AO3 is open source.

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Title: AO3 is open source.
Creator: shinelikethunder (and many commenters)
Date(s): November 2, 2016 and again on May 8, 2018
Medium: online
External Links: A03 is open source.; WebCite
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

AO3 is open source. is a November 2, 2016 post by shinelikethunder. The post was repeated with edits in May 2018.

In both posts, she offers fans who are unhappy with AO3 both funding and technical assistance in setting up their own fanfiction archives.

As of May 7, 2018, nobody had accepted shinelikethunder's offer.

For similar fan discussions, see Alt.startrek.creative Slash Wars (1997) and Horizon Fan Club's 1999 Discussion Regarding Adult Fanworks (1999).

Some Topics Discussed in the Essays and Comments

2018 Context

On May 10, 2018, MeeDee posted the following summary of the discussions taking place:

Tumblr Fail

There are multiple discussions around censorship on AO3. They cross each other and Tumblr sometimes truncates a post’s text.

There is the “Report AO3″ to the FBI for allowing underage fic” (write up here)

There is the 2016/2018 “Offer to help set up a new fandom archive” that would allow moderated content (see 2016 offer) (See 2018 offer)

There are posts riffing ‘On setting up a Black fandom archive” to address racial bias/racism in fanfiction (see this thread)

And then you can see multiple Tumblr posts where those topics are being blended (see this pos t or this post)

The fans discussing racism or building new archives (for any reason) or AO3′s need better tools for filtering and searching are not necessarily the same fans who are (1) advocating reporting AO3 to the FBI for allowing underage fic, or demanding that (2) AO3 be shut down or (3) that underage, rape, incest fanfic should be banned from AO3.[1]

Other Archives' Restrictions

See List of Content Banned by Archives for some archives (both active and inactive) and the content it bans/banned. FanDomination.Net Content Control and Weeding Guidelines (2002-2009) is one example.

The 2016 Essay

If you don’t like AO3′s core, founding mission–a fan-run archive where you can host your fanwork without having to worry whether it will get yanked when someone decides it’s objectionable–or if you’re upset that they aren’t interested in budging from that mission even when it comes into conflict with values that you, personally, hold dear…

All the code is on Github. You want an archive with all the fandom-tailored bells and whistles that AO3 has, but with a moderation policy for content you find objectionable/offensive/injurious to public morality/in unforgivably poor taste? Nothing’s preventing you from copying the software that runs AO3 and setting up your own archive with it. Well, nothing but the resources and technical skills required to host, deploy, and maintain a complex Rails app. Which isn’t anything to sneeze at, but if having a space free of the shit you’re objecting to is important enough to mobilize like-minded folks for vigilante enforcement via assorted charming forms of social coercion–shaming, harassment, ostracism, smear campaigns, doxxing, suicide-baiting, etc–surely it’s important enough to mobilize like-minded folks to contribute money, volunteer hours, and technical skills towards building the kind of space you actually want to see. The kind of space where you don’t need to resort to the vilest depths of social coercion to enforce a content policy in line with your values, because it can be enforced quietly and civilly by the mods with a few mouse clicks.

And if that’s too high a barrier–if your fandom is awash in stuff you find intolerable and you need a moderated fanwork archive now now now but the technical side might as well be sorcery–five bucks a month and an afternoon of point-and-click setup will get you a Wordpress install on shared hosting. Wordpress ain’t AO3, but it can be bent into almost any shape you want via plugins, and even a bare-bones default install comes with categories, tags, user accounts, comments, and moderation options. That’s all you need for a basic archive. will even host a small one for you for free. If it fills a need, and people put a fraction of the energy and social capital into promoting it as they currently put into witch-hunting transgressors into submission, it won’t take long for it to hit critical mass within a fandom.

You want a strictly-moderated safe space? The bad news is, AO3 is never going to be that space. You don’t get to demand that the people who sink a bunch of time, skill, and effort into providing it to you (for free–actual free, not “selling your most sensitive data to advertisers” free) throw the entire carefully-considered purpose of their work under the bus whenever that purpose can’t be fully reconciled with the values you think deserve precedence. You want an archive with a different ultimate purpose and a different set of values that override competing considerations, you’ll have to contribute your own time and effort to building it.

But the time and effort required is by no means prohibitive. Fandom has been DIYing shit since forever, and right now the tools are more powerful and accessible than they’ve ever been. So the good news is, if AO3 isn’t doing it for you… it takes less heavy lifting than ever to build an archive of your own.

Excerpts from Comments To The 2016 Post

[thesaviorofmisbehavior]: Censors, fandom police, purity culture diehards… put your money where your mouth is.
[youareagoodperson]: But, but … that involves doing actual work besides yelling at people!

[shinelikethunder, original poster]: In fairness, it would involve a lot of work. I kind of blew it off in the original post as “nothing’s preventing you… well, nothing but the resources and technical skills required to host, deploy, and maintain a complex Rails app.” But from what I understand, the actual infrastructure side of installing and deploying the Archive app doesn’t lend itself to easy replication. There certainly aren’t a bunch of AO3 forks and clones running around out there like there were for LiveJournal.

However! Most of the anti-AO3 grumblers’ use cases don’t require anything near the scale of the Archive. If what you want is an archive for one fandom (or even a handful of related fandoms) where you don’t have to worry about stuff you find objectionable, it is really and truly possible to build that with Wordpress on shared hosting for less than $10 a month. Point-and-click, no coding required. Install Wordpress, from the Wordpress admin panel install Writeshare and a security plugin like Shield, be sure to enable auto-updates, and you’re done.

Hell, let me make an offer: I know I’m a filthy degenerate who’s written and–even worse!–defended all sorts of depraved fic, but I’m also of the opinion that if antis want an archive they can moderate to their standards, they deserve one. Having control over the spaces they frequent instead of having to duke it out over the community standards of a general-purpose, lightly-moderated platform like Tumblr or AO3 might ease some of the pressure driving these conflicts. So. If you want a fic archive for your fandom that’s free of problematic ships, underage, noncon, abuse, etc, I will build and pay for it. I will shell out up to $10/month for shared hosting. I will handle as much of the technical end as you trust me to handle: server, database, domain name, Wordpress install and plugins, security. All I ask is that you and/or your friends run the site yourselves and not involve me in any of the moderation decisions (which you wouldn’t want me involved in anyway), and that you crowdfund anything above $10/month if the site gets huge. That’s it. You can even lock me out of the Wordpress admin panel if you’re comfortable maintaining and updating WP yourselves.

Fine print: The offer to pay for hosting is only for one site. Anyone after that gets the technical setup offer but not the $10/month. No real-life identity or contact info will be exchanged: I don’t want yours, and I definitely don’t want to share mine. I will do my best to trick out your Wordpress install however you like it, but no guarantees that all the features you want will be possible. If either of us wants out after the site is up, I will hand you a full backup of the database/filesystem so that you can install it elsewhere, plus a static HTML archive of the site that you can put up on a free webhost.

Go ahead and reblog this if you want to. I’m curious to see if anyone will bite and be serious enough to get a site up. I know I’m dead serious. I may be a degenerate with terrible opinions, but I’m a professional techie who’s hosted/run/modded a lot of sites in my time and never pulled untrustworthy shit with admin access. I will lock myself out of whatever you want me locked out of. Just let me put my money where your mouth is, because I figure it’s in everyone’s best interests if those who want a safe alternative to AO3 can build one.

cupidsbower: I was one of the founding Board members for OTW. We spent many hours working on the policies in order to make the AO3 as welcoming as possible to as many fans as possible. Even so, we knew it wouldn’t please everyone, and expected dissent. An lo, it didn’t please everyone, with wank the moment we opened the doors for comment, which was as early as possible before we’d even built anything.

The plan was always to have the Archive open source so others could create their own archives if they wished – the more there are, the harder it is to take out fandom. That was always the OTW’s larger goal.

I like the cut of shinelikethunder‘s jib, and if anyone reading this is on the purity-policing side of fandom, here is a way forward. Go to and make it yourself.

We had good reasons for rejecting a path of censorship for the AO3, which still hold true today. What’s more fandom doesn’t owe you anything, no matter how important you think your argument is, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get what you want. As a community we’ve already made infrastructure for fandom several times over, with AO3 only being the most successful iteration of a fan archive. It is by no means the only one there has ever been – see just for a start.

You can build it, and they will come. Fandom is a do-it-yourself project, so “you” is the bit you need to engage with to get what you want.

[morbidmorbin]: And lo, people are already getting angry at the prospect of having to do some work.
[johanirae]: Wow, it’s return back to the era of single user curated fansites a la geocities.

[feanna]: Also, there were lots of different fic archives around. These things existed! And some of them even only allowed romantic heterosexual kink free content,[2] maybe with a sex containing sister site, but you actually had to apply for an account there and be approved. And those sites were content moderated. Also, lots of sites with only fic by one or a few authors. Also lots of not only fandom specific, but pairing specific sites. (Also there was…) Again: This isn’t some wild idea, this is fandom history!

And then there was livejournal, which was basically like lots of individual author sites in blog format, plus some groups.

Archive Of Our Own stems directly from the events where livejournal deleted the shit out of fandom and some other content, and general hostility towards “those fandom deviants” by possible internet hosts. It was made by the people who were NOT WELCOME. “Those deviants” (gay handholding was enough, though of course detractors even then used the word pedophiles…) carved out a space for themselves where they owned the servers and also an organisation that protected their legal rights. And because they knew about being not wanted, they made it a place for everybody. And because it was well made and much easier to use than looking at 10 sites for new fic, and, and, it took off and became THE archive. But nobody is forcing anybody to use it. You can still make your own site.

elfwreck: eFiction is also still available - hasn’t been updated with modern bells & whistles, but works just fine as a MySQL-based archive.

Even if someone accepts the offer, it won’t change anything. The majority of the complainers don’t want “an archive free of depravity;” they want an archive with thousands of participants and thousands of fandoms and a million stories… minus a few thousand specific ones that they think are depraved.

They’ve obviously never had to deal with “let’s get rid of the Bad Stories” wars. Never had multiple moderators each decide to remove the content they thought was the worst,[3] until nothing was left but vanilla PG het and gen stories, because some mods couldn’t stand underage and some couldn’t tolerate kink and some thought slash was unnatural and some believed songfic must be copyright infringement and some didn’t allow stories that depicted or mentioned rape and some didn’t allow swear words.

(We had this discussion while setting up AO3′s content rules–we wanted to require warnings for underage so that Australian fans could block it and legally read, but we needed to think about what “underage” meant. How old was underage for a hobbit? For an elf? A dragon? Was a six-hundred-year-old vampire in a 12-year-old body underage? How about a 12-year-old human’s mind transferred into a 27-year-old body? 35 year old Pini elf/200 year old Tolkien elf - was either of those underage? How about robots? Clones? hey, is Superboy underage if he was cloned as a 16-year-old, 5 years ago? What about a 25-year-old human whose memory is wiped every year, so they only remember life up until they were 15+ up to 1 more year? Is it underage sex if what happens is entirely a psychic connection? A dream? End decision: “underage” that requires a tag involves human bodies. Anything else doesn’t, but writers are encouraged to tag anything their readers would consider “underage” even if it doesn’t fit the legal definition.)

AO3 noted, early on, that there is no bright line for “content of this type is not allowed.” There is no way to define “bad content” that can be applied non-judgmentally, no way it can be applied at all by a staff that doesn’t read every single story. So they opted to treat the authors like adults: Y’all know what fanfic is; this is a fanfic archive. Y’all know what extreme content is; label it. Not sure? We have a “choose not to warn” button for the edge cases.

