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theljstaff wrote in lj_policy
Welcome to lj_policy!

We're glad you're here. This community will be used to gather your opinions about social and community policy.

We understand that there is a lot to absorb and process right now with the creation of LiveJournal, Inc. Since this is a transition for all of us, we want to initiate a dialogue with you, the users. We feel it is very important to hear your concerns before we release any changes to current policies, and we want to start this process right away.

As a starting point, we don't want to just guess what's important to you; we want to hear about it directly from you. Please take a moment to answer the questions below:

1) What is your greatest concern about LiveJournal's current policies?

2) Regarding your primary concern, are you aware of a site that handles that issue in a way that you like?

This is just a starting point to get your initial ideas. We know you have a lot more where these come from, and in the coming days and weeks we will make sure you have a chance to voice your opinions. We look forward to your comments.

I see that rachel has posted a response regarding homosexuality and hate speech policy.

However, I'm curious as to whether this applies to gender identity issues as well. I'm a member of several communities that focus on transgender/transsexual issues. I certainly think that advocating violence against transgender/transsexual people falls under "hate speech," but I would like to know LJ's position on that as well.

I'm also concerned that under the new flagging system, communities about GLBTQ issues--even communities without sexual content--will be flagged as "explicit adult content" simply by nature of their focus on GLBTQ issues. As I commented in the lj_biz announcement about flagging, I think that this could very easily take away much-needed safe space from GLBTQ youth who are under 18.

As a transguy this is definitely a concern for me. I suppose some topics could be considered "sexual content", but not inappropriate to an extent where minors ought to be unable to access a community they might need.

1. For the past year, Livejournal has been implementing policies without consulting with and/or warning users. When I purchased a paid LJ account, I assumed I was purchasing a specific set of services...only to find out this week that I had to do additional clickthroughs and/or reset my journal settings to use Lj the way I'd been using it and expected to continue to use it in the future. On a related note, the service I paid for allowed for unlimited tags for LJ entries; now I'm restricted to 1000.

2. I think allowing lj users to flag their own journals and/or communities as having adult content is fine. Indeed, it might not be a bad idea to have some of LJ's more...interesting...communities to be able to lock themselves only to users that can prove (through credit cards or whatever) that they are genuinely 18 or older, although the current system of just asking the user to click "yes, I'm over 14/18" is pointless. I think, however, that giving users the ability to flag other people's journals just opens the doors for major abuse.

3. In general, I think LJ needs improved communication with its members, paid and unpaid.

1) My greatest concern about Livejournal's current policies is a lack of clarity in the TOS and generally in communication with users. Communication as of late has been abysmal, as people before me have stated.

2) Both IJ and JF address issues of communication and clarity better and with more alacrity than lj. Part of this I admit is because they are smaller and therefore more able to deal with their user base, but as a company with more money and people to bring to bear, LJ should not be left behind.

My other major concern, just from what we have heard, is the areas of focus of the Livejournal Advisory Board. As stated in lj_2008:

"The LiveJournal Advisory Board will publish and update on a regular basis a clear a set of aims and values. This will address such vital community issues as privacy, security, taste and decency. It will also provide a forum to consider any relevant legal, political or religious concerns. It will also focus on access issues including usability, technology, interoperability, open source, social graph, and more."

I would like clarification on how the bolded items are necessary for discussion by an advisory board. I know that as a company, LJ is under no obligation to allow speech other than what it is comfortable with. However, the reason that LJ became synonymous with blogging in Russia, and the reason it began as such a popular blog site, was because of a dedication to the freedom for people of all backgrounds to speak their minds without fear of oppression. The backlash against Strikethrough shows that this is an important issue to LJ's userbase, and the inclusion of religion and politics, particularly to users in the United States, strikes people as a sign that religious and political speech will be restricted.

2) InsaneJournal. It has 100% transparency. The site owner actually friended my journal shortly after I created it and has commented on my entries. He tells us when there's going to be maintenance, apologises for every delay or problem as though it was his fault when clearly it wasn't, asks opinions before making policy and site changes and answers all questions clearly and concisely.

