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

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Nipplegate summary

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 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
Listening? Bullshit.
More comments from users
Still more comments from users
The Virgin Mary breaks the rules
Press Release from
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.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Six Apart speaks? Doug and Anil

3 nursing moms and a few friends held a "nurse in" outside the Six Apart offices in San Francisco yesterday. talula_fairie reports:
We were outside on the sidewalk for about an hour and a half. Doug and Ginger came down within twenty or so minutes. They said they'd been looking forward to seeing us and brought sandwiches down when we didn't come up. Eventually after awhile the noise was so bad and my voice was giving out from trying to yell over some construction work that we came up to talk in the conference room at SA (as an aside, I found it very amusing to see the headquarters of Live Journal).

I basically reiterated everything Carrie has already told Doug. I said that I think he should just tell the Live Journal Abuse team that breastfeeding icons are ok, period, end of story, as long as the baby is latched on. That is pretty clear cut. It's hard to know exactly what he is saying when he talks, but basically he said that he doesn't want to be "autocratic" with the abuse team members. He went on about how they are a volunteer staff and how they would have to hire 4-6 full time employees to replace them. He said the only person he can be "autocratic" (I officially don't like that word) with is Denise.

Rather than add my thoughts I will include this from the person who sent it to me (I have permission to post it from a locked post on LiveJournal).
What bullshit. He's saying they can't make a simple change in the way the rules are implemented without approval from his volunteers? Who is running this company and why is he being paid a salary if he can't handle his own volunteers? And why not be autocratic with Denise, if it's her job to manage the team? He certainly needs to lay down the law about how they deal with users, and how they talk to them in communities.

In another less than great decision Six Apart Vice President Anil Dash posted a comment on a blog entry about the Step Apart from Six Apart day, defending LJ but not mentioning his sizable vested interest. Another commenter followed his link and took him to task for leaving that out, and other commenters are criticizing the content of his defense.

Says Rachel:
Please don't do that, Anil. People can worry about major things and minor things at the same time. The argument that "rapes go on in Congo" has been used to shut up American feminists long enough that it should be clear by now that it's only purpose is to hold up a distraction and say "Stop talking about things I don't want you to talk about."

Speaking of comments, I see the drama hounds are taking advantage of anonymous commenting here. I prefer not to delete any comments, because if you start feeding the trolls you have to deal with them vomiting it back up at you. If things become out of hand I will turn comment moderation on. Besides, as there is now an LJ community called nipplegatesnark, you can snark there!

Lastly this blog is having another traffic burst, so a reminder to new readers about the petition calling on Six Apart to reform LJ Abuse.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Abuse team volunteer admits open prejudice

Follow up to shamanix here: it's "LJ abuse are the victims" mode, and to top it off a plain-spoken admission of bias against a user who has disagreed with LJ abuse in the past. Yes, post anything critical of LJ abuse and you're just a troll.

Abuse team member shamanix says: "Lastly, given that you're one of the people who feels slighted by the Abuse Team, as evidenced by your postings to [info]abuse_lj_abuse, I'm afraid I can't put much stock in your opinion here."

realcdaae replies: "This is precisely why a number of people think the team should be made up of more professionals and fewer volunteers. One who sees someone disagreeing with them or asking questions as someone who feels "slighted" is not cut out for work that has, or should have, some element of customer service involved with it. I have always been polite when I've written to LJ abuse. I don't think it's asking too much for them to be polite back."

beyondinsanity says: "I find it very,very unprofessional that the abuse team members are making such comments to livejournal users."

shamanix replies: "Actually, what it meant is that from my personal perspective, [info]realcdaae is getting involved in the breastfeeding situation because of her personal ulterior motives."

realcdaae responds: "As you do not know me, your personal perspective about my "ulterior motives" is certainly not worth putting much stock in. I think your personal perspective may possibly be motivated by the fact that information you posted about the abuse team policies is shown to be inaccurate by my case. I have assumed that you believe the information to be accurate and that it is indeed the policy, and have hardly suggested that I blame you for it not being followed.

Hostility does breed hostility. I have been polite when I've communicated with the abuse team. I have received a significant amount of rudeness in return. You should not complain that you are jumped on for being unprofessional when you actively admit to being biased against users because they've disagreed with LJ abuse."

misfratz adds: "Did you ever consider that her 'personal' objections to the behaviour of LJ abuse team might be justified? Obviously if you attack an individual for no reason, they're going to side with/show solidarity towards others who are treated badly. I don't see why you would have a problem with this, unless the intention is to be divisive and deliberately ignorant."

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