Did Google+ ban cleavage-snuggling LEGO stormtrooper?

UPDATED: Photo by Lockergnome's Chris Pirillo sparks discussion about Google+ standards


Already embroiled in controversy over the posting of pseudonymous and business-related content, Google+ now finds itself simmering in yet another social-networking hot-tub, this one involving the always combustible combination of LEGOs, Star Wars and cleavage.

According to Lockergnome founder and social-media man-about-town Chris Pirilllo, the "Puritans" at Google+ today appear to have put the kibosh on a picture of his that - as you can see for yourself - shows a LEGO Star Wars stormtrooper getting up close and personal with Pirillo's girlfriend. Pirillo, whose Google+ account is followed by 36,000 individuals, has previously made no secret of his attraction to LEGOs.

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His Google+ post complaining of the apparent removal reads:

Time out. Did Google+ just censor my "Girlfriend Loves Playing with LEGO" update?

My status update was deleted, and I didn't do it. There was nothing tasteless about the image in the slightest, so how on EARTH did it get removed?

Speculation as to a reason quickly coalesced around a particular section of the Google+ terms of service. Pirillo continues:

Gabe Diaz suggests that it was a violation of the ToS: "10. Sexually Explicit Material Do not distribute content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Do not drive traffic to commercial pornography sites. Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content. For example, do not use a photo that is a close-up of a person's buttocks or cleavage."

How was that image anything remotely "sexual?!" By that logic, no photos containing swimsuits should EVER be posted to Google+ (which are FAR more revealing at higher resolutions). I didn't change my profile picture. Is Google being run by Puritans? How the hell is cleavage offensive?!

I sent Pirillo an email asking if he'd received any explanation from anyone at Google. His reply:


Cleavage is VERY offensive ...  in 1791.

What my girlfriend and I shared was innocent and playful. I didn't change my profile pic, and I didn't expect that other images with women in bikinis (when zoomed in) would ever be subject for removal without explanation or appeal.

I'm offended that anybody was offended. Maybe cleavagegate is about hating LEGO? ;)

While some of Pirillo's Google+ followers were willing to consider the possibility that a glitch of some sort was responsible for the photo's disappearance, rather than the application of a strict standard of decorum, others were less reluctant to see a heavy hand.

If this is what the world is coming to, I want out. It offends me that someone would censor such a mild photo as this.

Wow. Google+ may suddenly be becoming a place of extreme seriousness and lameness.

Others saw humor in the situation:

Isn't it obvious? Showing a Storm-trooper breaks copyright laws.

I blame it on the Rebel Scum. They've always had it out for the Empire!

And then there was the entirely serious matter of what, if anything, was being revealed here as to how Google intends to police Google+ content in general. Writes P.E. Sharpe:

If Chris Pirillo did get censored I am glad that the discussion that needs to take place might now actually be brought forward. This is supposed to be an adult site (+18). I am an artist as are many of my friends. We have grave concerns about exactly this kind of censorship taking place. ...

And no, for the record, I do not think it will be a slippery slope to porn being shown on the internetz. That's a whole other discussion. I'm saying give adult content back to adults to discuss, especially those who define their lives as art-based.

I've yet to hear back from the Google public relations department. Will let you know if I do.

(Update: A Google spokesperson tells me: "We don't comment on individual profiles of Google+ users." ... That's what I expected, although it's not exactly helpful.)

(Update, Tuesday: Pirillo still hasn't heard boo from Google, he tells me in an email.)

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