or student essays
Content regarding programs which compensate users for clicking ads or offers, performing searches, surfing websites or reading emails
Any other content that is illegal, promotes illegal activity or infringes on the legal rights of others

So say that at some point I linked to a translation of the Bible. That has violent content, adult content, mature content, and content related to racial intolerance. They could then be well within their rights to tell me to never link to a translation of the bible again (and take down the link I put up) or else lose my account.

It's that kind of thing.

If mentioning rape is considered mature content, then Google has the power to say to any website that mentions rape or links to a site that mentions rape, "Stop doing that or lose your account." If the site depends on the ad revenue from Adsense then they have no choice but to acquiesce or cease to exist.

Aidan Bird said...

That list is insane. Never realized how much power google had. Dang.........

depizan said...

What the flying fuck? Who decides what "mature content" is? Who decides what "excessive" profanity is? How violent is too violent? (There's problems with the drug content and the intolerance/advocacy one, too, since they're so broadly written. For example, on the later, it appears that no site involved in politics could use Adsense.)

That is seriously messed up.

chris the cynic said...

My personal theory is that such lists are never intended to be enforced, instead they are written in such a way as to be broad enough to cover anything and then, when someone does something the person with the list doesn't like, person with list says, "You violated the list, reform or be doomed."

A simple, "If we don't like you we'll kick you," would be more honest, plus there's almost certainly an "If we don't like you we'll kick you," clause in there already.

ZMiles said...

Actually, it looks like the pages are back. I'm getting pages at:

(first 5 I tested)

Might be worth backing up some of them now, for those interested.

ZMiles said...

Confirmed. The rape tropes have been brought back. They are going to be cleaned and then locked. (Locked tropes, I think, can still be tinkered with, but you have to post a request to do it on the message board, and then a mod has to actually make the change).

depizan said...

Good to hear, though... what exactly does "cleaned" mean?

chris the cynic said...

Probably means that now is a good time to make a backup if you're going to want one and are set up for that kind of thing (I'm really not, at the moment.)

depizan said...

Neither am I, unfortunately, but it does sound suspicious.

ZMiles said...

Cleaned means they will go through the article and remove things they don't like or find creepy, which generally includes:

Real life examples that snuck onto the page
Language that could be seen as complimentary or positive towards some of the tropes
references to underage characters

Basically, anything they think could get them in trouble again.

Ana Mardoll said...

THANK YOU for the heads up. I grabbed all the ones I previously posted with the Google Chrome dotEPUB extension that makes ePUBs out of webpages, and I have local backups now. Thank you.

Ana Mardoll said...

I highly recommend this:

Once words are in ePUB, you can VERY easily transform them into pretty much anything else.

depizan said...

That doesn't sound so bad. I'd rather not run across people being positive toward those tropes. If that's really all it is, I'm okay with it.

chris the cynic said...

Random question that I'm only putting here because there's no, "Random" thread.

Has Sinfest gotten infinitely more socially aware in the past year or so, or is it just me?

Jeldaly said...

Ugh why do you do this thing to us, Google? We NEED some observation on the treatment of rape in media/pop culture! This is important, and it was good!

Le Me said...

Please don't say 'insane'. It's a triggering word for some people.
-MiniMod wannabe :P

Ana Mardoll said...


Thank you for helping to keep this a safe space. Thank you, all.

Silver Adept said...

@Chris the cynic - Sinfest has, yes, but I'm always looking at it sideways because I'm waiting for Slick and company to bust out a full-on misogyny sequence and the feminist characters to be ineffective.

As to the original post, it sounds like the same crap that Paypal pulled on Dreamwidth, forcing them to find alternate payment processors to take plastic with, because DW told them they wouldn't compromise their users' content.

Ken said...

Actually I think you would rather enjoy cleaning, as it usually cleans natter and rape apology from pages.

Ana Mardoll said...

TW: Distressing Sexual Acts mentioned in odd/fantastical contexts

Paypal did the same thing to Smashwords this year and tried to force them to pull all the erotica novels. And then *merely* all the erotica novels that featured bestiality (which means what do you do with Yasmine Galenorn when her were-characters have consensual sex), children (now we have issues with immortal vampire 'child-bodied' protagonists), and rape (don't get me started, but we've got a thread in the archives about rape victims who find rape fantasies cathartic).

The whole thing collapsed into a pile of fail, if I recall correctly, and enough authors complained that (I believe) the censorship stopped.

Particularly egregious because what does PAYPAL care about where the money comes from and why? It's not like with Google AdSense where they can legitimately say that Tide or Cascade weren't happy customers seeing their ads next to an index on Tentacle Rape.

