BBC News

Google tells music website to censor album covers

By Chris Hemmings
Newsbeat reporter

image copyrightN/a
image captionLambchop's album OH (Ohio) is one that has had to be pixelated

Google has ordered an online music magazine to censor some of the album covers on its website because they are "sexually explicit".

Drowned in Sound, an award-winning website, was told that it couldn't show the images next to anything on Google's advertising network.

Sean Adams, founder of Drowned in Sound, said some of the things Google asked to be removed were "ridiculous".

He said it included a picture of someone "in his pants".

"Google said if we didn't comply by Friday they'd pull all of their advertising," he told Newsbeat.

"As a small music magazine we can't lose that revenue."

Drowned in Sound relies on Google ads for about 20% of its income and 40% of its traffic comes from Google searches.

Adams says he was contacted by his ad agency which told him Google had requested eight pages had to be removed or censored.

According to the agency, Drowned in Sound is not the only website that has had similar requests, which started coming in only recently.

Adams asked his Twitter followers to help him edit the images as he said he couldn't afford "to pick a fight" with the search engine.

image copyrightSigur ros
image captionThis album cover by Sigur Ros is one Google asked to be censored

The search engine is trying to distance itself from pornography and recently told advertisers it wouldn't accept adverts "that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts".

But Adams says the album covers that he was forced to take down weren't pornographic.

"These are album covers, it's a musician's expression of their art," he said.

But he did concede that a couple of Google's recommendations were fair.

"We've censored all the images they asked us too, but I'm sure there'll be more of these in the future," he said.

One of the albums that Google asked to be censored was by Sigur Ros, which features four people's bottoms.

Adams says the irony is that uncensored versions can still be seen on Google Play (its online store) and YouTube, which is owned by the company.

Google won't comment on any individual case, but did say in a statement: "Our policies make clear that we will not serve ads to websites with adult or mature content."

However, Adams says his site and others like it still feature pictures containing nudity that Google hasn't complained about.

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