LiveJournal: When the LJ abuse prevention team become the abusers, who will protect the LJ users?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Do you trust LJ Abuse?

The captures were taken in December 2004, when a friend of mine on Livejournal's Abuse Team let me log into the account . . . Someone on the LJ Abuse team let their friend log into someone's account?

There's a feature on LJ that lets users with the right permissions, like admins or abuse team members, view all the entries in a journal or community, the friends locked and even the private. They say it isn't abused of course, so why do some people find other people accessing their private entries?

Shouldn't this be addressed in Livejournal's privacy policy?

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Friday, March 10, 2006

More questionable suspensions

Here's another case for you, gathered from a blog and private communication.

LJ Abuse suspended an account, yellow-finch, for what they said was breach of a notice of no contact. They also suspended two other unrelated accounts, alleykitten and cdaae, because their names were similar to other journals held by yellow-finch. Suspensions are meant to be overseen by two abuse team members but neither of them looked at the IP addresses or the content of the journals to figure out that they were all different people in different places (states, timezones, continents).

After a couple of days they fixed their error and unsuspended alleykitten and cdaae. cdaae had already made herself another journal, figuring that from past example she might not gets hers back even though it was falsely suspended. Her mistake was to set her website link to point to a page on her website where she'd put up a post from her old LJ, which was linked to from the top entry on that LJ. LJ Abuse said the new LJ having the link was a breach of a no contact notice, and suspended that account and the cdaae account they had just falsely suspended and then unsuspended.

They also went in and read her friends only entries in the cdaae journal and produced one they said was another breach of the no contact notice. What is notable about both this entry and the entry they suspended yellow-finch for was that they relied on inference. Yellow-finch had an entry addressed to someone who her log files showed was refreshing her journal again and again all day, who she called a batshit insane stalker. LJ Abuse inferred that she was talking about a specific person she had a notice of no contact for. They would not explain their reasoning to her.

cdaae's entry said "I really need a good selection of abusive words for someone, which aren't basically words to describe women or animals. I'm too feminist to call people cunts as insults (and why is it that calling someone a cunt is so much worse than calling them a dick?). Bitch and cow - that's just insulting animals. I'm leaning towards 'fetid heap polluting the genepool' but it just doesn't have the same ring, does it?"

They inferred that this was about the same specific person. Lest you think people with no contact orders deserve being suspended whatever they do, they are sometimes applied in a questionable way themselves.

LJ Abuse can suspend people on grounds of what they infer, but they suspend different people's journals thinking they are the same person. If they can't figure out that these three people were different people, if two people looked at the case and didn't look to see where the people were posting from or look at all the information that would show they were different people, do we trust what they infer?

There's more to these cases, but that's an outline. The user who reported the "inference" has had upwards of 20 livejournal accounts suspended and has been harassing cdaae for more than a year. Yellow-finch's previous journal was suspended for breaching the no contact order for things posted before she got given the order, according to the reasons LJ Abuse gave her. Ain't LJ just great?

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Instances of LJ Abuse in action

A case of the absurdity of LJ abuse's "invasion of privacy" definition and LJ Abuse needing some lawyers on the team.

LiveJournal is a safe haven for racist trolls, and you can taunt people about their being raped and infected with HIV without the abuse team enforcing the terms of service against you... But if you post any personal information about someone that they themselves continue to publish on their own web site, your account will be yanked without notice.

It's not the decision that my comment should be deleted that I am objecting to. It's the disproportionate response, the dishonesty of the TOS not reflecting actual policy, and the selective enforcement of the TOS to favor freeloading racist trolls over people who actually contribute positively to LiveJournal, both in terms of content and in terms of actually paying for the service! I also disagree with the bogus justifications that are being made for the decision; if the real reason for deleting the comment is (say) that they're scared of possible liability if someone takes the guy up on his repeated offers and beats the crap out of him, then they should just say that and put a suitable clause in the TOS and not keep coming up with after-the-fact rationalizations.

Another case of LJ Abuse’s kangaroo-court tactics. This story chronicles numerous lies and contradictions from the LJ abuse team.

