Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Social Media Censoring?

Yesterday a reader pointed out that you can no longer leave comments on the Lululemon Athletica Facebook page. I didn't think much of it until later that night I remembered to take a look. I assume that the heavy handed moderation was due to comments being left by people against the use of down, which happens each year at this time when down products are released. Those posts are prolific on the page and really sidetrack the content. I was actually more surprised by a new 'house rules' post lululemon has made. Something that struck me in that list of rules was the 'Keep it PG. Make sure images you share are appropriate'. At face value this seems like a harmless rule, but then I remembered that last week my blog was flagged by somebody for 'lewd content'. 

Google ads contacted me and had me immediately remove any images that contained bent over sheer pants pictures, or have my google ads account terminated. I use google ads to monetize my blog which offsets the amount of time I spend working on my blog. The amount I get monthly is pretty small, but it's enough to justify to my family the amount of time and resources I spend creating this space. In the seven years of maintaining this blog I have never been contacted by google ads before over any of the sheer pant photos I've posted over the years (informative photos) but suddenly these posts are being flagged as 'sexual content' and 'lewd images'. This occurred immediately after I posted the photo of the sheer Speed Wunder Tights in Florence print in which a reader shared her fitting room try on. I wonder if this new rule about PG content on the Facebook page is more about justifying deleting sheer pant try on images than it is about removing animal rights comments.   

I complied with Google ads and removed that image as well as all the other sheer pant photos from 2013, and I will no longer share those photos with you here. I fully intend to comply with Google Ads policy.  I hope this was a random coincidence that this happened and not punitive action taken against my blog. I have always had a great relationship with Lululemon and they have let me exist without interference.

The spirit of my posts was never about circulating lewd sexual content or click bait, it was meant to inform my readers of pants that may not be opaque enough for fitness activities. This space is about sharing information, and celebrating a brand we all love. It's very unfortunate that this is all  happening at the same time that Lululemon is heavily censoring and deleting product reviews, and after they've eliminated the Hey Lululemon forum where they allowed product reviews and conversation. 

**I'd like to add here a comment that a reader left in regards to the Google Adsense violation:
I used to work for Google AdSense, and I can tell you that this was very likely an automated flag based on an image-scanning algorithm they developed to help scale AdSense and protect a lot of our smaller advertisers who are very sensitive to even content that most people would not consider offensive. We NEVER would flag specific sites just because an advertiser had a problem with it - there's a strong separation of church and state between the AdWords side and the AdSense side.


This is what my flagged content looked like. It required immediate action in order to maintain my standing in the google ad sense program. 


44 comments:

  1. ...hmm, I wonder if Lululemon is the one who directed Google ads to your post of the sheer pants try on photo... Somehow I wouldn't be surprised...

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  2. ...also, since when is Lululemon getting after sexual innuendos, etc... just think of all the dumb things they've said in the past trying to be witty or whatever that is in line with what they are now saying they will sensor...

    What about that ABC anti ball crushing opening page with a man's crotch right up in our face on the landing page...

    among others like this...

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    1. Exactly Anon 11:45a.m. They also used "AF" in their marketing, I believe it was on their website about a year ago. I know some people got really mad and posted on Hey Lululemon their dislike of this use of "abbreviated language" trying to be cool and go after a younger clientele.

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  3. Interesting. I have a feeling lululemon is hurting with sales after all these slaps in the face to their long time loyal customer base. A lot of us are no longer so loyal. The last thing in the world they want getting out is word that they're charging a disgusting amount of money for pants you can't even bend over in. Come on though, it's not like you posted nude photos, you posted a picture of a woman wearing pants! A few months ago I had an ebay listing shut down for using a product photo. I didn't think much of it, but maybe they're spending extra resources to shut down things they don't like on the web.

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  4. Wow just wow, sorry you had to go through this....

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    1. Yea, I'm sorry LLM they're doing this to you. This is evil.

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  5. UGH!! this company is really leaving a bad taste in my mouth...

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  6. Just my honest opinion, but it does seem like a strong arm tactic to remove images that show lack of quality so LLL can try to stick with their marketing about why their prices as gone up because they are using better products....does LLL have spies that would have reported the image as sexual content to force the image down? Allegedly. Hope not but I wouldnt be surprised.

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    1. They really think their customers are morons. They've been getting bad press for years at this point, and it's entirely their own doing. Own your bs supply chain and quality issues, LLL!

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  7. I posted a review (brutally honest) about the CRBII and they never added it. Very disappointed in this company and not as loyal as I used to be.

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  8. That is absurd. There is absolutely nothing sexual about showing an informative photo about the sheerness of pants. But okay sure, let's continue to censor women's bodies and send women the message that we must stand up straight and wear completely opaque clothing at all times, lest we become to sexually exciting for men around us. I completely support your decision to comply with Google's request, but am extremely disappointed that someone A) decided that this was offensive and B) that Google ads agreed and pressured you to take them down. I don't know whether lululemon had a hand in this, but it is VERY suspicious. The sad thing is lulu has a lot going for them! If only they could listen to our honest feedback they would be way over their sales quota for this fall. Everyone has asked for flattering rulu layers, - fleecy keen comeback, tuck and flows, nice fall COLORS and we get disgusting prints, mesh, overpriced fleecy keen replacements and grey for days. I feel like just about any regular follower of this blog could do a better job of designing product these days. What an embarrassment.