[anheliaaescar]: Thing is: they don’t want to have their own archive. They want everyone else prevented from ever putting stories they disapprove of up for public consumption. Anywhere.
[transhotep]: Right like this is borderline malicious at how hard these people are trying to confuse the issues at hand to make it seem like people are “ mad for no reason “ and “ don’t get it “ and it’s written like the words of a spoiled child facing criticism.
[phoenix-ace]: This is so passive aggressive and such a purposeful misrepresentation of what people’s issues with AO3 are….

[thesaviorofmisbehavior]: You know what?

Seconded. If having your own place will let you leave Ao3 be - I’ll help you do that. Dead serious.

If someone takes Shine up on their offer but you and your community want to do a second one of these: I’ll be your huckleberry for site #2.

[somethingoddinsod]: I am likewise a degenerate with terrible opinions but fuckit I know how to run wordpress. I’ll do the thing.
[eye of orion]: Man I would be all for this except I don’t believe for one hot second that the antis actually want a solution to their “problem”.
[thesaviorofmisbehavior]: Oh the horror! How will they ever manage being the responsible adults they claim to be?
[alicemaudmary]: I might do that (I hate AO3 but for unrelated reasons).

The FBI Thread

On April 16, 2018, another wave of criticism of AO3's content policies swept across Tumblr, prompting at least one adult fan to push for reporting AO3 to the FBI:

have you reported for pedophillia to the fbi? well you should. here’s the link. no personal info required. #if they wont take it down and they wont take down incest rape and racist shit? they should get shut down (; #do ur part today #it'll make space for a better platform for fanfic to pop up [4]

This was not finnisskinny's first campaign against problematic fanfic posted to AO3, but it was the first time they involved the FBI.[5] Nor were they the first to call for the FBI to shut down AO3.[6] In 2017, these calls to action led to a sexual abuse survivor being reported to the FBI for writing about their own abuse.[7]

Some Comments About Reporting AO3 to the FBI

Some comments about reporting AO3 to the FBI:

[stonecoldfemme reblogged this from erikkillmongerdontpullout]:
#good info op and i'll def be reporting folks
[let-froppy-say-fuck reblogged this from salty-nova]:
#i really like having an accessible and very large collection of fanfic #but yeah that needs to stop happening #like i hope this blows up but i also hope the site isnt taken down #just reworked into something that isnt a cesspool of nasty shit like that #ugh #i dont know of any good alternative sites and not t sound like a white girl but fanfic is where i go to escape u know? #i guess the best case scenario is ao3 bans pedo content without need for fbi involvement #but the chances of that happening are #not high #croaks
[lesbianplums reblogged this from marina-acnl]:
#ao3 #pedophilia #csa #signal boost #i cant seem to fill all of the data since im not american #i have reported pedophilic shit to ao3 many times #and fanfics about real people (which are illegal since youre using their image for illicit reasons) #and they always say the same thing #the elaborated equivalent of "dont like dont read #we deserve better than ao3
[ominousmutual reblogged this from heeyitsmk]:
#pedophilia mention #fun ways to start a monday: reporting ao3 to the fbi

One fan opined that this was proof that AO3 needed more moderators, and suggested that the book Lolita should have been blocked from being published:

ao3 needs more moderators given the vast amount of fanfics, it also needs readers to report pedo shit when they come across it, perhaps a better reporting mechanism too. As other sites like YouTube and reddit clean up their act, ao3 and other fanfic sites need to follow suit before it ends up on a bad headline. The vast majority of writers are great, but yeah ao3 as a platform needs to be wide enough to allow all the other writers without giving breathing space to any pedos. I wonder if anyone disagrees with me that the novel Lolita should never have been published?[8]

vashti-livespointed out that the FBI reports might have unintended consequences for those under 18:

(This was originally attached to a post about the whole AO3 being reported to the FBI thing but the OP seemed frankly distressed by the whole thing and though it didn’t say don’t reblog I decided maybe it was better to just repost my thoughts separately.)

Frankly you guys I think the worst case scenario in all this [AO3 being reported to the FBI] is that minors will be kicked off the site altogether and that is so much more harmful than stories where a fictional teacher bangs their fictional teen student. Fandom is such an important space for teenagers, especially queer teens. Removing them from spaces where it’s safe for them to grow and learn about themselves is only going to lead to harm. It makes me so angry that these people who are claiming they want to protect children are really just going to end up genuinely hurting so many teens instead.

AO3 becoming 18+ only (instead of just for stories tagged mature) means that any underage teen who wants an account will have to lie about their age, and if they’re smart they’ll have to lie about it on tumblr too or risk getting reported, which means it’ll be harder to actually meaningfully get to know people. I think this will probably make some teens more vulnerable to abusive adults because they won’t be free to say “hey get away from me I’m 15” without putting their creative work at risk.

Just stop guys. Just stop.[9]
Others pointed out that the FBI focuses on victimization of living children and is not tasked with censoring fiction:
Since this post was unrebloggable, I’ll do it this way.

What you’re talking about, and the raving in the comments is referring to, is not advocating ‘this shit’, specifically or otherwise. What Ao3 does, or rather doesn’t do, is CENSOR.

The laws cover photos and videos of actual children being abused; the FBI pursues the assholes who produce that, since it involves the vicitimization of real live people. This is fiction. Clearly, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea; there’s a bunch of stuff on Ao3 that I don’t read, marked pedophilia, incest, rape, torture, etc. Ao3′s purpose is to give people a place to write what they want without getting beat up on. People write on these topics for a variety of reasons, and in no case are they recruiting readers to go out and do these things. They are not, despite hysterical claims, endangering anybody.

Censorship is NEVER helpful. Get over yourselves. Work to strengthen and implement tougher laws about the REAL CRIMES. Advocate for mental health coverage for all, so maybe people struggling with related issues can actually get help. And take responsibility for your reading experience. Check the tags, nope out of those that bother you, and move the fuck on.[10]
No. The FBI cybertipline is for crimes. Ao3 hasn’t committed a crime. The most that’ll come from this is you getting charged with making a false report. #pedophila mention #tw #reblog #replying to antis #please don’t[11]

And that making false reports also took away from FBI resources:

Hey OP nice of you to be deleting replies and reblogs that disagree with you. /s

I can’t believe this post has over 1k notes. All of you legitimately reporting ao3 are doing nothing productive.

Guess what happens when you file a report to the FBI of fanfiction or fanart? Some investigator is going to have to waste time looking at a FANFIC (a fanfic… words on paper depicting fictional characters doing something).

Meanwhile, because they’re busy with that, there’s another report waiting to be looked into. A report involving actual real life children in immediate danger. And no investigators are looking at that report because they’re busy looking at a report of anime fanfics.

You are all indirectly harming living breathing children by wasting these investigators’ time over FANFICS.

You are reporting works of fiction. This is asinine.

Please sit down and seriously think about what you’re doing.

Tags: #rambling #ao3 #reblob #honestly hope an anti gets in trouble and charged for filing a false report #maybe that'll make them learn[12]
quidblr offered a lengthy and in depth discussion of American laws of child porn and the nature of adult spaces:
The previous replies to this talk about AO3 being FICTION. that’s a really important point. HERES WHY

1. Writing fiction with underage characters in sexual relationships with adults is legal.

2. Writing fiction with incest (also seems to be a discussion point in the notes) is legal

3. Lots of these fics might be written by minors and read intentionally by minors - I am looking at you, Hermione/Snape fans.

4. I Reiterate all praise for the AO3 tagging system.

5. Yes if these reports bug the FBI, I believe that could constitute making false statements. Which is a crime.

6. Please report actual sexual predators to sites and authorities. don’t just report the websites.

7. AO3 does stipulate that you have to be over 18 to read mature/explicit fic. And kids parents/guardians do have some responsibility for monitoring what their kid is doing on the internet.

1. It’s perfectly legal to write/sell fictional books with underage characters in sexual relationships with older ones. Example A: Goodreads has a fucking top 20 list of M/M FICTION books that show up when you google under age relationships. Example B: Game of Thrones (Dany marries Drogo at like 13 if I remember correctly, and this was also, lets remember, allowed to be on television) Example C: Lolita - which, incidentally I have not read, but after reading that wild Atlantic article, I kinda want to.

2. It’s perfectly legal to write books with Incest (Which it looks like a lot of other reblogs are concerned about). Example B, C, D: The bible (Lott and his daughters - that was a wild story as a Catholic kid), Shakespeare (Lear and Pericles), Freaking Game of Thrones. Also additionally: [h this 1991 King Lear retelling which was waaaay more graphic than the shakespeare play and taught as part of my high school curriculum.]

All of these could and definitely have been labeled morally objectionable by someone at some point in time. But they’re fiction (they’re fake) real people are not being hurt by this content existing. Does that still make it morally objectionable/squicky/triggering/probl-freaking-matic. YES but no one is being hurt. This is freedom of speech. America protects that. You might as well report Twilight (Edward is 100 to Bella’s 17 let’s all remember that). Heck. You might as well report all 20 of those goodreads books I referenced up top.

3. Bear in mind: A lot of the people writing fic with these topics might actually be minors themselves. (re: who here knows someone who write Hermione/Snape smut when they were 15? Or Harry/Snape? I know at least three. Who here read Hermione/Snape or some other squicky pairing when they were a teenager - I know I did. Did my parents find out? Yes because I was that kid who mistakenly left their fic open on their phone. (How many talks did I get about Internet Strangers: So freaking many.)

4. AO3 is frankly amazing because it has a tagging system. Which is great because on fanfiction I ran the risk of stumbling onto Harry/Voldemort fic or Weasley-cest if it wasn’t the main pairing of the story. On AO3 I don’t have that problem.

5. Yes you can be charged with a crime for making false statements they’re more likely to just throw these out but it’s law enforcement, be smart please.

6. If you know of a sexual predator who is using any platform to talk to minors, report them to the platform and the authorities. Don’t simply report the platform. Like the last reblog said, this is going to detract from the time law enforcers have to address actual kids in danger.

7. AO3 says that you have to be over 18 to read mature/explicit fic. If a minor is falsifying their age to access that content (we all did this don’t pretend) then thats their choice and in part their parents/guardians/school’s responsibility. Parental controls exist for a reason. the ability to check internet histories exist for a reason. When I was a kid I got talks about being safe online from a few teachers. I got way too MANY talks about internet strangers from my parents. I got more after they found out exactly what I was always reading on my phone. Bless them, they let me figure out all my teenage sexual confusion in peace, and they made it very clear that I needed to be cautious of who I talked to and what I shared. I agree with y’all that there’s a hell of a lot of issues with kids reading some of the content on fanfiction sites. but AO3 is a lot better than its predecessors at content warnings and filtering. And fictional content, again, is legal. Or at least, I don’t know when it isn’t legal. So if it isn’t a crime, the FBI aint gonna do shit. But you act like its the internet which needs to be kid-proofed. That’s gonna be a hell of a lot harder than actually educating/parenting kids conscientiously. Kid-proofing the internet, would be A, near impossible, B, expensive, C, a waste of money the government doesn’t have. D. going to run into a hell of a lot of freedom of speech issues.

TLDR (you did click the “Read More”) if you think fics break AO3s terms and conditions or if a user is endangering kids, report the fic and the user to AO3. if youknow the user is an adult preying on kids, report them to the authorities. AO3 is a vast improvement on the hellish fic filtering and non-existent content warning landscape I had as a teenager on FFN. Could it improve - yes things can always improve. But it doesn’t need to be investigated by the feds. They have way more real immediate threats to kids to investigate.

