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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

It's Like an Accident Scene, and I Cannot Look away ... (Yes, More on the E'er-Unfolding LJ Drama)

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

It's Like an Accident Scene, and I Cannot Look away ... (Yes, More on the E'er-Unfolding LJ Drama)

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forest for the trees
I'm rewarding myself for finishing (maybe?) the Green Knight story this afternoon by writing a journal entry. w00t!

The other day, via metafandom, I found yet further evidence of LJ digging themselves deeper and deeper. This time, it has to do with hyperlinks: what one can legally link on LJ, what one cannot, and how LJ will handle instances of previously "legal" links becoming "unsafe." LJ's conclusion on the matter: We are responsible for the content that hides behind those links, and if the links contain content that is barred according to the ToS, then we can receive a "strike" or be suspended for linking to it. The kicker: even if the original link has changed to something "unsafe," we are still responsible and should therefore check our links regularly.

And at first, I came away from the discussion as did most of the early commenters on liz_marc's post: LJ's policies show ignorance of how both communication and the Internet work, which is pretty sad considering that LJ markets itself as a forum for Internet communication. But I've thought a bit more about it over the past few days, gotten a bit more out of the lemming OMG-LJ-IS-*EVOL* mentality, and wondered if by getting our panties in a wad over this latest turn of events, we aren't proving ourselves to be hysterics and just as obstinate and counterproductive as LJ itself in attempting to negotiate a favorable solution for both the company and the users.

Because consider the likelihood of happening upon the slippery slope considered in the post above. The author largely discusses political and news communities or users who do routine "link roundups" of news stories. She also bases her argument on the fact that "[i]t's not unheard of for formerly 'safe sites' to suddenly become 'unsafe' as a result of Web page movement and disappearance."

So what this necessitates is a political/news site going offline, the domain being picked up by a new webmaster, and that exact link being turned into either 1) child pornography, 2) a hate site, or 3) a site displaying patented or copyrighted information.

Does this seem highly unlikely to anyone else?

Highly unlikely, of course. Impossible? No. I could see (for example) a well-known liberal blog being turned into an anti-gay ranting site upon being abandoned so that liberalnews.com/georgebushsux.php now links to hateful material. Maybe. Still not likely, in my opinion, considering that I've seen stories about porn sites buying up popular domain names once they're abandoned and, in a matter of hours, no longer receiving hits from the original site's users because of the ease with which information spreads online. So it's not a particularly good tactic, imho, negating the fact that marketing a website to a group of people who aren't going to use the website isn't particularly effective either. (As in why would an anti-gay site attempt to market itself to a bunch of liberals?)

This on top of the fact that LJ Abuse says that if the context in which the link lies demonstrates that it was a formerly "safe" site, they will request that the link be fixed or removed before taking any disciplinary action against the user. This seems a pretty fair course of action to me in the (unlikely) event that a safe link becomes ToS-unsafe.

Because, face it, LJ does not want people getting around the ban on child porn, hate sites, and posting copyrighted information by hosting it off-site and then linking to it. As a webmaster and as a person who occasionally finds herself prone to bouts of common sense, this seems logical to me.

And the "OMG now we have to check all of our linx everyday!!11!one!!1!" just feels hysterical to me. If you do a news roundup every day, chances are that most of those sites aren't going anywhere anytime soon, and even if CNN.com mysteriously collapses overnight, the fact that the link belongs to CNN would serve as adequate context that the link used to be safe, even if CNN.com was snatched up immediately by a purveyor of kiddie porn. It seems to me that a much more reasonable course of action would involve checking those links that go to sites where unsafe content may reside and getting into the habit of providing some context, which I would think people would do anyway in order to provide meaning to their hyperlinks. Most hyperlinks aren't self-explanatory, so descriptive titles or summaries are probably things that even "link queens" have been doing all along anyway. Behold: context!

Now I do think that the author addresses a few good points. This issue--along with many others--does need to be addressed in a satisfactory and clear manner to the userbase. That LJ plans to suspend journals and issue "strikes" based on this policy that does not reflect in the ToS--except where the vague "other materials" are concerned--is disturbing. And she's wholly justified in her lack of trust in a service that has gone back on their word several times now, as well as (rightfully, imho) suspicious of the lack of transparency in her conversation with the LJ Abuse staff member on an issue that seems to be on the forefront of the minds of many.

But I still feel like getting shrill over something that is highly unlikely to happen and for which LJ has created failsafes in the event that it does is detrimental to "our cause" as a whole. We've managed to keep logic and fairness on "our" side through this whole ordeal. (And yes, I know that there are exceptions to that, but it seems to me that the most-read and most-publicized posts on the subject have been very reasonable, as has their writers' correspondence with LJ/6A.) Right now, I don't think that looking like a bunch of hysterical boys crying "Wolf!" over a non-issue is a move in the right direction.

