Student Newspaper Sex Edition Flagged as Explicit By Digital Publisher Issuu

[Update, Feb. 12th: Can we claim a minor victory? It appears less than 24 hours after this post went up and some outside media reported on it and linked to it, Issuu ‘unblocked’ the issue — although DiNatale tells me some of the Spectrum’s old sex issues remain trapped behind the “Content Warning” screen.]

Joining a slew of other student newspapers nationwide, The Spectrum at the University of Buffalo just released its annual sex edition. You can view it through the popular digital publishing platform Issuu — but only if you sign in first and prove you are a legal adult.

According to Spectrum editor-in-chief Sara DiNatale, Issuu has flagged the sex-themed edition as explicit and deems its content as potentially “inappropriate for some users.” The designation forces all readers to first log in to Issuu and confirm they are at least 18 years old before they can check it out. It also means Spectrum staffers cannot share the Issuu-hosted link on Facebook, an obviously essential promotional platform for a student outlet. (The Issuu plug-in is still active on the Spectrum website at this point.)

Editors have instead hosted the issue on Scribd. DiNatale has also emailed Issuu, but has not heard anything back as of yet.

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I’ve just checked out the Spectrum’s Sex Issue. As a college media sexpert of sorts — I’ve written a book on the student sex column phenomenon and regularly present on it at student press conventions — I can confirm it rocks and doesn’t contain anything out of the ordinary for these types of issues or columns.

1Oh, and irony alert: On page three is a column by DiNatale on the difficulty of writing about sex in the digital age.

As she explains, “We have every right to publish this edition — every right to write about things frankly that may be hard to talk about. … The sexual revolution in the 1960s and ’70s allowed Americans to loosen their morals on premarital sex, casual sex and birth control use. The digital revolution seems to have made students scared to talk about those very topics on record, fearing what will be left behind in their digital footprint.”

Well, that footprint on Issuu at least is now behind an ominously dark blue “Content Warning” wall.

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In an email, DiNatale breaks down the situation for me in more detail:

“Many college papers use Issuu.com to share PDFs of their papers and The Spectrum is one of them. Today, I found out Issuu has established some pretty strict censorship guidelines for ‘inappropriate content.’ Our sex issue got flagged, marked as explicit and users have to log in to the website, proving they are 18, in order to view it. It made it impossible for us to share it on Facebook like we usually do — and for an issue we pulled an all-nighter for, that wasn’t exactly OK with me.

“We wound uploading it to Scribd so we could share it more easily. But a lot of papers use Issuu and a lot have sex issues coming up. We can’t be the only ones who will get or have gotten ‘flagged.’ There was nothing raunchy about our issue — no nude or crude images. We explore the topics of threesomes and fetishes, but with in-depth reporting, backed up by sex experts. It’s alarming to me that our issue is being censored and deemed inappropriate when we took such care to make sure the issue was handled thoughtfully. This also is a new Issuu policy, as we have had no problems uploading sex issues in my three previous years at the Spectrum. I have also noticed they took our past sex issues out of our general profile on our user. If you have the direct link, you have to sign in to view the issues.

I know Issuu reserves the right to monitor its content, but this feels completely unjustified to me, and I could see it causing problems for other papers.”

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