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04 August 2007 @ 04:10 am
Part Two - Another Strikethrough?  
There has been hubbub over the Intertubes that after the first incident, charmingly referred to as the Strikethrough, where accounts of LiveJournal members were suspended after posting either art or fictional accounts of underage characters. At least, I believe that was the reasoning. Rolling Stone has a feature on a group that believes LiveJournal should engage in more Strikethrough-type activities, as well as the television show, To Catch a Predator.

Anyway, according to accounts being spread across the Internet, it appears that a second round of suspensions are underway, these permanent, non-appealable, and supposedly spread to other accounts that may be using the same e-mail address for verification. All such bans are also apparently non-reversible. User ponderosa121 and user elaboration are two of the more cited suspensions, but there may be more involved. The community named "pornish_pixies" has been warned about the appearance of art in violation of LiveJournal policy, likely the two pieces that resulted in the bans mentioned above. As a result of said warning, they have decided to lock the community and enforce age verification standards.

While one post about the first Strikethrough incident seemed clear and said “This was the actions of overzealous persons. Policies are under review, and we will communicate to you what we have made decisions on. Your fictional content, however, should be protected under United States Constitutional guarantees of free speech”, another seemed to say “This is the beginning of the new era of LiveJournal - all those posting material of underage persons will be banned without warning.” I may be putting words and intentions in the mouths of those two posters. Take all I say with at least one grain of salt. User "stormcloude" inquired as to which of these we should believe, and received a response that said, in essence, "The Second". (While stormcloude made the request, the response has been copied over to bubble_blunder’s journal, for purposes of maintaining and updating a list of current events.) The LiveJournal Abuse Team appears to have declared themselves the sole arbiters of what meets the standard of “artistic merit”, which, according to the Terms of Service, is within their right to do. Several users have asked whether LiveJournal would be smarter in deferring to established case law regarding what falls under obscenity versus what falls under child pornography, and synecdochic offers an excellent summary of what sort of legal environment has developed that makes this an issue. Matters of text have precedent behind them. Images, which appear to be the targets of the suspensions, regardless of the fictionality of the characters, or even perhaps their actual ages, are not as well-protected.

The facet of the current exercise noted most prominently is that rather than having their journal name struck through, indicating a journal that no longer exists, the user name appears, without the LiveJournal icon, in bold, and the name itself is hidden from several views, in such a way that casual glances may overlook the fact that someone has gone missing. This suggests the malice end of the spectrum. If LiveJournal is deliberately engaging in subterfuge or deception and hiding those affected by things determined to be Terms Of Service violations, it does not reflect well on how high the parent company, SixApart, holds their customer base. As with the last incident, there has been rumbling about packing up and moving to a different service, one with better Terms of Service. The difficulty in this scenario being that unless a significant amount of users decide to move elsewhere, there will be very little effect and business will continue as usual. In a twisted sort of way, one might see it as the start of a pastor’s famous poem.

It is unknown as to whether or not there have been more abuse reports made and whether there will be more suspensions and warnings issued. It does not go un-noticed by this particular writer that this difficulty began after the acquisition of LiveJournal by SixApart. New boss, new rules, new environment. There is, of course, the free choice to move elsewhere, the choice of staying along for the ride and either spinning the Russian Roulette of not being noticed, or the choice of simply not posting or being around material that could result in abuse notifications and a prompt ejection from LiveJournal. As noted in the comments, this last option is much like trying to avoid spoilers for the last Harry Potter book until one reads it - it’s not impossible, but it does require significant effort to achieve. And that’s before any arguments about shifting definitions or standards as to what’s a bannable offense. Until otherwise noted, it appears that Zero Tolerance is the standard from now on. Which does not bode well for anyone.

liz_marcs has begun a cataloging of events, as well as offering options for those wishing to move to a new service. bubble_blunder is also maintaining a listing of events and related materials as they develop. (Two sources, one location. Huzzah for aggregation, or something.)

