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#NSFW: Poetry and Porn

Is poetry reserved for a "better sort of people?"

Last year, author and PEN member John Reed put together a project with Vice Magazine in which webcam entertainers—clothed—read his sonnets.  The sonnets are part of a sequence that has been widely published in Vice, the Denver Quarterly, Wordriot, the PEN Poetry Series, The Brooklyn Rail, The Coffin Factory, and more. But on January 7, five of the seven videos were removed from YouTube, accompanied by a note: "This video has been removed as a violation of YouTube's policy against spam, scams, and commercially deceptive content."

Mr. Reed appealed to YouTube, but received only an automated response.

"These decisions are increasingly automated," explained Deji Olukotun, Freedom to Write Fellow at PEN American Center. "The worst part about that is that we have no idea how the decision was made. In other words, there is no transparency in censorship at this scale, and no meaningful or effective means of redress."

"Considering some of the upsetting and pornographic material on YouTube, I'm assuming people like webcam girls and readers of Vice don't deserve poetry," said Reed. His satirical apology to the YouTube community appeared in The Believer on January 20, 2014.

What do you think: do these videos violate YouTube's terms of service? Should Mr. Reed's videos have been taken down? Do they need a disclaimer?

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