Sex Workers Say Porn on Google Drive Is Suddenly Disappearing

Sex workers are reporting that their Google Drive files are mysteriously locked or vanishing.

|
Mar 21 2018, 7:07pm

Porn performer Avey Moon was trying to send the lucky winner of her Chaturbate contest his prize—one of her videos, titled "POV Blowjob"—through her Google Drive account. But it wouldn’t send, and Google wasn’t telling her why.

“I thought there was something wrong with my file and I got rather worried,” Moon told me in a Twitter message. “I had promised this guy his content and he was so good to me. I was panicked because I thought if I couldn't give him his prize, he would feel like he got ripped off and never come back again or worse, he could actually file a complaint with Chaturbate about me and they can take money from me.”

She’s not alone. Six porn performers I talked to and more on social media said that they suddenly can't download adult content they keep on Google Drive. They also said they can't a share that content with other accounts or send to clients. In some cases, the adult content is disappearing from Drive without warning or explanation. The porn performers I talked to started sounding the alarm on Twitter last week. They said that Google Drive no longer seemed sex-trade friendly, detailing error messages and sharing cloud storage alternatives with each other.

When I asked about sexual content being blocked on Drive, a spokesperson for Google directed me to the Drive policy page—specifically the section on sexually explicit material, which says, “Do not publish sexually explicit or pornographic images or videos.... Additionally, we do not allow content that drives traffic to commercial pornography.” Writing about porn and sex is permitted, the policy states, as long as it’s not accompanied by sexually explicit images or videos. According to Google, Drive uses a combination of automated systems and manual review to decide what’s in violation.

“It's very oppressive. And it's making my job hellish."

“I heard randomly that someone got one piece of their adult content flagged, that was stored on Google Drive,” adult performer Melody Kush told me in Twitter direct messages. She’s been using Google Drive for most of the last five and a half years she’s worked as a performer full-time, but started using it more heavily for work in the last three years. “I didn't think anything of it. Then I heard it again, different person. Then it happened to me.” She said she tried to send a video to a client that she’d successfully sent to one other person before, but this time, she received an error message, saying that the item may violate Google's Terms of Service, with a link to request a review.

The video title contained the phrase “cum show,” which Kush suspected triggered the system.

But unlike Kush and Moon, others have gotten this error on videos even when the title isn’t explicit. “It's just the content, which is the strange part,” adult performer Lilly Stone told me in a Twitter direct message. Her Drive account contains mostly adult content, but her images aren’t affected by this error—only videos, some of which have begun to disappear without warning or explanation.

Read more: Google Docs Is Randomly Flagging Files for Violating its Terms of Service

“It seems like all of our videos in Google Drive are getting flagged by some sort of automated system,” Stone said. “We're not even really getting notified of it, the only way we really found out was one of our customers told us he couldn't view or download the video we sent him.”

Stone’s files aren’t removed from Drive, but when she tries to play the video or download it, she said Google gives her an error message: "Whoops! There was a problem playing this video” with an option to download the item, but the download link doesn’t work.

Some sex workers are wondering if this has something to do with the impending vote on the SESTA-FOSTA bill, which is on the Senate floor for debate this week. Performer Hailey Heartless told me that she’s not sure if it’s a “blitz” that Google is doing, or if it’s just something many sex workers noticed at once, and got the conversation started—but she’s heard from dozens of people in the industry about the issue, after tweeting about her own experience.

It could also be that Google is simply, suddenly, deciding to enforce its Terms of Service. The fact remains that Google Drive is either glitching out and impacting people’s livelihoods, or suddenly enforcing its Terms of Service without warning. Adult performer Ramona Flour told me in an email that she’s been using a paid version of Drive with 1 TB of storage, which costs $9.99 a month, for five years, but she just started getting error messages last week.

“It's very oppressive. And it's making my job hellish,” Moon told me. “I'm still stressing about finding a way around this. I don't believe that Google should be allowed to dictate what you and another consenting adult send to each other through email.”