Tags: #AO3 #discourse #why is this a thing #seriously what fanfiction experience inspired yall to get the fbi involved in fiction #does the fbi need to investigate bookstores that sell twilight now cause that was a HUGE age difference[13]

eliannaeldari pointed that other platforms with direct messaging like Tumblr were far more likely to be used a vehicles for child predation than a fanfiction archive:

I have no interest in protecting pedos, but I have a hell of an issue with people trying to enforce purity culture and shut down a site that does a hell of a lot of good - and while I can’t promise that it has never been used to groom anyone, it is far easier to do things like that on places like *Tumblr* that let people speak very directly to each other, post pics, etc. I don’t see you calling for Tumblr’s destruction. Sadly, most sexual violence and abuse is performed by people the victim already knows and trusts in person- relatively little is accomplished via other means. Additionally, you’ve provided zero information on what you consider to be violating your standards. I know that I hardcore shipped snape/Hermione and Sirius/Hermione *when I was Hermione’s age*, but now all student-teacher and underage/adult stuff majorly squicks me out. I’m still glad I had access to the fic at that point, and definitely didn’t think that any relationship like that *in real life* was in any way alright. Furthermore, something can be depicted without it being condoned. I was going to donate to the archive anyway, but now I’ll do so in your honor.[14]

At least one fan reblogging finnisskinny's call to report AO3 to the FBI wondered why they couldn't create their own fanfic archive:

[elliexer reblogged this from jacmirie]:
#i hate ao3 and i'm so sick of it being the only place to go for decent fanfiction #like can we just make our own damn site? #no fucking rape fics. no fucking incest fics #and absolutely NO PEDOPHILES
So I’ve been seeing posts about people reporting AO3 to the FBI

First, let me laugh at you. I know people who have to look at horrible, hideous images all day long just so they can catch a very small percentage of the child pornographers out there today. Reading a story on AO3? Completely a waste of their time. Because regardless of how disgusting that fic might be, no children are actually being harmed, and that’s the core of what theses agents care about.

But let’s say this complaint reaches some upper echelon bureaucrat who got kicked upstairs because he was screwing up too many cases. (Sadly, this happens.) He takes it on as a crusade, and because no one at the Bureau cares so long as he’s not messing with any real investigations, AO3 gets taken down.

What will we be left with then, I wonder?

LJ? Nope. We’d always be fearing another event like Strikethrough. Nope. We’d always be fearing another Purge.

Dreamwidth? Nope. Nothing against Dreamwidth, but for some reason, it hasn’t caught on as a Fandom Home. Maybe because it was too much like LJ for too many people, and that brought back painful memories.

Tumblr? Maybe a little bit. But eventually someone here will complain about the lack of tagging and warning on certain fics and that will go away too.

A new site like AO3? Nope. Why in Fandom’s name would anyone put in the kind of time and money a site like that would require after seeing what happened to AO3?

Individual sites for individual authors? Yeah. I think we’d be looking at that. Only this time they’re all going to be gateposted with those lovely messages that we all loved so much back in the day: “You must send me an email swearing that you are 18 before I’ll send you the link for the actual fics.” You know, the ones that didn’t actually keep kids from reading porn, but covered the site owner’s ass so they felt somewhat safe about posting their fic.

Yeah, this is exactly what I can see happening. A return to the days when you needed your own web site in order to write and post fic. And you had to wait at least a day before you could take a chance that you might like somebody else’s fic.

What’s that line from Santayana? Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it?

Like I said above, I doubt that any of this could ever truly happen. But if it does, we might be in for a major wake-up call, George Santayana style.[15]

2018: The Offer Is Made Again

Shortly thereafter, shinelikethunder repeated her 2016 offer. She also noted that three other fans had made similar offers:

[shinelikethunder]: If AO3 is unsafe for you, I will build you an archive of your own.

I’m giving the original offer its own post since it got long. Similar offers (hosting + tech services) have been made by somethingoddinsod and hazeldomain, and thepioden, Archived version has offered to fund the webhosting end. I’ll edit this list if any more come in.

So here’s the deal: if AO3’s refusal to moderate offensive and sexually disturbing content is unacceptable to you, or you don’t feel safe there because of it, I will shell out $10/month for webhosting and do all the technical gruntwork to build you a small independent fanwork archive. It will run on Wordpress + Writeshare + any other plugins you want. You, or the friends and mods you choose, will have complete control over policies, allowed/banned content, modding decisions, and every other aspect of running the archive. You’ll have complete control over the theme, tagging system, and other settings. The only thing I ask in return is that you not involve me in those decisions: my job is to provide the tech skills and funding and stay out of your way.

I’ll reblog later with some elaboration and reasons I’m offering, but that’s the gist of it. If you’re fed up with AO3 and you or your friends want to run an actively-moderated archive that weeds out unsafe content, I, a filthy degenerate anti-anti who nevertheless thinks you guys should be able to mod your own spaces, will take care of the resources end. Hit me up in reblogs or chat.

The Fine Print: I’ll do the tech setup work for as many people as are interested, but the $10/month for webhosting offer is only for the first serious taker. I’ll try to set up your Wordpress install with whatever features and plugins you want, but not all functionalities have a plugin pre-built for them. If the site gets too huge for shared hosting and a free Cloudflare account, you’ll have to crowdfund anything over $10/month.

Literally all I’m asking for on your end is that you:

# Be reasonably civil to me when we’re talking site stuff # Not involve me in any of the site moderation # Not let the site be used as a platform for doxxing, organizing raids, or reposting/plagiarizing disliked fanworks for skewering purposes

That’s it. No strings. If you want to keep criticizing and pushing for policy changes at AO3, go ahead. If we get into a discourse slapfight on Tumblr and you want to call me names in the reblog chain, IDGAF. My lines in the sand are: I won’t pay $120 a year for a platform to organize harassment of other fans, I won’t wade into content moderation, and I’m not inclined to do favors if the request comes in the same breath as an insult.

Why the hell should anyone trust me with this?

You don’t have to trust me any further than you’re comfortable with. Depending on how much you want to outsource vs. what you don’t want me holding the keys to, I can handle any combination of domain registration, webhosting, databases, installing and/or configuring Wordpress, software updates, and security. If you’re comfortable keeping WP updated yourself, you can lock me out of everything when the setup is done (except hosting/domains if I’m paying for them). I can also show you how to do any of the above on your own.

No real-life contact or identity info will be exchanged: I don’t want yours, and I don’t want to give you mine. Either of us can back out and kill the arrangement at any time. If we do, I will give you full database/filesystem backups and a static HTML archive of the site–the first can be installed on another hosting provider to keep the site live, the other is frozen but can go up on a free webhost. (If I back out because the site’s being used to coordinate doxxing/harassment campaigns, you just get the static archive with doxxed info redacted, not a backup that could take the site live again.)

If it helps, I’m an extensively background-checked professional techie, I’ve run/modded/hosted a lot of sites in my time, and I have zero track record of pulling dumb stunts with my admin access. Sure, all you’ve got is my word for it, but such is the way of the internet.

Why am I doing this?

Yeah, yeah, I know, I write and loudly defend depraved fanfiction, I’m not exactly a likely candidate to help out the people who want to kick my disgusting filth out of their spaces for good. It leaves my motives looking kinda suspect.

And OK, there are a couple unvirtuous motives in there. Anti movements are full of grandstanding bullies whose “morality” only matters to them as a stick to beat people with, and I’m a petty bitch who’s calling their bluff: if this is really about providing safe spaces for vulnerable people, put my money where your mouth is and build one instead of tearing other people’s spaces down for not meeting your demands.

But I’m pretty sure the grandstanders would never get enough oxygen to be a nuisance if they weren’t speaking to legit unmet needs. And anti movements are also full of sincere people, sometimes vulnerable people, whose needs… really aren’t being met by current sites. Universal platforms like Tumblr and AO3 are wired to have minimal content restrictions and let a bunch of communities with conflicting needs/priorities/standards duke it out vigilante-style over unmoderated common spaces. If I can help people build their own spaces, where they can set and enforce a local set of community standards, by mechanisms that don’t require blacklists, blocklists, and bullying passerby into submission–well, hell. That’s a lot more productive than everyone yelling at each other on Tumblr. Maybe it takes some of the pressure off AO3, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s a worthwhile thing to do.

Like, I’m not even gonna pretend I’m anything but an opinionated asshole with appalling kinks whose general existence will never, ever play nicely with a lot of these standards. But that’s the beauty of it. It’s not there for me, and it doesn’t have to be. The people who need it get it, and in the meantime, AO3 isn’t going anywhere or changing its policies.

Plus fandom has been DIYing shit since forever, and it’d be neat to be part of maintaining that tradition.

So there it is. I’m not here to spy on anyone–you can lock me out when I’m done building it. I’m not here to prey on anyone–I’m just as wary of getting doxxed as you are, bro. And I’m not interested in setting anyone up for failure. I would, maaaaybe, like to see some of the people demanding restrictive content policies have to grapple hands-on with how hard it is to implement ones that aren’t ripe for abuse and bad modding. But TBH I’d rather see that result in more thoughtful, workable policy suggestions than in spectacular flameouts. Shifting back towards locally-modded sites and groups is something that I think most of fandom could benefit from–if safe fic archives for people who find AO3 unsafe help provide critical mass, that’s a positive all around.[16]

Excerpts From Comments To The 2018 Post

[thepioden]: You know what? I’d throw in here, too. I definitely don’t have the time to build and maintain an archive but I'd give $5-$10 a month to the webhosting cost.
[nuclearmentality]: somehow this seems a bit opposite the views espoused by your earlier reblog re: pedo fics... idk tho : P
[shilo-morkaisin]: If you dont want to see shit on AO3, it will literally be in the tags so you can avoid it. This isnt necessary
[melinda-t-charville]: I’m of the opinion that if they want it, they can get off their high horses and do it themselves, but I’ll contribute to signal boosting so they get out of our hair. #fandom wank #ao3
[ravenmorganleigh]: You are setting yourself up for sooooo much work. And honestly, sadly-- I don't think you'll get the appreciation and gratitude you deserve. I hope I'm wrong. You deserve a medal. <3
[b-b-butterblog]: I like the idea of them having their own archives (here's a suggestion: call it "safe space of our own" 😂 ) but they have all the resources to band together and do it themselves. they just don't want to.
[zepysgirl]: First of all, not an anti so not actually interested in taking you up on your offer, but I do have some questions about web design I’d like to ask you, if that’s okay? :#shinelikethunder #AO3 #long post #this is an awful lot of talk for no intended action on my part XD #but i'm honestly curious if something like this would even be possible? #would it be useful for people? #or are peoples' triggers so unique that a blanket approach like this would be unhelpful?#for example what if rape/underage really squicks you but you're just fine with incest of it's [this pairing] #or what about those people who run around insisting all of the batman robins are 'brothers' so shipping them is 'incest'? #how would you handle ships fandoms consider 'wrong'? like should reylo fic appear on the HSMAO3 as long as none of the bad tags are present? #would the antis launch a campaign to filter out every single keith/shiro fic#i have even more questions now than answers oops XD
[angualupin] I fully agree with you that there is a section of the anti movement that would actually like this to happen, although I am skeptical that they will go to the effort of taking you up on the offer. But the loudest voices don't want this solution, because the thing about purity culture is that people who subscribe to it don't want *their* corner of society to be pure, they want ALL of society to be pure.
[angualupin]: So the goal is not, "create a place where the things I don't like aren't allowed", the goal is, "get everyone else to stop producing stuff I don't like".

Context: Similar Discussions Taking Place in 2018

March 2018

[centaurianthropology on March 31, 2018]:

Watching young (ostensibly liberal) bloggers and fans take up the deeply conservative rhetoric and moral crusading of the right wing and evangelical groups from the 90s has been both fascinating from an anthropological perspective, and fucking horrifying for someone who lived through this time period and the death of LJ.[17]

May 5, 2018

[alia-andreth on May 5, 2018]:

Sometimes the younger generation of fans sets my teeth on edge.

