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Posted on Wednesday 8 August 2007 at 7:46 pm

LJ Kerfluffle

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I'm sure most of you have heard about the latest debacle on LJ. For those who haven't, apparently two users were banned for posting fanart depicting Harry Potter characters in explicit sexual situations. Cue days of "It was kiddie porn!" "Harry was totally over 18 in that image!" "It isn't illegal because no REAL child was being hurt!" "REAL kids don't matter, it is still obscene and therefore disgusting and illegal" "But he was over 18 anyway!" "No he wasn't!" etc.

For the record: I don't care! I have no interest in explicit depictions of minors engaged in sexual activities. It can all be banned or it can all exist and I won't look at it. It doesn't matter to me either way. I've heard some people in fandom whining that this is just the beginning and LJ will ban adult porn next and then all fanart/fanfic after that. If so, fine. I'll move my fic elsewhere as long as I can find an elsewhere. Honestly, fanfic is technically illegal (copyright violation) so LJ would be perfectly right to ban it all. But they won't until and unless the copyright holders and their lawyers force them to do so which I don't see happening anytime soon.

Since I don't care, why am I posting on it? Out of all the madness, a couple of interesting tidbits of information have materialized. LJ staffers have hinted at changes coming to all of LJ and a couple of these caught my attention. First, they are probably going to add a "Report Abuse" button to all posts. Ignoring the frothing at the mouth response of "OMG! Big Brother state!" that is popping up in fandom, I think that an abuse link is just pointless. It won't be used 99.9% of the time. I'm still trying to figure out how to get rid of that stupid "Email a Friend" link they added a few months back. I don't want another link cluttering up the footer of my posts.

The second change LJ is apparently seriously considering is a mandatory rating system for all posts. This would amount to a button you would have to click to select the rating for your post in order to post anything. That rating would then become a tag on the post. Again, I think that is kind of lame and pointless. Do people seriously need to know that me rambling about moving or stupid professors is content suitable for all ages? Will everyone actually select the appropriate rating for a post? Will everyone ever agree on what is R and what is NC-17 (for example)?

I'm certainly not all up in arms about any of this and threatening to leave LJ if I don't get my way. I'm actually still more upset about that stupid email posts to a friend button than I am the whole kiddie porn fiasco or the new changes. I just think it is all silly and these changes are pointless and would waste my time so I rather hope they aren't implemented.

Anyone else have any thoughts on all this?


Ms. J to the Diva
jadeddiva at 12:26 am on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
Someone made a good point on one of the lj_biz posts that they shouldn't go after 'child porn' if they allow pro-anorexia communities and the like. And I tend to agree, because really, those who are on the HP fan sites are there because they want to see that and many have age-restricted membership? Whereas communities that encourage eating disorders are far more detrimental in the long run. But that's my opinion. I'm just worried that this downward spiral will ruin all of fandom, but I did back up rt_challenge just in case.
bratty_jedi at 12:34 am on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
I, quite honestly, don't think that is a good point. I think arguing that proanorexia comms are bad and should be banned is moderately valid. I can see where LJ is coming from on the illegal versus not illegal thing so I don't think they have to go after the proana comms. On the other hand, they've got the clauses about anything LJ finds objectionable and no inciting self-hurt that would cover them if they decided to close down those comms/journals and I would support that decision.

None of that has anything to do with the kiddie porn issue, though. Going after kiddie porn doesn't prevent them from going after the proana sites. Going after the pro ana sites wouldn't prevent them from going after the kiddie porn. There is absolutely no link between the two. I mean, I would be happy to see the pro-ana kind of things gone since real people, frequently children, are hurt whereas I don't care about the kiddie porn because no real person is hurt but the two really are completely unrelated and should be separate discussions.
Ms. J to the Diva
jadeddiva at 1:40 am on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
Someone went here and found examples of how pro-ana communities promote physical harm, which violates the TOS , which is a valid point. But my point was hurriedly made and so I didn't adequately explain myself. I think that this is a slippery slope that Livejournal has set itself on, which will lead to many people decrying that because one thing is considered objectionable, other things should also be considered objectionable. I very much doubt any of this will end favorably for fandom, copyright violations or not.
Wild Magelet
wildmagelet at 5:07 am on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
I agree, that is the one thing about it, really, that once you start pointing the finger, it becomes difficult to know when to stop. And everyone who is singled out is (probably justifiably) going to point to someone else or another group who could be considered 'objectionable'.