I've largely ignored him, but last week he made a posting to a site external to LJ and closely associated with my professional work, claiming that I was a "SATANIST" and a child molester. He also helpfully made an anonymous posting to my journal to make sure I was aware of what he'd done. I commented on this posting in my own LJ, and was suspended for it. LJ Abuse refuses to even take the anonymous postings' IP addresses (collected by their own system!) into consideration when "investigating" this.

In the meantime, he's still setting up sockpuppets, purely for the purposes of harassment and abuse, and will undoubtedly continue to do so. LJ Abuse is well aware of his activities, and has been for years.

I don't see why my "permanent" account, with three and a half years worth of postings and comments was deleted, nor do I understand why I cannot even mention slanderous allegations made against me on a site external to Livejournal.

By suspending my journal, LJ Abuse has done away with my ability to access the anonymous comments from the instigator of all this, ensuring that it's effectively impossible for me to pursue either an abuse complaint to his ISP or legal action for defamation.

Another example of the raving insanity of LJ Abuse's invasion of privacy rulings - you're not allowed to credit someone for legal fair use of their copyright material!

I quoted him for reasons of commentary as allowed under fair-use laws. The only way to credit him for his quote was to copy the username as shown on Mr. Dowling chose to make his username his full name. I simply quoted his post for purposes of commentary.

He posted his name in a public forum, and I am allowed, under fair-use to quote him. Because there is no way to link to an individual comment on, the only way to properly credit the quote is to also quote the username of the person making the statement.

Send your story to

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"Like you, though, I just don't trust LJ abuse" - Founder of LiveJournal

Remember when Brad said "Like you, though, I just don't trust LJ abuse, because I hear so many horror stories"?

How much has changed with how LJ Abuse works?

Very little. LJ Abuse is inconsistent in its application of the TOS to the point of shameless favoritism. They take actions that go against their Abuse Policy. They invent new offenses that aren't listed.

"Invasion of Privacy" and "Harassment" are two of their favorite excuses to fall back on. Both terms have legal meanings which the abuse team neither knows nor cares about. You can fall foul of the LiveJournal Abuse Team's definition of invasion of privacy by posting public information, such as someone's name, or even their website which would allow people to pull public information from the WHOIS database. They may have posted this information publically on a site outside of LiveJournal, but it doesn't matter to LJ Abuse.

Under Harassment we read that they will suspend journals used "solely for the purpose of entries [or comments] about a particular user and/or community that fall under the definition of harassment or invasion of privacy." No where do they provide a definition of harassment, so we might reasonably assume that they are refering to the legal definition, but no. Harassment is whatever LJ Abuse decides it is if they want to suspend an account.

Recently there has been a rash of suspensions of communities deemed to exist soley to "incite harassment" and members posting in these locked communities have received threats against their personal journals. No where in the Abuse Policy is this "incitement to harass" mention, let alone defined. The Abuse Policy Document says that LJ Abuse does not actively seek out violations and will act only when a complaint is filed. If you file a complaint against someone for an entry which they lock before LJ Abuse gets to your complaint, they will tell you they can't look at it because it is locked. Post something in a locked community that the abuse team decides is incitement to harass though, and they will take action, even if the post goes something like "hey look at these losers in stupidproana community," and someone leaves "harassing" comments in the community.

Have you had a run in with LJ Abuse? Have you had a journal or community unfairly suspended with no appeal? Are you afraid to discuss it on LiveJournal for fear of retaliation by LJ Abuse?

Email us your story at
We will remove identifying information about your account unless you tell us not to.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

#bantown, LiveJournal, and LJ Abuse

In January 2006, hacker members of #bantown claimed to have used javascript vulnerabilities in LiveJournal to hijack more than 900,000 of the 1,900,000 active LiveJournal accounts. In contrast, LiveJournal admitted to problems with "a couple hundred accounts."

In spite of the media coverage, from to Slashdot to InfoWorld, LiveJournal avoided telling users anywhere on the site that they had been successfully hacked.

Why did Bantown do this?

"In order for the account takeovers to end, Bantown demands that Denise Paolucci post on the front page LiveJournal news that LJ has been pwned by Bantown."

LJ employee Denise Paolucci's chief responsibility at LiveJournal is to head their abuse department, rife with unprofessional behavior.

You may not think that hacking is a good way to respond to LJ abuse's abuses, but maybe if they ever gave straight answers to straight questions they wouldn't make these guys so angry.

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