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livejournal suspends hundreds of accounts
May 30, 2007 6:00 PM   Subscribe

livejournal permanently suspends hundreds of accounts under pressure from "watchdog" group Warriors for Innocence (sketchy, possibly spyware laden site created by pretty shady people). Though the aim of the crackdown is seemingly to protect children from online predators, many suspended journals and communities apparently had nothing to do with promoting pedophilia, and the broad-based approach taken by livejournal has many users irate (over 3700 comments as of posting), especially in light of the fact that that neither livejournal nor the owner Six Apart have publically addressed users, though Six Apart did speak to CNET as linked above.
posted by 6550 (152 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love how one of the main reactions is to post the lyrics of that shanty from the most recent Pirates movie.

Nothing expresses my outrage like cut and paste!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:05 PM on May 30, 2007


At least this'll teach some folks not to trust corporate-owned community sites. That's something good, anyway.
posted by mediareport at 6:11 PM on May 30, 2007


Six Apart aren't the geniuses of the PR biz, by far. They don't know how to properly handle the public backlash they create with their decisions and policies--or, even preempt it.
posted by nospecialfx at 6:12 PM on May 30, 2007


Cutting and pasting truly does express outrage!

Still, I'm reminded of the recent Digg hullabaloo over a certain number. In this day and age, on a popular community site, you can't really expect people to sit quietly when they perceive themselves to be censored.
posted by 6550 at 6:13 PM on May 30, 2007


God knows how many innocent children were victimized by Harry/Snape stories posted on obscure livejournal communities. Good thing we're focusing on what's important.
posted by Hildegarde at 6:17 PM on May 30, 2007


Oh man, I've just spent the last hour reading about this...

List of deleted journals here: http://catrinella.livejournal.com/151812.html
posted by jokeefe at 6:19 PM on May 30, 2007


There's also an interesting exchange of emails here between "Warriors for Innocence" and Liz Marcs.
posted by jokeefe at 6:22 PM on May 30, 2007


Dialog with Barak Berkowitz

fandom counts response

fandom_wank coverage (site will be down tonight)

There's more, if you're interested. Try the metafandom community on livejournal. They keep track of the essays about fandomish meta.
posted by FunkyHelix at 6:24 PM on May 30, 2007


Fandom Lawyers chime in.
posted by jokeefe at 6:26 PM on May 30, 2007


Believe you me, I know what innocence looks like.
posted by everichon at 6:27 PM on May 30, 2007


I'm with warriors of innocence. I am a warrior of innocence. Nothing to see here.
posted by fire&wings at 6:33 PM on May 30, 2007


One of the interesting things about this that bothers me is the quote from 6A CEO Barak Berkowitz at CNet


""Our decision here was not based on pure legal issues," countered Six Apart's Berkowitz. "It was based on what community we want to build and what we think is appropriate within that community and what's not. We have an awful broad range of discussions and topics and other things going on in LiveJournal, and we encourage other broad-ranging conversations on all sorts of topics. This was a specific case where we felt there was not a reason (for these journals to stay online).""

----

The first issue is them thinking it's the community "they" want to build. Misunderstanding the point is that the community is a grounds up thing (the many communities, in fact)... Fuck you for taking a hierarchical approach.

The second that bothers me is that it's all nice and fun to pick on pedos and rapists and shit. (even though we are all aware fanfic and abuse survivors have gotten the shaft, as it were, in this purge) But there's been talk of "not encouraging 'illegal' acts" which now means that my "marijuana" interest and "graffiti" interest make me targetable. What about users who post about downloading mp3s illegally? Is this the start of a larger crackdown.

It's interesting in context of the purchase by 6A (and no, mediareport, some of us have been upset about 6As actions all along, including mefi's own insomnia_lj (who, btw, hasn't been very active on LJ, including this latest round of shit))...

Insomnia has been dealing with the corporate sellout on his LJ ever since the sale. I was skeptical at first, and bit by bit as I see "sponsored communities" and ad-supported journals and now this, I get more and more worried. There was a question about pushing "adult" users to Vox and keeping the "teens" on LJ. Is this part of that vision of "their" community... "cleansing" LJ to a nice PG-13 vision of the world?
posted by symbioid at 6:35 PM on May 30, 2007


Oh well, I'm amazed people are surprised by this deletion fest it's not Usenet, this is corporate owned communication.

On the other hand, fanfic has really seemed to flourish on livejournal, and so I can see why a lot of their usebase would be upset by what happened. Stupidity all around.

But man, if livejournal interprets fiction about something illegal as the same as encouraging illegality and therefore illegal itself their insane. How many great movies are about crime and soforth? That standard is laughable.

Six Apart should simply have been honest "that stuff is gross and so we deleted it. It's our website, deal".
posted by delmoi at 6:38 PM on May 30, 2007


Six Apart.
posted by sciurus at 6:39 PM on May 30, 2007


The first issue is them thinking it's the community "they" want to build. Misunderstanding the point is that the community is a grounds up thing (the many communities, in fact)... Fuck you for taking a hierarchical approach.

Well that's the thing though, Matt bans people when he feels like they don't belong on mefi including insomnia_lj I believe. If you don't like it, go somewhere else. Web hosting is cheap.

Now, it may be that no one likes it, and everyone leaves, in which case LJ should have been smarter, but I doubt too many people are going to shed tears over this...
posted by delmoi at 6:41 PM on May 30, 2007


jokeefe and FunkyHelix, thanks for the additional links. I've been watching this develop since yesterday and initially my post was so bloated it was probably four times as long, so I tried to trim it down, but I realize I could have included a lot more.

delmoi, the link has been fixed.
posted by 6550 at 6:50 PM on May 30, 2007


It would have been great if no Christians were involved and the boss of LJ just announced: "You know what, people who obsess over gay underage Harry Potter fan fiction are a bunch of lame neckbeards and maladjusted whiny teenage girls and they all have self-diagnosed Asperger's. Get off my fucking internet!"


Instead of being kicked off for being lame, they're just being kicked off for being perverted, which is pretty weak.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:54 PM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


This was handled badly and leaves the impression that they can and will - at any moment based on complaints that may have no merit - totally erase journals.

That, of course, might not be the case, but if you are investing a serious portion of your online time journaling, you may as well journal at a place where you have control over whether your material is deleted or not. LJ has always seemed to allow users to have that control. This action makes it clear that the users don't have that control.

Wise LJers will take the time to back up all of their entries in the next couple of days - and from now on. One never knows when one's rambling recollection of losing one's virginity at the Junior prom will be construed as child pr0n by a Dominionist zealot.

While on the subject of the zealots, joekeefe's link regarding responses from the legal community has a fascinating description of how Warriors for Innocence encourages its members to pretend to be children to lure pedophiles, reveal themselves to be adults and then (and this is the kicker) not report them to the police.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:55 PM on May 30, 2007


The biggest problem is finding a good alternative, and convincing your friends to migrate along with you. "Vendor lock-in" as it were. MeFi has a different approach in general, anyways, than LJ. While it's a community, it's not a diverse collection of individual blogs. I think one reason people feel so personally vested in LJ is due to the fact it's a combination of personal blog and community space.

I think, ultimately, it's just pure stupidity on 6A's part (as you indicate many times...) Just like Digg and their encryption thing.

I didn't realize insomnia got the boot. I know he got reprimanded a few times, but never realized the banhammer got laid down.

BTW, what the hell ever happened to Paris? Not that I'm complaining or anything ;)
posted by symbioid at 6:56 PM on May 30, 2007


That last post was a reply to delmoi (damnit, non-threaded convos!)

BTW, I sometimes have a neckbeard, CoolTim, when I'm being lazy, and I took that Asperger's Test today, and only got 24, which means I'm not really Aspergersy (needed 32, I think)...
posted by symbioid at 6:58 PM on May 30, 2007


Another article about it, at firefox.org.
posted by Many bubbles at 7:01 PM on May 30, 2007


Oh well, I'm amazed people are surprised by this deletion fest it's not Usenet, this is corporate owned communication.

I see the point, but man, how many discussions have we seen recently where this point applies? An increasing number of internet sites that facilitate discussion and social interaction are being bought up by corporations. flickr goes to Yahoo, Livejournal goes to Six Apart (who have long since ceased to be just "Mena and Ben"), Blogger goes to Google, Myspace goes to News Corp, last.fm goes to CBS, etc., etc.

The trend whenever this sort of thing is similar: acquisition is announced, current userbase panics, the two merging companies go "hush hush, nothing will change," and then over the next couple of years things do change. After that the userbase abandons the old app like rats off a sinking ship, and look around for an alternative that does what the old app used to do so well. The only problem is alternatives are thinner on the ground these days, and any alternative that does become popular just gets bought up by someone else.

Places like Metafilter, which aren't owned by any corporate entities (Metafilter LLC notwithstanding), are increasingly rare, as is the idea of "knowing the people who run the site." If the trend continues, then what exactly won't be corporate owned communication? And if the answer is "nothing," does that mean we should simply give up our right to avoid arbitrary, capricious censorship?
posted by chrominance at 7:02 PM on May 30, 2007 [8 favorites]


I don't get it -- if I'm in some Harry Potter fanfic group and I write a story where I'm a character (and as fanfic so often does) I end up having sex with Harry Potter, is that pedophilia?
posted by mathowie at 7:04 PM on May 30, 2007


You know what, people who obsess over gay underage Harry Potter fan fiction are a bunch of lame neckbeards and maladjusted whiny teenage girls and they all have self-diagnosed Asperger's

Your band/show/hobby sucks! We hear it here all the time, thanks.