Although I have to admit that I do personally find it very disturbing that the main pro-anorexia community on here has almost 12,000 members!
You gotta be crazy to be sane.
an_fhanai at 3:30 am on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, I hope you don't mind me popping in like this, but would you be willing to give the link for that information? I've been nosing around, trying to find out the extent of what's going on, and I hadn't seen any report of that yet. I totally agree, though - both of those things seem pointless and are sure to make people even more skittish than they already are.
bratty_jedi at 11:34 am on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
Here is the bit about mandatory post ratings. coffeechica is speaking officially for LJ in that thread. A decent list of official statements found anywhere in that gigantic post can be found here.

The stuff about a "Report Abuse" button on every post was mentioned somewhere in the comments to that post by a regular user, not an official LJ mod. However, they provided a link to an official list of LJ upcoming changes and it was already listed on there, IIRC. At the moment, I'm not finding either link. Will let you know when I track them down again.
bratty_jedi at 1:46 pm on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
I checked around some and haven't found the links to the Report Abuse button again yet. I can find lots of people referencing it, but no credible source of information. I know I had one before. I might look for it some more later, but I really need to unpack my kitchen today.
You gotta be crazy to be sane.
an_fhanai at 9:58 pm on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! :D And don't worry about the other thing, I'll poke around some more and try to find it.
Wild Magelet
wildmagelet at 5:00 am on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
Honestly, I just find it all a bit bewildering! Everything just kinds of explodes where I'm obviously not seeing it and then I hear about it second-hand from people on my f-list. Obviously I'm sorry for the people who have been targeted unfairly and I'm very sorry if it means that people are going to de-camp to other blogging sites, because I value my f-list hugely, but my own interests are obviously so banal and vanilla that I haven't really been affected by either of the uproars yet. I'm not even totally sure what's been banned and what's going on, to be honest.

I get why people are annoyed that they're being monitored and told what to do and what to post, especially if they have paid accounts, but I hope that everybody doesn't just up and leave.
bratty_jedi at 11:51 am on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
If you really want to follow all the craziness, it happens on the news and lj_biz comms. It usually starts with a few people realizing some other people have been suspended and making comments in one of those two comms about "OMG! What did you do!?!?!" More people join in, this goes on for a few days, then LJ finally posts trying to explain and clarify. People get up in arms in those posts, and the cycle keeps going for a few posts then it dies down for a bit. I find it amusing to sit back and watch.

I agree that is many ways the biggest problem is people fleeing to other sites. But I think that is caused more by panic and overreaction than anything LJ is doing so I can't blame LJ for it. I'm not saying I'm 100% happy with LJ, the first strikethrough blow up two months ago was entirely their fault and caused much of the current panic, but I think they are less culpable now than people want to admit and fandom is the one overreacting this time.
jesspallas at 7:24 am on 11 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
That's exactly how I feel about it and exactly how I generally find out too - I get hints of some great crisis off my flist but I have no idea what's going on. I followed this link off celtmama in the end because her post is the first one I've seen that explicitly explained what in the heck this distant (for me) crisis was! No one on my flist seems to be planning a departure though, which is a relief, and so I'm not particularly panicked about any of it. It just seems like sometimes LJ has a overblown crisis for the sake of it!
Wild Magelet
wildmagelet at 4:41 am on 12 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
It just seems like sometimes LJ has a overblown crisis for the sake of it!

I know, I felt a bit insensitive, since I would obviously have been extremely unhappy if I'd tried to log on and found that LJ had deleted my journal without warning, but my initial reaction upon hearing about the crisis was, "What, again?"

I don't see the point in abandoning ship and taking refuge at another site, though. For one thing, I'm far too lazy and settled here, and for another, there's nothing to stop the exact same thing happening anywhere else. Nothing is ever going to make everybody happy.
lady_bracknell at 9:20 am on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
For me there are a couple of issues - the fallout, and that LJ hasn't been very clear about what is and isn't acceptable.

On the fallout front, I've seen newsletters going on hiatus and lots of comms (admittedly ones I don't visit) locking down, and my feeling is it's very much the tip of the iceburg, that smaller comms run by people who aren't sure if they're violating the ToS or not will lock down as a precaution. All of which makes LJ a less friendly and open place to be. And you can argue that these people are just over-reacting (and maybe things will calm down), but when you've got a paid account and hundreds of thousands of words of fic posted, I can see their point and understand why they're being cautious.

On the second point, I think LJ probably think they're being very clear about what is and isn't acceptable, but I don't think they are. On a basic level, the distinctions are clear - it's not OK to post pictures of a 35 year old having sex with a 15 year old (and I don't think much of fandom actually has a problem with the idea of that, regardless of whether you want to get into the argument of whether fanart can be considered child porn since those laws explicitly state they don't apply to cartoons etc). But a 19 year old and a 17 year old? Two seventeen year olds? It's not as hard and fast a rule as it maybe seems at first glance.

