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.
I've read 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 is first-rate and doesn't contain anything out of the ordinary for these types of issues or columns.
Oh, 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.
"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," DiNatale tells me. "... 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."