Yeah, fandom produces some messed-up shit and when you first see it, you think, “people shouldn’t be allowed to write this. It’s gross.” But how you deal with that is by not interacting with the gross stuff. In the 2000s this was frequenting communities that specialized in a certain kind of content that you wanted. Now it means unfollowing, blocking, using the filters on AO3, tagging things properly, and using the warning. Not by trying to get this stuff (provided that no real people are being hurt) ejected from the internet.

I remember a time when writing same-sex pairings was controversial. Not incest pairings, not adult/child, not even necessarily smut, just writing characters who were of the same gender and in a relationship. Heck, sometimes writing m/f pairings provoked moral outrage if it was graphic. “Ship and let ship” was how you got by because depending on your fandom (certainly mine–the Tolkien fandom) you could get hate if you wrote a man kissing another man.

When we say, “ship and let ship” it’s not because we all want to write parent-child omega-verse slavery au incest and we’re playing the victim by hiding behind the Purity Police boogeyman. We’re doing that because we remember that in 2007 in an effort to crack down on child p/orn, LiveJournal started suspending user’s accounts without their knowledge. Fan communities were particularly hard hit, people fled the site, and that is why I’m writing this now on Tumblr and not LiveJournal. Point is, even those who weren’t writing squicky material were affected and the community died as a result.[18]
am really baffled by the people attacking AO3 for hosting stories that involve rape, incest, pedophilia, and other dark things. Have…have they never been to a bookstore or library? People write stories about all manner of dark, horrible things. This is not remotely new. And at least on AO3 and other fandom platforms, the dark things are generally tagged. In bookstores and libraries, not so much.

V.C. Andrews was freaking popular when I was in jr. high and high school. Her books were in the school libraries. They needed to be stamped with trigger warning: EVERYTHING, but mainly things from the fun list of rape, incest, pedophilia, and child abuse. Her books are still sufficiently popular that there are new ones coming out despite the fact that she’s been dead for years!

Her books are in the library I work at. Her books are in most bookstores. Her books are probably still in the libraries of the jr high and high school I went to. Does that mean anywhere that has her books supports rape, incest, pedophilia, and child abuse?

That’s not how it works. Yes, there are occasionally things that a store or library will decide they don’t want to carry, no matter what. The first bookstore I worked at wouldn’t even special order The Turner Diaries. A lot of bookstores won’t even special order The Anarchist Cookbook. I’m sure there are other books out there that people are reluctant to touch, even with a ten foot pole. But, barring those few exceptions, most bookstores and libraries are not in the business of policing the content of the books they deal in.

Not because booksellers and librarians are all monsters who should be reported to the FBI, but because there’s a long history of censorship going very bad places very fast. Also, free speech is considered an American value. Hell, let me just link to the ALA page on censorship.

I don’t pretend to know why stuff like V.C. Andrews’ books, or the fics on AO3 that some people want to report to the FBI, are popular. I don’t get it. It doesn’t appeal to me. Yet I recognize that different dark things are in kinds of fiction that I do like - violence, murder, torture, war, other things that most of us really fervantly hope never to experience in our lives. I don’t know whether fiction is an outlet for whatever darkness lurks in everyone’s hearts, whether it’s a way of dealing with our fear of bad things happening, whether human culture just finds bad things fascinating, or what. Maybe humanity is just super fucked up and Pluto really is a warning buoy telling other civilizations not to go near the planet with the creepy mammal infestation on it.

But I don’t think going after fic platforms because some of the fic hosted there is disturbing is a solution to anything. (And if the people doing so are not also on an equivalent campaign against bookstores and libraries, I suspect that what’s going on is not what they claim is going on.)[19]
Some THOUGHTS on that post about ao3.

Remember when had those huge purges of fic? They went for SO MUCH STUFF. Anything NC-17.

I don’t know how you could get rid of all the “offending” fanfic on ao3 (much of which does not romanticize or sexualize rape/pedophilia/incest) without massive purges, which would definitely hit OTHER fic. We’d probably lose all E fic, a lot of not rated and M.

Unlike, Ao3 is a nonprofit. They don’t make money of our fic. They very generously host it (and do some legislation on our right to create fanfic and other transformative works). You know how every once in a while they ask us for money? That’s cuz they NEED it to keep operating. They don’t have the resources and manpower to censor our fiction if they wanted to. AND THEY DON’T WANT TO - which we should be happy about.

Yes there is fic you definitely don’t want children to see on Ao3. This is why there’s a rating system. There are books we don’t want children to read, and we don’t burn them.[20]
[fozmeadows in response to jacmirie's post showing that there were thousands of fanworks on AO3 that had been tagged for rape, inest, underage]:
You… do realise that people tag works as containing rape/paedophilia/incest when the stories are explicitly about those things being bad, and not just because they’re writing dark themes for reasons that you personally disapprove of, right? That tags merely state the presence of a thing without explaining how it’s dealt with in the narrative, and that stories do not have to be morally instructional and perfect and pure in order to be allowed to exist?

Like. You might as well walk into a bookshop and stamp BLOCKED FOR BADWRONG CONTENT on every book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, half of Shakespeare, every YA novel about rape recovery, every adult novel about rape recovery, every biography of someone who has suffered from rape, incest or paedophilia and been brave enough to write about it, every book of Greek, Egyptian and Norse myths, the fucking Bible - just a truly massive percentage of the entire global literary canon, because there is literally no way to remove each and every reference to these themes otherwise.

Do you know why schools and libraries are pressured to ban books like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, To Kill a Mockingbird and Laurie Halse Andersen’s Speak? Because dumbass, scaremongering adults think that letting teens read about rape or racism or sexual violence or queerness or half a dozen other topics they think are Bad Things will lead to them down a path of Vice.

What happens to characters in stories, no matter how graphic or awful, is not the same as that act occurring to a real human person in real life, nor does reading or writing such works indicate endorsement of those acts. This is why a story which features paedophilia, regardless of whether it’s written as overtly sexual content or as a damning condemnation of the act, is not the same as child pornography by any legal definition: because no actual children are harmed. Are you personally still allowed to be angry and disgusted about the public availability of the former type of stories, even in instances where the writers are themselves victims of child abuse trying to process their trauma? Yes! You’re under no moral obligation to like any kind of content! But are you correct in asserting that the creation of such stories is illegal and hurting somebody in exactly the same way that a real abuser hurting a real child would be? No! Because fictional characters are not real people, and whatever our motives for creating or engaging with a particular thing, monkey see = monkey approve is not how it fucking works.

Have you ever watched an episode of CSI? Congratulations! By your own logic, you’re pro rape and murder. Ever watched an episode of Hannibal? Congratulations! By your own logic, you endorse cannibalism, Stockholm Syndrome and serial killing. Ever watched a historical drama where a young girl gets married to a much older man? Congratulations! By your own logic, you endorse child brides. And on, and on, and on.

I say again: you are allowed to be critical of particular works and/or the recurrence of certain themes across a particular medium. But arguing that an entire literary platform needs to end because some stories there contain Bad Things makes as much sense as banning the works of Octavia Butler or Sherman Alexie from school libraries because of their content. Which is - spoiler alert - a really bad idea.


May 6, 2018

[fozmeadows on May 6, 2018]:

Who decides what fictional content stays or goes, and why? It’s easy to say “no underage, no incest, no paedophilia, no rape,” but if you want to follow through, you have to define those terms in practical, specific ways, and that isn’t easy at all - not for published novels, and not for fanfic. Here’s what I mean:

No underage - okay, so does that mean no romance or sexual content for characters younger than 18, or just younger than 16? Whose definition of ‘underage’ are we using? Are there exceptions for teen characters within three or so years of each other, as there are legally in real life, or not? What are the limits of ‘acceptable’ content for younger characters - can they hug and kiss and talk about sex, so long as they aren’t implied to be having it? What if they are implied to be having it, but there’s a tasteful fade to black? What about stories where a younger character is making realistic bad decisions about sex or is being taken advantage of - can we tell those stories, or are they banned, too? If we do tell them, what are the guidelines for how graphic the content can be?

No incest - okay, does that include characters who weren’t raised together and don’t know they’re siblings? Step-siblings? Half-siblings? Does it include a ban on historical figures who really engaged in incest? What about characters who have an incestuous relationship in the source material - can we write fic about them, provided we take an explicitly anti-incest stance? What degree of separation are we allowing - does it start at first cousins, or do we go beyond that? Are all these things okay so long as it’s explicitly written as abusive and bad in the narrative, or is there leeway? What about people who expressly want to engage in daddy kink, which uses incest-adjacent language without necessarily being incestuous? Is that banned, too? What about fics where the characters aren’t related in the source material, but have been written that way in the story, such that a romantic relationship is turned into a familial one? What about fics where the characters are related in the source material, but aren’t in the fic, such that a familial relationship becomes a romantic one? Is any of this allowed?

No paedophilia - okay, does that include stories about survivors of child abuse? What about stories where the source material includes child abuse; is fic not allowed to mention it? Can you portray it if it’s very clearly a Bad Thing, even though some readers might still get off to it anyway? Can you imply that it happened so long as it isn’t discussed in detail or depicted graphically? What if survivors of child abuse want to write graphically about their experiences as a way to process trauma - is that allowed, or not? If so, how do you go about policing content creators to make sure that writers have suffered the Right Kind Of Abuse to be allowed to write those stories? If not, how do you justify the decision to exclude victims from their own narratives? If some victims find it traumatising to read fics that contain paedophilia, but others find it cathartic and helpful to write them, do you acknowledge that all victims have different experiences and try to create a platform where everyone can navigate those differences safely, or do you think it’s better to just close that door altogether?

No rape - okay, does that mean no stories about rape recovery? Can you show rape provided it isn’t graphic? Can it be mentioned at all, or only in passing? What if two characters consent to enacting a rape fantasy in the text - is that still morally wrong? Can rape occur provided that it’s obviously bad and wrong and clearcut throughout, or is the character being victimised allowed to feel conflicted or confused about their experience? What about instances where consent is potentially dubious, such as sex between characters who are drunk, or where one party is drunker than the other? What if a story’s source material is ambiguous about whether sex between two characters was consensual - is fanfic allowed to explore that?

These are only some of the questions you’d need to answer in order to implement your desired changes on a future, hypothetical website. I say again: it’s easy to sit there and say, “No porn involving these four things,” as though AO3 need only delete every work containing those tags in order to save itself from damnation, but functionally, practically, it doesn’t work like that.[22]

[thunderboltsortofapenny in response to fozmeadows]:

But at the same time, abusers use a lot of things to groom their victims - historical precedents, flattery, novels, movies, lies - and at the end of the day, the only commonality between those things is the abuser themselves, not the content. #the thrilling sequel #Fandom]#Purity culture

[fozmeadows responding to an anonymous ask]:

[Anonymous Asks]: How about this: no *explicitt* material involving minors under 15 on AO3. That seems reasonable. If you admit that teens get around age restrictions AND that abusers can groom with them, then something has to change. That involves placing a fair chunk of stories under more stringent lockdown. Yeah AO3 can't go, and you fandom vets are always harping on about how censorship sank previous spaces, but goddamn is there no way to protect the more vulnerable fans without raising your hackles?

[fozmeadows]: 1. How do you define explicit? Does this mean no depictions of child abuse, even for the purpose of telling a story about how wrong it is and showing a victim’s recovery? Can younger teens have realistic sexual encounters in stories so long as nothing is shown on page, or is it wrong to imply explicit goings-on even if they’re not depicted? Where, exactly, do we draw the line between heavy petting and sex? Can a character have a wet dream or masturbate? Can a character think about sex in detail, even if they’re not depicted having it? I’m not trying to be difficult: I’m just trying to make it clear that what you’re proposing, even when you phrase it simply, is inherently difficult to implement. Stories would have to be vetted and actively moderated, a massive undertaking that AO3 isn’t equipped to manage, and any such process would still ultimately hinge on individual judgement, which means you’d still have people dissatisfied with the outcome.

