FanFiction.Net's NC-17 Purges: 2002 and 2012

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There were two major removals of NC-17 fiction from FanFiction.Net. Both purges shook fandom, and much discussion ensued regarding rights and responsibilities of archives, rights of fans to be able to write and post what they liked, and more.

Both purges also created fiction influxes into other archives. One example: FictionAlley.

One fan's comment in 2002: "Unleashing your imagination and deleting your NC-17 fics," [1] a riff on FanFiction.Net's official tag.

Similar Occurrences

2002

Prior to September 2002, the site used a pop-up to prompt readers to say whether they were over 17 or not. On September 12, 2002, FanFiction.Net banned and removed material that was rated NC-17.

FF.Net removed the guestbook on July 6, 2002, perhaps in anticipation of the NC-17 ban.

One of the reactions to this 2002 ban was the creation of AdultFanFiction.Net by other fans. Other fans migrated to FanDomination.Net. [2]

Announcement from Xing Li:
"September 12th, 2002 -- This will be longest announcement in FanFiction.Net's 4 year history as there are many things covered and changes announced.

"As noted last month, original fiction is a fast growing part of the site. To give the original fiction writers better exposure, the site has split the categorization into two upper classes: FanFiction and Original Fiction. As a result of this specific change, severals modifications have been performed.

""Original » Song fics" category has been moved to "FanFiction » Misc » Song fics" "Original » Short Stories" category has been retitled to "Original » General Fiction" Contents of "Originals » Novel" has been moved to "Originals » General Fiction"

"The following sections of FanFiction.Net will no longer be continued. Entries in these categories will be removed on October 12th, 2002. If you have an entry in the follow areas, please login and use the new "Backup" feature to download them to your computer for personal backup.

"NC-17 based entries will no longer be accepted. Though they are very small portion of the site the adult stories have generated almost all of the complaints filed on record in the past year. Moreover, the highest concentration of them are growing in areas with subjects targeted to younger readers and with increasingly controversial subject matters. However, not all NC-17 based stories fall into the description but as result of their increasing volume a decision has been made to resolve this problem. Innocent writers will be affected but this has to be done considering the non-filtering scheme of the site.

"Many months ago FanFiction.Net introduced a form of ban for real-person based stories (RPS): actor fiction. After evaluating that ban and receiving many responses as a result of that ruling, it has been decided that we need to extend the rule to all real-person stories to keep it consistent. The affected categories are: All Music Groups Misc; Sports TV Shows; Big Brother, Survivor, Who's Line is it anyway?

"Chat room or keyboard dialogue based entries will no longer be allowed. Much of the chat room entries are void of plot, without attempt at plot and are more inline with random dialogue than with stories or poetry. Having these type of entries on the site is unfair to those that have spent quality time fleshing out substantial content.

"Upgrades/Enhancements: In addition to the FanFiction.Net Guidelines, a new section, "Writer's Etiquette", has been introduced to detail codes of conduct that all writers should adhere to. Writer's Etiquette and the modified Guidelines are accessible on the "Upload story" page and through this url.

"Review Alert is now active for all members. This used to be a Support Service only feature but because of past and current Support Service members we are now able to reliably provide this service to every registered member. For those of you new to Review Alert, it is setup so that you will be notified by email whenever a new review is submitted to any of your stories. Review Alert greatly reduces the amount of time you waste on the site by periodically checking to see whether a new review has been submitted. New "Backup" feature has been introduced which will greatly ease the pain of backing up stories archived on the site. This feature was part of Support Service Enhanced Statistics but we feel it is important that everyone have this feature. Story reading pages (read.php) has been revamped for a much cleaner interface while displaying more information of the story. The list of authors that have you on their "Favorite Authors list" will now be displayed as part of the standard Statistics page. This is a result of convincing argument from several members of the site. A ratings guide has been created in the Guidelines to help the correct categorization of stories in the G, PG, PG-13, and R range.

"Misc: The Crossover categories have been moved into the "FanFiction; Misc" category. Please note that all the stories effected by the ruling above have not been removed. They will be retained until October 12th, 2002. If the changes apply to you, please login and use the backup feature to create a personal copy on your local computer.

