Well, I got back another automated email from Google about my Google AdSense violations. It looks like I got absolutely nowhere in requesting a review, which is what I was expecting:
In the last 24 hours:
4 page-level review requests were received. You’ll be notified when the reviews are completed. 4 pages were reviewed at your request and found to be non-compliant with our policies at the time of the review. Ad serving continues to be restricted or disabled on those pages.
What I find really annoying is that I cannot access the list of violations using my desktop computer (it gives me an error message), so I have to use either my iPad or my iPhone to check the exact wording of the policy violations to see what’s going on. Pain in the ass!
I also found it amusing that, the past three times I checked the Utherverse blogpost, that Google AdSense did not disable ads on that post. Instead, it simply served advertising for the cheating-on-your-spouse website Ashley Madison! So it would appear that, rather than disable ads outright, AdSense will try to match adult content with adult ads. Interesting!
So, for the most serious offender, the Utherverse blogpost, it looks as though I am going to have to remove a couple of images and the link to Utherverse, then resubmit it to see if it passes muster. Frankly, this automated, terse warning system, with its lack of specifics, is irritating. You don’t get an opportunity to talk with a real person to find out what’s wrong (if there’s a person involved in this system at all). It makes you have to guess at what’s wrong, and you have to keep submitting it for review until it is approved. Again, pain in the ass.
As for the other three blogposts, well, I guess I am going to have to put black boxes over naked avatar boobs and asses to get them cleared. So ridiculous!
Were it not for the fact that my Google AdSense ads are bringing in more money than my WordPress WordAds, I would seriously consider just cancelling my AdSense account altogether. But, for now, I’ll make the changes and resubmit all four blogposts for review—AGAIN.
And I will now be checking my email regularly for any future reports of blogposts that have run afoul of the fickle Google AdSense policies.
In addition to the WordPress advertising from WordAds that I have been using in my blog since March of 2018, I recently opened a Google AdSense account and began serving ads from AdSense. (If you are connecting to this blog via desktop computer, you can see one such ad under “Advertising” in the left-hand column, underneath the “Follow RyanSchultz.com via email” link.)
Today, I was surprised to discover an email from Google telling me:
This Google Publisher Policy Report gives you an overview of recent activity related to violations found on specific pages of your websites. As enforcement statuses may change over time, please refer to the “Page-level enforcements” section of the AdSense Policy Center for the current list of active violations.
Please note this report doesn’t cover violations that may happen on an overall site or account level. You may be notified by a separate email if site or account level violations are found. Ads will continue to serve where no policy violations have been found, either at the page- or site-level.
In the last 24 hours:
New violations were detected. As a result, ad serving has been restricted or disabled on pages where these violations of the AdSense Program Policies were found. To resolve the issues, you can either remove the violating content and request a review, or remove the ad code from the violating pages.
Now, I was very surprised to see this, since I have always strived to keep things at a PG13 level at all times on my blog. And, when I click over to see what the “violations” were, I find that four of my blogposts were flagged for “Adult, Sexual Content” violations, which are defined as:
Adult: Sexual Content
As stated in our Program policies, we may not show Google ads on pages or apps with content that is sexually suggestive or intended to sexually arouse. This includes but is not limited to:
– pornographic images, videos, or games – sexually gratifying text, images, audio, or video – pages that provide links for or drive traffic to content that is sexually suggestive or intended to sexually arouse
So, which blogposts triggered the violations? Glad you asked. There were four. Here are the first three (all linked, so you can visit and see for yourself how unoffensive and safe-for-work they are):
And then, finally, a double strike against this fourth and final blogpost: “Adult: Sexual Content” AND “Adult: Sexual Merchandise”, the latter of which is defined as follows:
Adult: Sexual Merchandise
Google ads may not be placed on adult or mature content. This includes fetish content as well as sites or apps that promote, sell, or discuss sexual aids. Examples include, but are not limited to:
– sexual fixations or practices that may be considered unconventional – sexual aids or enhancement tools such as vibrators, dildos, lubes, sex games, inflatable toys – penis and breast enlargement tools
The blogpost Google finds so offensive? Utherverse and the Red Light Center: A Brief Introduction. Now here, I can begin to see why it might have gotten flagged. All the female-presenting nipples and vaginas and such are completely blurred out, but it’s still clear from at least one photo that some (as Google calls it) “sexual fixations or practices that may be considered unconventional” could be taking place. And I do also include a link to the Utherverse/Red Light Center with a VERY CLEAR warning that the link is Not Safe For Work (NSFW). So now I have to think twice before I put in any links like this, even with a warning label? (UPDATE: I have decided to go in and blur out the offending images in this blogpost even more strongly than before, including completely blurring the kinky one.)