If there has been anything reported incorrectly, inaccurately, or the situation has changed and I haven’t noticed, feel free to comment, or, if you’re on my reading list, to post it to your own journal. I should pick it up. I’m not sure whether to maintain a single posting unit with a complete-as-far-as-I-know chronology, or to simply add updates as new information arrives. In either case, stay tuned. And if you haven’t invested in a journal back-up program, now may be an excellent time to do so. Just in case.
Current Mood: inquisitve
Current Music: Haibane Renmei - Rustle
SPark, the Purple Dragonbladespark on August 4th, 2007 08:39 am (UTC)
The one thing that I'd like to note is that when it comes to "the choice of simply not posting material that could result in abuse notifications and a prompt ejection from LiveJournal." one has to make the choice to stay FAR, far, far away from any such material, because livejournal refuses to concretely define what constitutes such material, and thus one is risking a ban if one strays anywhere near what's been banned for already.

I don't particularly like that. This whole thing was sparked by fundamentalist types who have a certain rigid morality, feeling that they are ridding the world of harmful predators who break the rules of their specific morality. But the fact that they are targeting fanfiction, which has nothing to do with actual predation in any way, means they don't really care if somebody is a predator or not.

I, and many others here on lj, do not conform to all of that afore-mentioned rigid morality. And I just have to wonder... first they went after predators, then they went after under-age fan fiction, what comes next? I do not discuss them in detail, but I do have things in my interests that do not fit such rigid standards, and may even technically represent illegal activities. People have been banned merely for listing a specific interest or combination of interests before.

It's one of those things were it's really impossible to say where it will stop. Will it just be pedophilia that remains the bannable offense, or will this spread? Heck, I've got pyromania, vampirism, voluntary slavery, and world domination in my interests. *grin* That's bound to offend or upset somebody right there, isn't it?

LJ turning into a totalitarian regime is hardly the end of the world, of course. But I would find it highly annoying if it did.
Serenamagyarok_saman on August 4th, 2007 11:39 am (UTC)
That's alright...
I applied for a spot on the Abuse Team after the first round of bannings, and I just got my answer the other day. They "can't use me right now".

Gee, I wonder if it had to do with my current interests of things like BDSM, slavery, etc...LOL

Silver Adept: Dragon Bombsilveradept on August 4th, 2007 02:52 pm (UTC)
A shifting standard is nobody's friend, because it tends to shift only in one direction, if history is to be believed. Turning what is probably an outlet of creative and free expression into something more like most people's normal lives, where they hide and bottle things up because they know there's going to be Disapproving Stares from the people around them, is less than appealing.

I do wonder what will be the next exercise - if after all the "predators" have been driven away or to the underground, and the fannish writing communities and journals are expunged or leave, then what, indeed? It would certainly not mean they'll go away, having accomplished so much. I can see them turning toward people they consider "sexual deviants" regarding consenting acts between adults. Or maybe they'll take up a crusade to get any mention of safe sex, abortions, birth control, and other issues banned. And if the higher-ups of LiveJournal continue to cave, fairly soon there won't be anyone there, having been driven off or left of their own accord.

Which might all be part of a master SixApart plan, for all I know. But if it is, they should have just disbanded LiveJournal, given us our walking papers, and let us back up and move our stuff over.
Plain Rebecca Janeannaonthemoon on August 4th, 2007 11:31 am (UTC)
I have a friend, lj user="irana">, who is afraid she'll get banned because she writes a lot of HP Smut and posts it - but nearly all the smutty things are all behind f-locks. What I don't understand is how can LJ start deleting people over their LOCKED entries? I realize that somewhere in the great land of LJ, the higher-ups most certainly have a way of seeing what people have posted into their friends locked and private entries, but they also state on their "report abuse" page, that if someone has the abuse in a locked entry, there's nothing they can do about it. Or at least, that used to be their answer. So even if someone reports someone like irana for her fic, wouldn't that fall under the "it's locked, can't do anything about it" policy?

Also, wasn't Pornish_Pixies one of the groups that got axed the first time and was told that if they continued to post underage stuff they'd get the ax again?

