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May 31 2007

Livejournal Censors Adult Content, Fandoms. A CNET article about Six Apart's recent deletion of 500 communities, including fandom groups. Mentions Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction.

While the article doesn't mention specifically if any BtVS-related groups were suspended, Buffy is the first "well-known" fictional character they list as being a popular subject of "amateur fiction" by "science fiction and fantasy communities", ahead of even Star Trek characters. Buffy has also been mentioned an example of an underage character engaging in sex in a professional work in various discussions of the event... I'll link if I can find them again.

*braces for a long thread*

This issue is complex, complicated and messy. Although fanfiction in general and Buffy fanfiction specifically would not be on Six Apart's radar, because they are targeting journals which lists specific interest in illegal activities such as rape and pedophilia. Which is where it gets messy, with some role-playing and fic communities listing these as "interests" because they appear within their fictions and roleplaying.

I understand Six Apart's reasons for investigating the matter of specific interests - which are one way of searching LJ for other like-minded individuals - but the immediate suspensions and deletions have been handled badly, particularly where fandom is concerned and no illegal activity has taken place.
I want to mention the biggest problem that the LJ users are having with the LJ team.

They talked to the press before they ever talked to us. In fact they have yet to talk to us at all. There are 70 pages of comments from disgruntled users, myself included, waiting for some kind of explanation. They are also letting LJ know that their continued use of the service is being threatened.

I have been watching the comments thread for 7+ hours now. They keep saying we'll have a press release "any time now".
You can never protect your own interests while being on a 3rd party service. As cheap as domain names and hosting are now, just start your own website - you can do more than you could ever do with LJ's framework anyway and you'll never have to fear censorship unless you so something insane and break the laws of your country.
I understand where they're coming from, but I think they're doing more damage than good the way they're handling it. The group that supposedly sparked this said in their letter to LJ that much of their money from sponsors was at stake, which they obviously don't want to lose, but this way, they may well lose a decent chunk of people whose main use of LJ is for these roleplaying communities and to read and share fanfiction. Granted, I doubt they make as much money from paid accounts as they do from sponsors, but I'm sure they could find a better way to handle this and keep everyone happy.
I think I'm more concerned over communities being broken up for the sake of attempting to find a few less than savory people who are probably already underground already, thanks to the Warriors group being overly vocal about what they're doing. Which isn't exactly the best way to go after people to begin with. At any rate, while the short answer would be to start your own website, I and probably a majority of LJ users prefer a community setting.

I'd say a lot more on the subject, but I've been saying a lot since I got pulled into the drama yesterday, and I think I'm about ranted out for now. I'm waiting on LJ's supposed upcoming announcement to their users and whether or not we'll hear anything from other news sites.
Also Kally, LJ has a big Permanent Account sale coming up for $150 per journal if you want to make it permanent. Many, and I do mean Many, people have said that they were thinking about getting one, but with this current explosion, they won't.
Another issue is that LJ/Six Apart claims to be taking care of pornographic sites to protect children, yet there are still journals up and running where the owners are talking about having sex with children. I saw two today, linked in the massive 70+ page thread demanding answers and information. *Those journals* need to be deleted and handed over to authorities, *not* deleting journals for rape survivors, fanfic, etc. Yes, maybe new posting terms may need to be put in place, but no one is bothering to tell LJ users what the LJ Powers that Be deem to be delete-worthy.
I'm not actively a member of any fandoms that may be targeted, if only because I've got an addictive personality, but so many of my friends are, and I wholly support them and their fandoms.

Lauralai - I myself was considering getting a Permanent Account, or at least asking for one for my birthday, since its coming up, but now I'd really rather not. It angers me that this seems to be simply mass censorship based on interest, instead of paying attention the the actual content. Instead of alienating people, why not find volunteers who are willing to examine the content of the communities and journals with questionable interests instead of deleting them? I'm sure they'd find plenty of people willing to do so.
Ugh...This isn't looking good for users. I love fanfiction communities but this may hinder my reading if the mods start having problems with the LJ team.
Another Whedon fandom link... the journal of BtVS/AtS fanfic writer liz-marcs has become one of the rallying places for information about the incident. liz-marcs has been in contact with Warriors for Innocence, the anti-pedophilia blog/group that appears to have made the original complaints. Here is her original e-mail to them and here is their response and her follow-up. She raises some excellent points.

