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May 31, 2006

LiveJournal’s attack on women and mothers
Posted by Patrick at 08:20 PM *

Six Apart, creators of Movable Type and, more recently, owners of LiveJournal, have decided to harrass LiveJournal users whose default icons depict breastfeeding. LJ user (and mother) bohemiancoast has more details:

So, LJ has decided to be hardline on the breastfeeding photos. Think I’m joking? Here’s an example. They’ve sent a notice of suspension to a user using this painting as a default icon:

it's the BVM breastfeeding, natch

and have told our very own [info]ursinehenry that this image violates the TOS:

I can't actually see the nipple in this one

And of course, they’re still cracking down hard on obscenities like this one:

turning off your pics was a good idea because this one is really depraved

If you’re thinking “oh, it’s all right because they’re only restricting default icons”, or “they’re being reasonable by only restricting pictures with visible aereolas”, I’d like to disagree. Many women are put off breastfeeding, or discouraged or embarrassed about doing it in public, because they believe that people will be offended. The position LJ has taken is one that only works if you believe that breastfeeding is a little bit dirty; all right in private, or under a blanket, but not where people might see.

[…] Poorer, younger women, and those with less education, are less likely to breastfeed, and if they start, they’re more likely to stop quickly. And one reason for that is that they don’t feed comfortable about breastfeeding; they don’t see women around them doing it, and they don’t see positive images of breastfeeding. Lawmakers are beginning to understand this; California, where Six Apart is located, has express legal provision exempting breastfeeding from obscenity legislation. The NHS explains “What we need is an environment where women of all ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds are comfortable with feeding their baby anywhere and at any time”.

To make that vision a reality, we have to challenge those who attack it. It’s no good to decide that this time it’s trivial. Six Apart made a positive decision to go after a pile of entirely unobjectionable pictures of breastfeeding babies. I wouldn’t have been remotely as angry if they’d always banned nipples and said “sorry, breastfeeders, just bad luck”; though they’d still be wrong. But they specifically changed their TOS from “sexual or graphically violent” icons in order to trap and remove breastfeeding icons. Six Apart think these icons are “inappropriate”, and they’re wrong.

They are indeed wrong, and a growing number of LJ users are planning a one-day blackout as an initial protest. I have a (paid) LJ account myself, which I use more for commenting on friends’ LiveJournals than for anything else, and I’ll certainly join the blackout. As bohemiancoast says, it’s not trivial. It’s certainly risible that Ben and Mena Trott’s company should be getting bent out of shape over medieval art. But it’s not funny at all that, without even any evident legal need to do so, they’ve chosen to harrass users who were doing nothing objectionable, and to retroactively change their terms of service in order to justify that harrassment. And it’s not amusing at all when any corporation decides to endorse the view that breastfeeding is something scandalous that must happen only in private.

Comments on LiveJournal's attack on women and mothers:
#1 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:30 AM:

I said to Patrick, "Anyone who can get off on medieval representations of the BVM nursing Jesus --"

"--Is a lot more Catholic than I am," said Patrick.

Which was good enough that I gave up on whatever it was that I was going to say, and now can't remember.

#2 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:37 AM:

Agreed, almost entirely.

I have qualms about the comment that breastfeeding is the "only way" to properly feed an infant. I have an 8 month old daughter who is breastfed and is thriving. I have friends who can't and/or choose not to breastfeed. Their children are also thriving.

Treating breastfeeding and images of breastfeeding as an obscenity is stupid and wrong and I hate it. But I'm equally annoyed by the notion that part of the defense of breast-feeding is insisting that children who are fed on formula aren't properly cared for. There's really quite enough pressure on new mothers as it is.

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:40 AM:

Point taken, Sarah S.

#4 ::: Cory Doctorow ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:41 AM:

Are you sure this is still a live issue? I thought that LJ had apologized, agreed that breastfeeding pics were OK, and promised to make sure everyone who worked there knew that:

http://community.livejournal.com/boob_nazis/1763041.html

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:46 AM:

Sigh... First, John Ashcroft gets all a-twitter over the bare bronze breast of Lady Justice, now this...

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:49 AM:

Cory, as far as I can see, that official statement from LJ doesn't say much more than "we're not against breastfeeding" and "trust us, we're good guys."

The fact that the ensuing comment thread is full of comments that are now unreadable because they're from suspended users suggests very strongly that people are still getting suspended over this.

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:02 AM:

Question... If my default icon showed a flesh-eating zombie, would they object? Probably not. Much as I love America, it has a weird sense of values. I remember when I was still reading Cinefantastique, there was an issue where they put little black boxes over a woman's nipples, but had no problems showing disembowelled females. They got a lot of derisive letters over that, and mine asked what they'd do if they had to print a photo of an exploded breast.

#8 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:16 AM:

Patrick and Teresa, thank you so much for getting involved with this. I've posted about it several times and have read an enormous amount of abuse directed at breastfeeding moms. I'll be taking part in the strike, too.

Here's a link to a press release about the issue.

And Cory, no, it isn't fixed. Six Apart altered their FAQ--this is the original--to claim "nudity" wasn't allowed, and in their letters to breastfeeding moms, LJ Abuse is noting that any breastfeeding images where areola shows around the baby's mouth or against the surrounding skin are inappropriate. In addition to being specifically contrary to many laws protecting breastfeeding, which note that nursing is not indecent even if the areola shows during or incidental to breastfeeding, it will lead to discrimination based on skin color.

#9 ::: BohemianCoast ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:17 AM:

No, LJ didn't back down, and lots of people who've complained have basically got answers that said, roughly, "we love breastfeeding, oh, yes! We don't have anything against breastfeeding mums. But we have to protect against the risk that your icon might be seen unsolicited or by a child. So, tough." If you believe that it could be inappropriate for children or the unexpecting to even see pictures of breastfeeding, then what does that imply for breastfeeding acceptance?

And Sarah S, while I accept that new mothers have a load of guilt put on them, babies are not well-served by the notion that breastfeeding and bottlefeeding are equally good choices. Of course it's a modern technical marvel that children do thrive on artificial baby milks. But cow/soya milk fed babies do less well than breastfed, on average, across a whole range of indicators and well into their later life. And the idea that the artificial milks are 'good enough' or 'almost as good' discourages women from trying breastfeeding, and discourages healthcare providers from providing adequate breastfeeding support to new mothers.

This objection doesn't apply, of course, to the women who choose to bottlefeed using breast milk. It just seems to me like rather a lot of hard work compared to breastfeeding.

#10 ::: Sarah de Vries ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:19 AM:

Sarah S, yes, the benefits of breastfeeding are significant enough to both mother and baby to justify ardent support of the practice (click link at bottom of that page for an extensive list of references).

I have and would never bug an individual woman about her choice, because of the point you make about there being enough pressure already. But sometimes I have had to bite my tongue to be that nice, because formula is not just as good. The only thing it has that breastfeeding doesn't, is a bigger (huge) advertising budget.

#11 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:42 AM:

I strongly, strongly suggest that this thread avoid discussions of the merits of breast vs. bottle. I've seen that degenerate into massive flame wars before. It's a highly emotional issue even for people who have done both breast and bottle feeding. Too many women feel that their worth as mothers is tied to their ability to breastfeed (or lack of ability to breastfeed) their children and too many women get too damn competitive about breastfeeding (and many other mommy issues).

And that's not what this thread is about.

#12 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:49 AM:

Melissa--

You're quite right. I'm sorry to have been the one who seems to have started that.

#13 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:49 AM:

I don't particularly care one way or another, though I do think it's interesting that we're heading to a mommy war ten comments in. Sadly, this is to be expected; I have never heard two people who feed their babies differently acknowledge that fact without one.

I think it's a silly rule, but the idea that nipples are pornography unless there's a baby to show that you're using them the natural way-- nope, just as silly. I can sort of see what they're trying to do and why. I can see why people are upset on all sides. Livejournal seems to have figured out its members-- upset them, wait a week for it to spread everywhere, often in a much more objectionable form, apologize and explain changes, and then most of the typing legion will be tired of it, even if things are just the same as they complained about earlier.

#14 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:55 AM:

I completely agree with Melissa Singer's comment and I urge everyone to read it again if they missed it. As she says, that's not the argument this is all about.

#15 ::: Elisabeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:56 AM:

People getting their knickers (or nursing bras) in a twist are ignoring that this applies only to DEFAULT icons -- the icons that show up if you don't select otherwise. Even free users can have and use five other icons, which can show as much nipple as they want.

Honestly, I think it's LJ's right to say whatever they want about default icons, and I understand why they don't want to get into case-by-case debates over icons. Making a rule (no nipple, period) and sticking to it is easier. I think it's slightly pointless, given the five-other-icons factor, but I'm having a hard time seeing this as a big deal or a blow in the mommywars.

#16 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:10 AM:

If breast-feeding had as big an advertising budget as formula, the politicians would probably class it as pornography.

[Assume giant bold, blinking, horizontally scrolling text for the next paragraph]

"Think of the Children!!!"

[Back to normal]

Now, I'm not sure that pornography is entirely a good thing, and it certainly isn't gender-neutral. I think a big factor in that is that pornography, expecially still pictures, is very short on context. You can't tell what the why is, and from the pictures alone it's sometimes hard to tell if the woman is having fun.[1]

And that's a lot like this LJ business--a rule against nudity that completely misses a vital chunk of context.

And LJ Icons are pretty small pictures anyway. The best I can say about LJ admin is that they're running scared from some pretty sick lawyers.

[1] Just to be clear, I can accept that a lot of strange stuff is fun for the participants. But it's a bit like some things not being Kosher[2] because they look enough like a breah of the rules to mislead people about what's OK.

[2]Well, that's the Jewish minutiae. Only cats and chocolate left to cover.

#17 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:11 AM:

"that's not the argument this is all about" is an awfully slippery slope. As a result I'm torn between disgust at the Oklahoman sensibilities of the LiveJournal management (the state defines as "harmful to minors" any non-special-case image where the breast is not "completely and opaquely covered") and anger at the gratuitous bashing of tens of millions of women whose circumstances the basher knows nothing about. Result: apathy, which is unfortunate, because LiveJournal is pretty clearly wrong and stupid here.

#18 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:15 AM:

Grr, it's the thin end of the "All flesh is pornographic" wedge.

Talking of flesh, I wonder whether the footage of me in my undies has been braodcast in the UK yet... (checks bravo tv website...)... apparently not.

I mean, I show nipples, so according to LJ, it must be pron, right?

#19 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:16 AM:

I have to say that I agree with Elisabeth. Then again, I never had a particular political or cultural commitment toward breastfeeding, during the times that I was doing it; I was just too cheap to buy formula and too lazy to bother with sterilizing bottles in the middle of the night.

#20 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:16 AM:

Elisabeth, I think you're missing that this policy is targeted, by definition, at women performing a biologically female, non-sexual act. It's therefore implying there's something sleazy about this biologically female, non-sexual act. I have a problem with that.

#21 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:17 AM:

The solution, of course, is pasties...

[Which would truly make the pictures obscene, while satisfying LJ's ridiculous rule.]

#22 ::: Patty ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:19 AM:

I am an MD, and a strong believer in the value of breastfeeding and a strong supporter of breastfeeding in general. I nursed all three of my kids (two were twins) until they were well over a year old, and never had to flash in public. I learned to use a blanket at home, and nursed my kids everywhere, in church, in the mall, everywhere, without flashing a boob. It's not that hard.

Hate to be the stick in the mud, but it's their site, and if they don't want nudity, and your icon flashes the boob, they have a right to ask you not to use it. You don't like it, go somewhere else.

I think making this about breastfeeding gives the impression that women have to be exhibitionists to breastfeed their children, which isn't true.

#23 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:42 AM:

Oh, baloney. Of course it's (to an extent) their "right" to be arbitrary in all kinds of ways. It's also their users' right to point out when their behavior is arbitrary, capricious, wrongheaded, and hurtful.

There are all sorts of ways to be an asshole while staying within one's "rights." Discussing stuff like this entirely in terms of who has what "right" leads directly to exculpating all kinds of bad behavior.

It's also specifically reasonable to take some bites out of Six Apart's hide, and LiveJournal's, because both companies have gone to considerable effort to promote a sense that they're warm-n-fuzzy community-oriented operations that deserve to be cut slack by their customers. When it's evident that, in return, they're mistreating those same customers, they deserve criticism for it.

#24 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:45 AM:

Making a rule (no nipple, period) and sticking to it is easier.

Except that's not the rule. The rule is "no female nipples, period." If this is just about nudity, then the least lj could do is be consistent.

#25 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:45 AM:

Pasties? Like this?

Presumably an early-weaning aid.

#26 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:46 AM:

"Hate to be the stick in the mud, but it's their site, and if they don't want nudity, and your icon flashes the boob, they have a right to ask you not to use it. You don't like it, go somewhere else."


I haven't seen anyone disagree with the fact that livejournal is acting within their rights. I believe the issue is that people disagree with what they are doing and encouraging people to protest by not using livejournal for a day, which would be "going somewhere else" as a demonstration of dissatisfaction with the service that livejournal provides.

Organizing boycotts and voicing opinions about the conduct of a business or organization is also a right that the users have, and this post is an encouragement to people who think that images of breast feeding shouldn't be banned on livejournal to take some collective action.

I think that women's breasts are not dirty, need not be hidden, or banned. Especially in the case of breastfeeding. It's absurd to ban these images, and it does perpetuate the idea that a woman's body is unclean. I think it's a very healthy thing to do to question why livejournal is taking a position against images of breastfeeding, and to pressure them to change their ludicrous policy.

#27 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:48 AM:

Well, I'm going to get my downstairs neighbor to take a pic of ME holding out my nipple (milkless though it will always be) and make it my default LJ icon. Then it will be clear that they're discriminating based on gender.

But they'll probably claim that hairy boobs are OK. Someone else will have to challenge that; I'm not shaving even to piss off SixApart.

But isn't that an interesting idea? Fellow male LJ users, do your part by showing your parts!

#28 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:50 AM:

And right on, Patrick.

#29 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:50 AM:

Elisabeth, it's LJ's right to have whatever rule about icons they want, and it's our right as users to say "Hey, we don't like that rule," and protest if they don't heed us, to take our weblogs elsewhere.

#30 ::: Kim ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:51 AM:

The fact that it's "just the default icon" is a load of bull, as far as I'm concerned. Default icons are more visible, yes, but a user's non-default icons are just as easily accessible to any minor -- and there are plenty of icons that are much more offensive than partially exposed breasts in the context of breastfeeding. I have half a mind to post a hundred of the most offensive icons I can find under the heading "LJ Approved."

#31 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:51 AM:

I agree that it would be nice if the Mommy Wars didn't intrude upon Making Light. But as long as the main body of the post tells me that I didn't feed my daughter "properly," but with a "poor substitute," and implies that I must be ignorant and uneducated to have done so, the Mommy Wars are already happening here. Sarah S. didn't start them, and I hate like hell to see her apologizing for having done so.

I'm all for breastfeeding, all for breastfeeding icons, and all for breastfeeding in public. But I'm having a hard time being all for this protest, because its strongest proponents seem to spend so much of their LJ time bashing women like me. There has to be a better way of promoting breastfeeding, but most of these folks don't seem very concerned about finding one.

#32 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:00 AM:

I've updated my default userpic in solidarity. It's not breastfeeding, but I think the irony of censoring it will make up for that

#33 ::: Nick Kiddle ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:01 AM:

I learned to use a blanket at home, and nursed my kids everywhere, in church, in the mall, everywhere, without flashing a boob. It's not that hard.

It wasn't that hard for you, you mean. I can't be sure my daughter's eating properly if I can't see what the attachment's like, and I have one or two problems with sticking my head under a blanket while feeding her.

As far as bottlefeeding as a creation of Satan goes, my policy is to assume that any well-educated and caring mother who isn't breastfeeding must have a damn good reason for it, and not embarrass her by demanding specifics. That still leaves the sad question of women who don't breastfeed because they aren't well-educated about the benefits, but like Rivka says, it should be possible to get the word out without shaming bottlefeeders.

#34 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:01 AM:

"I think making this about breastfeeding gives the impression that women have to be exhibitionists to breastfeed their children, which isn't true."

No it's not true, but it also puts breastfeeding on a level with say, men urinating in public: That it's a natural activity that one should "do in private, not talk about, and wash your hands afterward."

The point isn't that they have the "right" to do it. (Which they may not have, if the previous posts regarding protections on images of breastfeeding are accurate.) The point is that this should not be viewed as salacious imagery to begin with.

Again, as with the pasties issue, the no-nipple rule would seem to indicate that a woman standing stark naked with her arm across her breasts to cover her nipples (or with a strategically placed ribbon "gift-wrapping" them) is acceptable and therefore less pornographic than breast-feeding.

This would then send -- or at least reinforce -- the message that there is something wrong with breastfeeding in public, whether it is done "covered" or not.


Xopher:

OK, no shaving ... What about some temporary dye? Some nice dayglo-hued fuzz around the nipple to really draw attention to it?


#35 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:04 AM:

Oh yeah, and BTW, Rivka's right.

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:04 AM:

pedantic peasant: I'll buy a package of orange Kool-Aid on my way home!

#37 ::: everstar ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:05 AM:

I find it amazing that they're getting wigged out over breastfeeding icons (many of which are from medieval, sacred art) when one of the LJ communities I used to read had one user who posted with an animated icon of a woman giving a blowjob. Hello, mixed priorities!

#38 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:06 AM:

"I'll buy a package of orange Kool-Aid on my way home!"

Ahh, you've gotta love a do-it-yourselfer!

#39 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Paul, if you think Melissa Singer was gratuitously bashing anyone, you didn't read her carefully enough.

Everyone: We are not going to argue the pros and cons of breastfeeding here. This is a discussion of LiveJournal's unfortunate policy of banning icons that show women breastfeeding.

Here are the ground rules: Breastfeeding happens. It's good that it happens. It's neither indecent nor a sexual act. Granted, some fetishists are into it; but then, some fetishists are into shoes, and LiveJournal doesn't ban icons showing them. Not all mothers breast-feed their babies. If that's their choice, that's fine too, and I don't want to see or hear anyone saying otherwise.

If you want to argue about it elsewhere, there's a nice new open thread just waiting for your comments.

I apologize for letting this argument develop before I noticed it and temporarily shut down comments here. At the moment I have no intention of deleting the comments that have already been posted, but if the argument breaks out again I'll be disemvowelling or deleting new instances, and may zap the earlier ones to discourage further outbreaks.

If that makes it difficult or impossible for any of you to participate in the discussion here, I'll be very sorry. I regret the necessity. I apologize in advance. Nevertheless, be assured that I will do it.

#40 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:11 PM:

Cartainly banning icons that use medieval paintings of women breastfeeding is over the line in 'being inoffensive to everyone'. (The people who are offended by paintings of bare female breasts - do they object to paintings of Eve also?)

#41 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:14 PM:

What is this, National WebHosts Go Nuts Week?

#42 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:16 PM:

I'd like to add that LJ's problems with the abuse team go way beyond the breastfeeding icon issue. It's an attitude problem they've had for a long time, giving contradictory answers, or simply refusing to give answers. It took over a thousand emails for them to actually give a response to the community - many other people who've raised important concerns about privacy, and inconsistent application of the rules, simply get ignored. The rot goes deep. (There's been a blog about general LJ abuse problems for a few months, along with a petition asking Six Apart to listen to users on this.)

#43 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:16 PM:

As Elisabeth points out, it's really important to keep the default icon/non-default line clear.

LiveJournal has long had a policy that some kinds of icons are inappropriate as *default* icons. This is because you can come across the default icon in various searches, on someone's profile page before you read the rest of their journal, etc.

While there are arguments on whether this is the best place to draw a content line, it's one of the more reasonable options. It's also been in place for years, and documented consistently during that time, even if the specifics of "Exactly what's okay in a default icon" have gotten clarified as various issues arise.

There are also some legal standards issues: a lot of the laws about what's okay online as far as exposed skin, etc. are pretty darn vague in places. (It gets even more complicated if the people posting are under 18, even if they're posting pictures of themselves.)

This leaves online sites (including LJ) having to try to figure out how to navigate that vague language and lack of legal precedent without walking into being a precedent setting legal case unintentionally. These could be *big* legal cases: it's understandable that sites get a little nervous.

Now, add MySpace into the mix. MySpace claims to have a substantial number of employees working *solely* to review images posted on the site for inappropriateness. (My guess is at least 45 people, working full time, based on some number crunching I can go into if anyone's curious.)

LiveJournal doesn't do that: they only respond to concerns when someone reports a problem (again, for some specific legal reasons having to do with common carrier status, and the fact it's a very vague area of the law right now.) People do also report people to get them in trouble, which is, I understand it, how this whole thing got started in the first place.

However, MySpace's choices - and the *very* large amount of publicity, positive and negative they've received since about January - is causing ripple effects in many more places than just MySpace. Parents are more aware of what their kids might be seeing online. This is good. But they're also placing more pressure on sites to protect their kids - which is not always so simple. Or good.

I've done two presentations on online interaction and what parents should and shouldn't panic about to parent associations at the school I work at this year. The school is generally more liberal than not, parents are generally well-educated and thoughtful.

At the same time, many comments I've heard, even from parents who've clearly thought/learned some about the issues have been fearful, worried, etc. Even about stuff like breastfeeding images. Or male nipples, which are less ambiguously legal in many contexts.

And these worries, in turn, are rippling out to other online sites. Including LJ.

For all sorts of practical reasons, there's obviously some need for clarity. Obviously, the line was explained badly, originally. This is partly due to the annoying vagueness of the legal language, and partly because I don't think this specific issue had come up before.

But it's also understandable that sites need to try and transverse a sword edge between personal expression and stuff that may dump them into a nasty legal battle, major parental concerns, etc. This particular decision (that it's okay in anything *but* default icons) seems pretty darn reasonable to me in that light. Not ideal, maybe. But not "OMG, BREASTS ARE EVIL!" either.

The last thing I'd like to remind people is more personal. I spent 18 months as a volunteer for the LiveJournal Abuse Team (from January 2003 to August 2004). Most of the answers from the Abuse Team are handled by volunteers (overseen by LJ employees) who handle a large number of cases, generally much better than comparable paid services. (Not to say there couldn't be improvements, but realistic practical expectations are good.)

These people do it in their free time (a commitment of 8-10 hours a week - often substantially more) because they feel strongly about the site. Much like people have contributed their free time to making Absolute Write or other sites the incredible resources they are, only with more specific training, time commitment requirements, etc. The employees who work for Abuse almost always work more than 40 hours, including nights, weekends, checking in on holidays, etc.

These people are also my friends. Some of them have slept on my couch. They've been people who've helped me, listened to me, given me good ideas. I've seen them spend hours of their time, and their own money in long-distance calls when someone reports a post that sounds like a suicide note. Good, thoughtful, caring people, just like exist on many online sites, including Making Light.

And while this has blown up, I've seen my friends, people I care deeply about, insulted, called names, attacked, sworn at, etc (including for an icon of a female clothed torso as a default icon). Not so much fun. And, really, not helping solve the issue, either.

While it's absolutely fine to disagree with site policy, or to raise concerns, I hope that civilised and mature people can recognise that there are better and worse ways to do that, and keep the fact that there are real people on the other end of that email address in mind.

The Abuse Team is overloaded with work almost all the time. If you have concerns about policy, it's best to coordinate that, so that the people directly involved in a concern are the primary point of contact.

It is also important to remember that sometimes what someone says the Abuse Team said and what they actually said are different. Sometimes that's not intentional, and just the effect of a certain amount of playing 'Telephone' or someone misunderstanding something. Sometimes it's been more intentional (and yes, I've seen documented evidence of that one).

It's hard for the Abuse Team to deal with, because they treat all cases as confidential (i.e. only dealing with the people directly involved about any specifics, people who can see details sign non-disclosure agreements, etc.) So, when seeing what was said, you are only seeing (and will only see) one side of the story about a specific case.

By all means, encourage clarity. Encourage people to ask specific questions in a focused way that can be clearly responded to (rather than everyone writing in, which takes up massive resources and delays any meaningful answer.) If you can back up a specific concern with relevant legal data (not just "Gee, other sites get away with it") that can be reviewed by lawyers, provide details.

But I continue to hope that civilised people can keep that potential for miscommunication or misunderstanding in mind, and avoid going overboard in any direction, including assuming that the policy is because people are opposed to breastfeeding, or breasts in general, without something like actual evidence to that effect.

#44 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:21 PM:

Actually, I'm appalled by the idea that LJ abuse complaints are being resolved by a cadre of volunteers. LJ is a for-profit business, not a charity or a fanzine.

#45 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:21 PM:

How much parental concern are we talking about here? Are we sure this isn't just the same frothing mob of right-wing loonies that reliably object to the evil content of YA books they've never read?

#46 ::: Erik Olson ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:31 PM:

I'm too sick to stay particularly polite, and the only opinon I have on bottle vs. breast is breasts are a poor source of bourbon.

But, a one day blackout? Please. If you really feel that Six Apart is wrong, and you cannot support a company that takes such an action, cancel your account.

The amount of regard a company that bills monthly to a one day blackout is nil. Indeed, if I were them, I would encourage the blackout, if it means you won't cancel your account, and I'd still get your money come next billing cycle. You'd get your moral indignation, and I'd still get your money.

Note that Six Aparts response is "We don't want to offend you" not "We're thinking about changing this policy." Why? They're thinking they'll lose more money without the policy than with.

So. If you think this is wrong, cancel. Stop giving them money. Enough people do this, they might change. Somehow, though, in a world where we need to use NSFW frequently, I doubt it.

#47 ::: digitalred93 ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:33 PM:

The funny thing about this is that your blog is a syndicated feed for LJ users to subscribe to. So your images are showing up on LJ today:
http://syndicated.livejournal.com/makinglight/249877.html

I'll be curious to see how the LJ Nazis react.

#48 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:43 PM:

It will indeed be interesting.

Meanwhile:

We're not having the "inappropriate use of the term 'Nazi'" argument, either.

Thank you for your cooperation.

#49 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:51 PM:

It's hard for the Abuse Team to deal with, because they treat all cases as confidential (i.e. only dealing with the people directly involved about any specifics, people who can see details sign non-disclosure agreements, etc.) So, when seeing what was said, you are only seeing (and will only see) one side of the story about a specific case.

Yet when you ask them directly about your own case these days, they simply ignore you. An LJ abuse team member recently posted something about how the abuse team operates which directly contradicts my recent experience with them. I asked them how they explained this. They ignored me. I wrote to Mark and Denise (the abuse team managers), they ignored me. I copied my email to Anil Dash and other Six Apart contact addresses. Not a word.

When I first got on LJ I thought I'd actually like to volunteer to work abuse one day, as I've moderated quite a few high-traffic discussion boards, but that was before experienced their capriciousness personally. Having a lot of work is no excuse for outright rudeness to customers.

#50 ::: jadelennox ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:55 PM:

Six Apart is *not* targeting breastfeeders. They are cracking down on images that can be seen in certain public places in preparation to protect their community space from some frightening pending legislation in Congress. In doing so, they changed their policy about what was acceptable -- but did *not* change the policy that they only issue warnings to users against whom a user has filed an abuse complaint.

LJ Abuse went after LJ user hardvice who'd had a complaint filed against his naked woman icon, and hardvice intentionally started filing abuse complaints against breastfeeders and pagans because he (correctly) surmised they'd react strongly when warned.

LJ abuse should be more careful about allowing volunteers to write unboilerplate prose when dealing with abuse situations, yes. But in a time when Congress is debating whether or not social networking sites are filled with debauched pornographers, Six Apart's attempt to set clear rules (in this case, "no female nipple or areola") for default icons is a completely legitimate case of self-protection. Whether or not we agree with society's silly double standards about female nudity is not Six Apart's fault.

And the threads on the LJ breast feeding sites which compare not being allowed to have your default icon (and just the default icon; every other icon you have can be jaybird nekkid)showing nipple to anti-miscegnation laws is, shall we say, over the top?

#51 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:59 PM:

Jenett, this is one area in which the policy actually needs to change understand that the abuse team was acting only under orders. I have no idea why you felt it so necessary to point out that they're such good and wonderful people. As far as I can tell, everyone here is upset over the policy not the people.

If the LJ abuse team set the policy, then they're not good wonderful people as far as I'm concerned, they're people you like who're acting badly. If not, the thing to do is circumvent them, and draw enough attention to the issue to influence a policy change, because the policy is deeply flawed, and I can see no effective way to change policy other than mass cancelations of accounts, or by directly talking to the Six Apart policy-makers.

As far as I can tell, the Six Apart policy makers are making polite noises, but not actually doing anything. God knows why, they're note telling us anything more than that they're considering the issue, and that they're really nice people, and we shouldn't hate them.

Keepin the policy the way it is is stupid, and makes LJ and Six Apart look like jerks. Modifying the policy for breast-feeding would be a far more sensible thing. It might piss off some of the religious right, or some of the more asinine men who'd complain that they can't have regular naked porn-breast boobies, but at te end of the day, a change in policy makes the most sense, and leaves the people in control looking sensible instead of like jerks.

#52 ::: Rick Keir ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 12:59 PM:

I am surprised no one's mentioned DOPA yet: see the PBS writeup at http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/learning.now/2006/05/new_federal_legislation_would_1.html

It's the "Deleting Online Predators Act", and is another attempt to deny access to places like LiveJournal, Xanga and MySpace, as far as teenagers go. I have read (but can't find the citation at the moment, sorry) of schools that have even threatened disciplinary action against any student that even uses MySpace: apparently when you're a teenager, your school owns you 24x7.

There is a big backlash going on against places that teens communicate, and this is part of it. Does anyone believe that LJ would care about this if the right wing wasn't pushing the "Internet = Bad" storyline? LJ is wrong, but they are not the enemy. The enemy is the right wing fear machine and people like John Ashcroft, who are afraid of even bronze nipples.

#53 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:03 PM:

I did a bit of quick checking over on LJ.

What you can do is go to your LJ account management page, Journal|Manage, and click on the Delete Journal link.

This should bring up and Account Status page with the subhead "Journal Activation Status".

Here you have a choice between being "Activated" and "Deleted".

Important

The LJ system guarantees you a 30-day grace period to switch back to Activated. You might get longer, because the unrecoverable delete is when they run a purge process, and they don't do that every day.

And if you're a paid member they'll still keep your money.

The thing is, up until the purge all your comments will still be there, and everyone will see that you've switched status. So perhaps you can be sneaky, and make a few comments just before the protest starts. (But don't say stuff you wouldn't otherwise say.)

#54 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:03 PM:

I dunno. It seems to me that any policy that defines images of the BVM nursing the Infant Christ as obscene is a policy with a problem.

And the idea that such an image is inappropriate for childen, who are, after all, the ones being fed, is nuts.

#55 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:04 PM:

The funny thing about this is that your blog is a syndicated feed for LJ users to subscribe to. So your images are showing up on LJ today

I'll be curious to see how the LJ Nazis react.

They won't. The issue is solely with default icons, that's it. It has nothing to do with nudity elsewhere on lj.

Further up, Aconite said: I think you're missing that this policy is targeted, by definition, at women performing a biologically female, non-sexual act. It's therefore implying there's something sleazy about this biologically female, non-sexual act. I have a problem with that.

Which is just simply not true. Livejournal has a stated and spelled out policy regarding what is and is not allowed in default icons. As these things often are it is somewhat arbitrary and not open to exceptions and special cases. Honestly, I can't say I blame them. When dealing with a site as big and diversely populated as livejournal, having directly stated, universal policies and applying them across the board seems to me to be the only feasible option.

I have a gorgeous icon that features female nudity. It's an art photograph of a female athlete taken by a famous female photographer. It's not porn. It's certainly not obscene by, I think, any US legal definition. But it is not appropriate as a default icon by the stated rules of the site.

I can only imagine the disaster if LJAbuse had to weigh each icon individually and make an arbitrary ruling as to whether it was "art" and therefore ok or "a natural act" and therefore ok.

#56 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:08 PM:

Common Carrier neepery.

Forget arguements centering on common carrier status for internet disputes. For practical purposes, ISPs have protections similar to Common Carrier, (thanks to bits of the DCMA, and the Communications Decency Act,) but they aren't actually covered by common carrier status. (Ironic, huh?) The details are complex, and beyond me, but essentially, broadband providers aren't common carriers according to the FCC. (Somehow I think that applies to dial-up providers.)

The application of common carrier status to an internet enabled service, like LJ, is murky at best. I'm sure C. E. Petit has something to say about this, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

-r.

#57 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:08 PM:

Down here in Raleigh, the schools do indeed own a student 24-7. A couple were granted permission to leave campus one day when their off-campus class trip was cancelled, and one of their mothers walked in on them at home having sex. As a result, they were both suspended for the remainder of the year, even though they were not on campus and not at a school sponsored event.

I believe there was another incident where a student using a home computer inappropriately (I think it involved MySpace and posting almost-naked photos) was suspended by the school, even though the actions didn't involve the school at all.

#58 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:09 PM:

Speaking as an LJ volunteer (although not a member of the Abuse team), I have to say you've got the wrong end of the stick on this one. The policy has always been "no nipples or areolae in default userpics". The change to the FAQ was only made because they realized it wasn't clear enough - the actual Terms of Service already forbade this, although not in sufficiently specific language. But it was definitely made clear in the personalized responses that the various participants in this "protest" received from the Abuse team.

(And, of course, using images like this in /posts/ , as well as non-default icons, is and remains just fine, so of course nobody is going to come after this feed for it.)

There is not and never will be any kind of movement to "crack down" on breastfeeding icons on LiveJournal. There's a simple rule: no pictures of nipples or areolae. Whether there's a baby in the picture is irrelevant to the enforcement of that rule. And it's the same standard that, say, the FCC uses. Do I personally think that's a great standard? No. But LJ didn't create it; they're just trying to stay with a common USian decency standard (being based in the U.S. legally and physically).

And, finally, blaming the Abuse team for the whole thing, as so many of these people have done, is incorrect. They're enforcing site policy, and I have yet to see any evidence that they've done so incorrectly. If you want the site policy changed, the Abuse team is not the place to address your complaint, any more than the police are the right place to address your complaint if you want the law changed.

#59 ::: sternel ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:09 PM:

Actually, LJ never touched their Terms of Service. The *FAQ* was updated to clarify things when it became obvious there was confusion. Curious how wide that misinformation has spread.

#60 ::: Dawn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:11 PM:

Your readers unfamiliar with LiveJournal may not realize is just how contentious this fight is -- and how silly.

Yes, it's just about default icons, the ones that show up in searches for users by location, interests, etc. Users are free to use breastfeeding icons in any other manner they see fit. Over 100 breastfeeding icons even, should they pay extra for that many of 'em.

And LiveJournal only investigates/enforces the rule should someone complain. So even if one used a potentially offensive icon, it would still have to actively offend someone enough to receive a formal complaint before it would be an issue.

But what makes the whole thing extra-special dumb is that the most vocal of those outraged about this aren't protesting the rule against nudity or nipples -- they're only protesting the banning of icons featuring breastfeeding, essentially taking the position that a lactating breast is superior to a non-lactating breast and should be regarded as such. Milk boobies = special boobies that deserve special treatment. Say wha ... ?

And anyone using the argument, as many have, that breastfeeding is a natural biological functio, not sexual, and therefore should not offend should then ask themselves how they would feel about stumbling across pictures of someone evacuating their bowels. That's also a natural biological act, and not sexual -- should that be okay as an LJ icon as well? (And yes, I'm comparing the two for this purpose, despite knowing it'll get at least one "you're comparing wonderful breast milk with stinky poo?" Yes. Yes I am.)

I simply can't buy the argument that a ban against default LiveJournal icons will have any sort of an impact on how the next generation of mothers will feed their young. And considering the many, many real problems that deserve attention, seeing this many people get worked up over whether or not somebody should be allowed to identify themselves to the LiveJournal community as a 100 x 100 pixel picture of a lactating breast ... well, that's obscene.

#61 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:17 PM:

The Lactivists called the FCC and asked how they regarded breastfeeding. They were told breastfeeding is perfectly fine with the FCC.

Also, many of the people who got the first notifications about their emails were NOT told anything about this "no nipple or areola" rule. It took a couple of days before the abuse team told anyone that was their rule, and it's still not in the FAQ.

Dawn: theoretically people would have to be actively offended, but in reality people file LJ abuse reports for all kinds of reasons, including because one community doesn't like another community. People reported these icons purely to cause trouble.

#62 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:17 PM:

In answer to the other question that came up: LJ uses volunteers because it's a small, open source project. And because a lot of us believe in the goals of that project sufficiently to donate our time to keeping it alive.

#63 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:21 PM:

Did the person in question ask what the FCC thought of exposed nipples? Because "breastfeeding" is OK on television if the nipple is hidden. Just as it is in LJ default icons.

#64 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:23 PM:

Cory: LJ have not only backed down, they're continuing to suspend users. For example, see: http://yonmei.livejournal.com/645710.html.

#65 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:25 PM:

National WebHosts Go Nuts Week?

I was wondering why everyone seems to be off their nut of late. WTF?

The only thing I can think of is that it's spring and with all the warm weather and whatnot a swarm of new bugs just hatched that crawl up people's butts, stab a stinger into their brain to disable their "common sense" lobe, and make them do stupid stuff.

When you think about it, that's the only logical explanation.

#66 ::: Dawn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:28 PM:

Dawn: theoretically people would have to be actively offended, but in reality people file LJ abuse reports for all kinds of reasons, including because one community doesn't like another community. People reported these icons purely to cause trouble.

Gotcha. When rattling off my comment I didn't take into account that this whole debacle was started by one ticked-off guy who was told not to use a nekkid lady picture.

#67 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:32 PM:

Charlie, that link is to a friendslocked post.

#68 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:34 PM:

Patrick named this post "Live Journal's attack on women and mothers." I'm both and have never in the slightest felt attacked by LJ's policy on default icons.

Rick Keir is right: LJ is not the real enemy on this, they are responding to forces beyond their control. I find the amount of energy being expended over this over at LJ to be rather appalling.

#69 ::: robert west ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:34 PM:

Patrick -- the online support presence for both Borland and Microsoft is almost entirely volunteers; tech support questions are answered by volunteers who get free stuff from the company in exchange for their efforts. LiveJournal's system doesn't strike me as being much of a stretch from that.

#70 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:38 PM:

I have no idea why you felt it so necessary to point out that they're such good and wonderful people. As far as I can tell, everyone here is upset over the policy not the people.

Josh: part of the problem here is that the "protestors" have been behaving extremely poorly. They failed to make use of the mechaniams that LJ has actually created specifically to allow users to bring up changes they want made to the site. Instead they spammed a vital first response service (and I use the word 'spammed' advisedly) asking for information which they already possessed. This is the same service that is used to respond to, to pick an example out of the air, reports of LiveJournal users posting in their journal about how they're going to commit suicide, or about the crimes they committed last night.

They also made a number of personal attacks against members of that service, misquoted one of them in a press release, tried to get hold of personal e-mail addresses to harass them, and so on. There is no excuse for behaving in that way, no matter how much you believe that you're in the right.

#71 ::: Orange Mike Lowrey ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:40 PM:

I guess I am just fulfilling Dawn Taylor's prediction.

I am stunned and disgusted that she finds breastfeeding analogous to taking a crap, since "[t]hat's also a natural biological act, and not sexual"! Such a simile reflects a depravity in our culture, not in Ms. Taylor (as far as I know).