There have been a lot of great replies to this already, and I won't waste time repeating them.

However, one thing I'd like to add that has only been touched on thus far is the new tag limit just put in place.

Get rid of it.

The tags have been an extremely useful tool for keeping large communities organized and this new rule has caused quite a few problems.

That's it from me for now.


The tag limit sucks!

Most people are mentioning the events of Strikethrough; I was not immediately affected by those events and additionally I think slightly more fuss was made over the issue than was necessary, but at the same time, it was really disappointing to see that kind of thing go on and to read about how edgy it was making my friends who are very active in fandom. I really want to know what constitutes "offensive content," as it were, since depending on what definition you give, I know a lot of situations where I've seen that myself, or conversely I have never seen very much of it on LJ at all.

There are several policies that concern me these days, but the one that concerns me the most is the policy about off-site linking. I can accept, though do not like, LJ's policy on what it contains. I don't agree with it, but that is another bag of bones. What I do not like nor really accept is LJ punishing people for what they link to. What is off LJ's servers should not be LJ's problem, no matter what the link contains. It is the host of the site linked to.

Yes I am aware of how LJ deals with this issue, and I think it's a bigger load of BS than the policies leading up to the ordeal last May. I would LOVE to see this policy revised. Please.

Yes, thank you for bringing this up. This is definitely an issue of concern for me, too.

1. The TOS is not clear.

This has been mentioned elsewhere from other users who have expressed their thoughts and ideas with significantly better wording than I'll be able to produce here. You have requested that we provide you with a single, primary concern and this is mine.

2. Live Journal prior to Six Apart's acquisition.

Although unsolicited, I do have secondary concerns, and those include:

a. The selective answering of questions and comments. So many times when a concern has been brought forward in lj_biz or other journals, the staff person answering the concern will either site an incomplete answer or ignore the main issue altogether, even when redirected.
b. Flagging. Unacceptable. I am a parent of young children and I am concerned about what they might find on the internet. I address those concerns by talking with them and keeping an eye on what they do while online. As a parent, I understand that what my children see and hear is my responsibility and I do not take that lightly. It is not my job, however, to police other people's children, nor do I feel comfortable with adults being restricted to protect said children. Children as a whole are much more intelligent than generally given credit for. I am confident that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of personal journals here that are the second journals of children that allow them to access any and all adult content. All flagging has done is offered users yet another way to get back at those people or groups that they don't like or that they find personally offensive. Unfortunately there are people in this world who would rather attack what they don't understand or makes them uncomfortable than simply hit the back button.
c. Overall slant against fandoms, homosexuality and adult oriented groups. I actively participate in several fandoms. Although rachel posted a partial answer (please see my secondary concern a above) to an earlier question concerning SUP's position on homophobia, it was clear during Strikethrough that homosexually oriented adult groups were targeted by LJ. Several artists and communities that focussed on slash (male/male sexual relationship in fiction or art) were deleted without notice, even while their heterosexual counterparts/affiliates did not have any difficulties at all. I found this to be very disconcerting. For the record, I am a married, heterosexual female. Six Apart did not appear to recognize the fact that they were alienating a large group of adults, the majority of which had significantly more disposable income than your average teenager. My own use of LJ, where I long came for social interaction, has decreased significantly since that time. I do not feel safe from persecution. Where do we, your paying customers, stand?

I do hope that you are taking our concerns into consideration and not simply humoring us.

As a parent of a 12-year-old, I strongly agree.

I do not want random strangers deciding what's suitable and appropriate for my children to be exposed to.

Sticking to what's legal is fine. Allowing self-flagging is fine; authors should have some say in who reads their content. But allowing random readers or a "review team" untrained in childhood development issues to decide what's "inappropriate for minors" is a gross violation of my parental rights.

