What Everyone Should Know About Fanfiction.net

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Title: What Everyone Should Know About Fanfiction.net
Creator: Fanfiction.net Liberation Front (FLF) staff
Date(s): 2001
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic: Fanfiction.net, perceived censorship, Cassandra Claire
External Links: here; WebCite
reposted at a FanFiction.Net forum in 2012; WebCite
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

What Everyone Should Know About Fanfiction.net is an essay by the staff of Fanfiction.net Liberation Front.

"The purpose of this message is to inform you, members of the fanfiction community and previous users of fanfiction.net, of what goes on in the staff of fanfiction.net. We have been compiling information for months on how fanfiction.net treats is users, its staff, and the privacy of its members.

As a user of fanfiction.net, you have a right to know how your account is treated and what values your stories are inadvertently sponsoring."

Excerpts

Xing and Steven Savage are the two most identifiable leaders of the ff.net staff. They appear to have integrity as they use their real names and geographic locations. However, they lack one crucial thing: managerial talent.

As fanfiction.net grew larger, Xing had to delegate responsibility to other staff members. Some of these staff members have not yet graduated from high school. Legally they are not adults, and yet they have control over many aspects of fanfiction.net, like what gets posted, what fics get deleted, and who gets banned from fanfiction.net. The criteria for becoming a member of the fanfiction.net staff are unknown, but we understand that Xing does not know many members of his staff personally. He has not interviewed them over the phone; he has not met them in person. Essentially, he has no idea who they really are.

These younger staff members cannot vote or drink in the United States. But they have access to personal account information on fanfiction.net such as passwords and ISP numbers. As members of the FLF, we find this extremely frightening, and so should you. In January 2001, Michela Ecks, a former member of the ff.net staff and founder of Writers University, posted a seven-page manifesto on every message board in the fanfiction.net site. She gave a detailed account of how she had been lied to by members of the staff, namely Steven Savage, and how she had endured abuse at the hands of the staff.
Some might object to this by saying that fanfiction.net is not a business. It is a profit-free organization dedicated to helping you unleash your imagination and free your soul. This might have been true last year, but this year it's a whole new monster. Fanfiction.net offers support services that members must pay for. Xing must pay taxes on it. It is officially considered a business.
We at the FLF understand that fanfiction.net is a privately owned website. However, we believe that users and members of ff.net are deserving of respect. We believe that our passwords and ISP numbers should only be available to Xing. We believe that banned members deserve better explanations for their severance from ff.net.

Banning happens more frequently than the average member of fanfiction.net might believe. In June, a writer named Cassandra Claire was kicked off for allegations of plagiarism. The circumstances surrounding this incident were not clear, but many Claire fans declared that Claire did not really plagiarize, that she forgot to cite, that it was an accident. Members of the FLF had problems with the banning because we felt it was hypocritical; fanfiction.net is a site dedicated to copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and the violation of creative property rights. To ban someone for the crime of plagiarism seems downright contradictory. In addition, fanfiction.net allowed Claire's rights to be violated. They widely advertised that she was a plagiarist when the only way to delcare someone guilty of that is in a court of law.

Others contended that Claire was banned on trumped up charges of plagiarism because the staff was jealous of her writing (she did have a phenomenally large fan base). While the FLF takes this rumor with a grain of salt, we do wonder about it . . .
We want to restore fanfiction.net to its previous state: a caring, private environment. In addition, we want to see your privacy rights protected. We want a more coherent terms of service agreement. We want to know exactly why people are banned, and why certain topics can't be talked about. That's all. We're here to protect you, to make fanfiction.net your community. Fanfiction.net belongs to Xing, true, but it wouldn't be anything without its users.
Right now we're also trying to find out more about the problems at fanfiction.net. Members of the fanfiction.net administration were deliberately oblique when we asked them about rumors of a corporate takeover. If fanfiction.net does fold, we're going to try to help people get their fics back. We're going to try to help people who signed up for support services get a refund.

Being banned from an online community is a painful thing no one should have to go through without good reason. If you ever run into problems with a fanfiction.net administrator, we'll be there for you. We'll advocate on your behalf. We're YOUR counsel, your representative. Large online businesses like fanfiction.net need a support system, someone to lobby for each individual member. That's us.

If you want to help us in our mission, the best thing you can do is question everything. Question us, question fanfiction.net... Right now, the FLF is looking into other venues of publishing fanfiction on the internet. We're looking into creating alternate sites for writers, and we're doing this because we love writing and we love reading other people's fanfiction. We're here for you, your home away from fanfiction.net. We'd never ask you to do anything you don't want to do.