I obsess over twenty-some demon hunters and their hot dead father fanfiction. I'm too cool for school and a well-adjusted adult who doesn't live in my parent's basement, and do not partake of the ass burgers you speak of. Can I has an internets, plz?

If not, could someone please point out the you must be this high to ride sign at the doorway? I must have missed it.
posted by FunkyHelix at 7:07 PM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Maybe they're trying to be more professional.
posted by chiababe at 7:07 PM on May 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


The goatee thing you've got going there is one thing (the rest of the beards are fine and manly), but to have a true neckbeard you have to be fat enough that you lose the distinction between your chin, the bottom of your jaw, and your neck, and it's all covered in pubes.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:07 PM on May 30, 2007


Oh, and ha ha, upon post I notice the last.fm thread where more of my brand of corporate-driven bitterness is being doled out.
posted by chrominance at 7:08 PM on May 30, 2007


Just wanted to remind everyone that SixApart is the same company that employs that doofus who proposed Matt change AskMe to a black-on-white color theme so it would look "more professional" to his audiences who are new to the internets and only trust sites that look like corporate memos.
posted by jayder at 7:25 PM on May 30, 2007 [5 favorites]


I see the point, but man, how many discussions have we seen recently where this point applies?

Actually I agree with you if you're saying it's a problem. If it were up to me, it would actually not be legal for corporate owned communication systems to censor things without some kind of legal due process, or maybe only non-destructive moderation was allowed.
posted by delmoi at 7:27 PM on May 30, 2007


Now where am I supposed to turn for heart-felt teenage penned poetry equating the falling rain to my parent's divorce?
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 7:27 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to remind everyone that SixApart is the same company that employs that doofus who proposed Matt change AskMe to a black-on-white color theme so it would look "more professional" to his audiences who are new to the internets and only trust sites that look like corporate memos.

Huh? Who and when was this?
posted by delmoi at 7:28 PM on May 30, 2007


jayder writes "Just wanted to remind everyone that SixApart is the same company that employs that doofus who proposed Matt change AskMe to a black-on-white color theme so it would look 'more professional' to his audiences who are new to the internets and only trust sites that look like corporate memos."

See my overly-subtle comment above.
posted by chiababe at 7:29 PM on May 30, 2007


if I'm in some Harry Potter fanfic group and I write a story where I'm a character (and as fanfic so often does) I end up having sex with Harry Potter, is that pedophilia?

No, that's just lameness.
posted by trondant at 7:30 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


delmoi writes "Huh? Who and when was this?"

Metatalk post by anildash
posted by chiababe at 7:32 PM on May 30, 2007


See my overly-subtle comment above.

I should have given you props.
posted by jayder at 7:32 PM on May 30, 2007


if I'm in some Harry Potter fanfic group and I write a story where I'm a character (and as fanfic so often does) I end up having sex with Harry Potter, is that pedophilia?

Only if the character from whose perspective you decide to write is, say, Sirius Black, or something.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:38 PM on May 30, 2007


I've read Liz Marcs' fanfic, and it's usually pretty freakin' solid.

Can LiveJournal be sued for gross stupidity?
posted by adipocere at 7:39 PM on May 30, 2007


Well, apparently Warren Ellis thinks it's bullshit. And really, it is. If your "Abuse" area is only smart enough to read the word "incest" and then hit a delete key, then I think it's possible you need a better set of employees or a policy that is not, frankly, fucking stupid.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:46 PM on May 30, 2007


"Did you ever see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? This is Harry Potter and the Order of... well, the Penis."

"Oh, that's nice."

"But it stars Sirius Black Cock."

"Well, that makes sense."

</40-Year-Old Virgin paraphrase>
posted by Riki tiki at 7:47 PM on May 30, 2007


At least one person had roleplay journals, clearly labeled as such, permanently suspended.
posted by Many bubbles at 7:57 PM on May 30, 2007


it's gonna take a guy in a pink shirt with a microphone and a giant "best of" gif to fix this one.
posted by quonsar at 8:03 PM on May 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


So they apparently suspended support groups for people who had actually been through rape and incest.

Very classy.
posted by delmoi at 8:07 PM on May 30, 2007


Well, rape and incest survivors are clearly marring the innocence of today's youth. Won't anyone think of the children?
posted by Hildegarde at 8:09 PM on May 30, 2007


Apparently the new fandom_counts community on LJ has attracted over 11,000 members in less than 12 hours. And now it looks like LiveJournal has just gone down.
posted by Quiplash at 8:12 PM on May 30, 2007


Medieval Maven has a point. They were not even checking the journals themselves for content - just trawling over listed interests and using that as criteria for deletion. The fact that abuse survivor groups are being tarred with the same brush as pedophiles is absolutely reprehensible. Even taking ten minutes to look at an entry or two would have made all the difference in turning this from a PR nightmare shitstorm to a much more reasonable clearance of questionable content.

One word could get you deleted. One word. The idiocy of this is astounding and I'm currently looking for an alternative to LJ on which to host my material.
posted by Jilder at 8:13 PM on May 30, 2007


See, this is a situation where an LOLCat with a 'I'm in ur lj eatin ur fanfic" would be appropriate.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:14 PM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Quiplash: I'm still getting LJ here. Refresh?
posted by Jilder at 8:14 PM on May 30, 2007


I can load most of it, but I can't load the profile page of the fandom_counts comm. Hmm. Perhaps there's a limit to how many people can join a single community, and this might be the one that proves it.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:16 PM on May 30, 2007


I can't believe I'm paraphrasing an old Dennis Miller bit, but: "Why did we have to go to the wall for 2 Live Crew?" Seriously, I have to defend furry fanfic here? What? This is neither fair nor holy. Gah. Okay. Fine. FINE. Fucking principles.

Six Apart is, of course, well within their rights to do this. That is, utterly panic because they're a bunch of well-meaning yet very boring nerds who just want people to like them, and who thus avoid even the smallest amount of controversy. They bought LJ not for its delightful pro-ana communities or the tons of delicious Snape-on-Ron slashfic, but for its open-source codebase, which they figured was easier than coding their own. They have always regarded LJ users as something akin to pustulent lepers in sackcloth (and, to be fair, there's a whole lot of societal ick lurking around on LJ), and have always seen the maintenance of LJ as an obligation that would be shed once everyone in the universe flocked to VOX and blogged in the same style of Mena Trott. It's Six Apart's site, it's their servers, and they have every legal right to do so.

The affected LJ users are well within their rights to be utterly furious about this. There is a degree of good faith involved in any sort of enterprise like this, and part of the appeal of the Internet is that it allows those with, shall we say, unusual interests to actually allow their imaginations free rein. It's bad enough that your average housewife who's way too obsessed with Buffy can't feel free to let her freak flag fly and talk about her fantasy about Willow fucking The First Evil with just anyone; to suddenly be swept up in an ill-advised dragnet in order to try and stop actual criminal activity is even more stigmatizing.

That said, anything posted online, this unprecedented freedom that most everyone takes for granted, only occurs at the behest of some corporate interest, whether it's an online community, a hosting company, or if you really want to get down to the nitty-gritty, the infrastructure businesses. The fact that I'm posting here is only because several companies, including Metafilter LLC, have set up businesses to allow me to do so. Companies above the mom-and-pop level will always pull anything controversial. It's censorship by economic conventional wisdom.

So who's right here? Everyone and no one. HI I'VE JUST WASTED TIME ON TEH INTARNETS! All I can say is that the people over at Encyclopedia Dramatica must be in fucking hog heaven right about now. As trainwrecks go, this is nearly Platonic.

also, Anil Dash has never met a site he didn't market to. it's his pick-up line, as it were. he practices them in the mirror.

and Warren Ellis better finish that last Planetary issue toot sweet.

posted by solistrato at 8:19 PM on May 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


Here's an 'index' to the stuff on fandom_lawyers... I thought the bit about how Warriors For Innocence apparently impersonates children in their own vigilante version of "To catch a predator," except that their goal is more along the lines of saying, "Nyah, nyah! Pedo! I'm gonna call the cops on you!" without actually doing anything about it.
posted by Many bubbles at 8:19 PM on May 30, 2007


Just wanted to remind everyone that SixApart is the same company that employs that doofus who proposed Matt change AskMe to a black-on-white color theme so it would look "more professional" to his audiences who are new to the internets and only trust sites that look like corporate memos.

Now, now, let's be fair. Making that suggestion doesn't make him a doofus. Declaring it as a fact and saying he's right because of the low user number of the account he relatively rarely uses... THAT makes him a doofus.

You may wish to substitute your own word for doofus in your head. I certainly did.

As for the situation at hand, Six Apart has long shown that they don't feel like taking the time to listen to their users, or show them respect, or look at a website before deleting it out of moral panic. It's why I stopped using MT a long time ago, and deleted my (admittedly barely used) LJ today.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:19 PM on May 30, 2007


It times like this where it's a shame insomnia isn't still a member (so far as I know).