2. Teenagers who choose to ignore age-ratings and warnings for the material they consume are responsible for their own experience beyond that point: it is not the job of authors or the website to say, “Okay, we know this content is explicitly meant for adults, but let’s make it less adulty just in case a teenager gets in here.” You can’t protect people from their own bad judgement and its consequences without making their lack of responsibility someone else’s responsibility, which is decidedly unfair.

3. Abusers groom victims with a wide range of material and arguments, and have done so long before the existence of AO3. Whenever this happens, we blame the abuser, not whatever story they used to justify themselves. This is also why, when murderers or other criminals take their inspiration from crime fiction novels or psychologically darker works, as has happened on multiple occasions, we blame the criminals, not their taste in fiction. Locking down on what can be written about child abuse won’t get rid of paedophiles, but it will make things more difficult for victims who use fanfic as catharsis.

Here’s the thing: tagging works on AO3 is how we protect vulnerable fans, by giving them tools to navigate away from distressing themes or content. Taking something away from one person so its mere existence doesn’t upset someone who was never going to read it anyway isn’t a protective act, but a judgemental and dismissive one. To use an analogy, there are plenty of people in the world with deathly nut allergies, but that doesn’t mean we ban an entire food group: it means we label things that have nuts in them, even trace amounts, so that nobody gets hurt. Do accidents still happen? Yes! Are some people assholes about food allergies and dietary restrictions? Yes! But does that mean the solution is to ban nuts entirely? No! And it’s the same with fanfic.[23]

[olderthannetfic in response to fozmeadows]:

The best way to protect the most vulnerable fans is to shine a light on abusive behavior. Every time we let antis get away with using false accusations of pedophilia to win a shipwar, we are teaching potential victims to have a false sense of confidence in one set of people while needlessly fearing another.

The idea that deleting ____ from fandom will make us all safe is a seductive fantasy, but it’s just a fantasy. It promotes the idea that victims brought their abuse on themselves by liking the wrong media. If only they were ~pure~, it wouldn’t have happened. Anon, the thing that has to change is not the fic…

What has to change is the subtly victim-blaming ideology you just espoused.[24]
[lairofligeia in response to fozmeadows]:
We don’t ban candy and puppies. We teach children to not go with strangers ESPECIALLY if they offer them candy or promise to show them a puppy and we report strangers who do so.
[dancexinxthexshadows reblogged this from beyondthemoor]:
#censorship #fanfic #discussion #tagging #tagging is what helps me even now to avoid the things that squick me out #teenagers are far better at discernment than you’d think #but they have to be willing to protect themselves as well #we need to give them tools #not take away their agency
[redshoesnblueskies reblogged this from redshoesnblueskies]:
#foz addresses the current censorship alarmism in fandom #current censorship debate #fanfic #fandom history #fandom culture #tagging means a consensual relationship between reader and writer #reblogging a ton of fanfic & fandom stuff from my archives that deserves to be back in circulation. don't mind me. #(previous tag is just 'red's archive tag')

May 7, 2018

I keep seeing posts like this and one example always comes to mind about why we can’t just ban everything we hate.

Toni Morrison, for those of you who don’t know, is an award winning black female writer. She’s known for writing about the black experience, the female experience, and life in general in amazingly poetic and honest ways. Her characters are complex. People are not black and white, and her characters aren’t either.

If you haven’t read one of her books, look one up. I actually recommend starting with the one I’m about to talk about, because I think it’s one of her more accessible stories. Song of Solomon tends to be the favorite for black men. I also find Home to be both amazing and accessible. She gets very abstract at times and her stories are hardly ever linear. So she’s difficult to read without a college English class to talk it through in.

The Bluest Eye is the one I want to speak about. I believe, though I could be misremembering, it is her first novel. It was the first one I read, and I fell in love with her writing because of it.

It made me incredibly uncomfortable for one reason in particular though-

In one scene, it describes a rape of a young girl by her father. From his eyes.

Under the guise of these naysayers of “bad things should be banned”, this scene would mean a ban. This scene written by an award winning author.

Oh, you can try to say that it’s different, it’s not fanfiction. Or that it was artfully written.

Toni Morrison is talented with words. That’s true. But it takes effort and skill to be able to do that. Fanfiction is often a means to practice and hone skill. Or to just write a story you feel needs to be told. A bad thing does not need to be written well to have a deep meaning. It doesn’t need to be with original characters either.

It just needs to tell a story that needs to be told[25]

May 8, 2018 Part 1

[tzikeh in response to shinelikethunder's offer]:
This is an extraordinarily generous offer that not one of those people will ever take you up on. Because they don’t want a new archive; they want AO3 purged of what they consider objectionable content. They don’t want a different archive that they could call home; they want all of the people who write things that they don’t like to have to stop writing those things forever.

Basically, they are the women who scream about Planned Parenthood being a baby-murdering factory, when every single one of them knows that the overwhelming majority of what happens at Planned Parenthood has zero to do with abortion and is about keeping women safe and healthy. They are the women who spend their time and energy frightening and intimidating and threatening other women just for walking into PP for a routine women’s check-up, or birth control, or what-have-you. These purity antis are convinced that all AO3 does is make a ‘safe space for pedophiles’ or whatever their personal hobbyhorse is, when the overwhelming majority of what is hosted on AO3 has absolutely nothing to do with their concerns.

Plus, it’s FICTION.

So yeah, that’s right, I’m drawing a direct comparison from the AO3 purity wailers to the anti-choice women who terrorize fellow women for daring to get a pap smear, or a breast exam, or–yes–an abortion. That’s who they are.

You find what other people write objectionable?

Don’t read it.[26]
[astolat in response to shinelikethunder]:
FWIW, if you want a safe space following whatever rules you want, you can do that INSIDE the AO3 with zero coding work or hosting cost whatsoever. You don’t even have to convince anyone to cross-post to your site.

1. Recruit people and figure out your moderation standards. (You DO need people who are willing to review stories that might NOT meet those standards to make sure they fit, but you need that no matter where you do it.)

2. Make an AO3 collection and make your recruited people mods (Optionally: make a subcollection for each fandom you have someone to mod.)

3. Each mod looks over whichever new stories you want to review, and then bookmarks the safe ones (Optionally: with whatever tags or description you want), putting the bookmark in the appropriate collection.

4. People who only want to read works that match your moderation standards can just browse that one collection.

This is part of the purpose of bookmarks and why they have tags and notes, so people could follow specific bookmarkers who curate and/or provide the level of information they want to know about stories even if not all authors provide the level of info they want.[27]
[olderthannetfic in response to astolat]:
This is true. I feel like we’re severely underutilizing the potential of AO3 for organized, bookmark-based recs and categorizing.[28]
[sassbandit3000 on May 8, 2018]:
Thread here.

Read Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights by Nadine Strossen

In the late 80s and early 90s there was a vocal group of radical feminists who believed that pornography inherently harms women, not just in its production but also in its consumption... These anti-pornography feminists teamed up with the religious right and managed to get anti-porn laws passed. In particular, a law was passed in Canada preventing the importation of “obscene” material”..

.... Guess what was seized first? “The Joy of Gay Sex” and the like. Guess what businesses started finding all their shipments seized or delayed – sexually explicit or not – to the point where they were being put out of business? Gay bookstores. Guess what wasn’t seized at all? Mainstream porn made for straight men.....

Here’s the key point: Strossen is a legal scholar who’s looked at a lot of attempts at censorship, and you know what she found happened every time? When you try to censor pornography, even in the interests of protecting vulnerable people, that censorship will be applied first, and hardest, against the people who are most vulnerable. They won’t come for actual abusers, they’ll come for the abused, and prevent them from accessing resources, education, talking to each other, creating art to express themselves, or organising against those who are actually causing harm.

This is old, old business, we’ve seen it more than once before, and it never goes the way the antis think it will. Censorship is a tool that gives power to abusers and lets them inflict more harm on those who are abused, vulnerable and discriminated against. Don’t fall for it.[29]
im tired

honestly the fact that people are going after ao3, a platform and not content creators, implies that the people shrieking that they want that platform gone are a hairsbreadth away from condemning all of fanfiction

like this discourse is so bad and massively uncritical there is no actual critical discussion about all this they just want to tear down the foundations that keep fandoms alive it’s amazing. And they won’t care because the people calling for tearing down fanfiction platforms do not actual contribute to fandom

like it’s going from “people who write fanfiction about teenagers in cartoons are pedos” we’re going towards “people who write fanfiction about cartoons are pedos” I give it two months before we’re at “people who write fanfiction are pedos” which you fucking know will end in “we have to get rid of fanfiction websites they’re run by pedos!”

I’m barely exaggerating I was there when banned second person point of view stories because people thought wee babies would read “you” pronouns and think it was themselves having the sex they were reading about! Which was ooooobvious pedophilia! If those massive olympic leaps of logic can happen then I’m not reaching here.

Listen. Listen. If someone demands a book be taken off the shelf, they hate the author, or the content of that specific book.

But if that person wants to tear down libraries? That person hates literature.

Tags: #i just #ao3 can't go #there is no where else NO WHERE ELSE #that doesn't censor the absolute living FUCK out of lgbt content #you absolute whiny babies get the fuck OUT OF AO3 #put your MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS AND MAKE YOUR OWN CITE YOU LAZY FUCKS[30]

May 8, 2018 Part 2

[stitchmediamix on May 8, 2018]:
I’ve largely been approaching the various “don’t censor fandom/the ao3″ conversations through a lens of race because many of the people arguing in favor of what’s essentially a free-for-all because desire is like sacred also don’t get that some of the stuff fandom desires leads to the erasure, objectification, or dehumanization of characters and fans of color

and i just saw this long ass “if you don’t like the ao3, make your own it’s open source” post and it reminded me of the fact that well… what happens when fans of color make our own?

We get accused of alienating white fans, reverse racism, and of causing drama."[31]
[lkeke35 in response to stitchmediamix]:
Personally, I Thing an AO3 for PoC is a helluva great idea! I honk we should do it because ain’t nobody gonna take care of us but us, and we need to quite asking White people to be decent, (they’re never gonna be anything but burning racist trash,) and we need to quit begging to join in their shit! If they cry about us making our own, my attitude is “fuck ‘em!”[32]
[diversehighfantasy in response to stitchmediamix]:
If there is no intention to cut racist fanwork on AO3, there should be a “racism” content warning, and it should be something readers can flag, not just something the author chooses (because then it would only be used in fics where racial slurs are used and nothing else). I know the chances of AO3 allowing (especially) Black people to tag fics as racist to inform other fans is below zero. AO3 will never prohibit racist fanfic, and it will never warn readers of racist content – unlike things like sexual assault, which they strongly encourage authors to warn readers of so “everyone” can have a safe experience.[33]
[voxiferous in response to diversehighfantasy ]:
These points are excellent. I think part of the problem with the discussion so far is that it calls for removing questionable material from the Archive, rather than improving the tagging system to truly make the experience safer for everyone. Removal of objectionable works is censorship. Better tagging is just common sense and courtesy! I seriously dislike authors who have a bunch of untagged fetishes in the T or M rated fics. What even is their problem

While letting any Archive user flag a work for racism would help other fans of colour know which works to avoid, that system could be abused - if someone has a vendetta against an author, they could get all their friends to tag that person’s works for racism in order to destroy their reputation. I think a good solution is for the Archive to have a dedicated team that examines the flagged content and determines if a permanent tag should be applied to the work, similar to how they have a team of tag wranglers. Logistically I think this would be a big undertaking but if it were possible to execute it would be awesome.

I think another big but less difficult way to improve AO3 instantly would be a built-in blacklist. Of course, that doesn’t solve the problem of untagged works. but it does allow for things like “white guy/t’challa” or “Vivienne de Fer + rape” which are usually secondary signifiers of racism to be completely filtered out from a user’s experience. And personally, I don’t really like seeing works tagged with my OTP and some fetish that squicks me out, so I’d be completely happy to see them vanished from my browsing forever.

