MySpace Censorship Hits Kids in Toronto?

There's no denying that we are part of a generation that, through the use of the internet, has become more connected to one another than any other in history. This "global village accessibility" and seemingly endless flow of information has revolutionized how we communicate - but don't start celebrating yet.

History reminds us time and time again that with any system of mass communication comes censorship by those who would seek to control, contort, and ultimately change the public view as they see fit.

The MySpace phenomenon, with it's 100 million+ users and a mandate seemingly designed to give a leg-up to independent filmmakers, artists, and musicians the world over is a case in point.

By showcasing musicians like !!!, Of Montreal, LCD Soundsystem and even locals like Crystal Castles and Tokyo Police Club, MySpace gives the impression of being in tune and supportive to the global emerging arts community.

Local queer art rockers Kids On TV, however, suggest otherwise after their account was deleted by MySpace administration amongst cries of homophobia and discrimination. They decided to not take it lying down, made their situation public, and found out quickly that they were not alone.

With upwards of 14,000 friends gathered over years of international tours, a new album about to drop, and an impending European tour, Kids on TV found themselves without their primary outlet for communicating with their fans. No specific reason was provided by MySpace administration other than a form letter that read as follows:

Your MySpace account has been deleted for violating our Terms of Service.

This is usually due to one of the following:

* Nude images, sexually suggestive or violent photos
* Covering our banner ads with HTML
* Harassing other users
* You do not meet the minimum age requirement
* Spamming the classifieds, forums, bulletins, or other sections of the site
* Attempting to artificially inflate scores
* Scripting the site

Your account cannot be restored. If you choose to return to MySpace, please follow the rules.

Kids on TV were then left scratching their heads as they found themselves unable to pinpoint exactly why they were considered at fault.

"We suspect that, although we kept our site visually "PG-13" and played by the rules, the discussion of sexuality in our lyrics and the open embrace or radical culture was too much for MySpace. We definitely ran into their limits whatever they were." says KOTV lead singer John Caffery.

Having looked at their MySpace page several times before it's deletion I can testify to the fact that their uploaded concert photos and band promo shots were only as scandalous as Caffery breakdancing in his "covers-all" underwear. Having seen my fair share of people's MySlut accounts, this hardly seems like the most likely contender for deletion.

"MySpace specifies that there be no nudity or "sexually suggestive photos". Although nudity is pretty specific, the phrase "sexually suggestive photos" is vague enough to mean anything to anyone including the MySpace staff." points out Caffery.

Taking a quick stroll around some of MySpace's most popular artist profiles I'm greeted with photos equally as harmlessly "suggestive" as KOTV's. There's also a number of dating or hook up site banners, and ads and profiles that seem to haunt my own MySpace butt hey don't seem to be stopping those. Can we call them hypocrites? The difference between sex, sexy, and sexual is highly subjective in today's commercially-driven online universe.

Let's take, for example, a look at punk pop hit HelloGoodbye's newest uploaded photos that feature the band posing in towels in a lockeroom, performing in pink panties, and running down the beach in short shorts. With a throng of 557,220 friends, one has to look for the clear answer to why they can get away with it and KOTV can't. That answer is a hard one to swallow - Kids on TV are thematically, visually, conceptually and politically homosexual and HelloGoodbye are straight teen radio record label gold.

"We recognize that all censorship is political. However we have a theory that recently (and in the past) MySpace has been deleting accounts simply because they represent radical views, and express those views in images, video and music." warns Caffery.

KOTV decided to see if anyone else had similar experiences with censorship in using MySpace and in a stroke of genius set up the MySpace Censorship Profile to create a forum for discussion. Out of the woodwork came a number of queer artists and organizations who had also fallen victim to deletion for reasons as vapid and unspecific as possible photo captions.

This is a simple matter for MySpace to clear up and it only takes a quick, succinct message from MySpace staff that explains specifically what the issue is rather than shooting out a lame form letter. It takes only a few more seconds to write a sentence or two and doing so would result in less rule breaking as people would know exactly what terms are. Perhaps Fox, who recently bought MySpace for $580 million, has something else in mind.

"I believe it is wrong. I'm considered homophobic and crazy about these things and old fashioned. But I think that the family - father, mother, children - is fundamental to our civilization." Rupert Murdoch, owner of FOX media, once said.

Sure, we could be talking about rogue FOX employees with a homo hate-on, but when the owner of the company breathes such hate one can only wonder who's monitoring who's equality.

I wonder how many of the indie artists that makes up the lifeblood of MySpace's content driver services (many of whom are queer) would stick around if they knew they were signing up with homophobes out to silence artists?

Over at CensorSpace, a website started by Brad Greenspan (one of the original MySpace partners bought out during the FOX takeover), the plot thickens. The site details responses to MySpace's attempt at censoring outside media code like YouTube and VidiLife on MySpace profiles, and reports trickle in about user profiles being censored for all kinds of political reasons which also don't happen to coincide with Mr. Murdoch's right-wing tendencies.

I remember Toronto's recent 20hz scandal, wherein the indie music message board bible was bought out by corporate interests. In response to viral changes to that community board every user up and left collectively to Stillepost leaving the new owners with a very expensive, empty website. Similar action can be done at Myspace, but it will only start through talking to each other, asking questions, and spreading the word.

Remember people - we have the power. Hell, we are the power. They go where we go and there can and will always be an alternative. (Friendster anyone?)

We're calling you, MySpace. It only takes one brief email to clear this up, MySpace. The ball's in your court now. Then again, maybe were done playing games with old men with old attitudes.

Let the discussion begin.

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