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

Saturday, June 03, 2006

When is a nipple not a nipple?

mercy_rain writes:
Have you seen Denise Paolucci's default icon?

According to LJA-Erin in the news community Denise's icon is just fine because it's covered with material, and not nude.

"The very definition of nude implies that a portion of the body is not covered up. [info]rahaeli's default icon that you link to clearly shows a sports bra.

"How can something be nude and in clothing at the same time? "

Well, according to Denise herself, it's NOT okay, which really is logical, because the whole point of wet t-shirt contests is that you can see a lot through the right kind of fabric.

In an email to me, wherein I asked some specific questions about exactly what is considered "nudity," she told me, "If the nipple or areola are visible -- such as in userpics where the breasts are covered but the fabric is sheer enough -- then it is also not permitted for use as a default userpic."

That is a DIRECT QUOTE from Denise Paolucci. Pity the rules don't apply to important people like her.

For those who can't see the nipple, I've added an arrow.

Breastfeeding default icons showing less nipple than this have been ruled inappropriate. Denise herself said that if the fabric is sheer enough to show any nipple the picture is not permitted for use as a default userpic. Except hers. It's just a few darkened pixels after all!

Abuse team members still can't agree on what the rules are, so it's not a surprise that other LJ support volunteers don't know how things work. One supporter said that instead of contacting LJ Abuse to complain about their ruling that breastfeeding icons showing areola were inappropriate as default userpics, people should have posted disputing the policy at the Suggestions community. Most users didn't realize that community covered policy disputes, but one user took up the suggestion and posted there.

The post was rejected by the moderator on the grounds that "The FAQ reflects current policy. If you have concerns about an Abuse policy,please contact the Abuse Team following the instructions in"

No wonder it takes 1500 emails to get their attention!

LJA-shamanix thinks some of us are fanning the flames because we have an axe to grind. I think my axe is sharp enough without any more grinding thanks!

LJA-shamanix also doesn't want people to have any help figuring out they can email him by putting his username in front of (No one of course has answered Christine's question).

The Petition has over 500 signatures.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Step Apart from Six Apart, & Nurse In at 6A HQ

Step apart from Six Apart on 06/06/06M
Let's communicate with SixApart. They can ignore e-mails: they can ignore letters: they can probably ignore nurse-ins, though anyone who lives near enough in San Francisco, Paris, or Tokyo should definitely give it a try on Tuesday 6th June.

What they cannot ignore - what their bottom line will not let them ignore - is a drop in numbers of the people using LiveJournal.

For anyone in San Francisco, "a nurse-in is planned to take place at Six Apart's US Headquarters, located at 548 4th Street, San Francisco, CA. The event is planned for 12 pm on Monday, June 5th. The activists encourage nursing mothers and supporters to join in the protest."

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

LJA oops

(Previous content removed as it was a mistake on behalf of the LJ Abuse team, for which they apologized and it's resolved.)

From the ProMom media info page:

Bullet Points - Problems with LJ Abuse

  • No appeals process for suspensions, along with refusal to answer legitimate questions from users.
  • Inconsistant and contradictory answers given to users about LiveJournal's rules and what is regarded as a breach.
  • Questions raised about breaches of privacy and abuse team's ability to read users' private posts have not been answered.
  • Discourteous replies received by users asking questions.
  • Replies received evade questions put by users, and support requests are then closed with no further response.
  • Rules not specified in Terms of Service or abuse team policy document are used to suspend accounts, and definition of words (such as harassment) are twisted to suit team's decisions.

I will be adding reference links to that list in the next couple of days to specific examples.

A lot of blogs have picked up this story today so I'll leave you to do a Google blog search if you're interested!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Press Release: LiveJournal and Six Apart


Popular Blogging Site Restricts Use of Breastfeeding Photos:
LiveJournal cites images as 'inappropriate' and sends mothers to the virtual restroom.

Carrie Patterson
Executive Director, ProMoM.Org

Popular Blogging Site Restricts Use of Breastfeeding Photos:
LiveJournal cites images as 'inappropriate' and sends mothers to the virtual restroom.

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006 - Women on the popular blog site LiveJournal are calling foul at the company’s decision to brand images of breastfeeding as ‘inappropriate.’ Many users of the site have joined together to urge LiveJournal’s parent company SixApart to address their concerns and reevaluate the policy.

