*takes a deep breath*
I hate knee-jerk reactions. They never lead to anything but grief, and they never do anything but satisfy the whiner and the whinee.
That being said, Six Apart, the owners of LiveJournal, did just that yesterday. They knee-jerked… they knee-jerked HARD. I have been following this story for about a full 24 hours now, and there has just never been a good moment to go “Okay… blog it… NOW!” because it kept developing.
In short, LiveJournal received some complaints from a group called “Warriors For Innocence” (no link as there have been umpteen reports their site is loaded with spyware). Said group took it upon themselves to register complaints against anyone, and everyone, that listed certain words amongst their profile interests. (For those of you unfamiliar with LJ, you list keywords in your profile so other people can find and read your journal.) These words included such terms as “child abuse, child f***ing, child molestation, child porn, child sexual abuse, f***ing kids, f***ing little kids, f***ing young girls, kiddie porn, child sexual abuse, incest” and more.” (list taken from this member of WFI’s blog… no spyware)
Before I go any further, let me state, unequivocally, I do not condone any of those real life actions.
Now, here’s where the trouble begins: WFI scared LJ by saying they would contact their advertisers and let them know their ads were appearing on such pages. LJ got scared and… knee-jerked. Anyone with those words in their interests, no matter what the content of their journal, got suspended without warning. A prime example of this being a knee-jerk is the word “Lolita”. They did not take into consideration things like a Community (communities are journals posted to by multiple people so as to discuss a subject) in Spanish, discussing the classic literary novel “Lolite” by Vladimir Nabokov
While Lolita did not appear on the original list of offending words, LJ added it. They did not take into consideration an LJ Community (communities are groups of people posting to one blog so as to discuss a subject), in Spanish, discussing the literary merits of the classic novel “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov. They did not take into consideration that “Lolita” is also now a clothing movement. Then there were of course the incest survival communities… child rape survival communities… they are also gone.
Yeah… they knee jerked.
Where it got really out of control was when they hit on the fan fiction communities. Mind you, I don’t read much fic, and when I do read fic, I tend to stay away from the overtly sexual ones. They just aren’t my cup of tea. I do, however, defend their right to exist because they are, as their name implies, works of fiction, and, as such, are protected under the first amendment of the constitution. True, you agree to terms of service when you join a site such as LJ, but, still, a work of fiction, is a work of fiction.
It snowballed out of control when the people who were suspended in the fan fiction communities tried to plead their case to LJ and they were told what was done was done, and that nothing would be reversed. Years of journal entries were lost, complete fan fictions, and a general air of dis-trust appeared between the users and LJ.
This was all compounded when pleas for a statement from LJ’s head honchos went unanswered, but yet, they talked to the media. And still nothing was communicated to the users of the site. While Rome burned, and Nero fiddled, the WFI was doing a war dance of jubilation over their apparent victory against the evil-doers. Never mind the innocent journals that got hurt, the support groups wrested away from victims, the people discussing works of literary merit, THEY, the defenders of the good and true, got… some words removed from a website…
That’s what this all boils down to. There is no evidence that they got ACTUAL pedophiles and child molesters removed from LJ, they got some words removed from people’s interests. That’s it. The action group Perverted Justice even points out that over six months ago they reported actual pedophiles to LJ and no action was taken. Along comes WFI, all this scrambling happens and Perverted Justice goes to look at the pedophile journals they flagged…
Not to mention the fact that despite their taking down of a multitude of random LiveJournal accounts, they still haven’t taken down a variety of pedophile LJ’s that we reported MONTHS ago. Yes, even after this latest takedown “effort” on their part.
Way to go LJ… way to protect the kids. Listen to the kooks, but not to the people who are nationally recognized as the defenders of children.
LiveJournal did finally issued a statement at 3:47 AM EST this morning. They say they are now looking into the journals they suspended and are going to reverse some of their decisions.
1) Over the next few hours we will review the journals that were taken down and wherever appropriate we will restore these journals or communities before 12 noon PDT. Sorry it will take that long but we do not want to reinstate true and clear violators of community policy.
2) In some cases Journals that were restored will be asked to clarify their profiles to avoid the appearance that they are soliciting or encouraging illegal activities.
3) Journals that we do not restore will be journals that we are fairly sure are actually intended to encourage activities that put minors at risk but we will review them if requested by their owner to be certain that we did not make a mistake.
4) In cases that we ask owners to clarify their profiles and they fail to do so within 7 days we will suspend their journals again.
Okay, all reasonable, but you know what would have been even more reasonable? Doing these moves beforehand. It would have saved a lot of ill-will and grief.
So, how does all this fit in with my usual rants? WFI ranks right up there with some of my other favorite people, groups like the American Family Association or The Parents Television Council, you know how well I love both groups. The WFI seems to be even kookier, and, again, they are a group who are out to help you parent. Their intentions may have been noble, and I stress “may”, but what they have actually done in their zealousness is probably the exact oppisite of their intended goals. The true bad guys will just go even deeper underground and be even harder to find.
And the fallout for LJ? People are leaving in droves for other journal sites. This is the result of when you listen a “squeaky wheel” and then knee-jerk to shut them up. You create ill-will with the inevitable innocents caught in the fallout.
If you care to read more about this whole debacle, this journal on LJ has a good timeline of what’s happened.