As much as I hate to say it, this is probably the watershed moment in livejournal's history, with it all being downhill from here.

Livejournal was nice because it worked as an RSS feed of what all of your friends were up to and in turn broadcast to them, along with the ability to bring in outside content. It worked better than individual blogs because people don't seem to like to take the extra step to visit individual blogs.

Now, people are (sadly) getting the same built in audience on myspace, and the lost audiences have made livejournal less interesting to visit, in turn people post less to their livejournal and it becomes a race to becoming the next friendster.
posted by drezdn at 8:29 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


That is, utterly panic because they're a bunch of well-meaning yet very boring nerds who just want people to like them, and who thus avoid even the smallest amount of controversy.

Of course the irony is they almost couldn't have created more controversy if they'd tried. The continuing silence is a bit baffling, though. Are they not aware that this isn't just going to blow over?
posted by 6550 at 8:30 PM on May 30, 2007


I'm still sad that "The guy who owns LJ" doesn't own LJ any more. I understand his motivation completely (and I've met Brad a few times), but I do feel like this probably wouldn't have happened before 6A bought it out. At the very least, they used to hire more competent help. 6A is really fucking bad at this kind of thing, and it's going to kill LJ.
posted by JZig at 8:32 PM on May 30, 2007


Brad was probably busy in Russia. I've never quite figured out what that thing was but it sure sounds shady.
posted by smackfu at 8:34 PM on May 30, 2007


I've never tried it, but does Livejournal let you store your content on your own server?

With blogger, I've used them to handle the mechanics of posting but with the content on my own sites. I figure, with the information they have, it would always be possible for them to go and delete everything, but there would be hell to pay.
posted by drezdn at 8:35 PM on May 30, 2007


Of course the irony is they almost couldn't have created more controversy if they'd tried. The continuing silence is a bit baffling, though. Are they not aware that this isn't just going to blow over?

The irony makes the rubbernecking even more delicious. I think that they papered over any potential problems in their minds because, and I think this is fairly obvious, they themselves are disgusted with what LJ is. It's very easy to convince yourself that there couldn't be any possible blowback when you are horrified at what you see. "Who in their right mind would defend this sort of thing?"

Where they really fucked up, though, was the rape/incest survivor communities. That really shows their hand: they just set a bot to scrape interests and nuke the communities. That's probably why they're silent right now: they miscalculated.

...or did they? I mean, who's to say that 6A didn't do this knowing full well that this would cause thousands of LJ user to leave in droves? If you're trying to gentrify the neighborhood, don't you want the tenants to leave on their own?
posted by solistrato at 8:37 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe they're trying to be more professional.

Well, they've certainly picked the wrong way to go about it.

If your "Abuse" area is only smart enough to read the word "incest" and then hit a delete key, then I think it's possible you need a better set of employees or a policy that is not, frankly, fucking stupid.

I seem to remember reading something about LiveJournal's abuse team going more on favoritism and vendetta than on actual policy.
posted by oaf at 8:40 PM on May 30, 2007


I've never tried it, but does Livejournal let you store your content on your own server?

No, it doesn't. Some people are now saving entries and trying to back up their journals. This site, which saves a journal as a PDF, was over-loaded due to bandwidth issues the last time I checked.
posted by 6550 at 8:41 PM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't get it -- if I'm in some Harry Potter fanfic group and I write a story where I'm a character (and as fanfic so often does) I end up having sex with Harry Potter, is that pedophilia?

I heard Ask Metafilter takes anonymous sex questions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:01 PM on May 30, 2007


I read in one of the articles, that SixApart reserves the right to delete your blog "FOR ANY REASON." Hmm.

I went to the SixApart website to see if there was any comment yet about this fiasco and noticed, in "Mena's Corner," the great Mena waxing poetic about, "how powerful personal blogging can be, as a way to stay connected and, fundamentally, record one’s life."

I guess she forgot to add, "Until we delete that record for any reason."
posted by jayder at 9:01 PM on May 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


SixApart is the same company that employs [Anil Dash] who proposed Matt change AskMe to a black-on-white color theme so it would look "more professional"

Huh. That really is surprising - that Anil works at the same company that would make such a bone-headed, colossally insulting move against a web community. How the fuck did SixApart figure this would go? Would it have killed them to make an announcement and allow non-pedophile (but now suddenly unwelcome) members to save their work before kicking them out the door?

Jesus, this is hilariously stupid.
posted by mediareport at 9:05 PM on May 30, 2007


Fandom_counts now at 16,000+ and counting. Hell hath no fury like fanfic writers and readers scorned.

I agree with what drezdn said above; Six Apart has now permanently damaged LJ's reputation and I predict many journalers will back up and leave. It's such a shame.
posted by Quiplash at 9:11 PM on May 30, 2007


I'm of the opinion that SixApart has never been good at anything. They just don't think things through before implementing them. Movable Type was never more than decent, they didn't communicate well about commercial licensing, and oh god -- Trackbacks! Motherfucking trackbacks, the spam-freindliest protocol ever.

And to Anil Dash, who will inevitably wave his hands around in this thread: Vox is the brown Zune. LJ is by far it's superior. I don't know why you even tried: "Let's take LJ, but start from scratch so ther'll be basically no users cause it's fucking 2006 and people go where their friends already are. Also, lets build it around an type of user that exists only in our heads."
posted by blasdelf at 9:18 PM on May 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


Seriously dudes, the fandom community comprises one of LiveJournal's most core user bases, along with furries, goths and Russians. And the fandom people are very very active. They should know this from their usage statistics.
posted by blasdelf at 9:23 PM on May 30, 2007


Yet another Choose Your Own Comment Adventure!

LiveJournal fanfic writers are fo'shizzy all up in a tizzy over a mass deletion prompted by some self-appointed decidedly Not-Police moral vigilantes. Ignoring the many multifaceted, variegated, flaky layers of delicious triple-rich irony avalanching on you from all directions, you must choose one of the following comments to proceed on to the rest of the thread.

A) Drama, bad fanfic and bad business practices combined with bad business choices and a freaky group of fingerpointing outsiders? And perverted, kinky sexy sex? At LiveJournal!? I, for one, and completely and utterly shocked.

Oh, God, heeeelp meeeee. I think I just fractured my sarcasm bone in twenty places. It exploded like a piece of popcorn!

OR:

B) "WE ARE THE ONLY THING THAT STANDS BETWEEN EVIL AND THE INNOCENT"

You? The only thing?

You don't think that that's a bit, oh, hubristic? No? A bit Godlike? Self-appointed? Still no?

Sorry. No. The only thing you're "standing" between is a flaming straw-man and a psychologically warped sense of self importance.

Yay, go for the good fight. Any good fight. I applaud you. But perhaps it'd be wiser for all involved, including the very fabric of society itself, if you had a clear grasp of the concept of justice and how it actually works. You might also want to fully understand the definition of the word "vigilante" and how vigilantes actually impede justice.

Since I've now read numerous emails sent to your organization that did a decent job of explaining these concepts in plain, clear English, I can only assume that you and/or your organization is a brainless chickenhead of dubious mental clarity and capacity.

Actually, I suspected all this when I saw your crazed web page and wanton abuse of the capslock key, but it's nice to have actual confirmation.

Anyway, therefore and so on and so forth it is of course my burdened duty to report you to the authorities as criminally insane.

OR (BONUS ROUND! FIGHT!)

C) I'm really, really glad I've never touched LJ or Six Apart's shitty products and services with a hundred and fifty foot pole. (OK, so I briefly tried out MT. I typed at it with a hundred and fifty-one foot pole.)

Fuck you, Vox. Fuck you, LJ. Fuck you, Movable Type. Fuck you, Six Apart. You don't get it and you never did and I'm so, so incredibly glad I can disengage myself from any of your offal-ings so easily.

I empathize with those who cannot.

I'm not sure how you did it, but you managed to impart the rancid, acrid stink of stupidity and fascism even upon HTTP documents, which have a mighty powerful smell all of their own. Good show. Thanks for the clear warnings.
posted by loquacious at 9:23 PM on May 30, 2007 [5 favorites]


Well, I bet that'll inspire some folks to learn HTML.

When Yahoo destroyed a bunch of Geocities web sites because they screwed up a PageBuilder update a fair number of folks were able to recover their content from sources like Google cache, the Internet Archive and even from the web browser caches of recent visitors.

[Disclaimer] They haven't messed with my LJ journal. [/Disclaimer]
posted by taosbat at 9:34 PM on May 30, 2007


On the other hand, now that the pitchfork and torch waving mobs have gone after Six Apart, the "really cool" guys at FanLib must be breathing a sigh of relief.

It's been a shitty couple of weeks for fandom.
posted by jokeefe at 9:45 PM on May 30, 2007


On the other hand, now that the pitchfork and torch waving mobs have gone after Six Apart, the "really cool" guys at FanLib must be breathing a sigh of relief.

Actually, no, cause the FanLib story just hit Slashdot today... Mwahahaha!