It's been quite a few years since I was an avid reader/writer of fanfiction, but I'm feeling the urge to do some reading today. I never really got around to checking out any Whedonverse-related fics...

ETA: Warren Ellis has announced he is, for all intents and purposes, boycotting LJ.

[ edited by Lady Brick on 2007-05-31 03:22 ]
Lady Brick - I've got the same urge. Its ironic that their censorship is causing more people to check out and read fanfiction.
I am really wishing I hadn't renewed my paid account w/lj, I really don't feel good about this kind of censorship: the equivalent of breaking into someone's room and burning their books. These lj users were not given a chance to remove the objectionable posts, they were not given a chance to back them up and take them off line. Seems to me that Live Journal has broken trust with everyone who has an lj account by not telling anyone this would happen ahead of time. I don't read fan fic and I have never heard of any of the deleted communities, but I feel a chill of mindless censorship which I never thought to feel at Live Journal.
embers:
I've heard of many deleted communities but that was mainly music related.

I agree with you about this censorship issue. It is a bit harsh to not give warnings beforehand.
If they're trying to stop pedophiles, shouldn't they be calling the police as opposed to LJ?
liz_marcs is on my flist and I've been following her account of the scandal, and seen it explode all over my flist and member comms for the last few days. I've been involved with various internet fandoms since the mid 90's, and I can't EVER remember an incident that has incited fans like this. Stories are even cropping up on mainstream news sites!
The blanket of censorship is just too broad and nondiscriminating. For one, if fanfics that aren't actually doing any wrong are deleted, that is a problem, though perhaps some are justified. Secondly, if music sites are being deleted, many of them may just be justified but maybe not.

The problem is that there just isn't any kind of indication as to what the criteria are, other than "illegal activity" or depiction of "illegal act."

I avoid fanfics which may depict these things and I don't really have time to be part of any particular group on LJ but it just seems to me that LJ should probably ask questions first before shooting down fandoms.
If LiveJournal had given notice that they would be suspending journals that had certain 'interests', what do you think would have happened? They were simply called on the carpet for not enforcing their own terms of service, (by whom, is my question?) and their lawyers advised them to initiate damage control. Searching interests was the only way they could do so efficiently. I think that they probably deleted some very offensive communities, and a minority of fan communities that were quite innocuous. The latter will get over it, and continue on, maybe not on LJ, but I hope they stay. Whomever started this wants the rug pulled out from under LiveJournal, and leaving LJ plays into their scenario. imo.
Rather than subject posters to my thoughts on what I see as: the highly disturbing oversexualised elements of fandom, outsiders imposing their views on a counter culture, why we must all hang together and how to lose your head in a crisis, I would refer you all to the latest statement from LiveJournal.

http://news.livejournal.com/99159.html
Live together, die alone. Six Apart (the people who own Livejournal etc) fucked up, but they'll survive.
Good response from Barak. Six Apart are good guys. Well, in my book anyway. Sometimes good guys make mistakes. Storm. Teacup. Etc.
Yeah, nice, honest response. All organisations make mistakes (if they were really organised we wouldn't have to call them that to remind us ;), it's how they fix them that counts. Just owning up to it is much more than a lot of companies would do.

Blanket bans are always frustrating and often unfair but as TaraLivesOn says above, it's their sand-pit so if they want to take away your bucket, that's up to them (it's kind of like the "Management reserves the right ..." notice in a Pub i.e. despite the fact it's called a Public House, it's still actually private property). In turn, you guys are free to take your business elsewhere. S'capitalism innit ;).

And I haven't been to any of the fan-fiction journals that have been banned but here's the thing: from the little i've seen and what i've gathered, a lot of fan-fiction (and i'm thinking especially Harry Potter as an obvious starting point) does depict acts that are illegal in many places. Any fan-fic involving sex with the main characters is depicting statuatory rape, any male/male slash is going to be depicting (rightly or wrongly) an illegal act in parts of the US as I understand it (as well as other places around the world).

To play Devil's advocate, why does the fact that it's based on best-selling fiction make it any different to some paedophile making up stories about what he'd like to do (or has, fictionally, done) to kids ?

