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Summary:

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has an image police – but an arrest they have made may be mistaken. A blogger using its SkyDrive cloud storage servic…

Modigliani Reclining Nude
photo: Michael Ohajuru

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) has an image police – but an arrest they have made may be mistaken. A blogger using its SkyDrive cloud storage service says it froze his account when it confused a famous work of art with pornography.

UK-based Michael Ohajuru, who on Twitter describes himself as a “sales and marketing specialist, art blogger, communications evangelist, art historian, communications philosopher [and] geek social networker,” among other things, notes that, after starting to use SkyDrive to store and share photographs with a closed group of contacts, he discovered one day that his account had stopped working.

When he appealed to Microsoft for an explanation, a representative, Kayla, sent him an example picture that led to his account getting frozen. It was a “Reclining nude,” a painting by Amedeo Modigliani from 1917, from the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a picture he took in London. Apparently, it violated Microsoft’s Code of Conduct, which forbids any image that “depicts nudity of any sort.”

The case echos a recent a mini-kerfuffle when Google (NSDQ: GOOG) removed the avatar of one well-known blogger because, in his picture, he was giving us “the finger.”

Ohajuru was confused about whether it was actually that one picture, or others like it. So he took to his photographs, discovering not only other paintings with nudity, but photos from beach holidays (lots of skin) and at least one other graphic work of art, piece of decorative art called the “Warren cup” with two men in an embrace (also naked, or are they nude?).

Were all these pictures also unacceptable to Microsoft, or just the one Modigliani? Pondering the question, Ohajuru — being of both artistic and technological inclinations — thought of an ironic parallel: “What Kayla and Microsoft have done, today, in 2012, was a almost an exact repetition of what happened when Amedeo Modigliani first exhibited his now acclaimed nudes in 1917, according to Modigliani’s Wikipedia entry.” He continues:

“Then:

On December 3, 1917, Modigliani’s first one-man exhibition opened at the Berthe Weill Gallery. The chief of the Paris police was scandalized by Modigliani’s nudes and forced him to close the exhibition within a few hours after its opening.

Now, to paraphrase Wikipedia

On January 8, 2012 Modigliani’s Reclining Nude, 1917 was uploaded by me to my SkyDrive. Microsoft was scandalized by Modigliani’s nude and forced me to delete the file within 48 hours.”

Rather than delete all those other pictures, Ohajuru took a calculated risk, and took away just the “Reclining nude,” replacing it with another image (this is a bit of classic art censorship protest, and also reminiscent of MG Siegler taking away his middle finger, and adding in a cute Google+ logo):

It worked, and now the account is up again.

Does that make sense? It doesn’t to me. Ohajuru’s conclusion, “The more things change the more they stay the same,” is certainly the case here — as is the fact that, as he notes, “Microsoft’s Code of Conduct policy confuses naked with nude.” One being objectifying, and the other being artistic.

But shouldn’t we expect a bit more from technology today? Given how many other images there were in Ohajuru’s SkyDrive that didn’t make Kayla and Microsoft flinch, the incident highlights not only the question of whether whether automatic image systems can be honed to differentiate between art and porm — but also the inconsistencies of such systems. If they work like this, they’re simply just ridiculous and pointless.

  1. Use spell check and grammar check, please.

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  2. Never trust Microsoft with your data.

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  3. If we can not choose what we upload, so skydrive is useless.
    Dropbx 2 gb> skydrive 25gb

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