As many of you are aware, there has been some discussions recently among members about mature content and the topic of our moderators deleting drawings.
This is a complicated subject, so I will do my best to be concise, but know this will be a long post - so if you care about this subject, please read it all
The drawing in question that started the discussions
The drawing that started this topic was deleted by a moderator. After that, another (different) drawing was created by this member. This second drawing is not the original drawing that was deleted, so do not base judgement on that drawing. The original drawing that was deleted had frontal nudity with female breasts fully exposed with very clear detail.
Why it was deleted and what we judge
First, the drawing was evaluated based on "today’s rules" so we need base our judgment on this fact. Full-frontal nudity of fully exposed breasts does not fall within our rules of what is allowed. It is important to know that when evaluations are made, we are not making decisions about what is beautiful art and what is not - we are looking at the drawing from a legal perspective of what would be legally classified as appropriate for our audience. There is absolutely no question that the artwork was beautiful and a wonderful piece of artwork - that is not the question. If we based it on beauty then some could question that an amazing drawing of a highly sexual image should be allowed because it's a great drawing.
Why we need to moderate and what does it mean
A few years back, our community made the decision to conform to the legal requirements of being a responsible online community. When this happened we were faced with two options for our community to ensure we met these obligations:
1) We could restrict our website to only people aged 13+ OR
2) We could allow under-13 members, but needed to be overly cautious that we did not allow certain content to be hosted on our website
We made a decision to allow under-13 members because it was difficult to imagine the fact that any under-13 year old who wanted to draw or learn to draw would not be allowed to use our website. We were hopeful that our mature and older members were appreciative of this fact and felt they had enough artistic freedom to work within these rules.
Obviously any censorship of art is a sensitive and highly debatable subject, but the facts are that we are an online community who has rules we need to follow just like anyone walking down a street has rules they need to follow by law. Many people comment about renaissance art or art throughout history that contained nudity. Today, society sees nudity very differently and laws are different now than they were back then. We are also on a world stage (the internet) where we not only need to be mindful of the laws where we are, but we need to think about cultures all around the world that use our website.
Common comments and responses
Below are common comments on this subject and I will post some responses to those:
That was a beautiful piece of art - how can you sensor it. It's art, not pornography
We censor based on legal obligation, not based on whether something "is art". When we say "we don't judge based on art", this means that we are only basing our decisions on whether something fits in legal PG-13 guidelines. It does not mean that we are not mindful of how wonderful an art piece is.
Is this an art website or a website for kids
I think from everything our website offers that it is pretty obvious that everything we offer is about creativity and helping artists connect with one another. The fact that we are being mindful of what we expose children to does not mean we are not catering to adults.
Why can't you just mark it mature and not delete it
While we do have a Mature filter, it is very conservative and does not allow some M+ content. It is possible we can consider revising our content filters (more about this below)
There are so many famous nude artworks in history, would you delete that?
Yes it is very true that there are many famous artworks throughout history that involve fully naked bodies. Unfortunately we do not live in those times. In today's society if someone were to create these artworks and expose them in public (much like our website is exposed to the public), there would be laws about where they can display this artwork.
This is all we are simply trying to do. It could be said that in some schools, children view artworks of nudes, but they only do this over a certain age, and their parents often either receive letters about this before class or parents are made aware of the text-books their children will be exposed to.
The current filtering status and the future
The mature content filtering and our PG-13 policies have constantly been something we have struggled with finding the perfect balance to make all our members happy. What is the best thing for younger members, is not the best thing for adults. Myself and moderators have talked about this topic many times and more recently have been thinking more seriously about re-evaluating some of our policies that would allow more artistic freedom. The hard fact remains that to offer the total artistic freedom that I know many mature members want, I would be faced with the tough decision of blocking under-13's to our website. DeviantArt, Facebook, YouTube, and many many other website have taken this path. I find it extremely difficult to not feel sad about operating an art website that an 11 year old can not draw on.
I constantly ask myself the following question:
Is it more important to let an 11-year old draw on RMD and potentially kick-start their lifetime joy of drawing, or is it more important to let mature members have more artistic freedom? There is no perfect answer here, but it is something RMD needs to have a point of view on to move forward.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be re-evaluating the fine details of our age requirements and our content filtering. Once decisions have been made about what is the best direction for the future of the entire community, we will share more details. Along with this, a few important updates will happen:
1) We will be publishing more clear and detailed guidelines of what is allowed and what is not allowed on RMD so there is much less confusion. This will cover all the necessary topics of nudity, violence, etc.
2) We will do a better job at communicating with members when we do delete drawings to let them know exactly why. Along with this we will aim to offer suggestions on ways someone can alter a drawing to make sure it fits within our guidelines.
3) We will give members more control to flag their own content. We may still review this content, but users will have more options to help us identify mature content.
Remember, that our goal at RMD is simply to help you all grow as artists and help you build friendships. We don't enjoy deleting drawings and we don't do it with any intent to prevent people from being artists. I am very positive that we can find the right balance between meeting our legal obligations as website operators, and giving artists freedom to express themselves.