Here's a quick piece that no parties should be able to find any offense in, from which everyone may fuel their inspiration with interpretations of their choice, of course with these chosen interpretations limited only to interpretations of non-insulting matters.
Maybe you'll see the metaphor within this darkness. Maybe you'll see, that for a creative community where content is moderated by whim and sympathy rather than policy and law, where freedom of expression and artistic creativity is un-allowed to roam free, the path may be dark and dreary.
I don't believe in a future where the media dictates the right of each individual citizen, not in countries nor on communities. I believe that every functioning society or group is a forum where each voice should be heard equally, where everyone has a right to express their innermost desires and doubts, and everyone has a right to express their discontent with said individual, as long as their offense is not a criminal one. The right to express yourself is a fundamental freedom of any democracy, and I like to believe this is a democratic community, one of the last free bastions of the net, a place where everyone can feel at ease, be themselves and view the rest of the world from a distance, objectively, fairly; as tastelessly as they feel a need to.
Censorship is like an aspirin, it doesn't take away the underlying problem, only the symptom. In the case of NG, this symptom being taken away is a big problem. That's my opinion.
I'm speaking of this debate, of which I've spent way too much time browsing through the pages and reading peoples opinions, getting annoyed at some, getting offended by others, entertaining the thought of posting some fierce response but not letting my intentions get the best of me. I already posted my opinion there, but maybe it's time to delve into this matter even further. Let's go back to my early days at NG...
I've never been much for shock-content. When I first visited this site I was both intrigued and disturbed by some of the content that was available, some of it posted for a reason, some of it posted for the sole-purpose of being offensive, but I quickly accepted that it had a place here. Unlike other portals (like Zellomesh, who suddenly decided to delete a bunch of my audio just because I was submitting a lot of it) this place has always been fair, and lived by policy. The staff has admittedly turned from being edgy and rebellious to focusing more on brighter types of creative content, but even so the dark side has been allowed to flourish, users have still been allowed to freely express themselves.
Over the years companies have asked for certain submissions to be taken down for copyright-infringing reasons. Certain submissions (like the Xombie series) have been licensed and thus taken down. Other submissions with clearly copyright-infringing content were even taken down before anyone sent a request for them (like a series of Music Players I'd made back in the day, much to my dismay). In filtering out illegal content, NG has always been sufficiently efficient, even more-so than YT. Whether this has to do with dedication on part of the staff or simply less content to filter I don't know, but even if I haven't liked certain submissions disappearing over the years it's always been in accordance with the law. When I signed up, the use of such content was still a gray zone, but that's all been cleared up over the years. Maybe it's one of the reasons activity eventually dwindled... maybe not. That a hundred or more animations with 'illegal' Nintendo sprites had to be removed really sucked, but there wasn't much that could be done about that, that's how society works after all, in the real world there doesn't seem to be any free haven when it comes to copyright.
Online, however, Newgrounds has always been more of a free haven than any other place, a real oasis for free speech and artistic individuality. But now it seems that individuality may be dying down, all because of one submission, a submission I still haven't even played. I have read so much about it however, that it feels like I've played it myself, and as far as I know there was nothing illegal about this game. It was simply tasteless and outrageous. Tom mentions that removing this game may be the site evolving, that it can be seen as a form of chrysalis... but it seems to me like this is more of a mid-life crisis. Newgrounds is lost. Youtube is taking over (even though their Google+ integration is a great time to turn a few visitors), and NG has lost its niche. It's no longer about the problems of the future, and not really about everything by everyone either but rather a sort of spotlight for creative content. What is NG? Where does its strength lie? Is it impossible to run a site that pleases all audiences? So far this is all my opinion, but what the debate comes down to are two problems that haven't been solved. I'd like to present potential answers to these two problems, that might prevent anything similar from occurring in the future:
1.) The media identifies content submitted to NG as content that Tom has allowed to be submitted.
I suppose this problem originates in the rather small size of the site (compared to other social communities), and the structure of the staff. The online presentation of what NG is and how it works probably plays a big role. In the submission policy it is already apparent that each user is responsible for their own work, but maybe this needs to be clarified. Potential solutions:
- An angled presentation of NewGrounds as a first and foremost user-driven community.
- Separate page for DCMA take-down requests and other inquiries that aren't directly linked to any specific person.
- Automated messages and/or secretary to further distance the site from it's image as a home-based organization.
2. ) A media rage over an offensive submission may cut off financing of the site.
Again, how advertising companies interpret NG should have a big impact on their forgiveness for certain submissions and willingness to partner with the site. The angled presentation and distancing from the personal aspect of running the site might help. It may also require some more unorthodox methods of financing. Potential solutions:
- Re-implementation of the Bastards! collection (as Alter-native mentions), acknowledging that certain submissions are deemed tasteless even by the staff, but as the flagship of freedom of speech and user-based content that the site is, these submissions are still allowed to hold their ground. I'd think this would inspire new artists rather than scare them off, while at the same time showing the media that the administration is not to blame for user-submitted material
- Opening of a fund, funded by optional user-based donations, from which finances could be taken should a crisis really loom and NG can no longer rely at all on advertising to finance the operation.
- Seek sponsorships with other controversial enterprises or companies, or with those that have interest in marketing their services/products under a slogan that solidifies the importance of freedom of speech and expression. More focus needs to be placed on the aspect of freedom!
- Major bitcoin investments at the end of the year, when they will according to Elitistinen be ripe to buy.
- Letting users sell finished products in conjunction to trailers/games/etc, with a chunk of the profit used as provision to finance the service and site.
Additionally, to prevent offending content from offending:
- Higher age-restrictions for material with mature ratings, allowing only logged-in users above a certain age (set in their profile) to view these submissions (this was also suggested in the topic).
I'd hope this issue can be solved to please all parties, without the site becoming subject to media rage and as an affect loosing all financing. My proposition is: make the system able to handle offensive submissions in a satisfactory way and distance the staff from the corporate image, and maybe when the interest in this game has died down, let it be re-submitted. I'm sure there are better ideas than those I have provided, where there is a will there's a way; I hope there's a will.