Categories: Docs :

Why was I zinged for inappropriate content?

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Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 11/3/09 8:45 AM
I'm writing course notes for a sophomore (college) level survey, with tomorrow's material on Henry David Thoreau. All of a sudden, I got a a notification "The published version of this item cannot be shared until a Google review finds that the content is appropriate." The "share" link is disabled. This means I can't upload to my Google website from this page. I suppose I could cut and paste to another brand new document... but that might get me kicked off Google entirely if it still scans for and sees something "inappropriate"!

Huh? Okay--what on earth did I do wrong here? I've got some links, properly documented, and not to anything sleazy--Thoreau was a lot of things, but I can't imagine anything inappropriate for (or even interesting to) children. I didn't use any foul language or hate speech--unless there is a typo I don't know about (but since these notes are mostly recycled stuff I'm cleaning up, I'm sure somebody would have pointed out a faux pas).

Did I bump into an algorithm? What happened? And when will I be able to share notes with my students in the way they've come to expect? I can post on Blackboard, which is a bug-ridden mess these days, which is why I've been posting on Google... Eeek!






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Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Natepelletier 11/4/09 3:27 PM
Funny this came up.  I just came across this today at school. One of my co-workers and I started a website over the past couple of weeks and today he tried to share some of his homework assignments through Google docs.  Needless to say he got the same message.  It does not matter what he uploads, it all gets the same message when trying to share.  If anybody has a way to fix this please let us know.  It definitely is frustrating.

Funny thing is he can send me the same doc and I can upload it and share it.  Strange?
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Gill 11/4/09 3:38 PM
I don't know, guys - we will have to hope that the Google Guides provide some insight on this. My guess is that some disaffected person somehow marked this as spam rather than an automatic algorithm. But that could only happen in a published version I think. Very odd and rather worrying.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 11/4/09 7:51 PM
Don't really think it's a real person, Gill. I taught the class for which the document was intended, overhead projecting a Word docx document, and adding to the document as I went along in class. I went back to Google Docs later in the day, and figured "well, I *have* revised, so they can't accuse me of trying to repost the identical document that initially got flagged"--which, since they've told me to wait until they get around to reviewing, would be grounds for punishment of some kind.

I cut and pasted from the newly revised Word document into a brand new fresh Google Doc -- and within 60 seconds was flagged a second time for inappropriate content. I really doubt that kind of timeframe would have been possible if some real human being were out there scanning all documents. (That is, unless somebody out there really hates me and is trying to do me dirt... a possibility I'm considering!) Further, when I got flagged, I had not even attempted to publish the document, nor had I done much of anything except save it to Google Docs.

FYI, I have sent a bulletin off to Mashable News, telling them that there are four (now six, with you & another poster on these forums) people who have had this problem in the past 48 hours. Since Google is unresponsive and behaving IMHO in an unresponsible manner, perhaps the press may be able to penetrate the corporate stonewall I've received thus far in my efforts to clear my name and have reasonable access to my own intellectual property.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? MarciaA 11/5/09 6:01 AM
Count me in with same problem.   My document showed that I made several revisions that I did not make.   Then, the doc was locked for inappropriate content.   I requested a review, but have heard nothing back.   Moved my document back to my hard drive.   

Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 11/5/09 7:50 AM
Thanks for report, marciarandre... that makes 7 of us so far in the past 48 hours zinged for inappropriate content.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Gill 11/5/09 8:55 AM
<<My document showed that I made several revisions that I did not make>> And did any of those contain content that might have triggered the 'zing'? Makes you wonder what they're looking for....

[jlaurel, I haven't actually suffered this myself - just responding to the thread.]
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? MarciaA 11/5/09 9:12 AM
I don't see anything that would have triggered a "zing".  My list contains botanical names for plants - lots of scientific names, but nothing that I see that would be deemed in appropriate.   
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Gill 11/5/09 9:52 AM
Hmmm - you don't have the dodgy "naked ladies" as one of your plants do you? I have tripped over this before on botanical sites.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 11/5/09 10:04 AM
Just for grins, about an hour or so ago, I uploaded my church's minutes (I'm church secretary; it's a long document still in rough draft) to see if that too would get zinged. Nothing. I did this to see if Google somehow had it in for me personally, or it was something about that specific document's content.

