Tripod Massacre

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Event
Event: Tripod Massacre
Participants:
Date(s): March 2001
Type:
Fandom: multifandom
URL:
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In March 2001, ISP Tripod purged many fan sites, along with anti-Malaysian government sites.

Read more: Massacre at Tripod; WebCite [1]

Similar Occurrences

For other incidents in which platforms used by fan communities have cracked down on fanworks, discussion by fans, and fansites with "inappropriate" content, see:

For a more general related topic, see List of Content Banned by Archives.

Sites Set Up by Fans in Reaction

Fan Comments

2001

One has to admire the way the Internet makes it possible for people to thwart/blunt the effect of something like Tripod's Purge, and to do so with speed and, dare I say, cunning. [2]
Having said all of that, I am nevertheless concerned about seeing calls to alert the media to the Tripod Massacre. I can't help feeling like the last thing that needs to be done is something that might call the attention of all those copyright-holding conglomerates to the fact that ... their copyright is being violated. [3]
I am, of course, extremely distressed at the news that Tripod, striking in the dead of night and doing so with absolutely no warning, has removed several fanfiction sites of both the gen and slash variety. Now, before anyone says, "but you know the ToS do state ...," yes, I am perfectly aware that the terms of service state that a site can be pulled at any time by the company if it has been determined that the site, in some way, violates the other terms of service. Despite that caveat, there are two things that trouble me with regard to this insufferable bit of spring cleaning:

First and foremost -- whatever happened to common fucking courtesy? Simply because one has carte blanche to do something doesn't mean one always has to exercise it. Tripod is, itself, one big, giant website, so its PTB know the kind of work that goes into setting up a web site, they know the kind of time it takes. And I dare say they understand what kind of work it can take to rebuild a site from scratch if, for some reason, the site was essentially destroyed. I would wager -- not with money, mind you, but I would wager -- that the amount of time it took to dismantle each of the websites at issue was more than the what, 30 seconds it would have taken to dash off an e-mail stating, "Your site will be taken down within the next 24 hours for violating the Tripod Terms of Service." At the very least a heads-up, however minimal, might have given people the chance to try and pull together what they'd need to to be able to move their stories, etc., somewhere else.

Secondly -- and this is probably just me being paranoid -- but the fact that fanfiction sites are the ones that appear to have been targeted makes me wonder if there isn't some concern at work with regard to copyright issues. Given the specificity with which sites were removed, it would seem to suggest some kind of review process did take place before the decision was made. And because both gen and slash sites were hit, that makes it a little harder -- for me, at least -- to just assume that mere prudishness was at work. But we'll never know for sure, since it's unlikely that Tripod, if asked, would provide any kind of explanation. [4]
I'm feeling the same ambiguity that most of us are, I suppose. Yes, I know fan fiction infringes on copyright. I know we have basically no legal leg to stand on. But I also know that fan fiction doesn't hurt these shows. I can promise that the only reason I watched "The Sentinel" was because of the fanfic. Same reason I got into Sports Night. Same reason I'm reluctantly being sucked into Farscape. Fan fiction also fuels my obsessions. Fanfic was a major reason I went to the first LFN convention, and it's the major reason I'm attending the fourth one in May. And can I point out that I bought official LFN merchandise at those conventions? That I own the official Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack?

And maybe this is naive, but it seems like we ought to get just the tiniest bit of credit. We're putting time, effort, and love into these sites and these stories. 90 times out of 100, we're treating the show with more respect and care than those who are professionally involved with the show. And we're not making any freaking money. As a matter of fact, we're often spending money. Ask the wonderful archivists across a hundred fandoms how much money it costs them to maintain their sites.