"FanFiction.Net will like to issue a formal apology to the many members of the site that will be effected by today's announcement. The site evolves over time and as such we are forced to make decisions that usually have negative impacts on some of the members but in response to needs. [3]

The 2002 Petition

To: www.fanfiction.net

Fanfiction.net has long been one of the Internet's leading fanfiction sites. In order for this site to remain so, we the undersigned strongly disagree with fanfiction.net's recent decision to ban NC-17 fiction from this site and remove the ones currently posted. Although necessary precautions must be taken to protect children on the internet, MOST of the NC-17 stories that would fall under this ruling are in only the most excellent of taste and are clearly markied, which is the most any author or site manager can do. We also strongly feel that this decision flies in the face of everything that the on line fan fiction community is about; freedom to write, explore, and share ideas. Please do not trample on the rights of the innocent in order to protect the rights of the few.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned [4]

On September 13, 2002, it had 8000 signatures. [5]

When the petition ended, it had 23453 signatures. [6]

Fan Comments Regarding the 2002 Purge

If they go through with it, screw them, we'll start another fanfic site, and they can go to Hell. [7]
...you don't have to pay to post on the site.. I kinda don't get the uproar, myself. They have every right to ban NC-17 fic if they want. Its private site. They *also* banned real person stories, like Survivor

fanfic... and no one seems to think thats censorship. No one is pbeing stopped from running their own NC-17 websites... Fanfiction.net is just choosing to no longer do it. Having browsed the 7th heaven fanfic and found

rape, rape, incest, incest and rape.... I can't say I am suprised. [8]
Fanfiction.net has all the rights in the world to do this. I'm sorry people are getting banned, but it is the right of the site. And I'm not surprised its come to this as well. Has anybody else seen the Harry Potter archive? I was just browsing and I think there'll be about 2 stories left after this ban. [9]
...it's not a bandwidth issue... it's an issue that they say they got complaints about NC-17 fics and they don't want to have to deal with having them on the site any longer. To even GET to the adult stuff, there's at least three controls that have to be passed through, a box to pull down to even see the listing of works higher than PG-13, then a pop up warning box, then then fic itself, which most responsible authors (especially in ER fandom, put their own warnings). There is also a "report abuse" button at the bottom of every story on ff.net and a story that's offensive can be removed. So if someone posts something that's just gibberish, they can take it down... or if someone posts something that's clearly child pornography, that too can be removed. All of that is outlined in the member rules. As for paying, yes, some of us did pay... there's a free membership and a paid one, the paid one comes with much better features, such as the ability to keep track of reviews, get alerts on reviews, turn off all the ads on the site and the like. [10]
Personally, while its not my cup of tea, its certainly your right to write it and post it on available baords. You even have the freedom fo making you own website and posting it there. Fanfiction.net is not charging you for the priveledge fo posting your stories there. They have every rigth to decide what they want on their website. No one seems willing to address the fact that each and everyone fo us is free to pay for our own bandwidth and post anything *we* want. Ye, I do think fanfiction.net would be better served by handling the nc-17 issue on a case by case basis but frankly that is unrealistic considering the sheer numbers of fics that are nc-17. Are you going to donate your time to help maintain the site by reading all these stories and deciding which are porn and which are nc-17? And why is your decision, or anyone else's, going to make the people excluded as writers of porn and not heart wrenching nc-17 any happier? And why does a private website have to post porn if they don't want to? Why is that censorship? You don't pay to post there. You are not stopped from posting your fic on your own website. This is not a free speech issue. Personally I don't think its a great move on fanfiction.net's part but I ask - is every website that has fic supposed to accept every peice of drivel out there or be accused of censorship? [11]
Frankly, I want nothing more to do with them. I feel that if "Best I Ever Had" (Carsan) "South of the Border" (Dave/Carter) and "Crossing Over" (ER/BTVS Crossover) aren't good enough for them then the other 82 (yes, *82*) shouldn't be either, and they really don't deserve "Fields of Greene" or whatever else I come up with... so I've pulled EVERYTHING of mine and refuse to support a site that doesn't support authors. I can see the music groups, that's a liability issue, and frankly a lawsuit waiting to happen. This, however, isn't. [12]
How about proposing an idea to solve the problem? you do realize that if everyone boycotts the sit, it will shut down and then no one will have free story archives? [13]
And so here's the thing: whether you're a fanfic reader or writer, or whether you're a reader or writer of ANY sort, you do get the freedom to decide for yourself what is and what is not in good taste, but what you don't get to do is to act upon judgements you make for yourself and no one else. Now, assuming ff.net was not created by, say, soulless accountants, I have to imagine that the maintainers of ff.net were just like us once upon a time, and that they created ff.net so that there would exist a forum for any such works that can be called "fanfic." Not fanfic for any particular series, not for any genre, but fanfic. When you give of yourself to provide a service to others, and especially when you profit from it - regardless of whether or not you are only using that money to simply pay the bills and not have any surplus at the end of the month - you take on certain

responsibilities both to those to whom you provide that service, and to yourself as well (so that you, in good conscience, may be able to sleep at night and look at yourself in the mirror in the morning). It cannot be in question that ff.net is/was a catch-all service that provided fanfic of every variety. That's the mandate, and I can't imagine anyone who says otherwise. And so when the providers of ff.net decide to suddenly break that tenet, they are breaking that responsibility they set for themselves, and in doing so they commit a grave disservice that almost certainly has consequences. Not in the legal sense, but in the sense that it is still unjust.

