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Policy/procedure change and account suspension discussion
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theljstaff wrote in lj_policy
We are planning one additional clarification to the Policies and Procedures. It has been the long-standing practice of LiveJournal to treat photographs of post-pubescent minors (under age 18) in which genitalia or breasts are clearly shown, or photographs where sexualization of a minor is apparent, as unacceptable content, with exception of photographs that in our good faith opinion serve legitimate news or educational purposes. In cases like these, the journal has been permanently suspended, and the content forwarded to the NCMEC due to concerns about child pornography laws.

Now, in the case of non-sexualized photographs of teenagers where breasts or genitalia are shown, we will no longer permanently suspend the account. Because of the borderline nature of that content, we have changed our practices at this time. When the content reported to us is photographic nudity of minors which is non-sexual in nature, we will take the following actions:

1. Upon being reported to us, we will email the users who have posted such content, and require that the photograph be removed within 24 hours.

2. If the photograph is not removed, we will temporarily suspend the account, and provide instructions for unsuspending the account and removing the offending photograph.

3. Noncompliance after unsuspending the account in order to remove the material or repeat violations will result in permanent suspension.

Therefore we will not be changing what is unacceptable content on LiveJournal, but we will be changing our take-down procedure for this type of content, and we will be making an addition to our policy document to make this clear.

We would also like to present for your consideration and discussion the options for technical changes in the suspension process that we are currently considering.

1. One of the options that is under discussion for implementation in the future is to suspend or lock down single entries; currently, only entire journals can be suspended. This would prevent users from having their entire journal suspended for a single violating entry, allowing them to continue using their accounts. This would also allow people who read that journal to continue viewing their other entries which do not contain any violations. The entry could later be unsuspended/unlocked when they have removed the violating content.

2. Currently, when an account is suspended, all entries in the journal are hidden from view; users viewing the journal can only see an announcement that the account has been suspended.
We are considering a possible change that, under some circumstances, would preserve the user's journal in a "read only" state. The journal would be available for reading, but new content could not be posted to it. The user would also be able to delete his or her journal altogether after it has been locked if they do not wish for it to be viewable.

Please, keep in mind that neither of these options are set in stone and are still in the process of discussion. However, in line with out new policy of openness, we wanted to get your opinions on this matter.

I really like the option of suspending single entries. That seems MUCH better than suspending entire journals when there is only a one time violation!

EDIT: HOLY CRAP I'm the first to comment!

Edited at 2008-07-03 07:16 pm (UTC)

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Re option #2: Would suspended journals who deleted be eligible for purging? I hear that suspended journals currently can't be purged for legal reasons, so this may create some sort of conflict. It's also possible that I'm wrong on why suspended journals aren't purged. I don't really care about the purging thing; I'm just curious as to what issues this might bring up.

The suspension of single entries make much more sense than suspending entire journals.

I agree with this comment liek woah.

I like the first option for sure. Locking down the offending entry seems like a much better idea than locking the entire journal, especially if the user is likely to be compliant about taking the entry down. Seems more fair.

I like the second option instinctually, but I can see how it might not be the best idea. I think it's good in some cases but not good in others. I mean, if someone is suspended for having a very offensive journal, it seems like part of the point to remove that offensive material from people's eyes. But if someone is suspended for something minor (and they are likely to be unsuspended eventually), it, again, seems more fair to allow a read-only version for the person's friends. This one is stickier.

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It makes a lot more sense to suspend single entries as opposed to entire journals, yes.

Any chance you would ever reconsider the deletion of all comments made by a suspended account in other people's journals? I have several posts in my journal where the discussions were completely eviscerated when someone was suspended, because all you see is "Reply from suspended user" where a great comment used to be. Comments are preserved when accounts are deleted and purged, why not when they are suspended?

I second this. A journal's owner can delete comments if she wants them gone.

I am also voting for option #1. Seems like a very fair way to go about the process.

I think both options are good.

Option one sounds like a really good idea; far better than suspending entire journals for one (potential) violation.

What practical advantage would option two have over option one, aside from the blanket effect of affecting more than one entry? I see this as a way to deal with journals who have lots of content that needs to be reviewed. Is there something I'm not seeing?