When the first "strikeout" happened, LJ said that while they were looking into restoring journals, they were not going to restore journals that contained what they consider child pornography. Sadly, FICTIONAL TEENAGE CHARACTERS doing what nearly EVERY SINGLE REAL LIFE TEENAGER DOES fall under this category. That part I also don't understand. If I was a sixteen-year-old, I could post to my personal journal all I wanted about sex. But write a story that has sex with sixteen-year-olds? And you get the ban stick. That's what doesn't make sense to me.

Also, I think changing from strike to bold wasn't really a move to make it more noticeable, I think LJ thought it would be less ugly on your info page over having the names show up with the strikethrough.
Barbayat: janette by ikonebarbayat on August 4th, 2007 02:33 pm (UTC)
I might have misunderstood their clarifications, but I believe burrs confusing statements said that you can't event talk about your sexuality unless you are 16.

Add on that the groups 6a apparently answers to is against talking about sex at all and think that homosexuality equals child molesting, it gives you a pretty clear idea what were LJ is going to - namely down the drain.
Silver Adeptsilveradept on August 4th, 2007 02:37 pm (UTC)
Well, there is still the possibility that someone who can see locked posts finds the fiction and reports it as a violation of TOS for depictions of underage characters having sex. If the report abuse page really does say that materials under the lock are exempted (screenshots, anyone?), then the second journal-deletion is a very odd thing, because the entire journal is reported to have been locked.

Pornish_pixies wasn't axed the first time around, but it was a locus of the firestorm.

The current concession to the fact that teenagers do, indeed, have sexual relations with each is the idea of the "age of consent", which in many states is below 18, and some "Romeo and Juliet" laws that say that if two under-consent children are having sex, so long as they're close to each other in age, there's no statutory rape charge. (Which makes for problems, as noted before, when one who is over consent has sex with someone who isn't, even if they'd both been having sex before when they were both under-consent.)

Stirke-to-bold is less noticeable, I would think, and the strikethrough was an easy way of telling that the account that was is no longer. With the bolding and the non-linking, one might have considered it a glitch or some other odd thing, and then only later find out that there was a deliberate intent behind it.
Plain Rebecca Janeannaonthemoon on August 5th, 2007 02:20 pm (UTC)
There's something wrong though about reporting something that's LOCKED as offending you, because the person who wrote it has it under a lock for a reason, and usually with appropriate warnings and flaggings before you get down to the actual story. If someone warns me "hey, the following fic contains x, y, and z", and I don't like reading that kind of stuff, I'd skip over that post/story.
Silver Adept: Heartlesssilveradept on August 5th, 2007 04:49 pm (UTC)
Yes, but you believe in the general intelligence of everyone else and that they will respect those warnings and skip if they don't like it, or once the content is revealed to be something not liked, then they'll stop reading it, and possibly ask for a cut or other such things. Certain other types of people look at that, or even the cut, and say "Onoez! Some innocent will happen upon this and be scarred, or some pedophile will happen upon this and be aroused!" And from there, rather than becoming a potential, it becomes an actual, and so now this person is somehow encouraging corruption of innocents and pedophilia, and now they must be stopped, of course. Because even locked, an infinite number of innocents have already been scarred and an infinite number of pedophiles have jacked off to it.
Plain Rebecca Janeannaonthemoon on August 5th, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC)
I really, really, hate crusaders who think they need to go out there and save everyone.

See, we all have our own brains, and our own likes/dislikes, and really, if people would be more tolerable over other people's likes, things might be a lot better.

And wanting to read a story about a sixteen year old having sex with their teacher who is at least 20 years older than them (harry/snape, for example) doesn't mean you yourself want to go out and have sex with a minor. Sometimes, things like sex (including rape) are written into a story as a plot point (though I also will admit there's a lot of PWP with smut these days). But even if it's A PWP, it still doesn't mean that the people who want to read it are going to go out and physically do it.