And then, of course, there's the way that Tripod went about this. Nothing like being spit at by a major conglomerate to remind you of how unimportant you are to the world. Luckily, the fannish community is coming together, like it so often does. People offering space and help to those who got TOSsed. That's a nice thing to see. [5]
Well, it was the Night of the Long Knives on Tripod, and the bodies are still falling...Lots and lots of folks are left homeless, temporarily at least, and my heart goes out to them. I'm completely furious with Tripod, of course, for the way they went about this, and cravenly relieved that I moved away last year to mrks. And I have such mixed feelings about the larger implications: deep uneasiness at being reminded of how vulnerable all of us are in our on-line lives to the small group of corporate greedhead types who hold the power to flip the switches and push the buttons; and yet I'm also heartened by the enormous chaotic multifariousness of the Net, its hydra-headed resilience in the face of attempts at control. [6]
I'd heard about Tripod abruptly TOSsing fan sites before I went to bed last night. I love how quickly the fan community came together to say, "This is what's happening," and how fast people started offering webspace. I was concerned that no one seemed to have an idea of what to do about Tripod and voice our displeasure. Well, people have started offering help sites: The Great Tripod Massacre from Fanfiction Defense has suggestions for investigative journalists who might want to ask questions about this incident, Halrloprillalar has set up TOSsed and Found, which will shortly have a directory of places people have moved their former Tripod sites to, and Just Say No to Tripod! has some action you can take to protest Tripod's action. Some people have pointed out that Tripod's actions was within the bounds of its Terms of Service. In response, I will admit that this is true. Lycos basically says they can TOSs anyone whose site offends anyone else or they feel violates their community values. However, there is a right and wrong way to go about suddenly uprooting hundreds of users. The right way is to let people know action is coming. The right way is to move slowly on the issue. The right way is not to antagonize the people who look at your various sites, thereby giving you some of the highest traffic counts on the internet. The only Lycos services I have used have been Hotbot, Tripod, and Lycos, and I shan't return to any of those anymore. [7]
Hundreds, possibly even thousands of Tripod and Angelfire members logged on to their sites over the weekend to discover something rather disturbing. Their sites were gone, removed without any prior warning during a mass Terms of Service enforcement gone very awry.

Tripod and Angelfire are the two free-host providers owned and operated by portal site, Lycos. Speaking to Associated Press, company spokeswoman Dorianna Almann said that the company regularly closes sites that contain prohibited material, such as threats to minors, stalking, and racially or ethnically offensive material. Unfortunately, during the latest purge the system seemed to malfunction. "We were in the process of removing sites that were in clear violation of our terms of service," said Almann. "Inadvertently, there were other sites which were also removed and should not have been."

According to a notice on Just Say No To Tripod, a site brought online to protest the wave of deletions, most of those sites were in fact restored today again. Apparently, the purge was caused by a script that was in fact looking for fan sites, but unfortunately had a bug in it "and accidentally deleted a lot of sites it had not meant to delete." A similar script was apparently being used for member pages of the NBCI service.

The three-day incident was termed the 'Tripod Massacre' by segments of the affected fan communities, and, in many ways, it certainly resembles a massacre - even if only by accident. Any site, it seemed, be they repositories of Star Trek fan fiction or dedicated to the local football team, were fair game for closure. Just Say No To Tripod! listed almost 200 deleted sites, ranging from the acclaimed 'You Can't Do That on Star Trek' site (which hosted manipulated images) to fan fiction and review site 'Monkee's Place'.

And Star Trek was by no means the only affected fandom, as fan communities dealing with franchises from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and 'The Crow' to 'Harry Potter' and 'Westlife' were been hit. Even sites that had very few or even no ties at all to fandom have been hit, including many that did not seem to contain any objectionable material at all - web sites dedicated to the cuteness of sheep as well as a publicity site for a convention were purged. The list of those affected was endless, including Malaysian opposition parties, charities, and official actors' sites.

The result of these purges was a massive protest campaign, that included the establishment of sites such as 'Just Say No To Tripod!', as well as articles on sites such as Salon.com. Conspiracy theories raged, with some suspecting the sites had been shut down due to financial problems at Lycos, or perhaps at the request of the copyright holders of major movie franchises. Many webmasters were also hit especially hard by the purges because they did not have any back-ups of their site.

Webmistress Lori was one of the few who had complete copies of their sites backed up on disk or hard drive. "I never expected the internet to be a permanent medium," she said, before word came out that the Tripod sites were being restored. "It's made of computers and anyone who owns one can tell you they're not permanent! What worries me is why this shotgun method was used, and why users weren't warned and given the chance to move or alter their site, or contest removal because they really weren't violating TOS by mentioning they liked a television series in their list of hobbies."

With sites now being restored, the purge seems to have been the result of a simple technical glitch, and it speaks for the company that it has been so quick in restoring sites. Still, after this, two lessons will likely have been learnt - one by webmasters, to make more frequent back-ups of their content, and one by internet companies like Tripod, that it is very hard to target internet fandom without being immediately targeted in return by that same fandom. [8]

From a 2001 Discussion at Prospect-L

Fans on Prospect-L discussed this event as it was happening mid-March 2001. Some fans said the error pages and deletion of sites was a technical error, and this would be corrected soon. Some fans berated other fans for expecting tech support for their sites on a weekend, as well as having expectations of having any support at all for a "free site." When one fan told antoher to contact the company and ask for help, the fan said there was no way they were going to draw attention to their slash site. Other fans scolded other fans for making a fuss and bringing visibility to fan site.

Some excerpts are quoted anonymously below.

