« Sturgeon Award finalists | Main | Edwards at Google »

LJ bans allegedly objectionable journals (by mistake)


I imagine most of y'all know about this by now, but just in case:

LiveJournal recently suspended about 500 journals and communities, due apparently to the journals' owners having listed certain topics in their lists of "interests," topics that LJ considers to be inappropriate (some of which are related to certain illegal activities). That CNET article (follow the link) seems to be a pretty good summary of what happened, and of the official comments from Six Apart, the company that owns LJ (and, incidentally, sells Movable Type); of particular note are the quotes from the CEO of Six Apart to the effect that they were concerned more about "appropriateness" than about legality ("[The decision] was based on what community we want to build and what we think is appropriate within that community and what's not"). However, I get the vague idea (from other sources; see below) that there may be some inaccuracies or overstatements in that article; this is all very recent news.

...Even more recent news: sometime in the past couple hours (I never know how to interpret LJ timestamps), the Six Apart CEO posted a new entry explaining that Six Apart made a huge mistake. Most of what happened wasn't meant to happen. The bit about "the community we want to build," he notes in the comment thread, "just meant a community that did not welcome pedophiles." I just discovered that latest entry, after spending a while writing up all the stuff below. I figure I may as well leave the following in place as, if nothing else, a historical record, but my impression is that Six Apart made a bunch of mistakes, is now finally (rather belatedly) acknowledging that they did so, and is working on correcting the problems.

Written earlier, before I saw the latest Berkowitz posting:

There is, of course, a big outcry about this (and about Six Apart not explaining their actions to the community) from the LJ community at large, and especially the LJ fanfic-writing community. There was an official LJ news entry (which doesn't mention the deletion) where LJ members starting posting comments about this; there are currently 94 pages' worth of such comments, just on that one entry, where each page contains 50+ comments, a total of about 5000 comments so far, posted over the course of about 20 hours. If you want to sample those comments, start at the bottom of page 6.

Here are some people's entries with more information and commentary, mostly from my friendslist:

  • Catrinella provides an extremely helpful and apparently well-researched information resource, which says (among other things) that there's no evidence yet for the very widespread rumor that multiple legitimate survivor communities were removed.
  • Laura's overview--a good overall summary of what I've seen in bits and pieces (or in enormous detail) elsewhere, plus some commentary.
  • Nao's first post about it, providing a bunch of useful links and a summary of what was known at the time (Wednesday morning, I think).
  • jere7my discusses it, pointing out (as have others) that discussing and/or writing about illegal and/or distasteful activities is not the same as engaging in those activities. My favorite line here, addressed to the Six Apart people: "But free expression is a valuable part of the service you provide, and stifling it in the name of morality is going to bite you in the ass. In fact, I believe that if you check your ass right now, you will find it is covered in bite-marks."
  • jere7my also points out that people are unlikely to solicit incest per se via LJ, and that LJ's Terms of Service say that they'll notify users before deleting their journals (which they didn't do in this case).


Somebody tell me why Six Apart even bought LJ in the first place, again?

5000 comments is the limit on any one LJ post. Once that post was full, people started commenting on the next oldest post in the official LJ News feed, which last I checked had well over four thousand comments, most about this issue.

Even though I had no chance of being affected by this purge, and neither really did anyone I know, I still find this an issue of great concern. This is about free discourse in what we all thought, and had been led to believe by the site owners, was an open forum. The apology is a good start; hopefully they'll follow through. If they don't, we may lose a great community and that makes me quite sad.

"...we may lose a great community and that makes me quite sad."

Eh. Six Apart's a company that bought another company. They may be facilitating the creation of communities, but they are not in and of themselves a community. Six Apart's interests may correlate with LJ users in many instances, but when they come into conflict Six Apart's going to act like a company. LJ users need to keep that in mind, especially when snafus like this occur, since Six Apart can basically put whatever it likes in the TOS and selectively enforce the rules as it sees fit.

Post a comment