Because this is being discussed on so many journals and blogs I thought it would be useful to provide a summary of events to people who are new to the story.
LJ user hardvice set his default icon to a piece of artwork which showed Bea Arthur topless. The icon was reported to LJ Abuse who said he couldn't use it as his default icon. They also told him his replacement version with cups over the nipples couldn't be used, then retracted and said it could. Hardvice and others decided to test the rule by reporting other icons with bare breasts, including some of mothers breastfeeding their babies. When women started to get emails from LJ abuse telling them their default icons were inappropriate, they were told it was because they were "sexually explicit". People emailed LJ abuse in protest, and were told that write-in campaigns were never effective in influencing LJ.
The page of the FAQ covering default userpics had read that sexually explicit or graphically violent userpics were inappropriate. On May 20 it was changed to refer to nudity instead. LJ abuse says this has always been their policy and the FAQ was updated to reflect the policy accurately. We have no way of verifying this of course, and the abuse policy document still reads sexually explicit.
A number of blogs picked up on the story of LJ abuse saying customers' voices were never effective in swaying them, and criticized the customer service this represents. Meanwhile Carrie from ProMom.org set up a "3 minute action" form allowing people to email Six Apart/LiveJournal about the default icon ban (which LJ refined to say "no exposed female nipple or areola"). Over 1500 people sent emails.
Carrie also talked to representatives from Six Apart on the phone, and Doug Bryan of 6A posted in the breastfeeding community apologizing for some of the actions of the abuse team (people complained about the rudeness of their attitude). However people criticized the half-hearted nature of his apology, and continued to bring up issues he had not addressed.
When it appeared that no further dialog was going to be forthcoming and users were still being threatened with suspension, even though it was obvious that members of other communities were reporting icons because of longstanding drama between their communities and the breastfeeding communities, a press release was sent out and a small group of mothers met at Six Apart's headquarters and held a "nurse in." The press release lead to discussions on various blogs (and a tripling in traffic to this one!). Some of the mothers and their supporters declared a "Step Apart from Six Apart day" on which they would all delete their journals for the day in protest.
The situation at the moment is that LJ abuse are still reinforcing the no female nipple or areola rule (including in classic art and Mary breastfeeding Jesus pictures). At the nurse in Doug Bryan told people that he did not want to be "autocratic" with the abuse team volunteers, which suggested that he was more concerned with the opinions of a small group of volunteers than the opinions of thousands of LiveJournal users. However according to emails sent out by Denise Paolucci (who heads the LJ abuse team) they are going to be reviewing their policies over the next few months and promise to pay attention to users' feedback.
Though I have my doubts that everything that needs dealing with will be addressed, it is a step in the right direction and I'll keep on being hopeful.
There are currently 630 signatures on the petition and Christine tells me she plans on sending it off to 6A next week.
For those who want to read the background in more detail, here are links to each of my entries on it, which link to blog and LJ community posts too.
Breasts, now against a TOS near you
Changing the rules
Six Apart notified
LiveJournal and customer relations
Updates / response from Six Apart
Responses to Doug Bryan's post , more responses
More comments from users
Still more comments from users
The Virgin Mary breaks the rules
Press Release from ProMom.org
Doug Bryan doesn't want to be autocratic with abuse team volunteers
Also see the Gallery of unacceptable default icons and ProMom's media pack.
Tags: livejournal, lj abuse, six apart, customer service, nipplegate, breastfeeding