Some lines have to be drawn, and LJ is drawing the line on the "breasts are narsty, even when used as biology and/or God intended" side of the line.

Pfaughh.

#72 ::: jadelennox ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:40 PM:

I'm also amazed by the irony that the historical complaints about LJ Abuse which keep getting raised here and elsewhere are that they are capricious and random, and yet here they are being attacked for setting an inflexible policy and not deviating from it for special cases, even when the special cases, like FairestCat's, are clearly not obscene.

If the policy were "no nipple or aereola, of either sex, unless breast feeding is involved", how long would it be before a trollposted a pornographic breast-feeding picture? Or before a breast cancer community that posted survival photos got upset? Then they'd be back to making special cases, and we'd be back to the usual complaints that they're capricious and random.

Given DOPA, LJ's policy is a very reasonable one to make.

#73 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:40 PM:

There is, of course, a bigger picture.

1. Livejournal was acquired some months ago by Six Apart, who (if I'm not mistaken) are a publicly listed corporation these days.

2. Six Apart have a legal duty to maximize shareholder value.

3. Livejournal's business model was to provide a service, and make money by selling a premium version of said service. But was this the maximally profitable business model? With over a million active customers, obviously there should be other ways to squeeze revenue, without raising prices. The obvious one is to sell advertising space to advertisers. This could be used to make a profit off the (previously non-paying) free accounts, and to induce free accountholders with an aversion to advertising to cough up for a paid account.

4. With the shift to an advertising-based model, LJ is no longer simply selling a blogging service; it's selling eyeballs to advertisers, while the blogging occupies the same niche as editorial content in a commercial publication (like a magazine or newspaper). Advertisers have certain expectations about editorial content -- and not causing offense to potential customers is one of them. There are also, I believe, distinctly different legal constraints on a publishing medium that carries advertising as opposed to a service provider. (For starters, it can't claim to be a common carrier.) I'm unclear about the ramifications of this -- perhaps Charles Petit could comment? -- but I'd be surprised if the degree to which Six Apart are legally responsible for the content of Livejournal wasn't one of them.

Bluntly: I fear that Livejournal users are just waking up to the fact that they have ceased to swim in a medium of free expression and have been turned into content generators who are tolerated just so long as they attract advertising hits and don't cause a fuss.

The "delete your account on June 6th" protest is calculated to achieve just one thing: if enough people do it, it will dent the advertising click-through revenue that day. Whether that'll be enough to convince Six Apart that they've made a big policy blunder is a question that remains unanswered. But the one thing this whole debacle proves is, you should never trust a public corporation to hold your blog or social network, because they will always try to place the interests of their shareholders ahead of the desires of their customers.

#74 ::: Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:42 PM:

*facepalm*
I've been watching this unfold, having had the uh "fortune" of witnessing it all erupt, and jadelennox is completely right. The LJ user hardvice received a complaint about his default icon, and he objected to it, so instead of having a meaningful dialogue on his own with LJ/Six Apart, he opted to start complaining specifically about breastfeeding icons, going around and targetting said breastfeeding icons, because he knew that this would happen. He specifically went out of his way to poke a hornet's nest of often zealous people (as already indicated in this thread) in a way to make trouble, because he disagreed with a complaint made about a default icon he had that violated the very specific/clear LJ/Six Apart TOS.

Now Six Apart/LJ is having to deal with said zealots, and getting them on all sides, and trying to figure out how to navigate the minefield of government laws in the process.

And Making Light has played right into hardvice's intended goals - congratulations. Frankly, of all people, I would have expected y'all to do a bit more research into how this all started before promoting this to begin with - it's what you encourage people to do in writing/editing/publishing situations, and I'm baffled why the advice to do your homework is good in one setting and not another.

Way to contribute to the problem and not the solution.

#75 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:44 PM:

FairestCat: Livejournal has a stated and spelled out policy regarding what is and is not allowed in default icons.

Yes: and up until 19th May 2006 that policy said that nothing graphically sexual nor anything graphically violent was acceptable. Sometime on Saturday 20th May, after the first suspension e-mail was sent out to a woman using a icon with a breastfeeding pic, FAQ 111 was changed to replace "graphically sexual" with "nudity".

idonotlikepeas: The policy has always been "no nipples or areolae in default userpics". The change to the FAQ was only made because they realized it wasn't clear enough - the actual Terms of Service already forbade this, although not in sufficiently specific language.

FAQ 111 spelt out quite clearly what was and was not permitted in a default user icon. You can see a screen dump here of the pre-20th May version of FAQ 111 that SixApart forgot to edit to match the current version: the LH Abuse guidelines used to be "users default userpic contains graphic sexual or violent content" and the action was "email the user requiring them to choose a non-adult userpic". (How much more "non-adult" can you get than a baby breastfeeding?)

Dawn: essentially taking the position that a lactating breast is superior to a non-lactating breast and should be regarded as such

No, that's really not the point. The point is that breastfeeding is not indecent. As PickledGinger points out: "One needn't be a nursing mother to be outraged at LJ Abuse's tuptotrephophobic declation that any image that includes a micron of nipple may not be used 'in places on the site where one would not reasonably expect to find sexually explicit content'" Even a person who finds naked breasts indecent may - indeed, should - make an exception for a woman who is breastfeeding. (Indeed, in some countries, including California in the US, tuptotrephobic people are required by law to stifle their feeling of offense at women breastfeeding.)

Dawn: And anyone using the argument, as many have, that breastfeeding is a natural biological functio, not sexual, and therefore should not offend should then ask themselves how they would feel about stumbling across pictures of someone evacuating their bowels.

You may be interested in discussion on that point here on that very point.

#76 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:45 PM:

Charlie:

The problem with your theory is that this policy (and warnings for default icons with exposed nipples) predates the acquisition by 6A.

#77 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:48 PM:

Yonmei:

FAQ 111 is not the Terms of Service. It's a summary form of the requirements that's written so that people don't have to read the actual legal language that the ToS contains. It was updated to be a more accurate summary of that language, not to change the ToS (which has remained the same throughout).

#78 ::: TW ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:49 PM:

If LJ is now corporate owned why is it run by volunters? Cheap buggers. Hide behind the free labour of love myth to guilt trip complaints.

#79 ::: jadelennox ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:51 PM:

God, after years of lurking, and it takes this nonsense to make me spam all over the comments here? Orange Mike, it's the self-proclaimed boob nazis themselves who've prompted the comparison between breast feeding and poop, since much of their defense for why nursing images should be all over the place is that it's:

1. natural,
2. necessary for the baby's health and well-being, and
3. sometimes must happen in public, because the baby doesn't have an adult's control over biological acts

Exactly how is that not like chaning a baby's diapers? Whether someone believes that it's *necessary* to feed a baby is something we can all agree on -- and I think we can also all agree that babies need their diapers changed. If natural and necessary are enough to lead to "and I should have the right not only to do this thing in public, but to wave images of it everywhere", then the same applies to baby poop. Saying that's not true is merely a fetishization of nursing as somehow special and holy (or carrying the crap taboo to a ridiculous extreme). For some women, nursing *is* special and holy. For others, it's painful and difficult, and for still others, I'm sure, poop is special and holy.

#80 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:52 PM:

LiveJournal isn't run by volunteers - some of us just agree to help out because we believe in the service, irregardless of the fact that a small group of people profit by it. Does Redhat write all its own code?

#81 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:54 PM:

There isn't anything in the TOS that could be used to justify banning pics of a breastfeeding baby. I've read it through several times.

#82 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:56 PM:

Six Apart's attempt to set clear rules (in this case, "no female nipple or areola") for default icons is a completely legitimate case of self-protection.

This is a fine and logical statement, as many of the statements supporting their decision are. Unfortunalty this fine logic tends to do a wingover straight into the desert floor as soon as one remembers that the fuzzy scan of the "Breastfeeding Baby Jesus" woodcut is also verboten. Then they stop looking so much like they're living in fear and start looking like something you'd get if you had 8th graders try to imitate Kafka.

#83 ::: Things That Ain't So ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:58 PM:

Jeez, you people, don't you get it? Women are all supposed to be thin, lithe, full-lipped, 20-somethings with large (covered) breasts, no brains, no body hair, and no body functions.

That's what Cosmo and Vogue and all those other magazines told me. They talk to me. Yeah. They do.

::slapping self:: Wait... wait... I'm okay again. I'll be good and take my meds. Sorry. Carry on.

#84 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 01:59 PM:

Patrick:
The use of volunteers has issues, but frankly, so does *not* using volunteers. Volunteers go through an extensive (2-3 month) period of training which involves reading old cases, handling current ones under close supervision, etc. Tricky cases are generally checked over by multiple people.

Volunteers are also available to handle things on weekends, holidays, at 3am. (There's been a few lives saved via a suicide note alert that came in in the wee hours. Or people who were willing to be around on holidays.)

Burnout or other life stress is an issue - I'd hate having someone answer stuff who really couldn't focus or didn't want to be there (but who needs the paycheck). These things aren't impossible to manage in a paid setting, but can be trickier and are generally not cheap.

Also note that the *vast* majority of things reported are either not even close to violations of terms of service, or are very easy to handle by providing some basic info. I'd guess based on past experience maybe 5-10% of reports need more than a standard, very straightforward, policy reply.

Teresa:
That's a whole long big other topic.

As the site's gotten bigger, the more serious threats have increased somewhat. I've seen anecodatal evidence that suggests there's a change in parental/other response, but there's not a lot of data yet.

Anecodtal professional discussion (in school library and educational settings) suggests that parents who want to consider themselves involved with their kids are starting to overreact more (threating law suits, etc. first off rather than starting by asking questions, educating themselves, etc.) And they're the ones with the money, time to pursue, etc.

(Whether or not they're *actually* involved, is another question. My definition of involved parents means you keep an eye on your kid and deal with them doing stuff you don't want yourself. You don't take it out on the site unless they're clearly being way stupid or doing something illegal. However, that's not what a substantial number of people actually do.)

I'd consider it irresponsible of a site not to keep that potential overreaction in mind. I might disagree with particular decisions, but I recognise there's better and worse ways to deal with that.

Christine:
This week happens to be a particularly bad week to get hold of people, due to some previous scheduling (training, discussions of policy, etc. in person meetings which involve plane flights. People are online less, not using their normal net connection methods, etc.)

Hundres of abuse reports by interested bystanders gums up the system - of course no one's going to get personal replies to their specific questions. (And, while this is going on, all the other stuff that normally comes in still needs to be dealt with. Including things like the occaisional RL threat, helping law enforcement, etc.) That'd be true even if everyone was a paid employees, btw.

It also, obviously, complicates responding to specific cases or questions in a timely manner. Particularly if there are still ongoing policy discussions.

Trust me, the people checking on the support and abuse boards want stuff handled too. (For one thing it's a pain to deal with responses when there's a lot of old cases taking up space. It's harder to focus and gets pretty depressing and overwhelming.)

Given the amount of mail and strong emotions this case has generated, I think letting people take their time and discuss things thoroughly is probably a better long-term goal.

You get to disagree: all I'm really asking people to remember is that there are human limitations on the process: people need time to read and respond. They need time to discuss. They're human beings with opinions and emotions too, and if they're getting sworn at, attacked, etc. that's going to add more time, probably, for them to be able to respond professionally.

Polite, thoughtful, concise communication from people directly affected using the appropriate technology (the Abuse form - and following the instructions - for abuse questions, for example) will help make everything run smoother. Patience helps: the world will not end if the answer to this takes a week. Or even a month. (Whereas, some of the other cases that may come in may have immediate real world consequences.)

I agree that some frustration is understandable, on all sides. My big wish is for people to realise that, keep the human being stuff in mind, and keep the other stuff in perspective.

#85 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:00 PM:

idonotlikepeas: part of the problem here is that the "protestors" have been behaving extremely poorly. They failed to make use of the mechaniams that LJ has actually created specifically to allow users to bring up changes they want made to the site.

What would those mechanisms be? Ones that aren't routinely ignored, that is.

The organized protest email went to the official contact address, not to the abuse team. Certainly a bunch of people wrote to the abuse team about it at first, before people pointed out they should be contacted other addresses.

I'd like to see evidence for this planned harassment of abuse team members you referred to.

#86 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Like jadelennox, I must express a certain sadness at being drawn out of so much time spent lurking for this, of all things.

Further, throughout this crisis I have drawn a great deal of inspiration from the "slushkiller" post in this very blog, which has for some time been for me the canonical example of a plea on behalf of an overworked person who only wants others to see her point of view and to understand the nature and necessity of certain types of professional response.

To see this misinformation spread here is... disheartening to say the least, although of course I can see where someone without a full apprehension of the facts might be upset.

#87 ::: BohemianCoast ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:03 PM:

I'm sorry; I appear to have stirred up a hornet's nest. I don't actually spend much of my time on LJ (or anywhere else) bashing mothers who don't breastfeed, honest. And I'm trying to follow Teresa's rules here; please don't disemvowel me.

My post was slightly poorly worded (hey, it was LJ after all); mothers get a shedload of guilt from all directions, and the last thing they need is people giving them a hard time about the way they feed their babies.

My part in this protest is, however, all about women feeling comfortable about feeding their babies in public; and seeking to live in a world where feeding a baby isn't described as 'exhibitionism' or 'flashing a boob'.

I wouldn't give a stuff about the icons issue were it not for the broader implication that the opinions of people who don't want to look at babies breastfeeding are more important than the opinions of the babies.

And I fear that does seem to put me on one side of the Mommy Wars, because the result of this attitude is that people growing up see babies being bottle-fed all the time, but hardly ever see babies being breastfed (they're being 'discreet', or hiding in separate rooms, or under blankets, or never going out at all). And that's the thing that in my view has to change, and why I'm making a fuss.

I don't personally think that breastfeeding boobs are special, but they're the only sort that I care enough to complain about, and it's only because I think the lack of positive depictions of breastfeeding in our society is bad for babies.

#88 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:06 PM:

Jenett: Thank you for the response. I know Mark has been responding to abuse complaints over the weekend, but that's presumably more simple than looking at older cases. I suppose I've found in the past that asking polite questions didn't get me any actual polite responses, so I'd rather given up hope of getting one this time. I'll just have to wait and see, I guess!

#89 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:07 PM:

Yonmei: The ToS uses words like "inappropriate". It does not, I must admit, mention nipples. Just as it does not mention penises, which also may be used non-sexually and are also a beautiful and wonderful part of life, and are strictly prohibited in default userpics. I have yet to hear an argument in their favor, alas.

Avery: The quality of the image isn't in question. Once you've set a simple rule like "No pictures with nipples may be default userpics", you must follow it. Else, what purpose setting such a rule?

Christine: The suggestions forum would be an excellent place to start. Most changes to LiveJournal originate there, and it provides a simple method of indicating support or disapproval (via commenting) that does not jam the system and is read by LJ staffers. At this point it's irrelevant, of course, since the people that need to be aware of the issue have been made aware of it by the poor behavior as well, and the damage to the image of that issue by said behavior has been done.

#90 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:07 PM:

Jenett: Volunteers are also available to handle things on weekends, holidays, at 3am.

Yes, that's true: the rewriting of the FAQ happened at a weekend, which was why I at first assumed it was LJ Abuse covering up after one of their members had sent a "cease and desist" notice to someone for using an icon which was certainly not "graphically sexual or violent".

As it appears the new policy was official SixApart policy, not just LJ Abuse going bonkers, I guess the volunteer who edited FAQ 111 on Saturday 20th May was just showing an example of Winston Smith dedication.

#91 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:08 PM:

I'd be interested in seeing a response to Yonmei's 1:54 post; I took a look at the ToS myself, and the only thing I could find that would be relevant would be the prohibition on "obscene" content. Is my understanding correct?

#92 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:09 PM:

idonotlikepeas: The ToS uses words like "inappropriate".

Exactly. Completely inapplicable to breastfeeding, which is - in California, in Scotland - completely appropriate anywhere.

#93 ::: Dawn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:12 PM:

I am stunned and disgusted that she finds breastfeeding analogous to taking a crap, since "[t]hat's also a natural biological act, and not sexual"! Such a simile reflects a depravity in our culture, not in Ms. Taylor (as far as I know).

I'm only slightly depraved, at least compared to my younger, wilder years.

I fail, however, to see how my use of that comparison reflects cultural depravity. And I stand by it as an analog, albeit one made with my tongue firmly lodged in my cheek.

Like many people, I was raised to believe that there's such a thing as appropriate public behavior -- that many behaviors, while natural, are best done in private. Nose picking, farting, scratching one's genitals, the clipping of toenails, pooping ... that sort of thing. And having someone, whetever their age, suck on one's nipples falls squarely into that category.

As a progressive, intelligent woman I can see how demanding a mother retreat from public when she needs to feed her baby is, at best, inconvenient. At worst, it's cruel. I do not believe it should be against the law, and I applaud changes that have been made in that regard.

But I also still believe that one should take the sensibilities of other people into account, particularly in a public venue. I would think that's actually the opposite of depravity! In my view, choosing to identify oneself to the world at large as a photograph of a lactating breast is, well, vulgar. I would never complain to LiveJournal about it, because I simply don't care that much. But still ... ewww.

Anyway. I was attempting to point out what a faulty argument it is to state that a lactating breast is less dirty than a non-lactating one because it's fulfilling a non-sexual, biological function. There are several non-sexual, biological functions that I can name off the top of my head of which I really don't want to see photographs, thanks. It's a bad argument.

#94 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:13 PM:

Yes, the TOS says "inappropriate", and that's the crux of the issue - the mothers in the campaign, and non-mothers who support them, think it's simply wrong to treat any breastfeeding pictures as inappropriate. The FAQ is what defined what was considered "inappropriate", so when it suddenly changed it naturally looked rather suspicious.

I've seen a lot of good suggestions on the suggestions forum not get implemented over the years, though of course there are always programming factors to deal with. I'll have to look in the archives to see whether there have been concrete suggestions about abuse policy. I agree that clogging up the abuse complaints system with general policy complaints just makes the job harder for the abuse team, but I think it's reasonable for people to email the LJ feedback address and the Six Apart contact address about them.

#95 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:13 PM:

Yonmei: Exactly. Completely inapplicable to breastfeeding, which is - in California, in Scotland - completely appropriate anywhere.

But quite applicable to nipples, which, while wonderful things, are not appropriate everywhere.

#96 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:15 PM:

Jennett; Polite, thoughtful, concise communication from people directly affected using the appropriate technology (the Abuse form - and following the instructions - for abuse questions, for example) will help make everything run smoother.

For the LJ Abuse team, I don't doubt. Not for those of us who are actually affected by it.

Patience helps: the world will not end if the answer to this takes a week. Or even a month. (Whereas, some of the other cases that may come in may have immediate real world consequences.)

What was suggested by various people affected was that as this was a contentious issue, an appropriate compromise would be for LJ Abuse/SixApart to hold off on suspending people who had a breastfeeding pic as a user icon until something got worked out.

As LJ Abuse/SixApart is unwilling to do that - those suggestions were ignored, and fresh suspension notices are still being sent (I got one today) then I'm afraid LJ Abuse/Six Apart are just going to have to put up with continuing customer complaints: if you don't like the policy you have to enforce, you can always resign as an LJ Abuse member.

#97 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:16 PM:

Excellent comments, while I was posting. (Thank you, Idonotlikepeas).

One other note: Every time stuff gets clarified, there are rules lawyers trying to find a way around it - some of them just because they like making trouble. This is true in pretty much any large community.

If you say "Well, gee, nipples are okay, as long as it's breastfeeding", someone will go and create an image of a baby and a breast, but not in a breastfeeding pose. And then they'll claim that gee, there's a baby there, so it should be okay. Or they will find images from, yes, art, and claim that that's okay, when it's zeroed in on the breast area.

Now, if you're a generally reasonable site which would occaisionally like to deal with things other than breasts, what do you do? (And things that are, again, causing real-world imminent harm - threats, significant harassment making people feel they can't speak openly, violence, criminal acts, etc.)

One answer is to stick to "Well, breast feeding is okay, but this other stuff isn't" In which case, people will keep trying to find exceptions and push the envelope. This takes staff time, energy, and takes time and energy away from other things.

Another answer - and one that's clear cut, much harder to rules lawyer is - "Ok, we were unclear. No visible nipples in default icons. We don't care about non-defaults. We don't care about elsewhere on your journal. Just not in this one particular place."

I can't say I blame anyone for picking that one, honestly.

Josh:
My point about "They're good people" is "They're people." It's clear that the community here cares about lots of real people. It's equally clear that there has been all sorts of nastiness directed at people on the Abuse team because they made an unpopular decision. (And arguably one that should continue to be discussed)

But there are better and worse ways to deal with that. The commenter community here generally places a high value on at least attempting to be civil. I've seen some of that lacking in this discussion, and it saddens me.

How people behave when they're upset or emotionally caught up tells you a lot about them overall, in my book. I like a lot of the people here. I'd prefer to think better of them, not worse.

#98 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:18 PM:

It never occurred to me that I needed to state a position on breastfeeding vs. defecation. Here it is. It's a simple one:

We are not going to argue about breastfeeding vs. defecation.

Not, not, not.

Again, thank you for your cooperation.

#99 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:19 PM:

Christine:

I've seen a lot of good suggestions on the suggestions forum not get implemented over the years, though of course there are always programming factors to deal with.

Absolutely. And there's never a guarantee that a suggestion will be implemented, whether it comes through that method or any other. I'm not saying that's a perfect method, just that it's the first one to try. If a suggestion were made and ignored, that would be another matter.

I agree that clogging up the abuse complaints system with general policy complaints just makes the job harder for the abuse team, but I think it's reasonable for people to email the LJ feedback address and the Six Apart contact address about them.

I do not believe I have objected to mailing those addresses. Although, to be honest, mass-emails aren't more effective than suggestions and additionally annoy the very people you're trying to convince. (Hundreds of e-mails do have that effect occasionally.)

#100 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:20 PM:

jadelennox, whether you realize it or not, you're demonstrating what some of us are saying: that policies that imply breastfeeding is not something to be seen in public are saying it's indecent and icky. Note that you don't compare it to other positive biological, non-sexual things people may do in public--breathing, eating--but to defecating. There is nothing dirty, unsanitary, lewd, or indecent about breastfeeding. Get over it.

#101 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:21 PM:

Another answer - and one that's clear cut, much harder to rules lawyer is - "Ok, we were unclear. No visible nipples in default icons. We don't care about non-defaults. We don't care about elsewhere on your journal. Just not in this one particular place."

I can't say I blame anyone for picking that one, honestly.

I'm under threat of suspension for an icon with no visible nipple.

#102 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:22 PM:

Teresa, I'm sorry. You posted while I was composing, and I didn't see your statement in time.

#103 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:23 PM:

Actually, I'm appalled by the idea that LJ abuse complaints are being resolved by a cadre of volunteers. LJ is a for-profit business, not a charity or a fanzine.

Patrick, as a huckster, I pay my assistants, but many and perhaps most hucksters who have assistants just supply badges and crash space and meals. Some of them get substantial help from the same people for years even though the business makes money. I don't know what's appalling about this. Even I have been known to get free help with loading, unloading, and table-minding, and damned if I can figure out what's appalling about it.

On the large scale, the Olympics uses a lot of volunteer help. I'm still not appalled.

If you have an interesting project with some interesting work available and don't treat people too badly, you may well be able to get volunteer help, even if you're making a profit. As far as I can tell, this is one of the more harmless things about the world.

#104 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:23 PM:

With regard to the issue of the breast-feeding/ going to the toilet comparison, I've got to say that I see a genuine qualitative difference. Our disgust response to faeces is a response that developed for a good reason: because not staying clear of faeces is, obviously, in a bad idea in purely health terms. Breast milk, however, is not a health risk. (Some people may argue the opposite, in fact. I'll not get into that.) Therefore a disgust response is inappropriate, and may be making people feel as though the breastfeeding itself is being criticised as "disgusting" on non-hygiene grounds.

But I agree with everyone saying its worth all sides saying calm!

#105 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:25 PM:

Sorry, guys, posted my 2 cents before Teresa put a lid on breastfeeding vs. defecation. Please ignore.

#106 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:27 PM:

Yonmei: I'm sorry, I see a nipple and a great deal of areola in that picture. (And frankly I wish I hadn't taken your word and loaded it at work.)

#107 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:29 PM:

No, wait, that's just where the areola is pinched up. Nevertheless, the phrase "nipple or areola" does include "areola", so.

#108 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:30 PM:

Yes, that's true: the rewriting of the FAQ happened at a weekend, which was why I at first assumed it was LJ Abuse covering up after one of their members had sent a "cease and desist" notice to someone for using an icon which was certainly not "graphically sexual or violent".

Rahaeli (the person noted on the FAQ I think you're referring to) is an LJ employee with an odd sleep schedule. It's worth noting that I believe the original text (which I don't have immediately handy) used "graphically sexual or violent" as an example, not the be-all-end-all.

if you don't like the policy you have to enforce, you can always resign as an LJ Abuse member.

If you read my original comment again, you'll note I'm not an Abuse Team member, and have not been for about a year and a half (due to lack of time).

I don't hear details on cases, but a number of team members are still on my friends list, I talk to them on IM periodically, etc. I can tell when they're stressed, and I hear about some of the nastier personal stuff (sometimes with pointers, if it's public)

If there are still suspensions ongoing, I don't have an answer for that: I don't set policy either. I'm having trouble figuring out how some patience and politeness can possibly hurt, though.

#109 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:32 PM:

JadeLennox, Idonotlikepeas, don't be discouraged. Hang in there. This thread shows evidence of starting with heat and arriving at light. Your own contributions are part of that.

Dawn Taylor, please re-read the ground rules, early in the thread.

Aconite, you can charge it off to your vast accumulated credit.

Way back up the thread: Charlie Stross, I think you're oversimplifying. Keeping one's investors in mind does not mean one's every smallest action and decision are strictly ruled by theoretical profitability, and that one's user base must immediately be demoted to soulless content providers. Among other things, that tends to play hell with real profitability.

#110 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Yonmei: I'm sorry, I see a nipple

I'm amazed! The nipple in that photo is inside the baby's mouth. It really isn't possible to see it.

and a great deal of areola in that picture

Certainly. The baby's mouth is small: the mother's breast is large. Unavoidably, you can see the areola around the nipple.

(And frankly I wish I hadn't taken your word and loaded it at work.)

You can rely on my word: it was accurate. As I said, no visible nipple unless you can see through the baby's face. I'm sorry if your workplace gives you trouble about a pic of a baby breastfeeding.

#111 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:35 PM:

Janett; If you read my original comment again, you'll note I'm not an Abuse Team member, and have not been for about a year and a half (due to lack of time).

Ah. Apologies.

I'm having trouble figuring out how some patience and politeness can possibly hurt, though.

I agree. But I fail to see why "patience and politeness" should be exclusively on our side. I'm now on a timelimit: my journal will be suspended at midnight East Coast time this Monday. There is now a limit, set by LJ Abuse, to how patient I can be waiting for SixApart to change this policy.

#112 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:39 PM:

I agree with Charles Stross:

But the one thing this whole debacle proves is, you should never trust a public corporation to hold your blog or social network, because they will always try to place the interests of their shareholders ahead of the desires of their customers.
And I'm also struck by the good sense of Yonmei's point:
What was suggested by various people affected was that as this was a contentious issue, an appropriate compromise would be for LJ Abuse/SixApart to hold off on suspending people who had a breastfeeding pic as a user icon until something got worked out.

As LJ Abuse/SixApart is unwilling to do that--those suggestions were ignored, and fresh suspension notices are still being sent (I got one today)--then I'm afraid LJ Abuse/Six Apart are just going to have to put up with continuing customer complaints: if you don't like the policy you have to enforce, you can always resign as an LJ Abuse member.

I would think LJ's defenders would want to address this point. So far, it's been ignored.

#113 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:40 PM:

Teresa: Thanks for the kind words.

I'm sorry for, to a certain extent, hijacking your comment thread here. I just have a number of friends on the Abuse team who have been hurt by this, and I wish that it were possible to go back in time, make everyone talk about the issue instead, and prevent that hurt.

I'm certainly no fan of the idea of breastfeeding as a lewd act - my wife breastfed in public (and, incidentally, helped me hunt down reports of this issue on mothering web sites so that I could try to represent the other point of view as best I could). I, and certainly all of the people I know on the Abuse team, don't view breastfeeding as a sexual or unnatural or even inappropriate act.

The question is wholly about what standard can be set for pictures which are available in a public and publicized space, and the standard has to be simple, clear-cut, and difficult to subvert (as Jenett and others have pointed out above). And I think a reasonable answer to that question can be arrived at through peaceful dialogue.

#114 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:44 PM:

'm wth Dwn hr. Wht bjct t s ll f ths hpl bt th spclnss f brstfdng nd lcttng brsts. 'm ll fr wmn bng llwd t brstfd n pblc. 'd ls lk t b bl t g tplss whl mwng my lwn n th smmr. Why r my bbs bd f jst hngng thr nd gd f hv sqllng nfnt ttchd t thm? Ths s my mthrhd stts mkng m spcl cs. 'd rthr jst sy, scrw ths. Wmn hv brsts, gt vr t. Hmns hv prblm wth ny bdy prt tht w s n mr thn n wy (t's why nl sx s sch n-n, th sqck-fctr f gng n th t-hl), nd brsts r nthr xmpl. ll f ths gnflctng bfr th lmghty Mlk Brst nd slppng th nghty Sxl Nppl s bsrd. f t cms rght dwn t t, ny sxl ct (nd mn NY) s jst s ntrl s brstfdng. Th sht nlgy nt nly ppls, bt s dply pprprt. t's ll bt whch cltrl tbs frbd s frm dng wht n pblc. N sx r xcrtn n pblc, bcs tht's drty nd bd. Bt lcttn s ky bcs bbs r Prcs nd Spcl? Tht's ttrly rdcls. Wht ths s dng s snctfyng brstfdng t th xpns f wmn's sxlty nd cmfrt wth thr wn bds.

#115 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:44 PM:

Yonmei, you're playing games with "nipple" vs. "areola". The standard meaning of "no nipple showing" is "no areola, either."

Idonotlikepeas, thank you for coming back, and no apologies are due. You've added a great deal of pertinent information to this discussion.

#116 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:46 PM:

Pixxelpuss, you want to try that message again? This time, read the ground rules laid down early in the thread.

Nothing personal. Sorry for the inconvenience.

#117 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Patrick:

I can't speak on specific Abuse cases (nor can anyone - the Abuse team because it's against policy, and others because they don't have knowledge of them), but I'd say that as a general matter of policy, making an indefinite exception to the rule would be a mistake.

The policy, as it stands, is that these pictures are not allowed as defaults. If LJ comes out and says "We'll make an exception in this one case, fo r now", they will immediately be subject to all of the difficulties which have been pointed out above, in terms of manipulated images and so on. I might just as easily ask why people with these icons cannot change them for the duration of the negotiations, if the issue is so sensitive? The police are not generally asked to fail to enforce the law even if Congress is considering changing it.

Further, the entire thing smacks to me of bending to entirely the wrong kind of pressure. I can't speak for LJ's policy arm, but if they gives in to a spam campaign, that only encourages the next group that wants a change in policy to engage in the same kind of campaign.

#118 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:48 PM:

...penises...I have yet to hear an argument in their favor, alas.

You've never heard an argument in favor of penises?!!?!?! Here's my favorite:

At your mighty rising
The vines rise up and the fields rise up
And the desert fills with green
Just like a living garden
In the heat of the sun you are the shade
A well of water in a dry land
Swelling fruits to feed the hungry
Sweet cream to quench our thirst
Pour it out for me, pour it out for me
Everything you send me I will drink
There. Now you've heard one.

As a progressive, intelligent woman I can see how demanding a mother retreat from public when she needs to feed her baby is, at best, inconvenient. At worst, it's cruel. I do not believe it should be against the law, and I applaud changes that have been made in that regard.

I'm reasonably sure you didn't mean quite what the words above say, but I must say that I think "demanding a mother retreat from public when she needs to feed her baby" should be against the law. You meant it shouldn't be against the law for her to feed in public, and I agree, but your slight reference error made me realize how strongly I feel about this.

#119 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:49 PM:

And regarding "LJ is not the real enemy on this", it's LJ that is continuing to suspend people's accounts. The fact that there are large conflicts within society over issues of propriety and censoriousness doesn't excuse anyone from the obligation to behave justly.

#120 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:50 PM:

Dawn Taylor: Like many people, I was raised to believe that there's such a thing as appropriate public behavior -- that many behaviors, while natural, are best done in private. Nose picking, farting, scratching one's genitals, the clipping of toenails, pooping ... that sort of thing. And having someone, whetever their age, suck on one's nipples falls squarely into that category.

[...]

But I also still believe that one should take the sensibilities of other people into account, particularly in a public venue.

So, since some people believe that a woman should not show her hair in public, or her bare legs and arms, or even to freshen her lipstick, women should bow to those sensibilities, too?

You may believe that breastfeeding is something done in private. People who never see it being done in public as if it is something perfectly natural and decent to do in public often feel that way. You are free to nurse in private if you so desire. But I'm astonished at the opinion that if you find public breastfeeding offends your sense of propriety, that's the nursing mother's problem.

#121 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:52 PM:

Sorry, I missed the new rule. Re-posted without the analogy.

I'm with Dawn here. What I object to is all of this hoopla about the specialness of breastfeeding and lactating breasts. I'm all for women being allowed to breastfeed in public. I'd also like to be able to go topless while mowing my lawn in the summer. Why are my boobs bad if just hanging there and good if I have a squalling infant attached to them? This is my motherhood status making me a special case. I'd rather just say, screw this. Women have breasts, get over it. Humans have a problem with any body part that we use in more than one way (it's why anal sex is such a no-no, the squick-factor of going in the out-hole), and breasts are another example. All of this genuflecting before the almighty Milk Breast and slapping the naughty Sexual Nipple is absurd. If it comes right down to it, any sexual act (and I mean ANY) is just as natural as breastfeeding. It's all about which cultural taboos forbid us from doing what in public. No sex or ______ in public, because that's dirty and bad. But lactation is okay because babies are Precious and Special? That's utterly ridiculous. What this is doing is sanctifying breastfeeding at the expense of women's sexuality and comfort with their own bodies.

#122 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:52 PM:

idonotlikepeas: The question is wholly about what standard can be set for pictures which are available in a public and publicized space, and the standard has to be simple, clear-cut, and difficult to subvert (as Jenett and others have pointed out above).

How about going along with the Federal Communications Commission standard for what pictures can be available in a public and publicised space, such as a primetime TV programme or movie? Which standard, I gather, specifically permits images of breastfeeding.

#123 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:52 PM:

I agree. But I fail to see why "patience and politeness" should be exclusively on our side. I'm now on a timelimit: my journal will be suspended at midnight East Coast time this Monday. There is now a limit, set by LJ Abuse, to how patient I can be waiting for SixApart to change this policy.

Suspension deadlines are pretty standard - again, because a number of people who given a suspension deadline are not inclined to talk about it, and will continue making more trouble for the site, users, etc. if given more time. The policy needs to be reasonably fair to everyone.

(I recognise that's not your intent: you want to do what you think is okay.)

If you're concerned about suspension, I would suggest removing the icon as your default for now, continue ongoing discussion, and see what resolution can be reached that way first, when everyone's had time to cool off, first.

I recognise this feels like someone else winning, but I'm not suggesting drop the discussion entirely. Just give everyone breathing room for more discussion, clarification, etc. with not-so-heated emotions. If that doesn't get you anywhere, then decide from there.

I admit to some bias: I've never felt the "I'll push and see where the boundaries are by pushing until I get into trouble with it" method very useful to me, and I have remembered frustration from having dealt with having been on the other side of handling it for a while. So, take it for what it's worth.

The point is you do have a couple of choices than suspension, even if some of them are more desireable for you than others.

#124 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:53 PM:

"Further, the entire thing smacks to me of bending to entirely the wrong kind of pressure. I can't speak for LJ's policy arm, but if they gives in to a spam campaign, that only encourages the next group that wants a change in policy to engage in the same kind of campaign."

Right. Wouldn't do to listen to an organized campaign; why, that would be only a step away from mob rule, tumbrels rolling in the streets, etc.

Far better to set policy according to vague intuitions of wingnut anger or Congressional flak, far in advance of it actually happening. That's what's important, not your users.

#125 ::: Louann Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:53 PM:

For an alternate view on the controversy, try here http://ataniell93.livejournal.com/691515.html
also here
http://ataniell93.livejournal.com/691751.html

I particularly like her "bathing isn't a sexual act either, but I don't demand you watch me do it" take on breast feeding.

I breast feed daily. This time, it's going well. But LAST time, when I had a baby whose spine was sticking out from inadequate nourishment because of lack of milk supply, the La Leche Nazis left lasting scars on me with their insistence that everyone must breast feed or be an evil, heartless, uncaring mother and corporate shill of the formula companies.

They managed to make the worst month of my life even worse. Post-partum depression, sleep deficit, AND crippling guilt, thanks so much ladies. (So I was supposed to let him starve rather than use the Evil Fake Stuff?) IMO their fanaticism is more likely to turn people off on breast feeding than anything about default icons.

#126 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:55 PM:

Teresa wrote: Here are the ground rules: [...] Not all mothers breast-feed their babies. If that's their choice, that's fine too, and I don't want to see or hear anyone saying otherwise.

That being the case, would you (or Patrick) consider editing out the inflammatory part of bohemiancoast's quoted post? Surely it's not necessary to the discussion, if the discussion is to be limited to LJ/6A's actions.

(I take the inflammatory part to be: "But there is only one way to feed babies properly, and that’s breastfeeding. Artificial feeding is a poor substitute.")

I'm not looking to debate the pros and cons of breastfeeding, honest. No one is less eager to have that argument than me. But bohemiancoast's quote characterizes me as having done something awful, and I really object to being told that I can't protest or defend myself on the relevant thread.

Go ahead and disemvowel me, or ban me, if you consider it necessary. I'd hate to have it happen, but I'd hate just swallowing that quote a lot more.

#127 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:56 PM:

As a longtime member of Fandom Wank who was there when Dara told Brad to "chug cock", I don't have a lot of warm fuzzies for LJ Abuse. However, in this case I think they were stuck between a rock and a hard(vice) place: If you tell someone that a nude with nipples covered is not an appropriate default icon, then it becomes a lot harder to justify icons with nipples all over the place, regardless of whether or not they have babies attached. And any sympathy I might have had for the protest has been drained away by the repeated posts on the Boob Nazis comm comparing the LJ default icons policy to racism against African Americans. Equating a poorly-thought-out policy that says you can't have boobs on your LJ default icon with 400 years of slavery, rape, lynching, legalized discrimination and institutionalized racism is incredibly offensive--and the fact that when called on it, the people making the comparisons don't understand why it's offensive makes me want to scream.

#128 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 02:56 PM:

Wow, managed to break TWO of Teresa's ground rules in one post.

#129 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:00 PM:

Actually, Rivka, that doesn't strike me as unreasonable at all, and Alison has said she isn't defending that position.

#130 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:02 PM:

Xopher--

I've always gone for Herrick's "The Vine."