Small "userpics" of no more than 100 by 100 pixels represent LiveJournal members throughout the site. Users can define one of these icons as "default icon" which plugs it into the user's public profile. These default icons were originally not permitted to be ‘sexually explicit or graphically violent.’ Recently, icons which depicted breastfeeding were cited as being ‘inappropriate’ by the LiveJournal abuse team, a group of volunteers who monitor complaints on the site. After clarification was requested, LiveJournal changed their FAQ to reflect a no nudity rule and is claiming that icons with visible areola or nipple are not permitted. Whether or not areola is visible in a photograph is dependent on a number of factors, including skin tone of the mother and physical changes during pregnancy.

Claimed Live Journal Abuse Staffer 'Erin' in a post on the site, "That's really a matter for the FCC to decide. LiveJournal's policies on this mirror what would be allowed on primetime TV or in a PG-13 movie." However, this is not true. The FCC does not consider the act of breastfeeding on television to fall under the definitions of indecency or obscenity.

Breastfeeding is exempt from nudity laws throughout the United States as well as countries such as Canada. Advocates are urging LiveJournal to adopt the same criteria. "It is regrettable that LiveJournal has chosen to target breastfeeding mothers instead of standing up for the protection provided them by law," says Carrie Patterson, executive director of, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing public awareness and public acceptance of breastfeeding. Advocates state that the feeling that breastfeeding should be hidden only fosters the idea that the natural act of nourishing a child is scandalous.

Breastfeeding bloggers who have refused to change their default icon have been suspended from the site. These users, as well as others questioning the policy, have been treated poorly by the site’s volunteer abuse team, something that is not unusual according to other site users.

More than 1,000 LiveJournal users complained, and SixApart issued an apology to the group. However, the company refuses to consider modifying their policy and continues to suspend users whose default icons are deemed inappropriate. Although LiveJournal stated a clarified rule, mothers are still reporting major inconsistencies in its application.

The breastfeeding debacle is only the most recent in a long line of incidents that have people wondering if the abuse procedures as a whole should be reviewed for fairness and propriety. Complaints have been raised about users' privacy, inconsistent enforcement of the Terms of Service, conflicting information and responses from abuse team members, and discourteous replies to users seeking clarification on the rules.

Activists are now working together to get this policy changed and to clarify the policies and procedures of the LiveJournal abuse team. While some are refusing to continue paying for the service, others have moved to different journaling websites to protest what they feel is a violation of their rights.

For more information, contact Carrie Patterson at 678-513-6329 or or visit


I will be acting as press contact for this blog.
Media inquiries to: Christine D. Clemens,

Don't forget the petition!

Some past posts on this topic:
LiveJournal and Customer Relations
Breasts - now against a TOS near you
Changing the Rules
Six Apart's Response + part two
More comments and yet more comments, from customers of LJ/6A.
LJ Abuse in Action

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Six Apart launches new blogging community

Six Apart is launching a new ad-supported blogging service, to "combine the publishing power of TypePad, the community aspects of LiveJournal and the years of insight garnered from Movable Type." Since Mena Trott wrote about the new service here it has been renamed from Comet to Vox.

"Half blogging platform for newbies (albeit with rich and deep functionality) and half social network" but I wonder, will Six Apart be giving it a professional abuse team? Will users of the new network be treated any better than LiveJournal users, and is Six Apart finding that LJ just doesn't make enough money to be worth taking seriously?

Before signing up for this new service potential users might want to look into how Six Apart has managed LiveJournal, it's a cautionary tale.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Email to Six Apart/LJ from realcdaae

From realcdaae's livejournal:

Date: May 31, 2006 12:33 AM
Subject: Fwd: Abuse team and locked/private entries question

I am forwarding you the following email which I sent to Mark Ferrell, Denise Paolucci, and the LJ abuse team member [info]shamanix on Thurday May 25th.

I understand that it has been a holiday weekend, but I know that Mr Ferrell has been responding to abuse complaints in the past few days, so I am peturbed to have had no response.

If the abuse team has stated rules, clearly steps outside those rules, and implies that a LiveJournal member is lying, I think they have the duty to provide an explanation. I would like to know precisely what violation of US law was being investigated when LJ Abuse representatives looked at my friends locked entries (see below).

