TV Tropes has two options, and neither of them sound good: it can face the wrath of Google, or it can face the wrath of the Internet.
In the past two weeks, the pop culture archetype wiki has done both. First, it faced criticism from feminists for removing every instance of the word “rape” from its pages. Second, it lost funding from Google for keeping those pages up.
“We’ve had serious problems with people reporting our pages to Google Adsense as breaching their advertising policies,” TV Tropes moderator Morven commented on a post about the removal. “We believe the reports to be maliciously crafted in at least some of these cases, by people motivated by an dislike of our site.”
Since Google AdSense is a large source of funding for TV Tropes, moderators agreed to remove pages about rape, at least temporarily.
“Due to continuing problems with Google, Rape Tropes have been placed behind a temporary curtain until further notice,” a moderator wrote.
However, not all TV Tropes users read administrative discussions, and the cofounder’s comment in the forums misled many into thinking the pages were gone for good. When a user asked for an explanation about where Rape Tropes had gone, TV Tropes cofounder Fast Eddie responded:
“There is no explanation needed beyond the fact that the topic is a pain in the ass to keep clean and it endangers the wiki's revenues. We just won't have articles about rape. Super easy. No big loss.”
Fast Eddie couldn’t have been more wrong about that last part. The removal spurred the Geek Feminism wiki into using its Creative Commons license compatibility in order to retrieve and preserve Rape Tropes.
“They’ve just blanked it, all of it, sweeping it under the rug lest someone be offended by being confronted by the stark misogyny rampant in pop-culture and entertainment,” one commenter wrote. “Someone seriously needs to stand up to them on this.”
The clamor eventually reached Fast Eddie’s ears. After a heated Tuesday night discussion on The Mary Sue, Eddie appeared in the comments to reverse the decision.
“Due to the concern shown here and elsewhere, we've put the pages back,” he wrote. “Hopefully, since we have removed all Google ads from the pages, they will let us live.”
TV Tropes has appeased its critics, but it’s lost Google AdSense funding on any page that contains the word “rape.” In order to express gratitude, several commenters said they were donating to TV Tropes.
Interested supporters can help them out here.
Photo by Tim Dobbelaere