Bottom line: as a writer, I will have words with anyone who associates themselves strongly with writers but fails to match their convictions with their actions because it is inconvenient for them to follow through. I tolerate enough crap from those that find my writings flawed or distasteful, I have no room in my heart for hypocrisy. [14]

2012

In late May, 2012, Fanfiction.net admins suddenly started deleting stories (together with their reviews and comments) they considered too mature to be on the site. Reports in ffdotnetrants on LiveJournal and the fanfiction.net M-Rated Story Purge forum say that a "swear word" in the title or summary of a gen story was enough to get a story deleted without warning.[15]

On June 4, 2012, a notice was posted on the front page of FanFiction.net:

Please note we would like to clarify the content policy we have in place since 2002. FanFiction.Net follows the Fiction Rating system ranging from Fiction K to Fiction M. Although Fiction Ratings goes up to Fiction MA, FanFiction.Net since 2002 has not allowed Fiction MA rated content which can contain adult/explicit content on the site. FanFiction.Net only accepts content in the Fiction K through Fiction M range. Fiction M can contain adult language, themes and suggestions. Detailed descriptions of physical interaction of sexual or violent nature is considered Fiction MA and has not been allowed on the site since 2002. [16]

FanFiction.Net had removed much of the adult content (about 62,000 stories) on its site. FanFiction.Net apparently made this purge it changed a prior policy, now allowing writers under the age of eighteen to register.

created June 4, 2012 by alixe75; it shows the amounts and types of fiction removed: FanFiction.Net deleted 2,002 Naruto stories, 1,497 Twilight stories, 1,256 Harry Potter stories, 670 Glee stories, 364 Inuyasha stories, 364 Hetalia - Axis Powers stories, 282 Kingdom Hearts, 213 Pokémon stories, 143 Yu-Gi-Oh stories, 127 Dragon Ball Z stories, 110 Buffy stories, and 47 Doctor Who stories, plus others
From FanFiction.Net:
Please note we would like to clarify the content policy we have in place since 2002. FanFiction.Net follows the Fiction Rating system ranging from Fiction K to Fiction M. Although Fiction Ratings goes up to Fiction MA, FanFiction.Net since 2002 has not allowed Fiction MA rated content which can contain adult/explicit content on the site. FanFiction.Net only accepts content in the Fiction K through Fiction M range. Fiction M can contain adult language, themes and suggestions. Detailed descriptions of physical interaction of sexual or violent nature is considered Fiction MA and has not been allowed on the site since 2002. [17]

Some fans blamed a FanFiction.Net subgroup called Critics United for this purge. Fans in this subgroup made a concentrated effort to target fics they deemed inappropriate by leaving abusive comments in the stories' reviews. [18]

From a June 2012 story in the Huffington Post:
[t]hese unpaid authors are at the mercy of the sites willing to house their work and as such must adhere to the lines drawn in the very murky sand of copyright law. Some of these authors spent months writing and editing novel length works to then have them deleted entirely, as if they were something with no artistic or cultural worth; artefacts that either follow the rules or don't. [19]

Many fans moved their fanworks to other archives, citing both a lack of surprise regarding FFN's enforcement of its own rules, and a desire to archive elsewhere:

I think that's what finally killed me about fandom. That bullshit merited coverage by the Huffington Post, and all that happened was FF.net finally decided to deal with some reports and enforce their rules for a little while again. They've done this before. We did it at MediaMiner, when that site was actively moderated - reports would pile up in slack time, when all the mods were busy, and when we'd finally get a chance to look at them, some would take it as a "sudden attack" on their fics. No, it's not a "sudden attack" - you got away with breaking the rules for a while, but now, between some mods who have time on their hands and a group targeting shitty fics, they finally got caught. (For the record - my fics flagrantly disregarded the rules at FF.net, and for the last few years I had a notice up on my profile in boldface that said as much and that I was aware of it. I was never, ever, reported; I never, ever had U comment on any of my fics; I never, ever had FF.net staff remove them. I finally got sick of the site and took them down myself a few days ago, since I've decided to make my move to AO3 permanent.) [20]
This mass exodus of fans created an unexpected surge that was difficult for many archive's servers and volunteers to handle. Archive of Our Own was one of them. From an announcement at AO3:
...the biggest reason for the site slowdowns is that site usage has increased dramatically! We've almost doubled our traffic since January, and since the beginning of May the pace of expansion has accelerated rapidly. In the last month, more than 8,000 new user accounts were created, and more than 31,000 new works were posted. This is a massive increase: April saw just 4,000 new users and 19,000 new works. In addition to the growing number of registered users, we know we've had a LOT more people visiting the site: between 10 May and 9 June we had over 3,498.622 GB of traffic. In the past week, there were over 12.2 million page views - this number only includes the ones where the page loaded successfully, so it represents a lot of site usage! This sudden and dramatic expansion has come about largely as a result of changes on Fanfiction.net, who have recently introduced more stringent enforcement of their policies relating to explicit fanworks which have resulted in some fans no longer being able to host their works there. One of the primary reasons the AO3 was created was in order to provide a home for fanworks which were at risk of deletion elsewhere, so we're very keen to welcome these new users, but in the short term this does present us with some challenges! [21]