Given that two separate iterations of the Thoreau notes were zinged, and that the church minutes were not zinged, I believe it's something about that specific document which is erroneously triggering censorship.

I find it irritating that this is taking more than a few hours to resolve. Thanks for your support, folks!!
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 11/5/09 11:56 AM
Some movement to report, folks! I noticed that a Google employee stevedrennan had responded to posts several months ago about this issue. Looked at his profile; realized his profile said he was on Twitter; logged in to Twitter and "followed" him, then sent him an "@" message (I can't DM him as he's not [yet] following me).

A few hours later, I did get a DM from him asking for the URL to the document flagged for inappropriate content. Just sent that off. Have other things to do now, but hope to get some kind of info in a little while... will check back and report on what I find out.

It's good I was able to tweet him, but I still feel like I shouldn't have had to go what was essentially back-channel for this. If anyone from Google reads this papertrail, it would be nice to have some sort of ability to get a real person to talk to if all else fails. Yes, I know, you don't want newbies pestering you with dumb stuff. Nor do I expect immediate response to anything--but the sense that I am cut off from all meaninful human contact *ever* (even if I have to wait days) when it's pretty clear that I hit a true anomoly was very frustrating.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 11/5/09 1:53 PM
Hi, all. Well... Some success, I guess. Resolution grade: A- (for the time it took to resolve the issue). Customer service: D- (for the convoluted way I had to go about getting help).

Two hours after I sent the URL of the erroneously flagged "inappropriate content" file via Twitter, I received a mysterious e-mail from Google. There was no content in the body of the message; there was only a subject line, and I quote "--error--". I checked the document in question, and the block has been turned off.

To recap: I logged into Twitter, tweeted "@stevedrennan," and that seems to have prompted the very reasonable action of Google unflagging the document.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Gill 11/5/09 3:26 PM
True, but we still don't know what triggered it to 'zing' you in the first place.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 11/5/09 4:29 PM
Exactly. Which is part of the D- grade.

Kind of reminds me of the old Lily Tomlin act, as the telephone operator... "Because we're the phone company, and we don't have to tell you!"
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? conrad57 11/10/09 4:59 AM
I also had a shared document zinged. Copying the minutes and removing ANY word that contained a hint of s*x preference, allowed the same document contents to remain unflagged for the past week. I am not repeating those words here, simply to keep from triggering the same automated flag. 

These same minutes have been shared online for the past 2 years and added to. There was a recent bill riding on a defense appropriation that passed in Congress. Did this trigger a new "standard of adult content" or "appropriate language" within Google?
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 11/10/09 6:38 AM
That's the strange thing. There was no reference whatsoever to adult themed stuff... no words, no allusions, no racy metaphors, no nothing. As far as I'm concerned, it's a public document; anyone is welcome to see it at

tiny url dot com slash yf2hpk4 (string together the first two words, replace dot and slash with punctuation...)

It's only the part on Henry David Thoreau that got zinged--material later on Frederick Douglass (added recently) seems not to have triggered anything, although there is some reference to adult themes.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Gill 11/10/09 9:30 AM
I can see nothing in there that should cause blocking - unless 'naturalist' was mis-read as 'naturist'? Very odd.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Factorial 11/20/09 5:59 AM
Could it be that documents which contain potentially copyrighted content are flagged? Perhaps you cited copyrighted material in your Thoreau paper which, thanks to Google Books, the big G is aware belongs to someone else. Just a thought.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 11/20/09 6:37 AM
Thanks, Factorial. I had thought about this... except I'm pretty certain that Thoreau's Civil Disobedience is free of copyright encumbrance -- having been published well before the 1920s. And while it's by no means crystal clear, there is such a thing as "fair use" (excerpts) and the need for teachers to be able to refer to a text in order to teach it--lest I be reduced to writing about "that essay that that guy wrote." Again--could be--but if it is that sort of defeats any teacher using Google Docs for any reason, because the likelihood of that sort of thing happening is pretty high, IMHO.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Gill 11/20/09 9:22 AM
And in any case they should tell you *why* the page has been marked.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? ahab 11/20/09 9:31 AM
The 'why' most probably is a bug! 