(i'm reminded of seeing a policeman talking on TV about how a lot of the material paedophiles get off on isn't pornographic or even necessarily that suggestive - a lot of them steal/collect normal, run-of-the-mill beach or playground photos of kids - so isn't there some case to be made that some fan-fic serves that purpose for them ? As with most things in the human sphere, it's all about arbitrary lines and where we draw them)
To play Devil's advocate, why does the fact that it's based on best-selling fiction make it any different to some paedophile making up stories about what he'd like to do (or has, fictionally, done) to kids ?

How is writing FICTION which depicts incest, rape, underage sex, pedophilia a bad thing? How is writing about these subjects worse than writing a story about murder, which then gets turned into an episode of Law & Order or CSI or etc, etc? In fact, there are many great stories that contain all these topics - and writing them is not illegal.

How can writing FICTION be compared to a pedophile fantasizing?

How can writing FICTION be compared to commiting rape or child molestation?

As to Six Apart, yeah it fucked up. Now it's apologised. By tomorrow, those affected journals in fandom will be back up - with their "interests" possibly modified.

It's amazing what fandom can create in such a short amount of time. Here they have created a furore that is somewhat justifiable, but in the long term, leaving LJ over this one incident is probably going to do more damage than good. When fandom gets its knickers in a twist, it can lose all perspective.
Saje: The problem with with that is that it's a very slippery slope. Take out "based on" and you're including everything from Romeo & Juliet to BtVS itself. From what I've seen, a large part of fandom has always claimed/fought for artistic legitimacy. And LiveJournal has always supported them before this, regardless of content.

Writing about illegal sex acts is not in itself illegal. Good thing too, or a lot of published writers would be in serious trouble. Should derivative works be held to stricter standards? What about writers who write original works for fun rather than for publication? What about writers who simply haven't been published yet? I sure as hell wouldn't want to be the person drawing that line.

For what it's worth, I'm glad Six Apart finally released the statement they did. I hope their actions in resolving the matter reflect their words.
Yep, crossoverman and Lady Brick that's entirely true and personally I agree with your positions but then i'm left wondering what, apart from sharing e.g. photos that actually show a crime taking place, could ever be construed as worthy of removal i.e. what constitutes encouraging people to commit illegal acts and what is 'merely' fiction (which apparently you're both fairly sure doesn't) ? Or in other words, if someone writes Harry Potter fan-fiction explicitly for the use of paedophiles, is that OK ?

I mention it out of genuine interest because I once had a conversation about virtual child-porn i.e. images produced wholly on a computer, not of an actual child. The other party was disgusted I could even consider it but my point was if it prevents paedophiles from touching actual children then why not (note, i've no idea if it would, could be it would actually encourage paedophiles to 'escalate' their behaviour, IANAPsychologist ;) ?
Simon, thanks for the update. Saje, your post about virtual child-porn really scares me. To be quite honest, the sexual fanfic kinda scares me. If I were one of the actors who played the character, I'd be a little creeped-out. Just sayin.
Saje, your post about virtual child-porn really scares me.

OK, but my point is (kind of) why ? No-one gets hurt and it's at least possible that fewer people would get hurt as a result of it. It's surely not scarier than actual child-porn where actual children are molested ?

And just to go back a bit to crossoverman's post:

How can writing FICTION be compared to a pedophile fantasizing?

Well, obviously if the person writing the fiction is a paedophile (as in my example) then the two are one and the same. I've never written fan-fic (of any kind) so don't know how it works but does the person writing sexual fan-fic get off purely on the idea of the two characters having sex or is there an element of vicariously appearing in the situation as they imagine it ? And if the character in the fan-fic is under-age, how different is it ? Cos as a reader, if something strikes me as erotic there's usually an element of "putting myself in their place".

Note crossoverman, i'm emphatically NOT saying that writers of sexual fan-fic (even with under-age characters) are all paedophiles but I am wondering about the clarity of the distinction between sexual fan-fic with under-age characters and what most people would consider child-porn (purely the fictional aspect presumably, in which case i'd also wonder how many people when reading/writing it see, for instance, Harry and Hermione as entirely separate from the actors playing them ?).

How can writing FICTION be compared to commiting rape or child molestation?