Silver Adeptsilveradept on August 5th, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC)
Sure it does. "Everyone knows" that people start down the road to pornography, pedophilia, homosexuality, and all those other sexual deviances through something innocent like a Harry/Snape fiction or picture. And then they find they like it in pictures and fictions, so they then want to see it happen to real kids, and then they start doing it to real kids. So all we'd have to do is get rid of the words and pictures, and nobody would ever become gay or pedophilic or anything else. We'd all live in our happily-married, no-premarital sex, heterosexual and religiously blessed marriages, where the women have as many children as they get pregnant by, nobody uses birth control, and God is firmly enshrined as the master and lawmaker of the country. Doesn't that just sound like utopia to you?
Plain Rebecca Janeannaonthemoon on August 5th, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)

Serenamagyarok_saman on August 4th, 2007 11:38 am (UTC)
I am working on becoming another host, but I am having trouble getting the Apache config to accept the necessary three lines that LJ needs to work. I am also, as we speak, checking into getting my own server to do this (I am currently attempting to work an instance of the LJ code under a VirtualHost).

If anyone is familiar with getting LJ to work in a VirtualHost environment, I certainly could use the help, and yes, I would most certainly offer that person a permanent, early adopter account.

bellepoque on August 4th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
Just a quick note

I became familar with NIC during Hurricane Katrina. Maybe they could assist you in your project. Best to both of you!
Amokk: bitchamokk on August 4th, 2007 01:49 pm (UTC)
Linked from whydoesljcensor:

First, PJ didn't claim any credit for Strikethrough and even called LJ stupid for not being able to tell the difference between fandom and actual "pedophile" journals; but so did WfI, then they backpedaled, and as the Rolling Stone article shows they're not exactly the most honest bunch on the planet.

The US law linked doesn't make visual depictions child porn, they label them criminally obscene. The COPA tried to make them child porn and was struck down by the SCOTUS, this was Congress's reaction to that, which has yet to see a court case based solely on this (the one individual who was charged was also a sex offender with a previous charge of child porn and also had child porn at the time of arrest, so it's not just drawings, they were exacerbating).

However, I feel with the last SCOTUS ruling in this area, since there are no actual children harmed, they'll rule again that it's not something criminal.

But that's how our system works: Congress could outlaw wearing blue underwear on Tuesdays, and if it passes and gets signed it's law until someone takes it to court and it gets struck down.

Someone has to be willing to get arrested for simply having these drawings, then go through the time and cost of trial and appeals to the SCOTUS to get another crack at it, but that'll take years.

Until then, cowards like LJ admins who don't want to admit they're being extorted by right-wing nutjobs like WfI and PJ to restrict members' Constitutional rights will hide behind unconstitutional laws like this one, because then they don't have to be the cowards that they are.
Silver Adept: One-up Mushroom!silveradept on August 4th, 2007 02:31 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the clarification regarding the organization. The link to the Rolling Stone article has been changed to reflect this.

If established law and precedent declares visual materials to be criminally obscene, then the law would require them to be subjected to the current tests regarding obscenity. Thus, I note that LiveJournal is very careful to consider them violations of TOS first, and anything else later, as they wield significant power in determining what violates TOS and how it is handled.

I don't think anyone would willingly subject themselves to the process of a conviction and appeal to the Supreme Court, especially with no guarantee that the conviction would be overturned. But, turning back to my high school civics course, is judicial review and constitutionality really limited only to the sphere where someone brings a case regarding the law? They always seemed to spin it that, if they were so motivated, the SCOTUS should block a bill passing into law because of its constitutionality. Obviously, I need to learn my own system of government better.
Amokk: bitchamokk on August 4th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)
They consider them a violation of TOS, but only under dubious means and they won't simply say that, which is what's frustrating. Their involvement though is possibly damaging to their legal defense of being a Common Carrier, and they might soon become responsible for all content on LJ. In their attempts to "avoid being sued" they're opening themselves up to just that. If they'd just say, "they're pressuring us via advertisers" it might be different. It's just frustrating as well that they seem to want to turn LJ into myspace (and here we thought that was just an April 1 joke!).

As far as SCOTUS, they can only review what's brought before them in trial, they can't arbitrarily rule on something; that's not in their jurisdiction. The only person who can veto a bill after passing both houses of Congress is the President. This is why the Defense of Marriage Act is still law, as example: it's unconstitutional but no one's fought it in court yet.