I don't think it has any use speculating about which contents may have triggered the false positive; it clearly is a bug. And it is for Google to find out what is the bug and how to repair it. There are no 'workarounds' for this kind of issue... :(

[Gill, did you mail escalate this issue?]
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Gill 11/20/09 9:41 AM
yup
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? HoganLong 11/22/09 9:10 AM
I teach a class and one of the documents I made for the class was flagged by this system.

My document has a list of websites (it is for an ecommerce class)

My guess the program is looking for spam.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Gill 11/22/09 10:44 AM
But the question is - what does it use as its criterai for 'is-spam'?
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 11/22/09 8:29 PM
Possible. But this is the third in a sequence of three documents (corresponding to three parts of the course). Each has had similar information... including in each of the other two documents sequences of website references. I vaguely recall turning on a link just before the Zing popped up... but don't *think* it was anything I haven't done before.
     In other words, it may be multiple links or website listings, but it would have to be a specific subset--some threshhold exceeded or something.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Gill 11/23/09 9:42 AM
We really do need some feedback from Google on this one - Guides?
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Christuus Gnosis 11/26/09 12:02 PM
There should be red flags on the particular lines of the document that is flagged.
I have a document of about 500 links that has been up for 3 years and suddenly its flagged with no highlights to show me what the "objectionable content" is.

Fix this BS or lose a longtime customer you ignorant boobs.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? rabbitpal 11/30/09 10:56 PM
aah... also suddenly my googledocs have een zinged for inappropriate content. There are just pages with links to rabbitshelters.
Must be someone out there who lokes to joke around with people !!

I had my googledocs published on my website but this is definitely a reason for me to NOT publish my GoogleDocs any longer directly on my website but to stop making them public and use it in another way.

Also you request for review.....nothing seems to happen.


Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 12/1/09 6:24 AM
My experience from the start of November: nothing worked. There is no way to contact Google directly. I even phoned, and got a recording that gave me a list of options (push 1 if you want this, push 2 if you want that), and a caveat that if I didn't want anything that's not listed in the options, go to the forums. (By this point I was paranoid: if I persisted in my quest for a real person, would Google kick me off forever and confiscate all my documents?)

Nothing happened when I asked for a review. I tweeted stevedrennan with a direct message. He did get back to me briefly, asking for link to page, which I provided. Shortly after that, I got an e-mail with one word in the subject line, "error," and when I checked the "offending" doc, it had been released from its straitjacket.

Mystery, obfuscation, recalcitance, extremely poor customer service, Man Behind the Curtain.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? suz.prescott 12/1/09 7:00 AM
"Google Inc., whose principal place of business is at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043."
Anybody know anyone who lives near there and could go and see if there are actual people there?
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Marie 12/1/09 3:20 PM
Hello everyone,

Thanks a lot for reporting this here. We have automatic spam filters in place to prevent the sharing of content that violates our program policies. Because they're automated, sometimes the filters make mistakes. If you believe your content has been mismarked as spam, you can appeal it by opening the doc in question, and clicking "Request a Review" in the yellow bar at the top of the Doc editor.

Thanks again.

Cheers,
Marie
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? ahab 12/1/09 3:36 PM
" If you believe your content has been mismarked as spam, you can appeal it by opening the doc in question, and clicking "Request a Review" in the yellow bar at the top of the Doc editor."