I would argue that my blogpost is simply TALKING about an adult virtual world at a PG13 level. I am tempted to remove the link to Utherverse/RLC, but instead, I have called for a review of all four “violations” (which I am told can take up to a week or longer to process).
The first three “violations” are ludicrous. Am I supposed to start blurring out AVATAR REAR ENDS OH MY GOD THE CHILDREN THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!! This is ridiculous. WE ARE TALKING ABOUT AVATARS, PEOPLE. THE DIGITAL VERSION OF BARBIE DOLLS. The fourth one, well, if the review is rejected, then I supposed I am going to have to go in and sanitize it even more. But this is a slippery slope; am I going to have to go back through 1,255 blogposts over two years and check each one for inadvertent tits and ass?
I have subtitled this blogpost “Part I”, because I have a horrible sinking feeling that this issue is not going to go away so easily. If the four blogposts above were flagged (either by machine or human), there a probably dozens more that would also fall afoul of Google’s AdSense rules. I have written about (and linked to) other adult/sexual worlds, always with a very clear NSFW warning. Should I remove the links and tell people to just Google them? (Now THAT would be ironic.)
But to date, I have never seen the need to blur out an avatar rear end (male or female) as I would a penis, a vagina, or a “female-presenting” nipple. And we are talking about AVATARS, which are not to be confused with real people. I’m not serving porn here, I’m talking about mesh avatar bodies! GET A GRIP, GOOGLE ADSENSE.
This is NOT over. Even though I have a feeling I am in a losing battle here. The good news is that it would appear that Google AdSense has blocked advertising only on those four blogposts.
Well, very shortly after writing and updating that particular blogpost, I was informed that a second popular social VR platform, VRChat, also has quietly allowed adult/NSFW content to be served from private worlds, something of which I was also unaware. (Please note that this is not a criticism of VRChat, or High Fidelity for that matter; my personal opinion is that adult content, when properly managed and carefully restricted to consenting users aged 18+, can indeed drive usage of, and business to, certain platforms. It’s one of the things that is currently contributing to Second Life’s longevity, for example.)
My anonymous source tells me:
As someone who plays a lot of VRChat, VRChat for sure allows adult content. They won’t tell you that though. Adult content must be kept to Invite Only or Invite+ worlds, it’s not allowed in public. But the adult worlds are out there.
I’ve seen some interesting art galleries. Also, I’ve seen some really interesting stuff since VRChat allows for custom shaders. A friend of mine made a deformation shader where the mesh would deform to your touch. You can guess what he used it for.
But yeah, VRChat totally allows that stuff, they just pretend it doesn’t exist, but they also don’t do anything about it even when they know it exists. I think it’s a brand thing. They don’t want to become the VR sex place.
Here is a screen capture of one of the rotating messages which appear in the VRChat client as your chosen world is loading:
Please note the curious and very specific wording, differentiating between not-safe-for-work content “in Public worlds (Public, Friends+)” and “streamed or shared from Private worlds (Invite, Invite+, Friends)”.
Invite – Very private. Owner can accept invite requests and send invites. Occupants get notifications that others want into the instance. Invite+ – Somewhat private. Owner and any occupants can accept invite requests.
I want to stress that this is only one person’s opinion, not an official Sansar spokesperson’s point of view.I still remain a strong Sansar supporter, but I would be neglecting my duties as an independent social VR/virtual worlds blogger if I simply posted nothing but “good news” about Sansar, as some people want me to do.
And the exact same sentiment applies to VRChat as to Sansar. I like VRChat, I enjoy VRChat, and I have made some great friends and had some wonderful experiences there, but I am not simply going to be a cheerleader for the platform; I want to be able to report both the good and not-so-good sides of all the social VR platforms and virtual worlds I write about in this blog.
What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment below, thanks!
UPDATE 5:49 p.m.: Well, this just gets even more confusing. I’ve received a link to the VRChat Community Guidelines, which clearly state:
– Live streaming, advertising or publicly sharing content that is sexually explicit in nature or simulates sex acts is not permitted. Doing so may result in moderation action being taken against your account up to (but not limited to) banning of the offending user account depending on the severity of the act in question. – Pornography & nudity is not allowed.
So, you can technically visit and see adult content in private worlds if you were invited (as shown in the very careful wording of the screen capture above), but pornography and nudity are against the VRChat Community Guidelines, so if the company actually finds out what you’re doing, they can shut you down. Note that this stance differs markedly from that of High Fidelity, which shifts the onus of responsibility entirely onto those who host their own content on their own servers.
I’ve been doing some thinking lately. Now hear me out on this.
Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab, has gone on record that there will never be adult content in Sansar. Not because he’s opposed to it (after all, Second Life makes a not insignificant portion of its profit from the dozens of adult-rated sims on the grid, catering to just about every sexual kink imaginable). In fact, Second Life is so successful at this aspect of the business that it makes it almost impossible for any other adult virtual world to get a financial foothold (link is safe for work).