(Previous MeFi discussion of FanLib for those who missed it.)
posted by Asparagirl at 10:08 PM on May 30, 2007


Just wanted to remind everyone that SixApart is the same company that employs that doofus who proposed Matt change AskMe to a black-on-white color theme so it would look 'more professional' /.../

Was this before or after someone added themes to the site?
posted by effbot at 10:56 PM on May 30, 2007


Hey, look, it's somebody that actually knows what happened! As oppsed to, say, CNET. Mind if I speak?

We screwed up in this way: We changed a policy without telling people in advance. Then we had some inaccurate communications about it. And we compounded it by catching some innocent bystanders. I'm sorry we did, and I'm sorry we've made that first mistake before and, unbelievably, did it again. But here we are.

Now then, a lot of the pressure and (often inaccurate) press on this has come from people outside LJ, trying to use as much leverage as possible to force us into either "Six Apart hates free speech!" or "Six Apart hates children!" Believe me, when you're on an externally-imposed deadline trying to coordinate a large group of volunteers to enforce a policy that's rapidly evolving, mistakes can and will happen.

The goal here was to get journals with profiles that listed "child rape" or "pedophilia" as their interests to know they're not welcome on LJ. Naturally, the list of sites submitted by groups like WFI likely included some friendly fire, including legitimate communities for abuse survivors, or, yes fandom. And we accidentally suspended some of those communities, but their data is not gone and will be restored once we get our shit together.

The total number of communities and journals affected is about 500 out of 13 million registered accounts. I'm not saying that to diminish the seriousness of the issue, but to give you some perspective. That may have been lost in translation at CNET between the person who actually talked to someone at our company and the other person who wrote the really slanted story.

Listen, we know and love that one of our core communities is the plethora of fen that flourish on LJ. Hell, half of our volunteers and team members actively participate in fandom. We're not going to every deliberately do anything to endanger that. But we do make human mistakes from time to time, especially when we're under the gun to Do Something To Protect The Children.

As a side note, have any of you ever seen Dateline's To Catch a Predator? (Yes, you'd have to have a TV to know about it.) It's one of the most popular "news" segments, constantly saying how Teh Internets Is Full Of Predators. And the audience for that show doesn't distinguish between MeFi and a fan journal and a truly depraved individual's personal blog. We can, and do (except when we screw up), but the environment we're working in is waiting to throw MeFi onto the fire, too, and say "look, this is a blog -- the things that pedophiles use!"

It *is* similar to Digg -- their intent was to, you know, follow the law, even when that sucks. Dirty little secret: we have to follow DMCA takedown notices, even though that law sucks, too. We're fighting for net neutrality, we support the EFF (with actual dollars -- I am a member every year personally, too) to try and do the right thing, but you don't have an option as a corporation to just ignore the law when you want. We're trying to honor our safe harbor requirements, and we're also trying to honor our ethical obligation to not be a home for pedophiles. And yes, like Digg, we did so in a way that wasn't transparent to the community and earned some enmity, even if the intention was positive.
Fuck you, Vox. Fuck you, LJ. Fuck you, Movable Type. Fuck you, Six Apart. You don't get it and you never did and I'm so, so incredibly glad I can disengage myself from any of your offal-ings so easily.

I empathize with those who cannot.

I'm not sure how you did it, but you managed to impart the rancid, acrid stink of stupidity and fascism even upon HTTP documents, which have a mighty powerful smell all of their own. Good show. Thanks for the clear warnings.
Jason, you seem really well-balanced and sane in the way you react to stories you read online about software companies. My phone number is 646-541-5843 -- call me any time (collect!) as I'd love to hear more about how you evaluate such things. Really, the same goes for anybody in this thread, but your response is truly remarkable and deserves a personal invitation.

To those who brought up my personal comment in a metatalk thread about a color preference for a CSS file while discussing the execution of a policy decision at my employer? You're ridiculous. Don't turn this site into that kind of place, or you'll end up regretting when people link your personal Ask MetaFilter questions to the things your company does.
posted by anildash at 10:59 PM on May 30, 2007 [12 favorites]


Oh, forgot to mention -- we'll be updating LJ news shortly with info on what we're doing to fix this stuff, as well as an apology for the mistakes we've made. IM me at anildash if you are an LJ member and want more info or are upset.
posted by anildash at 11:00 PM on May 30, 2007


Anil, thank you for the response. It's great to hear that this is being resolved and that journals will be unsuspended. However, as a LiveJournal member (and volunteer) I'd rather see this kind of information on LiveJournal first.
posted by sourlime at 11:19 PM on May 30, 2007


Dirty little secret: we have to follow DMCA takedown notices, even though that law sucks, too.

Actually, no, you don't. You may not be willing to face the consequences of not doing so, but that's a completely seperate issue. DMCA takedown notices are not a force of nature, and God won't smite you if you don't follow them.

I'm not saying you should or should not ignore them, only that you do have a choice. If you think a DMCA takedown is unjust, you could certainly ignore it and decide to face the consequences of that action.
posted by Justinian at 11:29 PM on May 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


I'm gonna say that posting your phone number for the masses probably wasn't such a hot idea.
posted by aclevername at 11:45 PM on May 30, 2007


We're fighting for net neutrality, we support the EFF (with actual dollars -- I am a member every year personally, too) to try and do the right thing, but you don't have an option as a corporation to just ignore the law when you want.

I'm a paying member of LiveJournal with an account that has been active for years and this incident has me seriously thinking about taking my business elsewhere.

You mention that a corporation just can't ignore the law. What law were these journals breaking? The law that says you can't list certain interests in your journal? And I just have to say, how dare you mention the EFF in support of your screw up. The EFF would laugh at any request Warriors for Innocence sent their way. Not only that, I'm guessing they would take the exact opposite action you took, and fight this. Your actions are hurting the efforts of groups like the EFF and ACLU.
posted by formless at 11:49 PM on May 30, 2007


To those who brought up my personal comment in a metatalk thread about a color preference for a CSS file while discussing the execution of a policy decision at my employer? You're ridiculous. Don't turn this site into that kind of place, or you'll end up regretting when people link your personal Ask MetaFilter questions to the things your company does.
Oh shut up, it's completely relevant. You're the "evangelist" at 6A. In that MetaTalk thread, you clearly demonstrated that you don't have a fucking clue about what makes web communities work. It's pretty damning, memorable, and hilarious. That's why people bring it up.

And taking down journals on the basis that they mention 'objectionable terms' in their interests is just about the most retarded way to approach getting rid of asshats. If it's really only 500 journals, you could have -- I don't know, I'm not a professional -- READ THEM?

Brown Zune, dude. Brown Zune.
posted by blasdelf at 12:04 AM on May 31, 2007 [10 favorites]


(Serious question.)

Anil, why has your company been unable to issue even a super-brief "Guys, we're working on it" statement for the full day this has been going on, but you're able to show up and defend yourself on Metafilter very speedily?

This is awful crisis management.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 12:13 AM on May 31, 2007


Actually, no, cause the FanLib story just hit Slashdot today... Mwahahaha!

And this has, too!

I think the entire internet knows about this fuckup now.
posted by Many bubbles at 12:14 AM on May 31, 2007


anildash, though it was nice of you to chime in as of yet there still is no official response posted by livejournal/6A, and a supposed announcement has been pending almost all day, it seems.

The total number of communities and journals affected is about 500 out of 13 million registered accounts.

That's just a bit silly throwing around numbers like that. How many of those 13 million accounts are currently active? How many have ever been used at all? I would guess some of the more popular suspended fandom sites were more active than at least 99.9% of all livejournal accounts.
posted by 6550 at 12:22 AM on May 31, 2007


anildash -- MetaFilter is now the third place I've seen someone from SixApart post / get interviewed / make a statement about what has happened that is not LiveJournal. SixApart has the worst, most disorganized PR department this side of Mark Foley's spin doctors -- this isn't the first time SixApart managed to make their own PR problems ten times worse by completely mishandling them.

The members of LJ are not nearly as concerned with a well-written, politically correct "press release" as they are with just fucking hearing from you before reading about their own situation somewhere like cnet or boingboing.

I'm going to take Justinian's comment (about not having to obey the DMCA) one step further. You didn't have to do anything Warriors for Innocence asked of you. This bullshit, shady organization crying out about the chiiiillllldren is a bunch of psychotic mouth-breathers with no credentials; the only power they have is the power you yielded to them. And once you gave in, you struck out at journals which had absolutely nothing to do with what these mental cases wanted in the first place. You couldn't even surrender without screwing it up.

You've made it abundantly clear that your paying customers don't come first, or even second, when you have a decision put before you. This ham-handed and randomized display of your ability to delete years of someone's writings without even bothering to give fair warning has provided the overlapping fannish communities -- those bastions of in-fighting and petty squabbles -- with a single common foe.

fandom_counts is at nearly 22,000, and the community was created less than 24 hours ago. How high do you think that number will go, and how much money will we take with us when we kick you to the curb?
posted by tzikeh at 12:23 AM on May 31, 2007 [12 favorites]


Oh, and, anildash, since you have so much time to defend yourself on metafilter: You have now spent--as in used up, destroyed--pretty much all the goodwill and trust that Brad et al built up for Livejournal with this stunt.