I dreamed this mortal part of mine
Was metamorphosed to a vine,
Which, crawling one and every way,
Enthralled my dainty Lucia.
Methought, her long small legs and thighs
I with my tendrils did surprise:
Her belley, buttocks, and her waist
By my soft nervelets were embraced
About her head I writhing hung
And with rich clusters (hid Amoung
The leaves) her temples I behung,
So that my Lucia seemed to me
Young Bacchus ravished by his tree.
My curls about her neck did crawl,
And arms and hands they did enthrall,
So that she could not freely stir
( All parts there made one prisoner).
But when I crept with leaves to hide
Those parts which maids keep unespied,
Such fleeting pleasures there I took
That with the fancy I awoke,
And found (ah me!) this flesh of mine
More like a stock than like a vine.

(Apologies for the thread drift, but I can't resist quoting early modern erotic verse when the opportunity, ahem, arises.)

#131 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:03 PM:

idon'tlikepeas: I might just as easily ask why people with these icons cannot change them for the duration of the negotiations, if the issue is so sensitive?

But I don't believe there ever would have been negotiations if we hadn't caused trouble over this, and I don't believe that negotiation would continue if we ceased to cause trouble.

The police are not generally asked to fail to enforce the law even if Congress is considering changing it.

The police, in this case, being LJ Abuse, and Congress being SixApart? I agree that so long as SixApart requires that LJ Abuse enforce their anti-breastfeeding policy, LJ Abuse volunteers can only choose between ceasing to be LJ Abuse volunteers and enforcing the policy: and I blame even less LJ Abuse staff (I think there are two) who are simply enforcing this SixApart policy because it's their job.

But just because I don't blame individual LJ Abuse volunteers or paid staff for enforcing the policy does not mean I will stop protesting the policy, no matter how inconvenient LJ Abuse volunteers or staff find the protests.

#132 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:03 PM:

On the large scale, the Olympics uses a lot of volunteer help. I'm still not appalled.

Olympic Games are an adventure, though I'm not certain I'd call them fun. I was a div head for the 1995 Special Olympics (a non-profit organization), which had athlete housing scattered across all 169 towns in Connecticut and more events and participants than the 1994 Winter Olympics. This was volunteer work, though my job gave me time off with pay to do the parts of it that had to be done during business hours.

On the topic at hand - men's nipples are just as sexual as women's nipples, maybe more so, since they don't have any useful function. LJ should at least be consistent and ban nipples of either sex. I can't tell from the discussion here whether it does or not, but my guess is not. But it's not a positive step to say that female nipples are only okay when nursing because otherwise they're ALL ABOUT SEX. It just caters to the subset of het men who sexually fetishize female breasts.

#133 ::: jadelennox ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:03 PM:

Thanks for the kindness, Teresa, and I'm sorry for my part in the verboten topic. I admit, my main concern here is that a troll went out of his way to spread FUD and that his victims fell for it. This could have been a fantastic teachable moment for the BF-advocates to start a dialogue about breastfeeding images -- with SA's upper management, if not with LJ Abuse -- but instead they played precisely into the hands of a battlemonger who wanted to use other people as patsies to fight his own, far less worthy, battles.

Kinda sounds like some other people we know, doesn't it?

(Not to mention I object to the level of shrill some of the conversations have gotten to. When I read "there's nothing sexy about breasts!" I have to think, "well, there is about *mine*". And I 100% agree with pixxelpuss that I'd have much more sympathy if the argument had been that bare nipples should always be permissible; I don't think there's anything about the presence of a nursing baby that makes my breasts more or less special. Either they're okay, or they aren't. But then I've never been a think of the children kind of girl.)

#134 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:03 PM:

It occurs to me that having a policy on unacceptable default user icons means that LJ must have considered the fact that they might have to argue with users over their default user icons. And that, if they'd been thinking ahead, they could have implemented a setting that would swap a user's default icon with an "icon banned" graphic of some kind. That's give them an alternative to account suspension.

#135 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:03 PM:

Thank you, Teresa. (And Alison.)

#136 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:04 PM:

Patrick: Right. Wouldn't do to listen to an organized campaign; why, that would be only a step away from mob rule, tumbrels rolling in the streets, etc.

Far better to set policy according to vague intuitions of wingnut anger or Congressional flak, far in advance of it actually happening. That's what's important, not your users.

I'm sorry, I know this is your blog, but this is needlessly inflammatory. I'm not saying that public pressure is a bad idea. I'm saying that /spamming/ is a bad idea. And specifically, spamming people who have no responsibility for setting the policy that you're protesting is a bad idea. I'm saying you try to have a reasonable discussion first, and then resort to more militant tactics only when that fails. That discussion was never entered into or, as far as I can tell, even contemplated.

#137 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:05 PM:

*sigh*

Pixxelpuss, the part you took out wasn't what I objected to. But since you aren't the only one here who's strayed, I'm going to settle for making another announcement:

WE ARE NOT DISCUSSING BREASTFEEDING, YEA OR NAY.

Please read or re-read the ground rules for this thread.

#138 ::: Dawn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:06 PM:

First, I'll apologize for starting an off-subject line of discussion. Sorry.

Further, the entire thing smacks to me of bending to entirely the wrong kind of pressure. I can't speak for LJ's policy arm, but if they gives in to a spam campaign, that only encourages the next group that wants a change in policy to engage in the same kind of campaign.

This statement is absolutely correct. The people who handle LJ Abuse -- volunteers, as pointed out here -- have enough on their plate without being spammed by every loosely affiliated group with a sense of entitlement who want something changed in regard to their very narrow set of desires.

What really surprises me -- although it shouldn't -- is that people usually don't disagree that there should be a general set of standards for use of a system like LJ. 'Net users have long understood the concept of following a TOS agreement, even going so far as to chide other users when they don't follow the rules.

But then one group gets all het up because of one small issue and decides that LiveJournal is run by "nazis." This is simply ludicrous, and this fight is a huge waste of passion, time and resources for everyone involved.

#139 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:06 PM:

You're welcome, Rivka. Patrick was in on it too.

#140 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:08 PM:

To clarify, my previous post was meant to refer to Louann Miller's.

#141 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:09 PM:

Idonotlikepeas, if your concern is with "spamming" (whatever the heck you mean by that; the term now seems to mean nothing more than "sending a lot of ticked-off email"), what's the relevance to the discussion here in Making Light? I haven't been "spamming" anybody and neither, to my knowledge, has anyone else in this discussion.

You're quick to accuse me of being "needlessly inflammatory," but from here it looks like you're blaming a bunch of people for the behavior of others, which is pretty inflammatory in itself.

#142 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:09 PM:

Yonmei: But I don't believe there ever would have been negotiations if we hadn't caused trouble over this, and I don't believe that negotiation would continue if we ceased to cause trouble.

You may believe this if you like. I do not believe that it is true. LiveJournal was built on a tradition of open dialogue with the users. There certainly have been failures in that area, but as best I can tell the people who run this service actually do care what users think, and would certainly have discussed this issue if it were brought up in an appropriate context. We'll never know for sure now.

But just because I don't blame individual LJ Abuse volunteers or paid staff for enforcing the policy does not mean I will stop protesting the policy, no matter how inconvenient LJ Abuse volunteers or staff find the protests.

If you really believe the policy to be unjust, please by all means protest it. All I ask is that in your protest, you do not harm uninvolved third parties nor spread misinformation about what the policy is and how things came to be as they are.

#143 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:09 PM:

Regarding volunteers: A number of years back, I was a board moderator at ParentsPlace.com (many incarnations and owners ago). Moderators were totally volunteer; I was doing it because the board concerned a topic of intense interest to me and was regularly being trolled.

I was a moderator there for a couple of years. I was "paid" in t-shirts, ball caps, beauty products, and other items. But at the time, it didn't cost anything to become a member of PP. Once PP instituted a tiered fee-for-service system, I stopped being a moderator (I also refused to pay a membership fee and soon left the site altogether).

I believe that if someone is deriving revenue due in part to my actions, I should be paid for my work.

Exceptions include "volunteering" at a friend's dealer's table or other circumstances where a direct personal relationship is involved. Or situations like this: when I ran programming for a sort of convention my parenting group was putting together, I was comped a room at the hotel. To me, that was the equivalent of putting cash in my pocket. T-shirts and stuff like that are not cash.

#144 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:13 PM:

Good comment, JadeLennox.

It certainly sounds to me like someone's gamed the system right royally. I like Avram's suggestion, not least because account suspensions create martyrs. It would be far better to have a default LJ icon that's substituted if the icon you're using is declared objectionable. IMO, it should be perky and cheerful-looking, and faintly irritating.

Xopher, Sarah, you're just trying to see whether you can get me to issue a formal announcement stating that we're not discussing penises, right?

#145 ::: Pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:17 PM:

I'm not sure that I did attack or support breastfeeding in my comment. I'm sorry if I did. The main point I was attempting to get across was that THIS VERY PROTEST is attempting to separate Breastfeeding Icons from Breast Icons, and that this is both absurd and ultimately harmful to women's sexuality. Breasts serve both functions, and I do not believe that I need my breasts to be sanctified by the presence of a hungry infant in order to make them acceptable enough to photograph and put on LJ. That said, I have no problems with having a default icon with wide appeal, and leaving my interest (or breast) specific ones as non-default.

Revised edition again:
I'm with Dawn here. What I object to is all of this protest-related hoopla about the specialness of breastfeeding and lactating breasts in lj icons. I'm all for women being allowed to breastfeed in public and lj icons. I'd also like to be able to go topless while mowing my lawn in the summer and take a photo of it and make an lj icon out of it. Why are my boobs bad (for icons) if just hanging there and good (for icons) if I have a squalling infant attached to them? This is my motherhood status making me a special case in terms of lj icons. I'd rather just say, screw this. Women have breasts in their icons, get over it. Humans have a problem with any body part that we use in more than one way (it's why anal sex is such a no-no, the squick-factor of going in the out-hole), and breasts are another example, and this discussion is symptomatic of that. All of this genuflecting before the almighty Milk Breast and slapping the naughty Sexual Nipple in lj icons is absurd. If it comes right down to it, any sexual act (and I mean ANY) is just as natural as breastfeeding (which is how this is justified for lj icon usage). It's all about which cultural taboos forbid us from doing what in our lj icons. No sex or ______ in public (or in icons), because that's dirty and bad. But lactation is okay (in icons) because babies are Precious and Special? That's utterly ridiculous. What this is doing is sanctifying breastfeeding (in icons) at the expense of women's sexuality and comfort with their own bodies (by forbidding them in lj icons).

#146 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:17 PM:

Louann? Both of Ataniell's posts are friendslocked.

This is the second time I've seen friendslocked posts linked in this thread (once from each side, I believe.)

The people involved may have very interesting and valid statements to make on the subject. However, they have chosen to make them in a controlled setting and not in a public forum and therefore their wishes on the subject should be respected and discussion of their locked statements kept within that post.

Standard lj etiquette is that it's rude to link to friendslocked posts in public discussions, both to the original poster who chose to control access to their post and to those within the public thread who are not privy to the controlled information being linked.

This is, of course, not lj, but I think it's a reasonable standard to abide by nonetheless.

#147 ::: sternel ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:17 PM:

Regarding suspensions: In any civil contract, there are rules. People have a choice to either abide by them or not - regardless of whether they agree with them. Some people may choose to exercise civil disobedience and break the rules in order to make a point; they still need to face the consequence. While the LJ Boob wank is hardly the civil rights protests of the 1960s (except in the minds of a militant few), the analogy still stands - you either obey the rules as they are now, or you face the penalty for them. The penalty for not changing a default icon is suspension. The rule hasn't yet changed and it would be more capricious for LJ to "ignore" it while people are upset than it would be for them to continue enforcing the policy. And go ahead and ask the question regarding whether you want LJ's cadre of volunteers drawing the line between art & porn - though a number of others have already done so.


#148 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:18 PM:

Oh c'mon, Teresa, surely you know that the hegemonic domination of the phallocentric patriarchy means we're *always* discussing penises...especially when we aren't.

I'll be good now.

#149 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:19 PM:

idonotlikepeas: LiveJournal was built on a tradition of open dialogue with the users.

But LiveJournal is now owned by SixApart.

but as best I can tell the people who run this service actually do care what users think, and would certainly have discussed this issue if it were brought up in an appropriate context.

But what would have been an appropriate context? If sending protests to LJ Abuse is ineffective (as it proved), and individuals e-mailing SixApart is (in your view) inappropriate, how would it have been possible for anyone to bring this issue up in an "appropriate context" in the time available - unless they actually live in San Francisco and could ring up SixApart and ask for an appointment to discuss it in person?

In response to about a thousand e-mails from individuals, Doug Bryan did post a response to the issue on the BN community, but it was (in my opinion) a classic example of a "non-apology apology". (link)

-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.

(Again, I can't see anything in the TOS that could be used to argue that a pic of a woman breastfeeding isn't suitable for a default icon. Nothing at all. FAQ 111, pre-20th May, seemed admirably clear; nothing graphically sexual or violent.)

#150 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:19 PM:

Patrick: Idonotlikepeas, if your concern is with "spamming" (whatever the heck you mean by that; the term now seems to mean nothing more than "sending a lot of ticked-off email")

Hacker jargon file. "To mass-mail unrequested identical or nearly-identical email messages, particularly those containing advertising. Especially used when the mail addresses have been culled from network traffic or databases without the consent of the recipients." These aren't advertisements, of course, but note that that's only "particularly" those containing advertising. It also falls under "Any large, annoying, quantity of output."

what's the relevance to the discussion here in Making Light? I haven't been "spamming" anybody and neither, to my knowledge, has anyone else in this discussion.

I believe the origin of this part of the discussion was in a comment which I made about how I was not impressed with the behavior of the people protesting this issue, not specifically the people involved in this blog or this comment thread (although I believe some of the latter did indeed participate in the spamming). I'm certainly not accusing you specifically of spamming. But I would prefer not to see any further spreading of the idea that the correct way to protest policy on LiveJournal is to send e-mail to the Abuse Team. If this is too far from the original purpose of the discussion, and if it's taken as read that the Abuse Team should not be spammed over such issues, I'm happy to terminate that line of conversation immediately.

You're quick to accuse me of being "needlessly inflammatory," but from here it looks like you're blaming a bunch of people for the behavior of others, which is pretty inflammatory in itself.

I am claiming the following:

1. That the Abuse Team should not be spammed about policy, as they do not control it.
2. That in a well-organized protest, channels should be followed before being avoided rather than simply avoided from the beginning
3. That LiveJournal's policy is not insane and that there are reasons for it which do not stem from corporate greed or bizarre sexual fetishes.

I am sorry if any of these positions are inflammatory, or if I have misrepresented myself.

#151 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:25 PM:

idonotlikepeas: 1. That the Abuse Team should not be spammed about policy, as they do not control it.
2. That in a well-organized protest, channels should be followed before being avoided rather than simply avoided from the beginning

The two are contradictory. The reason I contacted LJ Abuse first of all was because I knew of no other means of contacting anyone about an issue of TOS enforcement. I followed channels, in other words. Only when it was clear that we'd get no joy from LJ Abuse did it occur to me to go look up SixApart and e-mail their media contact. Next time I have an issue with TOS, assuming I don't leave LJ for good on Monday, I will certainly e-mail SixApart first, but there was certainly nothing to indicate that this was the appropriate course of action on the livejournal website.

When a large number of people individually send e-mails to a corporation protesting some example of the corporation's policy, especially one which impacts them personally, this is not spam. It may be annoying to employees of the corporation, but it's not spam!

#152 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:26 PM:

Teresa: no, I was just taking the opportunity to post some Sumerian verse.

I, too, will be good now.

#153 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:29 PM:

Yonmei: But what would have been an appropriate context? If sending protests to LJ Abuse is ineffective (as it proved), and individuals e-mailing SixApart is (in your view) inappropriate, how would it have been possible for anyone to bring this issue up in an "appropriate context" in the time available - unless they actually live in San Francisco and could ring up SixApart and ask for an appointment to discuss it in person?

Again, it's irrelevant now, but here's what I would have done if I believed that breastfeeding icons should receive a special exception to the "no nipples" rule, and I had been warned:

1. Changed my userpic to eliminate the nipple, but replace it with something that demonstrated my irritation instead. (A slogan of some kind, for instance. One that did not name the Abuse Team as the parties at fault.)
2. Posted a suggestion to the Suggestions community detailing my argument.
3. If the suggestion was immediately rejected, e-mailed the feedback@lj address with my complaints, and encouraged others to do the same.
4. If the suggestion was accepted, participated in the discussion. Step 3 might still have occurred depending on the results.
5. If I could not live with the ultimate results, cancelled my account.

I am mostly upset because steps 1-2 were skipped, step 3 was perverted by the inclusion of uninvolved parties, and step 4 never had an opportunity to happen.

If you're so certain that LJ has been corrupted by Six Apart, why not take the opportunity to prove it rather than relying on supposition?

#154 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:30 PM:

there are too many comments here. my head has blown up.

here is my position: i think everyone should breastfeed. men, women. whether or not you have a baby.

the end.

#155 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:31 PM:

idonotlikepeas: What channels should protesters have used that they didn't?

#156 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:35 PM:

sdn: me too. But what about the royal family? We know, thanks to the sterling investigative work of David Icke, that the House of Windsor are twelve foot tall alien flesh-eating lizards in disguise. Being lizards, how are they meant to lactate?

Enquiring overheated imaginations want to know.

#157 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:37 PM:

Yonmei: The two are contradictory. The reason I contacted LJ Abuse first of all was because I knew of no other means of contacting anyone about an issue of TOS enforcement.

It ceased being an issue of ToS enforcement the moment you were informed that it was against the ToS. It then became an issue of /changing/ the ToS. Are you saying that you didn't understand that the Abuse Team doesn't actually control what the ToS says? I can see someone making that mistake, of course. But from your arguments here you seem to be saying that it really isn't against the ToS after all; that's a debatable point before you submit the request, but the fact is that the ToS is just a document created by the website to explain what they consider reasonable use of it. And if you've received a notification from an authorized representative of the website that explains what they consider reasonable use of it, any argument in that line seems somewhat useless.

#158 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:41 PM:

Oops. Things are moving too fast for me to keep up.

#159 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:49 PM:

Sheesh. Breasts again.


I propose a new WMD as a bare-breasted lesbian waving La Leche brochures.

#160 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:50 PM:

Charlie and Patrick: Yeah, having too much of your social network infrastructure in one place is dangerous. I'm not sure it's *that* much more dangerous if it's a commercial company compared to say a non-profit organization, or a private activity.

There is of course an obvious solution to the for-profit company problem; LJ is after all based on open source software. I'm not stepping up to volunteer to start that, though.

LJ is good at what it does (as a social network) to a significant extent *because* it's so big. That means any attempt to provide an alternative would have to aim for growth -- and presumably run into the same problems, or at least the same pressures. Also it would be a life-eating project and would need a lot of financing.

Usenet was better, because it was decentralized. Except a bunch of people apparently have decided it wasn't better. I think it's *still* better today, for the social network thing.

Somebody should think about the problem of combining RSS feeds from personal blogs, hosted at arbitrary places, into something equivalent to an LJ friends page, and with an equivalent or better comment facility.

#161 ::: Rachel Blackman ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:51 PM:

Yonmei said: I'm sorry if your workplace gives you trouble about a pic of a baby breastfeeding.

I think this is a big part of it, really. Many workplaces have a policy of 'no nudity on work computers.' (Granted, so do many Internet cafés and suchnot, but they're less likely to fire you and all.) And as was already pointed out earlier in the thread, if you get into 'well, nudity is okay as long as no nipple is showing, or if there's a baby attached to the nipple' then you open yourself up to all kinds of rules-lawyering.

LJ is not even saying 'we don't allow these icons.' They're saying, 'we don't allow this as the default userpic.' As I understand it, the reason is that when you're reading journals or comments, you can use style overrides to remove all userpics if you're worried about being offended by some. However, the default userpic shows up to represent the user in directory searches, userinfo pages, and a number of other pages on the site wherein there's no reason to allow custom styles for. So even if you can ignore all the other icons (or at least be told, 'your own damn fault if you're so easily offended'), you cannot ignore or avoid default userpics.

Imagine someone who goes and clicks on the link for their school, to find classmates who have livejournals. They get the directory of fellow students, and there in that directory is a picture of someone's boobs. Maybe they're offended and try to cause trouble for LJ. Maybe they're at work, and get in trouble for loading 'nude' pictures on work computers, and cause trouble for LJ as a result. Who knows? In today's society, though, it certainly could happen. And especially when there's an atmosphere of fear about ISPs being held responsible for the content their users host.

I think LJ's handled this phenomenally poorly in terms of a PR method; it leaves a black mark on their record. But the actual basis for the decision? I may (and do) think the guideline is kind of stupid, but -- regardless of individual feelings on breastfeeding -- I can absolutely understand why they would want to do it, and I can't really criticize that part.

#162 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 03:54 PM:

Every time I'm reminded that an accident of birth and a few pounds of extra fat and mammary glands on top of my pecs makes my chest indecent I feel very much that, like Neil Gaiman has been known to say, I'm living in a parody of the real world.

So I can't help but parody back. I know, I'm horribly immature, but it keeps me from going right 'round the bend, sometimes.

#163 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:04 PM:

David: There is of course an obvious solution to the for-profit company problem; LJ is after all based on open source software. I'm not stepping up to volunteer to start that, though.

There are a number of clone sites operating already, some of which may have more permissive policies. Further, because of the OpenID system (created by LJ's founder, I might add) and the fact that LJ code can handle arbitrary RSS feeds, users on other LJ-alike systems can interact with each other in a decentralized way. It's not perfect (OpenID is relatively new and the community around it is still forming and debating how it ought to be used), but it's getting better. Moving to another site (run by a friend, say) is definitely a good option if you don't like lj.com's policies.

#164 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Fascinating discussions going on here and in the previous post. I have no strong feeling about nipples and LiveJournal, but I want to commend just about everyone for pretty much behaving like civilized folks: discussing issues clearly and calmly, avoiding insult and invective, working through problems, looking for ways to negotiate without violence... Do any of you want to go to Iraq? Iran? We've got some situations there that you could maybe help resolve.

#165 ::: Sara ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:06 PM:

Sternal - you bring up one side of this that I have been pondering. Items that are added to the contract by one side after the contract has been agreed to by both parties. LJ users who have paid for expanded services and stated their acceptance of TOS should have some assurance that the TOS will not be changed to include things which they have not agreed with and which may have influenced their decision to agree to the contract and pay their fees.

I know that such occurances strike deeply at those who feel betrayed. I once signed a contract and paid school fees for my children only to find out that the school planned (and then put into place) several major changes in policy which lead to the school being IMO not an acceptable place for my children. The school and its board did not agree that anything was wrong in their actions and would not refund my money.

#166 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:09 PM:

I'm not going to argue that LJAbuse is a perfect system, because it's not. I've seen them handle some situations spectacularly badly in the past and to be honest, while I sympathize with them this time, I think they could have handled aspects of this whole thing better.

Which is why I have a problem with the classification of this as "harrassment" or an "attack" specifically on breastfeeders. LJAbuse responded to this situation with the same policies and actions they would have used regarding any other abuse report.

Framing the issue as a personal attack against a specific group is inaccurate and just serves to alienate many of the protestors most natural potential allies: those who've had issues with LJAbuse and the Abuse system in the past.

#167 ::: TW ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:11 PM:

Sara, I'm not thrilled by the one party can change terms of any agrement after signing trend seen in buisness and government. Especialy when the other party is not given a choice or compensation. Bad enough banks, utilities, landlords and employers do it all the time. Let alone internet services.

#168 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:12 PM:

Very late reply to Dave Bell's 10:45 a.m. posting: those pasties look perfect. (Gave me a good laugh too.) But tell me, what does Cornwall have against Sweden?

#169 ::: sternel ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:18 PM:

Sara:

Two points, in response.

Point one: The terms of service were never changed.

The FAQ was expanded to clarify matters. There were no alterations made to the Terms of Service, and I find the misrepresentation of that fact by so many parties (knowingly or not) to be very, very telling.

Point two: The very first paragraph of the ToS is, and I quote:

LiveJournal, Inc., dba LiveJournal.com, ("LiveJournal") provides the following service to you, subject to these Terms of Service ("TOS"), which may be updated periodically without prior notice. You can review the current version of the TOS at: http://www.livejournal.com/legal/tos.bml. Failure to comply with these TOS may result in account revocation.

As annoying as that might be? Every LJ user has agreed to those terms. That is the very first paragraph. They are not hiding it, and it's a rather standard inclusion. It's not LJ's fault if people do not bother to review contracts before they agree to them.

#170 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:23 PM:

AliceB: No, Cornwall has something against Rutabagania...

#171 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:26 PM:

I've been severely on the fence about this for personal reasons, but fuckit, I'm joining the damn blackout.

Several people have suggested that default icons with nipples, male or female, should simply be permitted, full stop.

Or possibly some of them were suggesting that that would be more consistent even though they don't themselves agree with it.

I'm there. What about MY community standards, gods damn it? Why should the biggest psycho get to drive, just because they want to?

BOTH nursing AND ordinary female toplessness are explicitly legal in Ontario. And socially acceptable.

And in quite a number of other places in the rest of the world.

Depictions of same are also explicity legal here.

That is my community, and those are my standards.

(Does anyone know the specific legalities in the US? AFAIK, lots of places have explicit laws permitting public nursing and may have laws specifically excluding depictions of same from obscenity charges. There's grounds for a decently enforceable ruling there, if what LJ is truly concerned with is legal liability.)

Sure, I could go somewhere else. Somewhere else that runs out of the US. *sigh* Sooner or later we'd be right back in the same old swamp.

#172 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:26 PM:

I think what we're seeing here is a matter of various taboos and CYA. Yesterday, I went and saw the new X-Men and saw both the adult and the child version of Angel right there on the big screen bare-chested with nipples for everyone to see. But male nipples, both pre and post pubescent are okay. Unlike female nipples, unless they are currently being stuck in the mouth of a baby. And the FCC gets to levy fines on nipples. cf. Janet Jackson & the "Wardrobe Malfunction."

Silly? Yes. But a financial concern for a company, the same as it was when Ebay banned all items with swastikas except money and currency from the Nazi era. So I can't sell my 1925 American OUIJA board with the swastika and Star of David (both regular magical symbols in 1925) because Germany and Israel both get upset if they see swastikas, even on items which had nothing to do with Nazi party. Meanwhile, six-pointed stars got Pokemon cards banned in Saudi Arabia for "contributing to Zionism." I find great amusement in having a OUIJA board that would be banned in both Israel AND Saudi Arabia. And back during Gulf War I, I sent a care package of fantasy novels to US troops, but was asked to veil all the women on the covers with Post-its, and not just their nipples as is done with convention art shows.

As for other bodily functions, a certain statue of a urinating child is considered classic art, modern images of urinating children are country kitsch, but urinating adults are considered gross. Again, a silly taboo.

However, it isn't the companies that make the silly and inconsistent laws--it's the government. Rather than saying "Breastfeeding is not obscene!" why not just make it simpler and say "Breasts are not obscene!"? That would naturally cover the breastfeeding and would keep us from idiocies such as measuring the proximity of an infant's mouth to a bare tit. Ahem, I mean "teat," because spelling it with an i is obscene but with an ea it's okay. Again, silly.

#173 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:27 PM:

Ah... Those poor turnip heads.

#174 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:30 PM:

Oh dear. Thread's moving to fast. Last comment referred to Rutabaganians, not the more serious discussion. I hope I didn't insult anyone...

#175 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:35 PM:

Yonmei:
The reason I contacted LJ Abuse first of all was because I knew of no other means of contacting anyone about an issue of TOS enforcement.

To clarify this bit.

1) Questions about TOS enforcement that directly affect you (your account, a community you moderate, a comment you made somewhere, etc.) should go to the Abuse Team through the Abuse report form.

This dumps it into the Abuse area of the support pages. People with Abuse privs (i.e. those on the Abuse team, plus relevant employees) can see it. Since these are these are the people who can directly answer that question, or make sure it gets answered, this makes sense.

(I would say "Only the people who are on the Abuse Team can see it" but this isn't quite true: if you hand out the URL the system gives you to view your report later, other people can read it. If the Abuse Team realises that's been done, the report is closed and the person is asked to make another report. This is to preserve privacy for everyone.)

http://www.livejournal.com/support/faqbrowse.bml?faqid=105 has much more useful info.

2) If the question is about someone else's account, how you feel a particular policy is unfair, that you don't like how a specific issue was handled...

Those should *not* go in the Abuse Form. They can only handle direct enforcement issues, and general pointers to policy, etc. They're not the place to agitate for a change of policy. (Sort of like you wouldn't walk into your local police department to agitate for a new law, you'd work through the legislature, or you wouldn't lay into an low-level manager for a policy at a large company.)

Not only will it glut up the other stuff they can handle, but the Abuse Team are usually not the people to handle the upper level policy decisions. (Have input, yes, depending on the topic.) You want your comments to be seen by the people who can actually change stuff, right?

Exactly who to contact depends a bit on the specific type of problem.

Regardless, though, sending mass emails (i.e. hundreds of people sending them) is not very helpful in LJ's situation: it takes a lot of time to handle them, and it doesn't usually help get resolution.

Getting together with people who are concerned and sending one email, one suggestions post, etc. (at least to start with, waiting for a response, etc.) is a better way to go.

If you're not sure who to contact, you can open a support question: there are special categories that only specific admins who handle particular thorny questions can see. (Billing questions, but also other stuff that just shouldn't be around in public because it's a complicated discussion while in process or involves specific individual details.)

In a case like this, if you really weren't sure where to start, I'd probably post a general question: something like "I've got a concern about LJ's policy regarding Y. I'm not sure who the best person to talk to about this is, but I'd like some form of direct contact with them, not on the public board" without specific details (you can add those when you get the right person and they get back to you) and let the system forward it.

Chances are it'd either end up in a private support category (only you and limited admins could see it) or they'd work something out by email.

It may not be an immediate response: for some stuff, there's a limited number of people who can handle it, they may want to check information on recent decisions or events, etc. Or they may be out of town for the weekend, etc.

I do agree that some of this could be clearer: I've got all sorts of personal thoughts on what I'd do about it if I ruled the world. I don't, though. (And I recognise that some of them, while nice, would be impractical).

#176 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:40 PM:

I'm fascinated by the amount of heat being generated by this issue - 175 posts and still going strong!

Can someone tell me - just for information - why it's so important to have a picture of breast-feeding as default LJ icon? idonotlikepeas seems to imply that people are just using these images to "push the envelope" in a rather juvenile way. Is that so, or do some people feel that breast-feeding defines their identity to such an extent that nothing else will do?

#177 ::: TW ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:49 PM:

John, why do people chose icons in the first place. For some yes it will probly be a "what can we get away with" farce. For some it has to do with wanting something that represents a unique or uncommon trait about you. Or expresses a feeling or value. Why do folks use avatars and signatures in the first place since they eat up precious bandwidth. Mostly it's to identify yourself in a crowd. "I'm the one with the red carnantion and big hair." No different than any other appearence choice.

#178 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:50 PM:

That's easy: You have the livejournal of a first time mother who is usually too busy with her dayjob to play with LJ, but now has maternity leave. And while her child is sleeping, she decides to use LJ to journal her experiences as a first time mother.

What other icon is she supposed to use? Yes there is "Here is me" and yes there is "Here is my baby" but if the LJ contains frank talk about her breastfeeding, then doesn't that make sense as an icon?

#179 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Melissa Singer:
I believe that if someone is deriving revenue due in part to my actions, I should be paid for my work.

I've got mixed feelings about this one too. However, I spend other parts of my life in places where people benefit from my work, just not financially, so drawing the line at money feels a bit weird.

What made LJ feel okay for me was:

1) Anyone on LJ, paid account or not, can see the same entries, comments, etc. What matters is the social connections (public vs. friendslocked posts, custom friends groups, etc.)

2) Abuse and Support responses don't care whether someone has a paid account or not (with the exception of a few things like customisation, where paid accounts get some more decorative options.)

3) I got some really valuable skills out of it (including some ones I can parlay into professional resume fodder, and some that have been really useful in my religious life as far as group dynamics, conflict resolution, etc.)

That's certainly not the only reason I did it - I enjoyed Abuse volunteering quite a bit, almost all of the time. But it's hard to figure out exactly how I benefitted financially from it in some ways. (or how I might benefit in future: there's a non-zero chance that my experience in this area may make be a better candidate for some jobs when I finish my MLIS in a year or so. How do I calculate that?)

I also honestly felt like I was doing something that made things better for people. Certainly enough to make it worth my time. Someone else might make a different choice about where to put that time - totally fine.

#180 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:52 PM:

Well, to clarify: I think some of the people involved have engaged in juvenile behavior, and that others will if the standard is altered. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with breastfeeding or pictures thereof, or that everyone who wants to have a breastfeeding icon as their default is juvenile. There just has to be a line, somewhere, between nude and non-nude images. I wish there didn't have to be that line, honestly. But if it does have to exist, I'm glad it's a firm line rather than something that involves a random overworked person making an on-the-spot decision.

#181 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:52 PM:

LJ Abuse has a poor reputation (and has for my entire five years there) for fairly simple reasons; while many sorts of people may initially volunteer their time to LJ abuse, the ones that stick it out tend to be those who enjoy the petty dictatorship of busting and booting people.

In 90+ percent of cases, people deserve the booting, but LJ Abuse tends to be equally opaque and jerky to the deserving and innocent alike.

#182 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:52 PM:

John Stanning wrote: Can someone tell me - just for information - why it's so important to have a picture of breast-feeding as default LJ icon?

It's an effort to push back against the cultural assumption that the "normal" way to feed a baby is with a bottle. It's surprisingly common in U.S. society for a young woman to reach the point of childbearing without ever having seen a baby breastfeeding; this inevitably affects her choices about how to feed her own baby.

It's also an attempt to desensitize people to breastfeeding, so that women will feel more comfortable about breastfeeding wherever they happen to be with their babies and so that other people will get over their breastfeeding squeamishness. Even some people who are pro-breastfeeding see it as a private act, something that should involve mother and baby gazing deeply and intimately into each other's eyes in a quiet, peaceful, private place. Which would be great, except that real life dictates that those conditions probably aren't available as often as babies are hungry.

#183 ::: novalis ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:57 PM:

OK, I'm ready to leave LiveJournal (for this reason and many more). How do I do it?

Here's what I want, and haven't had time to research because I was writing code to rescue the AW forums:

I want to be able to maintain my the equivalent of my old LJ friends list, such that (a) my friends can read my locked posts and (b) I can read theirs, and (c) I can do so in one central place (like /friends).

I want to do so on my own server. I host with Dreamhost, which supports just about every reasonable technology.

I want to do so using only Free Software.

I don't care if it requires me to learn a new programming language to set up, or is otherwise technically baffling. I don't mind if my friends have to re-friend a new ID, or if I have to re-enter their names somewhere. I'm willing to do significant work to write software to migrate old entries, and of course share that code with the world.

#184 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 04:59 PM:

Rivka, that still doesn't answer the question, which is not "why is breastfeeding important," but "Why is it a matter of earthshattering importance to have a breastfeeding icon as your default icon.

If it were me, I'd change my default to something without nipples in protest, and then simply continue using the breastfeeding icon on every post or comment that I make. But for at least some of the people involved in this, that wouldn't server the purpose of painting themselves as an oppressed minority.

#185 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:03 PM:

LJ Abuse has a poor reputation (and has for my entire five years there) for fairly simple reasons; while many sorts of people may initially volunteer their time to LJ abuse, the ones that stick it out tend to be those who enjoy the petty dictatorship of busting and booting people.

Actually, the two longest-term Abuse team members that I know personally are about as far from jack-boots as you can get. (One is a card-carrying member of the ACLU.) They volunteer because they believe that they can do good by keeping LiveJournal a safe place for everyone. And, what's worse, they consider it a violation of their professional ethics to reveal information about their cases, so they can never speak up publicly to defend themselves against the people that smear them.

#186 ::: Louann Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:04 PM:

Re posting links to friendslocked posts:

I apologize. I'm not all that experienced a LJ user, and I literally could not tell. Saw a well-reasoned argument, thought it better to quote it than to type substantially the same thing over.

#187 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:05 PM:

John: Because the envelope sucks patriarchal dead farm animals for drug money.

Because there is no good reason to characterise the female breast or a depiction of one (or two) as by default obscene, pornographic, inappropriate or sexual.

Because crap like putting the exact same restrictions on icons of nursing or simple female nudity as are placed on explicit sex or violence reinforces the attitude that the only legitimate use of a female breast is to be pornographic or sexual, despite the fact that half the world walks around wearing breasts ALL THE TIME.

Because we've tried compromising and only ever ended up compromised.

Because we're tired of protecting the sensibilities of people who don't give a good goddamn about ours.

Because we're sick of this crap.

#188 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:08 PM:

Novalis: You may have missed it, but you can do that using the LJ code itself. It's free as in speech and beer. Go ahead and download it: http://code.sixapart.com/svn/livejournal/trunk/

You can find more information and ask questions about how to implement it by going to http://community.livejournal.com/lj_everywhere/

#189 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:14 PM:

Darkrose, if "earthshattering importance" is your criterion for getting upset, then what do you ever get upset over? You could kill every human being on the planet without shattering the earth.

#190 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:16 PM:

Kim said:


I have half a mind to post a hundred of the most offensive icons I can find under the heading "LJ Approved."

Heh. Do it -- nothing like pointing out blatant hypocrisy.

#191 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:18 PM:

I have to go home now. You're all to behave especially well until I get there, because if someone responds unreasonably to your allowable but perhaps a tad provocative comment, I won't be there to kill them for you.

In the meantime: www.hmcmagazine.com

#192 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:19 PM:

Lee: but not here.

#193 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:23 PM:

Kim, Lee:

That's silly. Unless an Abuse case has been specifically brought against that one particular icon, LJ hasn't even noticed that it exists, much less approved it. Refer to earlier discussions of common carrier laws in this thread if you'd like to know more.

#194 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:26 PM:

When the story first came up (Mother's Day weekend, for our daily requirement of infra dig) I got slammed on otf_wank (http://www.journalfen.net/community/otf_wank/ , Fandom_Wank's sibling) for pointing out that the nursing nothers had a point, but at this point the matter has gotten so wanky as to have alienated me from both sides and gotten me pissed off with a good chunk of my flist.

The root problem, as I see it, is not just that LJ and Six Apart have problems with writing and enforcing their TOS, but more importantly, that Live Journal is too large and complicated to depend on poorly trained volunteers for site moderation. Trying to write TOS which can be enforced without regard to mature judgement is a doomed project; trying to assure that LJ_Abuse volunteers have that level of judgement is beyond hoping for.

#195 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:26 PM:

(One is a card-carrying member of the ACLU.)

Sadly, it is entirely possible to be a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and still a jerk.

My comments about the LJ Abuse volunteers are from observation and experience, and the icon controversy has lots of the usual hallmarks. Non-responsiveness to communications, constantly changing rationalizations for actions, and a particularly defining characteristic of taking any disagreement as an attack, to which which you are a sad martyr, and to which you cannot admit error because that would be Letting the Terrorists Win.

#196 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:27 PM:

Avram, I don't understand your point. I get upset over things frequently. I'm upset over the continuing failure of the war in Iraq and the human toll. I'm upset that the wingnuts on the right are trying to distract the country by pushing the anti-same-sex marriage legislation yet again. I'm upset that my right to choose is likely to be eroded to nothingness by the Roberts court. Hell, I'm upset that ABC cancelled Invasion. It's just that for me, LJ icons are near the bottom of the list of things that are important enough for me to invest time and energy protesting about. Obviously, some people feel differently--to them, apparently, that *is* earthshattering.