Entirely my opinion, of course, but that goes without saying. :)

Now, this issue did raise a question that I haven't seen addressed, though I've been busy lately and following the recent developments with less than the obsessive diligence required to keep up. What about content posted in comments? Presumably, content that violates the ToS posted in a signed comment would result in action taken against the user who made the comment. But what about anonymous comments?

If, for example, someone wants to get me kicked off of LJ, is it possible for him or her to leave an anonymous comment linking a child porn site and then report me to LJ Abuse? Am I responsible for the content of comments that are posted in my journal?

If not, this would be (I would think) a work-around for people who want to link "unsafe" content without getting ToS'ed. Simply log out and leave an anonymous comment linking to the illegal content. Of course, one so foolish to post and anonymously comment from the same computer would make him or herself an easy target, but services that hide IP addresses as well as using public Wi-Fi spots are certainly easy ways to hide behind anonymity. (So is using a Super Sekrit Guv'ment Computer with an invisible IP address, but I doubt most people have access to one of those.)

I haven't seen this addressed yet though, as I said, I've been less than diligent. Has anyone seen this issue arise, and how was it answered? It seems an obvious work-around for people who want to post illegal content that I can't believe it hasn't been addressed by someone, yet it seems also another possible way for LJ to inevitably piss off its userbase with further rules, restrictions, and injustice.
  • But I still feel like getting shrill over something that is highly unlikely to happen and for which LJ has created failsafes in the event that it does is detrimental to "our cause" as a whole. [...] Right now, I don't think that looking like a bunch of hysterical boys crying "Wolf!" over a non-issue is a move in the right direction.

    Yesss... And I can well imagine a bunch of frustrated employees dealing with dozens of comments and e-mails just sighing and having a hard time avoiding the thought, "They're never happy, so what's the point?" (Doesn't matter whether that's fair or professional of them--it's still not something you want to get into someone else's head when you want something!)

    (Btw, on a different but connected topic (since I'm commenting anyway and am not sure you were around to see the link in my journal), have you seen this rant? Talk about a can of worms! Though it actually made me think more about the pedophiles/sex offenders/death penalty posts in Sharon's journal a while back than about Strikethrough.)
    • (Doesn't matter whether that's fair or professional of them--it's still not something you want to get into someone else's head when you want something!)

      True that! For example, as a foodservice minion not so long ago, I was far less likely to provide superior service to those who had proven themselves to be pains in the ass. Unfair that someone who couldn't keep a soda half-full for more than thirty seconds didn't get the extra perks that my more modest soda-drinkers did? Maybe ... but that's life. I'm sure it's the same on LJ Abuse, where the constant attempts at poking the monster are going to reflect, sooner or later, in how perceived members of those communities doing the poking are treated.

      Fair? Prolly not ... but that's life.

      I had not seen that particular rant and thank you for the link. :) Given that she's a counselor, I find myself feeling a bit odd putting my own studies and education against her experience, but I find myself having trouble making the leaps that she so easily does. I wish that she had given citations for the studies about the correlation between violent pr0n-watching and the commission of violent sex acts because I spent a semester studying child maltreatment and another semester studying aggression and never ran into anything along those lines. Alas, this isn't surprising ... there are thousands of studies in these fields. But I have a problem right off the bat with these studies: The number-one rule of social science research is that correlation is not causation. Likely, those inclined to watch violent pr0n had violent inclinations to start. And it is highly unethical to subject some participants to high doses of violent pr0n and measure the outcomes; as illustrative as this would be, no institutional review board would ever approve such a study.

      So while I find her point interesting, my own study of the subject reveals holes in the logic that she uses to get from "reading stories about teenaged!Harry Potter having sex with Snape" to "abusing my own kids because my boundaries have dissolved."

      Now her experience as a counselor may lend credence to her views; I don't work with my degree, so I can't add much in the way of clinical experience. But as far as research goes, I have learned that "violent media causes violence!!!1!!one!1!" studies should always be viewed with skepticism because the studies necessary to actually prove that point are unethical so the methodology always have big flaw. Imho, of course. ;)

      Incidentally, my family was ripped apart by a molester (though, luckily, not my immediate family). I don't say that to pull the "I've had firsthand experience and you don't so nyah!" to the rant-writer but to point out that this is an issue close to my heart as well; I only feel that we should pursue those actually committing the crimes rather than arguing over whether fictional characters appear to be of age or not and trying to draw spurious correlations between Harry Potter pr0n and the inclination to commit sex offenses.
      • Yeah, I was also having trouble with how she expected people to buy "These are CHILD PORN" when people simply haven't been buying that "minor" = "child" throughout the whole kerfluffle.