Ultimately, I stand by AO3 because I know of no superior fanfiction hosting website, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think it can be improved and made safer. Because it definitely can.[34]
[nkjemisin in response to diversehighfantasy ]:
I am 100% in favor of this idea (a racism content warning, and other bigotries while we’re at it).[35]
[zz9pzza in response to nkjemisin]:
The issue as I understand it is one in a conflict of core values. The OTW was set up partly as a reaction to censorship of fanworks on other platforms and therefore freedom of speech is one of its core values.

My understanding is that you strongly value “not giving racist people a platform to spread their content” and given your position I understand that. However, others may wish to ensure that other minorities that they find reprehensible do not have a platform. And so I am in the position of defending the publication of content including some that is to you offensive.

What can the OTW do to help: Promote tools that help ensure that you do not see content that you find offensive. To answer the question of why this is not core code: it needs to be done client-side (on users’ computers) because the more we specialise a page for each user the more resources that takes. It may be possible to move some of that functionality into the core code. However we would need significant amount of work to be implemented and maintained.

Regarding demographics: the org deliberately knows as little as possible about its members and volunteers.

Some last thoughts as I have run into the wordcount limit:

  • AO3 is for everyone, not every work is for everyone
  • Free speech doesn’t mean speech without consequences
  • We need less fan policing, more fan life-guards
  • Creators have no responsibility to make the world better, but they do have the opportunity.
  • Fandom has gradually been edging towards greater inclusion of POC, but the pace of change is slow [36]
[bright-elen in response to diversehighfantasy ]:
I love the idea of user-tagged racism warnings. What would that look like?


  • Only registered users can flag
  • each user (not pseud) can only tag each fic once
  • Flaggers must also leave a reason for the flag, which would be accessible from the fic like Amazon ratings
  • Flags aren’t binary; each fic has a percentage or scale rating [37]
[peoriarhetoriapeoria in response to bright-elen]:
The only way user-tagged racism warnings wouldn’t be abused would be if they were being done in a community for the use of that community. It would be the flip side of the rec lists for particular characters or ‘ships. A moderated comm, possibly screening new comments until a particular user has demonstrated good faith (or just always screening), would allow readers to not be blindsided. It would be a lot of work.[38]
[nightswatchrebel in response to diversehighfantasy ]:
I dont see how this could work as a long term solution. Not because I think tagging/flagging is a bad idea overall but because I can only really visualize how it will be misused and abused by folks who simply dont need that much power over anything. Who gets to decide what’s what? What are the penalties? Will flagging be based on the severity of the offense? There are some topics (racism pedophilia etc) that warrant reigning in because harmful creative efforts cant always be protected by the live and let live clause fandom loves to go by. Then you have people who simply flag because they dont like something. That’s something that goes across the board, people will do things like that out of spite. So can a functional discourse ever really come from that? Then there is the issue of people not being able to recognize racism that isn’t blatant. We as people of color attempting to navigate fandom have to fight tooth and just to get others in fandom to recognize racism when its not overt. Can a writer warn for something they don’t even know they’ve written?[39]
[jewishcomeradebot in response to nightswatchrebel ]:
]: And? The current ‘report abuse’ function of AO3 is already being abused the hell out of by white fandom to harass people and have their works closed, put on suspension or just straight up deleted for not very good reasons. Yes there are question that needs answering and yes this does have the potential to be abused. But by your logic we should remove the current ‘report abuse’ function and disband the abuse board because it’s being abused and their rulings are completely over the top when it comes to works or writers they don’t approve of such as deleting satirical works that pokes fun of fandom’s use of racist tropes (because poking fun of the use of these tropes are apparently so much worse than using those tropes in all seriousness).[40]

[blad-the-inhaler in response to stitchmediamix]:

May I ask something? Why do fics that are either explicitly, irredeemably racist or pedophilic HAVE to be on AO3 at all? If they can casually tell us to just go somewhere else if we don’t like it, then why can’t those stories be kept somewhere else? If people don’t want cp/racism mixed in among their stories, but a small group do, and make it so that their preference is what shapes fandom experience, then their claim of fandom space being egalitarian is an obvious lie.[41]
[peoriarhetoriapeoria in response to blad-the-inhaler]:
The difficulty, is when you decide a particular category of fanfiction cannot be in the archive, then it is too easy to use that category to hunt down fanfiction someone doesn’t approve of.

If someone is moved to write a story against racism or pedophilia, do you want that fic to be banned? The precedent for just that exists.

Now, clearly something has to be done so people are not blindsided by something as serious as racist ideology. If someone writes a story that suggests a timeline where we can consider these questions is a lesser, invalid timeline, I’d want a warning on that. Equally clearly, the authors that would be most worrisome would be the very authors not to properly warn or “author chooses not to warn”; mostly what would get the tag is where the antagonist(s) are racist but the author is not suggesting they are right.

Until there is Racism warning (which will need some guidelines or it will become meaningless), promoting tags that would give some reader control might be one step.[42]
[beatrice-otter in response to blad-the-inhaler]:
I guarantee you that if AO3 banned racist fic or fic with racist themes, the absolute first thing that would happen is that you would have a wave of racists attacking fic by and about Black people. Oh, this fic talks about Character X dealing with the racism of the white people around them? That fic has racist themes and should be banned! Why do I know this? Because every time in history (real life or fannish) that I am aware of, whenever a group tries to enforce moral rules (however well-meaning) for the benefit of a vulnerable minority, that vulnerable minority bear the brunt of the problem and receive very little of the help the rule was designed to give.

The solution to this is twofold. First, lessen the harm that will be done when–not if–the rules are abused. If fics are removed, the author has been silenced. And while I don’t care about racism being silenced (I think that would be awesome) I am not willing to do that knowing that the innocent will certainly be targeted and silenced, as well. If the fic is given a warning label, the author has not been silenced–their content is still freely available.

Second, put some real thought into how you’re going to prevent abuse. How do you separate out the overzealous self-righteous white folks? How do you separate out the reports from racists who are sure that they’re not racist, they’re just telling it like it is, and are offended by having their racism pointed out and thus flag their attackers? How do you make the distinction between “this fic is racist and promotes racist themes” and “this fic is anti-racist and confronts racist themes” and “this fic is just including racist themes because it’s in canon”? They can be harder to tell in practice than you might think.[43]
[melannen in response to beatrice-otter]:

Okay, I am breaking my Tumblr silence for this post because it keeps coming around and I keep getting twitchy fingers, even though I will probably regret it.

1. Yes. If you allow works to be banned based on content, the first people who will use that ban are the oppressors. My only RL experience with censorship was when a parent got “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” banned from my high school curriculum. Why? They claimed it was “underage sexual content”; everyone knew the actual reason they had told other parents was “negative portrayal of white people.” This was made super obvious when it was replaced in the curriculum by a book with just as much sexual violence, and explicit torture scenes as a bonus - but one with nothing to say about race, and that treated the abusive noncon as a romance. *That* is how censorship works. Not by making a safer space for oppressed peoples.

2. If AO3 did have a mandatory “Racism” warning, what would people want it to include? This is a serious question - I was involved in some of the discussion around AO3′s current identity and warning related freeform tags, and it was tough, and we screwed up a lot, and that was with knowing it would always be creators’ choice to actually use them. What specific content in a work, that was clear enough that it could be explained to people with limited context, and restrictive enough that it wouldn’t be easily abused, would people suggest should enforceably require a racism-related warning? (Don’t say just “racism” - that could be made to include p. much every work, because racism gets in everywhere one way or another.)

3. Honestly, I feel like the best solution here is to work to make bookmarkers’ tags on AO3 easier to filter and sort. If there was an easy way to bring up or filter out only works that bookmarkers had tagged with a certain tag - well, it would still lead to problems, but it would provide some flexibility and additional options for people to make their own safety, anyway.[44]
[shinelikethunder in response to melannen and beatrice-otter]:
Beef up the ability to filter by bookmarkers’ tags” is the exact thing I was thinking of suggesting when I saw this post. The difficulty of making a workable policy out of mandatory racism or bigotry warnings (where workable [equals] hard to abuse + can be applied semi-consistently at scale) doesn’t mean that’s where the conversation has to end. AO3 has built-in features for fan curation, which could potentially reduce people’s reliance on the firehose of whatever crap any fool has chosen to use the archive feature for. They’d just have to be better integrated into the site’s browsing and filtering functionality to be useful for something like crowdsourced warning tags.[45]
[stele3 in response to [shinelikethunder, melannen and beatrice-otter]:
There are absolutely things that AO3 can be doing better to serve the needs of fans of color. Let’s not lump genuine, valid concerns in with the “REPORT THEM TO THE FBI!!!1!!” fools.[46]
[blad-the-inhaler in response to peoriarhetoriapeoria ]:
All these pretty words fall a bit flat when a black author’s Star Wars fic that broke the fourth wal to criticize fandom racism was deleted without cause. I guess some fans are more equal than others. I do not understand this automatic, rote warning about free speech in response to any, any call for increased vetting of pedophilic/racist material. Are you saying there’s no possible way to determine what was written in good faith to explore a theme, and what was made simply to indulge an author’s worst instincts and bigotries? If the job’s just to hard, say that instead.[47]
[elfwreck in response to all of the above]:
Is the job too hard? Maybe. It’s certainly not easy or obvious to sort out the difference between “racism in a story” and “glorifying racism in a story.” It’s not easy to decide “this story has enough racism to require a mandatory tag.” (Setting aside a possible list of words that would require the warning, there’s no bright-line test for “this conversation includes racism.”)

There’s the followup kettle of worms of: what other forms of bigotry should require a tag–sexism? (Does a stereotypical 50′s sitcom household setting require that tag?) Homophobia? (Does every slash pairing with an unsupportive minor character count?) Religious bias?

This may seem like I’m falling back on the slippery-slope argument. I’m not. I know there’s a difference between “this content might exist in the story” and “this content - WHOA WTF IS THAT?”, and that fandom has a lot of experience drawing those lines. (We don’t always agree–see the arguments about M vs E ratings–but mostly, we muddle through.)

But it takes a lot of people spending a lot of hours doing judgment calls, to enforce a rule like that. It adds a lot of extra checkboxes to the post-a-story process. (I suspect an extra handful of checkboxes would just result in an increase in “author chooses not to warn” stories.)

AO3 wasn’t designed to be a safe space. It was designed to require the minimum level of warnings that would let most fans use the archive. I could see adding another warning box to the standard process - “Bigotry: Story contains sexism, racism, homophobia or other aspects of identity prejudice,” comparable to the “graphic violence” current tag, but I don’t believe there’s value in adding another several boxes to the header section.

People would just skip them, and there’d be endless arguments over how much racism or other problematic content is “too much” and must be warned for.

Want the feature anyway? Come up with 20 edge-case stories, 10 on either side of the yes/no tagging line, to use as a baseline."[48]

May 9, 2018

[leproblematique on May 9, 2018]:
I’ve seen the goal-posts move in real-time, over the last few years. It started with a wider push to tag, warn, disclaimer and place under read-more a whole assortment of darkfic and I agreed with that, because I didn’t want to spring unwanted content on people. But when antis realized that this approach wasn’t actually getting them what they wanted (elimination of all content they found objectionable) they began to push the envelope. From ‘warn and tag darkfic’ it quickly went to ‘how dare you get off on this / you’re getting off on a situation similar to my trauma and thus harming me / you’re harming survivors.’

Most people became familiar with antis when they turned very visible after The Force Awakens launched and they had a high-profile target in Reylo, but their attitudes and methods had been percolating on Tumblr for much longer. I recall getting howled at as early as 2013 when I defended darkfic, with apoplectic individuals going roughly 'how dare you want to be left to enjoy your rape-kink fics in peace!!’