See, the thing about online communities is this: we expect to be told what the rules are, and to be safe from modly retribution as long as we follow them. We don't expect there to be special invisible rules that only the admins know about. So, when you changed the rules to something batshit insane that nobody would have guessed beforehand (this is not like suddenly adding a rule against spamming when it suddenly becomes an issue) and then started enforcing them before telling anybody that you've done this--what exactly did you think was going to happen?
posted by Many bubbles at 12:30 AM on May 31, 2007 [4 favorites]


So, this Six Apart company is a content provider, and totally liable for all content posted to Live Journal? That's fascinating. I had been convinced by other MetaFilter posts that editing content was the last thing such companies wanted to do.

Shite like this makes me glad I'm no longer young, caught up in this sort of thing. I got my own site of little interest to anyone except a few friends and family.
posted by Goofyy at 12:44 AM on May 31, 2007


livejournal finally responds
posted by 6550 at 1:19 AM on May 31, 2007


It's interesting to note that, according to WFI's website, their requests for livejournal to suspend user accounts were denied right up until WFI began contacting their advertisers. A quote from the WFI website:

Your advertisers are leaving LiveJournal. LiveJournal is doing nothing to stop this. You need to assess this situation and consider “cleaning up” LiveJournal and removing the sites that not only list these “interests” but also describe in graphic detail the sexual abuse and rape of children as young as 3 years old.

It’s time to value child safety above free speech. It’s time to do the right thing. If morals will not compel you to do this, then maybe loss of advertising dollars will


A timeline of livejournal's history with paid advertising:

1999 - 2004: no ads ever!

2005 [bought by Six Apart]: no banner ads ever! (other ads? maybe)

2006: Ads! (But no punching monkeys, we swear!)

I'm curious as to how much influence livejournals paid advertisers now have in relation to their paid users. Fannish populations are proven money spenders and loyal as hell, it doesn't seem like a very good business sense to sacrifice the favor of such a meaningful percentage of the user base, but then again Livejournal has proven itself to be mighty successful at pissing off larger percentages of its active users.
posted by nerdcore at 1:27 AM on May 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


From the livejournal response 6550 linked to:

If your profile were to express interest in pedophilia with no other content that describes this interest as in helping survivors or protecting children from it we must read the profile as “I like or I support or I’m in favor of it.”

This is one of the stupidest sentences I've ever read. And from that post as a whole, it's extremely clear that 6A still don't get it, and that they still believe that there are only two categories of people in the world - people actively trying to prevent paedophilia, and paedophiles. If you're not one, you must be the other.

Also, everybody from 6A who's responded to this, including Anil here, keeps making vague but ominous references to what they had to do and deadlines by which they had to do it - but are completely vague, or indeed self-contradictory, about the nature of the supposed external forces compelling them to take these actions.

Good relations with your community doesn't just involve belatedly saying "hey, maybe we screwed up" after two days of complete silence. It involves actually explaining why you took the actions. Was it legal advice? Was it pressure from advertisers? Was it Biblical revelation? What?
posted by flashboy at 2:24 AM on May 31, 2007


anildash, that's a pretty good speech, but nothing changes the fact that when a pissant censorious group like "warriors for innocence" barked at you, you pussied out bigtime. you're afraid of your own shadow! grow a pair.
posted by bruce at 3:32 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


posted by anildash But we do make human mistakes from time to time, especially when we're under the gun to Do Something To Protect The Children.

Why were you "under the gun"? What was the urgency?
posted by fandango_matt at 4:08 AM on May 31, 2007


"You have now spent--as in used up, destroyed--pretty much all the goodwill and trust that Brad et al built up for Livejournal with this stunt."

I think this sums up my reaction pretty well. If I were Brad, I'd be pissed (all the way to the bank, hyuk yuk). What concerns me is that SixApart's priorities here seem to be everyone but their users, which makes me think back to the first dot-com bubble. It seems to me that their public appearance is the most important thing, which usually means they're looking for a buyout. Which is what really scares me. I trusted Brad, and I trusted whatever company he'd sell to, but I do not trust SixApart to sell LJ to a company that will adhere to the core philosophy LJ was built on. It seems like they're only honoring agreements (or were honoring) because of the conditions of their buyout of LJ; not because it's part of their core philosophy.

[Disclosure: I've had my account since 2000, and have been a permanent accountholder for most of the time since. I was a volunteer for a few years as well.]

And if anyone deletes/suspends my journal without notifying me first, I will personally come to where you live and THANK you in the FACE.*

*Parts of this comment sanitized by the SixApart HappyNiceFeelingsAlloftheTime™ Internet Nannying Protocol.
posted by Eideteker at 4:20 AM on May 31, 2007 [4 favorites]


I posted this in response to the livejournal news post, but like anyone's ever going to see it there.

--

You're innundated with replies here, and I'm not optimistic about anyone actually seeing this ever, but I thought I'd put in my couple of thoughts on what you've written here:

"LJ has a zero tolerance policy"

Zero tolerance policies always backfire. Always. There is always going to be some scenario which you hadn't thought of, which your policy will cause you to bring large penalties against, but which anyone not compeled by this policy will see as a clearly ridiculous case.

This is what schools have been finding out for years now. I don't care what the policy is with regard to, there is something you haven't thought of.

---

Here's the thing about interests, and why they don't mean what you think they do. You do not control how your site is used. You can advise, cajole, and threaten, but when it comes down to it the community will decide how they want to use a given feature, whether you like it or not. So when a large percentage of your userbase uses a feature intended as "things I like" as "things I am interested in exploring in my livejournal", the meaning of that feature is no longer what you intended it to be. Sorry. You either recognize this fact, and deal appropriately, or you are denying reality. Lord knows that's gone well for our president.

If you really wanted the first rather than the second interpretation, maybe you shouldn't have continued to call it "interests". It seems to me that "things I am interested in" is the logical interpretation of this.

posted by Arturus at 5:02 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


anildash: especially when we're under the gun to Do Something To Protect The Children.

fandango_matt: Why were you "under the gun"? What was the urgency?


I think this part is pretty important. When I read the WFI site, my first reaction was they seemed like a bunch of dicks because their latest posts were taunting anyone that thought the livejournal takedown action was wrong. They were reveling in a "victory" in a sore winner kind of way.

I know some people that have been hounded by activist groups like this and you can get painted into a corner where you must do something or they'll go great guns against you in the media.

I've had it happen with mefi, where a deranged member picked out a dozen threads/comments and tried to paint this entire place as a pro-drug community to my previous employers -- if these folks were threatening to go after all their advertisers, that would be something worth worrying about since advertisers don't really want to wait for your explanation or get caught up in a major controversy where they have to be considered pro-pedophilia for advertising there.

Still, bone-headed move by LJ support staff, but I can kind of see where things went wrong.
posted by mathowie at 5:05 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


LiveJournal's software is open source, right? If you don't like it, fork it...
posted by reklaw at 5:07 AM on May 31, 2007


Oh yeah, and who remembers the last time Anil came to defend another boneheaded LJ decision on MeFi? Seems to be a trend.

Here are some rules you LJ guys might want to follow:

1. Don't do stupid things.
2. If you're going to do stupid things, put up a big notice on the front page explaining what you did and why.

That is all.
posted by reklaw at 5:13 AM on May 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


LiveJournal's software is open source, right? If you don't like it, fork it...

The software is easy. The server farm isn't. Getting the critical mass of users to make a community is even harder.

fandom_counts, however, might just be that mass -- if they migrate en bloc, they'll have the core they need to build.

But as *anybody* who's worked this problem will tell you, it isn't easy. People will expect the site to work, and *always* work, and solutions that work for 10 users don't work for 1000, and the ones that do collapse at 100,000 or 10,000,000 -- worse, you can't build a solution for 100,000 at rational costs when you have 1000 users.

The software is also free. The server hardware isn't, and the bandwidth isn't either.
posted by eriko at 5:28 AM on May 31, 2007


What concerns me is that SixApart's priorities here seem to be everyone but their users, which makes me think back to the first dot-com bubble. It seems to me that their public appearance is the most important thing, which usually means they're looking for a buyout.

That rings true. Thanks, Eideteker.
posted by mediareport at 5:53 AM on May 31, 2007


And we accidentally suspended some of those communities, but their data is not gone and will be restored once we get our shit together.

This is where the utter silence from the company killed you, because they can't get to their data, and they were obviously wronged, and they will just keep making as much noise as they can. You spend days coming up with a carefully worded official statement, just like any big corporation, and in the meantime the pot just boils over.
posted by smackfu at 5:59 AM on May 31, 2007


Even if they reinstate any of the communities and users they deleted, Six Apart has shown where it stands on the issue of free speech, crumbling at the first sign of trouble.

In turn, as a paid LJ user, I'm seriously considering dropping my account. Not just that but actively discouraging the use of any Six Apart products. I know several people who were considering using MT, and now I will strongly encourage them not to.

If Six Apart can't be trusted to have good customer service when dealing with something as serious as account deletion, how can they be counted on to take care of the little problems?
posted by drezdn at 6:14 AM on May 31, 2007


If it will take only a couple hours to check journals and communities for content to be returned to members, why didn't you take the couple hours in the first place?

