Strikethrough

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Event
Event: Strikethrough 2007
Name(s): Livejournal
Date(s): May 29, 2007
Type: Meta
Fandom: Multifandom
URL: http://news.livejournal.com/99159.html
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Contents

On May 29, 2007, LiveJournal suspended over 500 journals based on their interest lists. A suspended or deleted journal shows on LiveJournal with a line through the name, hence the title assigned to the event.

Initial Response

After Memorial Day weekend, LJers woke up on Tuesday, May 29, 2007 to find their flists were showing a larger number of strikethrough'ed names than usual. Catrinella was one of the earliest to respond, keeping a running commentary and link-filled post on the day's events[1].

Livejournal News was almost immediately checked for an explanatory update, but it remained stubbornly empty. The most recent post, dated May 24, 2007 about a different subject, was inundated with questions.

Ataniell93, whose RPG journals were targeted, emailed LJ Support to find out why her LJ had been deleted. In her LJ, she quoted the following Livejournal response:

"Material which can be interpreted as expressing interest in, soliciting, or encouraging illegal activity places LiveJournal at considerable legal risk. When journals that contain such material are reported to us, we must suspend them. Because LiveJournal's interests list serves as a search function, and because listing an interest enables other people also interested in a similar topic to gather and/or congregate, we have been advised that listing an interest in an illegal activity must be viewed as using LiveJournal to solicit that illegal activity."[2]

Interests included but were not limited to: child pornography, incest, pedophilia, rape[3].

Among the deleted ljs included RPG journals, book discussion groups[4], rape survivor groups, and fannish groups, including the large and popular Harry Potter Fan Fiction community Pornish Pixies, which was an age-restricted community for adult HP fan fiction.

Internet Responses

Over the next few days, Boing Boing[5] CNET[6], and other online news outlets and blogs picked up the story, including the site Meta Filter, where on May 30, 2007, SixApart employee Anildash decided to make the first public statement regarding Strikethrough.

Anildash Speaks on Metafilter

While Livejournal News continued its relentless silence, MetaFilter patrons were carrying out a lively discussion on the events. Unexpectedly, Anildash joined the conversation.

"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 [phone number redacted][7] -- 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.[8]

Reaction to Anildash on MetaFilter

The denizens of Livejournal were not amused. But it also gave them food for thought. In the absence of official explanations, rumors had abounded, aided and abetted by the panicked worry of being the next to be deleted. Warriors for Innocence had shown up in earlier rumors, but the absence of proof had made the vigilante internet site as much a suspect as any of a dozen others. Apparently, they hadn't been rumors.

Rumor Confirmation

Liz Marcs contacted Warriors for Innocence and carried on a short correspondence with them[9].

Add more later.

Livejournal reaction was dramatic. Fandomtossed on Greatestjournal was formed, along with Fandom Counts and Fandom Pays on Livejournal. From May 29, 2007 - May 31, 2007, in reaction to continued silence from Six Apart and later to Barak Berkowitz's off-livejournal comments, livejournal members relentlessly commented to all open Livejournal News entries available asking for information. Two were maxxed out almost immediately.

SixApart Speaks

On May 31, 2007, Barak Berkowitz finally posted a response that was partial explanation, partial retraction, and partial apology[10]. Initial reaction was cynically mixed. The post topped maximum comments within twenty-four hours.

Twelve hours later, Barak Berkowitz posted a second statement partially restoring some deleted journals[11]

The Aftermath

Over the course of the next couple of months, most of the journals (including pornish_pixies) were returned to active status, but the conflicting information offered by staff members, and what was perceived as a condescending and dismissive attitude, combined with a lack of apology or promise to avoid such actions in the future, inspired many fans to move to other journaling sites (InsaneJournal, GreatestJournal, and Journalfen being the top three).

Related Links

External Links

Further Readings

References

  1. Catrinella, "Permanent Suspensions", or Strikethrough2007, Cat, May 29, 2007
  2. Livejournal, SO MUCH WTF, mr profit's girl friday, May 29, 2007
  3. Noteworthy Fact: LiveJournal did not suspend journals based on the interests murder, crime, drugs, cocaine, theft, tax evasion or election fraud; instead, interests such as incest, rape, child pornography, and pedophilia were the targets.
  4. Lolita Reading Community
  5. Xeni Jardin, LJ purges incest, slash fic under pressure from self-appointed "warriors", Boing Boing, May 30, 2007
  6. Declan McCullagh, Mass Deletions Sparks LiveJournal Revolt, CNet News, May 30, 2007
  7. Seperis - inappropriate to reproduce personal information.
  8. Anildash, livejournal suspends hundreds of accounts, MetaFilter, May 30, 2007
  9. Liz Marcs, About that LJ Rumor..., Liz Marcs, May 29, 2007
  10. Barak Berkowitz, Well we really screwed this one up..., Livejournal News, May 31, 2007
  11. Barak Berkowitz, Journals being restored, Livejournal News, May 31, 2007
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