Ebbe is opposed to adult content from the point of view that he wants Sansar to be a success, a roaring success like Second Life was in its time, and that often means partnerships with other companies. Companies who are understandably very squeamish about associating their brand names with sex and adult content. The United States of America, for all the glorification of violence portrayed in its cultural exports like videogames and movies, is still remarkably puritanical (and frankly, somewhat hypocritical) when it comes to sex.
None of what I call the “Big Five” social VR platforms (or even the top 12, for that matter) allow adult content. Note that here I am talking specifically about general-purpose/multipurpose platforms, not the purely sex-oriented ones like 3DX Chat (all links in this paragraph are safe for work).
But what would happen if one of them decides to break from the pack and allow sexual content? Assuming, of course, that there would be some kind of permissions system in place to lock it down and restrict access to only those adults who want to see and participate in it (like what Second Life already has, but perhaps even more restrictive).
That social VR platform would probably get a huge boost in business, along with a burst of media attention (not all of it positive). And it might just get enough attention to actually become a major player, becoming in effect the next Second Life, with user concurrency figures to match.
It’s a risky gamble, and if it is not handled correctly, it will tarnish the name of whatever social VR platform makes the attempt (much the same as Second Life now has a certain disreputable reputation in some quarters, even though it is certainly possible to use and enjoy SL without ever stepping foot in an adult sim).
But for some company, sick and tired of being the underdog virtual world after pouring untold time and money into building a platform, only to have it ignored, it might be a truly tempting prospect. And it would probably up-end the marketplace.
Then again, perhaps somebody will just go and create a purely adult-oriented social VR platform. We’ve already seen a first attempt to support VR with the adult virtual world Oasis (link is safe for work), but when I tried it, it didn’t work very well at all. Furthermore, it looks like the company is having trouble attracting users (they recently switched from their initial US$20-per-month subscription plan to US$20 for a “lifetime membership”, which indicates a certain level of desperation setting in). After writing my profile on the platform (see link above), I uninstalled Oasis from my computer and I have no plans to return.
The adult virtual world 3DX Chat also says they support the Oculus Rift VR headset on their website, and I did try it out once, but it’s also pretty buggy. After writing my profile (link is safe for work), I uninstalled the client software, and I have absolutely zero inclination to want to revisit 3DX Chat. As I have said before on this blog:
…I want to make it clear that I am notgoing to get into the habit of covering adult/sex-based virtual worlds. There are literally dozens of them out there, and frankly, I find them boring as hell.
Will I cover sex/adult-oriented social VR platforms in future on this blog? If it doesn’t cost me anything to test it out, once, then I might do it again. I mean, I’m a 55-year-old out-of-the-closet gay man; it’s not like I need a note from my Mommy to see nekkid people 😉
So, what do you think? Which social VR company do you think will take the plunge into adult content? Or do you think a new, adults-only company will capture the market instead? Please feel free to leave a comment on this blogpost, or join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, where nearly 200 members are ready and willing to discuss and debate these and many other issues around social VR and virtual worlds!
UPDATE Feb. 19th: SURPRISE! As it turns out, one of the top social VR platforms already allows adult content, and I wasn’t even aware of it!
These Terms of Service for High Fidelity Domains are applicable only when you access or use High Fidelity Domains (content hosted by High Fidelity). HIGH FIDELITY IS NOT RESPONSIBLE OR LIABLE FOR ANY ASPECT OF THE HIGH FIDELITY PLATFORM THAT IS NOT HOSTED, DISTRIBUTED, PROVIDED OR MAINTAINED BY HIGH FIDELITY.
So it would appear that you can have adult content on your own domain, as long as you don’t bring any adult content into HiFi’s own hosted domains. Furthermore, you can set an adults-only (age 18+) rating in the description section of the domain when you are setting it up:
There are users who have adult content in their domains, but these are usually made private (unlisted) so that unaware users do not wander in… which is probably why most people haven’t seen them 🙂
I am pretty sure that most people are not aware that you can already have adult content in High Fidelity. I know that I’ve never heard of it before this! And High Fidelity probably doesn’t want to advertise that fact too loudly or too broadly, lest they get overrun with people setting up adult domains. Or maybe they do actually want that market! How interesting…
[High Fidelity] is an open source system where you run the servers. You can do whatever you want on your server. You are responsible for any local laws you might break, etc. We are just like an Apache web server.
Because we provide search services for placenames or domains on the web and in places like the go-to button on the tablet, we will use self-described ratings and other data we can collect to provide filters for those searches. Obviously you can opt out of using or being included in those search services. So these ratings will be used there.
Menithal suggests reading through the full discussion thread I linked to above, not just the part where Philip weighs in, in order to get the full context of the discussion.