In a way, the people above were more honest, when compared to the disingenuous, emotionally manipulative antis we see now. They outright admitted their major hangup being other people able to freely enjoy content they couldn’t stand / they considered harmful. Strip all of the 'you’re harming me / why aren’t you thinking about survivors’ emotional manipulation and you get the same thing. This is why you can’t appease antis and it’s useless to try - they won’t tolerate objectionable content behind a warning and a disclaimer, same as they won’t tolerate the same content in a locked, members-only community, where no one who could be harmed by it would even have access to it. The fact that other people are still free to derive enjoyment from the content is unacceptable to them, hence the screaming, the massive guilt-trips and the wasting of public resources such as the FBI’s time.[49]
[freedom-of-fanfic in response to leproblematique]:
^^^ fandom antis have had time to polish their rhetoric, so their lies sounds a lot more smooth and shiny now. but in earlier days there were a lot more admissions by antis that they were disgusted (or, as some would say at the time, ‘triggered’) by simply knowing that things they hated exist. Even bearing a glimpse of these content warnings/ship tags while scrolling through their dash or AO3 works is too much for them to bear: they must be entirely eliminated, everywhere, even if that’s realistically impossible. in fact, ‘immoral’/unapproved nsfw content must be crusaded against especially because eliminating it is impossible. the anti-nsfw/darkfic/ships/kinkfic position is not about creating safe spaces or they would simply do that. this is about having an unachievable goal of ‘absolute purity’ so that there is always an excuse to harass, bully, and threaten others whenever they want.[50]
[out-there-on-the-maroon in response to leproblematique]:
Wasn’t that why Hydra Trash Party got started way back? Because people were objecting to seeing dark fic prompts on the anonymous kink meme for the MCU movies? So they went and made a separate one for all the super dark fic?

Despite it being easy to blacklist tags and phrases and screen out things on AO3, I still see people horrified that these things even exist in the first place. They don’t want to just avoid dark fics via tagged warnings. They want it gone and obliterated.

I used to stumble across really disturbing stuff in the days of LJ. No warnings, no indications, no nothing. It was rough sometimes. I love that people tag for major warnings now! It’s so helpful! But that should not and should never have been a stepping stone to “ok now feel bad about writing dark fics and stop doing that forever.”

Also … what constitutes a dark fic? That’s entirely subjective and I can’t imagine trying to police that. I’ve seen people depict abusive relationships in fics as totally healthy and romantic for more than a decade in various fandoms, they don’t think they’re writing dark fic but others do. I’ve seen people write gory torture stories in various fandoms, but it’s not dark fic to them because it’s not sexualized. Is a hardcore roleplay fic between two consenting adults dark fic? Some say yes, some say no.[51]
[crisisoninfintefandoms in response to astolat]:
I mean, I think the problem is that most “purity police” people don’t want anyone to be able to read or post things they find objectionable. That’s why avoiding things they personally don’t like isn’t enough: since they can’t control other people’s individual choices of what to read or post, they need the platform that enables them to read and post what they want to not exist.[52]
[mmarycontrary in response to astolat]:
The latest round of this gift wrap conservatism makes me sad and annoyed, but Shinelikethunder’s and Astolat’s graciousness here has made me feel good about an extra donation to AO3 this year. Long may their servers (and lawyers) serve[53]

The thing is that AO3 just desperately needs a blacklist function.

If there’s a content tag I don’t want to see, I should be able to type it once into a blacklist, and never see it again as long as I’m logged in.

If an author writes something that triggers me, I should be able to type their username once into a blacklist, and never see their work again as long as I’m logged in.

I should not have to input a 200 character exclusion string in the search filter to avoid this content.

I should not have to install a 3rd party plugin to blacklist this content.

(I did it, but I shouldn’t have had to do it. It took me years to even realize a 3rd party blacklist plugin even existed, then multiple hours to figure out how to actually install and implement it because the interface was extremely user-unfriendly)

I know it’s every fan’s job to curate their own fannish experience.

But saying “don’t like don’t read” dismisses this very obvious problem in AO3′s organizational framework:

It’s hard to avoid content you don’t like on AO3.

I have about 15 items I would like to filter out of any given tag search.

A couple plot tropes that aren’t my cup of tea, a couple NOTPs, ~5 triggers/squicks, and ~6 usernames of authors who wrote a story so awful that it ruined my day and I wanna make sure I never accidentally read or re-read anything they’ve written ever again.

Do you know how much effort it takes to individually exclude 15 separate items from a fic search?? Too damn much. Too much copy-pasting, too much typing, too much scrolling, too much clicking, too tedious, too time-consuming, too much fucking work.

The more hoops people have to jump through to filter out unwanted content, the more people will complain about the presence of unwanted content.[54]
[Elfwreck in response to stitchmediamix and diversehighfantasy posts of the previous day]:

There are people who want AO3 to add “racist content” to the content that’s considered harassment, as racist and other Nazi-esque content make the whole place hostile for people of color. That’s a valid point, and worth considering how to implement.

I’m not against AO3 banning content that promotes racism; I am not in favor of AO3 banning “content that anyone who complains believes is racist.”

I want AO3 to be a place that’s hostile to Nazis, their supporters, and people of similar ilk. But I don’t want AO3 to adopt such a policy by just adding a line to their TOS that says, “We do not allow Nazi or pro-Nazi content.”

To request a change in policy that big, you’d need to figure out how to implement it. How to identify “pro-nazi content” in a way that an outsider could use. (Note: I don’t mean “some random mundane off the street.” I mean, someone in fandom, someone who reads and maybe writes fic, someone who participates in these discussions online. Someone who’s neither the author nor someone who already knows and hates the author.)

What does a no-Nazi-content (no racism, no misogyny, no homophobia, no transphobia, no ableism, no religious bigotry, etc.) policy look like to you? How do you see that being phrased, and how do you see it being implemented by a pack of volunteers with sometimes high turnover? What’s your dream version, and what’s your “that’d at least be a step in the right direction” version?

And how does that mesh with AO3′s goal of “we refuse to curate out the offensive content; we’re just blocking the illegal and harmful content?” Offensive content is allowed. Harmful content is not. Some problematic content is required to be tagged. What criteria should AO3′s staff use to draw the lines between them?[55]
[diversehighfantasy in response to elfwreck]:
Some things I think could qualify as bigoted content:

Samboism: This includes making a Black character fit racial stereotypes that the actual character doesn’t fit. You see this a lot with the characters of Samuel Jackson, where he’s inexplicitely written like a Tarantino character.

Discrimination porn: This includes fics that take characters from canons allow them power and put them in situations where they are racially abused, like writing T'Challa as a slave.

Mammyism: When a Black character who isn’t subservient in canon is made to be subservient. For example, making Michonne Rick’s servant/nanny.

Dehumanization: This is bigotry 101. Fics where marginalized characters are less than human. I’ve seen Finn from Star Wars written as if he’s a dog, and, more commonly, as an ignorant child (also a form of samboism).

I’m sure there would be a huge backlash against tagging any of these examples as racist, but there are definite patterns that can be specifically identified.[56]

May 10, 2018 - Part 1

The issue with anti anti discourse lately is that antis roll everything together, if you say you’re pro shipping it’s somehow assumed you want to have anything to do with stuff like MAP discourse, and it’s easy to slander based on such ideas.

The boxing in generally is a product of the current culture that I find really regressive.

People don’t want censorship/normalized harassment in fandoms because they know it’s a slippery slope. Voltron in general is like living proof of this - before Voltron existed it was okay to harass people over whatever problematic ships. Because it was made “okay” to harass over any ship at all now ships that aren’t at all problematic, like Sheith, can get harassment because antis already feel justified in harassing someone over ships. So, it’s easy to make up some flimsy excuse for it being “problematic” (he said “you’re like a brother to me!!” so that means incest, nevermind canon couples have had similar lines its LITERALLY INCEST NOW!!!) to harass someone over essentially nothing.

If it’s okay to harass someone over a “problematic” ship, then it’s okay to harass over ANY ship at all because the person, who essentially just wants to bully someone, can spin a ship any way they want so it can be “problematic”.

It’s the concept of “give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile”.

And this isn’t even going into what happened to, and we now see history starting to repeat itself with ao3 which came about from being censored.

Reasonable people, especially adults who have been in fandom for a decade or more, are wise enough to know this and that’s why they’re pro shipping/anti anti.

But not wanting harassment/censorship in fandoms has nothing to do with the other grody shit antis involve themselves in and it’s exhausting to have to see this discourse at all.

And frankly it’s concerning the amount of minors participating in things like anti-kink or MAP discourse, with adult antis not seeming to discourage them from these dangerous topics (probably because they know they would lose their base if they did).

No point to this post.. just some recent thoughts….

I’ve been paying less attention to discourse these days and am a lot happier for it. Please always remember that the opinion of random strangers on the internet means nothing, block and enjoy your life. You don’t have to care about what other people think. Especially not stupid people/kids that don’t know what they’re talking about.[57]
So, like, I’m reading all this discourse going around about people suggesting censorship on sites like AO3, or saying there should be more rules about what content can be posted. And lots of Olds (like, people around my age but who’ve been in fandom 20 yrs unlike me) are explaining fandom history and the LJ purge disasters and how Canada’s anti-porn laws were selectively used in the 90s against lgbtq bookstores and stuff. It’s all very interesting and important history, and I do see the patterns over the past 50+ years of censorship being used to attack already marginalized communities, while actually-abusive people go free/get to keep selling their porn/don’t have their sites taken down.

honest question, though. The Olds are discussing all this as if young people are the ones suggesting censorship/stronger regulation of content on AO3. Is that even true? Do we know for sure it’s young fiery liberals? And not actually other old people with different views (even, more conservative views)? Or, trolls?

I’m not in the middle of the shitstorm so I don’t see it, maybe. but, like, I read a ton of the comments on this long thread and I didn’t even see anyone disagreeing with the Olds. And I follow lots of people in their 20s, none of whom are advocating for censorship or anything remotely like it.

Maybe it is just a really small but very vocal community who is suggesting such things? That I just have never run into? This censorship idea just seems kind of like a straw man, that a bunch of people are spending a lot of energy arguing against when actually 99% of us are all on the same page?

I might be woefully mistaken though, please do educate me on this if I’m missing something.[58]

May 10, 2018 - Part 2

[melannen in response to stitchmediamix]:
What I’d suggest as positive steps right now would be: 1. Put in a feature request with Support for better bookmark filtering; be polite and positive and mention this specific use case. While you are at it, if you want it, also put in a support request for a racism/bigotry archive warning - there is almost no chance you will ever get it, but it will at least create an official record that *something* along these lines is needed, moreso than tumblr posts or non-actionable abuse reports ever will. And if you want it, also one for a TOS change that explictly bans creating a hostile environment for protected identity groups as well as for individuals - that is possibly more likely to happen, given the current public discussion about social media in general. And keep posting on social media about specific, positive, actionable changes - like a new warning tag - that won’t fundamentally contradict AO3’s anti-censorship ethos and don’t target specific ships or users.

You won’t get immediate change - even if there were infinite resources for coding and modding and servers (which there aren’t), AO3 runs on consensus, which means every change is s-l-o-w - but it will help get the ball rolling and keep it rolling.

2. Good news! AO3 is currently recruiting Policy & Abuse Staff! open until May 16 2018! It is a crappy job, and it requires a large time commitment, and it requires you to read a lot of things you would never read by choice, and be scrupulously polite to other staff and users even when you really, really don’t want to, and maintain confidentiality on things you want to scream about to the world, and enforce policies you may on occasion deeply disagree with.