And if one was paying for Tripod sites, then the same standards would apply to them as well. Since Tripod is providing a free service, I think it's a unreasonable to expect as instantaneous service as one would expect from someone to whom one is paying money for the service. My opinion - if you're not happy with the free service you get, then find another free service or actually pay so you have the right to complain. Anything else is whining because the gift cake doesn't have enough frosting on it.
Services like Tripod, Yahoo, etc, are not "free" -- they may not charge money directly to its users, but they are for-profit enterprises, and they raise revenue by selling advertising space. Keeping their non-paying users happy is their job, because, if the non-paying users are unhappy, they don't use their service, and if they don't use their service, the number of people who see the ads on these sites go down, thus making their sponsors, who pay money for the priviledge of putting up ads on these sites, unhappy. See?
One caveat -- all those other things you presumably *pay* for -- Tripod is a free service. As people have been saying, you get what you pay for.

I knew the first time I uploaded some high quality Jim'n'Blair rumpy-pumpy to my free site on a corporate server that I was in violation of SOMEthing, surfer on the fringes of all that is Right, Good, Decent and Moral<r> that I am.

So when I come home to find my site of several months or years gone with the cyberwind and a TOS violation note in its place, what do Tripod and I have to discuss? They said 'these are the terms of service,' when I joined; I said, 'ok,' and violated them with a whole and happy heart to the tune of hundreds of hits per month and they finally got around to deleting me.

As has been pointed out any number of times, outrage at being deleted for violating TOS when that's exactly what you've been doing is a little problematic, if not downright whiny.

Why would I, as an arrant TOS raptor, call or E-mail and say "DUDES! I've been violating your TOS for YEARS! What gives?"

Am I naive for figuring Tripod knows what it's doing? Am I to assume that because my TOS violating site went :poof: there's a technical glitch? That's a different brand of paranoia, to my mind.

So my site is gone, and I'm too grown up to cry to the server that was, strictly speaking within its rights to delete me, BUT...I'm still a consumer. My site was up for ages. I have thousands of hits on my hit counter, and every pair of those eyes passed over Tripod's little banner ads. If there's revenue to be had from that, they've had it. My horrid, awful content made them money for however long it was up, and suddenly it's not good enough for them.

Then I find out I'm not alone. It's lots of my fellow outlaws, and even the gentler gen-folk, who go to some lengths not to offend anyone. While I question the merits of getting the media involved, when there appears to be a preponderance of evidence that support copyright violating sites of all descriptions have been razed with no warning, I see nothing wrong with a proposed boycott of the service that did it.
So you're seriously saying it's more likely that Tripod wiped half of its sites - which below you argue made them tons of money - on a whim, suddenly, taking no credit for this vast sweeping copyright-protecting, family-values-supporting initiative...quietly, like thieves in the night, out of *sheer evil*.... Than that they had a programming bug and didn't know it till they came back from the weekend. I'd hate to live in your world.

I don't know what's worse: deciding on flimsy, circumstantial evidence that a company that's served you well for many years by your own admission and provided you with a forum to display your work and fannishness has *betrayed* you, or ignoring all the evidence to the contrary in order to promote a paranoid, unsubstantiated theory.

Fifty people, most of whom were probably home for the weekend and had no idea that there was a problem, come to work Monday morning and find chaos. They determine the problem, they try to fix the problem, they tell people who call and ask that there is a problem and apologize for it, they say they're fixing the problem as quickly as they can.

You're right. Let's hang them.
People jumped to the immediate conclusion that this was about ToS. And when some of us said to wait and went on at length about the different things that could have happened, trying to explain that there were many, many more sites missing that had nothing to do with fandom or copyright, we were pretty much blown off.

The pages were *missing*; that's all. Add to that the fact that a huge freaking number of non-fandom pages were also missing, and what you have is evidence for a server problem, not a directed attack on copyright infringement.

Of course, now that people have written to Tripod and yelled at them for removing pages that actually *did* violate their ToS, I'm wondering if they won't remove them on purpose. At least when we were all keeping quiet, we had a whole lot of plausible deniability on our side.
Some people have posted on various lists that they -did- receive a TOS notice. They were also told that they were no longer Tripod members. >
Fan sites were being dropped left, right and centre so I guess a little paranoia ensued. Understandable. People may have jumped the gun but if I were a web mistress I'd be piss eyed angry. Perhaps that's just human nature. I, myself, felt that there might be just a "glitch" right from the start. But then I don't have a web page and didn't see all my hard work go up in smoke. (I learned the hard way many moons ago that backing up your system every day is the way to go.)

Meta/Further Reading

References

  1. Salon.com, March 20, 2001
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. [3]
  5. [4]; [5]
  6. [6]; [7]
  7. [8]; [9].
  8. Fanfic Sites Wiped Out In Tripod Purge, Amy, March 20, 2001