When LJ announced that they were going to put permanent accounts up for sale in June, the fandomish on my friends list went nuts because until that point livejournal was welcoming to fandom activities and thought of as safe. It seems far too likely that you'll bow more to threats to your advertising revenues or legal liabilities, and gradually narrow the range of discussion and creative expression on LJ. Which means it's no longer welcoming or safe.

Fandom is generous. They pay for their accounts and then pay for friends and communities, and pay for their role playing and fic/fanart journals so they can play with the styles and icons. Buy each other LJ's virtual gifts.

Now when it comes time to pay for further services or permanent accounts, fandom is going to collectively think twice.

How are you going to fix that lack of trust?

We're sorry is not a magical panacea that will regain that trust. But making restitution would make a solid statement of goodwill towards the core base of users you've insulted. Perhaps make pornish_pixies a permanent account? Or the Spanish group you deleted for daring to discuss the novel Lolita? Give free permanent accounts to some of the others. Make other gestures of goodwill towards fandom.

Fandom_counts is at 24928 members in less than 24 hours.

That's a lot of people whose faith in your product is wavering.
posted by FunkyHelix at 6:17 AM on May 31, 2007


as a paid LJ user, I'm seriously considering dropping my account

I'm starting to think that every single paid-account user that was suspended should initiate a chargeback due to services paid for and not rendered.
posted by oaf at 6:24 AM on May 31, 2007


When permaccounts came for sale, I was going to buy two as presents to two friends of mine. (I already have mine permanent.)

Now... not so sure. One of them writes gay porn fanfic (interestingly in canon for the characters who she most writes about). Plus, well, my uncertainty about dropping money on something that they could point at and go 'leper unclean' and nuke.

So that's $300 from me they lost. Just a drop in the bucket, I know. But there's more people who are rethinking their plans. Like, say, most of fandom_counts.
posted by mephron at 6:26 AM on May 31, 2007


I'm over on LJ much more than over here and when I saw this wankfest explode, I had a feeling that it was going to be bad. Seriously bad.

Not issuing ANY kind of statement was a massive fuckup. Even just a 'hey, we're working on a legal thing because there's some illegal stuff going on' would've been better than silence.

I was also one of those people thinking about getting a permanent account. Now I'm reconsidering. I've been on LJ since my freshman year of college and I'm ready to bail. But I have no idea as to where I can go. I don't know much about coding or the like, but I think I'm done with LJ.
posted by sperose at 7:10 AM on May 31, 2007


I've been writing online since 1999. Hell, I had an online journal, before we called them blogs. I've had an LJ account since 2003, and I started paying for it a couple of years after that.

I've stuck around LJ because of the community I've been able to build. When I relocated across the country, I met my first friends through LJ. When I started focusing on learning the craft of writing, I found many working writers with accounts -- adding them to my friendslist felt like getting mini-lessons in craft or the business of publishing almost every day. I even use my friendspage as my RSS reader.

I won't be renewing my paid Livejournal account. By suspending accounts and not explaining anything for almost a day, company management has proven that they just don't fucking get it. All they had to do was say what was coming. People would have been pissed but there wouldn't have been such a shitstorm. Instead, they've managed to enrage the huge fandom contingent, who have suddenly learned that their years of hard work -- in community building and fanfiction -- could be gone in an instant without a word from the company that frankly wouldn't be there without their participation. (I don't consider myself a member of any fandom, btw.)

And another thing -- does it make any damn sense whatsoever to think that a real predator would make a list of interests including any of the trigger words? Next thing you know they'll be suspending accounts that have interests that could be tangentially related to terrorism. Just another performance of security theatre.
posted by sugarfish at 7:14 AM on May 31, 2007


I really like the LiveJournal community (I too have made several real-life friends through it) and I really hope it doesn't implode because of this. In fact, I think that strong community is exactly why LJ overall will weather this storm, even if a number of people do leave. I for one will be keeping my account for as long as I reasonably can.
posted by Drexen at 7:39 AM on May 31, 2007


If you actually want to fix this problem, Six Apart type people, then give out free permanent accounts to every single person whose account you're reinstating. And then fire whichever idiot was responsible for this - it's not like you have a shortage of employees over there, after all.
posted by reklaw at 7:54 AM on May 31, 2007


In the future, everyone will be labeled a pedophile for 15 minutes.
posted by troybob at 8:26 AM on May 31, 2007 [3 favorites]


From a PR standpoint this is a good series of "what not to do" events, but that really doesn't explain the reaction to me. From an outsider's perspective I can say this: it looks like a ton of nerds hysterically shrieking over a minor kerfuffle.
posted by norm at 9:10 AM on May 31, 2007


Did anyone at LJ even talk to law enforcement about this? Because it seems more productive to work with LE to catch real pedophiles than to just cancel a bunch of accounts that had interests that could be interpreted as having something vaguely to do with pedophilia, if one doesn't bother to pay attention to the content of the community.

Oh, and nice that LJ caved in to a group (WFI) that appears to have one member - a woman who calls herself part of the Redneck Mafia and who links to militia sites and racist, xenophobic sites on her own personal page. Good job there.
posted by watsondog at 9:16 AM on May 31, 2007


I think I know what the urgency was. Anyone else see the hundreds of news reports in the last few weeks about myspace's plans to deal with sexual predator disclosure? Wouldn't jumping on the bandwagon, even if it's deleting (whoops, I mean "suspending" without telling people what you did, completely different) communities and journals, be a great PR move?

If your goal is to serve your users and their communities, then it was a supreme screw-up. If it was to serve the perceptions of a public who seriously view Dateline's "To Catch a Predator," which all of my friends and a fair amount of my completely middle-of-the-road family-having, suburb-living coworkers think is absolute garbage and sensationalistic crap, then kudos.

I have heard people throw out the "it's better to beg for forgiveness than ask permission" justification as part of their business plan for the web. You know what, though? Every time it was to beg forgiveness from corporations, copyright holders, and the law. I can forgive those people since I tend to think that's a limit that can sometimes be pushed. Six Apart has created the situation where they're trying to beg forgiveness from their users. That's not how the game is played.
posted by mikeh at 9:23 AM on May 31, 2007


Why would a real pedophile list pedophilia as one of his/her interests? Wouldn't they list listening to emo bands and playing video games or something like that?
posted by chunking express at 9:44 AM on May 31, 2007


From a PR standpoint this is a good series of "what not to do" events, but that really doesn't explain the reaction to me.

Dude, it's LiveJournal. The users flip out over everything. They tentatively suggested changing the location of things on the profile page and people went nuts.
posted by smackfu at 10:19 AM on May 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


So, this Six Apart company is a content provider, and totally liable for all content posted to Live Journal? That's fascinating. I had been convinced by other MetaFilter posts that editing content was the last thing such companies wanted to do.


That was my first thought about this too. Any lawyers in the house care to clarify?
posted by juv3nal at 10:30 AM on May 31, 2007


smackfu: "From a PR standpoint this is a good series of "what not to do" events, but that really doesn't explain the reaction to me.

Dude, it's LiveJournal. The users flip out over everything. They tentatively suggested changing the location of things on the profile page and people went nuts.
"

Like changing the color of AskMe?
posted by symbioid at 1:14 PM on May 31, 2007


Dude, it's LiveJournal. The users flip out over everything. They tentatively suggested changing the location of things on the profile page and people went nuts."
...
Like changing the color of AskMe?

Again, for many the problem was not the request. He made some good points. It was the autocratic tone and the "My user number is 508, so clearly I am right" of it.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 1:49 PM on May 31, 2007


Um. So how many individual journals are you going to visit, Anil, in your personal PR quest? Wildly inappropriate and ridiculous.
posted by FunkyHelix at 1:50 PM on May 31, 2007


Is that inappropriate, FunkyHelix? I mean, it was incredibly inappropriate to be talking to everyone except their users earlier, but now that LJ has made a (lame, half-assed, and easily disputed) official response, why shouldn't he be allowed to address individual concerns while people wait for the more detailed followup from the company?

While I think AD is, as that link says, a douche, he wasn't being douchey there, in my opinion.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:02 PM on May 31, 2007


My wife loves Supernatural fanfics and Anil just stopped by our house and baked her a cake in the shape of a '67 Impala.

The dude is hardcore.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:05 PM on May 31, 2007 [3 favorites]




So, can you imagine the buzzsaw someone would walk into if they ever bought this place from Matt? I'm laughing just thinking about it.
posted by COBRA! at 2:25 PM on May 31, 2007


That particular user tried to politely IM and e-mail with Anil (as he invited LJ users to do here in his comments), and she was ignored. Then he appears in her post to imply she's a douche because she didn't jump for joy at the apology made in afterthought, after an interview with CNET and a comment here.

The users and their concerns don't matter until they make LJ look bad? There are thousands of fans complaining still and writting essays about valid concerns they still have, and he dodges those to call out this poster as being a douche as a representative of the livejournal staff? Really? That an appropriate image to project at this time? No, really?