Ken said...

PAYPAL actually cares quite a lot. There are countries where writing a novel about sex with children, bestieality etc. is criminal ("goading into child abuse") and penalties for supporting companies can be quite harsh. PAYPAL could be forvidden from operating in such countries AND/OR its upper executives could be arrested if they ever travelled to such country.

Ana Mardoll said...

Paypal had nothing to do with the writing or the delivery of the novels. That seems an incredible stretch to me, that they could be held legally culpable for the novels existence or distribution but ianal.

Especially when the Paypal transactions for tagged erotica books could easily be limited to only people who reside in countries which don't have those laws (since Paypal has your address after all), there's no reason imho for Paypal to cater to the lowest common denominator in censorship.

Robofish said...

Hi from a new visitor. I have to ask, are you aware of some of the nastier stuff that has been found lurking on TVTropes? I'm talking about people using it to host their own fantasies about paedophilia, rape and incest, amongst other things. Google's blocking of the rape tropes was a bit hamfisted, but at least it brought attention to the problem; some of the stuff there really was quite disturbing. TheMarySue has a summary (from which I found your blog):

Ana Mardoll said...

I haven't read that article, but there's already a post about this in the Ramble forum because people calling TV tropes problematic is a topic as old as the site itself (tab up above).

My opinion, then and now, is that an encyclopedia of Stuff That Exists will and should contain disturbing things in it. Disturbing things exist, and it's invaluable to have an index of those things.

How the entries are written is important, yes, but considering it's a wiki editable by everyone on earth, I'm impressed that they do as good a job as they do.

Frankly, I think the people reporting TV tropes willy-nilly in an attempt to cut their ad revenue are more interested in griefing than fixing. I'm dreadfully upset that the FATAL article had to be gutted because the censors believe they INFORMATION equals CONDONING. Wiping entities entirely to try to remove problematic elements is a dreadful idea in my opinion.

I look forward to Google threatening me because I post about rape fantasies and how some rape victims find those fantasies cathartic. And you need to realize that if you want to post here: it's not okay in this space the condemn people with rape fantasies as if they're all terrible people, because It's More Complicated Than That.

Ana Mardoll said...

Good grief, the autocorrect on my new phone made mincemeat out of that last comment. But please search the archives here for the post titled Recommends: Rape Fantasies for a broader perspective.

depizan said...

My iPad's autocorrect does that to my comments at times as well. (But, sadly, my spelling ability is to abysmal for me to just turn it off.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm using Swype which I love, but this version that came with my new phone doesn't seem to let me turn autocorrect off, which is VERY annoying.

I'm also not happy at how small they made the spacebar. Like the language key just HAD to be down there and not turn-off-able, why????

Silver Adept said...

Almost makes you think that the next great free speech revolution won't be against governments, but ISPs and corporations like Google and Paypal.

Melidomi said...

I see this has been resolved, but in general, a good place to get in contact with Google is through Google+. All Google properties have a plus page, and leaving a comment there gets you in contact with relevant parties. Eg there's a +google adsense page, posts there will get read, they host hangouts, etc.
I am a Googler, so I'll leave it at that.

Ana Mardoll said...

Do you know a good place to file Blogger concerns? The new (still optional) Blogger interface is dreadful for people with any kind of vision disability to use. (Melissa at Shakesville wrote a post on it; The Unbearable Lightness Of Blogging).

Melidomi said...

There is a +Blogger page on g+, so I'd try there. Accessibility is something we care about, but the unified new look (which is lower contrast) is another big push. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a setting somewhere for a higher contrast theme.

Ana Mardoll said...

Do you have a direct link, by any chance? I'm not very familiar with the ins and outs of g+.

I know that a number of people in the aforementioned Shakesville thread have expressed concerns to Google about accessibility of the "new look". I don't know anyone who hasn't said that the look -- whether in Gmail, Blogger, Calender, whatever -- gives them a headache for being too "floaty". I really hope that Google is willing to hire some GUI experts with a good handle on accessibility -- I know, as a programmer, how easy it is to get used to your product and tune out customer concerns as something that they'll "get over" in time, but accessibility is really a very big deal for anyone with non-typical vision.

Melidomi said...
You'll have to join google+ to post, but if you already have a gmail account, it's just the matter of a few clicks.
Then you can post any status update tagged with +Blogger, and the relevant parties should get at least an aggregate collection of posts. If you follow them, you'll be kept up to date with when they host Hangouts on Air (essentially live video chat sessions centered around a topic)

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