        So while I find her point interesting, my own study of the subject reveals holes in the logic that she uses to get from "reading stories about teenaged!Harry Potter having sex with Snape" to "abusing my own kids because my boundaries have dissolved."

        That too--I know that when I watch any violent films myself, yes, I get a bit desensitized to it... but what that means is that if I see blood in another movie later, I'm probably not wincing as much and am less likely to have nightmares about it than I was with the first film. It certainly does not mean I could poke someone with a knife and not feel bad, no matter how many violent films I watch in my life.

        Also, the "can of worms" I was scared to touch was, do I agree that it's really the artist's fault if someone else sees it and then goes and commits a crime? I thought it was stupid when people blamed Marilyn Manson and other "violent" music for Columbine, and did a major eyeroll when I heard about some idiots blaming U2's song "Exit" for some murder they committed, after all.
        • That too--I know that when I watch any violent films myself, yes, I get a bit desensitized to it... but what that means is that if I see blood in another movie later, I'm probably not wincing as much and am less likely to have nightmares about it than I was with the first film.

          Ditto. Actually, I find that watching scary movies helps me with my blood phobia ... but it's yet to make me more violent. Just less likely to get off the highway because the backroads are quicker and, oh, this looks like a cozy little motel doesn't--

          *splat*

          I get very annoyed with the whole "violent movies and rock music are to blame for society's evils!!!11!!one!1!" argument. Violence (and child abuse) have been around for the whole of human history. I guess it was that primitive fan fiction that caused the ancients to castrate little boys so that they would be better f*cks, eh?

          Okay, I know I'm being unfair now. :) I'll behave.

          Also, the "can of worms" I was scared to touch was, do I agree that it's really the artist's fault if someone else sees it and then goes and commits a crime?

          Right. Must I be responsible for every interpretation that a reader could possibly take from my creative works?

          Granted, the "interpretation" is a little clearer on Harry/Snape fanpr0n. And truly, I find this subgenre of the HP fandom squicky (yes, she who claims to be squickless) ... but who am I to question why some people feel the need to create what they do? I have created material that some people find objectionable in an attempt to work out my own views and experiences, so I can't judge another's possible attempt to do the same, even if I find it vile myself.
  • LJ's conclusion on the matter: We are responsible for the content that hides behind those links, and if the links contain content that is barred according to the ToS, then we can receive a "strike" or be suspended for linking to it.

    I agree with all of the points you made in your post but I wonder how this affects discussions of barred content? E.g. I can see myself one day posting a discussion about the Westboro Baptist Church, owners of the GodHates-F-A-G-S website. Can I not link to their website in my discussion, even if my post is gay positive? Because apparently linking to hate sites is technically a violation of ToS, but I think it would be relevant to reference the material.

    You know more about this than I do so maybe you know the answer?
    • FAQ #107 offers insight into what is and is not permitted. The "hate sites" section states, "Comments, entries, journals and posts not permitted on LiveJournal include but are not limited to material ... inciting violence against an individual, race, ethnicity, or orientation." So I wasn't 100% accurate in listing "hate sites" without being more specific that these are actually hate sites that promote violence against a certain group. How does the WBC measure up to that?

      If it does promote violence, I think that this would be a good question to ask. I wouldn't know where to begin in providing an answer! Though personally, as well, I would be loath to link to any such site and boost their search-engine ratings. I'd prefer screencaps, personally, if I wanted to demonstrate the content of a particular site, and I don't see how that could be banned under the TOS, given that you're not advancing that particular viewpoint but are instead advocating tolerance.

      All of this is just opinion, of course. But I think it's a valid issue to raise as well.
      • How does the WBC measure up to that?

        I think they only go as far as advocating Biblical violence, i.e. "You'll burn in hell!"

        Though personally, as well, I would be loath to link to any such site and boost their search-engine ratings.

        True... but did you know if you put ref=" nofollow " (or something like that; I've never used it) in your anchor tag then Google won't crawl it?

        Methinks we need to Google bomb WBC anyway. What would be the most appropriate keywords, I wonder?
  • Holy smokes, they're taking a dangerous line here that's going to piss off so many people. Yeah, I can see how they don't want any ambiguity in their policy, but... That's taking on a huge, heavy load.

    And I agree with you: it's highly unlikely that the *exact same link* could suddenly become unsafe, so I feel like that's a bit of extra worry that isn't really necessary.
    • It is, indeed. And I think it would anger people a lot less if they felt that they could put more stock in the fact that LJ is actually going to ask them to fix the links before giving them a "strike" or bringing on the banhammer. But so far, they've waffled on many issues addressed so far. The most legitimate point the poster makes, I think, is our lack of trust of LJ/6A management based on their recent behavior.
  • The likelihood of links changing is not as wild as it night seem--I've lost it now, but a few weeks ago I found a link which promised etymology of Quenya names. When I went there I found that it is now an online hardware store--nuts, bolts and wrenches, but no elves.
    • Ai, if only one could purchase Elves at the hardware store ...