#197 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:29 PM:

John Stanning - I would guess that the outrage is from being asked to 'pass', which is considerably more painful than those who never have to 'pass' realize. Gay people are hurt by having to edit out references to their partners, I edited my online words for years to avoid all evidence about my gender, religious people are hurt by never referring to their faith -- we spend a lot of time arguing about what's acceptable.

It's easy to sneer at something 'defining a person's identity' when your identity is already publically acceptable. Perhaps yours isn't, and you're happy behind the mask, but that's unusual.

#198 ::: Elizabeth McCoy ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:36 PM:

I find myself bemused, and somewhat in favor of those who point out, "Well, if the *FCC* lets it happen..."

Although... Has anyone proposed a different protest? There's nothing to keep one from making a non-default icon and using it everywhere. It's just a seperate "pull-down" choice. I pick out a proper icon for nearly every post I make.

#199 ::: TW ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:41 PM:

How about eliminate the default icon all together and make the users chose the icon in use each time?
Then again where do you see the default icons automagicly in the first place, on the user's info page which I don't see as being a public part of the system.

#200 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:42 PM:

Elizabeth: I think your idea is much better. Make a non-default icon and use it everywhere. If you want to protest, create a default icon that says why you've changed it.

#201 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:43 PM:

clew: my phrase about defining identity wasn't intended as a sneer, at anybody.

[FWIW, I don't know, or care, whether my identity is publicly acceptable, whatever that means. Anyway, as someone said, on the Internet no-one knows you're a dog.]

#202 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:43 PM:

OK, so far it comes down to this for the discussion our hosts are OK with us having here (and kudos for keeping out the breast-feeding good/la leche league=fascists arguments)

Should LJ change the policy? What would be the ramifications for a yes/no

Are users taking the right path to change the policy. Is there an acceptable path to petition for a change of policy?

Is LJ and Six Apart's management acting in good faith here, and making an honest attempt to address the issue fairly.

My answers-

-Yes, and I don't think modifying the TOS to allow breast feeding photos as default pics is wrong. In fact, I think it's right. It ought to be done. I think there will be little to no repercussions except from supercilious prats who can be ignored, as they're only dangerous if granted power.

- No, this needs to be cleared up. Customers ought to be given a clear path to petition for a policy change if policy is stupid. They don't *have* to do this, but it makes good business sense.

-No. They're trying, but they're not doing a good enough job. The reply by the Six Apart spokesman needed to give more details on what was going on, why, and when users could reasonably expect a decision. This would have allowed users who were feeling pressured into dropping LJ to feel listened to. B+ for effort, C- for effect.

Finally, Pat, if people getting upset over this is bugging you, you don't have to participate, or even read the threads. I understand there was quite a to-do over holding mass in a language that was no Latin in the catholic church at some point, and lots of people got upset over it, but it really didn't bug me because it wasn't affecting me personally. If there are discussions out there that stigmatize non-breast feeding mothers, by all means, they deserve condemnation, but I'm not seeing that here. In fact, I'm seeing measures taken to stop those discussions from happening. I know this is a hot-button issue for you, but from what I see, the hosts here are taking pains to stop that button from being pushed.

#203 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:43 PM:

TW: The default icons show up in some searches. If you try to find all the people who share an interest, or who went to your school, it returns names and default icons.

#204 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:44 PM:

Yes. The rule against nudity in default icons is an arbitrary one. Yes, it's a stupid one too.

But honestly? I don't blame livejournal for adopting it, both for their own legal protection and in order to best serve the interests of a large portion of their customer base.

It is not in the best interests of LJs bottom line or of their users for them to institute practices that increase their likelihood of a) legal repercussions and b) being banned/blocked from schools/libraries/workplaces/etc.

#205 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:44 PM:

Darkrose, nothing is "earthshattering". Really. You could kill off every person on the planet without shattering the earth.

This is a common event in online disussions -- two sides are arguing fiercely, and someone comes along and says "Hey, this issue isn't really worth fighting over, why don't you people spend your time doing something else?". Thing is, if the someone really thought the issue wasn't important, he or she wouldn't bother posting to ask, would he or she? I often see online discussions that I think are stupid, but I just go on and read something else. It's a big Internet, lots to see, no reason I should spend keyboard lifespan telling a bunch of people that I don't think what they're arguing over is worth arguing over.

Unless I wanted to portray myself as superior to them. You people, with your stupid arguments, I'm so above that, y'know. Yeah, than I might post like you did.

Or if I supported one side of the argument, but couldn't think of any positive way to support my side. Hey, you other-side people, why are you making such a fuss? Just go away and let my side win. Yeah, I could see doing that.

Anyway, if you'd read the comment nearer the top of this thread, you'd have seen that this whole issue is already a hot wire of blazing emotions. The issue isn't really Oh noes, they're banning my icon!, it's more like I'm a mother and I'm worried about doing the best for my children, and should I be breastfeeding or bottle, and OK breastfeeding is best, only maybe I'm sensitive about exposing my breast in public, and I'm getting hassled by people who want me to shlep my baby and these heavy bags all the way to the restroom on the other side of the mall to feed him, and why are they making it so hard, and now the women who want to bottle-feed are getting on my case, and I've had a bunch of tense arguments about that, and oh crap, now I'm even getting hassled about my LJ icon, I don't friggin believe this!.

#206 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:44 PM:

Breastfeeding is not the same as pictures of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding allowed and encouraged in public, which is a good thing because babies need to eat. Absolutely no babies are fed by LJ usericons.

Various people keep saying that breasts are not always sexual and then using the word "dirty." I object to that. Sex is not "dirty." Sexuality isn't "dirty." My breasts may be sexual, may be nurturing, may be life-giving, or may just be hanging out in my bra, but they're never "dirty."

Elizabeth: doing that - using a nondescript default icon that you never use, and then having a breastfeeding icon that you select in every single post and comment on LJ, ever - is explicitly allowed by LJ. I'm not sure if all of the people who object to this policy understand that.

#207 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:46 PM:

If you're so certain that LJ has been corrupted by Six Apart, why not take the opportunity to prove it rather than relying on supposition?

Indeed: I rather think that's what we're doing, aren't we? Will SixApart pay attention to what the livejournal community is saying, or will they go the corporate route and ignore us?

Again, it's irrelevant now, but here's what I would have done if I believed that breastfeeding icons should receive a special exception to the "no nipples" rule, and I had been warned:

1. Changed my userpic to eliminate the nipple, but replace it with something that demonstrated my irritation instead. (A slogan of some kind, for instance. One that did not name the Abuse Team as the parties at fault.)
2. Posted a suggestion to the Suggestions community detailing my argument.
3. If the suggestion was immediately rejected, e-mailed the feedback@lj address with my complaints, and encouraged others to do the same.
4. If the suggestion was accepted, participated in the discussion. Step 3 might still have occurred depending on the results.
5. If I could not live with the ultimate results, cancelled my account.

Okay. Now: Where on livejournal is this process documented? I looked through the FAQ - back when (sometime 20th May, before FAQ 111 was edited) what it looked like was that a member of LJ Abuse was abusing his position to send a suspension notice to a journal for an icon that was clearly neither graphically sexual nor graphically violent. I found no procedure documented anywhere how to complain about an individual on the LJ Abuse team, so I sent a complaint to LJ Abuse, figuring that there was not a lot else I could do.

When (after Doug Bryan posted his non-apology apology) it appeared that far from it being an LJ Abuse abuse incident, it was SixApart official policy, the logical thing to do seemed to be to e-mail SixApart. (You don't appear to allow for that possibility at all in your list of options.)

If you're saying that somewhere on Livejournal it is documented how one complains about a change to the guidelines how the TOS are enforced, can you link to that here?

And given that the "no nipples" rule is, in fact, documented nowhere - the only written evidence that it exists is in various e-mails from various LJ Abuse volunteers or staff - how could we suggest that this unwritten rule should be changed?

#208 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:46 PM:

I think Avram just put his finger right on the nipple of the problem.

#209 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:47 PM:

Avram: if you follow Darkrose's comments back, I believe she wasn't saying that this wasn't worth fighting over, but rather, that she objected to the fact that some participants were comparing their "oppression" at the hands of LJ to the suffering endured by African-Americans during slavery. In that sense, I agree that yes, both sides could use a reality check.

#210 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:51 PM:

if someone responds unreasonably to your allowable but perhaps a tad provocative comment, I won't be there to kill them for you.

While you're away, and as a Coporate Military Contractor, I'd be willing to fill that role.

...

Oh.

It was a metaphor?

Nevermind...

I do find the number of ground rules needed to keep people on topic interesting. Some subjects just push people's hot buttons. I get it. This one ain't mine.

#211 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:57 PM:

Avram, someone else asked why this was important, and got a reply talking about why breastfeeding is important. There are two issues being conflated here, because LJ/Six Apart is not "banning breastfeeding".

I'm not saying that the icons aren't important to some people, and I'm certainly not saying that I'm superior to anyone--if you actually read my post, I pointed out that I'm pretty torqued off that one of my favorite TV shows got cancelled, so I'm not about to throw stones. I'm saying that the issue is not about whether or not people should or shouldn't breastfeed--yes, I've read this thread and I've been following this for a while now--and that I don't understand how an LJ icon policy, however silly, is an attack on breastfeeding mothers.

#212 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:57 PM:

I'm with bohemiancoast on this. Much as I sympathize with those who work on LJ and have to deal with this flack, it doesn't make them right.

It is not necessary to draw a line between nude and non-nude images. The line has to be between decent and indecent images. There is no hard and fast rule for what is indecent. Any attempts to apply rules out of context will backfire.

When you receive many similar messages because each one is from a person who is similarly outraged over the same issue, it is not spam. It is just a large number of people trying to get you to understand something important. The solution is not to shut them out, it is to understand what they are trying to tell you.

If they are using improper channels in their attempts to communicate with you, it isn't their fault. LJ could have listened when they were contacted via proper channels, and they could have responded and defused the situation. They still can.

This situation happened because LJ policies could not distinguish between an indecent image and decent images, or between a troll user and legitimate users. I don't see any good resolution to the situation unless and until LJ updates its policies, and stops treating decent images as if they were indecent, and legitimate users as if they were trolls.

#213 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:58 PM:

idonotlikepeas: It ceased being an issue of ToS enforcement the moment you were informed that it was against the ToS. It then became an issue of /changing/ the ToS. Are you saying that you didn't understand that the Abuse Team doesn't actually control what the ToS says?

Not at all. Sorry, I missed this comment.

I read the TOS thoroughly and discovered nothing in it that could possibly be interpreted as not allowing a pic of a baby breastfeeding. FAQ 111 had been inexplicably and abruptly edited. I thought that someone on the LJ Abuse team was abusing their position, and sent a complaint to LJ Abuse.

On discovering that the objection to breastfeeding pics originated with SixApart, it plainly became a matter for SixApart, and I directed any further e-mails to SixApart.

One of the issues that has come up again and again is that there is no official channel to protest an LJ Abuse decision. If there had been one, I think LJ Abuse wouldn't have received all those protest e-mails, which does seem to indicate that an official means to protest LJ Abuse decisions would be helpful to LJ Abuse, as well as to victims of the decisions.

But as people have been asking for a means to protest LJ Abuse decisions for years and never got it, I think it would take an issue like this to get one.

#214 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 05:59 PM:

We all agree that the LJ TOS has nothing in it about breastfeeding; only language banning "obscenity" etc. LJ now says that includes "breastfeeding." But California law, the law I'm under, specifically says that breastfeeding is not obscene. And right there in article 7 LJ abjures me: "Recognizing the global nature of the Internet, you agree to comply with all local rules regarding online conduct and acceptable Content."

To not call their ruling on this stupid would be against the LJ TOS. ;)

And doesn't California law constain them, too?

Stupid.

#215 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 06:03 PM:

Novalis --- it would take some configuring, but i'm certain that you can get what you want out of scoop (the software which various community politics sites including redstate and dailykos use). Basic information can be had at scoop.kuro5hin.org, and the friendly people in the slashnet irc channel #scoop will generally help with most things. :)

#216 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 06:05 PM:

Relly:

My breasts may be sexual, may be nurturing, may be life-giving, or may just be hanging out in my bra, but they're never "dirty."

I take it you've never been geoducking, then? :)

Sorry. This is too much of a personal issue for me to comment in a useful fashion, so I thought I'd help lighten the tone.

#217 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 06:07 PM:

LiveJournal was built on a tradition of open dialogue with the users. There certainly have been failures in that area, but as best I can tell the people who run this service actually do care what users think, and would certainly have discussed this issue if it were brought up in an appropriate context.

I'm sorry, but that's so completely the opposite of my experiences (and the experiences of a number of good friends) that it's laughable. LJ abuse will close support tickets without answering questions. It's happened to me, it's happened to close friends (people I know were not asking frivilous questions to be annoying). As for their inability to speak up against the people who smear them, I recently had an LJ abuse team member directly imply that I was lying on a comment on LJ, but of course they couldn't provide "evidence" because that would be a breach of confidentiality. Of course when I asked them to provide me with the evidence privately, I had no response. Perhaps they hadn't actually looked at the case and were just displaying blind faith in the rest of the team, who knows.

Of course for users it's a catch 22 situation. If we write back and ask the abuse team to clarify rules or explain how they came to a seemingly arbitrary decision, and they don't answer us, and we ask again, we're branded troublemakers. The fact that we've had trouble with other users is enough to make our opinions worthless. My disputes with LJ abuse arose from a situation in which I was being harassed seriously enough to lead to me going on disability benefits for severe depression, and I had at least one reply from a team member which I found so insulting I ended up printing it out and showing it to my psychiatrist. Maybe the abuse team should remember that LJ users are human beings too.

#218 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 06:10 PM:

[Sarah - hee! Maybe I should qualify that: "* does not apply if I've been mud-wrestling".]

#219 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 06:22 PM:

Xopher, Sarah, you're just trying to see whether you can get me to issue a formal announcement stating that we're not discussing penises, right?

Teresa, when you get back from your commute, can you tell me whether it's OK to discuss New York City's nipple kicking Xopher's penis' ass? I need to know before I post this comment I have here all ready to go.

#220 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 06:25 PM:

One more thing: But as people have been asking for a means to protest LJ Abuse decisions for years and never got it, I think it would take an issue like this to get one.

Precisely. LJ Abuse says they can't discuss various things because of the privacy of the users (and decisions concerning them). What if the user requests that all complaints and materials are made public, and that they get to provide their viewpoint, and LJ Abuse has to actually give them answers, where everyone can see whether they get them or not? Because yes, a user can say "LJ Abuse treated me unfairly and didn't answer my questions" and no one but the user and LJA can know whether it's true. At the same time, LJA can say "We answer all reasonable questions, and we can't say anything else because of privacy concerns but we'll leave it at strongly implying the user is just a liar". Not very acceptable on either end, really.

#221 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 06:38 PM:

Relly, that's an excellent point. Hooray for you. I dislike that this converstation (and most every other discussion that even tangentially refers to breastfeeding) seems to require us to draw lines between "good" uses of breasts and "bad" uses of breasts. My breasts are a force for good (no matter what the age of the person sucking on them). Why can't we just be pro-breasts in general? And either pro or anti breasts in lj icons in specific? I resent the artificial division between breastfeeding breasts and non-breastfeeding breasts.

#222 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 06:47 PM:

Why can't we just be pro-breasts in general? And either pro or anti breasts in lj icons in specific?

I agree with that, I think it should be a question of sexual explicitness - porn or not. I realize this calls for LJ abuse to make somewhat subjective decisions, but mainstream publishers manage to do that every day, and LJ abuse *does* make subjective decisions anyway. What would help would be if they were more willing to explain those decisions (before getting hundreds of emails about it!).

There will be users trying to push any line. Even with this, there are lines. Is it areola, or is it shadow? I've already seen people told to remove icons where I can't see anything discernable but obviously LJ abuse does. If I was going to be a troll I'd test the boundaries by making icons out of women who are in bodypaint, or tattoed nipple and all, and women in extremely sheer clothing which shows nipple outline, and see which of them was deemed a problem. There are *always* ways to push the limits. Pissing off thousands of users to avoid having to deal with some trolls seems an unwise way of dealing with it.

#223 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:15 PM:

Tavella: My comments about the LJ Abuse volunteers are from observation and experience

As is mine. I don't see a lack of communicativeness here, or any changing of the story. Everything has been very up-front from the beginning. Default icons with nipples not allowed, period. Change or be suspended. You can argue with the policy, but every communication that the various participants in this event have posted from the Abuse team has been right on-message about this.

Elizabeth: I find myself bemused, and somewhat in favor of those who point out, "Well, if the *FCC* lets it happen..."

I have to point out again that they don't, and haven't, and won't. The FCC doesn't allow nipples on prime-time TV. Even while breastfeeding. The child has to cover the nipple. This is exactly the standard that LJ is using. Asking the FCC whether breastfeeding is alright on television doesn't even begin to cover the actual issue.

Yonmei: Indeed: I rather think that's what we're doing, aren't we? Will SixApart pay attention to what the livejournal community is saying, or will they go the corporate route and ignore us?

No, it's not. What you're doing is attacking a service without any kind of attempt at a rational dialogue, forcing them on the immediate defensive. As I said above, were I in charge, I would not change the policy as a result of this. Not because of corporate whatever, but because bowing to coercion is never the right thing to do.

Now: Where on livejournal is this process documented?

http://www.livejournal.com/support/faqbrowse.bml?faqid=164&view=full - but if you want to volunteer to improve the documentation, feel free to post to http://community.livejournal.com/lj_userdoc/

When (after Doug Bryan posted his non-apology apology) it appeared that far from it being an LJ Abuse abuse incident, it was SixApart official policy, the logical thing to do seemed to be to e-mail SixApart. (You don't appear to allow for that possibility at all in your list of options.)

Said it before, saying it again, will repeat as often as necessary. This policy predates Six Apart's acquisition of LiveJournal. Doug's message only indicated that Six Apart agreed with the Abuse Team's interpretation of the policy.

I read the TOS thoroughly and discovered nothing in it that could possibly be interpreted as not allowing a pic of a baby breastfeeding.

Inappropriate content is not allowed in public places. Ta-da. You may disagree about whether a bared nippled is inappropriate in a public place, but once you've been told that, yes, the definition is intended to include that, the argument on that point should be over. (A reasonable discussion can be had about whether the ToS should be updated if there are rampant misunderstandings, but it doesn't seem like the policy is being rampantly misunderstood, just disagreed with.) Plus, there's a provision in there that lets them suspend your account for any reason or for no reason, without notice, so frankly rules-lawyering on this matter is a bit pointless.

Tomb: When you receive many similar messages because each one is from a person who is similarly outraged over the same issue, it is not spam.

It is when someone has set up a page to send identical messages and encouraged everyone to press the button, and when those messages are sent to an unnecessarily large group of people, many of whom have nothing to do with the decision-making process you want to influence.

LJ could have listened when they were contacted via proper channels, and they could have responded and defused the situation.

The proper channels for suggesting a change to LiveJournal were never used. So, no, they couldn't.

Madeline: We all agree that the LJ TOS has nothing in it about breastfeeding; only language banning "obscenity" etc. LJ now says that includes "breastfeeding."

It does not. It says that it includes "nipples". Pictures of breastfeeding that do not include nipples are fine. Breastfeeding is not specifically targetted. Can't stress this enough.

Christine: LJ abuse will close support tickets without answering questions.

To the best of my knowledge, this only occurs if the question has already been answered. For instance, if you were to ask "Why was my account closed?", then receive an explanation, then say "That isn't true! Why was my account really closed?" you might not receive an answer the second time. I don't know about your specific case, so I can't say why they didn't respond with absolute certainty, but it's probably something along those lines.

I recently had an LJ abuse team member directly imply that I was lying on a comment on LJ

Let's have a link.

#224 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:15 PM:

Christine: See that's where we differ. I don't frankly think that sexually explicit breasts (or anything else really) is an issue. I'm aware this puts me rather on the fringe, but I'm not really clear on where our culture got the sex = bad, must be done in private thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating for sex in the streets. And I can understand LJ not wanting a big fat money shot for a default user pic where anyone can stumble across it (and I understand that society at large makes a distinction between that and a breastfeeding photo, even if I don't). I might choose not to use photos like that for my icons, and I might choose not to read journals of those who do. But to me not only is a breast is a breast is a breast, but a breast is pretty much the same as an elbow: it's a functional human part, no more, no less. That's why I object to making a distinction between breastfeeding breasts, sexy breasts, or neutral, medical or educational topless breasts. The context is what makes the difference (and I really think that's not a qualitative thing, I don't think one breast is better than another in terms of usage), and I don't think that lj folk should be making decisions based on context, since an lj icon is pretty much already out of context (especially the default one).

#225 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:17 PM:

the logical thing to do seemed to be to e-mail SixApart. (You don't appear to allow for that possibility at all in your list of options.)

Whoop! Almost forgot. The feedback@livejournal.com address goes to Six Apart staff.

#226 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:27 PM:

Josh,

Yes, the hosts here are doing a good job of handling what might otherwise be a very contentious discussion. If you note, my comment referred to the discussions taking place on it at LJ, not here. And you're right, I don't have to read it; I've been avoiding it as much as I can, but it does crop up on my friends' list. And now it has spread beyond LJ to here.

As far as my original point, I think Patrick needs to avoid generalizations in his titles: "LJ's attack on nursing mothers," while I don't agree is the case, would have been more accurate than "LJ's attack on women and mothers." Whether or not LJ is attacking nursing mothers (and I'm with Darkrose on not seeing how this is an attack), it is not attacking all women, all mothers.

I think your "just go away" is inflammatory. Pointing out that this entire imbroglio is, as far as I can tell, a use of energy that might more productively be directed elsewhere is legitimate, even if this were not a "hot-button" topic for me, as you put it. BTW, the fact that I have strong feelings about the issue at hand makes my opinion no more invalid than those who have opinions on the other side, and I resent the implication that somehow I should avoid this discussion because I have strong feelings on the topic.

I *will* go away, however, simply because I have to go supervise homework.

#227 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:32 PM:

idonotlikepeas: I don't see a lack of communicativeness here, or any changing of the story. Everything has been very up-front from the beginning. Default icons with nipples not allowed, period. Change or be suspended.

But that rule doesn't appear to have been documented. Not until 20th May. Now we're being told that this was always the rule: but there does not appear to be any publicly-available documentation to prove that. Is there?

Said it before, saying it again, will repeat as often as necessary. This policy predates Six Apart's acquisition of LiveJournal.

Fine. Can you link to where this policy was publicly set down before SixApart bought Livejournal?

Inappropriate content is not allowed in public places. Ta-da. You may disagree about whether a bared nippled is inappropriate in a public place, but once you've been told that, yes, the definition is intended to include that, the argument on that point should be over.

Doesn't that kind of doctrinaire, you-are-not-permitted-to-argue-with-our-decisions attitude rather contradict the claim that Livejournal is about open communication with the community? Admittedly, it does sound very like the attitude LJ Abuse always seems to take, that people are not permitted to question their decisions and that the argument is over when LJ Abuse say it is over.

http://www.livejournal.com/support/faqbrowse.bml?faqid=164&view=full

...which appears to be about "How do I suggest new features or improvements for LiveJournal?" which is not the subject line I would be looking for if I wanted to protest what appears to be a brand-new interpretation by Six Apart (or LJ Abuse) of the TOS. I suppose I could try to rewrite it, but right now SixApart's behaviour does not make me feel like I want to donate any of my time to improve their property.

#228 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:38 PM:

For instance, if you were to ask "Why was my account closed?", then receive an explanation, then say "That isn't true! Why was my account really closed?" you might not receive an answer the second time.

But if you say "why was my account closed?" and they say "you breached a notice of no contact on this entry" and you say "What? There's not the remotest mention of the person in that entry", and they say "We inferred that you were talking about her", and you say "Please explain this inference, and allow me to provide you with evidence that you are incorrect", and they close the ticket without answering... you also don't get an answer. Which is what happened to a close friend.

Re: abuse team member implying that I was lying - I summed it up with links here: http://realcdaae.livejournal.com/57529.html

Links directly to the posts in question:
http://community.livejournal.com/abuse_lj_abuse/73671.html?thread=3101383#t3101383
http://community.livejournal.com/boob_nazis/1763041.html?thread=20226017#t20226017

This is what I'm still waiting to hear back about. Although I question the way LJ Abuse has handled a number of things, being outright told that they never do something which they did was just too much. Quibbling about rules being unclear is one thing, having abuse team rules clearly stated which simply aren't followed is another.

pixxelpuss: I suppose I can just see why LJ would not allow explicit porn in a default icon. Though I think explicit porn would usually involve body parts other than just breasts.

#229 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:43 PM:

Yonmei: Doesn't that kind of doctrinaire, you-are-not-permitted-to-argue-with-our-decisions attitude rather contradict the claim that Livejournal is about open communication with the community? Admittedly, it does sound very like the attitude LJ Abuse always seems to take, that people are not permitted to question their decisions and that the argument is over when LJ Abuse say it is over.

Not a bit of it. You can argue with the policy. I encourage you to argue with the policy! But arguing about whether it actually is the policy right now is ludicrous. The only reason that the ToS did not previously mention nipples is that the writers assumed (possibly erroneously) a common understanding with the readers of what the term "inappropriate" meant. Note that the ToS does not explicitly state that you can't have a picture of someone being dismembered as your default icon, but I bet that would be considered unreasonably violent. It's not possible to specifically list every single prohibited action, only classes of prohibited actions. And then, if people perform an action innocently that they did not know was prohibited, you tell them that it is, and warn them about it, and don't take any other action unless they continue doing it. This is exactly what the Abuse Team has done in this case.

So of course I can't point at the document where someone came out and said "By the way, no nipples." I also can't point at any occasions where they publicly said "No murders". But I'm not planning on changing my default icon to a picture of one any time soon.

(And no, I'm not intending to draw an equivalence between nude breasts and violence. Just to use both as examples of things that are not allowed in default icons.)

which appears to be about "How do I suggest new features or improvements for LiveJournal?"

A modification to the ToS is an improvement to LiveJournal. But searching the FAQs for feedback, suggestion, or similar terms would also have gotten you that page. You can claim that you didn't know that or didn't find that - fine. But to claim that it's unreasonable to expect people to follow a procedure that's publicly documented is silly.

#230 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:43 PM:

...which appears to be about "How do I suggest new features or improvements for LiveJournal?" which is not the subject line I would be looking for if I wanted to protest what appears to be a brand-new interpretation by Six Apart (or LJ Abuse) of the TOS.

Addendum: idon'tlikepeas, it's just occurred to me that you say that the process you proposed is a standard procedure that we ought to know about and that we ought to have followed.

But, I've read quite a number of e-mails that LJ Abuse volunteers/staff sent people protesting the redefinition of the TOS/change to FAQ 111, and I got one myself. Not one of those e-mails suggested that if we didn't like how the TOS were being interpreted by FAQ 111, we should submit a post to the LJ Suggestions community and suggest a change.

Can you think of a reason why none of the LJ Abuse volunteers or staff (or Doug Bryan) thought of suggesting that we do that? I'm not asking for mindreading, I'm just saying that it seems odd that if it's such a standard procedure, and they were getting so many protests, that it didn't occur to anyone at LJ Abuse to respond pointing out that we should go do what FAQ 164 outlines.

(I'm not sure I would have joined in, to be fair: I got involved in quite a lot of detail with one issue on the Suggestions community, along with a good many other people, and our lovingly-crafted suggestion vanished into the ether, apparently completely disregarded without even a note saying why Livejournal had decided not to adopt it. Not that they had to, but without any feedback, I wasn't sure there was any point to contributing anything.)

But I think that if LJ Abuse had offered any official outlet for people who were offended and outraged, it wouldn't have built up to the degree it did. But nobody on LJ Abuse did suggest anything other than the rule had to be accepted because it was the rule.

#231 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:46 PM:

Did I miss someone telling someone else to go away?

#232 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:52 PM:

Idonotlikepeas, you've posted multiple times that the FCC doesn't allow nipples to show when depicting breastfeeding. What is your source for that?

#233 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:54 PM:

Doesn't sound implausible to me, Deanna.

Speaking of things missed, as I was earlier, did anyone else notice Sharyn Novembeer's post? I don't know about you, but it made me laugh.

#234 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 07:57 PM:

Christine:

A-ha. I expected it would be about the breastfeeding issue, rather than some completely unconnected one. As it is, yep, looks like he's implying you lied about things. Got no idea myself, although what he says about Abuse Team policy is quite true. (Although actually I think the ToS also makes provision for attacks on LiveJournal-the-service itself, but I don't know if the Abuse Team ever actually uses that provision, so he might be correct that it's not their policy.)

#235 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:01 PM:

I'm not saying it's implausible, Teresa. I just want to see the proof. If it is there, I'm certainly happy to write to the FCC to complain, too.

#236 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:02 PM:

idonotlikepeas: Actually it wasn't about the breastfeeding issue at all, it just got brought up there. The original comments are on a post on abuse_lj_abuse, about suggested clarifications to the abuse policy document.

As I said, I'm still waiting for someone to tell me what illegal activity they were looking in to (emailed them last week).

#237 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:05 PM:

In the time it took me to read all the comments in this thread (hey, I work days, so my blogging time is limited), a dozen more posts appeared...

#238 ::: Northland ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:09 PM:

Sorry to bring up a point from way, way back, but upon reflection this is still what frosts me the most:
LiveJournal has long had a policy that some kinds of icons are inappropriate as *default* icons. This is because you can come across the default icon in various searches, on someone's profile page before you read the rest of their journal, etc.

While there are arguments on whether this is the best place to draw a content line, it's one of the more reasonable options.

No, it's not. If something is "offensive" or "inappropriate" according to the TOS, then it's "offensive" or "inappropriate" no matter _what_ kind of icon it is or _where_ it's found. Given most LJ users' love of chopping & changing icons, you can see someone's non-default icon(s) in comment theads, direct-linked posts, etc, long before you ever come across their so-called default.

If LJ had a "no nipples or areolae, period" rule for ALL icons, I might roll my eyes and lament the parochiality of it all without really caring. But this arbitrary distinction is quite possibly the silliest thing in this whole ridiculous situation -- and that's saying something.

p.s. And also, What Marna Said about wanting a carrier that conforms to my (Canadian) community standards.

#239 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:09 PM:

Wait, it gets crazier: http://mercy-rain.livejournal.com/18885.html

Told that this icon is inappropriate:
http://www.livejournal.com/userpic/46927493/10076908

I don't see anything in the FAQ that would cover this. I suppose it comes under the part of the TOS that says basically LJ can do anything they want. They can't, however, say it isn't a debate about censorship if they are telling someone they can't use that as a default icon.

#240 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:13 PM:

Can you think of a reason why none of the LJ Abuse volunteers or staff (or Doug Bryan) thought of suggesting that we do that? I'm not asking for mindreading, I'm just saying that it seems odd that if it's such a standard procedure, and they were getting so many protests, that it didn't occur to anyone at LJ Abuse to respond pointing out that we should go do what FAQ 164 outlines.

Because there's no point now. As I said several times above, it's now irrelevant because the issue has already been brought to the staff through improper means. Why go back and make the suggestion again through the correct means? The only purpose of the community is to gauge the community response to an issue so the staff know what's thought of it. And I think that question has already been answered. If nothing happens on the issue in a few months and someone wants to bring it up again in a non-combatitive way, that would be an ideal way to do it.

Idonotlikepeas, you've posted multiple times that the FCC doesn't allow nipples to show when depicting breastfeeding. What is your source for that?

Unfortunately, looking for what I looked up last time I had to make this argument (a few years ago), I'm basically stymied thanks to Janet Jackson's nipple. (Although that was a non-sexual appearance of a nipple on prime-time TV, and resulted in a $550k fine, so perhaps that's enough.) I'll keep at it, although I must say that googling for the word "nipple" is a somewhat dangerous endeavor for a married man at home.

#241 ::: Mel ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:15 PM:

I agree with pixxelpuss: why are breastfeeding nipples/aereolae/breasts okay and breasts that are just there not? It bothers me that whenever breastfeeding comes up, people start acting like baby-feeding is the sole purpose of breasts, and the only thing that makes them "not obscene." Bare breasts sans babies aren't always pornographic (difficult as that term is to define), and breasts are also an erogenous zone for many (if not most) women. It's OKAY for them to be multipurpose, and I see no reason why bare-breasted icons shouldn't be okay across the board.

If LJ's worried about legalities and children, banning breasts from default icons only is pretty ineffectual. Why not institute an "adult content blocker" for non-registered and underage viewers, like DeviantArt does? Yes, it would require some changes to the programming and cooperation from the user base, but I suspect most people would cooperate, and all it would take would be a post tickbox for "adult content" that would insert a cut and redirect to a "restricted page warning" for non-registered and underage site viewers, and an icon tickbox that would replace the icon with a default "restricted content" image like DeviantArt's, ditto.

I understand LJ wanting to legally cover themselves, but I think they could both cover themselves better AND avoid angering the users (breastfeeding and otherwise) with a few programming changes.

#242 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:18 PM:

Because there's no point now. As I said several times above, it's now irrelevant because the issue has already been brought to the staff through improper means.

I think she meant originally, to the first people who started complaining. If that had been done, rather than the lines about write-in campaigns never swaying decisions, I'm sure this whole thing would have played out very differently (and with less hassle for the abuse team volunteers).

#243 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:25 PM:

I think she meant originally, to the first people who started complaining. If that had been done, rather than the lines about write-in campaigns never swaying decisions, I'm sure this whole thing would have played out very differently (and with less hassle for the abuse team volunteers).

The answer about the write-in campaigns not swaying etc. only occurred after the spamming, so that's a poor example.

I suspect it wasn't brought up in the very first answer because the Abuse Team person in question was using a stock answer which made the assumption that the icon was patently offensive. I don't imagine that they have several stock answers (Kind of offensive, really offensive, not that offensive but still technically bad, offensive on several levels, offensive only to people from south of the equator). And by the time it was obvious that there was an impetus to actually change the ToS, the spamming was well underway and it was too late.

It's also possible that they just didn't think to mention it. They are fallible human beings, after all.

#244 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:25 PM:

Thanks Mel. That drives me crazy too. It's a good idea. But then, frankly, I worry that people who wanted to include breastfeeding photos would resent having to lump their photos in with "obscene, adult content". I mean, this whole argument seems to be "there's nothing obscene about breastfeeding" so an adult content button probably doesn't solve this. Although I do object that if you want to defend breastfeeding it seems like you have to denigrate breasts.

#245 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:26 PM:

Re: my comment of a few minutes ago about a text icon being banned - apparently the user just heard it was a mistake, and they sent the reply to the wrong person.

#246 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:37 PM:

On the nipple issue, I've found several accounts of nude dancers being asked to cover their nipples to turn then magically into non-nude dancers, and an account of the FCC preventing an episode of E.R. from showing a naked breast while providing emergency medical care to an elderly woman. (And if that's a sexual context, I'll eat my hat.) They, too, were asked to blur the breast so the nipples were invisible.

Alas, nothing like a page on the FCC web site saying "no nipples". My apologies.

#247 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:47 PM:

Christine. Thank you for the clarification of that. For the sake of civil discourse and all of our sanities I'm glad that turned out to have been an error.

#248 ::: Christine ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:50 PM:

FairestCat: On that, I think we can all agree!

#249 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:55 PM:

idonotlikepeas keeps waving the word "inappropriate" around as though it was and had always been a self-evident talisman in the TOS.

Now I have no horse in this race, not being on LJ, but (having had the benefits of a legal education) I will note that (1) "inappropriate" is not a term of art which is well-defined; and (2) the use of a term which is subject to multiple possible shades of interpretation in a contract does not mean that it can be unilaterally defined more narrowly or broadly by one party. In the case of ordinary commercial contracts, that tends to go to arbitration or court. Or rather, that would be the case in a "normal" contract. Terms of Service contracts where one party may change them at any time may allow a unilateral change, but precisely as a change. (I'm not even going to get into issues of inequality of bargaining power that that raises, though.)

Hard and fast rules which are applied mechanically always give rise to border problems -- that's what the problem with "zero tolerance" policies comes down to: a failure to accept that "common sense" needs to be applied at the boundary cases (usually because one doesn't trust the "common sense" of the agents who will do the applying). That's why judges have been historically very chary of simple straightforward definitions of "obscenity" or "indecency", tending rather more towards the "I can't define it but I know it when I see it" stance.

And, although I regret to inform non-Ontarians that, in fact, the streets, even in these unusually hot days, are not full of bare-torsoed women asserting their rights, those are their rights and the "community standards" as defined in Ontario, and "inappropriate" would certainly not be interpreted here to cover images of the BVM, even when it is Agnes Sorel (or an equivalent figure) in a slight disguise.

#250 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 08:58 PM:

Sorry, Idonotlikepeas, but I absolutely don't agree that a man ripping off a woman's shirt while singing "I'll get you naked by the end of this song" constitutes a "nonsexual" appearance of a nipple.

Here's what I have found, to help you out: The FCC's definition of what constitutes "obscene, indecent, and profane" programming".

Lots of things that LJ allows in default icons--"Fuck" on an icon, for instance--would not be allowed on TV according to the FCC standard. That pretty much makes your argument fall apart.

In fact, according to this case (search for the word "nipple"), Hardvice's original icon, of Bea Arthur in twirling pasties, which LJ has now said is fine according to their standards, would undoubtedly result in a fine if aired as a real person on TV.

I don't see any evidence for the argument that LJ can't do it because the FCC doesn't.

#251 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:05 PM:

Deanna, I haven't been reading the idontlikepeas posts very closely, but I'm pretty sure that the point was never exactly the FCC says no, so of course LJ can't. I think the FCC simply came in as an example of how society has defined propriety vs. obscenity elsewhere. I could be wrong.

#252 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:10 PM:

It's also possible that they just didn't think to mention it. They are fallible human beings, after all.

idonotlikepeas, that's a whole lot of the problem, in a nutshell: lj abuse is a lot of fallible humans, of unequal training and intelligence, making decisions to enforce rules which are ambiguous and, apparently mutable.

I've got no personal axe to grind here, since I'm notoriously unwanky (on LJ, at least- real life, whole other story) and mild mannered, as befits a woman of my age and status. But I value the way that LJ works, when it works, and this kind of blow-up is exactly what happens when things start not to work.


#253 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:12 PM:

You know someone's gone totally nuts when.... more often than not, if an Animal Planet program (Animal-farking-Planet) shows full-on animal genitals, they 'pixelize' them. I hadn't really noticed it (I often have it on as background use while using my computer), but my hubby wandered in to ask me something and went, "Jeez-o-pete, why on earth do they think they have to do 'that'?"

I went 'FCC Prudes." Reflexively.

What's next? Are we going to put women in full skirts (no pants), or burkhas? Or skirts on furniture to not show the 'limbs'? It's pretty silly, if you think a view of animal genitals is pronograhic, then you really need to be reconditioned.

#254 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:19 PM:

idonotlikepeas keeps waving the word "inappropriate" around as though it was and had always been a self-evident talisman in the TOS.

Clearly it wasn't self-evident. The person who wrote it obviously assumed that it was, but some people have not understood it, so it wasn't as clear as it needed to be. I'm sure that will be addressed as soon as the policy question itself is settled.

That said, what we end up talking about is intention. Did the person writing that agreement intend that nude breasts should be covered? (No pun intended.) Clearly they did. So one can break this down into two issues: Is it moral for LJ to clarify this intention after the fact? Is it legal for them to do so?

