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Nude video clips are okay - as long as they're 'art'

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It's official: smut is now allowed on YouTube – so long as it's artistic smut.

And with this recognition that not everything that is naked is evil, YouTube appears to have scored one up on the slightly more straitlaced types over at Facebook.

More seriously, by instituting a formal appeals process, it may have set the ball rolling on a trend that users of major online services have been demanding for a very long time.

Earlier this year, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) got involved after YouTube first removed, then restored videos - including "Element" and "Tides" - by dance-artist Amy Greenfield. NCAC expressed serious concerns about the lack of an appeals process for individuals who believe that their work has been unfairly removed from the site as well as the absence of "art" in the list of exceptions to the YouTube community guidelines banning nudity.

As if to prove a point, work by by LA artist Susan Mogul was then involved in further controversy in July. For once, a major online free service provider proved itself up to the task of listening – and, according to NCAC, YouTube has now put in place an appeals process, as well as amending the community guidelines to include "artistic" purpose as the basis for permitting an exception to the no nudity requirement.

In return, YouTube is asking that posters provide reviewers with enough information to make an informed decision when reviewing flagged work. It's all about "context". YouTube now tells users: "Titling and tagging your video correctly is the best way to add context to your videos. When our team is reviewing flagged content, titles or tags with words as simple as "human rights" or "police abuse" will help us understand the context of the footage you’re uploading.

"Try to add some specific information into the description: who is in the video, what is happening, where and when did it happen, and why?"

The floodgates may well have opened, if not on a tidal wave of smut, at least on a long debate on what constitutes art.

Over at Facebook, meanwhile, the picture remains muddy. Readers may remember how, back in September, Facebook first banned a picture of Bliss Dance – then allowed it when the poster explained, in words of one syllable, that it was a statue and it was art. Gulping down a large helping of humble pie, a Facebook spokesman said: "Our reviewers look at thousands of photos a day that are reported to them. Of course, they make an occasional mistake.

"This is just an example. Our compliments to the artist - the statue is quite lifelike. We encourage the person who uploaded the photo to repost it and apologize for any inconvenience."

A Facebook spokeswoman originally claimed that there was an artistic exemption in their T&Cs, but has since agreed that there isn't. A close reading of what is written there shows no such exemption. Perhaps Facebook means that users of the site should apply a certain amount of artistic licence when reading through their T&Cs.

She told us today: "Our policy prohibits photos of actual nude people, not paintings or sculptures. We recognise that this policy might in some cases result in the removal of artistic works; however, it is designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children (over the age of 13) who use the site." ®

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