If LJ wants to forbid certain material on its servers, or restrict minors from viewing it, that's their right as a business. But if so, they need to tell us what kind of content that is--what topics, what level of explicitness, which keywords and so on.

Saying "we will filter content that's inappropriate to minors" is ridiculous... that's not a description of content; that's a description of someone's emotional reaction to content. The phrase "suitable for minors" has no legal nor widely-accepted understood meaning.

That's exactly the kind of phrasing we've been demanding clarity about for the last six months.

1) My greatest concern is over-moderation, such as the recent flagging feature and the "adult" filters. I enjoyed LJ a lot more before the implementation of those features (and I've been here since '04, I believe, but I like to account-hop).

2) I like the way various art sites ( for example: SheezyArt, the Furry Art Pile, and FurAffinity) handle maturity. When you sign up you are not allowed to view mature submissions, but you have the choice as to whether or not you want it to stay that way. With LiveJournal's new policy, if you were honest and signed up underage with your real birthday, you're robbed of that choice.


The attitude of mature filtering on a journaling site like this seems sort of absurd. A few comments from the lj_biz entry about this stuck with me, such as someone who asked (and I'm paraphrasing here): "What if someone underage who was molested wants to seek help in a child abuse community, but no longer can due to said community being flagged as explicit adult content?" It seemed to really capture the absurdity of the situation. Plenty of underaged users are mature enough to handle what's on LJ, and many create content that should be flagged as well - porn, for example, written or drawn. There are also the users who have gone through more than what most adults have. There are adult users who seem to have the emotional maturity of a three-year-old. Eighteen is an arbitrary age anyway, if you aren't looking at it from a CYA legal standpoint. Research has shown that the brain doesn't finish developing until the mid-twenties. It's pretty obvious that this policy was largely for the company's benefit, not the users'. I'd really like to see this policy toned down so as to allow users the choice of whether or not they want to see adult content regardless of age, if not completely removed.

ETA: True, the above is my geatest concern as of the moment, but these other things concern me as well:

  • the tag limit
  • the unanswered questions about strikethrough
  • the lack of communication between the administrators and the users

    The Tag Limit: Many, many people have brought this up in the past but I want to reinforce it: limiting the number of tags that can be used is grossly impossible. The memory system is a nightmare, and tagging is the way of the e-future. It allows for easy organization, and with pop-culture communities it is a must. Please consider removing the limit.

    Strikethrough: That was a huge, huge, huge blunder. It would be really nice to have a very transparent and complete explanation for it, with questions answered.

    Lack of Communication: As someone prior to me has said, the selective answering of questions is shady. Answer them all.

    Edited at 2007-12-03 06:38 am (UTC)

  • Over the last year or two I've become increasingly concerned with the increasing level of censorship, what you can and can't have as a default icon, for example. I'm also concerned with false and malicious claims of copyright infringement as most of the cases I've seen were clearly initiated by someone offended by a satire which is absolutely allowed.

    I understand that there have to be some boundaries, but I don't think they should be dictated to us. I remember before these kinds of things were such a big deal, before people could have their journal suspended for having an "offensive" default icon. It may have been harder to get serious copyright infringement dealt with but as a whole I heard less complaints from users and less abuse of the system.

    I found the whole breastfeeding icon debate ridiculous. I really don't think it would have become such a big issue if the administration hadn't allowed it to become one. And, by that I mean I don't think the complaint should have been given any attention at all. I think the offended parties should have been told to deal with it themselves and if they harassed the owner of the icon then they should have been dealt with by the LJ Abuse team.

    It's unfair to limit what everyone can do based on your morality or even the majority's morality. The whole point of "social networking" is to experience different societies and points of view. I feel that all of these measures are destroying the opportunity to interact with someone who has a completely different human experience that I may not have ever met otherwise.