But! If you are willing and able to do those things, I am absolutely sure they would love more diverse voices from diverse communities on their team, and you will provide an extremely valuable service. And if you want a voice in changing some of the policies, “from experience as an Abuse volunteer in good standing” is the best way to do it (and the best way to get inside knowledge of the kinds of problems they are solving every day, not just the ones that make it to Tumblr, in order to propose solutions that are workable.)

Also, if people to want set up some kind of separate moderation & warnings advisory, I can promise you that all the crap that Abuse faces is the exact same kind of crap you will face there. As is the workload. I was a pre-posting moderator on one of the big Harry Potter archives back in the day (because, yes, before efiction and web 2.0, most archives did have moderators approve works before they were posted) for a couple of months before I burnt out, and I can tell you: that is also a crap job. And we were mostly just doing checks for SPAG and ‘this is not PG-13’, not hot-button stuff. And it was several orders of magnitude smaller than AO3. And it predated callout culture. It would not be a bad idea to volunteer for an established Abuse team somewhere, even if not AO3, just to get an idea of the level of sewage that flows down onto it, and how experienced people manage that, before proposing to run something similar.

3. If you want better user-created-tag filtering to happen, start using bookmark tags and bookmark collections on AO3 more. It’s kind of a catch-22, because few people use them, so there’s not a lot of incentive to improve them, and vice versa. But showing that people are using them, and how they’re using them, and how it’s important, would be the best way to move it up in priority.

@astolat, who probably still knows more about AO3’s architecture than anyone else, just posted on a related thread about how to set up a bookmark collection on AO3 as a moderated safe space. That would be very doable right now, especially if you did it one fandom at a time - get together a mod team, and have them systematically go through every work in, say, Black Panther, and either only bookmark the OK ones, or bookmark everything while adding standardized warning tags. And then move on to another fandom or pairing. It would still be tough to filter on the bookmarkers’ tags, but people could browse and filter the collection by creators’ tags, and easily see all the mods’ warning tags as they go. And it would provide a proof-of-concept for what an archive-wide version might end up looking like.[59]
[somethingoddinsod in response to melannen]:
I like this what I’m hearing here as a solution for this. Addressing fandom’s racism issues as a broad topic is well… it’s the same problem as addressing society’s racism issues. Tags just aren’t the tool for that job. But for this specific need - right here - tagging specific stories with specific issues? Totally workable and bookmarks / curated content as sub-communities sounds like it has the framework that would work well for it.[60]
[kawuli in response to melannen]:

Hey look, concrete, actionable suggestions! That don’t assume AO3 has infinite time/money/resources!

(via dsudis)

[persephone-garnata in response to melannen]:
I was thinking of the bookmarking thing as well as the best solution here - not just for the racism issue but potentially for other stuff like readers being able to label fics where “creator chose not to use archive warnings” without impeding fic writers’ ability to use (or not use) whichever tags they want. Any reader who only wants to see the fic’s original, writer-generated tags could simply ignore the bookmarks.

I’m sure this system would still be open to problems/abuses/creators getting butthurt, but it sounds like a better option than user-generated tags which I can see resulting in a total mess.

Anyway that’s just my two cents.

[somethingoddinsod in response to melannen]:
So this thread is getting super long and there’s been a lot of good stuff put out with it. I’m wondering if it would be a good idea at this point to consolidate the suggested solutions and approaches into a single post somewhere so we can bounce it off the OP @stitchmediamix to see what we’re missing and see if anyone’s up for doing a pilot-test of this approach?

We could use Tampermonkey (for the Firefox/Chrome cross compatibility) to test out some aspects of new UI and help bookmarkers keep things sorted. That’s something I can get into my work schedule pretty easily.

Putting together a site to coordinate a topic-focused team for tagging project runs and to house how-tos would also be an excellent use of the offer from @shinelikethunder to do tech setup.

We need a project lead. I’m not qualified - both for time / social savvy / connections reasons, and b/c I also don’t experience racism directly - so I’d be at best trying to guess what was needed. But if we have someone who can give direction to the techies for the tools the bookmarkers need, work out standards to use for tagging in the collection, and get a group started to do the work? That’s I think the last big part we need to try this out.

Even if it turns out to be too much of a hassle or just not work out like we thought - it’s at least *trying*. And we’d get more information about the problems to address for the next try.[63]

Discussions Via Tumblr Tags/Notes

[ardatli reblogged this from alessandriana]:
#rebooting for the last one #curating all of fandom is physically and logistically impossible #safe spaces will always be smaller by definition #it doesn't mean the same thing to everyone #discourse #fandom wank
[marinarasarah reblogged this from popkin16]:
#the solution #go ahead #make your own #make your dreams come true
[marty-mia-matt reblogged this from olderthannetfic]:
#fandom discourse #ao3 #but the point is all there #by definition they refuse to curate their fandom experience because bullying people is easier and more satisfying
[kawuli reblogged this from astolat]:
#how to build a world #less yelling at people more creating shit you want to see fandom purity culture bullshit
[artificialwench reblogged this from owlbear33]:
#ao3 is gpl which is understandable but annoying #i have come to prefer more permissive licenses these days
[abraxasmalfoy reblogged this from second-salemite]:
#fandom wank like.... its there bro #u have the tools right here
[atruephoenix reblogged this from astolat]:
#ao3 #jfc wtf is going on in the AO3 rn? #am writing #fanfic #fandom is my fandom#you are responsible for curating your fandom experience
[relenafanel reblogged this from leveragehunters]:
#archiveofourown #fanfic #create the space you want! #ao3 is our safe space against censorship #we’re a generation who lived through persecution#if you need somewhere safer - the torch is now passed
[candygalaxies reblogged this from rizaoftheowls]:
#thank you Real Adults #this is a mighty post #ao3
[iffeelscouldkill reblogged this from fandomfanworks]:
#anti fandom #antifandom #antis #ao3 #fanfic #moderation #censorship #fanfic archive #this is a sensible post full of very good ideas #go make your own archive! we need more archives in the world
[oopsabird reblogged this from relenafanel]:
#honestly tho this is the most reasonable solution#think of it like building a commune out in the woods or something #bc you dont like the govt’s laws #long post
[sw087 reblogged this from floranna2]:
#Please don't bash AO3 #it exists for a very good reason #it's literally if you want it go build it #and they did #because fandom wasn't as popular before #and this is a place you don't have to worry about losing all your work#because of…whatever #know your history #fandom
[sazandorable reblogged this from sw087 and added]:
Livejournal communities?
[serpentinegraphite reblogged this from sazandorable]:
#yeah they were modeled after lj communities i think# but also more literally: just go to fucking livejournal and make a community of that's how you fucking feel #that shit is free and still available #wank #ao3
[masonmerger reblogged this from astolat and added]::
god bless my fellow internet degenerates.
[and-classics reblogged this from merihn]:
#fandom: 'why don't we have this thing?!!!!'#ao3 exhausted: 'it's here it's been here the entire time'#but also this whole post tho#stop yelling about how someone should change their space for you and make one#set up newsletters and closed moderated groups and go to town!#fandom had to do it for years before ao3 nothing's stopping you doing a little bit of work to maintain a small scale org yourself
[angelcamael reblogged this from shiphitsthefan:
#Fanfiction #Try to be a rainbow in someone's queue
[era-invenire reblogged this from lavvyan]:
#fandom #general #they won't do it #because it's not about curating their own feed #but about demanding that *everyone else* write what they want #nothing else deserves to exist
[cest-la-venus reblogged this from freakingdork]:
#you have the right to make it as long as its not actually illegal #but i REALLY dont want to see it #i would honestly love an entire seperate site guaranteed to be free of those things #i try to stay out of anti and anti-anti stuff bc I'm in the camp #so it would be nice to have more spaces moderated like this #i really hope this post gets proved wrong #i am tentatively interested in lending my web developer skills to a project like this
[bleadyn reblogged this from lyraeon]:
#we all need to go back to live journal #for real tho tumblr's a free for all blood fest where everyone can see and post anything #and i feel like that's where a lot of the bullshit comes from #but on lj anyone can make communities about anything#and you can kick people out #and they can make their own communities #and everyone's happy#i'm dead serious let's go #fandom
[meadowstrawberry reblogged this from marchingatmidnight]:
#this is how u go abt creating safe spaces without censorship

Further reading


  1. MeeDee (2018-05-10). "AO3 Discussions: Tumblr Fail". Archived from the original on 2018-05-10. Retrieved 2018-05-10. 
  2. see List of Content Banned by Archives.
  3. One example: FanDomination.Net Content Control and Weeding Guidelines (2002-2009).
  4. As of May 9, 2018, the post was deleted. It has 1,884 notes.Archived link
  5. On Sept 11, 2017, they posted a list of Finn/Poe fanfic they felt was racist asking fellow fans to mass report the fiction to AO3 Abuse: "I’ve linked all their most recent fics because we know that’ll upset them the most to get it taken down". -- archive link.
  6. On Jan 23, 2018 lunaaltare wrote: "2k18 let’s pray ao3 gets destroyed by an FBI crackdown! 😍😍😍" -- [1], Archived version
  7. [2]; Archive link.
  8. finnisskinny: eliannaeldari: finnisskinny:..., Archived version
  9. (This was originally attached to a post about the..., Archived version
  10. Space between words, Archived version
  11. [3], Archived version
  12. who-gives-a-ship: finnisskinny: have you..., Archived version
  13. discoursecatharsis: who-gives-a-ship:..., Archived version
  14. Elianna Eldari, finnisskinny: eliannaeldari: finnisskinny:..., Archived version
  15. Fanfiction Addiction, Archived version
  16. May 8, 2018 Post, Archived version
  17. Centauri Anthropology • olderthannetfic: maleccrazedauthor:..., Archived version
  18. [4], Archived version
  19. I am really baffled by the people attacking AO3... - Virtual Voyages, Archived version
  20. Obsessed With Fictional Universes, Some THOUGHTS on that post about ao3. Remember..., Archived version
  21. What Happens Next: A Gallimaufry, Archived version
  22. fozmeadows responds to "thanks for ruining my post you disgusting waste of... ", Archived version
  23. How about this: no *explicit* material involving..., Archived version
  24. Older Than Netfic - How about this: no *explicit* material involving..., Archived version
  25. [5], Archived version
  26. Where is my Jet-Pack? - AO3 is open source., Archived version
  27. [6], Archived version
  28. Older Than Netfic - AO3 is open source., Archived version
  29. Tumblr, Archived version
  30. [7], Archived version
  31. original post deleted
  32. Geeking Out About It, Archived version
  33. [8], Archived version
  34. "voxiferous". 
  35. [9], Archived version
  36. nkjemisin: diversehighfantasy:..., Archived version
  37. [10], Archived version
  38. [11], Archived version }}
  39. Cocoa Mocha Caramel, Archived version
  40. nightswatchrebel: diversehighfantasy:... - Jewish Psyop, Archived version
  41. [12], Archived version
  42. [13], Archived version
  43. [14], Archived version
  44. Melannen, beatrice-otter: peoriarhetoriapeoria:..., Archived version
  45. [15], Archived version
  46. shinelikethunder: melannen: beatrice-otter:..., Archived version
  47. [16], Archived version
  48. [17], Archived version
  49. Tumblr, Archived version
  50. [18], Archived version
  51. i know most antis will never be satisfied and..., Archived version
  52. Swirling Vortex of FanDoom, Archived version
  53. shiny things • AO3 is open source.,
  54. lierdumoa, The thing is that AO3 just desperately needs a..., Archived version
  55. [19], Archived version
  56. [20], Archived version
  57. [21], Archived version
  58. [22], Archived version
  59. Melannen, somethingoddinsod: shinelikethunder:..., Archived version
  60. [23], Archived version
  61. [24], Archived version
  62. [25], Archived version
  63. MeeeDeee's Tags, Archived version