I'm not a lawyer, but it looks like the answer to the second is yes. (You agree that LiveJournal, in its sole discretion, may terminate your password, journal, or account, and remove and discard any content within the Service, for any reason) The moral question is more interesting. In my mind it seems obvious that the right course is to clarify the intention, allow a reasonable period for the user to cease violating it, and then take action in the case that they don't. (And also to work on clarifying the ToS itself so that the issue does not recur.) That's what the Abuse Team actually did. What would you suggest as an alternative?

Hard and fast rules which are applied mechanically always give rise to border problems

True. In this case, however, the enforcement problems involved with having a fuzzy guideline would be even worse. The Abuse Team already has a lot of enforcement power on LiveJournal - I don't think they want to be one-stop judge, juries, and executioners, and they're close to that already. It's bad enough that only a few people will cross-check to determine whether policy was violated. It would be even worse if policy was "Just make up your own mind about whether it's obscene or not."

I don't see any evidence for the argument that LJ can't do it because the FCC doesn't.

Oh, I don't believe I advanced an argument that they couldn't do it because the FCC doesn't. The FCC doesn't (yet) regular websites. Just that they were using a set of guidelines roughly similar to the ones that the FCC uses, as an example of a set of indecency rules that are reasonably well-spread througout the States. Although you are correct in that they're more lenient in terms of profanity; that's a good point to advance for them to be more lenient in other areas (although the extent of "more lenient" can be argued).

Anyway, thanks for the link; it looks as if the FCC would label this as "indecent" (not viewable during prime time) because it describes the sexual organs. (The FCC clearly regards the breast as a sexual organ. It can certainly be said that it is that, as well as other things.) The three criteria apparently used are graphic depiction (clearly evident), dwells on (doesn't move, so most likely yes, although that's tricky), and intention to titillate or shock (clearly absent). It then goes on to say that the FCC will balance considerations etc. etc. Which makes it rough to figure out, from these regulations, exactly what is prohibited. (The irony of which I find intensely amusing.)

#255 ::: Katie ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:22 PM:

idonotlikepeas:

misquoted one of them in a press release

Sorry, I'm jumping into this a bit late... but could you please explain what the misquote is?

#256 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:24 PM:

I was also looking up FCC rulings, trying to find guidelines.

That ER episode mentioned above? When it aired in reruns, they pixellatd out the breasts, and there were still calls for FCC action from "decency groups"

Nothing wholly relevant; but two excerpts from FCC notices that I found moderately interesting:

Regarding Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl (bullet 9, emphasis mine)

The indecency analysis undertaken in the NAL followed the approach that the Commission has consistently applied. First, the material alleged to be indecent must fall within the subject matter scope of our indecency definition, i.e., "the material must describe or depict sexual or excretory organs or activities." The NAL properly concluded that the broadcast of an exposed female breast met this definition.
From a collection of complaints/orders (bullets 45&46, regarding a woman on a talk-show wearing "an open-front dress, with her nipples covered, but her breasts fully exposed"):
the indecency definition clearly encompasses depictions of sexual organs as well as sexual activities. Moreover, the explicitness of the depiction is not relevant to the threshold issue of whether the material depicts or describes a sexual or excretory organ or activity, and is more appropriately considered in our analysis of whether the material is patently offensive.
Turning to that issue, we find that, based on our contextual analysis, the material in question is patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium. With respect to the first factor of our contextual analysis, we find that the material is explicit and graphic. The material clearly depicts a woman's naked breasts, which are sexual organs. In this respect, this case is similar to other cases in which we have held depictions of nudity to be graphic and explicit. The fact that the guest's nipples are covered with jewelry does not render the depiction of her breasts, which were otherwise fully exposed, insufficiently graphic to weigh in favor of a finding of patent offensiveness. Here, the audience had a sustained view of the guest's breasts from several different angles, and the dress only served to enhance the view.
Now, these were both entertainment, rather than educational, medical, or matter-of-fact portrayals of breastfeeding.

But it does appear that the FCC considers exposed breasts sexual organs and thus indecent.

Just FWIW.
Maybe the breastfeeding activists should consider confronting the FCC next.

#257 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:30 PM:

No, Idonotlikepeas, but you said repeatedly that LJ was using the same standards that the FCC uses, which is clearly not true.

And before you get to the "patently offensive" criteria you posted, you'll note that the sentence reads "patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards." Since the law in many states says it's okay to show nipple when breastfeeding, I don't think the "contemporary community standards" are being broken.

#258 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:32 PM:

Sorry, I'm jumping into this a bit late... but could you please explain what the misquote is?

Sure. The press release says that site staffer Erin said that the FCC could decide what LiveJournal would do. This is wrong 1) because Erin isn't a staff person and 2) she wasn't saying the LiveJournal was literally regulated by the FCC, but making an argument analogous to the one I've advanced above. (It's a common decency standard.) Further, she wasn't speaking on behalf of LiveJournal when she made those remarks, and the release implies that she was.

There are many other problems with that press release, but that's one of the most prominent.

#259 ::: Idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:41 PM:

No, Idonotlikepeas, but you said repeatedly that LJ was using the same standards that the FCC uses, which is clearly not true.

I said they were using the same standard to determine whether a breast was bare (and therefore indecent). I still believe that, actually, based on their documented actions.

Since the law in many states says it's okay to show nipple when breastfeeding, I don't think the "contemporary community standards" are being broken.

Well, one, the law doesn't (I believe) mention nipples in most cases. It simply says it's legal to feed a child whenever they need feeding, and not to worry about hiding blankets, etc. (Which I applaud.) It does not say that a representation of that feeding is legal everywhere; the need that the law addresses (to nourish the baby) does not seem to explicitly apply to representations of that nourishment.

Further, "community standards" and "the law" aren't the same thing. The former is much harder to gauge, and even actions that are legal aren't considered appropriate in all situations.

#260 ::: Katie ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:47 PM:

The press release says that site staffer Erin said that the FCC could decide what LiveJournal would do.

No, the release quoted Erin as saying "That's really a matter for the FCC to decide. LiveJournal's policies on this mirror what would be allowed on primetime TV or in a PG-13 movie." (emphasis mine)

That's not the same as saying the FCC controls livejournal.

In addition, Erin does imply that she is a staffer (or representing LJ in some capacity) in this thread when she says "Should breastfeeding icons be special? That's kind of what Doug's post here is about - we don't know yet, but we're willing to work with you to figure out if there is a middle ground where no one gets everything they want or everything they don't want." (again, emphasis mine)

#261 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:48 PM:

Pat I think your "just go away" is inflammatory. Pointing out that this entire imbroglio is, as far as I can tell, a use of energy that might more productively be directed elsewhere is legitimate,

If you're going to quote me, please quote what I actually said, and don't put words in my mouth.

It's our energy. We think it's useful to put it here. I also put my energy into other areas. I really don't see you convincing me that this is *not* a valid choice for me.

All I was saying is that no one is forcing you to share where I and others put energy. If you see were we put our energy as wasted, then why bother telling us without trying to convince us otherwise in some way that might be taken as caring about us, rather than complaining about us?

Anyhow, I didn't mean it as inflamatory, and I'm sorry it was taken that way.

#262 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:49 PM:

I'm not going to look up the law for every state, but here in Florida, where I live, the law reads "A mother may breast feed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother's breast is covered during or incidental to the breast feeding."

#263 ::: novalis ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:52 PM:

aphrael, scoop doesn't even appear to support OpenID.

idontlikepeas, I would prefer not to run my own instance of LJ, because it's huge and ferociously complicated. If that's the best option, I'll do it -- it would certainly eliminate any compatibility issues.

Does LJ support OpenID sufficiently that if I run my own LJ site, I can friend people from LJ itself and have them show up on my friends page?

Oh, wait, nevermind. LJ requires mod_perl, which is the one thing that DreamHost doesn't support -- at least not in the cheap seats.

#264 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:55 PM:

Deanna: yes. This is because the law recognizes that feeding babies is good, and making laws that make it easier for women to feed babies is also, therefore, good.

As I said earlier, taking pictures of something isn't the same thing. No babies are being fed by LJ usericons. LJ isn't hampering anybody's ability to feed their infant.

#265 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 09:59 PM:

Relly, saying that a picture of someone breastfeeding a child is indecent does imply that the actual act itself is even more indecent.

#266 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:00 PM:

No, the release quoted Erin as saying "That's really a matter for the FCC to decide. LiveJournal's policies on this mirror what would be allowed on primetime TV or in a PG-13 movie." (emphasis mine)

A-ha! Mea culpa, on that point. Yet:

In addition, Erin does imply that she is a staffer

Nope. She didn't imply it, or state it, and I happen to know she's not. And there isn't an "or" in the press release. It says staffer, and that just plain isn't right. That implies an official endorsement of her words by LiveJournal which doesn't exist.

The "we're willing to work with you" is her talking about the Abuse Team (and probably the volunteer corps as a whole).

And, I have to add, quoting that one line out of context from that post is essentially implying that her position is the reverse of what it is (that maybe breastfeeding /should/ get special treatment, as she says in the longer section you've quoted here). Which is the worst kind of journalistic manipulation.

#267 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:03 PM:

Relly, saying that a picture of someone breastfeeding a child is indecent does imply that the actual act itself is even more indecent.

I disagree with this interpretation.

In some contexts, it is perfectly acceptable to remove all of your clothing. The doctor's office, for instance. But if you were in the doctor's office, and someone took a picture of your naked body, that picture would not automatically become decent and appropriate for display in all circumstances simply because it was entirely appropriate for you to be naked in that situation in the first place.

#268 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:04 PM:

pat greene: "Whether or not LJ is attacking nursing mothers (and I'm with Darkrose on not seeing how this is an attack), it is not attacking all women ..."

Actually, yes it is. Since their anti-nipple policy does not apply to pictures of half-naked men, women are being unequally singled out for image-removal.

Madeline: We all agree that the LJ TOS has nothing in it about breastfeeding; only language banning "obscenity" etc. LJ now says that includes "breastfeeding."

idonotlikepeas: It does not. It says that it includes "nipples". Pictures of breastfeeding that do not include nipples are fine. Breastfeeding is not specifically targetted. Can't stress this enough.

Stress it all you like, but it's still wrong. In California, breastfeeding is specifically legal anywhere but a private residence, and the law specifically states that woman cannot be accused of doing something indecent or obscene for exposing a breast in the process of feeding a baby. There's a nice article from the San Francisco Chronicle that covers a recent misbegotten request that it be covered up here.

Thus, it's baffling that LJ (based in California, owned by Californians) is now claiming it's self-evident that nipples exposed in breastfeeding icons are obscene.

There's no way to defend such a foolish ruling.

#269 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:04 PM:

No, it's saying that the picture is not appropriate to be included amongst the pictures in this group. Inappropriate isn't the same as indecent.

That's not the point I'm trying to make, anyway. I'm saying that breastfeeding is not the issue. Pictures of breastfeeding, and where they are permitted and where they are not, is the issue. That line keeps getting blurred.

#270 ::: Katie ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:05 PM:

Nope. She didn't imply it, or state it, and I happen to know she's not.

What is she, then? And why is she saying "we're willing to work with you"?

#271 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:06 PM:

Oh, wait, nevermind. LJ requires mod_perl, which is the one thing that DreamHost doesn't support -- at least not in the cheap seats.

If I'd known that Dreamhost didn't support that, I wouldn't have suggested LJ. Sorry for wasting your time.

#272 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:06 PM:

No, that's not the same thing at all, Idonotlikepeas, because the doctor's office is not a public place.

#273 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:09 PM:

Saying it's "not appropriate" instead of "indecent" is just playing with words, Relly.

And now I need to go to bed.

#274 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:10 PM:

i figure i should put in a marker post every so often.

was anyone breastfeeding while posting?

I MUST KNOW

#275 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:10 PM:

What is she, then? And why is she saying "we're willing to work with you"?

She's a volunteer on the Abuse Team. And as I already explained, she was most likely referring to the Abuse Team with that "we". (Although you could always ask her to clarify if you really want to know; she almost certainly would.) The Abuse Team does not want to abuse people and isn't interested in persecuting breastfeeding mothers. If the policy gets changed so that breastfeeding icons are made exceptions to the no-nipple policy, they will enforce the new policy.

#276 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:11 PM:

Deanna: I'm not playing with words. LJ said it was inappropriate - meaning, there is a proper time or place for that, and this isn't it. That is not the same as indecent.

Madeline F: the important words there are "in the process of feeding a baby."

The law (IMVHO) didn't make this exception because breasts are indecent in some settings but not others - it made this distinction so that women were not punished, harassed or ostracized for taking care of their infants. Taking pictures of it and posting them online is a completely different activity which requires different protections, since there are no infants being taken care of by posting pictures to your LJ. Using this standard is comparing apples and oranges.

#277 ::: Katie ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:11 PM:

was anyone breastfeeding while posting?

ME!

#278 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:14 PM:

No, that's not the same thing at all, Idonotlikepeas, because the doctor's office is not a public place.

How precisely is that relevant? I was trying to illustrate that a representation of an act isn't automatically more acceptable than the act itself, and that changing the context of an act changes whether it's appropriate.

#279 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:14 PM:

and katie wins!

what does she win?

A FREE YEAR ON LJ!

oh, wait.

#280 ::: Darkrose ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:14 PM:

Deanna, no one that I've been able to see has said that "a picture of someone breastfeeding a child" is indecent. What was said is that "exposed nipples in default icons is indecent". Obviously, the problem with using that as a standard is that it potentially puts icons of breastfeeding mothers in the "indecent" category. That's a silly rule. But claiming that "LJ hates breastfeeding mothers!" is not only mischaracterizing the nature of the discussion, it's making the people complaining about the rule look silly for protesting something that was, in fact, neither said nor implied.

#281 ::: Katie ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:15 PM:

She's a volunteer on the Abuse Team.

Ah, so the wording on the release should have said "Live Journal Abuse Volunteer" instead of "Live Journal Abuse Staffer"?

#282 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:20 PM:

Stress it all you like, but it's still wrong.

It is not. That is what the policy actually is. Breastfeeding mothers are asking for an exception to that policy in the specific case of a representation of breastfeeding. They are not being singled out or explicitly targetted by LiveJournal for any reason. Right now, they're getting equal treatment, and they want special treatment. Maybe they even deserve special treatment. But the conversation has to start with an acknowledgement that that's what happening.

As for the various arguments about male vs. female nipples, I agree that that's not fair. Unfortunately, the categorization of the female breast as sexual and the male breast as non-sexual is neither imaginary nor restricted to LiveJournal. If you would like to rewire our biology and/or upbringings to rectify this, I entirely support you.

#283 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:23 PM:

Ah, so the wording on the release should have said "Live Journal Abuse Volunteer" instead of "Live Journal Abuse Staffer"?

That would be a start. Ideally the entire quote should be omitted, because it's taken out of context to misrepresent her actual position. Doug's letter, on the other hand, actually /is/ from a staff member, and does accurately lay out the official position. Why not quote that?

#284 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:27 PM:

Relly: Taking pictures of it and posting them online is a completely different activity which requires different protections, since there are no infants being taken care of by posting pictures to your LJ. Using this standard is comparing apples and oranges.

You're not taking care of an infant when you're walking by a woman breastfeeding at a public pool, but the image is the same as if you're browsing by a picture of a woman breastfeeding at a public pool. And in the first case, you're not allowed to wail and Think of the Children when you happen across such an image.

It's stupid of LJ to wail and Think of the Children in the second case. And it's stupid of them to argue that their TOS always banned such obscenities.

#285 ::: RSR ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:29 PM:

I've watched this unfold for a while, and I do think it's one of those silly not-quite-logical-but-explicable acts companies do to avoid litigation - not winning or losing litigation, but simply the financial burden of litigation. (And what with the "local test" on obscenity being upheld, and internet sites being liable for the local standards of any community that has the internet, that's a lot of potential litigation; not everywhere has California's legal protections or cultural standards.) So it's tough to think that, on the one hand, they're being over-puritanical, and on the other, understanding why.

Eventually I realized that I didn't think that fighting for the right to name a 100x100 icon "Default" rather than "breastfeeding pride" struck me as a way to promote breastfeeding information and acceptance, so much as giving $20 to La Leche, perhaps in LJ's name if you wanted to send them a message, and perhaps asking them to match your donation, if you wanted them to put their money where their words of support are. The issues of icon naming on an internet site seem very far removed from the issues of helping women breastfeed, and far more about making LJ cry "uncle" over limits placed on how one wishes to pictorially depict oneself, which seems like the wrong goal for a protest that's about the good of a cause or belief. The goal of the protest is about how freely LJ users can use the site, not about giving resources or attention to support the cause of breastfeeding.

As it is, I think everyone loses here, really, both LJ and the users, and very little good is done for breastfeeding awareness, versus a scenario where La Leche could get a sizeable amount of monetary support in LJ's name to fund programs, which LJ could be asked match for a chance at some PR redemption and to double the good that LJ users are doing for breastfeeding, and users could sport default icons telling people to ask them why they donated to La Leche on behalf of LJ and continue to spread their beliefs and support through LJ as they continue to use the site. Perhaps being able to get involved in a constructive act of support to turn this no-win situation around would help LJ come to the table to discuss refining the TOS as they apply to depictions of breastfeeding. Even if it didn't, La Leche and breastfeeding support would benefit, far more than they would even if LJ changed its mind right this moment.

#286 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:30 PM:

You're not taking care of an infant when you're walking by a woman breastfeeding at a public pool, but the image is the same as if you're browsing by a picture of a woman breastfeeding at a public pool.

It is not. In the case of the actual woman being physically present, she must nurture her child. That need takes precedence over any silly social rules about nudity. In the case of a representation of breastfeeding, that need doesn't exist anymore. Nobody needs to display the image to cause the child to be fed.

#287 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:34 PM:

Alright, off to give my daughter a bath. Everyone play nice now.

#288 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:40 PM:

What has gone before:

Madeline: We all agree that the LJ TOS has nothing in it about breastfeeding; only language banning "obscenity" etc. LJ now says that includes "breastfeeding."

idonotlikepeas: It does not. It says that it includes "nipples". Pictures of breastfeeding that do not include nipples are fine. Breastfeeding is not specifically targetted. Can't stress this enough.

Madeline: Stress it all you like, but it's still wrong.

idonotlikepeas: It is not. That is what the policy actually is.

And now, on "As the users turn":

'Fraid not. The TOS bans obscenity. Breastfeeding, even breastfeeding that shows some stage of the process that involves nipples, isn't obscenity.

#289 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:42 PM:

Teresa,

Josh did not use the words "go away." He simply suggested "finally, Pat, if people getting upset over this is bugging you, you don't have to participate, or even read the threads." "Go away" was my oversimplification of what he said. Given that he then suggested I was reacting to things that were not being said in this comment thread, I think that's a reasonable interpretation. However, I recognize that it was an oversimplification, and I apologize for any confusion.

As for why I came back, when I had intended before I read Josh's comment to not read any more comments: simple stubborness.

Actually, this is off topic, but if we're talking censorship, one that bugs me is they way iTunes treats certain words as if they were obscene. I was always annoyed at "R****t" and "P*******e" when looking at descriptions for episodes of Law & Order: SVU, but the worst was when I ran across "I'm a C**k-Eyed Optimist" from the soundtrack to South Pacific. I realize that there are commercial reasons for doing this, much as the pixelated animal genitals on Animal Planet, but it still seems insane.

#290 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 10:56 PM:

was anyone breastfeeding while posting?

I'm posting naked.

#291 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:07 PM:

I have nothing to add to the larger discussion, but I would like to mention that in my opinion, phrases of the form "Get over X", "Admit X", "Face X", etc. are inappropriate debating tactics and should be Not Allowed. (Why? 'Cos you can't dispute them. They're logical rudeness.)

#292 ::: Dreamalynn ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:38 PM:

Jennett: LJ has not simply said no visible nipples, they have said no visible nipples or areolae. This means that a photo of my child completely latched on and covering and feeding from my nipple will never be acceptable on LJ because, due in no small part to the size of my breasts and my racial background, my areolae are far too large to ever be completely covered by a child's mouth. At the same time, a photo of my (pale skinned, small-bosomed) best friend performing the exact same act in the exact same position, even using the exact same child would be fine. Is it any wonder that the communities of breastfeeding mothers are a little boggled by that? Or that we don't believe that this is a consistent standard at all?

Theresa: you've suggested that there is an "understanding" that the areolae are "included" in the nipple. The FCC actually says differently -- this was researched -- when asked about what rules applied for broadcast shows in which breastfeeding is shown, I was told by a lawyer for the FCC that the standard is that the nipple which must be blurred in moments in which it becomes visible (i.e. when the baby in unlatched) but not the entirety of the pigmented skin, the areola, which surrounds it. It may be because the FCC has realized that pigmented skin isn't offensive.

Another point: Yonmei and other women who have received suspension notices in the last week or so were specifically targetted by dramamongers and members of so-called "childfree" communities on LJ. There are (locked) posts and comments in various communities in which people are bragging about having "turned in" members of the boob_nazi community.

Carrie Patterson at promom.org is also an LJ user and has been in communication with various staffers at LJ, most notably Doug Bryan, since early last week, and asked specifically for LJ to hold off on taking action against breastfeeding icons while the issue is still under discussion - especially since these women are being intentionally reported (something LJ Abuse claims is not acceptable). But that request was refused outright. Changing an icon seems easy, but it's conceding to the concept that there's something unacceptable about the images that are being presented, and none of us are going to do that. This is a matter of principle, and principles are not something to be abandoned for one's convenience or personal gain.

Pixxelpuss: You're entirely right that drawing a line between women's breasts that are lactating and those which are not is not advancing the equality of women. But right now, I can think of perhaps three places in North America where a woman cannot be arrested for going topless in public. Conversely the number of places where a woman can be arrested for breastfeeding in public are relatively few and the list is shrinking daily. In fighting LJ on this matter, we're not looking to gain ground over and above society at large, or push the envelope. We are, rather, attempting to bring the stance of LJ in line with society and with the law. This is not an effort to be progressive, this is an effort to be remediative. One battle at a time, yeah?

John Stanning: Many of the women involved use LJ primarily as a means of connecting with other likeminded mothers and for providing quite meaningful assistance and support to other breastfeeding women, particularly those who are having difficulties with nursing. Their default userpics represent that. A default userpic is an instant signifier -- in this case, they say "this is a woman who values, promotes, understands and supports breastfeeding, this is a woman who will get what I'm feeling, will understand what I'm going through, who shares common ground, who can help me with my problems".

#293 ::: yellowest_finch ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2006, 11:40 PM:

I'd just like to point that rahaeli, one of the heads of LJA (to the best of my understanding), has a default icon where a nipple is clearly visible. I believe someone filed a complaint against it, and the other head of abuse, markf, replied that he disagreed that a nipple was visible.

#294 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:11 AM:

idonotlikepeas: I'm saying you try to have a reasonable discussion first, and then resort to more militant tactics only when that fails. That discussion was never entered into or, as far as I can tell, even contemplated.
and
Not because of corporate whatever, but because bowing to coercion is never the right thing to do.

It seems to me that you are imposing more stringent requirements on LJ users than on Six Apart. There does not seem to have been any discussion about the conversion from banning graphic displays to banning insufficiently covered pictures of breastfeeding, and SA is coercing people: "Shut up or you're out."

I've been through this from your side, albeit on a much smaller scale. I know it's painful to get slammed unreasonably -- but to assume all slams are unreasonable is itself unreasonable. The most important things I took away from the experience was that no decision affecting a large community should be taken in haste (which appears to have happened here), and any decision which is going to affect a large number of people should be explained carefully -- apologizing for a decision forced by outside parties or events is a good idea.

If nothing happens on the issue in a few months and someone wants to bring it up again in a non-combatitive way, that would be an ideal way to do it.

Why should users be required to wait before protesting? And who will define "non-combatitive" (or even non-combative)?

#295 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:36 AM:

I'd just like to point that rahaeli, one of the heads of LJA (to the best of my understanding), has a default icon where a nipple is clearly visible. I believe someone filed a complaint against it, and the other head of abuse, markf, replied that he disagreed that a nipple was visible.

Checks. Yup, there's quite clearly a nipple visible on the left breast.

But, well, inequal treatment of friends-of-ljabuse and not-friends is also a notorious ljabuse problem.

#296 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 02:03 AM:

Dreamalynn: Fair enough to fight one battle at a time. I'm ambivalent about breastfeeding in public, but I can definitely see where that argument comes from, and largely support the movement that works to promote greater acceptance of breastfeeding. That said, I'm not sure that you can object to the inclusion of specifically breastfeeding pics with "obscene" material without implying distaste for, and creating an artificial separation between lactating and non-lactating breasts (unless you specifically also defend non-nursing breasts). Some people here may not agree with me, they may genuinely believe that breasts are obscene unless used in a mothering capacity. Which is fine. But when it is implied that other breast pictures are okay to be censored, it stops being a foot-in-the-door approach to getting greater breast acceptance, and starts being about looking after your particular interest at the expense of another. That said, I wish the pro-lactation movement well. I just have other political priorities.

#297 ::: Anatidaeling ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:27 AM:

I just deleted my LJ account.

I would have liked to use this as my user icon.

#298 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:00 AM:

Idonotlikepeas stated, But if you were in the doctor's office, and someone took a picture of your naked body, that picture would not automatically become decent and appropriate for display in all circumstances simply because it was entirely appropriate for you to be naked in that situation in the first place. Then he got snippy when I pointed out that the situation was nothing like breastfeeding because a doctor's office wasn't public and asked, How precisely is that relevant? I was trying to illustrate that a representation of an act isn't automatically more acceptable than the act itself, and that changing the context of an act changes whether it's appropriate.

I'm honestly astounded I'd have to explain this. If something is not acceptable to do in public, of course it's not acceptable to display a picture of it being done in "all circumstances." It's not going to be okay to display a picture of you naked in all circumstances because it's not okay to be naked in all circumstances. That is one of the more utterly ludicrous arguments I've seen.

As for the law vs. community standards, I disagree and sincerely doubt that you're backing your opinion, which you state as though it's fact, up with any real data.

Actual acts that are "inappropriate" are considered far worse live, in front of you, than pictures showing the same act. (You can readily think of any number of examples of this, but I'm not going to spell them out lest someone think that I'm comparing breastfeeding with an inappropriate act.) If an act is appropriate in public, a picture of the act is appropriate in public. It is not inappropriate or indecent. People keep saying that banning the picture isn't the same as saying the act isn't appropriate, and that's BS. The act has more power than the picture, yet the act is fine. Exactly what examples can someone offer me of any other act that is acceptable in all circumstances in public and yet isn't acceptable to see a picture of?

Darkrose, I did not at any point say "LJ hates breastfeeding mothers!" Your post is phrased such that it looks as though you are quoting me in that regard. Please be more careful.

#299 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:32 AM:

Dreamalynn: I get the only fighting one battle at a time thing.

Beware of not asking for enough, that's all. I don't know if the added support from pushing for a straight-up and consistent 'for the love of god people, they're just tits' policy would be worth the added argumentation -- it would in my corner of lj, but that's my corner -- but as I said up above, sometimes compromising just leaves you compromised.

Also, it occurrs to me that most of those uses of default icons LJ/SA is so wound about DO NOT IN FACT BENEFIT THE USERS. They make the site look cuter to interested parties, mostly.

I'm thinking a campaign of encouraging people to run with NO default icon, or with visually not too fascinating text icons with an ontopic message might have some effect, and it can be carried on long-term.

*goes off to try to come up with suitable new default icon*

#300 ::: BohemianCoast ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:53 AM:

On inappropriate: oh, how policy makers love this word, because more than any other, it means exactly what we choose it to mean.

On standards, acceptability and so on. I think I understand that part of what I'm doing, at least, is trying to draw a new line in the sand, to say 'This is what must be acceptable'. Part of the business of ensuring the acceptability of public breastfeeding (and you see plenty of posts on the other side even in this thread) is the promulgation of positive images of breastfeeding.

Yes, I believe that some people will find this uncomfortable. I find it hard to believe that a breastfeeding icon will be harder to explain to their boss than a hypothetical but apparently permitted one of a woman dressed from head to toe in rubber pony gear surmounted by the text 'I LOVE STALLIONS'. But there you go.

I do think that, as Tom has suggested, LJ has got themselves into this mess by picking an arbitrary boundary rather than using their brains.

Elsewhere, someone was suggesting that nobody is arguing that penises should be acceptable on default icons. Swisstone has a default icon that is designed explicitly to make LJ address this point as well. I did wonder about iconising David with the slogan 'Marge Simpson Rules LJ'.

Meanwhile, if anyone has not yet seen the educational but NSFW Berlei site Bounceometer, I can strongly recommend it. But perhaps not for user icons.

#301 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:59 AM:

A friend of mine, who received a suspension notice yesterday, has now received a new suspension notice which says that her icon needs to be changed to something with 'no adult content'. (She has a locked entry and does not quote the e-mail further, so I can't give you anything more than that, but I think the rest of the e-mail is the same as the other suspension notices that have been posted on boob_nazis and personal journals.) This claim of 'adult content' differs from the previous e-mail. Is LJ Abuse yet again 'clarifying' the policy in the midst of the debate?

#302 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:01 AM:

Aaah, insomnia fueled photoshopping.

In the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is, 4 possible default icons for people who don't have breastfeeding pics or who don't feel up to letting LJ suspend them, all utterly free to good homes or bad ones here.


#303 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:06 AM:

which says that her icon needs to be changed to something with 'no adult content'

Err. I thought Breastfeeding was all about the INFANT's contents...

Complete Failure To Grasp The Essence for the win...

#304 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:10 AM:

Deanna: I'm not sure I agree with you. Displaying a photo of something is entirely different than doing it. One reason that women are permitted by lawmakers to breastfeed in public is because it is recognized as a neccesity that benefits babies. The display of a photo of breastfeeding has no such benefit. Also, it isn't always the case that the act is worse than the photo. It's completely legal to engage in consensual adult sexual intercourse while dressed in a schoolgirl outfit, but under current law it's illegal to have a photo of it if you "appear to be" or "convey the impression" of being a minor (http://www.adultweblaw.com/laws/childporn.htm).

You can make the distinction between in public or in private as much as you like, but that doesn't change the fact that something which is permitted under certain circumstances is not always permitted under other circumstances. The doctor's office analogy is valid. Public nudity may be considered acceptable for young children at a beach, or if clothes must be removed to perform first aid in an emergency, but in general nudity is not allowed. And making an lj icon from photos of a naked person undergoing first aid or a small child (for the sake of argument, not yours) romping nude at the beach would also be frowned upon (especially as default icons). There simply IS a distinction between doing something out of neccesity and taking a photo of it for public display. And I never got the impression that idonotlikepeas was being snippy, for what it's worth.

#305 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:14 AM:

This comment thread is getting unmanagably long.

#306 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:24 AM:

Contracts:

People seem to be claiming that the TOS is part of the contract, while an FAQ refining the definition in the TOS is not.

If the FAQ is not part of the contract, then no change in the FAQ can be enforced.

It may very well be that some element of the FAQ, and therefore the FAQ as a whole, is not part of the contract. "How do I post a picture in my LJ" would seem an obvious example of such a FAQ element.

Using this to claim that the FAQ 111 change (have I got that right) is not a change in the contract seems stupid.

#307 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:24 AM:

Pixxelpuss, it's certainly not legal to participate in a sexual act in public, which is my point. The doctor's office analogy absolutely is not valid because it's not okay to walk around nude in public, so of course it's not okay to display pictures of yourself nude in public. It is okay to nurse in public.

#308 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:25 AM:

I thought Breastfeeding was all about the INFANT's contents...

*snort*

Some discussions that were being held in comments (now 556 of them!) on Doug's boob_nazi community post pointed out that it wouldn't be difficult to amend the rules to give an exclusion for an icon in which breastfeeding was being depicted and the baby/toddler was properly latched - so there *could* be exceptions for breastfeeding which are clear enough to sidestep the inevitable rash of 'I have a blow-up sheep sucking my nipple so it's appropriate under the TOS, yeah?' default icons. (Which, actually, probably is appropriate by LJ standards if it's a male nipple.)

It's actually really sad scrolling down that comment thread, given the number of suspended user comments that have been deleted. I would have more respect for LJ/6A if they'd suspended making suspensions while this was all being sorted out - and it clearly is still being sorted out, if they're revising their reasons for suspending people....

#309 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:26 AM:

Dave, that's one of the most useful comments I've seen in this thread.

#310 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:30 AM:

Dorothy, as I understand it, it would be fine to have a blow-up sheep sucking your nipple in a default icon even if you are a woman--as long as your areola doesn't show.

#311 ::: Dorothy Rothschild ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:33 AM:

Deanna: that's true, isn't it! *goes to find a digital camera and a blow-up sheep*

#312 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:36 AM:

I'd like to say something, and I apologize if it comes off as crude. People keep talking about how breastfeeding is all about the infant, and that breasts aren't obscene. I agree with both of these statements. But there is an implication in some of this thread that breasts are not sexual, or at least aren't sexual when being used for feeding babies. Some women may not find their breasts sexy or erogenous, and some women probably want to put sex as far out of their minds as possible while breastfeeding (I assume doing otherwise would lead to some serious cognitive dissonance). The female vagina functions as the birth canal, but this does not mean that it isn't still a sexual organ. It has a dual purpose, and regardless of what it is doing at any given time, it is still the organ associated with both sexual pleasure and child birth. Breasts don't stop being sexual just because an infant is attached, just like the vagina doesn't stop being a baby-chute when engaged in non-reproductive sexual activity. Not thinking about that particular function doesn't mean that the connotation is gone. My point here is to explain that the lj icons may depict a non-sexual use of the breasts, but that they still contain what is societally accepted as a sexual organ. Would you be as willing to defend lj icons of vaginas in a nurturing, mother-related context? A close-up image of a baby crowning? I'm curious where these lines are drawn.

#313 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:30 AM:

pixxelpuss: One reason that women are permitted by lawmakers to breastfeed in public is because it is recognized as a neccesity that benefits babies. The display of a photo of breastfeeding has no such benefit.

If you think of breastfeeding as something intrinsically indecent that is permitted in public only because babies have got to be fed and some women will insist on breastfeeding them, then a display of a photo of a woman breastfeeding has no benefit - it's just putting something intrinsicially indecent on display for no purpose.

If you think of breastfeeding as something intrinsically good and positive, which all women who have children and who physically can breastfeed should be encouraged to do - at least, to try - then a picture of a woman breastfeeding is putting a woman carrying out a good and positive action on display - feeding her child with her own milk.

It depends where you sit: despite being happily childfree, I definitely sit with the second group: I think breastfeeding is good, and that women are so frequently discouraged from breastfeeding and/or made to feel isolated, often by comments/attitudes from the first group, that there is a positive benefit to displaying pictures of women breastfeeding, because every picture helps to normalise breastfeeding, and perhaps make the first group smaller in number and less powerful. Which I think would be a good thing.

idontlikepeas: I suspect it wasn't brought up in the very first answer because the Abuse Team person in question was using a stock answer which made the assumption that the icon was patently offensive.

I am not blamimg the individual LJ Abuse team member who sent the first response. When a catastrophe like this happens - a real customer blow-up - you can almost invariably say that the problem really is bad management. You confirm what I thought: this individual LJ Abuse volunteer, receiving (about 30, according to the troll who began it) LJ abuse reports targetting women using breastfeeding images, simply did what he had been instructed to do - he sent a stock response saying that the image was inappropriate, see FAQ 111, change it or be suspended. That

And by the time it was obvious that there was an impetus to actually change the ToS, the spamming was well underway and it was too late.

Well, I think that's because the only thing that made it obvious to SixApart that FAQ 111 needed to be changed (I'm still not seeing anything in the ToS that would need to be changed) was the mass e-mailing in protest from livejournal users who were being told, flatly and without recourse, that icons with pics of women breastfeeding were too indecent for public display.

Further, there's something distinctly odd about this. You say that "by the time it was obvious that there was an impetus to actually change the ToS" - but the ToS has not been changed. What was changed was FAQ 111, from "graphically sexual" to "no nudity". And that change was part of what impelled so many people to write to SixApart and to LJ Abuse.

If the appropriate course of action to have FAQ 111 changed was to submit a suggestion to the LJ suggestions community, shouldn't all e-mails sent out after that change to FAQ 111 by the LJ Abuse team/SixApart (sometime on 20th May) have included the notice that people objecting to the changed FAQ could ask for it to be changed back via the Suggestions Community? Did no one on the Abuse team or at SixApart put the two things together?

It's also possible that they just didn't think to mention it. They are fallible human beings, after all.

Well, but we're all fallible human beings. But the LJ Abuse team appears to be largely isolated, not consistently trained volunteers, who are neither being managed nor supported properly. If Livejournal is to continue as a working community, I think the one certain thing is that the LJ Abuse team needs to be made professional, properly managed, and consistently trained and supported - and LJ Abuse staff members should not be livejournal community members. (Upthread, the fact that the head of LJ Abuse is allowed to have an icon with visible nipple because, well, she's the head of LJ Abuse, and who's going to send her a threat of suspension?)

#314 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:30 AM:

Shorter pixxelpuss: "Hey, what's that?

#315 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:58 AM:

It seems to me that you are imposing more stringent requirements on LJ users than on Six Apart. There does not seem to have been any discussion about the conversion from banning graphic displays to banning insufficiently covered pictures of breastfeeding, and SA is coercing people: "Shut up or you're out."

There wasn't a change or conversion involved. There was no discussion because this was simply the routine enforcement of a long-term policy, and the Abuse Team didn't immediately assume that a small-scale protest would randomly appear the 212,342th time the rule was enforced.

Pixxelpuss, it's certainly not legal to participate in a sexual act in public, which is my point. The doctor's office analogy absolutely is not valid because it's not okay to walk around nude in public, so of course it's not okay to display pictures of yourself nude in public. It is okay to nurse in public.

And I'll point out again that my only purpose in bringing that up was to explode the "a picture of the act must always be more appropriate than the act itself" argument. To say that a picture of breastfeeding is inappropriate in some circumstances does not imply that the act of breastfeeding itself is inappropriate in those circumstances. But since you insist on a public analogy:

As was mentioned by pixxelpuss above, in an emergency medical situation it would even be appropriate to remove your clothes in public, because the need for treatment supersedes the no-nudity social rule. A picture of the naked body that was treated in public would not be appropriate for display on that exact same street a week later. Similarly, the need of the child to be fed with breastmilk supersedes the no-nudity rule. But a picture of a bare breast, even one engaged in breastfeeding, does not satisfy that need and would also not be appropriate on that same street a week later.

Checks. Yup, there's quite clearly a nipple visible on the left breast.

Have seen Rahaeli's icon hundreds of times, never seen an exposed nipple in it. Still don't, looking at a blown-up version now. You can sort-of see where the nipple is if you look closely, but it's clearly well-covered by a bra. (LiveJournal also doesn't ban bikini icons where the shape of the nipple is clearly discernable. The key word here is 'exposed'.)

If the FAQ is not part of the contract, then no change in the FAQ can be enforced.

Nobody's enforcing a change in the FAQ, because of the very fact that the FAQ isn't a contract. Someone pointed out that the FAQ doesn't clearly explain the policy, and it was updated to explain the policy clearly. The enforcement occurred before the change to the FAQ as well as after it.