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    1. You may have noticed that Lululemon has a relationship with Google Adsense in the form of paid advertiser. I am not surprised Google Adsense complied with a request such as this, regardless of the fact that it is baseless and clearly a very loose interpretation of Adsense policy. Unfortunately, I am in a position where my relationship as a publisher with Google Adsense is less valuable than their relationship as an advertiser with a large marketing budget.

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  9. First rule:
    Keep it clean. Vibrant colours are our jam. Ummmmm about this one lulu, what vibrant colours are you referring to? Because all I see is black, white and grey!

    LLM, so sorry you had to go through this!!! Totally unnecessary.

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  10. I used to work for Google AdSense, and I can tell you that this was very likely an automated flag based on an image-scanning algorithm they developed to help scale AdSense and protect a lot of our smaller advertisers who are very sensitive to even content that most people would not consider offensive. We NEVER would flag specific sites just because an advertiser had a problem with it - there's a strong separation of church and state between the AdWords side and the AdSense side. What would be more likely to happen is that they would blacklist your site for Lululemon campaigns, so you wouldn't get any ads from them. Lululmum - I'll message you directly so you can ask me any other questions.

    Aside from your own experience, what they're doing to cut down on negative reviews both on facebook and the site itself is super disappointing. I recently submitted a negative review on a bag; we'll see if that ever gets posted.

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    1. That is really good to know and a huge relief to hear. It made me really anxious to think that what was a good relationship (yet separate and not affiliated) had turned to something negative based on blog content. I appreciate you giving me a bit of google background and would love to ask you some more questions via message.

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    2. Very interesting Anon 12:52pm That would have to be one hell of an image-scanning algorithm to have picked up on that picture being "inappropriate". It wasn't like the entire bum was sheer or exposed. The woman in the picture had pants on for goodness sake, not to mention a very busy print where you could only see skin colour mostly under the lightest part of the print. You see more ass on a woman wearing a LLL bathing suit than what was shown on the pic in question. I am not saying what you explained as most likely happened, didn't, I just find this explanation a little hard to believe given the picture in question.

      As for LLL getting rid of visitor posts, I get it if it's in response to the posts regarding down products that they get bombarded with at this time of year. However, LLL is really insulating themselves which in a world where companies are reaching out to consumers more than ever before this company is retracting. If this had to do with the "down posts" why wouldn't they just do what you do Lulumum and delete posts that you find inappropriate. They have employees who answer all the questions posted in that section so it's not a matter of manpower just have them sensor and delete those graphic posts while keeping the visitor post section alive.

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    3. I actually no longer delete comments on my blog (with the exception of spam links, or if something racist or grossly inappropriate was posted) and haven't for well over a year. I've decided long ago to allow comments even if the make me uncomfortable. I realized that the commodity for a blog, or for a brand for that matter, is attention. Customer attention and customer engagement. Marketers pay good money for ad campaigns where they are paying for peoples attention, and to block a commenter (or customer in Lululemon's case) from engaging in discussion which may be uncomfortable for me (or them in this case) to read or hear sometimes really has a negative affect on the result of keeping that persons attention. If you are ignored, or blocked from expressing yourself, will you keep coming back and engaging in the brand experience?

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    4. my point being, that moderating customers so heavily is a large price to pay to muffle an opinion. Yes you get a clean brand message, but you don't have a brand if you don't have engaged customers. your customers decide what your brand means. That is what made Lululemon a cult status brand.

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    5. Hi LLM, Anon 2:10pm here. I didn't think you deleted anything other than what you stated as being inappropriate. I have seen times where posts I have read made me cringe and yet there it was for everyone to read. I absolutely understand your reasoning for this otherwise you wouldn't have the traffic you do but it also gives us freedom to be ourselves, and that makes for some very interesting and enlightening conversations, thank you.

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    6. Anon 2:03 - don't doubt the powers of the algorithms of the most powerful algorithm company in the world! :)

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  11. Should we create a hashtag for our sheer photos. I would hate for lulu to miss out on this helpful information;-) Something like
    #lululemonsheerpants
    Let's pick one and go with it since they don't want the general public to realize they're selling overpriced sheerness on their Facebook page, let's take over twitter!

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    1. and Instagram! They can't block us there since we all know how some pictures being posted on Instagram look like!

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    2. YES!! #lululemonsheerpants

      awesome idea ;D

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    3. Yes! they can't completely censor the web lol!

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  12. That is very disappointing that you had to remove the "offensive" sheer pic, I use your and Luluaddict blog to determine what pieces that I will buy. I feel that both your blogs offer an honest review of products. Honestly, if it wasnt for both these blogs I probably would not have bought as much as I have!! I appreciate the honest review from you the and real people who post. Please keep up the good work!!!