Fan Comments: 2012

I didn't mean to exagerate how old it was. It is true this was around the time when NC-17 fics and paid services were on the site which all the wiki's say is 2001. Even though it dates back to twelve years the way Xing and his fellow staff run the site are things I didn't know about. It is some insight on the staff hidden and forgotten about years later when no one barely hears from that staff anymore. The staff basically operate like ghosts, especially concerning abuses. The staff's policy on kicking anyone out of this site(this is in the TOS too), for any reason(such as badtalking them on another site) really explains a lot.

And the basic handling of this site in general by this staff is concerning. I don't see any indication Xing and the rest of the staff had a serious change in their management policies. Based on their MIA status, disregard for abuse reports(from everyone), mishaps with M vs MA rated stories/deletion, and the TOS; I'd say the opposite. So this means Xing still hires staff under 18(whom he has not interviewed or met in person), some who have in the past been unhappy and unstable with access to sensitive account information. And the rest, whom Xing essentially doesn't know who they really are, still have access to sensitive account information.

The staff have acted dubious with their reasons for banning people which not contradict the TOS(flame bait and multiple accounts are not anywhere in the TOS) but violate rights and practice hypocrisy. Such as violating Cassandra Clair's rights. Her friends/fanbase claim she forgot to cite, she was banned for plagiarism. FFN didn't stop there. They advertised she was a plagiarist even though only a court of law can determine that.

The TOS itself was written by a college student, Michela Ecks, not a lawyer. There are were no professional legal jargon/proceedure here, so the next question is: how much of the TOS does FFN uphold? More specifically concerning our personal information? There are staff under 18 whose identity is basically a mystery. There have been abuse and double standards(one of their staff members didn't represent FFN in a good light in all her online dealings but wasn't called on it). FFN misinterprets itself for corporate sponsorship(Amazon's values contradict the purpose of FFN).

This is all old but has Xing changed out his management policies since this article? Are there any ad's by Amazon or did they change their policy? I didn't intend to stumble on this article but the content disturbed me. I want to know what happened of this behind the scenes issue. Does anyone have any examples of story deletions and issues with how the staff handled it? Or any related issues? I'm curious. [1]
The entire article is based around how these things are wrong because a site which offers paid services is a business.

This site no longer offers paid services.

The staff's policy on kicking anyone out of this site(this is in the TOS too), for any reason(such as badtalking them on another site) really explains a lot.

Um, what? Suppose you ran a website. Suppose there was someone on your site who made a point of badmouthing you and your site on every other site they posted on.

You'd cheerfully continue to let them post on your site, would you?

I wouldn't. What's more, I don't think I've ever seen any amateur fansite where the TOS didn't say that the owner reserves the right to deny access to anyone he wants. Or one where the TOS was written by a lawyer. Or one which operated an "adult fans only" policy as far as help with the site went.

This site is not a public service. It's a private site owned by one person, who has kindly allowed you and me to post here.

she forgot to cite

Citing applies to academic work, not fanfiction. You cannot just "cite" someone else's story in your own and that makes it all OK.

There is no "sensitive account information." There's a username you made up and a password you made up. If these are "sensitive", pick your account name and password more appropriately.

Seriously, if you don't like the site, leave. You've been a member for four days - it's not like you have much invested here. The article you posted mentions that the people whining about this site were in the process of setting one up. They've had twelve years to do so, so it should be well established by now. [2]
I think the validity of that article is kind of tempered by, among other things, their defence of Cassandra Claire. She didn't "forget to cite" and she wasn't run out by "jealous" people. Her fics consisted almost wholly of entire verbatim passages ripped out of dozens of published copyrighted works. She ripped off everything from relatively obscure fantasy novels to Buffy to Blackadder to freaking Malcolm in the Middle. Sorry. Pet peeve: "Cassie isn't a plagiarist! You're just jealous!!!!!" [3]
I'll just say this, any editorialized article I happen read, I always consider the source of the material. Are they trustworthy and unbiased? Are their facts and statistics sound? Where do their facts and statistics come from? Then, if intrigued, I'll do my own research. I never trust any "information" based on someone else's say so without investigating it myself. Aside from that, I feel compelled to wonder what exactly is the motivation behind posting such an old "article" in the first place. [4]
At this late date (2013), is it really "newsworthy" to be told that the admins of big websites such as FanFiction always have the power to find out what e-mail address you used to register your account as a contributor to that site, and what ISP you normally use when visiting, and that they can delete anything you posted if they, for any reason, feel their site would be better off without it, and also they can also delete your entire account if they, for any reason, decide the site would be better off without you?

I've been taking all of the above for granted for a long, long time! Not just here on FF, but also on several other websites where I sometimes participate in online forums and so forth.

Heck, within the last couple of years, I've twice had some of my favorite sets of forums get permanently deleted by the admins of the sites which had previously hosted those forums! I still miss those forums, but life goes on! [5]
Your IP isn't personal? It doesn't contain any personal information at all like a vague idea of your location? Sites don't sometimes warn you when your IP is public? You would be ok if your IP was public? Or your email(like what happened when Ecks had a fall out with the other mods). Emails are personal, some contain personal info and phishing happens. This isn't scaremongering. Anyone can be behind this site, making it more malicious for you regarding your personal info/computer.