If you think of breastfeeding as something intrinsically indecent

You're creating a false duality here. Either we hate breastfeeding or think images of it are appropriate everywhere? No. Here's how it is. Bare breasts are not appropriate everywhere. Let's take that as a given. There is an exception to the "bare breasts in public" rule for breastfeeding for the specific reason that it nourishes the child. Images of bare breasts do not nourish children, even if they are actually images of a child being nourished. None of this has anything to do with whether breastfeeding is a wonderful thing or not, and everythiing to do with where bare breasts are appropriate and for what reasons.

If the appropriate course of action to have FAQ 111 changed was to submit a suggestion to the LJ suggestions community

No, that's the appropriate way to change site policy, or the ToS. FAQ 111, for the last time, just a method of explaining what the ToS says in plainer language. In this specific case, there would have to be either an internal policy change or (preferably) an actual exception in the ToS that said "an image of a bare breast is not considered inappropriate so long as it is engaged in the act of breastfeeding" or similar.

But the LJ Abuse team appears to be largely isolated, not consistently trained volunteers, who are neither being managed nor supported properly.

Couldn't be further from the truth. In my day job, I have access to far more sensitive data than the Abuse Team will ever have. And from what I've seen of their training program, they're being given more and better training than any I or any of my colleagues who hold similar positions at other places of work have ever been given. And in every complaint against them where sufficient public information was available to make a determination, I've never found one where they committed a serious error. (On the occasions I've looked at communities like abuse_lj_abuse, for instance, the person involved is almost always saying something like "They told me I couldn't comment in this journal, and I did it, and then they suspended me! How dare they!") I would not be surprised if there were such occasions, because of their aforementioned humanity, but they're much rarer than the Abuse Team's opponents would like you to think. And, since paid staff are apparently magical, I should point out that paid staff supervise the program and can review the cases handled by the volunteers at any time.

Having been a customer in similar complaints, I can honestly say I'd rather deal with the LJ Abuse team than just about any other similar entity I've ever encountered. And I believed that before I knew some of them personally; having talked with these people one-on-one, I believe it even more firmly. The fact that they use volunteers is a strength and should be regarded as such; the idea that anyone would actually sign up to receive this kind of horrible treatment purely because they want to keep the service running is kind of staggering.

#316 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 08:35 AM:

What if there were a risk that you would be unable to get public emergency medical treatment if you had to be unclothed? Breastfeeding moms constantly face people telling them that nursing a baby is inappropriate in public, that they need to go somewhere else. Thus the desire to see breastfeeding normalized through presenting positive images of it.

In this specific case, there would have to be either an internal policy change or (preferably) an actual exception in the ToS that said "an image of a bare breast is not considered inappropriate so long as it is engaged in the act of breastfeeding" or similar.

This is all the breastfeeding moms want, Idonotlikepeas. They want to be able to show images of breastfeeding even if they happen to have large or dark areolae. It would be so easy for LJ to make this change, and yet they refuse. Breastfeeding moms are being deliberately policed and targeted by members of other communities, and LJ is allowing it.

#317 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:08 AM:

What if there were a risk that you would be unable to get public emergency medical treatment if you had to be unclothed? Breastfeeding moms constantly face people telling them that nursing a baby is inappropriate in public, that they need to go somewhere else. Thus the desire to see breastfeeding normalized through presenting positive images of it.

In the specific case you mention, I'd protest that law. And by protest, I mean I'd actually leave my house and march in the streets about it, and call my congressman, and so on. But no, I wouldn't go around showing pictures of naked accident victims in an attempt to make it OK for people to accept them.

This is all the breastfeeding moms want, Idonotlikepeas. They want to be able to show images of breastfeeding even if they happen to have large or dark areolae. It would be so easy for LJ to make this change, and yet they refuse. Breastfeeding moms are being deliberately policed and targeted by members of other communities, and LJ is allowing it.

It's an easy change to make, but not an easy one to enforce. And you know what? I don't even think it's a bad idea to say that you want this change, to say that you want it strongly, to protest by deleting your journal, and so on. If you really believe that, do it. All I want is general recognition that the Abuse Team has behaved properly based on the site policy as it was, that they have no control over site policy, and that allowing breastfeeding in icons is making an exception to an existing policy rather than OK under existing policy.

Right now, the debate has been framed in terms that paint LiveJournal as deliberately singling out breastfeeding mothers for unfair treatment. And that isn't even slightly true. Once that's acknowledged, I'm done arguing and I support your efforts to change the ToS even if I don't personally think the change is a good idea. More voices in a debate are always better.

As for the last part, the original complaint was from someone untrustworthy and despicable, but the Abuse Team can't just decide to ignore a complaint because they don't like the person who made it. (They haven't told me they don't like him, but I'm making that assumption. And I'm referring to him as untrustworthy and despicable; that's not an official LJ stance.) They can't just decide not to enforce site policy when they've enforced it before. Do you really want to say that an individual Abuse Team member should be empowered to dismiss complaints just because they don't like the person who sent them in or are suspicious of their motives?

#318 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:19 AM:

Let me amend what I said slightly: More civil voices in a debate are always better. Heh.

#319 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:20 AM:

I have no experience whatsoever with LJ Abuse, Idonotlikepeas. I haven't said a thing about them. The last bit I mentioned isn't about the original complainer (though I still maintain that LJ isn't following the FCC guidelines, because an image of a bare-breasted woman with twirling pasties, as on his default icon, which y'all have deemed okay, wouldn't be allowed by FCC standards), but about the continuing targeting of breastfeeding moms. LJ can't possibly be unaware that that's happening, and they're just going along with it, allowing it.

As for us saying that's all we want, hell, that's what we've been saying all along. It's just that no one seems to be listening.

#320 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:24 AM:

By "that," of course, I mean the ability to post breastfeeding icons even if they happen to show nipple--the acknowledgment that pictures of breastfeeding are not indecent or inappropriate.

#321 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:52 AM:

Northland:
Someone reminded me last night (in conversation on this in my own journal) that one of the other reasons for the default/no default line is that it is possible for people to set up their viewing preferences in various ways so that userpics don't load when they are viewing posts, comments, or communities.

However, you still see userpics on user info pages and on searches, because those pages don't reference those settings. Maybe "No images at all" should be a whole-site option but it isn't part of the code right now.

(People who are concerned they may hit a non-work-appropriate image, or just something they may not want a small child in the room to see, can fairly easily avoid navigating to someone's user info page until a better time, etc.)

Yonmei:
and LJ Abuse staff members should not be livejournal community members.

Surely that's even more of a way to head towards robotic and mechanistic responses. Like all communities or collections of communities, LJ has cultural quirks. I think an understanding of that is much more likely to lead to better decisions overall, not worse ones.

It is standard policy that people do not take action on cases that involve communities or people they know directly. (During my time handling Abuse cases, I never handled anything in the Pagan communities, for example, because I'm an active reader and commenter in a number of them.)

However, it is sometimes really useful to have someone be able to have background knowledge. That X community split off Y community nastily (and so may not know that Y community got warned for something X community's mods are now allowing). What a particular in-group phrase actually means (i.e. could its use be considered harassment?)

Obviously, these aren't meant to be the final deciding line - but it gives a place to start further research a bit more efficiently. Some of this ends up documented in case documentation. Sometimes it's the first time a particular issue has come up to the Abuse folks, so there's no documentation.

It does get complicated when someone on the Abuse Team gets accused of something: I can only say that in that case, if you're not satisfied with the answer, that's a good time to ask for it to be escalated to a higher level (i.e. one of the SixApart high-level staff).

But that's also true in many other settings - police, schools, etc. where community interaction outside of the work setting is considered a good thing, not a negative. Lots of other people find solutions to that which don't involve people doing enforcement of rules to live outside the community they do that work in.

Dreamalynn:
[re: differences in coloration, skin tone, etc. that can lead to different applications of standards for the same actual amount of skin]

I get that it's frustrating. However, how would you suggest it be handled as a practical matter?

What counts is not what was in the image when it was taken, but what actually shows up in the edited version, at 100pixels square. And yes, for some women, that's going to look different.

Can you suggest a fair way that could be equally applied *and* not turn into a source of abuse by people continuously testing the boundaries, that can be clearly defined so that everyone knows what's okay and what isn't? If so, I know a bunch of people who'd love to hear it and take it into consideration.

(Besides, of course, allowing everything involving breast feeding: I understand that's what some people would like, but that may not be a possible compromise.)

#322 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:00 AM:

Do you really want to say that an individual Abuse Team member should be empowered to dismiss complaints just because they don't like the person who sent them in or are suspicious of their motives?

No. I want individual members of the LJ Abuse to have a proper management structure to support them.

When a PR catastrophe like this happens, it's very seldom productive or useful or fair to blame the individual low-level workers - staff members or volunteers - who were merely required to carry out policies set from above.

The requirement to rigidly implement these policies without flexibility is part of what caused this disaster for SixApart and triggered the mailing campaign, but - as I said - that looks to me like bad management and a failure to provide necessary support, and should not be blamed on the volunteers who were carrying out a misguided policy.

What LJ Abuse volunteers should be empowered to do, and have the support to do, is to say:

"I think we need flex here - a pic of a breastfeeding baby isn't 'graphically sexual'. And in any case I'm suspicious of these thirty complaints from one source about pics of breastfeeding mothers/babies. So instead of sending an automatic notice of suspension, I'll report this upwards to my line manager, and ask what we should do in principle about breastfeeding pics, and in practice about what looks like someone actively seeking out pics to be offended by, rather than someone genuinely reporting what they see as an inappropriate icon."

But, if the LJ Abuse volunteer who dealt with the original complaints had no one to whom he could direct such a query ("Eric from LJ Abuse" was the name on the original e-mail) and had never been trained in how to deal with such a situation, then it's hardly his fault: you can't blame a volunteer for being poorly managed and inadequately trained and then doing a bad job. The responsibility lies with the people who set the volunteer to do the job without providing adequate support and training to avoid catastrophes like this one.

#323 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:08 AM:

Jennett: Surely that's even more of a way to head towards robotic and mechanistic responses.

Well, given that (according to idontlikepeas) LJ Abuse staff members have no flexibility and no ability to do anything other than apply pre-defined rules, it seems to me that it would be an improvement to have this done by paid staff who were not involved in livejournal.

#324 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:31 AM:

idonotlikepeas says: All I want is general recognition that the Abuse Team has behaved properly based on the site policy as it was

This is presumably why you are saying that it's A-OK for mothers to breast feed in public, but "inappropriate" for those same mothers to show photos of themselves doing so.

Good luck with that.

#325 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:38 AM:

(though I still maintain that LJ isn't following the FCC guidelines, because an image of a bare-breasted woman with twirling pasties, as on his default icon, which y'all have deemed okay, wouldn't be allowed by FCC standards)

It follows the no-nipple rule, though. I'm actually not sure whether the FCC would let it on television or not.

but about the continuing targeting of breastfeeding moms. LJ can't possibly be unaware that that's happening, and they're just going along with it, allowing it.

They're not going along with anything. They're following their policies, which are: If someone complains about an icon, they review it, and ask the person whose icon it is to change it or be suspended if it's inappropriate. I might just as well say they're "going along" with the attacks that the pro-naked-breast moms made on inappropriate icons in the childfree communities (which they did as a response to the original complaint, and which, as far as I can tell, prompted the blowback that you're referring to - this is all pretty well documented in the pro-naked-breasts communities).

As for us saying that's all we want, hell, that's what we've been saying all along. It's just that no one seems to be listening.

Well, A) No, it isn't. What some of you have been saying all along is that it should already be OK and that it was never against policy in the first place. If you're not saying that, fine; please don't consider those remarks addressed to you. Once it's a discussion about changing policy, it's a whole different ball game. B) People are clearly listening. They just aren't necessarily agreeing. Those are different states.

But, if the LJ Abuse volunteer who dealt with the original complaints had no one to whom he could direct such a query ("Eric from LJ Abuse" was the name on the original e-mail) and had never been trained in how to deal with such a situation,

This is a massive and unwarranted assumption. As I said above, in my opinion as a non-Abuse Team member, Eric shouldn't have referred something like this up the chain, since it's just one more day enforcing the same policy he'd already been enforcing for ages already. But even if he had referred it up the chain, he would have ended up giving out the same response, since it clearly /is actually/ the policy that no nipples are allowed in defaults. "More training" would not have changed anything here.

#326 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:41 AM:

But there is an implication in some of this thread that breasts are not sexual, or at least aren't sexual when being used for feeding babies. Some women may not find their breasts sexy or erogenous, and some women probably want to put sex as far out of their minds as possible while breastfeeding (I assume doing otherwise would lead to some serious cognitive dissonance). The female vagina functions as the birth canal, but this does not mean that it isn't still a sexual organ. It has a dual purpose, and regardless of what it is doing at any given time, it is still the organ associated with both sexual pleasure and child birth. Breasts don't stop being sexual just because an infant is attached, just like the vagina doesn't stop being a baby-chute when engaged in non-reproductive sexual activity. Not thinking about that particular function doesn't mean that the connotation is gone. My point here is to explain that the lj icons may depict a non-sexual use of the breasts, but that they still contain what is societally accepted as a sexual organ.

Society is, um, wrong, you know. Sexual organs are generally defined as those directly involved in the production and transit of the gametes, not as anything that it turns some people on to have fondled and some people on to fondle. A typical list:

Any of the organs of reproduction or generation, including, in the female, the vulva, clitoris, ovaries, uterine tubes, uterus, and vagina, and in the male, the penis, scrotum, testes, epididymides, deferent ducts, seminal vesicles, prostate, and bulbourethral glands.

You could probably make a reasonably coherent policy banning representations of the above, in or out of action, though I suspect they'd have a hard time detecting out-of-context representations of, say, a seminal vesicle.

Defining as a sexual organ anything whose purpose is not sexual but is sensitive and fun to touch for some subset of the population, or turns on some subset of the population, is on the same slippery slope as a rule that women must cover their hair ('cause, y'know, it turns on men and drives them out of control), cleavage, elbows, knees, entire bodies, faces, etc. It differs from the Taliban as a matter of degree, not of underlying logic.

Historically, there's a chicken-and-egg problem: hidden things becomes sexualized because they are hidden, or - better yet - occasionally flashed or partly exposed. Those are then considered sexual and thus something that must be covered up. (Victorian women didn't have abnormally sexual or sensitive legs and ankles, but the peekaboo thing with clothing of the time generated mild fetishes.) This changes over time as clothing changes. Women in pants are no longer considered obscene and lascivious, for example. That changed because women persisted in wearing those lascivious garments first in private or under their clothes and then in public, not because they sat home waiting for society to change.

To drag this back on topic, breastfeeding is eye-catching today for the offensensitive because it's not regularly seen or represented. If that changed, people would, in fact, get used to it. If women were not in danger of arrest or attack by hostile men, they could go around topless and people would, in fact, get used to it. Anyone who spends much time in nudist settings realizes that when body parts are on display all the time, it rapidly gets...dull. Men made this jump: bathing suits covered their chests until quite recently, historically speaking. You're more likely to see a man represented in medieval art without his pants than without his shirt. Then we managed to uncover their erogenous zones, I mean nipples, without the female population fainting or running mad with passion. Women are not as far along, but I expect we're on the way.

While I support the right to breastfeed in public, I would be more enthusiastic about it if its supporters were not so often helping to promulgate the whole idea that breasts are nasty unless they have an attached infant.

#327 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:42 AM:

Well, given that (according to idontlikepeas) LJ Abuse staff members have no flexibility and no ability to do anything other than apply pre-defined rules, it seems to me that it would be an improvement to have this done by paid staff who were not involved in livejournal.

I never said anything of the kind. I said having a clear-cut policy is better, and that Abuse Team members are bound to obey the policy, whatever the policy is. If the policy becomes "The Abuse Team member can decide if an icon is inappropriate", they'll do that.

I'd much rather have the policies, whatever they are, applied by someone who understands them (and the community) than random staff members who know nothing about the issues because they avoid LJ. That's the worst of all possible worlds.

#328 ::: Robert Carnegie ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:57 AM:

Are those actual medieval pictures that were displayed in public? A lot of medieval things are fakes, like chastity belts.

I'm also bewildered by LJ images that apparently must never actually depict the person writing, in any conventionally representational way. I have seen a rare exceptions, maybe I should complain that they are against the Terms of Service... or it's just me.

Now, The Powers That Be clearly are being I-can't-say-what over this. But it seems to me not particularly difficult to adjust any picture to meet that I-can't-say-what requirement. A little electronic paint, and they can see what you're doing but not what you use to do it. Colour matching. A sparkly star. A tiny picture of John Ashcroft's face when he saw it.

But they shouldn't even ask you to do that. Unfortunately, they have.

Setting up alternate icons with the images you want, though (whilst also making a very loud fuss), seems to me like a satisfactory way to get around it, until the Landover Baptists complain again.

Formula... remember when all those babies in China died because their parents were sold formula which was basically just chalk or something?

#329 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:04 AM:

Reading Yonmei at 10.00 am today, upthread a handful of comments, I think she's hit on it. She certainly presents a possible course of action which would have made sense.

The worrying things is that may have been what was done, and the decision may have been made at an awkwardly high level, by somebody who didn't realise what sort of political hornets' nest they were poking a stick into.

#330 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:09 AM:

I said having a clear-cut policy is better, and that Abuse Team members are bound to obey the policy, whatever the policy is.

How is this different from what I said?

. As I said above, in my opinion as a non-Abuse Team member, Eric shouldn't have referred something like this up the chain, since it's just one more day enforcing the same policy he'd already been enforcing for ages already. But even if he had referred it up the chain, he would have ended up giving out the same response, since it clearly /is actually/ the policy that no nipples are allowed in defaults. "More training" would not have changed anything here.

Except it might have avoided the public relations catastrophe that ensued, mightn't it?

If SixApart/LJ Abuse had taken the time to think that since they had edited FAQ 111, and an unwritten rule had become a public rule (and thus there had been an apparent sudden change in the policy, even if all the insiders knew that the change in the policy had occurred some time ago) then it might have occurred to someone to propose adding to the suspension notices that went out, a link to the Suggestions community and a note saying that if the user objects to the policy of "no nipples - no exceptions" they could propose a change in LJ Suggestions.

Taking "just one more day" to enforce a policy that's going to cause trouble and dissension, in order to think how to enforce it in a way that will cause least trouble and dissension, sounds like a good plan to me.

You can argue that the volunteer had no way to know that enforcing the policy was going to cause trouble and dissension. And 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. But it seems to me that there were clues available: an individual who was reporting 30 icons, all of women breastfeeding, who had recently himself been reported for an indecent icon? A clear mismatch between the public guidelines ("graphically sexual") and the private policy ("no nudity").

Why would it have been so bad to take a day - or a few days - to decide what to do about icons that did not trangress the public guidelines for default icons, which the users were understandably angry about being told to undefault? If it was one angry user who was genuinely offended, I can see why LJ Abuse would have wanted to take prompt action, but when LJ Abuse were aware that these reports were coming from one individual who was seeking out user pics in order to report them, that surely made it an issue that could afford to wait?

#331 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:21 AM:

I'd much rather have the policies, whatever they are, applied by someone who understands them (and the community) than random staff members who know nothing about the issues because they avoid LJ. That's the worst of all possible worlds.


The problem with that is that for it to really work, LJ Abuse members would have to be members of a particular community, to understand the issues of that community and the personalities involved, or their putative knowledge is no greater than a paid staff member who is not involved with LJ at all.

The critical factor, which you persistantly ignore, is mature judgement. If Eric from LJ Abuse did not understand that an icon of a baby breastfeeding was different in kind from the icon of a nude with Bea Arthur's head which was the fuse for this explosion, then he was not using mature judgement, informed by an understanding of the specific LJ community in which the icon was used. If he could not recognize that this was an example of complaint trolling, then he was inadequately trained, and not familiar with the personalities involved (not surprising- very few LJ members have the kind of cross-community recognition necessary for that familiarity, although I suspect the LJ Abuse training would be enhanced by liberal use of the Encyclopedia Dramatica).

That you see LJ Abuse as particularly well trained for their jobs says absolutely nothing about them, and everything about the dire state of community moderation and customer support training in general.

#332 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:32 AM:

How is this different from what I said?

Because what you said is that the Abuse Team have no flexibility, which is wrong. They have whatever flexibility the policies give them. To conclude that the fact that there are rules means that anyone could enforce them is unsupportable.

(and thus there had been an apparent sudden change in the policy, even if all the insiders knew that the change in the policy had occurred some time ago)

One more time: No change in policy. Not even one that occurred in the past. As far as I know, that's been the policy for as long as I've had my journal. I know you want to make this about Six Apart corrupting LJ, but it's not.

I'm not even going to address the "FAQ 111 is not the ToS" thing in detail again. Just to note that it isn't, and changing it isn't changing the ToS.

Why would it have been so bad to take a day - or a few days - to decide what to do about icons that did not trangress the public guidelines for default icons, which the users were understandably angry about being told to undefault?

This would have changed nothing, however, since the policy would still be the same three days later. For that matter, we don't know for sure how long that request was open, whether staff were consulted, etc. It wasn't clear that people were going to throw a fit about it until after the actual suspension warnings went out - and remember, the spamming started right after that, not when the suspensions actually took place.

Let's examine your evidence:

a) An individual was making trouble in reaction to their (entirely justified) punishment. This, as far as I can tell, happens all the time and isn't even slightly unusual. But the Abuse Team has to handle reports evenhandedly, again, whether they like the person or not.
b) All breastfeeding icons - they weren't. Some were breastfeeding, some were pornographic, some were apparently arty nudes. (According to hardvice himself, anyway. I can't see the reports, so I can only take his word for it.) Even if they were all breastfeeding icons, that wouldn't support your point about the Abuse Team knowing ahead of time that enforcing their standard policy would cause trouble. Do you really believe this is the first time they ever warned someone to change a breastfeeding icon because it had a nipple in it? I'd bet money that it isn't; just happened that this time someone decided to spam them about it.
c) Clear mismatch between the public guidelines and the policy. This only applies if you assume FAQ 111 is the ToS (it isn't) and if you don't include nudity under "inappropriate for children 13 or more" (most people do), or if you believe that the presence of a baby counteracts the nudity in some way (debatable). This isn't evidence of any kind of impending trouble.

Speaking as someone who has been paid money to do similar work in other (non-nude) contexts, I don't see anything here that would have prompted me to do anything other than send out the same stock answer I'd sent out the last hundred times it happened.

#333 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:34 AM:

Are those actual medieval pictures that were displayed in public? A lot of medieval things are fakes, like chastity belts.

The various books of hours. I don't think I've ever seen a picture of a shirtless man in these, but pantsless men are not all that rare. Here are a few samples.

These are pictures of field workers for the most part, but I think it's telling that they don't take off their shirts. That would be naughty! Trotting around in a shirt and briefs apparently wasn't.

#334 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:35 AM:

Idonotlikepeas, your whole argument revolves around the argument that breastfeeding pictures are inappropriate. I disagree, and I haven't seen a scrap of evidence, from you or anyone else, to back up that assumption. (There are many reasons besides nudity, btw, for why it might be inappropriate to show pictures of accident victims, and while no one can help when someone becomes a victim, the direct witnessing of someone in the process of dying is, again, far more traumatic than seeing a picture of it; it's that traumatic effect [along with privacy issues, etc.]--even lessened, through a photo-- that keeps newspapers from showing those victims.)

It follows the no-nipple rule, though. I'm actually not sure whether the FCC would let it on television or not.
And as we've already established, the FCC doesn't have a "no nipple" rule. The case I cited earlier clearly illustrates that hardvice's icon would not be allowed. Absolutely nothing you have cited backs up your opinion that breastfeeding photos are inappropriate even though the act itself isn't.

And your switch to calling us the "pro-naked-breast moms" is insulting.

#335 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:40 AM:

If Eric from LJ Abuse did not understand that an icon of a baby breastfeeding was different in kind from the icon of a nude with Bea Arthur's head which was the fuse for this explosion, then he was not using mature judgement, informed by an understanding of the specific LJ community in which the icon was used.

That icon wasn't used in a specific community. It was used as a default icon, meaning it showed up /everywhere/. The judgment that he rendered was based on that, and on the collective standards of LJ as a whole, not on its community-specific meaning. In a case where its use was specific to a community, this issue would not have arisen. LJ has no policy preventing the use of that icon in any community, or in every post in every community the person is a member of. Only its use as a default icon.

If he could not recognize that this was an example of complaint trolling, then he was inadequately trained, and not familiar with the personalities involved

I have no doubt that he recognized that it was trolling. However, the fact that a complaint is trolling does not invalidate the complaint or allow customer service people to ignore it. To speak in a broad, non-LJ-Abuse-specific way: Once a policy violation has been brought to the attention of a customer service person, they have to act on it regardless of their opinion of the motivations of the person bringing the complaint, assuming the complaint has merit. They may /also/ take action against the person making the complaint if they're abusing the service, but a violation of policy does not stop being a violation of policy because the person who reported it is an idiot.

(not surprising- very few LJ members have the kind of cross-community recognition necessary for that familiarity, although I suspect the LJ Abuse training would be enhanced by liberal use of the Encyclopedia Dramatica).

How do you know that it isn't? If I were in charge, I'd send my trainees out to look at the communities created by trolls routinely, and I have no reason to suspect that the people who are in charge are stupider than I am.

#336 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:58 AM:

Idonotlikepeas, your whole argument revolves around the argument that breastfeeding pictures are inappropriate. I disagree, and I haven't seen a scrap of evidence, from you or anyone else, to back up that assumption.

No, it doesn't. My argument, in summary:

1. A naked breast is not always appropriate in every context.
2. One context in which a naked breast is not appropriate is an LJ default user icon.
3. The exposure of a nipple or areola is a simple, clear-cut rule to determine whether a breast is naked in boundary cases.
4. LJ has adopted item 3 as its test for such cases.
5. The presence of a baby in the picture does not render it appropriate when it would otherwise be inappropriate.

Please stop conflating this with "breastfeeding icons are not appropriate". Nobody is advancing that argument here. If you want to argue proposition 5 but accept 1-4, I'm at peace with that, because then we're all recognizing that what the opponents of this policy want is a special exemption which says that naked breasts shouldn't be considered inappropriate if a baby is in the image.

(There are many reasons besides nudity, btw, for why it might be inappropriate to show pictures of accident victims, and while no one can help when someone becomes a victim, the direct witnessing of someone in the process of dying is, again, far more traumatic than seeing a picture of it; it's that traumatic effect [along with privacy issues, etc.]--even lessened, through a photo-- that keeps newspapers from showing those victims.)

Quite true. Let us say: I would not display naked pictures of accident victims even if they were totally unharmed at the time the picture was taken. Or if I did display them to shock and make a political point, I would not expect other people to consider that appropriate.

And as we've already established, the FCC doesn't have a "no nipple" rule.

We have not established any such thing. All we've established is that they don't publish the rule on their website, but based on their actual enforcement record it seems as if they use it as an internal measurement for nudity. This is precisely analogous to what LJ has done.

The case I cited earlier clearly illustrates that hardvice's icon would not be allowed.

I don't agree. But even if it did, all that would establish is that LJ's policy is an imperfect analogue of the FCC's. That they are trying to follow a roughly similar policy does not mean that they are going to scrutinize FCC decisions to make sure that they are the same on every point.

Absolutely nothing you have cited backs up your opinion that breastfeeding photos are inappropriate even though the act itself isn't.

I am confused as to precisely what I would cite in this case. Although I could easily propose an experiment - get a picture of someone breastfeeding, with visible nipple, blow it up, put it on a t-shirt, and wear it around to places where nobody knows you.

And your switch to calling us the "pro-naked-breast moms" is insulting.

I'm not trying to be insulting. There are two positions here: that naked breasts are OK in default icons in some cases, and that they are not. If you have a neutral term that I can use to describe the first camp which does not conflate it with unrelated issues (pro-breastfeeding, for instance), I'll be happy to adopt it.

#337 ::: Dreamalynn ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Jennet wrote: (Besides, of course, allowing everything involving breast feeding: I understand that's what some people would like, but that may not be a possible compromise.)

And herein is the crux of the problem. Numerous people have been claiming the impossibility of this, that and all the other, but no one, to date, has provided any actual reasoning as to why it would be impossible to place a footnote to the default userpic guidelines/TOS/FAQ which says:

Userpics in which exposed areola is visible incidental to a depicted act of a mother breastfeeding a child are not to be considered inappropriate for any use across the site.

I don't think that anyone in the breastfeeding communities is clamoring for anything more than that, and an apology from the LJ Abuse team members who were rude and did use the words offensive and sexually graphic in their responses to women who were swept up in this troll-created dragnet.

#338 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:14 PM:

idontlikepeas: One more time: No change in policy. Not even one that occurred in the past.

Not true. What the policy used to be was that a user's default userpic could not contain "graphic sexual or violent content". (See screenshot of the Abuse Policy Feedback Form, which clearly states it was last updated November 2004.) Sometime between 4th November 2004 and 20th May 2006, that policy was evidently changed to "no nudity". But there was a change in policy, since while it's possible to define a woman breastfeeding an infant as "nude" because she's exposing nipple or areola, it is not possible to define a woman breastfeeding an infant as "graphically sexual or violent".

#339 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:22 PM:

First, a spelling note: The name is Jenett, one n, two ts. I mention this because there are users on LiveJournal with both the usernames Jennet and Jennett. I suspect they'd prefer to avoid confusion.

Yonmei:
Re: the paragraph beginning: "I think we need flex here - a pic of a breastfeeding baby isn't 'graphically sexual'...."

There has long been lots of "Hey, this looks a bit unusual, what do you think?" between team members. What appears to be the problem in this particular instance is that it *didn't* ping someone's "Hey, wait, is this a possible different situation?" button.

And there are all sorts of reasons for that - starting with the fact it's been a standard enforcement of policy with no problems for quite a while. (Quite possibly because the specific breastfeeding use has not come up previously: I don't know.)

Trying to determine trolling vs. not trolling is a very slippery slope: I cannot see how it is less prone to bias and bad decisions than the very clear "Something gets reported, we compare it against standard policy, and take appropriate action."

Question: If the original answer had been:

"This is against our current policy. We have noted multiple cases about this: if you think the policy needs revision or clarification, here's the appropriate mechanism [link] to start that in motion. However, unless and until a change is made, you still need to have a user icon which meets our requirements [here]."

Obviously, the current glitch is that there's no clear feedback/hey can you reeevaluate method. More on that in a second.

However, if that was the answer, would you (and other people affected) have considered that fair? Or would there still have been the huge fuss about non-defaulting the userpic while discussion happened?

My guess (not having seen any of this directly, but having seen it happen on other issues in the past) is that all of this blew up pretty fast, the Abuse folks got swamped with lots of questions (on top of the normal workload), concerns, and yes, people either reporting other people to get them in trouble, or people trying to find where the lines were by seeing what went over. (plus added nastiness, harassment, death threats, and other stuff that happened.)

And as people got more tired, and more frustrated, stuff got handled badly. This is not unique to LJ. It happens in pretty much any good-sized community, sometimes.

The problem with any general review mechanism is that it also, historically, has brought in a lot of people who make abusive, nasty, or threatening comments (without much provocation). Those are stressful to deal with, and take time away from dealing with the actual issue.

LiveJournal is not a democracy. Even if it were, no policy that people care about is going to please everyone all the time. While I think it's certainly reasonable to have some way for users to say "Hey, can this be clarified" and that makes it clear people *are* thinking about it, I think users also have to realise they may not get what they would most like all the time.

Unfortunately, experience suggests that a noticeable portion of the population (on LJ or any other good sized community) not only don't get this, but get nasty when they don't get what they want. (I'm not talking about something like heated discussion: I'm talking threats, active harassment, etc.)

I'm not sure there's any solution to that that will entirely resolve that. What can be done is to make sure that the 98%+ of other cases where there isn't a huge hue and cry get dealt with promptly and effectively.

Robert Carnegie:
I'm also bewildered by LJ images that apparently must never actually depict the person writing, in any conventionally representational way.

Many people *choose* not to use photos of themselves, for a variety of reasons.

These range from privacy to the fact they don't like how they photograph or don't have a good one, to concerns about misuse of their image once it's out there. Some people make fake harassment journals (using someone's usericons, etc.) or do photo-manipulations to poke fun at, harass, etc.)

But it's totally allowed, and I know a number of people who use them. (Including, incidentally, a number of people on the Abuse Team).

#340 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:23 PM:

There are two positions here: that naked breasts are OK in default icons in some cases, and that they are not. If you have a neutral term that I can use to describe the first camp which does not conflate it with unrelated issues (pro-breastfeeding, for instance), I'll be happy to adopt it.

"Unrelated issues"? You have got to be joking.

You're arguing that some breastfeeding images are fine for default icons, but others aren't, based solely on skin color and areola size. Two moms could be nursing the same-size babies in the same position, the same distance from the camera, and one with pale skin and/or small and undifferentiated areolae would be acceptable while one with darker skin and/or large areolae would not. That's discriminatory.

#341 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:28 PM:

Jenett: "This is against our current policy. We have noted multiple cases about this: if you think the policy needs revision or clarification, here's the appropriate mechanism [link] to start that in motion. However, unless and until a change is made, you still need to have a user icon which meets our requirements [here]."

I think that response - clear, not telling a nursing mother a pic of herself breastfeeding her baby is "graphically sexual or violent", and offering a specific way of providing feedback to change the policy, would have avoided most of the problems. Certainly it would have avoided the problem of mass numbers of people e-mailing LJ Abuse, and then, as they got a stonewall "we're not changing what we do and you can't make us", e-mailing SixApart. It's a pity no one on LJ Abuse thought of doing it.

#342 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:19 PM:

And regarding the nude victims...

I'm unaware of a law specifically making a provision for victims who are nude. Let's say that a woman is kidnapped, assaulted, and left dazed on the street. A total asshole cop, I suppose, could probably technically ticket her--you know, applying Doug Bryan's rule comparing breastfeeding mothers to speed violators: "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"--but no cop would ever do that. (At least not here. Women in other countries are sadly not so lucky and are routinely arrested for being violated.) Because the fact is still that nudity is against the law. Thus, yes, pictures of the woman nude would still violate the law.

But breastfeeding is not against the law. Breastfeeding is not considered indecent exposure, and it's not considered nudity. Thus, there is no reason at all why pictures of breastfeeding would be considered indecent.

#343 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:19 PM:

Userpics in which exposed areola is visible incidental to a depicted act of a mother breastfeeding a child are not to be considered inappropriate for any use across the site.

Dreamalynn:
Part of the point of the policy about default user images is to be fairly sure that images won't run into workplace, library, or other internet access point policy conflicts. Some of those policies are badly written. Some are intentionally (and in some cases wrongly, in my opinion) very restrictive. They still exist.

(How big a problem? Good question: I'm not sure there's a way to tell without running the risk of ballot stuffing or other manipulation of a poll, without a lot of time and energy.)

However, just as many people in this discussion have said breastfeeding mothers get support from those communities, other people also want the support and info they get from LiveJournal. (Some of whom get 'Net access from sources with badly designed or intentionally restrictive policies.)

I'm personally inclined towards a policy that doesn't privilege one person's desire for supportive community over another person's, when that's possible. (Which, in this case, would seem to be allowing the images, but not as the default.)

Social change so this wasn't an issue (both on the breastfeeding side, *and* on the "Y'know, seeing stuff on a screen as part of a varied exposure to the world will not permanently warp you" side) would be great. But it's not going to happen overnight. Policy in the meantime needs to take the realities into consideration.

#344 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:23 PM:

Certainly it would have avoided the problem of mass numbers of people e-mailing LJ Abuse, and then, as they got a stonewall "we're not changing what we do and you can't make us", e-mailing SixApart. It's a pity no one on LJ Abuse thought of doing it.

Part of the issue is that there's no current clear way to do that (apart from mailing the Feedback address, I think).

There are ways to work on that, certainly, and now that the idea's out there, hopefully there can be better clarity in future.

#345 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Jenett: Part of the issue is that there's no current clear way to do that (apart from mailing the Feedback address, I think).

So idontlikepeas's suggestion that LJ Suggestions was the appropriate community was wrong? Or just "not obvious" - not even to LJ Abuse team members?

#346 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:46 PM:

Jenett: Part of the point of the policy about default user images is to be fairly sure that images won't run into workplace, library, or other internet access point policy conflicts. Some of those policies are badly written. Some are intentionally (and in some cases wrongly, in my opinion) very restrictive. They still exist.

It's entirely plausible that there are people writing workplace, library, or other internet access point policies who think that a picture of a woman breastfeeding her child is "inappropriate". It's also plausible, IMO, that there are people who would think that a picture of two men kissing is "inappropriate". Or that a pic of an interracial couple kissing is "inappropriate".

People have prejudices. People with strong, confirmed, unchallenged prejudices are more likely to write those prejudices into a workplace policy on what you can or cannot access at work.

I think that people who work in places where their workplace policy is so restrictive they know they cannot even risk a 100 by 100 pic of a woman breastfeeding her child appearing on the screen, need to be able to access livejournal and see no icons. I don't see why this shouldn't be possible - allow people to access their journal with all images switched off so that all you see is the placeholder boxes, including any icons.

#347 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:50 PM:

Just musing further...

In comments above, Rick Keir mentioned the risk from DOPA, which could restrict LJ access from schools and public libraries. Charlie Stross points out the importance of LJ reaching eyeballs.
And there's been lots of talk about how many non-user pages (interest-lists, searches and profiles) where default icons appear.

I wonder if we're not missing the elephant in the room:

Filtering software
Isn't a large part of the problem that most filtering programs are flawed in ways that overblock innocent content? And LiveJournal would be hurt immeasurably if... nudity... on otherwise innocuous pages cause people to lose access to LiveJournal as a whole.
[We're talking the difference between filtering of _watchmebreastfeed.livejournal.com_ (which just blocks that user) and _www.livejournal.com/schools/?who-else-attended-my-HS_ (which could lead to the blocking of all _livejournal.com_).]

Out of curiousity, are lactivists working with filtering companies to ensure nursing images aren't censored by the software? That could be effective leverage when dealing with LJ/6A -- and other web services where this may arise in the future -- as I'm sure that is one of their considerations.

#348 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:51 PM:

I did a poor job of phrasing my last comment. Let me clarify that I am sure Mr. Bryan would in no way approve of cops arresting or ticketing a nude victim.

The quote is from here, for those who want to see it in context; I was simply using the same analogy he used.

#349 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 02:28 PM:

Yonmei: It's entirely plausible that there are people writing workplace, library, or other internet access point policies who think that a picture of a woman breastfeeding her child is "inappropriate". It's also plausible, IMO, that there are people who would think that a picture of two men kissing is "inappropriate". Or that a pic of an interracial couple kissing is "inappropriate".

I think we were writing our comments at the same time.

The problem isn't necessarily intolerant individuals setting policies based on what personally offends them, but that institutions take the lazy way out and just outsource the decisions to a black-box filtering program.

Been trying to find more about how filtering programs handle breastfeeding, and came upon a recent post by Kathryn Cramer that describes her conversations with one popular provider.

According to Tomo Foote-Lennox, a director of filtering data for Secure Computing:

Medical diagrams are rated as nudity if they are explicit, but also as health, educational or consumer information. Many elementary schools choose to block all nudity, but high schools usually exempt health and education, meaning if it is health or education, you ignore any other category it may have.
The NYT explains
According to the company's definition, the Nudity classification applies to sites containing "nonpornographic images of the bare human body. Classic sculpture and paintings, artistic nude photographs, some naturism pictures and detailed medical illustrations" are included.
A few months ago, BoingBoing was banned because "a site reviewer at Secure Computing spotted something fleshy at Boing Boing and tacked the Nudity category onto the blog's classification." (Times again).
Some companies claim to have computerized image-recognition that can filter sites without requiring human intervention or judgment. And fleshtones and nipples may be more-easily detected by machine than the genders or races of a kissing couple...