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  13. The pictures were informative, NOT 'sexual' in nature. LLL should be flagged then for showing the backside of their models in thongs. That's full on cheek there - so what's the difference in what we saw with sheer fabric covering it?! I will bet it's because the Florence tight is not SELLING out like LLL expected due to sheerness. #lululemonsheerpants all the way!

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  14. I have a different reaction to this. If a Google algorithm really flagged this picture, just think about this fact for a minute. A damn non-human computer thought that Lulu pants are sheer and inappropriate!! A computer said it! So Lulu cannot blame their sheer pants on 'oh you are using them the wrong way, they are made for running not for doing yoga'. It's not a person /persons saying it. It's a freaking computer that came out with this conclusion.
    What I would do next? I would write an article about it and publish this on every single media outlet out there. I mean how tragic are those pants if computer deemed them inappropriate! If out of millions of pictures that get published each day on the Internet Google flagged this particular picture... I don't know but for me it is obvious that I need to stay away from the pants!

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    1. Thanks Anon 5:47pm for pointing out the obvious and what I failed to pick up on. Not good advertising at all for LLL's highly touted new fabric and print pant getting flagged as offensive due to a "sheer rear". It's actually quite funny when you think about it because as you say this comes from a highly sophisticated algorithm not a disgruntled customer as some would claim.

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  15. Your comment that this blog is about "celebrating a brand we love" is confusing to me. The tone of almost all of your posts is negative toward Lulu. Almost nothing about your posts are positive. I have only been following you for a couple years so to be fair, this may have to do with the supposed shift in the company in more recent years/months. I do not work for or represent Lulu in any way, just a loyal customer. I appreciate the information you share, but If the goal of your blog is really supposed to be about celebrating them as a brand we love then I think you need to rethink the direction you're taking it.

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    1. I take your point but I strongly disagree with you. I rave about the items I love, and give fair and balanced reviews. Here is a post from yesterday where I was quite happy and excited with 3 of 3 items I tried on. http://www.lululemonblogger.com/2016/10/fit-review-first-mile-jacket-first-mile.html Fair and balanced reviews of the products are what my blog has always been about and always will be about. I love the product and love the online community but I don't always love what the brand does, and I refuse to ignore things that are wrong or negative (website, customer service issues, store strategy, product quality issues etc.). I provide news about the brand (store openings, store events, quarterly earnings) and I provide reviews (guest reviews and my own) and I provide a constant stream of product showcase photos.

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    2. Well said, LLM!! I have followed your blog for a little over three years so while I haven't been there since the beginning, I know you rave and rant and are honest with us! This is why I still follow you.

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    3. Don't listen to anonymous 6:42, what you do is amazing!

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    4. I agree and disagree with anon 6:24. LLM you always give fair and honest reviews. Period. I have been following your blog and about 4 years, ( basically since I discovered it, and LOVE it by the way) but I will say that the tone since the summer by ALL of us, including my own comments, have been more negative than positive. That said, my comments have been honest. LLL pretty much owns my closet, and this has been the most disappointing 7 months in all the years I have been buying from Lulu. I won't reiterate why, as we have all discussed the whys. But the negative discussion IS warranted based on product produced, management idiocy, and ridiculous price increases. It not not because we all decided one day to be negative. I don't think there is a reader out there who doesn't hope, like me, that they get their "stuff" together. ( yes, Inwanted to use the other s word)

      LLM you do an amazing job!

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    5. My sentiments exactly Anon 7:07pm If all Lulumum did was kiss ass in the face of everything that has transpired with LLL over the last year or so I wouldn't trust her as a fair and honest Lululemon blogger. If there are conversations here that aren't rah rah rah about LLL all the time don't shoot the messenger. That's what is so refreshing about LLM's blog, I know I am going to get the 411 on all things Lulu, good, bad and ugly and that's what makes me trust her and keeps me coming back. As for Anon 6:24pm you do sound confused and the use of the word "supposed" in your sentence, "to be fair this may have to do with the "supposed" shift in the company". Either you see a shift in the company or you don't.

      And Anon 8:28pm my sentiments exactly, well said.

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  16. Sheer pants are lewd? Ahahaha. The only reason sheer pants are offensive is the price tag, and sheer pants don't even touch Lululemon's lazy garbage marketing.

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  17. I stand with you. There has been a disturbing pivot with Lululemon lately in many ways. I am so saddened about how this emerged as a Canadian brand made in Canada, and it has come to this.
    Amanda

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    1. as a Canadian I agree with everything you said.

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  18. the only problem I had with that picture you were forced to remove is the quality of the pants! we wouldn't be here talking about this if the pants were done properly (if quality fabrics).

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    1. Exactly! If pants were true quality LLL would want those pictures all over as if the pants were next best thing since cold beer. If the quality were there, It would speak for itself in any picture

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  19. Just an FYI, those are the exact same house rules from heylululemon and have existed for awhile now. You can still post to Facebook, the layout has simply changed. Sheesh.

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