Ecks, former staff, is Hale. This is what Hale did:

On her wiki, Laura and her staff would occasionally connect someone's legal and fannish name if they felt that the link was obvious enough already. Unfortunately, Hale's definition of "obvious enough" included things like giving out a legal name in a friends-locked post to people the fan trusted to keep it private; in Hale's estimation, that action made that information effectively public knowledge. Many people believed Hale's post was self-serving and interpreted its subtext as "It is never the fault of the person who outs; the fault lies with the person who trusted people to respect their privacy and wishes."

Michaela Ecks/Laura Hale (she is public about all these names) made a post on fanthropology about "How to maintain fandom privacy." (I'd link to it, but it's gone now.) [6] It was a list of 15 things like "always assume anything you post online may become public" and "never give out your real name, even in locked posts" and "do not join social networking sites, message boards, or public fanfic archives." She also either changed fanhistory's policies, or reminded people that they existed--and these were there standards for respecting people's privacy: if the information can be found online, it's okay to make it easily googled.

Someone like that ran FFN. So since if Ecks/Hale was still a staff today, according to her since ever user here gave her their emails/IPs when they signed up it's okay for her to make that easily googled. It's not like FFN has a privacy statement or there are any minors who could suffer. [7]
Looking back, I see I allowed myself to get sucked into a debate of something I wasn't even trying to debate. Now, of course, I am skeptical of any editorial article disguised as fact, especially from an obviously biased source, as any responsible person should be, in my opinion. Facts can be manipulated, skewed or omitted entirely to perpetuate the editorial writer's point of view. That is no big secret and happens often. I never asked for proof of what was in the article was true. I only questioned the validity of the source, as I would question any source of biased information, whether it's political or on this site. However, my initial dismantling of the original posters argument was based on the misinformation touted about how IP addresses and internet advertising work, which I backed up by fact. It also had to do with the misguided notion of what a background can actually detect or predict. Those were the issues I addressed repeatedly to the OP, not whether or not the information in the original post was true or not. [8]
As I tried to make clear at the time: My only real "problem" with her alleged facts was that I found them to be lacking importance and relevance from the viewpoint of "a modern member of the site, trying to decide whether or not it is time to leave." I got the vague feeling that the original poster wanted such readers, here and now in the year 2013, to drop this site like a hot potato. In an attempt to be helpful, I tried to suggest that somebody's gripes from 12 years ago have precious little impact on other people's decision-making here and now, and that the whole concept of "from time to time, someone in an administrative position on this website might conceivably abuse their authority in ways that will make you unhappy if you are on the receiving end of such abuses" does not qualify as a shockingly unprecedented statement which will cause the average reader to gasp in horror at this novel idea, and then to look at the entire FanFiction.net phenomenon in a whole new light! [9]
Purplepopple claims Cassie and someone named Heidi weren't connected to the issue. She claims the FLF saw Cassie's meltdown and used it as an opportunity. She says the article is grudging against Steven Savage and her. And claims the general purpose was to cause trouble. But purplepopple aka Michela/Laura's word isn't too reliable based on her reputation and her biasedness. But yet calling out Cassie on plagiarism was unbiased (Cassie seems guilty based on all I read about her, including having fans donate her things and bullying in the HP fandom). Ecks says their general purpose was to cause trouble yet she doesn't really dispute everything said in the Tripod article (not even the bad things about her or Meimi). She even affirmed she had personality conflicts with Steven Savage and Xing wasn't an effective manager. [10]

References

  1. Forums  Writers Anonymous  General: Mystery behind the MIA admin; WebCite, comment by Fanfiction.netWAbuse132839
  2. Forums  Writers Anonymous  General: Mystery behind the MIA admin; WebCite, comment by cathrl
  3. Forums  Writers Anonymous  General: Mystery behind the MIA admin; WebCite, comment by Edhla
  4. Forums  Writers Anonymous  General: Mystery behind the MIA admin; WebCite, comment by LMRaven
  5. Forums  Writers Anonymous  General: Mystery behind the MIA admin; WebCite, comment by Lorendiac
  6. [ See: Laura Hale (fan)/"How not to appear on Fan History"
  7. Forums  Writers Anonymous  General: Mystery behind the MIA admin; WebCite, comment by Fanfiction.netWAbuse132839
  8. Forums  Writers Anonymous  General: Mystery behind the MIA admin; WebCite, comment by LMRaven
  9. Forums  Writers Anonymous  General: Mystery behind the MIA admin; WebCite, comment by Lorendiac
  10. JournalFen: /2663.html?thread=331111#t331111