It can't (which is why I didn't compare them, I compared one person writing fiction to another person writing fiction - though presumably for very different reasons).
This is just like what went on at Digg with the HD code. I'm more of a free speech supporter than anyone, but don't ever expect free reign when you're using someone else's webpage. Write as much underage slashfic as you want, but the second you store it on someone else's server, be prepared to have them remove it. Hell, they could take down your completely innocent Golden Girls fanfic for whatever reason they wanted and it would still be completely within their rights and you could do nothing.
Barak has posted that they're now in the process of restoring about half of the journals, including

1. All Fandom journals
2. All fiction journals
3. All journals who that had problems in their profile only.

This just in... LJ is restoring all of the fandom and fiction journals that were deleted.

I think the big issue here is that LiveJournal has always promoted itself as a place for free speech. People choose to pay money for accounts or switch to accounts that generate ad revenue on the basis of the image this company has built. Not only did LJ do a 180 on the interpretation of their Terms of Service without any warning, they did so on the basis of the complaints of a group that was found to be promoting a racist, xenophobic, and anti-GBLT agenda. It's not about censorship and freedom of speech so much as it is a betrayal of trust. I'm glad they're currently working to restore that trust.
Saje said:
Cos as a reader, if something strikes me as erotic there's usually an element of "putting myself in their place".

That is an interesting point. And I guess somebody who writes Harry Potter fic with these themes would be the best person to answer why it is they write what they do. Personally, I have no interest in reading it - which is mostly based on my bias against fan fiction than any bias toward the subject matter.

And most certainly the argument can be made that a lot of slash fic is fandom writing about good looking actors getting it on. But it's really not good practice to generalise about fan fic, because there's always an argument against any broad assumption made.

My concern is the suggestion that because these writings might arouse someone who is looking to commit these crimes, that these stories shouldn't be written. And again, fictional stories can not really be compared to child pornography or the actual act itself. The distinction would clearly be text (the stories themselves) versus photographs of actual children, who suffer twice - at being abused and at those pictures being spread around.

Harry Potter fan fic writer who likes to write Harry/Draco or Harry/Snape, for instance... who do her stories harm? Except possibly the literary integrity of JK Rowling's characters?

If Joe Pedophile wrote real person fic about the kid down the road, then we'd have a problem... but only so far as this might be a lead in to catch him later. And perhaps this grey area is what tripped LiveJournal/Six Apart up. There were certainly journals on line which weren't part of fandom or role-playing groups with this kind of questionable content. It's tricky.

But suggesting that stories about under-age child sexuality incites pedophiles is the same as saying stories about rape incites rapists, stories about murder incite murder and stories about lawyers incite people to study law.
Just to clarify: LJ didn't deleted journals, they suspended them. They are still in tact and the ones that are found to be suspended in error will be restored.
The problem with fiction on a wider scale (fanfic) that depicts illegal acts is the fact that you are giving those with a very illegal problem an avenue to pursue their obsessions. Certainly, there are those who may write about rape in their fiction but do not condone rape. But how many times do people look at a work of fiction like that and ask, "am I giving someone ideas?"

I am an advocate of free speech, so it sounds like I'm defending censorship, which I am not. I look at a situation like virtual (insert illegal act here) and when I see "it doesn't hurt anyone" as an excuse, I feel that it actually gives people with a problem like pedophilia an avenue to get the release they look for, and when that is not enough, that person will be fully ready to move onto real people, which is what no one desires. Instead of somewhat excusing these people of their actions (or possible actions) by giving them an outlet, we need to recognize the problem and get them help as soon as possible.
I've never written fan-fic (of any kind) so don't know how it works but does the person writing sexual fan-fic get off purely on the idea of the two characters having sex or is there an element of vicariously appearing in the situation as they imagine it ?


It's a complex issue, I see it as the following.

Some writers want to explore the themes involved in an artistic fashion.

Other writers have experienced sexual trauma when they were younger and write as a form of therapy.

Some want to explore adult avenues that tv shows might have taken had they been free from network restrictions.

The rest is the type of writing that you would find on pornographic story sites. At best the fics are sexy fun and at worst would make you throw up after reading them (I may have a somewhat gray moral code but the sheer brutality and viciousness of these fan fics leaves me very cold and wishing to God it wasn't part of my fandom).
I tend to think that there is an artistic problem with fic that is obviously R or NC17 rated, simply because the writers and producers obviously never meant for it to be this way. Even if the constrictions of television were not there, it would be obvious that reasonable writers and producers would never mean for ANY of those vicious and overboard elements (rape, incest, etc.) to be used as graphically as they are in some fics. Maybe it is just me being prudish because I don't read any fic that is not canon, but I just think there is another element to fic in general, that fic writers mess with the original integrity.