Marie,
The entire issue is that it takes ages to get this "Review"! And there is the confusion caused by false positives, both by the creators of the documents that have been tagged inappropriate and the readers of these documents.
Can you at least confirm there are reports that suggest the automated system creates false positives and that this in turn has causes a re-evaluation of the spam-filters. Spam-filters are OK, we all need that, but false positives are just as bad as SPAM, perhaps even worse as they are perceived as censorship!
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Marie 12/1/09 4:49 PM
Hello,

ahab, thanks a lot for your response. Also, thanks to everyone for all the feedback as it is very helpful for improving the spam filtering algorithms. We can confirm that the spam filters sometimes mark docs as false positives. We are working to improve the filtering process we have in place.

Cheers,
Marie
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? 4ebees 12/1/09 7:30 PM

Now what I find disturbing is the notion that there are any filters in the first place.

What is the purpose of this censorship in the first place? People sharing documents that someone else doesn't think is appropriate? I can't quite get my head around that. Blogger, for instance. Does that have a filter that prevents people sharing offensive things? What about Youtube? No. What about images found during a google search? Not from what was said about the images that were intended to insult the USA president's wife. Google indicated that it didn't intend to censor such things.

Though the image has apparently since been removed:


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/24/michelle-obama-photo-goog_n_368760.html


the issue remains as it was the image poster, not google, who removed the image. Google merely apologised.
 

So I repeat my question: What is the purpose of this filter when Google provide other services to which the broader community has great access?

If this is something Google believes is reasonable and it would appear it does, then this would surely be something that the adopters of Google's ChromeOS should become more aware of and maybe they should take greater notice of RMS (Richard Matthew Stallman) who is seriously concerned about keeping your documents etc in the 'cloud'.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/sep/29/cloud.computing.richard.stallman

 
This is more grist to the mill and raises questions for me about the use of google docs.



Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? ronald.trip 12/2/09 4:22 AM
Be careful people. Thought crime will not be tolerated. Miniluv will set you straight.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? ahab 12/2/09 4:47 AM
ronald.trip,
I'm afraid The people at Google don't use NewSpeak; they have their own language and thought models aimed at semantic warping: GoogBabble.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? KathrynSun 12/2/09 10:18 AM
Marie,
I'm one of the people who reported a flagged document back in late October.

What happens in a "request a review" process?  Does a person in Google see sections of the gdoc in question?

Aside from the questions of the quality of the spam filters you're running on gdocs, why would you block documents that are not shared publicly? Ours had about 10 people collaborating, and only those people could see it. A non-public gDoc meets none of the criteria for "Bulk Email from a Stranger," the definition of spam.

In our case, our document was blocked, 14 hours later we got that cryptic "--error--" message, and then it was unblocked. However, note that I'd requested help from friends-at-Google, so the unblock may have been through them, not from your usual channels.  Now that you've added a note about blocking in your FAQ/help section, I've gone through our document and your terms of service quite carefully, and still cannot find the "inappropriate" content.

Other people who'd been blocked and only used your usual channels...
1. weren't unblocked for well over a week
2. received no communications or help from Google-- no replies here, no replies after saying "request a review" (noteven an auto-acknowledge that the request had been received).

I'll assume that Google cannot share information on what triggered the block to even the original owner (allowing them to repost without that content so that they can keep going).  This is because sharing that info would allow any spammers to test the filtering system.   Of course, this means Google has to treat every gDocs user as if they're a spammer, even document owners with 5-year-old Gmail accounts sharing a document with other people all with long-term Gmail accounts.  (Yes, accounts can be broken into, but that's a different set of patterns-- not relevant here).

Needing to assume all users are potentially evil, and instablocking on that assumption? That's not good.


Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? CreagB 2/16/10 8:56 AM
Just FYI. Not the foggiest idea how any spam filter of any kind could flag these documents. Six documents, three flagged, three just fine. All nearly identical. Here are the three documents that were flagged as inappropriate:

Document 1 "When":
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
When we deliver

****
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Document 2 "Where":
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Where you can find us

****
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Document 3 "Who":
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Who we are

****
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There are three other documents of equal text density. "What", "How", "Why", that were not flagged.
These six are placeholder documents for web development. ???????????????
I do not think that this has anything at all to do with actual content. As of Feb 16 10 I am awaiting review by Google.

Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? JoyBBB 3/3/10 8:08 AM
Marie, I requested a review of a document 4 months ago. NO RESPONSE YET.
I'm wondering if people at Google are taking extra long coffee breaks or something?  Yes I'm being sarcastic. It's all I have left at this point!
FOUR MONTHS! for a membership list of a club? It's a list of email addresses. The members provided them. The document is shared only to those members, with their COMPLETE knowledge. No NAMES. NO HOME ADDRESSES. NO PERSONAL DATA, as described in Google literature that would have triggered the zing for inappropriate content.
In short - there is NO inappropriate content.
I would think that after FOUR MONTHS, that would have been obvious.
What now? Any replacement doc I create gets zinged in seconds. Shall I take my docs off Google and go elsewhere?
PS - my University recently switched over to Google to host our email, and our professors have been encouraging us to use Google Docs in our peer review process. This is not giving me a warm and fuzzy about Google - I'm about 2 seconds away from requesting that my SGA petition my University System to drop you all like a hot potato.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jlaurel 3/3/10 8:13 AM
I'm wondering if a work-around might be to spell out parts of e-mail addresses and/or net addresses, thus:

Username (at) domain (dot) com

(Three w's, dot) domain name (dot) com

It's a pain in the ***, but might get you the immediate desired result.

Yes; if Google wants to hold marketshare, they need to fix this and stop being asleep at the switch.

I've stopped turning on "link" function in my documents, and that seems to have kept me off the radar, if that's worth any info.

And I got my initial issue resolved by scanning the google help site for names, finding one with a twitter account, and sending a dm tweet to that person. (Although I thought by doing so I might be breaking etiquette and risking getting kicked out of google entirely, as their instructions and whole website seem to be set up on the premise of "don't call us, we'll call you.")

Best wishes -- J
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? Wolfess 6/22/10 5:54 AM
This recently happened to me too, combined with a lock out of my account. =/

I was compiling a list of links for research purposes (vodoun) and as far as I can tell, none of the links have s*x in the title or anything inappropriate, nor AFAIK contain malware or phishing as I found them all on google and they have that nice little nifty message now that alerts you when a site might.

I did request a review, we'll see how long it takes.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jwin74 7/6/10 5:15 PM
About eight months ago my research proposal on mosquitoes was flagged for inappropriate content. I immediately requested review as I need to share this document with people. Over that time period I have filled out the form twice again requesting review. As far as I can tell google is ignoring it, while still holding my work hostage. I dont care what you do to improve your filters or what have you, just unlock my (MY NOT YOUR) work. It is my property and I have the right to share it.
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? jwin74 7/7/10 4:13 PM
Since google is apparently refusing to answer problems posted in this topic, I have started a new topic. It's disturbing to see people posting things like "s*x" as if we are afraid of censors in China. Shame on you google. 
Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? JohnnyCache 7/8/10 12:37 PM
Hi all,
Thanks for posting. If you believe a document was wrongly flagged for abuse, I encourage you to request an appeal, which you can do from within the document if you are the owner of the document.

You may also fill out the form here to appeal that decision: http://docs.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=148505

Cheers,
Johnny



Re: Why was I zinged for inappropriate content? EnricoBR 8/3/10 1:23 PM
I found this a few days ago after I got a document zinged for inappropriate content. I just marked it for review and posted a question here about how long should it take (but provided no links) - I intended to use the "twitter method" if nothing else worked. After less than a week, I received the "--error--" mail, and my document is now free. It seems you no longer need to use those methods, they are watching the marked for reviews, I think.

Just posting here because this topic appears on the top spots when you search in Google for getting flagged on inappropriate content.
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