The 2012 Petition

A fan, Charlotte Weatherly, began a petition to make FanFiction.Net bring back NC-17 fiction:
Ever since it was opened, Fanfiction.NET had always been a place for avid fans-- of ANYTHING-- to feel at home. To express whatever is on our minds and truly let our love for characters, plotlines and scenarios shine through.

Now all of a sudden, FF.net has decided to go through a massive upheaval and remove thousands of stories from its library, some of the best fanfics ever written, gone, never to be read again. They are removing anything involving sexual situations, or violence, or inspired by a song, the list goes on. And we as readers see this as a gross waste of talent and incredible material.

Fanfiction.net has always been a place for us writers to 'Unleash our imagination' as the tagline states, and now we are having that right to freedom of speech and expression taken away from us. Since when are they allowed to dictate what goes into our stories? They are OUR pieces of work. What if the violence or sexual content is part of the plotline? This whole situation is absurd. There are better ways to deal with 'inappropriate' content than to remove it altogether. What about adult filters? Age restrictions? There are so many other options!!

So I'm asking please, for all us readers, writers, and fans alike... STOP THE DESTRUCTION OF FF.NET!!!! [22]

As of June 17, 2012, it had 31,000 signatures.

When the petition closed (date unknown), it had 44,346 signatures.

Fan Comments Regarding the 2012 Purge

Most fandoms have places to post stories as well, and bad reviews can be ignored and deleted. If FFNet gets too 'zealous' (or caves too much) they'll lose authors. I personally know half a dozen or more who've left over disputes, and mine was a very small fandom. [23]
It seem more logical for them to enforce their rules than not. Then adult stuff can more to sites that allow adult material. [24]
It seem more logical for them to enforce their rules than not. Then adult stuff can more to sites that allow adult material.

I actually disagree. Fanfiction.net is supported by ad revenue, and crazy X-rated fics draw the biggest audiences and therefore the most impressions. (The fic which spawned Fifty Shades of Fanwank, anyone?)

It's not in their financial interest to remove X-rated fics, even at the pressure of what appears to be a group of teens with nothing better to do. The rule is only there, as far as I know, so that in case a source author *does* come down and say, "Hey, that stuff has to go," they can point to their TOS when they take it down and go, "You weren't supposed to post this. Buh-bye."

So I'm wondering what has actually sparked this crackdown. [25]
It's nothing new; they've done it before, driving writers to use their own off-site blogs. As to the "why," look to 50 Shades of Grey and those reposting it (or MotU) in multiple fandoms as a form of "irony." There's already an "adult" ffn in existence, so having the fics there isn't vital to the site's success. [26]
But just that it's a lot of effort on their part to do something that ultimately isn't in their best interest, and I would think to expend that effort, it'd be caused by something more than just some folks with nothing better to do than leave nasty notes. So I'd be more likely to believe a backlash spawning from something like 50 than this Critics United thing. [27]
FWIW, there are plenty of alternatives to fanfiction.net - there is a lot of material there which I disagree with - and the way in which some disputes are handled seems overly confrontational. Like I really need to go somewhere where I know there will be drama... [28]
I was flabbergasted when I saw this - I cannot believe so much valuable work is being trashed because it doesn't fit parameters that have not been strictly enforced since they were put into action. I have been a patron of FF.net going on eight years now and have read all types of fiction. The work on this site (the work that is being threatened) is what inspired and encouraged me to start writing myself. Some of the best writing I have ever had the pleasure of reading I've read here. Some of which would be trashed due to this rash enforcement.