That's what you're up against and what (I increasingly suspect) LJ is afraid of.

#350 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 02:28 PM:

Susan: That was precisely what I was trying to get at. Thanks. And for what it's worth, I'm pro-naked breasts (in pretty much ANY context wherein a topless male would be appropriate, and ambivalently pro-special allowances for breastfeeding in public). I'm just trying to remind myself that cultural expectations are a tad more complex than Are Boobs Okay? Check Yes or No.

idonotlikepeas: *applause* Thank you for being consistently on topic, logical, and articulate. It makes this whole thing easier to read.

Deanna: "Unrelated issues"? You have got to be joking. You're arguing that some breastfeeding images are fine for default icons, but others aren't, based solely on skin color and areola size."

I don't think that was the point. Breastfeeding images are not the only breast images that aren't (or shouldn't be) considered graphically sexual or offensive. My tits do not need to be sanctified by the presence of a hungry infant.

#351 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 02:37 PM:

A note for the attention of idontlikepeas

I'm not even going to address the "FAQ 111 is not the ToS" thing in detail again. Just to note that it isn't, and changing it isn't changing the ToS.

You are correct that the FAQ is not part of the TOS.

You appear to believe that the TOS is the whole of the contract between LJ and user.

This belief is incorrect.

It's perhaps more important that LJ were using a private interpretation of the ToS which did not match that published in the FAQ. Were the case to go to law, it would count against LJ that they had, in essence, lied.

#352 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 02:49 PM:

Not true. What the policy used to be was that a user's default userpic could not contain "graphic sexual or violent content".

Nope. You're just seeing the same summary of it that was previously used in the FAQ. That summary was determined to be inadequate because some people object to the use of the word "sexual". But the summary is not the policy, for the same reason that the FAQ is not the policy.

"Unrelated issues"? You have got to be joking.

I'm not. To say "pro-breastfeeding" is to take two completely seperate issues - whether breastfeeding is acceptable and whether default icons can have visible nipples in some cases - and present them as the same issue. It also confuses the issue of what the opposition believes (by extension, they must be "anti-breastfeeding"!). I refuse to participate in any such deceptive rhetorical scheme. The notion that LiveJournal is somehow anti-breastfeeding is one of the things about this entire mess that I find most objectionable.

You're arguing that some breastfeeding images are fine for default icons, but others aren't, based solely on skin color and areola size.

I am not. I'm talking purely about the exposure or non-exposure of the nipple and areola. And for heaven's sake, let's not bring racism into it. It is always possible to take a breastfeeding picture that doesn't include an areola. It is more difficult for some women, yes, but it's no more discriminatory than saying, for instance, that even women with excessively large breasts must still cover them in public when not breastfeeding (despite the fact that this requires them to spend more on specialized clothes).

I'm unaware of a law specifically making a provision for victims who are nude.

To the best of my knowledge and belief, it is legal for emergency personnel to remove your clothing to save your life, even if you are in a public place and your clothing is destroyed in the process. But even if it is not legal, it is certainly considered appropriate. Nevertheless, the image of the post-clothing-removal naked body, without the original context, would still be considered inappropriate in that same physical location the next week.

#353 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:00 PM:

It's perhaps more important that LJ were using a private interpretation of the ToS which did not match that published in the FAQ. Were the case to go to law, it would count against LJ that they had, in essence, lied.

I'm not a lawyer, but this seems like a losing battle. In the ToS they deliberately retain the right to cancel the account for any reason without notice. In a court case, they could at any time simply point at that provision and shrug. As long as they weren't discriminatory on protected grounds (and no, the size of the areola doesn't count there), there isn't a case.

Whether it's ethical is another issue entirely. It is fairly clear to me that they didn't consider their use of the term "inappropriate" to be subject to this much interpretation when the ToS was originally constructed. That is to say, they relied on a common understanding of the word which appears not to exist for some portion of their userbase. That's an error in judgment, but it doesn't make their subsequent clarification of the policy unethical.

If they'd said "No pictures of wombats. We consider them inappropriate", there might be a reasonable argument that they couldn't possibly have intended the ToS to include that when they wrote it, and that they were therefore unethically changing the agreement after it was written, but that certainly doesn't seem to be the case here.

Remember also that they enforced this policy for years without incident; it seems unlikely that they had any reason to believe they had explained themselves inadequately until this event occurred.

#354 ::: Isabeau ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:00 PM:

It's perhaps more important that LJ were using a private interpretation of the ToS which did not match that published in the FAQ. Were the case to go to law, it would count against LJ that they had, in essence, lied.

What was published in the FAQ was not so much "Images containing X, Y, or Z are not permitted" (such that Q, not explicitly listed, is contrary to that), as much as "Images that are inappropriate are not permitted. In particular, X, Y, and Z are bad" (such that Q, not explicitly listed, can still qualify).

I don't know that LiveJournal has the obligation to explicitly list everything that is not permitted; that list would be long, boring, redundant in places, and an invitation for troublemakers to create and use a default userpic that obeys the letter but not the spirit of the list.

(I find it amusingly ironic that for all the time I've read and enjoyed the Making Light blog and its contents, the only time I poke my head out of lurkerdom is in the discussion of a very charged discussion that for the first time has made me disappointed in this blog, and a discussion where nothing I say is likely to have much effect. heh.)

Also, to Yonmei and others who maintain that rahaeli's default userpic is in violation of the no-nipples policy, I would like to point out that the woman in her userpic is indeed wearing clothing -- perhaps only a bra, but certainly enough to more than cover the entirety of the breasts.

#355 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:20 PM:

To say "pro-breastfeeding" is to take two completely seperate issues - whether breastfeeding is acceptable and whether default icons can have visible nipples in some cases - and present them as the same issue.

You were specifically talking about the moms who are complaining about this, Idonotlikepeas. Many of those moms are not "pro-naked-breast." Breastfeeding is not "naked" by law. (And actually, yeah, the TOS does say it goes by "law.")

It is more difficult for some women, yes, but it's no more discriminatory than saying, for instance, that even women with excessively large breasts must still cover them in public when not breastfeeding (despite the fact that this requires them to spend more on specialized clothes).

Again, you're comparing nudity to breastfeeding. Your prejudice is clear. Breastfeeding is not indecent or nudity, and yes, the policy does discriminate based on skin color, whether you like race coming into it or not.

Nevertheless, the image of the post-clothing-removal naked body, without the original context, would still be considered inappropriate in that same physical location the next week.

Yet again, this is because public nudity (or public depictions of it) is not lawful. Breastfeeding is not considered public nudity.

#356 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:39 PM:

You were specifically talking about the moms who are complaining about this, Idonotlikepeas. Many of those moms are not "pro-naked-breast." Breastfeeding is not "naked" by law. (And actually, yeah, the TOS does say it goes by "law.")

A) That isn't true. The law simply says that mothers won't be penalized for baring their breast to feed their child. That doesn't transform the breast into a non-naked breast, it just provides an exemption from the penalties usually associated with naked breasts.
B) We're talking about culture and common usage, not law, and in that case it's even clearer that a breast with no covering on it is a naked breast. That's what the words "naked" and "nude" mean.

Again, you're comparing nudity to breastfeeding. Your prejudice is clear. Breastfeeding is not indecent or nudity

I'm not. I'm saying that nudity isn't dispelled by the fact that breastfeeding is happening at the same time. To say otherwise is a misconception of what the word 'nudity' means. And I am not claiming that breastfeeding is indecent. Only that naked breasts in some situations are inappropriate. In some cases breasteeding images may include naked breasts, and in some they do not.

I'm sorry that you can't see the difference between those two stances; I have tried to articulate it as plainly as I can. You may, of course, assume what you like about my biases; that's wholly irrelevant to the discussion.

and yes, the policy does discriminate based on skin color, whether you like race coming into it or not.

It does not, for the reasons I have just explained. Discrimination doesn't mean "everyone is required to do the same thing, even though it may be more difficult for some people". It means "people with a certain characteristic are treated differently". With this policy, everyone is being treated the same way. This policy is the opposite of a discriminatory policy.

#357 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:44 PM:

Also, to Yonmei and others who maintain that rahaeli's default userpic is in violation of the no-nipples policy, I would like to point out that the woman in her userpic is indeed wearing clothing -- perhaps only a bra, but certainly enough to more than cover the entirety of the breasts.

Except that the 'bra' is entirely transparent and does not conceal the nipple at all. There has been much whining about 'we are just following the FCC regs.'. I can assure you that a woman wearing a transparent bra violates the FCC regs. So Rahaeli will be facing suspension, right?

This demonstrates quite nicely, just how lunatic LJ is being about this. Draw bra lines around Madonna's breasts, and it's fine; but a painting of the Madonna feeding Jesus is obscene.

So far the 'conversation' has gone like this:
Troll: Puts in reports.
LJ Abuse: "Begone with you foul witches and your obscene nakedness."
LJ Users: WTF? Your TOS said obscene images. Here is the section of California law, under which you claim to be acting, which specifically says that breast feeding women aren't obscene.
LJ Abuse: (quietly changes FAQ) See! TOLD YOU! You were violating our explict instructions.
LJ Users: You just changed that. We have screencaps.
LJ Abuse: It doesn't matter! We are following FCC rules!
LJ Users: An FCC lawyer says it's just fine for prime time as long as the child is latched.
LJ Abuse: Oh god! We are so abused, so put upon! How mean these people are to us! Off with their heads!


#358 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:50 PM:

Except that the 'bra' is entirely transparent and does not conceal the nipple at all.

It isn't, and it does. Look, interpretation! I honestly cannot see a nipple there. I blew it up earlier today and I saw a small color change in the nipple area, but that's about it. An entirely transparent bra looks quite different, although I fear you'll have to take my word on that as I'm not at liberty to search for such images presently.

WTF? Your TOS said obscene images.

FAQ is not ToS. ToS is not FAQ.

Don't see anything else that needs reponding to there.

#359 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:58 PM:

It means "people with a certain characteristic are treated differently". With this policy, everyone is being treated the same way.

No, they aren't. Women with larger and darker areolae are treated differently. They would have to cover up the breast entirely to show a picture of "breastfeeding."

You're right in that I shouldn't have said breastfeeding is not considered "naked" by law (because that's not legal terminology); I should have said that it's not considered "indecent exposure." Indecent exposure is defined as "intentional exposure of part of one's body (as the genitals) in a place where such exposure is likely to be an offense against the generally accepted standards of decency."

I understand your stance: that pictures which show areolae, even when depicting breastfeeding--which is perfectly legal in public and is not considered indecent exposure!--are not appropriate as default icons because the general public might see them. It does not make the slightest bit of sense.

#360 ::: Isabeau ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:59 PM:

Draw bra lines around Madonna's breasts, and it's fine

No. However, put Madonna in a bra, even if it's a photoshopped-on bra, and it's fine because it covers the breast area.

If you feel that the userpic is offensive, though, you're more than welcome to open an abuse report, and the situation will be considered. (And no, the answer will not be "rahaeli is our manager and our friend and therefore is exempt from all the rules", even though I'm sure that's what some people -- not necessarily you, just some people -- think happens. The answer may be that they do not judge the image to have sufficient nudity to be worth requiring a change on, or that they agree it is not appropriate for a default; as I am not on the abuse team and never have been, I can't say with 100% certainty how they will judge this.)

I'd also like to point out that "facing suspesion" is not the first line of action taken. In essentially all -- again, not on abuse team, can't say "all" with complete certainty -- cases of inappropriate default userpics, the user is notified and asked to change by a certain date and time, and only suspended if they do not make the change; and that suspension is generally temporary, as a measure to keep the default userpic from being visible, with the instructions (provided to the user in question) that when they are ready/willing/able to change their default userpic, they will be unsuspended in order to make that change.

(In my personal opinion, if someone is notified that their default userpic is not appropriate as a default, but they feel that there should be an exemption made, the best way to approach it would be to change the userpic and civilly ask if there's a way to request a change to the policy. But then again, I'm not one of the ones involved in this :) )

And while I am not going to respond to most of your summary of the conversation (which strikes me as being not quite true to the specifics of what happened), I would like to point out (or, as I believe this has been brought up before, reiterate) that the change to the FAQ was done to clarify matters so that people would have a better understanding of the existing policy, rather than as a change to policy; that the description in the FAQ gave examples, not limits, of what is not allowed; and that even if policy changes, the abuse team is far more sane and responsible than to try to accuse people of not having obeyed the changed policy before it was changed.

#361 ::: yellowest_finch ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:02 PM:

Have seen Rahaeli's icon hundreds of times, never seen an exposed nipple in it. Still don't, looking at a blown-up version now.

Excuse me, I should have said areola, and it is blatantly apparent that an area of darkened skin around where the nipple would be is visible. If LJA is going to threaten suspension of users whose default icons show even the tiniest hint of areola, then they should be held to the same standard.

#362 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:06 PM:

You're just seeing the same summary of it that was previously used in the FAQ. That summary was determined to be inadequate because some people object to the use of the word "sexual".

I would say that most people object to the use of the words "graphically sexual" when those words are used to describe - for example - an icon of the Madonna and Baby Jesus.

But the summary is not the policy, for the same reason that the FAQ is not the policy.

The FAQ is, however, where people are supposed to look to discover what "inappropriate" means on livejournal. Up until 20th May, anyone who looked there would discover that LiveJournal felt "graphic sexual or violent content" was inappropriate for default user icons - and would therefore have concluded that a pic of a woman breastfeeding a baby, being neither graphically sexual nor graphically violent, was perfectly appropriate.

So in fact, the change to the FAQ/to the Abuse Policy was effectively a change in policy - since before 20th May, no user of livejournal who was not on the abuse team or otherwise an "insider" could possibly have known that a breastfeeding pic was "inappropriate". A policy that no service user knows about that is suddenly declared really is, effectively, a policy change.

#363 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:07 PM:

Deanna: If I taped a plastic frog over my nipples and then walked into a mall, would that still be nudity? If I walked around topless with a bandaid over each nipple, am I then fully clothed? A baby does not negate the fact of public nudity, it simply makes it acceptable under the law. Breastfeeding involves the full or partial exposure of a breast. A breast which is not covered is naked, even if there is a baby attached. Babies are not clothing unless they are sewn together into into a garment.

#364 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:15 PM:

"graphically"- graph·ic P Pronunciation Key (grfk)
adj. also graph·i·cal (--kl)
Of or relating to written representation.
Of or relating to pictorial representation.
Of, relating to, or represented by or as if by a graph.
Described in vivid detail.
Clearly outlined or set forth.
Of or relating to the graphic arts.
Of or relating to graphics.
Geology. Having crystals resembling printed characters.

"Sexual"- x·u·al P Pronunciation Key (sksh-l)
adj.
Of, relating to, involving, or characteristic of sex, sexuality, the sexes, or the sex organs and their functions.
Implying or symbolizing erotic desires or activity.
Relating to, produced by, or involving reproduction characterized by the union of male and female gametes: sexual reproduction.

"breasts"- breast P Pronunciation Key (brst)
n.
Either of two milk-secreting, glandular organs on the chest of a woman; the human mammary gland.
A corresponding organ in other mammals.
A corresponding rudimentary gland in the male.
The superior ventral surface of the human body, extending from the neck to the abdomen.
A corresponding part in other animals.
The part of a garment that covers the chest.
The seat of affection and emotion: “Griefs of mine own lie heavy in my breast” (Shakespeare).
A source of nourishment.
Something likened to the human breast: the breast of a hill.
The face of a mine or tunnel.

Graphically sexual may simply refer to something which is a pictoral representation of anything associated with or pertaining to sexuality. Breasts are not defined as sexual, but do fall within the category because they are characteristic of the sexes (or at least one of them). It's a semantic issue, but it is valid to point out that "graphic" isn't always a judgement about how vile, vulgar or outrageous something is. Sometimes it just means picture.

#365 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:16 PM:

So, pixxxelpuss, this picture is graphically sexual?

#366 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:17 PM:

Babies are not clothing unless they are sewn together into a garment.

ahahaha!

#367 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:18 PM:

Pixxelpuss, I don't believe you saw my earlier response.

#368 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:04 PM:

The FAQ is, however, where people are supposed to look to discover what "inappropriate" means on livejournal. Up until 20th May, anyone who looked there would discover that LiveJournal felt "graphic sexual or violent content" was inappropriate for default user icons - and would therefore have concluded that a pic of a woman breastfeeding a baby, being neither graphically sexual nor graphically violent, was perfectly appropriate.

As Isabeau has pointed out, it said (and says) "in particular". Not "here is an exhaustive list of what is prohibited", but "here are some examples of what's prohibited". Even if you didn't believe that an exposed nipple was graphically sexual material, that's not intended to provide a complete list of everything inappropriate. If it were, the FAQ would be enormous. It only included the most common cases.

I understand your stance: that pictures which show areolae, even when depicting breastfeeding--which is perfectly legal in public and is not considered indecent exposure!--are not appropriate as default icons because the general public might see them. It does not make the slightest bit of sense.

It certainly does. Breastfeeding is legal in public places. Pictures of exposed breasts in which breastfeed may occur? The law seems to be silent about that, and the reasons for the law clearly don't apply. And custom certainly suggests that naked breasts are not welcome everywhere, with an exception made specifically to provide for the nourishment of babies. (As well as other exceptions for other reasons.)

You don't have to agree with my position, but to claim it doesn't make sense is disengenuous.

#369 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:17 PM:

You don't have to agree with my position, but to claim it doesn't make sense is disengenuous.

Breastfeeding is legal in public places.
But pictures of breastfeeding are unacceptable?

I'll say it: Your claim does not make sense.

#370 ::: Kim ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:25 PM:

idonotlikepeas: (From long, long ago) My point was that only suspending people who have "offensive" default icons implies that it's perfectly acceptable to have offensive non-default icons, and smells like a load of crap to me. If I complain about a non-default icon that I find truly and outrageously offensive (of which I can find plenty; and I'm not easily offended), probably nothing will happen because it's not the default icon. Therefore, offensive non-default icons are approved by LJ/SA. I haven't tested my theory yet, but since LJ/SA is making it a point that it's "only" the default icons at issue, I suspect that my theory will hold.

#371 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:32 PM:

Greg London: I think you're confusing legality and acceptability. Lots of things are legal that are totally socially unacceptable. Picking your nose, for instance. Cutting off your own left hand and eating it. Lying in bed pretending to be Jesus on the Cross and masturbating. The concepts are related, but not the same. The fact that breastfeeding is legal in public doesn't mean that it is socially accepted or socially acceptable in all situations (unfortunately- and this is part of why people are campaigning so hard for these lj icons). The fact that it is legal to do and legal to photograph doesn't make those photos socially acceptable to the lj community for display as default icons. Again, that may be sad, and who knows, if an lj referendum were held we might find otherwise. However, the fact that something is legal doesn't mean that a community must tolerate it.

#372 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:36 PM:

Even if you didn't believe that an exposed nipple was graphically sexual material

I do not believe that a pic of a woman breastfeeding is graphically sexual, no. Whether it is a picture of Mary with Jesus, or a friend with her 3-week-old daughter. Do you believe that this picture is graphically sexual but this default userpic is not? (If you're still at work, you shouldn't click on the first link: areola clearly visible.)

that's not intended to provide a complete list of everything inappropriate.

But it is supposed to provide a useful guideline. And while Livejournal is certainly entitled to change their policy whenever they like - the TOS says so - it's deeply irritating to be told that the policy never changed because as far as their staff are concerned a baby at its mother's breast is graphically sexual, but Madonna in a transparent bra that just blurs the nipple/areola is not.

#373 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:42 PM:

Kim: So nobody should be allowed to have offensive non-default icons? The point (as I understand it) of policing default icons is that these icons are much more easily stumbled across. I can understand and support that. If I have a website full of naked photos of myself eating raw pigs' feet, it is really only courteous to point out to people in advance that they may not want to click through (especially if the site is titled Tasty Soup Recipies). This is the same thing. It's fine to have adult or questionable content (and whether breastfeeding counts as this or not is a WHOLE other issue) on a website, it's probably a poor business practice to put that on your front page lest it become emblematic of your entire site despite the fact that it's only a small portion of it. If I have an enormous library of books, which includes two how-to anal sex guides, I may not want to display those prominently near the front door, lest people misunderstand what the library is. So unless you think no offensive icons should be allowed, I'm a little confused.

#374 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:52 PM:

Yonmei: I looked at both pictures, and I have to say that while the default icon is certainly sexier, the breastfeeding pic is much more graphic (extreme close-up, clear focus, photorealism, and cropped tightly to only include face and breast). And any graphic (by which I mean vivid and clearly set forth, as well as 'pictoral') representation of a breast (regardless of context) is a graphic representation of something regarded as highly sexual in American culture. As such, it is graphically sexual.

#375 ::: Kim ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:12 PM:

pixxelpuss: I see the point you're making, and I don't think all offensive icons should be banned. My knee-jerk reaction is that offensive icons are either okay, or they're not. Non-default icons are just as easily accessible as default icons. Default icons are only considered more visible because they show up in searches and on the user info page -- but I could upload a really offensive icon and use it to post to all my friends' and community LJs and to every post on my own LJ, and it would be much more visible than seeing it just once on my user info page or on a page of search results. To say that this "offensive" icon is okay, but that one is not simply because of where it is seems silly to me.

#376 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:14 PM:

is a graphic representation of something regarded as highly sexual in American culture.

If American culture regards breastfeeding babies as highly sexual, how is it that so many Americans were bewildered and confused at being told this? It wasn't and isn't just Brits who found it bizarre that a pic of a baby being fed was supposed to be a sexual image...

#377 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:49 PM:

is a graphic representation of something regarded as highly sexual in American culture.

Sometimes I feel like one trick pony for banaging on about this trivial little point (sometimes it just makes me look longingly at the 'don't make me type all this again' tickybox and think longingly "I wish that WORKED" *g*), but:

Even were this true, and others better informed than me seem to be doing a fine job arguing that it is not:

Live Journal is not American Culture. Live Jounral is an internationally used service and an international community.

And none of this is regarded as "highly" or even 'mildly' sexual where I, or many hundreds of thousands of other LJ users, come from. There are pro nursing ads with graphics more graphic than that on the Ottawa buses.

That the servers and employees are in the US means that there are issues related to US law, but that is not, in fact, the same thing.

#378 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:24 PM:

Does anyone think this shit is even slightly sensible?

Bar the "my LJ Abuse team, right or wrong" crew?

All I see is increasingly pathetic and illogical flailing about by people with no reasonable recourse.

#379 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:27 PM:

Kim: Fair enough. I think the default vs. regular icons thing is just a silly business thing, myself.

#380 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:43 PM:

And none of this is regarded as "highly" or even 'mildly' sexual where I, or many hundreds of thousands of other LJ users, come from. There are pro nursing ads with graphics more graphic than that on the Ottawa buses.

That the servers and employees are in the US means that there are issues related to US law, but that is not, in fact, the same thing.

Marna: But that is ultimately what it comes down to.

I could in fact have been fired for reading/participating in this thread from work yesterday, and for making a post in my own livejournal with a nude icon. I chose to do so anyway. a) because I weighed the actual chances of that occuring and determined that they were pretty damn slim b) will be done with the job within the next couple weeks anyway and c) have a bizarrely self-destructive streak at times.

I'm all in favor of bare breasts. And I'd love to live in a world where pictures of bare breasts -- whether breast-feeding or not -- were not something that could lose people their lj access.

But I don't live in that world. It doesn't exist. Livejournal's restrictions on nudity solely in default icons is actually them attempting to tread a very fine line and frankly I applaud them for that. They could say "no nudity in icons period." They haven't and they've shown an admiral disinclination to go that route.

I'm glad that these things are not a problem where you live. I wish I lived there too. (Don't I just.) But they are an issue where a large percentage of livejournals users live and work and they would be doing their users a disservice if they were to refuse to acknowledge that.

#381 ::: Isabeau ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:47 PM:

Breastfeeding is legal in public places.
But pictures of breastfeeding are unacceptable?

Breastfeeding is legal in public places because of the understood need to feed children. Images depicting breastfeeding do not in any way fulfill or affect that need.

My (admittedly limited) understanding of the laws is that breastfeeding is permitted (even when it would involve otherwise-unpermitted levels of nudity), rather than that breasts are OkeyDokey when there's a kid attached. This may seem like a trivial distinction, but I think it's an important one: it's the difference between breastfeeding superceding nudity laws/customs/taboos, and breastfeeding negating nudity laws/customs/taboos.

Which, now that I think about it, may be a fair amount of the misunderstanding in this situation. If you perceive it as negation, then pictures of breastfeeding are A-OK, because, hey! there's breastfeeding going on, therefore the taboos don't apply. But if you perceive it as levels of priority, then pictures of breastfeeding (with nipple / areola exposed) are no different than pictures of equally-exposed breasts sans baby.

I know that I fall into the second camp -- priority rather than negation -- and while I hesitate to speak for other people without their permission, I doubt I'm the only one there. And from what I've heard, a fair number of the ... I really need a good term for the people who are on the side of exempting breastfeeding images from the no-nipples-in-default-pics thing ... fall into the first camp, hence some of the arguments I've heard from that side.

And I had a point here, maybe, but I sort of fell asleep for a few hours, and the point wandered off to go play in the park or something.

#382 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:49 PM:

Niall McAuley: no, I don't think it's even slightly sensible.

I do think the "my lj abuse right or wrong" folks are getting reinforcements from that portion of the entitled who believe that things they find unimportant are by that fact unimportant, and things they don't like should be banned for everyone.

#383 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:50 PM:

However, the fact that something is legal doesn't mean that a community must tolerate it.

Just because an organization does not tolerate something that is legal, doesn't mean the community cannot campaign hard for it to be accepted within the community.

The idea of one group making some rules about what is "acceptable" is just as valid as another group pushing for those rules to be changed.

You seemed wrapped up in LJ's right to make rules but have no room that anyone else can negotiate for the rules to be changed. everything is negotiable.

#384 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 08:23 PM:

Cat:

Marna: But that is ultimately what it comes down to.

For you. And Gods know I don't want you fired. But ASIDE from concern for the wellbeing of my USian friends and lovers... what is't to me?

I'm glad that these things are not a problem where you live. I wish I lived there too. (Don't I just.) But they are an issue where a large percentage of livejournals users live and work

And they are NOT an issue where another large percentage live and work.

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Continental Europe... I'm leaving some out.

All of us together are not ALSO a large percentage of LJ?

Do you suppose LJ will give me a discount on my paid membership for having to continually be careful not to fall afoul of the community standards of a community to which I do not belong and to whose standards I do not subscribe?

They will like Hell. That'll be right after they get around to, I dunno, adding non-US phone post numbers. Which will be never.

But I object to people happily going along with them and framing the debate in completely UScentric terms in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reason I object to debates which frame slash as "written by straight women."

Hi. I exist. I paid for my account. In the same number of USD as USians members pay.

and they would be doing their users a disservice if they were to refuse to acknowledge that.

Did I suggest it not be acknowledged? Now, there's a difference between "acknowledge" and "roll over", and where lj currently falls on that scale is a point on which, clearly, reasonable persons may disagree. Reasonable people who are very very fond of one another, even.

But there is also a difference between acknowledging that fact and continually and repeatedly framing the entire discussion as if it were a US issue and only US law custom practice and standards ought to be applied.

(There are people on livejournal who are particupating from countries where FAR worse than firing could happen to them if they were caught looking at any number of currently perfectly acceptable default icons. Which is one reason, along with bandwidth issues, why I think there ought to be 'no pics' options on lj. But nobody is seriously suggesting that THEIR community standards be applied to this issue.)

#385 ::: Pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 08:29 PM:

Greg London: You're mistaken. I'm all for pushing for the rules to be changed. My personal preferences here would be that breastfeeding would be publicly acceptable, but done discretely to minimize the discomfort of people who for whatever reason are made uncomfortable by seeing it. I would like there to not be big stupid legal reasons to have to ban things that might be interpreted as naughty, but that's unrealistic. So I'd like for people to either accept lj's no nudity in default icons rule gracefully, or for all breast images to be acceptable in default icons. Either way, I think it merits discussion, since lj is a community and we are community members. That said, I think that arguing that because something is legal in some places, it should be acceptable everywhere is absurd. Whether or not breastfeeding SHOULD be acceptable/accepted everywhere, it simply is not (or at the very least we have no evidence that it is). I wouldn't want to be the one to decide this topic, and I'm certainly not joining the protest. However, I support your right to do so, and I believe that lj should do what best serves their community (whatever that is). But illogical or emotionally based arguments aren't persuading anyone, or changing the reality that this appears to be a contentious issue.

#386 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 08:39 PM:

Marna, I'm a Canadian living in Seattle. It sucks to live in a culture different from your own (and even living in Canada, you're kind of still living in US culture sometimes). But Livejournal is a US company and a huge number of the users (I would suspect the majority of users) are American. Nearly twice as many humans speak mandarin than speak english, should livejournal's default settings all be in mandarin? Should they cater to Chinese cultural standards? Considered together, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, etc. do not have a cohesive single culture. You may exist and be a paying customer but you're only one customer, and unless you can demonstrate clearly and logically why Ontarian standards should be applied on this topic as opposed to say, Californian standards, how it works where you are is irrelevant.

#387 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 08:45 PM:

We've had this discussion. Enough times we know each others parts by rote, I think. I'm not sure I'm up to rehashing it again in public tonight. However, in response to this:

(There are people on livejournal who are particupating from countries where FAR worse than firing could happen to them if they were caught looking at any number of currently perfectly acceptable default icons. Which is one reason, along with bandwidth issues, why I think there ought to be 'no pics' options on lj. But nobody is seriously suggesting that THEIR community standards be applied to this issue.)

It is in not only possible but fairly easy to set up livejournal so that on one's own livejournal and friendspage there are no icons at all and in communities the community default icon supercedes user icons. And frankly? I wouldn't be surprised if a "no icons anywhere on the site" mod isn't one that's being worked on for implementation, knowing lj and knowing lj users.

On the whole acknowledging vs. rolling over thing? I'm selfish, there I've said it. But I'd rather they roll over a bit on this one if it means that, for example, my niece can still access the site from her school and me from my office. And I still applaud them for having found a way to roll over only just as much as is necessary and no more, livejournal's line on nudity/indecendy/etc. is not perfect, but it's also a far cry from, to use an extreme example, myspace's hiring people to troll user journals looking for questionable content which I think was mentioned somewhere way way upthread

#388 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:18 PM:

I'll confess, I'm somewhat disappointed that after six or so hours, nobody's seen fit to address my points on filtering software.

Also, while I'm enjoying the discussion, I'm rather uncomfortable with the title.

LiveJournal's attack on women and mothers
As far as I know, no women nor mothers (and are there mothers that aren't women?) have been injured during the course of this debate.

Just as it's inaccurate to call somebody anti-breastfeeding merely for having a problem with a 100x100 pixel, no matter how supportive they may be of actual nursing of infants, so too is it inaccurate and inflammatory to say that LiveJournal has "attacked" anyone.

Sorry, but this has been nagging at me since I started reading the thread.

#389 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:41 PM:

Lis: No but there are definitely women who aren't mothers. And I don't know anything about the filtering stuff or I'd contribute. Probably repeatedly and obnoxiously.

#390 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:47 PM:

Cat: We'll be having it for the rest of our lives. Probably even if you move here. It'll keep.

Pixxelpuss, I think you have misunderstood me. I have absolutely NO expectation that LJ as an entity is ever going to start giving more than a token rat's ass about non-US users. As I said, they haven't even set up NON US PHONE POST NUMBERS yet. We're paying a fee that reflects having that service, but we can't USE it w/o paying international phone rates.

I ought to be I suppose grateful that they'll take a non US credit card and let me put through transaction without a ZIP code.

Boys will only read 'boys books'. Girls will read both boy's books and girls books. Better to write a boy's book.

A significant number of USians won't willingly function in an online environment where they're expected to remember not to be UScentric, or which is not set up to cater to USians. Non Usian users are used to this.

Etc.

I was merely objecting to the de facto designation in this thread of LJ as part of "US culture" and pointing out the a large number of the discussants here are making the precise same assumption, without the excuse of bills to pay.

It MIGHT perhaps occur to the pro-breastfeeding, pro-breast-are-decent sides to at least point at us sometimes as possible sources of support, or examples of communities likely to be offended by the CURRENT policy as discrimination.

It might. It rarely does.

#391 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:54 PM:

Having one's account suspended counts as an attack. Legally, the loss of use of LJ is clearly an injury.

What was inaccurate and inflammatory was the troll reporting breastfeeding pictures as if they were obscene.

#392 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:04 PM:

In regards to filtering, LJ has much more to worry about than default user icons. Google indexes LJ journals. Click on "Latest Posts" every once in a while and you'll see all kinds of stuff that may not usually be on your Friends list. I really don't think that these itty bitty user icons, which really aren't obscene, are somehow going to be the tipping point that gets LJ banned in Podunk.

Also, I am generally against the idea that bad filtering software somehow justifies bad policies about user icons.

#393 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:20 PM:

l'esprit d'escalier and all that...

It is not only possible but fairly easy to set up livejournal so that on one's own livejournal and friendspage there are no icons at all and in communities the community default icon supercedes user icons

...

But I'd rather they roll over a bit on this one if it means that, for example, my niece can still access the site from her school and me from my office.

And that's my point, really. You can. You and your niece absolutely can access lj from work or school, no matter what, by using the set up you're mentioning.

What LJ is doing here is ensuring that the default view of the site will always be acceptable to what they conceive USian sensibilities to be.

The rest of us -- shrug -- can make adaptations if we like.

And LJ will continue to do this, for reasons I've gone into above, and as I said above, I'm perfectly realistic about this. Cafe Utne did it too, and I coped just fine and liked it there a lot.

I am occasionally LESS realistic about the fact that this will continue to seem not only inevitable but normal, usual and sensible to the vast majority of USians, including the ones I most admire, like, and otherwise agree with.

#394 ::: Isabeau ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:22 PM:

As I said, they haven't even set up NON US PHONE POST NUMBERS yet.

That's actually a technical limitation, not a "LJ doesn't care" limitation -- there *would* be international numbers if it were possible, as well as more US numbers. The ideal situation would be for everyone, or at least the vast majority of users (non-US as well as US), to have a local phonepost number to call. The problem is that the company providing the service doesn't have the additional numbers / areas available.

I know it may not seem like it, but LiveJournal isn't trying to ignore or trivialize non-US users. :)

(oh, and I'd also like to say that someone who is pro-breastfeeding and pro-breasts-are-decent can still be on the side of "LiveJournal, and the abuse team, are doing what is necessary for a company based in the US". Personally, I'm all for breastfeeding and all for breasts! I would adore to have society change such that women could wander around topless without repercussions. But given that current US culture has certain taboos towards nudity and given that LiveJournal, being based in the US, is subject to US laws -- in much the same way that a hypothetical 12-year-old kid from SomeRandomCountry where you turn 'adult' at 10 would need parental permission as much as a 12-year-old kid from Somewhere, US, because of the COPPA restrictions -- LiveJournal has found it advisable to place certain restrictions based on those taboos.

and I kind of wandered away from my main point, which is that one can be pro-breastfeeding and pro-breast without feeling like LJ is being discriminatory or needlessly prudish. I love boobs, but I also recognize that there are societal and legal reasons why boobs are not appropriate in all forms and in all places. Unfortunate as it may be, this isn't a standard that LiveJournal just kind of arbitrarily came up with. (the "nipple vs no nipple" line may not be echoed in all other places, though I think that line was drawn to provide an objective delineation, rather than just relying on subjective judgments; but "naked breasts are ickybadwrong" is a sentiment that comes up a lot, and is in fact the prevailing societal attitude against which breastfeeding moms find it hard, though obviously not impossible, to fight.

#395 ::: Airawyn ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:32 PM:

Novalis - Wordpress is a great blogging program that Dreamhost supports. Go to your Dreamhost Control Panel, under Goodies/One-Click Installs, and follow the Wordpress instructions. I believe you can password-protect posts as well.

For reading, there are a number of RSS readers available for free. I'm experimenting with Wizz RSS myself, because I like having a Firefox plugin for it, but I haven't used it long enough to recommend it yet.

#396 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 12:49 AM:

There is one argument that keeps reappearing in this thread that strikes me as utterly inane.

This is the argument that, while breastfeeding is necessary for the health of the (breastfed) infant, pictures of breastfeeding are not necessary. Therefore, the argument goes, it's OK to ban those pictures. Or, more accurately, some of those pictures - the ones that "show nipples" whatever that may mean, and from default icons but not from nondefault icons. (Apparently, then, since default photos of nipple-showing breastfeeding are being banned because the photos are not necessary for the health of the infant, then if nondefault photos of breastfeeding are not being banned, apparently those photos are necessary for the health of the infant.)

What's inane about that is - sure, photos of infants feeding aren't necessary. But photos of any given thing aren't necessary. LC user photos at all aren't necessary.

LJ could just as easily ban photos of ... I dunno, of trees. Trees are necessary for the life of the planet, photos of trees aren't. You could come up with some reason why trees are "inappropriate." The argument could apply just as well there. That is to say, it's a useless argument no matter what the subject.

Look, either the thing is, or is not, obscene orotherwise bannable. If it is bannable, then ban it. Don't draw arbitrary lines around defaults. Trees, obviously, are not bannable. If nipples are bannable, then they're bannable whether or not the photos are "necessary." The whole argument that the photos aren't "necessary" is specious.

What's at stake is the right of LJ users to use whatever icons they want, as long as they aren't obscene or violate some other clear standard. Surely we've established by now that the nipple isn't obscene? "Inappropriate" is a completely arbitrary standard, especially when used as a weapon to close users' accounts.

Elsewhere, Idonotlikepeas writes,
For instance, if you were to ask "Why was my account closed?", then receive an explanation, then say "That isn't true! Why was my account really closed?" you might not receive an answer the second time.
This is apparently intended as a defense of the LJ Abuse team, but it stands as a terrible indictment of their unjustness. For if the explanation you are given is, in fact, not true - and there's been ample evidence given that the Abuse team is not perfect - the abused user has no recourse with them. To the Abuse team is given great power - apparently they have the power to suspend accounts, if I understand correctly. Of those given great power, great responsibility is required. It's not being shown here.

Idonotlikepeas also claims that the FAQ, before it itemized nipples/breastfeeding/whatever, did not implicitly allow it because it didn't specify everything. But unless it should be generally understood that nips/brfdg/etc fell under a previously listed category, then the FAQ did implicitly allow them. "Inappropriate" is not such a category, and the category of "graphically sexual" certainly is not universally understood to include breastfeeding, with or without nipple showing.

#397 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 01:02 AM:

TomB, who strikes me as having made among the few really sensible posts here, suggested mildly that if management receives a lot of angry letters on a subject, perhaps they should not dismiss them as spam but instead consider what the angry people are trying to tell them.

Idonotlikepeas countered that there was indeed spam: prewritten messages that could be sent by anyone who pressed a button.

One may question whether that's really spam or not - normal spam messages are identical ones sent by one person, these were identical messages sent by many people, and thus represented a much larger segment of opinion than the average spammer - but OK, let's take peas-hater's point as read, that there was a lot of ignorable junk in the protests.