I look forward to your reply.

Forwarded Email

That's the CEO and VP of Six Apart, head of LiveJournal, and general Six Apart contact address. I wonder I wonder, will any of them reply?

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Consistency is a good thing

So it's good to know that Mary breastfeeding Jesus is banned from default userpics too.

The post
The replacement icon

Friends of the poster are testing the bounds of nudity in classic art.



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Monday, May 29, 2006

Quick update

Major thanks to Christine for joining the team and updating over the weekend and I hope you all had a good Memorial Day. The LJ Abuse team have been rocking it up in Las Vegas we hear!

Not all of them I guess as they're sending out warnings to users for icons they are not even using. Spot the difference.

This post from The Snow in Summer is well worth reading with a summary of why the writer left LiveJournal that includes interesting commentary about how Six Apart has "violated the letter and spirit of the social contract between myself and Livejournal. That was the community I joined in 2003, those were the written community rules, ones that could only be changed with the majority consent of the community. But we forgot that corporateamerica knows no honour, only profit. Six Apart is a profit-seeking company, not a benevolent dictatorship. By acting in this dishonourable way, Six Apart kills its own society, kills its own source of riches, kills its own future."

I also had an email with a suspension notice I haven't seen before. "Your journal exists solely to disrupt the LiveJournal service."

The user asked "Please define 'disrupts the LiveJournal service.' It was a source of entertainment for myself and many others."

Noah on LJ abuse wrote back "Upon receiving a complaint regarding your account, we reviewed it. The entire content of the account consisted of marquees, extremely large images, flashing text and entries solely intented to harass other users. While the first three of these items are not violations in and of themselves, their use in nearly every entry and the general content and tone of the entries is sufficient evidence for the Abuse Team to make a determination that the account was not being used for any legitimate purpose."

We've seen before that what the Abuse Team calls harassing often isn't, and this user believes that maybe having an entry that called Michelle on the abuse team "incompetent" had something to do with their suspension.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Why LJ abuse needs to be answerable for its actions

Most of the posts here in the last week have been focused on the breastfeeding icons controversy, but I think it's good to be reminded of some of the other problems with LJ Abuse which the petition is calling on Six Apart to address.

LJAB referred to one of them towards the end of this post.

User shamanix went further and stated:

"As has been said in this community numerous times, the ability to view locked/private entries is limited to LiveJournal's actual employees, and is only used in cases of copyright complaints or violations of United States law."

This is a lie.

realcdaae replied: "Untrue in my case. There was no copyright complaint, and no alleged violation of US law. In fact on the first occassion, my journal was not reported at all - they thought I was [info]yellow_finch, who had been reported for breach of a NONC, and then went into [info]cdaae to have a look."

LJAB raised it again on this thread, where shamanix replied "What people report and what actually happen are sometimes two very different things, as I'm sure you're well aware."

Perhaps I should be charitable and assume that shamanix has not read any of the details of the case, but either way, accusing an LJ user of lying to support an inaccurate claim by the abuse team is hardly professional behaviour.

I have emailed Denise Paolucci, Mark Ferrell, and shamanix, to ask them directly what breach of copyright or US law was alleged in my case, and posed the same question to Doug Bryan. I have yet to receive any answer.

LJAB mentions communities suspended for "incitement to harass", and one such suspension also casts considerable doubt on whether LJ Abuse follows the policies they profess to be guided by. A community called theljcirclejerk was created, largely as a joke in response to a troll. It had closed membership and all posts were locked to members only. LJ Abuse says they only investigate specific violations reported to them, and that only paid employees can look at locked entries and then only in cases of breach of copyright or US law.

How then did theljcirclejerk get suspended? No one in the community reported any of its posts, and there was certainly no breach of copyright or US law. Yet the locked posts of the community were read through, and members threatened with suspensions and perma-bans. A member had suggested that other members apply to join a support-related community, and the sudden rush of applicants who were all members of another particular community apparently lead to someone deciding to have a look. The post was deemed incitement to harass.

You may well feel that the abuse team has every right to look into such communities, but I think the least we can ask is that they be honest about it.

Don't forget the Call to Action, and spread the petition link around!

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