Of course, AU (alternate universe) is another matter, one much more harmless, so I have nothing against them -- I'm just not into AU.

[ edited by Browncoat on 2007-06-01 00:17 ]
Apparently LJ is undergoing a DDos attack (perhaps as a childish response to their actions - which they said they are now undoing to a certain degree)

http://community.livejournal.com/lj_maintenance/

I can't get into any comm's, can anyone else?

(update: and as soon as I posted this it started working again, sorry)

[ edited by TaraLivesOn on 2007-06-01 00:48 ]
Some want to explore adult avenues that tv shows might have taken had they been free from network restrictions.


That's exactly the reason I write Angel/Lindsey.

At best the fics are sexy fun and at worst would make you throw up after reading them (I may have a somewhat gray moral code but the sheer brutality and viciousness of these fan fics leaves me very cold and wishing to God it wasn't part of my fandom).


I can't second that statement enough. I've come across some fanfiction that has made me ill.
I've come across some fanfiction that has made me ill.

See, that's the thing. I don't know how fiction affects people. My personal feeling is that a well balanced adult can watch or read absolutely anything and still not be any closer to committing horrible acts (they might be disgusted, even traumatised by what they see but still no more likely to actually do it). BUT there's a nagging doubt because we all (I assume) accept that fiction can depress us, uplift us, arouse us, inspire us (even to make huge, life altering decisions), make us laugh or cry or even more bullish or aggressive and yet we're absolutely sure it can't have more lasting damaging effects ? And what about on minds that are still forming ?

I feel that it actually gives people with a problem like pedophilia an avenue to get the release they look for, and when that is not enough, that person will be fully ready to move onto real people,

Well, that's the key of course Browncoat. If paedophiles do tend to 'move on' to real kids then we should try to categorically stamp out all kinds of child-porn (even the virtual kind, whether some fan-fic falls under that being for wiser heads than mine) but if they don't, if in fact the 'outlet' of pornography is just that, an outlet so that they don't have to bottle stuff up until it's unleashed on an actual human then, to me, we should be making victimless child-porn freely available to them.

There are a lot of factors though, maybe for instance virtual porn wouldn't be an outlet because they have to connect what they see with an actual child, maybe it would lead to escalation, in which case, I don't see any 'help' for them but to remove them from society for the safety of others. In that case, i'd imprison them for life (not necessarily in nasty conditions, i'm not talking about revenge because, despite what the tabloid press would have us think, I also try to see paedophiles as "people with a problem" rather than inhuman monsters) and count the tax burden as part of the cost of living in a civilised society (but that's definitely another topic ;).

Other writers have experienced sexual trauma when they were younger and write as a form of therapy.

That's interesting about the therapeutic aspect Simon, that hadn't occurred to me.
Gods but this is complicated. No one wants pedophilia out there for anyone to access. On the other hand, I am so anti-censorship. But pedophilia is in a class by itself and I can't bring myself to defend it's depiction in any form. But this is the slippery slope, with censors, an area where they can get their nasty hands all over the internet and do something this far reaching. And that to me is just appalling.
The depiction of a sexual act between an adult and a ten year old is clearly pedophilia. But I don't know about the Harry Potter stuff, I haven't ever read any of it.
But as for BtS fic, I've read a ton of it and I definitely go for the NC-17 stuff first. Some of it is excellent, some of it is awful (as in badly written). And yes, I've encountered some that made me ill. I immediately stopped reading it, simple as that.

I would like to point out one thing, which has been discussed in the past on another board. As a women, I dislike 99% of pornography because it's written, almost without exception, for men. But the majority of NC-17 BtS fan fic I've read it written by women and for the first time in my life, I've encountered stories that I as a woman find to be genuinely erotic. When this topic came up on the board in question (mostly women), there was universal agreement that yes, Nc-17 BtS fan fic did indeed provide something erotic to which women *for once* could relate, and enjoy. Just one more little kink in a very tangled knot.
Double-posting demon strikes again, all apologies.

[ edited by Shey on 2007-06-02 13:14 ]
Just addng a link here, in case anyone is interested in reading more on this subject, especially those of us with fiction up on livejournal. It seems as if the pedophilia issue may not be all there is to what happened.

[ edited by menomegirl on 2007-06-02 14:42 ]

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