If SCOTUS could just say, "no" without a court case, they'd have too much direct power. However getting a case all the way to SCOTUS and them actually hearing it could be hard to begin with; they have tons of cases they turn down due to time or lack of desire in hearing the case.

However ironically, the Ninth Circuit ruled that services can't change their TOS without prior notice to users and the 9th is over California. SO this should be interesting to the current LJ issue with them changing the TOS randomly.
The Watcher: All Seeing Eyerimspace on August 4th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
I should note that LJ are being very cunning with regard to the latter point. They aren't actually changing the TOS, they're changing the policies under which they determine what they consider to be bannable under the TOS. Effectively, they've added a second, completely undocumented, set of rules besides the TOS that have not been made available to users at all, or at best in nebulous and poorly defined ways.
Silver Adeptsilveradept on August 4th, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC)
I noticed that the Common Carrier defence was one that was cited significantly. Can you give me and the reading audience a sort of capsule summary of what that entails, and why LJ really wants to keep that status? (Not that I'm lazy, but I tend to turn to expertise where demonstrated. One of those librarian things, you know.)

Regarding the TOS ruling, I supsect that if cited, LJ will say that they haven't actually changed their TOS, just that they're clarifying interpretations of it. If the words changed, yes, we'd have to have notice, but if only the intent shifts, I don't think they'd have any legal obligation to report it to us. At least, were I getting confronted with that, that's what I'd say.
Amokk: bitchamokk on August 4th, 2007 03:48 pm (UTC)
Yes, they've said they're just clarifying how they interpret the TOS, which is weaselspeak, really.

As far as Common Carrier, I just know the basics of it, and there's probably more info at wikipedia about it anyway. Basically, Common Carrier means they're just the middleman; court rulings have stated that ISPs and hosting services are simply carriers, they're not responsible for content if that content is illegal (such as conspiracy to murder, etc). COPA and the DMCA updated it somewhat, basically as long as a duly authorized and properly formated Takedown notice is given, and they respond in a "reasonable" amount of time to remove the offending material, the CC status is withheld. The person who posted can then reply with a form that states how they were using the information under the Fair Use guidelines, but it can still be a hassle on both sides.

However, once a carrier starts policing content on their own without legal intervention, they risk losing CC status and would suddenly become liable for all content; right now if someone posts libel, LJ is not responsible. If they lose CC status (via a court ruling), then LJ is liable for that libel as much as the original author.

This is why LJ really shouldn't get involved, regardless of who's pressuring them, and why previous results were "it's not criminal to talk about crimes, we cant' do anything" and which a lot of people want them to go back to.

Really, all this boils down to a few vigilante groups think certain individuals in this country should have less rights than others because "they're icky" and are willing to bludgeon and libel/slander anyone they can to make everyone else cowtow to their beliefs.
Silver Adept: Domokun Anchorsilveradept on August 4th, 2007 11:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I still wonder why the response was so decisive, myself. Normally, I would think that such a cease notice and explanation accompanying would be sufficient. Why go straight to the banstick?
Amokk: bitchamokk on August 5th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC)
They replied to stormcloude basically saying that a group of people at LJ/6A review reported material now to decide if the artistic merit outweighs the sexual content and that in these new cases it's immediate suspension without notification.

So that's why. Yet more shadow rules that only those at LJ get to know about to enforce them, but we don't get to know about them to follow them.
Barbayat: Barbossa - Sexy as hellbarbayat on August 4th, 2007 02:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this and all the links - I did not enjoy reading this, but as much as I hate to face what's going on LJ, one has to be informed ...
Silver Adeptsilveradept on August 4th, 2007 03:36 pm (UTC)
Not a problem. I suspect that I do not have the complete story, nor will I be fed with regular updates, but I'll do my best to keep an eye on things.
Feral: skulldacnomaniac on August 4th, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC)
I enjoy costing them money, so I'm going to remain here sucking up server space and bandwidth with my terrible perversions until they kick me off. But I've otherwise moved to IJ and I'll go anywhere else that's actually got other people on.