Your definition of professionalism and mine are vastly different.
posted by FunkyHelix at 2:25 PM on May 31, 2007


It's frustrating to see Six Apart make noisy public fuckups; I like Movable Type and Typepad a great deal, and if LiveJournal is a festering swamp, it's lovable in its way, like a crippled nephew. On the other hand, I take perverse and admittedly unjust (even crass?) pleasure in seeing Anil get raked over the coals in MeFi threads; he shares with several other blog/Web professionals an irritating faux-earnestness that just stands at odds with the brutishness of the Blue, and his blogging reeks of that particular self-satisfaction (might we say latter-day blog triumphalism, brushed with a thin veneer of fashionably weary cynicism?) unique to those 'technologists'-slash-'online community experts' who spend a good deal more time pitching to investors and giving keynotes to one another than, y'know, developing technology. (Merlin Mann's dullwitted 43Folders gives off the same aroma, as does Kottke's contentless site and the numbing pontificatory Mayfield/Shirky penumbra. Smart people, sure, but almost everyone I spend any time with is basically terrifyingly smart, so my expectations are skewed somewhat. Smart is cheap.)

I get the sense, from Six Apart's shifting attention-focus over the last few years, the MT3 pricing snafu, the aggressive banality and ugliness of Vox, and the quick-to-journos/slow-to-13-million-customers handling of corporate communications in this case, that not only does 6A not see individual bloggers as its meat'n'potatoes (obvious, inevitable, no big deal), but it's almost forgetting or seeming to forget how to deal with them. It's kind of weird. The transition from cool little startup to big company has taken a lot of shine off the place. Not that such things matter, but as a former 'fan' (in a sense) of the company and its wares, it's frustrating.

AskMe should be green-on-black, of course.
posted by waxbanks at 2:28 PM on May 31, 2007 [7 favorites]


FH: I agree with your views on what 6A has done and is doing with this massive fuckup. I don't read that specific comment by Anil as you do, however.

I may well be the one misreading it, but I wanted to be fair.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:33 PM on May 31, 2007


Watch out insomnia_lj! I hear the "polyamorous" groups are next on the chopping block.
posted by Krrrlson at 4:20 PM on May 31, 2007


I don't know what it is that keeps me coming back. I don't even use LiveJournal, or indeed anything else Six Apart make or have ever made. I just can't get over what incredible douches they all are.

And I never usually use the word 'douche' either.
posted by reklaw at 4:26 PM on May 31, 2007




The Warriors for Innocence lady (for this 'group
' appears to be a lone person) is apparently arguing that we need to limit freedom of speech to prevent pedophilia. I think this is a false dichotomy. We can effectively quash all freedom of speech and still have plenty of pedophilia going on. The two things are not inherently connected.

Also, I suspect Six Apart does not not use its own product. Oh, sure, they post announcements on LJ, but I don't think many of them actually use it for journaling. This is a big part of the problem. Had they been regular users of their own site, they would have known, with some degree of accuracy, how their users would respond to this.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:55 PM on May 31, 2007


Also, I suspect Six Apart does not not use its own product. Oh, sure, they post announcements on LJ, but I don't think many of them actually use it for journaling. This is a big part of the problem.

That's a good point. Of the big people Brad is seemingly the only one actually using LJ with an regularity for journaling. He actually recently updated with a post I imagine some users might find less than satisfying.
posted by 6550 at 7:23 PM on May 31, 2007


My wife loves Supernatural fanfics and Anil just stopped by our house and baked her a cake in the shape of a '67 Impala.

Mmm. Hardcore cake.

For what it's worth, I use all four of our services every day. "an irritating faux-earnestness that just stands at odds with the brutishness of the Blue" is totally a fair description of me, though.... my image of the Blue was shaped at a time when it wasn't brutish, and so that's not how I act there, mostly out of respect to Number One as a friend -- I try not to be a problem to him, and lament when I have been.

For what it's worth, I've never pitched an investor, and left California so I could stop doing keynotes to the same old Web 2.0 people and talk to folks who were still interested and excited about the potential of this stuff.

And I am sorry that there were people I wasn't able to keep up with on IM or email -- believe it or not, my IM client kept crashing last night and I think that's how we disconnected.

The transition from cool little startup to big company has taken a lot of shine off the place. Not that such things matter, but as a former 'fan' (in a sense) of the company and its wares, it's frustrating.

I feel you there -- the fact that these mistakes happen once in a while and that I try to do a lot of the cleanup around them makes me wistful sometimes for the days when the entire endeavor was small enough that I could prevent these mistakes from happening most of the time. Or, when they did years ago, it was just my fault personally and I could apologize and people would believe me.

But I keep doing it because I think there's value to helping more people have access to this stuff, and that it matters that MySpace's contempt for users (for example) is a far worse way for someone to define blogging than by our occasional fuckups. Malice versus intermittent ineptitude. Which ineptitude, by the way, is actually less frequent, though of course (especially here) no less visible. For what that's worth.

And that's why I try to email or IM or let people call me, even if they think I'm a douche. There's somebody trying. When Facebook added their newsfeed, who did you talk to? When Digg was dealing with hex posts, Kevin wrote a great post at the end of the day, and I like the guy, but there wasn't somebody who was gonna IM you and try to explain or apologize. Heather and Stewart and the team at Flickr have been excellent about a lot of the pushback they get, but this is still, as mentioned, a brutish community to participate in sometimes.

I'm not going to try to explain the company stuff; I've seen that at least right now, it doesn't pay off and I don't acquit my talented coworkers that well. Since part of this thread has inadvertently become a referendum on me, I'm fine to respond to that, and hope what I've said makes sense. Any of you who take such glee in pointing out my failings, I don't even necessarily agree with you, but hope it's obvious I'm nothing if not sincere in my efforts.

And either way, at least we have cake.
posted by anildash at 8:54 PM on May 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


By the way, I just realized FunkyHelix can just hop on the Henry Hudson Trail, stroll over to Port Monmouth, and beat me senseless, so I take back challenging her :-)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:01 PM on May 31, 2007


posted by anildash But we do make human mistakes from time to time, especially when we're under the gun to Do Something To Protect The Children.

Why were you "under the gun"? What was the urgency?
posted by fandango_matt at 10:46 PM on May 31, 2007


I'd like an answer to that question, too, actually. In what possible sense were you "under the gun" here? Because one kooky lady was giving you shit?
posted by Justinian at 11:40 PM on May 31, 2007


mathowie banned insomnia_lj.
posted by taosbat at 12:07 AM on June 1, 2007


If we don't get actual answers, we're going to make up our own. Some of them are probably much worse than the truth, and they'll just get more and more sinister as time goes by.

Also, the longer you leave it, the less believable whatever explanation you give will be.
posted by Many bubbles at 12:10 AM on June 1, 2007


Out of curiosity: if this was such a "surprise" to LJ admin, why is it that several of your staff leaked this information into fandom several days before? Clearly a few people realized that this purge was going to hit all the wrong people and create mass ill will among your most hardcore users. I have a hard time believing there was no discussion about it beforehand.

It appears that Six Apart opted to stick it to some portions of their user group in order to appease their advertisers. It took you two days to realize what you'd done? Please. Your staff knew what you were about to do well before you did it; there's no way that's the reason for the delay. Your own staff could have explained it to you immediately if you had failed to understand it the first time.

Do you really want to stick with the wide-eyed innocence thing? Because it's not really working all that well.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:29 AM on June 1, 2007


Anildash: As a user, I appreciate the candid nature of your imput here. It's always harding having your back to the wall, especially if the rest of your coworkers are less than useful.

As for "occasional ineptitude"...well, this sort of censorship question came up not that long ago with the hubub over the use of breastfeeding icons. Didn't 6A learn anything from that about the importance of context?

Incidentally, my LJ account is in this name too, if you want to look me up and offer to make me cake.
posted by Jilder at 6:28 AM on June 1, 2007


Interesting how the not-so-subtext to Anil's comment is that he wishes he could solve all these problems, but he's surrounded by idiots. Makes you feel sorry for the guy.
posted by reklaw at 6:50 AM on June 1, 2007


e wishes he could solve all these problems, but he's surrounded by idiots

I'm gonna bail out on this thread, but I want to explicitly say this is not what I meant. The people I work with are extraordinarily talented -- the kind of amazing people who inspire me to still feel like a fanboy even after years of working with them face-to-face. My lament was more that human nature is such that attempting increasingly complex tasks with a group that is dynamic and growing results in mistakes happening. And making mistakes on a stage in front of thousands or millions who are working each other into a frenzy over the course of just a few hours is even tougher.

The fact that Digg, Facebook, Flickr, and plenty of other worthy efforts have all faced similar blowback in just the past few months over things that turned out to be relatively minor or even entirely benign makes me feel more than justified in saying that clearly, I'm *not* surrounded by idiots. This is just the sort of thing that happens in these endeavors, despite anyone's best efforts.
posted by anildash at 2:04 PM on June 1, 2007


...you're bailing out now, in spite of the questions raised? I thought you wanted to answer questions and whatnot, should I call you or IM you instead? You were keen to jump in here before any official word has been spoken to the LJ commmunity, but now, when I asked you directly about the rumours that came out beforehand, you bail without responding?
posted by Hildegarde at 2:20 PM on June 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Before you leave, anil, can you answer this question? I've asked you twice.

posted by anildash But we do make human mistakes from time to time, especially when we're under the gun to Do Something To Protect The Children.