    1) While I'm not at all opposed to measures such as the new content flagging system, I have not yet found clear information about what exactly is "adult" or "adult concepts", apart from two very short paragraphs in the FAQs. So far, it seems to be expected that there is a certain cultural consensus among the userbase about these things, meaning they don't need to be spelled out. However, some things, like nudity, or even better partial nudity, or like drinking alcohol as a younger person, are regarded quite differently in different cultures. [Frankly, I do not exactly understand the Northern American standards that seem to be behind some of those changes.]

    I don't know at all what warrants an adult flag on an entry. Is it a four-letter-word? Is it two four-letter-words? A mention of the fact that I have a small hangover?

    I think a clarification of LJ's policies would need to include a definition of what is what.

    2) As LJ is the only blogging/social networking site that I really use, not so much.

    What's missing from LJ's policies

    1) Transparency of process is probably the best thing you could offer--explain how the decisions get made. Tell us which decisions are made by one person, and which were discussed in a group first; tell us which replies are "official staff answers; you can put this alongside the FAQ as official LJ working documentation" and which are opinions or commentary, meant to be helpful but could be overridden by a later comment. Tell us which of the several official LJ communities is most accurate, in case of phrasing conflicts.

    Tell us how the abuse team decides things--give us access to the training docs; let us know what they look for and what they're told to ignore.

    1b) Transparency of Changes: When new features are implemented:
    * Warn us FIRST,
    * Tell us EXACTLY how they work: which other features are affected, how to turn it on and off, where they're located on the Site Map and the dropdown menus.

    Ideally, make an official post about *each* new feature, and *only* that feature, and solicit questions about the feature. Answer the same dumb questions over and over.

    2) Consistency in answers and official statements. The three posts in LJ-biz relating to strikethrough are... a joke. They contradicted each other in several spots; it was claimed that certain content was illegal and therefore forbidden, and that was the reasons for the bannings--and then it was claimed that some content, legal or not, was just not wanted.

    Pick a story and stick to it--even if it loses you paying customers. Even if you have to give refunds to paying customers because of it.

    3) Accurate terminology: Fix your phrasing. Define your terms. Right now, the TOS forbids content which is "otherwise objectionable"--WTF is that?

    Mention which terms are legal terms (e.g. "Hate Speech") and defined by entities outside of LJ, and which are not, and must be defined by LJ itself ("suitable for minors"). As brock_tn said, if two different APT members can look at the same reported post and reach different conclusions about its TOSability, legality or suitability for minors, your terms are not defined well enough.

    4) UPDATE THE TOS to include the new content criteria and other changes: the fact that legal content formerly acceptable at LJ now is sometimes not, and that content "inappropriate for minors" (see "define your terms," above) is required to be marked "explicit" and put behind a cut.

    Fix the phrasing about using LJ for commercial purposes. Add "Sponsored community" to the account type list, and tell us what features they get.

    This would, of course, require a mass emailing to notify users that the site terms of use have changed, and give them the option of removing their accounts, and possibly demanding refunds. Cope. You have drastically changed LJ from the service many of us signed up for; accept that some paying customers do not want the new service with grace.

    5) Deal with the hate. SixApart has burned away every ounce of brand loyalty that LiveJournal used to enjoy; people have stayed because moving a 200-member friendslist to a new site is complicated and difficult, and each has slightly different favorite features (or, more accurately, least-favored features which some of the alternate sites make more prominent.)

    People are sticking around because of inertia and technical issues, not because they believe LJ will give them what they look for in a journaling service.

    And even if that weren't true, there'd be a swarm of wank and spite after every official post. Accept it, and move on. If you can win back LJ's loyalty, it will take years.
    InsaneJournal deals with all these issues well. So does Scribblit. This is because both of those are run by one person, who is running the site for the users... not to make money from advertisers by providing something to a community they don't care about.

    Their methods won't work for LJ, which is no longer run for the community, or the joy of hacking, or whatever it was founded for. There are ways for a business to win that level of trust... start with the five things noted above, and *then* you can try to work toward "loyal customers" instead of just "customers who don't have the energy to look elsewhere."

