Flickr Deletes Account of Man Posting Torture Photos

San Francisco Chronicle: Man critical of Obama wiped off the face of Flickr

Gawker’s Ryan Tate chronicles how Yahoo obliterated the Flickr account of user Shepherd Johnson after he blasted Obama over a policy on torture photos.

Johnson, of Virginia man, is none too pleased with the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009, otherwise known as the bill that would allow the Obama administration to withhold torture photos. Johnson apparently expressed his disdain for Obama’s support of the law on the White House’s official Flickr photostream. The comments were deleted. Johnson posted more comments, including another Flickr user’s photo of a naked bleeding detainee lying on the floor (warning: graphic). Without warning or explanation, the site erased Johnson’s handiwork along with his account and his 1,200 photos, many of which he did not back up.

Read the rest here.

(Jeez, I hope mine don’t bother them.)

Author: Scott Horton

Scott Horton is editorial director of, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003. Scott lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, investigative reporter Larisa Alexandrovna Horton. He is a fan of, but no relation to the lawyer from Harper’s. Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.

18 thoughts on “Flickr Deletes Account of Man Posting Torture Photos”

  1. Flickr isn’t a place for debate or harsh criticism… it plainly states this in the user agreement. If you do that, you’re account is liable to be deleted… So, regardless of how anyone feels about Obama or Flickr, this guy clearly violated the terms of agreement and paid the price. It’s his fault he didn’t back up any of his photos.

    What is the controversy?

  2. Frickr, schmickr, the most vital message in this story is where the guy left a voice-mail on the CEO’s home number after he’d been ignored. The offence here is clearly the depersonalization, not the deletions. Who cares if some private organization deleted pictures?

    I was treated similarly by the Barr campaign last year after having raised embarrassing questions at his site about his alleged payment to an abortionist for hit services for a ex-wife. The idea here was apparently different. Rather than pretend that the United States doesn’t torture as at flickr, the idea with Barr seemingly was to insure that there were no living proof that he’d had a productive evening. I mean, talk about depersonalization. Maybe someone at the time should have raised the question on behalf of the alleged victim on Bob’s home voice-mail. Think they’d have done any better than Sheppard Johnson?

  3. It’s a free service. He is free to start up his own page.

    Am I supposed to feel sorry for this idiot because he didn’t back up his photos?

  4. Yahoo stinks they are always censoring. They kicked me off quickly (no profanity in any way). However, they do have the “right” to do so as they are a private business. I of course have the “right” to never use any of their services again. As I got kicked off for being critical of Bush I don’t believe it’s so much politics as just the way they do business. It really seems that Yahoo is mostly for kids and not really meant for any type of adult political commentary, and thats fine. They should just be a little more upfront about it. Only time will tell if this is a good business plan or not. They may want to have an adult section or just state right out that it’s a childrens site. I can also understand that they don’t want their comments to be as low as the comment section of lets say youtube (childish and profane).


    1. “I can also understand that they don’t want their comments to be as low as the comment section of lets say youtube (childish and profane).”

      I guess that’s why Flickr’s Community Manager, Heather Champ, has a photo of nothing more than a card she made with a huge, four-letter word on it. And, no, it’s not flagged as potentially offensive. With the exception of one sardonic comment, her adoring fans have been gushing over her wit and superb photographic skills.

      If past practice allowed for criticism of Bush, then Flickr need to be explicit that none will be tolerated of Obama. And, regardless of promises, stated policies, etc., people need to back up their own files.

  5. If Flickr is in the business of supporting some political speech, like the Whitehouse’s offical photostream, but not others, like people critical of Obama, I don’t want to do business with them. Johnson should not have relied on Flickr to retain his photos while not maintaining a personal backup, the guy did have a paid account and at the very least Flickr should honor it’s contract. There are other, less draconian actions that Flickr could have taken, like disabling the guy’s ability to post comments on other photostreams or disabling public access to his photos. I think Flickr has the right to do business as it sees fit, but I will not be supporting a business that censors speech critical of the government. I sent them a message stating that if Johnson’s account wasn’t reinstated that I would be deleting my own Flickr account and transferring my photos to Picasa Web Albums.

  6. careful what you say about Kommisar Obombaton, Kammerades!!!!!

    you veel be investigated!!!


  7. I agree with several previous posters that Mr. Johnson deserves ZE-RO sympathy for failing to back up/copy his pictures. Such negligence is simply inexcusable in this day and age of cyber-technology.

    As for Yahoo/Flickr’s “censorship” moves, I also agree wholeheartedly that such organizations as PRIVATE entities have every right to dictate what may or may not be posted on their servers (although I second Brad Smith that they need to make these prohibitions clear in their Terms of Service).

    If Mr. Johnson is truly dedicated to getting his message across by sharing these photos or any other controversial viewpoints/materials, he should buy a domain name and set up his own public web server. Yes, this will take some time and maybe a little bit of money, but at least he’ll be free to publish anything he chooses without anyone else’s interference.

  8. Even if you have your own domain name your stuff can still be pulled offline, especially if the government requests it. The servers still have to be hosted somewhere, and that hosting company can pull you down, or be ordered to do so. Your domain registration can still be cancelled by the US government, ICANN, or national registrars. Your IP adress can still be blocked by national firewalls. However I would agree that the hurdles are much greater than if you are using a “free” web page on a commercial service. At least if a hosting company pulls you down they might have to give you a refund.

    And like other commenters I have no sympathy for any idiot who didn’t back up his own crap, and relied on a “free” commercial service to store it for him forever.

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