To Whom It May Concern:
I have been on Livejournal since 2001. Like much of fandom, I drifted in when the community began putting down roots in the blogosphere. I have been here for a long time. Such a long time, in fact, that I was delighted to add my username to the notification list when LJ announced it would be selling Permanent Accounts again.
I've been a Paid User for several years now. And while I understand that you are a business, and that you have to protect your business interests first, I am not just a user but also a customer, and so I do have some rights. Most importantly, I find myself deeply bothered on principle by the trend this recent spree of deletions seems to represent. I will attempt to outline my concerns in order:
1. Warriors For Innocence. This group is, as is apparent to anyone who can do a little Google research and a few minutes of surfing, basically a vigilante front. They have no FAQ or TOS, they are not obviously affiliated with any legitimate law enforcement agency, and they are not deputised by any law I know of. They are self-righteous amateurs. More significantly, they are not LJ users, so far as I know. So why has LJ and Six Apart now chosen to respond to their incredibly groundless threats? It's all well and good to want to protect your advertising budget and all, but these people have little if anything to do with either LJ or 6A, being neither customers or persons with any ability to prosecute. Why have you reacted in any way to the demands of this reactionary group of vigilantes?
2. Indiscriminate bans. Rumour has it (and I must depend on rumour because LJ has yet to make a statement of any kind on these suspensions) that LJ Abuse deleted every journal with "certain interests" listed. While I understand that it would have been much more difficult to investigate every single journal with "objectionable" interests, it strikes me as incredibly irresponsible to simply delete everyone who's ever mentioned anybody doing anything illegal, either in the real world or in fiction. What's causing the mass hysteria on LJ right now is that a huge percentage of the journals and comms deleted were those devoted to the sharing of fiction. Writing about something is not the same thing as doing it - as defined by your own U.S. law concerning such matters. While I'm glad that a few actual pedophiles were ousted from the community, I can't help but think it wasn't worth violating many, many more people whose only crime was writing stories and theorizing.
3. The difference between discussion and action. As mentioned above, many, many of the journals and communities deleted were NOT DOING ANYTHING ILLEGAL. They were indiscriminately suspended FOR NO REASON. While my specific knowledge of U.S. law is hazy, and I have no intention, as an individual, of making vague and unenforcable threats against a gigantic corporation like Six Apart, it strikes me as likely that many of them, especially the paying customers among them, will have plenty of actionable legal complaints after this debacle is sorted out. I can't understand why either LJ or Six Apart would open themselves up to that kind of vulnerability on the word of a group of raving trolls who pass themselves off as policemen and yet have no official recognition that anyone I know can find.
4. Silence. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this so far is the complete and total lack of any explanation from LJ. Comments in the News community have so far been met with echoing silence. No response to queries in the Support community. Support tickets regarding suspended journals deleted. Admittedly LiveJournal has no obligation to its free users - beyond a moral one - but its Paid Users, at least, DESERVE AN EXPLANATION. There was no warning given for this. There was no notice given for this. There has been no apology, no explanation, no damage control. At last glance, the comment thread on this topic on the News page was 58 pages long, and growing. Paid users - the only ones I can realistically expect you to worry about on any level - are threatening to migrate to other sites. Hundreds already have. Your customers and other users are feeling threatened. Violated. Betrayed. Confused. Frightened.
Understand - I'm sure you know this - that a vast majority of your members are are people who use the Internet and LiveJournal in particular to explore interests that are, in the real world, socially unacceptable to some degree. That goes from admitting they watch anime to co-workers who would mock them to high school kids afraid to admit to their parents that they're gay to Harry Potter fans writing about the sexual exploits of the books' characters.
Presumably at least *some* of the Warriors for Innocence's submissions were credibly illegal, but their own website admits that they submitted not only actually illegal but "objectionable" content. I should point out here that there are people who find rap music "objectionable." I myself can't stand grapefruit juice. If I submit a complaint to LJ abuse that some cooking journals are posting recipes for grapefruit juice that I find offensive, will they be deleted? To what extent is LiveJournal willing to pander to ridiculous individuals who, aside from having no sound argument for their demands, aren't even customers of LJ, and therefore stakeholders? Will explicit literary material be banned entirely? Will we be forbidden to write about childhood abuse? Will we be suspended for encouraging people to be happy with who they are, straight, gay, or otherwise? Will suggesting that the American President is an illiterate chimpanzee get us banned? Just whose opinions, whose morals, whose mould, are acceptable for a LiveJournal user? What will keep us out of trouble?
I paint an extreme picture, of course. But LJ must understand that thousands of users are playing out the same scenarios in their heads. And again, understand that many of us, myself included, live in constant terror of censorship as a tool for oppression. I'm sorry, again, if that comes across as melodramatic - but it's necessary, because terror is exactly what many of us are feeling right now. It may seem silly for a group of internet journals and communities to be taken so seriously by so many people, but they are. The ability to say what we like without fear of retribution beyond a few arguments and flames is what distinguishes the online community from the real world.
LiveJournal has always been open and vital, a free exchange for ideas and opinions, even a haven for those who have nowhere else to go, to socialise or just to be heard. And inevitably, telling people what they can and can't think, and what beliefs are acceptable, can only do one thing to a community: kill it.
And no one wants that. Especially those of us who have made LJ home for years, and have no wish to leave it - but rest assured that we will, if we have no other choice.
If I am wrong about all of this, if there is some other explanation altogether for this bizarre and catastrophic last couple of days, I apologise in advance. But in the meantime, I add my voice to the hundreds begging for some kind of explanation, response, or statement from LJ. You owe us that much.
--A. Crossby ("chandri")
Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding this issue. We know that many of our users are understandably upset about the suspensions that occurred this week, and I apologize for any distress you may have experienced personally as a result of this situation.
Many of those journals that were suspended are now unsuspended. If you have not seen the latest news, please allow me to direct you to the following links where Six Apart's CEO has made two public statements about the situation: [http://news.livejournal.com/99159.html] & [http://news.livejournal.com/99515.html].
Please continue to watch the News journal for updated information as well as additional opportunities to comment with your opinions about the developments, as we do care about what our users have to say regarding this situation. Please know that we'll be working to ensure that these sorts of problems will be corrected and avoided in the future, and once again I apologize for any upset that this issue may have caused you.
Six Apart, Ltd. // LiveJournal.com
I'm kind of impressed. I think.
And it doesn't look like I'm going to England, after all. Last year, when it was first mentioned, I said I couldn't do the beginning of September, because I hoped/expected to be in school again by then. When that didn't happen, in March, everybody knew. Then we hemmed and hawed and kept putting off booking anything and finally it was April and Dougie offered me an extension on my contract. What am I going to say? "No, I don't think I want a job for another month, because there's one chance in ten I MIGHT be going to England with my parents?"
Last week they'd decided it wasn't happening, because it was too expensive because we'd WAITED SO BLOODY LONG.
And tonight my dad calls me with the brilliant revelation that hey, Europe's cheaper, why don't we drive around Provence and Normandy for a week and a half and be back in time for the con?
Which would be great, Dad, except I told you a month ago that my contract got extended and I'm WORKING THROUGH AUGUST. I've already taken the first week off for Dexcon (which was set MONTHS AGO). I can't take the whole last month of my contract off for vacation. I just CAN'T. And he spent fifteen minutes trying to convince me otherwise, in his incredibly annoying "oh, we just thought you'd like it," "we can go to Normandy," let's go swimming in the Mediterranean" rambling-instead-of-admitting-he'd-fucke
I am feeling very yanked-around this week. Tomorrow I will draw the strip and possible write porn and then perhaps all will be well. *sigh*