    Re: What's missing from LJ's policies


    Start small:
    We're glad you're here.

    "We" who? The new Livejournal, Inc? SUP? SixApart? LiveJournal, the company that was owned by 6A and is now owned by SUP? The Abuse Team? A new committee working on the new policies? A pack of four staff members who are sorting through the replies to this post?

    We feel it is very important to hear your concerns before we release any changes to current policies,

    1) As much as we wank about how we want you to "listen" to us, it's not true. We want you to acknowledge that you've heard us, and make changes to suit us better. If you're not doing either of those, you might as well not listen at all.

    2) Unless the "we" making this post is different from the "we" that made the last six months' worth of official announcements, I think you're lying. We, the customers, have no reason to believe you have any interest at all in hearing our concerns.

    Want to change that? Prove it. Answer *all* the comments. Or nearly all of them. If there's too many, and lots of duplicates, make an update post with summations of what you're answering... and what you don't yet have answers for. Make it link-heavy or name names; let us know you're paying attention to specific questions.

    Make a list of questions you are just flat-out not going to answer so we know what to stop asking. Tell us which questions should be sent in as support requests instead of asked here. (And tell us WHY.)

    1) My greatest concern about current policies is that no one knows them, and that users have had to wait for the policy document for months now, even though it was promised to us soon. I understand that writing such a document must be very difficult, but after users were suspended for reasons no one could have imagined, its importance is very obvious.

    Hi, I'm glad to see you making an effort for there to be more communication with regular LJ users. Thanks for that.

    1) I'm among the people who are very concerned about the censorship-friendly direction LJ has been taking. Strikethrough was incredibly frightening since it had more to do with targetting fandom than actually fighting illegal activity (as you are probably aware by now). My opinion is that I shouldn't feel threatened because I enjoy writing and art that sometimes happens to be adult. I don't mean harm to anyone, and I do not care to write or read about or be read by children. One can happily make money off adult fiction involving original characters as long as it remains legal, so such a negative treatment of this sort of fanfiction online - which is distributed for free anyway! - baffles me. Let's not even get into fanart. In my experience, the vast majority of any fandom only wants to create a tribute to the work it derives from, and in that there is absolutely no harmful intent. In other words, we're not a bunch of perverts with too much time on their hands.

    I'm also worried about an increase in homophobia and other assorted dislikes on LJ. Most of the victims of the huge fandom debacle were slash-oriented works and journals to begin with. I realize some amount of users don't want to have anything to do with slash online and homosexuality in real life, but that does not make it fine to strike against those who do. That applies to more issues than these (gender identity comes to mind). So, aside from fandom politics, can we - various minority groups - be sure you're not going to discriminate against us? A lot of us have plenty of that to deal with as it is.

    As for the new age-related policies, I'm saying as an adult that I am not happy. Giving people the chance to restrict their communities or journals to keep out minors? Awesome. Encouraging users to flag content among themselves? Not so much. This has the potential to create an atmosphere of such paranoia and hostility that it's not funny. I don't think users are supposed to play babysitters or potential secret agents, and this new change just makes it difficult for me to go about my business like I'm used to. And giving random strangers the right to decide about somebody else's journal without even informing the original poster if something happens is unfair. There are already laws in place to dispose of the blatantly illegal content. Personally, I don't see the need for any added surveillance since the definition of what constitutes "adult concepts" or "offensive content" differs from person to person and is only going to stir up trouble. More and more, this is looking like an attempt to belatedly make Strikethrough okay - and even if it's not the case, a feature like this can be easily abused despite the best of intentions. I really think this step is kind of backwards. Can't you give us the option to control our own journals/comms and take back the flagging? Now that would make many people happy.

    Sorry for complaining so much here, but I'd say all of the above concerns are tied together.

    2) Pre-Strikethrough LJ. Or, right now, InsaneJournal. Honestly, I don't want to be forced to leave LJ in the future because of intolerance, of all things. I was feeling at home here already.