Why were you "under the gun"? What was the urgency?
posted by fandango_matt at 2:30 PM on June 1, 2007


It's all about transparency, fandango_matt. Corporate honesty? You're soaking in it!
posted by Hildegarde at 2:51 PM on June 1, 2007


The fact that Digg, Facebook, Flickr, and plenty of other worthy efforts have all faced similar blowback in just the past few months

Difference is, they fixed the problems relatively quickly - at least on a timescale of hours rather than days. And you came out of it thinking they'd learned a lesson. This is, what, the third, fourth time we've done this with Six Apart (the MT licenses fiasco, the ads on LJ, this... I'm sure there are more).

Now quit dodging fandango_matt's question, if you want to convince anyone here of anything ever again.
posted by reklaw at 3:24 PM on June 1, 2007


It's not just fandango_matt's question, too - plenty of us have asked it, repeatedly. 6A's public statements about exactly what exact threat or imperative they were facing, and why there were deadlines on it, have been entirely vague and contradictory - which is deeply unfortunate, because that can very easily look like dishonesty when it isn't necessarily that at all. As a matter of pure interest in the sort of troubles you can face running such communities - and now that the intense kerfuffle has died off a bit - what exactly is it you were up against (or perceived you were up against)? Many of us would really like to know.
posted by flashboy at 4:56 PM on June 1, 2007


I'm gonna take a wild guess and say the person that brought the pedophilia charges against them gave them a threat to go to the media with it, knowing those stupid dateline shows eat that crap up and would pluck the worst of it (even if pure fiction) to paint the entire service and company as a NAMBLA loving haven.

I'm guessing this based on their reactions to the closings (which bordered on reveling in it). Did you read their site? The person is really aggressive and taunting the people that disagree with their tactics. It reminds of lots of anti-pedophilia vigilante groups that kind of lose sight of what's legal and kosher when they go after people.
posted by mathowie at 6:55 PM on June 1, 2007


That's probably the case, Matt, but that doesn't mean Six Apart was "under the gun" as Anil Dash has said. It means that rather than acting like a bunch of actual adults at a real company, Six Apart started groveling and wet themselves in fear of what appears to be primarily one crazy woman.
posted by Justinian at 7:08 PM on June 1, 2007


Anil's decision to leave the thread without answering "why did you say you were 'under the gun?'" is starting to look like pretty clear evidence that the only gun they were under was the one in their head that would go off and kill their hopes of eventually getting bought out if a very minor fringe loony pedophile hobbyist group spewed out a press release linking them to pedophilia in any way whatsoever.

Come on, Anil. It's not a hard question. Why did you say you were "under the gun"?
posted by mediareport at 7:45 PM on June 1, 2007


I looked at the website of that crazy group, "Vigilantes for Children" or whatever it was called. What a bunch of trash. It is fucking amazing, and perhaps emblematic of the idiocy with which even smart people can be afflicted, that SixApart, with legions of loyal users, when confronted with a clearly lunatic blackmailer, chose the LUNATIC over their LOYAL USERS.

Anil Dash's feeble explanation, "This is just the sort of thing that happens in these endeavors, despite anyone's best efforts," is simply not true. Some companies, believe it or not, are pretty loyal to their users and don't cave to ridiculous threats by manipulative, moralizing fearmongers.

"Sorry guys, Vigilantes for Justice has contacted us, we have to delete your blog now, without review, because the Vigilantes have us 'under the gun.' "

What's funny is that they brought in Berkowitz to be the adult, the steady and even-tempered one, and he appears to have shit his pants at these ludicrous threats just as much as did the kids who surround him.
posted by jayder at 9:47 PM on June 1, 2007


I meant under the gun in terms of under stress to negotiate between a lot of bad options, in regards to wanting to take down truly awful stuff as quick as possible while managing a fairly complicated process of updating our policy. It was just me using a figure of speech to indicate that it was decision-making or execution under stress -- I could have as easily said "under a microscope" or "while keeping plates spinning".

Difference is, they fixed the problems relatively quickly - at least on a timescale of hours rather than days.

As did we. From when we found out about the issue to when we posted our first public response was about 12 hours. The same amount of time until Digg's capitulation on the HD DVD hex code.

And you came out of it thinking they'd learned a lesson. This is, what, the third, fourth time we've done this with Six Apart (the MT licenses fiasco, the ads on LJ, this... I'm sure there are more).

The ads on LJ? We explained that a change was coming, and the full rationale for it, months before it happened, with the default being having them disabled and requiring users to explicitly opt in. The fact that some peopel were upset with our decision doesn't make it a fiasco, it just means some people didn't like it. What other free sites let you choose whether you want to have ads or not? So your four examples are... one?

Now quit dodging fandango_matt's question, if you want to convince anyone here of anything ever again.

Take a look at the things that have been said about me, personally,in this thread. And then add in the slams against the work that my coworkers and friends do. Why would I ever want to even try to convince anyone here of anything ever again? Even those who were willing to be persuaded would be drowned out by those who think brutishness is a positive thing. I just don't think it makes sense for me to spend any significant amount of time in communities where neither I nor those who run the community are getting anything out of the conversation. (FWIW, I get along great with the no_lj_ads community. I'm certainly able to get along in places where my opinions are unpopular.)

Look, a number of you guys have already made it clear you think I'm inept, malicious, and a lot of fun to taunt. I can take it, I've got thick skin and came in here of my own free will, but when you go and twist my words to make it look like I'm insulting my friends and coworkers, or to say I don't care about my community or "get it" about communities that I participate in and interact with every day, or when you take 3 words out of thousands I wrote the other night to show "pretty clear evidence" of some made-up conspiracy? Fuck it. I'm just not gonna achieve anything productive here. Belaboring this thread here isn't somehow helping people in the LJ community, and dooesn't help focus on where we go next to help avoid these problems in the future.

Instead, some are still trying to figure out whether I'm either spineless or evil or stupid. So I'm bailing on the thread, because I can't help you with that. I assume everybody who's interested in honestly helping nurture the LJ community, or anybody who's trying to figure out how to make the tough calls should easily know how to get in touch. I've had about 4 hours sleep in the last 3 day; I'm getting too old to be able to sustain that stuff. And there's little I could say that won't be dissected and ripped from context or used against me, but because I'm a hopeless optimist, one last try before I go.

The imperative is that, all the edge cases aside, there are real people on the internet who want to actually abuse children, and want to create a gathering place to talk with others about how to do so, and that we didn't want to be making that possible. The answer isn't any more simple or any less complex than that. Thanks to those of you who actually took the time to wish us well and sent supportive messages over the past couple days.
posted by anildash at 10:13 PM on June 1, 2007


I take it this means you won't answer the question.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:22 PM on June 1, 2007 [5 favorites]


BUT COME ON GUYZ MENA AND BEN R GOOD PEOPLES!!!!

ANIL DASH HAD A WEBLOG IN 1998!!!!!

THEY CANT SUCKER YAHOO TO BUY THERE SHODDY CMS SCRIPTS IF THE RACIST NAZI LADY THREATENS TO ACCUSE THEM OF BEING TERRRRRAISTZ AND KIDDIE MOLESTERS!!!!!

SO STOP BEING SO BRUTISH GUYZ CAUSE MAYBE THEN MEGNUT WOULD SPAM HER LASTEST E-VENTURE HERE AGAIN!!!

FACEBOOK DID IT TOOO AGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

BOOOYYY CAPS ARE ANNOYING!!!!!
posted by Dreamghost at 11:34 PM on June 1, 2007


How to make "tough calls" in a community website, an easy guide:

1. Tell users what you're doing all the time.
2. If they don't like it (for example, they start forming groups to protest it), don't do it. Resist the urge to use this as a chance to test out your spin skills; back down immediately.

Doing things this way gives the community a sense of ownership over everything. Doing it the other way makes them feel that they're just playing in your pool, and they leave.

The imperative is that, all the edge cases aside, there are real people on the internet who want to actually abuse children, and want to create a gathering place to talk with others about how to do so, and that we didn't want to be making that possible.

It's worth repeating that the method you chose to do this was to remove everyone who spelled out pedophilia or something related to it as an interest in their profile! Which is the last thing a real pedophile would do.
posted by reklaw at 2:29 AM on June 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's an interesting theory being floated about a possible IPO. Something like a public stock offering could be seen as being under a gun.
posted by FunkyHelix at 7:41 AM on June 2, 2007


This and the recent JPG Magazine incident are case studies for how not to deal with community sites.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:59 AM on June 2, 2007


Anil:

Look, a number of you guys have already made it clear you think I'm inept, malicious, and a lot of fun to taunt.

I think most of us think 6A is inept, malicious, and a lot of fun to taunt, and since you're one of the few people there talking (though not particularly SAYING anything,) obviously that will spill onto you. Welcome to the web.

And yes, many of us think your PR style leaves much to be desired. I'm a pompous ass too, but I'm not the one trying to make people think an ill-thought, neo-nazi-provoked, community-ignorant policy decision was merely a wacky foul-up that golly, we all should hug each other and forget. If you think we're going to just be so giddy you are here that we won't mind you talking down to us... see above re: welcome.

And finally, yeah, we think you're inept. But we, and many others, have questions we're not seeing addressed. And taking your ball and going home because we're insufficiently reverential, your grace... isn't satisfying the situation.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:36 AM on June 2, 2007


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