Perhaps a combination of both would be the most effective.

I think the second one refers to permanent suspension, while the first one is about a temporary suspension, where just one entry needs to be fixed in order to get unsuspended.

Suspending/locking down single entries sounds quite good. The idea of read only journals is interesting. It means that legitimate, non-illegal content could stay up. I think that'd be fair, too.

I think these are both excellent ideas. I think the current policy is far too drastic, and penalizes not only the journal owner but everyone else who has commented and contributed material to their journal. I also agree with the previous commenter that having my own journal gutted because another user's comments are wiped away because they were suspended is unfair and upsetting. I would definitely like some way for those comments to remain even if the person who made them is suspended.

It's good to see that attention is being paid to improving the process and giving users a chance to give their feedback. It's definitely encouraging, and I think the ideas listed above would be an improvement.

1. sounds like a good idea. If only one entry causes problems, why not just remove that entry from viewing?

2. I don't know about this one. The journal should in any case be clearly marked as suspended, and the owner should not be able to do anything with the account, besides deleting it. I'd also tend to removing much of the profile page information, such as contact information and also the Friends list - people might not want to be on a suspended account's Friends list. All in all, this should be very carefully implemented.

Option one seems good, but that would make it fairly easy for a violator to ignore the suspension entirely—or miss it if they don't check their mail. While it removes the violating post, part of the point of suspending is to make the violator conscious of their mistake so they can avoid it in the future, yes?

I would suggest adding something inconvenient and annoying to the process, like preventing the violator from posting until the material is removed. Other than that, this all sounds very reasonable. I definitely like the policy-application change. :D Excellent job.

The only thing that concerns me here is what counts as "sexualized" or "non-sexualized." These words can be pretty open to interpretation, so I think that it would be important to be specific about what counts under each category. For example, it seems straightforward that baby pictures in the tub would fall under the term "non-sexualized," right? But would things of that nature still be tagged for removal?

The actions that you outline when photographs are reported seem quite reasonable to me, but please, when you implement this policy, add some examples that clarify the words and terminology that you use for objectionable content.

Other than that, I like both of the options that you lay out - both locking a single entry and making a suspended journal read-only would allow the preservation of the existing acceptable content, which seems much more fair to the journal owner and readers. It seems as if option 1 (locking a single entry) might be easier and clearer to implement in a variety of situations, though, so I would probably lean towards that one.

Finally: thanks for asking for opinions, LJ! I appreciate the openness in this and the last few policy changes.

Oops, on re-reading, I just realized that we're only talking about post-pubescent minors here, so the "baby pictures" example doesn't make any sense. But I actually think that the point is still important - remember the massive debate over the Vanity Fair portraits of Miley Cyrus?

Determining what does and does not count as "sexualized" still needs some clarity.

i think option two is probably the better option. having something that is demonstrably punitive to require action on the offending article is good. but, i'm glad that these are less draconian than previous methods.

This sounds good - I've never been in favour of the "death sentence for the first offence" approach, and giving people the opportunity to clear up honest mistakes before permanently suspending is definitely a good thing.

I'm also very much in favour of your other two proposals; there is no real reason (beyond current technical limitations) why unrelated entries should be hidden if a journal is suspended (temporarily or permanently) as long as they themselves do not run afoul of any policy, and there also is no reason why, depending on the circumstances of suspension, it shouldn't be possible for a journal to stay visible in "read-only mode" - for example, if a user is suspended not for the content they post but rather for, say, launching a DoS attack against the Livejournal website (I'm assuming that'd net the offending user a suspension; if not, substitute something else that's not content-related), their journal could certainly stay available in read-only mode.

After all, it might still contain useful, interesting or otherwise relevant information etc., and people who linked to it before would probably be happier if their links didn't go dead just because the journal's owner decided to be stupid, entirely unrelated to the entries in question.

Anyhow, kudos. :)

I think both suggested options would be great improvements.

I also hope that when a journal is suspended, the comments and community posts made by that user could be allowed to remain. I have a number of threads in my journal, and marked at memories in communities, which have been ruined by a participant later being suspended and all their comments vanishing. It's very frustrating when you've bookmarked something as a resource!