What is the point of a ratings system if anything disagreeable is automatically purged? Most other sites have age restrictions, I do not see how that is a more difficult task to implement than these new "Image Managers" which quite frankly I think is pointless. I much rather no images on this site for literature and a free range of story content than a little image of the author next to a bland PG story title. How can you have Books, TV shows, Movies, etc that have sexual or violent themes, or course language on this site yet expect the stories created on here to not reflect and stay true to the core of that story and it's characters? It is preposterous. This feels like someone catching a teenager drinking underage and then enacting prohibition on the whole town as a "reasonable" measure.

The though of all those labored over works squandered suddenly TEN YEARS after there being no issue - I am truly disheartened, and I hope either a different course of action is taken or I wish ff.net and its future users (all within the PG reading range) the best as I sadly look for a site where one can truly "unleash their imagination". [29]

Further Reading/Meta

References

  1. FanFiction.net - leashing your imagination and deleting your NC-17 fics at alt.fan.dragonball
  2. "Some authors are already moving their NC-17 and R fic to http://www.fandomination.net/" -- Completely OT but anyway: fanfiction.net, comment at alt.tv.smallville, September 12, 2002
  3. Fanfiction.Net NC-17 Ban in 2002, originally posted by Xing Li at FanFiction.Net on September 12, 2002, archived by Kelviniana on April 24, 2012, Archived version
  4. Reverse the NC-17 Ruling on Fanfiction.net! Petition, Archived version
  5. NC-17 Petition (Was: Re: Join the protest of fanfiction.net), post at alt.tv.er.creative
  6. Reverse the NC-17 Ruling on Fanfiction.net! - Signatures, Archived version
  7. Completely OT but anyway: fanfiction.net, comment at alt.tv.smallville, September 12, 2002
  8. NC-17 Petition (Was: Re: Join the protest of fanfiction.net); archive link, post at alt.tv.er.creative, September 13, 2002
  9. NC-17 Petition (Was: Re: Join the protest of fanfiction.net); archive link, post at alt.tv.er.creative, September 13, 2002
  10. NC-17 Petition (Was: Re: Join the protest of fanfiction.net); archive link, post at alt.tv.er.creative, September 13, 2002
  11. NC-17 Petition (Was: Re: Join the protest of fanfiction.net); archive link, post at alt.tv.er.creative, September 13, 2002
  12. NC-17 Petition (Was: Re: Join the protest of fanfiction.net); archive link, post at alt.tv.er.creative, September 13, 2002
  13. NC-17 Petition (Was: Re: Join the protest of fanfiction.net); archive link, post at alt.tv.er.creative, September 13, 2002
  14. fanfiction.net removing NC-17 fics; archive link, post by Roehl Sybing at rec.arts.anime.fandom, September 13, 2002
  15. Experiences with Purging personal reports of stories being removed due to certain words, ffdotnetrants additional reports], accessed 2012-06-02
  16. FanFiction.net home page accessed 2012-6-4
  17. from FanFiction.Net
  18. "It's been suggested that part of the reason behind the purge were the mass-reports coming from a trollish community on FanFiction that felt they have the right to judge which stories do and do not belong on the site." -- A new group to be on the lookout for..., comment by jessioriginal on June 8, 2012
  19. The Book Burning That Wasn't: Thousands of Works of Fiction Destroyed and No One Pays Attention, by Hannah Ellison, June 14, 2012
  20. Have I Come Full-Circle?, comment by hihartnfics, June 14, 2012
  21. Update on AO3 performance issues, June 11, 2012
  22. Petitioning Fanfiction.net: STOP the destruction of Fanfiction.net!, Archived version
  23. shadowwalker at WARNING: fanfiction.net reportedly purging all "explicit" fics [Archive - Absolute Write Water Cooler], Archived version (June 5, 2012)
  24. veinglory at WARNING: fanfiction.net reportedly purging all "explicit" fics [Archive - Absolute Write Water Cooler], Archived version (June 5, 2012)
  25. JSSchley at WARNING: fanfiction.net reportedly purging all "explicit" fics [Archive - Absolute Write Water Cooler], Archived version (June 5, 2012)
  26. Cyia at WARNING: fanfiction.net reportedly purging all "explicit" fics [Archive - Absolute Write Water Cooler], Archived version (June 5, 2012)
  27. JSSchley at WARNING: fanfiction.net reportedly purging all "explicit" fics [Archive - Absolute Write Water Cooler], Archived version (June 5, 2012)
  28. BigWords at WARNING: fanfiction.net reportedly purging all "explicit" fics [Archive - Absolute Write Water Cooler], Archived version (June 5, 2012)
  29. comment by Kay Be at Petitioning Fanfiction.net: STOP the destruction of Fanfiction.net!, Archived version