      But I digress. I know that links change and domain names sometimes expire and are picked up by other owners. (Though I'm having a hard time envisioning a domain name that encompasses both hardware and Elves ... unless it was one of *those* fanfic sites. But you say it was Quenya. ;) But I still find the likelihood of a news site changing to a kiddie pr0n site very unlikely. In fact, I think it's more likely that someone guesses my password, hacks my journal, and posts nekkid!Harry Potter on an innocuous post about hardware-wielding Elves than any of my links become unsafe.
      • I wish I remember the word! I can't find it in my "history." I thought it was really funny after I got over my frustration.
  • Catching up with a cuppa tea...

    LJ's conclusion on the matter: We are responsible for the content that hides behind those links, and if the links contain content that is barred according to the ToS, then we can receive a "strike" or be suspended for linking to it. The kicker: even if the original link has changed to something "unsafe," we are still responsible and should therefore check our links regularly.

    Excuse me but huh? Do these people have any sense of internet reality?

    LJ's policies show ignorance of how both communication and the Internet work, which is pretty sad considering that LJ markets itself as a forum for Internet communication.

    Yeah that's an understatement if you ask me. Makes you wonder what the heck they are thinking. Sometimes you know, I so want to attend a meeting of them, to see what on earth they are talking about.

    A: So what are we going to do with links?
    B: links?
    A; yeah, you know, those url's to bad websites and such.
    B: Hmmm... let me think...
    A: Don't hurt yourself.
    B: oooo those, well of course we have to include them into unwanted content too.
    C: euh guys, are you sure about that?
    B: of course, we are doing it for the childrun and our community!
    C: so how exactly do you want to go about that?
    A: yay, more surfing the internet in the boss free time! Weheee!
    B: well of course we are the internet and therefore we control the internet. There's only one thing that interests me - the incredible thrill of taking over the worldInternet!
    C: Mmm, I think there's a height requirement for that.
    B: The irony of it all, C. Years of trying to take over the world, and all I had to do was say "moo".

    Curtesy to Pinky and the Brain ;)

    And the "OMG now we have to check all of our linx everyday!!11!one!!1!" just feels hysterical to me.

    Well, truth to be told: I completely missed that hysterics! Heh. And no, I am not even going to bother to check the links. I mean, that's just too much and who take that effort of weedling through so many posts?

    That LJ plans to suspend journals and issue "strikes" based on this policy that does not reflect in the ToS--except where the vague "other materials" are concerned--is disturbing.

    Well I don't see how that hold up in court actually. I suggested over and over in their news and businezz post to really become professional and create at least a legal document on the site so that users can look up the specifics. The label of 'other' stands so weakly that it gets thrown out of court even faster than you can say url.

    Now, this issue did raise a question that I haven't seen addressed, though I've been busy lately and following the recent developments with less than the obsessive diligence required to keep up. What about content posted in comments? Presumably, content that violates the ToS posted in a signed comment would result in action taken against the user who made the comment. But what about anonymous comments?

    That's a good question, shall we keep that one for the next round where LJ/SA screws up once more? Just give me a holler and I bring the popcorn!
    • Re: Catching up with a cuppa tea...

      *snickersnicker*

      Moo! ;)

      Well, truth to be told: I completely missed that hysterics!

      Ai good, I am doing my part to bring the hysterics--pitchforks and all--to those few remaining innocents on my flist. ;)

      I mean, that's just too much and who take that effort of weedling through so many posts?

      Like I told Oshun in the comment above yours, I find it more likely that someone guesses my password, hacks my journal, and posts Harry Potter pr0n uncut and uncensored, then reports me, just for kicks and giggles, than finding that one of my links has become "unsafe." I think there's a reasonable degree of worry that we have to have about our identities, passwords, and the content we post online ... then there is paranoia and hysteria to an impractical and distracting degree. Thinking that I need to change my password every hour to prevent haxx0rs from corrupting my unsullied dawn_felagund name is about as impractical and paranoid as believing that HASA is going to become a purveyor of kiddie pr0n overnight.

      Well I don't see how that hold up in court actually.

      I am going to laugh when one of the Potter-pr0n-writing housewives they ban turns out to have an attorney for a husband and sues the pants off of LJ/6A ... but that's just me being mean again.

      (Or when one of the Potter-pr0n-writing attorneys comes to the defense of one of the banned ... that will be even better. >:^)

      That's a good question, shall we keep that one for the next round where LJ/SA screws up once more? Just give me a holler and I bring the popcorn!

      Will do! I've got the beer and the soda and the comfy rec room ... provided I can wrench it away from my football-watching hubby, of course. ;)
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