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

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Response from Six Apart

Doug Bryan, VP of Business Operations, Six Apart, posts on boob_nazis.
Enforcing these restrictions is not a fun or enjoyable part of the LJ Abuse staff’s job, but it is important to maintain consistency throughout our service so that everyone (kids, adults, and parents) can know what to expect when they use LJ. We do our best to have as few restrictions as possible. With any restriction we attempt to make sure that we have a clear, objective test.

To use an analogy, this is like a police officer having to enforce speed limits in neighborhoods where kids play. When enforcing these policies, sometimes you end up catching someone who is in fact a very law abiding citizen, but who just happened to be driving over the speed limit.

That being said, we’d like to sincerely apologize for the following:

* The lack of sensitivity our procedures appeared to show toward the right for women to breastfeed their children.
* The confusion and perception that LiveJournal and/or Six Apart is against mothers who choose to breastfeed their children.
* The impression that we simply were not willing to listen, when in fact we are.
* The lack of clarity on the policies, which was possibly made worse when we updated our FAQ on Saturday. We updated the FAQ to clarify our policy, not to change it in response to this specific situation.

The responses are varying. Many users are expressing thanks to Six Apart for taking the time to post. Some are bringing up points they feel the response so far has left out.

Bopeepsheep writes:
There are some continuing niggles.
- LJ Abuse responses over the last few days have been variously inconsistent, rude, hostile, contradictory, offensive, discriminatory, illogical, and mendacious. Daring to complain about their attitude has resulted in even more unpleasantness, and threats.
- The FAQ updating was done very badly - not changed in British English until well into Sunday afternoon, nor French/Italian/German. It was then implied or blatantly stated in several LJA responses that it had "always been thus" (anyone there read George Orwell lately?). While it is true that TOS effectively say you can enforce any policy you like, the point of FAQs is to clarify those policies so that people can apply them appropriately. You cannot honestly expect people to abide by a policy you haven't published. "Graphically sexual" does not and never would mean "nudity", there are legal and societal distinctions we all understand. Changing the wording in the middle of an argument smacks of desperation in most situations, and it's how it came across here too.
- the implication in the original responses that breastfeeding was being viewed as 'graphically sexual'. I don't think we need to tell you how wrong that is.
- "secondary sexual characteristics" were cited as unacceptable in an LJA response by LJA team member Carson. That includes breasts, yes, but also beards... are we going to see a clean-shaven ruling?
- the grey area that is the new ruling. Areolae vary greatly in pigmentation and size and this is a discriminatory policy, however reasonable a compromise it sounds. Male areolae are acceptable. Images of men with large amounts of breast tissue are acceptable. Images of cartoon breasts are apparently acceptable. Images of women in bikini tops smaller than the average hamster are acceptable. Images of women with 2 pixels' worth of areola visible are not? Women with small or pale areolae will get away with it (I'm not showing you mine right now but I bet you'd never spot them in an icon), women with darker pigmentation/larger areolae will not?

Runawaybunni writes:

The first is your analogy. Your TOS was clear - no sexual/violent images. Nursing photos are neither. It wasn't that this person just happened to be 'driving over the speed limit' - they didn't do anything wrong.

It wasn't that your procedures appeared to show a lack of understanding. They DID show a lack of understanding and most of them were downright rude. You may sit here and say that you are willing to listen - and I don't doubt that you are - but when we got an email back saying things like "letter campaigns don't acheive anything" (I'm paraphrasing) it was inherently clear that you weren't willing to listen.

A no nudity rule is reasonable - excluding male breasts but not nursing ones is not. The message that sends is that a breast that is nursing is inherently more offensive than a totally bare male breast. If a male breast is not inappropriate, then surely a breast that is nourishing a child cannot possibly be.

Like other posters on that thread I hope Doug Bryan will look at the wider problems with the abuse team at their meeting, not just this one issue. The discourtesy, evasiveness, and contradictions have to stop.

My response:

Dear Doug;

I hope that as you look in to this issue you'll also consider some of the other long standing problems with the LJ Abuse team. Users here have pointed out that LJ Abuse responses have been inconsistent, rude, hostile, contradictory, offensive, and illogical, and that is something echoed by many other users who have dealt with them. The icon policy is not the only one which has been enforced inconsistantly (some of the icons users here have been threatened for suspension with do not show any nipple or areola).

In most cases when users contest actions or decisions by LJ Abuse they are dismissed out of hand. On a recent thread in [info]abuse_lj_abuse an LJ Abuse team member stated that "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." A user reported that in her case that was completely untrue. I have more details of that case and others on my blog. Having made the statement did the LJ Abuse member return to explain the inconsistancy? No.

The behavior of LJ Abuse alienates users, paid and unpaid alike. This is not something that can be solved in one or two meetings, the system needs to be reevaluated to include more professionals on the team, and most importantly people with a more professional attitude, which values customers and does not dismiss them.



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Blogger Christine said...


I'm sure I'll think of more to say about it when we see whether any of the responses are actually addressed.

5:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like he's channeling Denise Denise Paolucci with a corporate politeness filter. Same response just more polite.

5:29 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should email this to him directly, maybe a longer version summing up some of the other things you have written about here.

5:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's another brush off.

6:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting them to say anything is a bigger feat than anyone else has pulled but it doesn't look like they are listening yet.

7:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

fingers crossed

7:23 PM

Blogger cdaae13 said...

I think you should make a link to add "firing denise paolucci" as an LJ interest. It would be lol if all of the boob nazis did so.

But really, the fish rots from the head. Getting a new head of abuse won't solve *every* problem, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction. An even better step would be to no longer use volunteers. Honestly, what can the motivation be to become a volunteer? They put in long hours and get little reward. I can see few reasons other than the need to feel powerful or to have control, and that certainly isn't healthy when this power/control extends over the existence of a paid account. Paid employees would be much more accountable for their actions. LJ/6A is earning more money with advertisements. Use that money to fix the existing problems with the service.

7:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sad to see how many women in the community, included the one that seems to lead them, fell for his empty words.

I've been following this since the weekend, and I'm feeling disappointed at the sheepish attitude of some of the ladies. What is it to negotiate? Wait for what?
LJ, LJAbus(iv)e and 6A didn't need more than a couple minutes to change their ToS. Just the suggestion that the icons have to abide to the NEW ToS is enough to show they have no intentions to fix their wrong ways.

While the ladies give them time, the Abus(iv)e team keeps sending suspension threats to users with breastfeeding icons.


11:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous, I don't think they know what listeningn to their customers means.

4:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with cdaae13. Abuse team volunteers effectively join a clique, with a lot of power and control. It does not work to have a volunteer team, Six Apart needs to get professionals. There also needs to be an appeals proceedure with accountability and openess.

7:15 AM

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