livejournal censorship/suspension fiasco

just something that i feel like i should blog about to bring it to the attention that people who might not have heard about it…

there has been a recent fiasco going on over at livejournal. as near as i can tell this is the rough chronology of events:

a site calling themselves “warriors for innocence” — basically, extreme fundamentalists — started writing letters to livejournal to protest journals and communities that they don’t like and asking for them to be deleted.

livejournal responded to these complaints by telling the fundamentalists that just because something is distasteful, that doesn’t make it illegal. a quote (source: livejournal – pedophile sympathizers):

While the material is distasteful, we cannot take any action. The content falls within the realm of material protected by free speech. LiveJournal attempts to preserve as much free speech as possible for its users, as long as that speech does not cross the line into invading another’s privacy, violating local or federal law, or directly inciting violence or hatred against any specific, identifiable group regardless of whether that group is explicitly named in our Terms of Service. The content of this journal does not meet that criteria at this time.

We understand that many individuals are upset about this matter and we understand that even if individuals can understand the reasoning behind our policies, it is difficult to accept emotionally. We apologize that we are unable to assist you further. We strongly suggest, with the greatest respect, that you should avoid reading the community if you are offended by the premise or contents of the journal.

so livejournal is doing the right thing, right?

the fundamentalists realise that their attack isn’t working and change tactics. they take screenshots of various “distasteful” journals and communities displaying advertisements. they then lobby the advertising companies to threaten to withdraw their ads (source: open letter to six apart, the owners of livejournal).

now money is involved. at this point, the scales seemed to tip and livejournal starts deleting communities and journals that are not illegal and not in violation of livejournal’s terms of service — but merely distasteful.

shitstorm ensues. obviously people are going to be annoyed — and rightfully so. there are communities (of which the appropriately named innocence_jihad appears to be one of the larger ones) dedicated to the protest of livejournal’s actions. supposedly the electronic frontier foundation has become involved.

livejournal starts back-peddling. they have restored a bunch of the suspended journals (while leaving suspended some of the ones that were probably illegal in the first place). the chairman and ceo of six apart (who own livejournal) has issued public apologies on the livejournal news page (permalinks: 1, 2, 3).

livejournal maintains that although their actions were in response to outside pressures, ultimately their actions were their own fault.

We recently received a complaint from outside the community about a number of journals. When we receive such complaints it is our obligation to look into them but it is our standards not theirs that we use to make decisions about the complaints. The source of this complaint was not the source of the problem we created.

i’m not sure how i feel about livejournal at this point. they seem to realise how big of a mistake they made and for that they need to be given credit. i have no real strong opinions here. again — this blog post is only to serve to draw attention to interesting happenings that might otherwise be overlooked.

One Comment

  1. Carl-Christian Salvesen
    Posted June 3, 2007 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this great summary. The issue of free speech vs PC in the US is very interesting. There is a fine line between morale and censorship which seems, for me as an European, to be broken all the time. So much for “freedom” :P