I think what they need to do is be specific - you can show x, you can't show y. Lots of sites do that when they talk ratings, and I think it'd stop a lot of the panic that's going on at the moment.

That's what I object to, I think, the state of panic LJ has caused by not being clear and open in their dealings with fandom at large. Even I had a momentary panic about whether or not Disaster crosses the line - it's not kiddie porn however you look at it, but it does deal with the idea of sexuality in older teenagers - and they've not made it explicitily clear to me that that's ok here. And if it's not, that's fair enough, I think - I just won't host the fic here, or I'll edit it so it complies with their rules (although Judy Blume writes about teen sexuality, and I'd think it bizarre if you could discuss these things in teen lit, but not on LJ). But leaving people hanging just isn't helpful.
bratty_jedi at 11:45 am on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
I think they were a lot clearer before this second go round (they weren't before the strikethrough deal a couple of months back) than people have wanted to admit, both about art and fic. They said that all graphic depictions of children in explicit sexual situations were banned from LJ. They specified that this included drawn art not just real images of real children. They even explained that this was not because of a violation of child pornography laws. You are completely right, drawings of fictional children do not violate child porn laws. However, they DO violate obscenity laws in the US and LJ explained all that. The only thing they haven't specified is what exactly counts as GRAPHIC or EXPLICIT sexual content.

From the lj_biz post of July 19:
First of all, child pornography is illegal under any circumstances and has no place in LiveJournal. We have zero tolerance for it and we hope that view is shared by all of the members of our community.

Some people have noted a Supreme Court case from a couple of years ago striking computer-generated images from the definition of child pornography and asked whether, as a result, drawings of children in sexual situations can be considered illegal. The answer is, yes, in some cases. Congress reacted to the Supreme Court's decision in that case by changing the obscenity laws to put back what the Supreme Court struck down from the child pornography laws. Those obscenity laws are still on the books today and still being enforced. As a result, our policy prohibits obscene images of minors in graphic sexual contexts.

Written material -- fictional or not –- is also subject to United States obscenity laws. There's been a great deal of discussion and argument about the role that the "Miller test" plays in determining what's obscene and what isn't. Nobody can dispute that it involves some very subjective elements, and raises some difficult-to-answer questions: Whose community standards? Who defines "literary, artistic, political or scientific merit"? This evaluation is subjective, forcing us to carefully consider everything in context.

An example of some of the questions we'll ask in order to determine if material falls into this category are: is this writing intended to eroticize the sexual abuse of children? Is the fact that someone's underage, a critical element of the work, or is it incidental? Is the language excessively graphic instead of suggestive? Is there context beyond the sexual situation, or is the material designed just to focus on the sexualization of minors and nothing more? Does the work have an overall message, or is it written only to appeal to an adult's potential sexual fascination with children? These are only some of the questions we'll ask, and we have to consider everything that's reported to us in context and as a whole.
lady_bracknell at 12:23 pm on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
The only thing they haven't specified is what exactly counts as GRAPHIC or EXPLICIT sexual content.

And I think that's what's causing the problems. Over here, for male nudity on TV, we have something called the Mull of Kintyre test - you may show full frontal male nudity, but nothing more 'aloft' than the Mull of Kintyre. It's a simple rule - anyone who's looked at a map knows what is and isn't acceptable.

I think all LJ really needs to do is to stop hiding behind links to legal articles written in a language a lot of people can't really understand and say 'when it comes to under-18s, drawing kissing's ok, naked kissing is ok, no genitals on display, please' - or whatever their definition of graphic/explicit is. Maybe they could even link to some art that they think is acceptable so others could use it as a bench mark.

I really think that's all the vast majority of people are after, and I honestly don't think it's too much to ask.
bratty_jedi at 12:31 pm on 09 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
I honestly don't think there can be a definition of graphic and explicit that works in all cases. I think they're doing the best they can on that and are giving as much leeway as they can. Even if it were possible to come up with a perfect definition, the two images that got the two users banned were certainly explicit and graphic by any standard so I don't see how that can be the problem in this case.
rj_lupins_kat at 3:02 am on 11 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
Following Celtmama's link here...

Can't say as I have any additional thoughts, as I think you've about covered it to my opinion (as it currently stands; any further actions may, however, annoy me into commenting).

There's written material I'm a bit concerned for, but as of yet haven't seen anything strongly threatening to it...
bratty_jedi at 11:50 am on 11 August 2007 (UTC) (Link)
Lj is much more lenient on written stuff and I haven't seen any even semi-official indication that will be changing anytime soon. Obviously LJ could fly off the handle and surprise me, but as of right now I see no reason to get up in arms or concerned.

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