But surely they weren't all like that? The presence of mass junk-mail doesn't negate the rest of the people sharing that view.

As for the objection that these messages went to admin people not involved in the decision in question, I think it unreasonable to expect complainers, who clearly hadn't been satisfied with the answers they'd gotten before, to be intimately acquainted with the details of the workings of the administration and every point of who is responsible for what. That a message went to an irrelevant person as well as a relevant one does not negate the content of that message.

#398 ::: Dreamalynn ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 01:33 AM:

My one and last remark on this increasingly tiresome subject:

Jenett: Part of the point of the policy about default user images is to be fairly sure that images won't run into workplace, library, or other internet access point policy conflicts. Some of those policies are badly written. Some are intentionally (and in some cases wrongly, in my opinion) very restrictive. They still exist.

First, I don't give any credence to arguments about LJ in the workplace and the need to cater to people who access LJ in the workplace. LJ is not a business site. Its applicability to anyone in the workplace is limited at best -- particularly if they're searching the schools or interests pages, the "LiveJournal Application Space" that is reputedly so sacred.

If your workplace would frown upon tiny photographs of a breastfeeding child that may show five square pixels that are somewhat darkened and may be areola, why wouldn't your workplace frown upon you accessing a website where one click beyond those search pages can land you on pornography, advocacy of white supremacy, stories about incest, and on and on?

As for libraries, having had my own website deemed inappropriate for adults to access via computers in my local library system based upon a single, angry, political blog post criticizing hate groups which was deemed to be hate content (can't be intolerant of intolerance, doncha know) I'm sure that if LJ is going to be barred in libraries, userpics, default or otherwise, won't be the only reason why.

In short, I'm just not buying what you're selling there. It looks good from a distance, but falls apart up close.

#399 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 05:28 AM:

There's going to be a nurse-in at SixApart's San Francisco office at noon Pacific Time on Monday 5th June. Cool.

#400 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 08:11 AM:

idonotlikepeas suggested several times in this thread that people objecting to the policy change banning icons with breastfeeding pics should have contacted the LJ Suggestions community rather than LJ Abuse.

One of the mothers affected by the policy change did suggest a policy change to the LJ Suggestions community, who told her:

The FAQ reflects current policy. If you have concerns about an Abuse policy, please contact the Abuse Team following the instructions in [URL]

So it appears that the "correct channels" that idontlikepeas wanted people to follow were, in fact, to contact the LJ Abuse team.

#401 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 11:28 AM:

idonotlikepeas (answering me): There wasn't a change or conversion involved. There was no discussion because this was simply the routine enforcement of a long-term policy,

I'm not a member of LJ and have never read the written policy and/or FAQ, but a number of people have stated here that it was changed, e.g. from "graphically sexual" to "no nudity". Would you be prepared to state under oath, with documentation, that they are wrong? In view of the screencaps people have declared?

So it wasn't in the ToS? BHD. In practice, "the Law" consists of both legislation and explication. And if it was just "policy", not published (as you've also suggested), you don't have a leg to stand on. And if you wish, like pixxelpuss, to argue that any display of a nipple is sexually graphic, I think you are walking away from settled law and into John Ashcroft's corner -- which is a silly place to be.

And I repeat: apologies are useful. If LJ had \begun/ by stating (as some have here) that it was afraid of being nailed by reactionary versions of "community standards" and was therefore going to refine its policy, and been a little lighter with the suspension threats, it could have saved itself a lot of trouble. ("Refine" is a deliberate question-begging term, admitting that you meant all along something that many people did not find in your broad statement.) Instead you're tieing knots of illogic tighter and tighter in an attempt to prove that what LJ did is 100% correct.

And in every complaint against them where sufficient public information was available to make a determination, I've never found one where they committed a serious error.

"I find that as hard to swallow as this potage St. Germaine." People -- real people -- make mistakes, sometimes serious ones. This is especially true of enforcers (see nearby thread concerning what to do when the police show up), even volunteer enforcers with the best will in the world. If you have never found one, your searching ability, breadth of experience, and/or judgment are too narrow to speak for such a huge operation as LJ.

Jenett: wrt your discussion of how quickly the decision had to be made: when did the Abuse Team turn into a combat situation? Or even a loss-of-service? The immediate reaction to the flood of complaints about other people should have been "Who can I discuss this with?" That's particularly important in a volunteer group; one of the big payoffs when you're not getting paid is knowing that you'll have a voice in critical decisions. (And one of the requirements for volunteers who make any sort of decision is being willing to ask; is that not a part of the training?)

#402 ::: digable ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 12:04 PM:

So, if I understand this correctly:

1. LiveJournal has decided that they will not permit certain breastfeeding icons to be used as default.

2. A group of individuals have registered their dislike of this policy with LiveJournal.

3. LiveJournal has indicated it's not going to do anything, under the "our site, our rules, deal" clause.

4. Individuals who do not care for this non-change in policy are packing up and leaving for other journal sites.

In other words, the Internet is functioning as it always has, save for the fact that a group of individuals who can't cope with not getting their way are having a tantrum about it.

#403 ::: Linda ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 01:02 PM:

4. Individuals who do not care for this non-change in policy are packing up and leaving for other journal sites.

Unfortunately some of them are also threatening to return to LJ after their tantrum.

#404 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 01:10 PM:

digable,

If a real person, rather than a corporation, behaved in the manner that LJ has done, it would likely get punched in the nose.

#405 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 01:32 PM:

"In other words, the Internet is functioning as it always has, save for the fact that a group of individuals who can't cope with not getting their way are having a tantrum about it."

Well, now. I also had this correspondence with the head censor for SmartFilter which takes much the same attitude toward the female breast. And with filtering software, you can't just take your marbles and go home.

Six Apart ought to know better that quagmire when they don't have to. Or maybe that's what this is really about: keeping SmartFilter and their ilk from issuing a blanket block on LJ.

#406 ::: digable ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 03:48 PM:

Of course, Dave. The appropriate response to anyone who doesn't let me do everything I want to do is physical violence.

#407 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 03:55 PM:

Oo, digable, I think you'd benefit immensely from a haiku I wrote the other day!

You say this debate
is a waste of time? So leave.
Pompous hypocrite.

#408 ::: digable ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 04:02 PM:

Maddy, if the sounds from outside the echo chamber pain you, don't forsake your shelter.

#409 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 05:08 PM:

Dreamalynn:
First, I don't give any credence to arguments about LJ in the workplace and the need to cater to people who access LJ in the workplace. LJ is not a business site. Its applicability to anyone in the workplace is limited at best -- particularly if they're searching the schools or interests pages, the "LiveJournal Application Space" that is reputedly so sacred.

Depends on the workplace.

I work for a private non-religious high school (in the library). I'd say I make noticeable use of information from LJ at least once a week. Sometimes it's a useful piece of information in the library communities I read. Sometimes it's a post in an RSS feed. Sometimes I ask my friends list for information or advice about a particular topic. Sometimes I go looking for a community on a specific topic, and see what FAQ or other resources they may list in their user information page.

I have occaisionally amazed my boss or teachers by being able to get an answer to specialised questions quickly by knowing I could ask my friends list and that any one of 4 or 5 people might be able to help. (My boss and I are both humanities/social sciences people by background: I have several people on my friends list with serious formal scientific backgrounds, which can be very handy for "Is X book actually good science?" or "What terms do I really want to use to narrow down this topic in searches?")

Plus, those professional resources don't always know that Magazine X is somewhat more likely to have scantily clad covers than Magazine Y. Or that while both cover SF content, Magazine X is stuff that's probably more accessible to busy teens.

Now, I'm lucky. The school doesn't have a specific policy about nudity online (and, unlike *many many* schools, doesn't filter: they just log sites gone to). We get magazines that sometimes feature significant uncovered skin (Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Psychology Today.) But some of those don't go up on the shelf - they get a note saying they're in the library office. (Not so much from content, but because those are the issues that get torn to pieces. But people tear off the cover to keep, etc. *because* of the near-nudity, so...)

I don't run interest searches very often - I do, however, do them sometimes, looking for specific topics. I much more commonly check out someone's user information page to see if they have information about their background (because they gave information elsewhere, and I want to see how reliable to consider it.)

one click beyond those search pages can land you on pornography, advocacy of white supremacy, stories about incest, and on and on?

Nope. Because you can generally see that you shouldn't click on those in advance if you use your brain. In other words, it is a specific choice to do so, not something that just shows up from other searches. (And in the case of advocacy of white supremecy or other hate speech issues, there are sometimes it's relevant and appropriate: if a student is doing a project on that topic, for example.)

Beyond all of this, I know a number of people who use work access to provide serious, thoughtful information.

A friend (doctorate in psychology) is working for a medical company doing work on providing consumer health information online. She's been posting her findings in a LJ community, both so she can tag and find them again, and so that other people who are interested in the topic can make use of the information.

Totally okay with her employer (which does log and check 'Net usage), but complicated to explain if she had certain kinds of content show up on her screen from basic site navigation (searches, checking someone's userinfo to see their background.) Various people often comment back with links to other things she hadn't found yet, other information, etc.

I actually know several people who do that, the friend above is the one where it's most clear that it's beneficial to her job, as well as being good for her morale, stress levels, personal work habits, etc.

I'm sure that if LJ is going to be barred in libraries, userpics, default or otherwise, won't be the only reason why.

No. But they may be an additional weight to doing it. It certainly has made a difference in some of my conversations with parents, to be able to say "Your kid would have to go looking for it in specific ways. Your kid is bright: they can generally figure out what's appropriate and not with a little guidance, and that's something they need to learn before college."

(Entirely logical dividing line? No. But it has made a difference in real-world conversations with real people, which is worth taking into account.)

#410 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 05:22 PM:

Jennett, I make professional use of livejournal myself, so I see where you're coming from, but still: but complicated to explain if she had certain kinds of content show up on her screen from basic site navigation (searches, checking someone's userinfo to see their background.)

Like a woman breastfeeding a baby? I know pixxelpuss asserted that in the US, a baby at breast is considered to be a graphically sexual picture, but I'm still staring at that notion and finding it difficult to believe.

#411 ::: FairestCat ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 05:36 PM:

Jenett: Thank you for spelling out so thoughtfully what I have been struggling, here and elsewhere, to convey.

Kathryn: keeping SmartFilter and the like off their back is exactly what livejournal's nudity policy is about. That's what several of us have been saying all along. It serves nobody's interests if livejournal gets itself blocked by the largest net-nannies. It's a loss to those users who lose their access and to the rest of us who've lost their addition to the community of livejournal.

#412 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 05:47 PM:

Like a woman breastfeeding a baby? I know pixxelpuss asserted that in the US, a baby at breast is considered to be a graphically sexual picture, but I'm still staring at that notion and finding it difficult to believe.

I haven't had a chance to ask her. But potentially, yes. Even if it's not actually considered a problem or inappropriate use at the end of the discussion, the discussion takes work time and resources.

I certainly am not crazy about it at work, because I am not the ideal person or most articulate in my workplace to have a discussion with teenage boys about why a breastfeeding image is different from other nudity. I'd prefer to avoid that conversation by not viewing them unintentionally, personally.

(I think the appropriate people for that conversation are their parents and at our school, health teachers or the school counsellor.)

#413 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 05:47 PM:

The weirdest thing about seeing all these LJ Abuse team boosters claim that breast feeding images are inappropriate because they feature bared sexual organs is that in Real Life people think breast feeding babies are super-cute.

They say "Awww!" and "Petit mignon!" and words to that effect. They smile spontaneously. They laugh, they wink at the babies dad, they are just so fucking pleased to see such a happy little baby in action.

The general public are so not on the LJ Abuse team.

#414 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 06:34 PM:

CHip:
Jenett: wrt your discussion of how quickly the decision had to be made: when did the Abuse Team turn into a combat situation? Or even a loss-of-service? The immediate reaction to the flood of complaints about other people should have been "Who can I discuss this with?"

One issue in any heirarchical structure is that sometimes the people who can decide that something falls outside of normal policy need to eat, sleep, attempt to have a personal life, etc.

I want to stress I have not seen any specific details about this case. I do know, speaking from past experience, that it is possible for things to fall out like the following.

1) Someone reports something in JournalA as a violation.

2) Violation is deemed to be totally within the bounds of current policy. Standard response to that is sent out. (In most cases where this particular avalanche has happened, the response goes out sometime in the later evening.)

This is the point which is often the significant catch. The thing is, there's a lot of stuff that comes up for the first time. There isn't a lot of conversation between people doing this work on different services (I certainly know of no professional or volunteer list that covers it) so there's a certain amount of reinventing the wheel. There's also just stuff I, personally, have come across, that I'd never have thought about in advance. (And I'm the kind of person who normally does a lot of internal personal rehearsal of possible scenarios.) There's a post on my LJ for people who want some specific examples.

While some people might spot some issues better than others, having multiple people look at every case and answer just in case there's something weird doesn't strike me as very efficient (or very necessary, 99% of the time.) And, frankly, to make that work, it would need to be people with different backgrounds, sensitivities, etc. This is easy to do when it's something new or odd, but where is that line?

3) Back in our timeline, UserA gets the response (let's say they get it at 10pm, their time) is unhappy with the response, posts to their journal and possibly other communities about how nasty the Abuse Team is being.

4) Irritated conversation happens while people discuss their feelings, annoyances, and what they want to do.

5) While there are often people on the Abuse Team with really wacky schedules (or living in different parts of the world: most of the team has usually been in the US, but has had people living in Asia, the UK, and a couple of other places I know of) most people do have some form of day job, and eventually go to bed.

6) Whoever is still checking in may start seeing complaints, but not deal with them yet. (Small write-in campaigns are not terribly uncommon, and much of the time, are people making trouble, or who just don't like a policy, not those who are presenting thoughtful reasons why it needs changing.)

Or, if they get dealt with, they get the standard "Write in campaigns are not the way to get us to change policy: we can only work with the person directly affected. Here's the policy." reply (Bear in mind that in the case of a user icon, the person contacted still has time - at least 48 hours at this point - to decide to make it non-default, and from the Abuse Team's point of view, further action doesn't happen until they don't comply.)

7) In a number of cases I can recall, there might be 10 “Hey, that’s a stupid policy” or questions at 8am. There might be 50 at 9am, and potentially a hundred or more at 10am. Somewhere in the middle of that - usually somewhere by the time you get 30-40 replies done, and see more coming in - it becomes clear there’s a much bigger issue. But by this time, the people who've gotten the "Don't start a write in campaign" are already upset to have gotten the answer, don't like it, and stuff escalates.

The board is suddenly swamped, people who were not online early in the morning need to catch up, and there's a risk of other cases which are more important in the grand scheme of things (child porn issues, direct RL threats and evidence thereof, etc.) not getting noticed in a timely fashion.

The technology to help with this has improved a *tremendous* amount from a couple of years ago - but it's still more complex to track 100 open reports/questions that need answers than 40. (Usability reasons, partly: you can get about 20-25 report summaries on a screen before scrolling.)

So, what helps? [‘You’ in the following is meant as a general/generic one, not specific]

1) The Abuse Team does best with specific questions. If you’re not sure if a particular icon or icons are okay as a default, for example, send them links, and ask. This is better than using it and waiting for someone to report you for two reasons. First, it’s a shorter response process (they lose the step of having to send an email), and second, it makes it clear that you’re looking for clarification, etc. and trying to understand what the difference is, rather than the game some people play of “What’ll get me in trouble.”

2) If you really think the policy is wrong, or very unclear, do *not* start a write in campaign. Discourage one, in fact. Instead, collect infomation, arguments, any appropriate legal references that apply, etc. and write up a single letter to be sent by someone who’s considered responsible and trustworthy and who can remain levelheaded. Post it on a community, and get the people who agree to it to comment, if you want to demonstrate that it’s an issue for a number of people. Run it by a friend who is not very familiar with the issue or your concerns, and see if they have any questions.

Note in your subject line that it is a policy concern, and make it clear in the first sentence that you’d like a manager’s response. (Chances are, with this kind of content, the managers would look at it anyway, but this way everyone’s clear up front.) This will get your point across without swamping the board. It also doesn’t expect anyone to be psychic and read your mind about what you want or why something is a problem.

(I understand, in this case, that people found certain terminology offensive. Once breastfeeding friends explained some of it to me in a civil way, parts of it made a lot more sense as to why people were as upset as they were, but it was *not* intuitive to me in several places.)

Obviously, you are not responsible for what other people choose to do - but once you start talking about coordination, encouraging this method rather than everyone writing in can make a big difference in managability and overall response.

3) Be patient: any response of this kind might take a day or three (especially if something blows up on a Friday afternoon, or near a common long weekend or something: if something needs be discussed with 6A staff, for example, there may also be time differences.)

4) Absolutely avoid stuff that encourages harassment of Abuse Team members, flooding the board, or threats. This should be obvious, for mature people, but they’re not going to help, they’re just going to raise the tension level for everyone, and they’re going to delay any thoughtful response.

5) Understand that while the ‘Net allows instant communication, now, that people still read, discuss, etc. in real time. It may very well happen that something isn’t clearly a problem for some time, and that people may write in during that time. Give people a chance to respond to new information before adding more, when possible. (Especially if it is not a time-critical issue.)

6) If, after reasoned discussion and time for a response, you’re not satisfied, then you can go up the chain further in SixApart (or whatever other company.) I’m willing to bet that if you were able to demonstrate that you laid out your arguments clearly, avoided encouraging harassment or other problems, etc. and waited a reasonable time for a response. (I’d say 3-4 business days on something that's obviously become a noticeable issue, unless they ask for more time for some reason), that you’d be taken a lot more seriously than someone who went up the chain immediately, or who also encouraged nastiness. (Particularly about concerns about the process in general.)

#415 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 07:00 PM:

To be clear, I meant to (and I apologize if I didn't do this clearly) assert that an image of a woman breastfeeding could be Interpreted as being graphically sexual depending on the connotations and definitions used. I find a close up image of breastfeeding to be a graphic depiction of a sexual organ, but not to be graphically sexual.

Niall: Who are these supposed LJ Abuse Team boosters? I hope I'm not being counted as among them, because I don't recall mentioning any kind of approval for them. That said, the fact that babies are considered cute when being breastfed is A: irrelevant, anecdotal evidence, and B: directly contradicts the (also anecdotal) claims that breastfeeding mothers are discriminated against and considered repulsive and that in general nobody sees any positive images of breastfeeding and it needs to be rescued from it's morass of bad PR for the sake of the children.

#416 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 07:01 PM:

Jenett, you should realise that you just published a list called "How to really piss off the LJ abuse team". Did you warn them?

#417 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 07:13 PM:

pixxelpusss: I think you're an LJ Abuse team booster because you are one of the few toss-pots here claiming that LJ have a point when they say that images of breast feeding are fuck-me inappropriate end-fuck-me.

Are you claiming that you have no connection of any description with the LJ abuse community?

#418 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 08:21 PM:

Are you now or have you ever been affiliated with LiveJournal abuse?

Is that seriously what this discussion has come to?

[For the record, my only connection with LJ Abuse was the one time I was on the receiving end of a complaint filed against me. With that out of the way, on the whole I still find those siding with LJ Abuse in these threads more... convincing/sympathetic... than the other side. Not everything has been worded as well or sensitively as it could be, but (I think) we're all only human and nobody's perfect.]

#419 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 09:03 PM:

Niall: That was rude, inconsiderate, and irrelevant. "I don't agree with you and therefore you are a poopyhead."

No, I have absolutely no connection to the LJ Abuse team (to my knowledge, at any rate). Do you have the capacity for reason, logic or intelligent discourse? I haven't seen any evidence of that so far, but apparently evidence isn't required in this forum.

Thanks Lis, I appreciate the comment.

#420 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:38 AM:

Pixxelpuss: I find a close up image of breastfeeding to be a graphic depiction of a sexual organ, but not to be graphically sexual.

That isn't clearer than what you said upthread - it's distinctly different to what you said upthread. (I found both statements clear: but they're saying two different things.)

Jenett: I certainly am not crazy about it at work, because I am not the ideal person or most articulate in my workplace to have a discussion with teenage boys about why a breastfeeding image is different from other nudity. I'd prefer to avoid that conversation by not viewing them unintentionally, personally.

The only way anyone would be able to see that a pic 100 pixels by 100 pixels was of a woman breastfeeding would be if they were looking over your shoulder. That is in part what makes the whole thing so ridiculous to me. But it is also resolvable by a means that doesn't restrict domestic use of whatever icons you want: let Livejournal allow people to login and see no images at all, everything replaced by placeholder tags, including user icons. This avoids all the issues of filtering software and the problem of people looking over your shoulder.

#421 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:53 AM:

Niall: Are you claiming that you have no connection of any description with the LJ abuse community?

In fact, it's my general impression that current members of the LJ Abuse team are mostly steering well clear of this discussion, and wisely so. In any case, as I said upthread, while I think that the LJ Abuse team is poorly trained and badly managed/supported - this particular blowup could have been avoided in several different ways - I also strongly feel that it would be wrong to blame any individual volunteer on the LJ Abuse team for what is, plainly, a structural problem.

#422 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 03:09 AM:

Yonmei: I don't mean to change my story, here. The initial post was really only intended to show another perspective based on a semantic argument. The second is my own opinion (as refined by this conversation). Frankly, although I still don't agree with a lot of what has been argued here, the discussion has been very helpful for me in terms of clarifying my beliefs and perspectives (which have changed subtly over the course of the debate).

#423 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 03:40 AM:

Pixxelpuss, thank you for clarifying that. (I'd like to add that I think Niall's attack on you was extremely unfair, as well as rude.)

#424 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 04:54 AM:

I shall just say that, while I am undecided as to whether I shall suspend my LJ account as part of the planned protest, I find the way in which LJ handled the initial complaints to be pretty damned stupid.

It looks like they were suckered by a shit-stirring trouble-maker, and I see no reason to think that their system of handling abuse complaints will react any better in future. By acting as they have done, they have connived with uncivilised, trollish, behaviour.

I shall now go and waste my time in some other way, perhaps by posting implausibly contorted CGI furry porn images to some other website. Perhaps not, I need to mow the lawn.

#425 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 05:22 AM:

Since it seems to be necessary, let me first declare that I am pro-breast-feeding, pro-breasts, and no great fan of LJ Abuse, with whom my contacts have either been unsatisfactory or downright frustrating.

I'm also wish to apologise for delurking, and immediately making a criticism of the Nielsen Haydens, the very people who make it possible to do so. I know this is despicably rude and I do sincerely regret this, but I've been following this thread for several days here, and I simply can't get past some of my objections to what I'm reading.

To PNH: As a long time reader and admirer of 'Making Light', I was disappointed to see the subject line on your entry here. It's misleading at best, dishonest at worst. LJ is not attacking women or mothers by imposing its own standard on the use on particular images in one very limited part of its site. You may not agree with that limitation - but it's a very long way from them waging a campaign against women and mothers, or fomenting hatred, or criticising them in any way. Such a title is little better than tabloid journalism.

To TNH: As a long time reader and someone who's enjoyed so many of your posts in the past, I'm sorry to see that you have not rebuked the most recent commenters who have used your forum to launch ad hominem attacks on those who have a different viewpoint to them. If this pro-breastfeeding icon group feels their arguments are so persuasive, so self-evidently correct, then they should not need to resort to abuse, profanity and threats of physical violence. The people who have taken on the thankless task of attempting to explain LJ Abuse's actions, or LJ/Six Apart's stance, have impressed me greatly with their civility, patience and clear thinking.

To Madelaine F: I guess I'm a 'pompous hypocrite' too because I think digable's summary a very clear and accurate representation of what's going on.

To Yonmei: Having read all your copious comments on this, I wish to make the following remarks.

LiveJournal is a private company, selling a far from unique product. If you don't like how they do business - and from all your remarks, it seems you aren't going to be content with a simple change of policy here, because you profoundly object to the way LJ conducts itself and responds to complaints - take your money somewhere else. If you choose to do business with them, you do it on their terms - their terms being, they can suspend or delete your journal/account for any reason whatsoever. People have had their accounts suspended, were given reasons (which LJ is in no way obliged to do under the contract the user has with them) that they disagree with, and are not happy. The reason for their unhappiness is irrelevant. LJ can do this, because it's their site, their company, their TOS (which they are also free to change at any time, and have done several times since I first took out a paid account.) The way to deal with a company that behaves in a way you dislike is to take your business to a competitor. If enough people do that, then they will actually be forced by shareholders to change their policies.

What I find amazingly ironic is that in your LJ journal (and I regret I can't give the readers here a specific link because you've subsequently screened the comments on that entry), someone turned up to comment on your post soliciting support for a blackout. They told you they thought it was a pointless action, and disagreed with your stance. You told him that according to your definition, someone who comments in a 'stranger's' journal and disagrees with them, is a troll - and banned him. His subsequent behaviour was trollish - but you labelled him a troll and banned him before there was any outrageous behaviour. Now - of course you're allowed to do this. You can ban anyone you want, delete comments you want, restrict access to what entries you wish, and decide who or who is not allowed to comment on your LJ. You even get to define who is a 'troll' in your journal. You know why you can do this? Because LJ says you can. They give you control over your hired section of their site, that you are denying to them, the actual site owners. You want to be able to control the content and appearance of your journal (you said you are screening comments 'just to tidy up the page') - but you are telling LiveJournal they can't do the same thing. You have been given reason after reason for why LJ might decide they need to restrict (not ban) icons of a certain kind which are used at certain parts of the site, all of which you absolutely reject - but yet you aren't required to justify your own unilateral decisions on your own LJ, and would doubtless be most upset if there was a campaign for you to do so.

Another point - I, a pro-breastfeeding woman, object to icons which are made from photographs of breastfeeding infants.

Right - now you've sharpened your pitchfork, I'll tell you why, and it's not for the reason you probably suspect. I find breastfeeding beautiful - I think seeing it in public is wonderful, it makes me smile, and I'm so pleased to see a woman doing so without the premises or patrons giving her a hard time about it. I find icons of it inappropriate for the same reason it's inappropriate for me to stand and stare at a woman breastfeeding in front of me - it's a private, intimate and beautiful act, one between her and her child, that is rude of me to intrude upon. Same as people making love is a private, beautiful act I have no innate right to stare at. If they consented to me staring at them, I would still find it inappropriate to do so. (Note - I am not saying breastfeeding, like sex, should only take place in private. I am saying that there's a difference between me being happy it's happening at all, in public or in private, and me walking over and watching the activities a foot from the participants' noses.)

But my personal perception of the inappropriateness of these types of icons isn't the reason I object to these icons. I object to such photographic icons because the child hasn't consented to have its image used in this manner. The mother presumably consented to the photo being taken - though I wonder if all the icons floating around on this have been made with the consent of both mother and photographer - but the child is incapable of doing so. And sorry, saying the mother gave her consent is irrelevant here. A parent can consent to things on a child's behalf that directly affect its welfare, like schooling, clothing, food, or even using a photo in an emergency (such as the child going missing). A parent can choose to use their child's photo in an icon on their personal LJ, and you can certainly argue that's appropriate, though I personally find it rather disquieting, simply because of the privacy aspect.

But for someone else - a stranger, or even a friend - to take that image and use it, is wrong. The infant cannot decide if it wants to be the poster child for breastfeeding or any other cause, and may, in later life, be very upset that it was. You are a well-known campaigner on the issue of women's consent and rights - how can you overlook the right of the child in these situations to be able to consent to the use of their image? (I don't just include breast-feeding icons in this. I find children being used at all in this manner offensive - whether it's an icon, a greeting card or what have you.) You would be most offended and upset if someone took your photo and turned it into an icon that, say, supported the war in Iraq. You would have every right to be. My point is - the babies in these icons should have the same rights as you would claim for yourself.

I will now get parents piling on me telling that using their kids' pictures doesn't hurt them and so on. That's fine - it's your right to disagree with me, and provided our gracious hosts here are happy to allow the comments, you can do it here. But since the pro-breastfeeding icons camp want to state that they disagree with LJ's stance because there is nothing obscene, sexual or inappropriate about breastfeeding (which there is not), I wanted to state what has bugged the hell out of me since this furore broke.

On the actual point in dispute - I would rather that breasts were not considered lewd, obscene or vulgar at all. Given that American society seems to consider them to be so under some circumstances, I would rather that if a line has to be drawn, it was something objective like 'no nipple, no aureole' regardless of the origin or content of the image, rather than three different abuse staffers coming up with three different interpretations as to whether an icon is or is not obscene. I intensely dislike the actual need for such a line - but I've chosen to have an account with an American company with American sensibilities, and they, a private operator, can impose what restrictions they like given their interpretation of American cultural mores. I can take my account elsewhere if it really irritates me. At this point, it doesn't.

#426 ::: BohemianCoast ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 05:59 AM:

Jennett: I think your post on how to work well with customer service when a policy is wrong is very good -- it's very like the rant I do when people suggest that the best way to influence Government departments is to write 2000 identical letters to MPs (it's not, at least not in the UK; it just leads to some poor, and very junior, sap, having to process 2000 identical answers, and then some poor junior Minister having to sign them all by hand -- and that latter bit is likely to enrage said Minister rather than enthuse her about your campaign).

I stayed entirely neutral on this issue right up to the point where Doug thingy of Six Apart wrote to the boob_nazis saying 'we love breastfeeding, we're just working out what to do, please wait and be patient while we sort this out' and that turned out to mean 'there there girls, just shut up and go away, and we're going to keep right on suspending LJ users'.

And I'm only protesting in this way because my normal protest method, which is to stop spending money with the company that's being gormless, doesn't work in this case because I am a permanent member and somehow I doubt they're planning to refund my money.

#427 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 08:48 AM:

DoNotSpamMe: If you don't like how they do business - and from all your remarks, it seems you aren't going to be content with a simple change of policy here, because you profoundly object to the way LJ conducts itself and responds to complaints - take your money somewhere else.

I can't "take my money somewhere else". I have a Permanent account on LiveJournal. What I can do is take my activity on LiveJournal somewhere else: when LJ Abuse suspend my account at 5am Tuesday 6th June, all the posts and all the comments I've ever made on LiveJournal and all the comments other people have made to me and to others on my posts, (2,464 journal entries: 31,171 posted, 31,774 received) will become inaccessible to other users of LiveJournal, until/unless SixApart change their policy on breastfeeding icons, or I upload the material to another site to which people can then change their bookmarks. Besides a mass of personal journal entries of no interest except to myself and my friends, this will include book reviews, film reviews, recipes, a lengthy dissection of Orson Scott Card's essay "On Civilisation", flash fiction, fiction recs - etc. LJ Abuse's action will thus inconvenience and annoy many people, most of whom I have no idea who they are - and by the nature of the site, I can't even leave a goodbye link to let them know how to repair their broken links, or leave posts on communities where I am a regular to let them know that this is why items from me will be inaccessible from now on. I say this not to complain: I knew this was a possibility when I changed my icon, and it's irrational to complain about known consequences that are avoidable by doing what LJ Abuse want me to do. It's a public acknowledgement in a place which SixApart cannot touch that my action is going to affect plenty of other people besides myself, and I'm sorry for that, but I'm still not going to change my icon back to something "acceptable". Because I have a Permanent account, the only way I can have any impact at all on LiveJournal is to let LJ Abuse suspend me for this, and go elsewhere. I shall miss my friends-list more than I can tell you, but I've thought for some time now that fandom is unwise in having quite so many eggs in one corporately-owned basket, and maybe it is time that we all diversified a bit anyway.

someone turned up to comment on your post soliciting support for a blackout. They told you they thought it was a pointless action, and disagreed with your stance. You told him that according to your definition, someone who comments in a 'stranger's' journal and disagrees with them, is a troll - and banned him.

That may have been why Gerbilsage told you he'd been banned: but it wasn't the truth. A couple of other people had already commented there to disagree with me, and they didn't get banned.

Gerbilsage wrote, in response to my post:

Congratulations! This is the single most ridiculous development of the drama so far.

I honestly don't understand why you lot can't be respectful of the rules. They're not banning breastfeeding. They're not even banning breastfeeding avatars. They're restricting default avatars from depicting various things. That's all.

Get off your high horse.

This comment did not make me think that Gerbilsage was commenting in order to be involved discussion of the issue or of the planned action, but to start a fight. I checked his user info, and discovered (under the heading What everybody else thinks:) a collection of quotes that strongly suggested to me that Gerbilsage was definitely looking to start a fight - trolling, in fact, in the original Usenet sense of the word. In another mood, I might have let him push until he finally insulted someone and I could ban him (my usual rule for comments on my journal): but I'd already seen fights over this issue on Livejournal get ugly, and I decided I had better things to do, my last few days on LiveJournal, than to let this thread turn into a trollish trainwreck. So I banned him.

He switched to an alternate account, SaintGerbilsage, and, referring to his primary account in the third person, claimed that his primary account was not a troll. (Primary and secondary accounts had the same IP Address, and before he commented he would have seen the message "Notice! This user has turned on the option that logs your IP address when posting." I don't know who he thought he was kidding.) So I banned the alternate account, too.

He then seems to have written about what happened to him on his own livejournal - or possibly on a community - because five people from his friends-list, and two people from his friends-friends-list, then commented on my journal, to be banned, one by one. The last two - people from his friends-friends list - between them made three comments with three of the most foul and disgusting cartoons I have ever seen, of women being tortured and violated. All these comments have now been screened and all the posters have been banned.

I have reported all this to LJ Abuse, of course - but I suspect they are far too busy dealing with fresh reports of icons of women breastfeeding to deal with a report of mere trollish harassment of a user who is, in any case, under threat of suspension.

#428 ::: DoNotEverSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 10:26 AM:

That may have been why Gerbilsage told you he'd been banned

What gives you the impression I have been in contact with this person? I read your interactions with him in your LJ before you screened the comments. I visited your LJ because of the links here, and your interactions here (and in other LJs tangentially involved - it's really hard to avoid seeing references to or links to journals at the moment on this topic) - you can't claim everyone who comes over to look is a troll. I saw him trolling you after you banned him, and I saw the reason you gave in your LJ for banning him. His comments *before* you banned him, seemed non-trollish, and a reasonable response in the debate. I didn't look at his account before forming that opinion, and I thought his actions afterwards were ridiculous and wrong. *Before* he came back under the sock, I was rather disappointed that your reaction to what I would have said myself, was to assume 'troll' and ban.

But as I said, you have a perfect right to ban who you want for any reason you want - his subsequent behaviour vindicated your decision, but your decision required no vindication, and I'm not asking you to vindicate yourself. I was just bemused by your insistence on creating an environment in which you were comfortable, facilitated by the permissions giving to your by your hosting service (permissions which are defended by the LJ Abuse team), while at the same time denying that hosting service the right to do exactly the same thing.

Please don't assume that everyone who disagrees with you, even disapproves of your actions, is a troll, or is in contact with those who are trolling your LJ. I am not, have no sympathy with them and am as disgusted by the behaviour of the child-free communities as you are. I just expect you to be consistent with your expectations.

As for your having a permanent account - well, perhaps you should have read the TOS a bit more carefully. If you hand over money to a company who says they can do whatever they want with your account for any reason they want, you can't expect more than limited sympathy from other people when that company exercises that option. I think this blackout idea is idiotic, will have no effect, and is designed to make people who have no intention of actually leaving the LJ site, feel like they've done their bit. If you and the rest of your like-minded colleagues deleted your LJs, set up an alternative service aimed at, say, breastfeeding support groups, or women, or whatever, then I would think you were serious about this. It's not like that avenue isn't available - the software is free, freely available, and has been used in many different places by people who have had issues with LJ themselves.

I find it ironic though that you haven't addressed the issue of consent and images, which was actually the reason I decided to comment in the first place. I really don't *care* about how you manage visitors to your LJ. I *do* care that you are using a photo of a child in your default icon who did not give you permission to use their image in that way. But no one seems to think children need to give permission to have things like that done to them. Shame, really, since it used to be assumed that women's consent was also not worth obtaining either and it's now mostly accepted (at least by civilised countries) that this is a fallacy.

#429 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 10:30 AM:

I've been checking a few things, over on LJ, and I have the feeling that something bizarre is happening. The following is a cut-and-paste of the current FAQ #111, dated 20th May. I have removed my LJ UserID, which appears in one link.

You can find the quoted text on this web-page.

What are the content restrictions for userpics?

Your default userpic is viewable throughout the LiveJournal site, and unlike individual journal entries, it cannot be hidden or protected. It is potentially available to anyone on the Internet who randomly browses the site. Therefore, we require that your default userpic not contain anything too explicit. In particular, icons which contain nudity or graphic violence tend to be inappropriate for default userpics. Strong language on an otherwise appropriate userpic generally does not make the userpic unsuitable for a default userpic.

Non-default userpics can contain images which are more graphic in nature, and the Abuse Team generally will not intervene if a user is posting with a graphic non-default userpic. If you are receiving comments with a graphic non-default userpic, you may wish to delete the comments; similarly, if graphic non-default userpics are being used on community entries, you should speak to the community maintainer(s).

Note that anyone can see all of your userpics at http://www.livejournal.com/allpics.bml?user=XXXX. If you have questions about the acceptability of your userpics or you would like to report an inappropriate default userpic, please contact the Abuse Team. You may also be interested in the standards of indecency for journals.

Thats it.

You can read the section on standards of indecency here.

FAQ 112 refers to Miller vs. California, which, as I read the explication therein, appears to require all three conditions to be met for material to be considered "indecent".

1: The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;

2: the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexually explicit conduct;

3: a reasonable person must find the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

Taking these in order, it is conceivable that a breast-feeding picture meets the first test, although such "contemporary community standards" appear freakishly aberrant.

But how might this be a "patently offensive way"? Particularly when the size of the images is so small?

And, finally, bearing in mind some of the heat and fury that has been expended, how is such a picture lacking in "literary, artistic, political or scientific value"?

One might also wonder why the sight of a nipple should also be considered harmful to a minor.

(The author, dear reader, pauses to wonder if idonotlikepease is still reading, and decides he doesn't give a toss.)

idonotlikepeas has been claiming that there is a "no nipples" rule. This remains unpublished, only documented in some private source available to LJ Abuse personnel.

FAQ 111 and the associated FAQ 112 on standards of indecency do not include the word "nipple".

Oh, and no mention of "nipple" in the TOS either.

The status of a "hidden" document in a contract is, at best, murky. Courts have sometimes taken a dim view of published small print in a contract which contradicts the large print. At best, an internal document argues for consistency: it blocks a claim that people are heing treated differently at the same time.

And what's actually published is a statement that icons that contain nudity tend to be inappropriate, which is rather less certain than either side has claimed.

It seems odd. Both sides seem to have been exaggerating the rigour of the disputed rule. But, so far, it's been the LJ supporters who have been pointing at private LJ documents, and justifying their actions with references we cannot see. I've a little more sympathy for those who miss the subtlety of "tends".

Argument from authority isn't a fatal flaw. There is a form of authority based on real, checkable, knowledge. But the LJ side of this dispute seems to be based on argument from privilege. We have been told that these are the rules, but we are not allowed to see the rules.

And that is what puts me on the pro-breast-feeding side. They've made mistakes, but they're not invoking the authority of some secret. They're not claiming the privilege of knowing something the rest of us do not, and cannot, know.

#430 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 10:34 AM:

My apologies - I put my email address wrong on that last comment. Should be
donotspammeever at googlemail dot com

#431 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 11:08 AM:

Niall:
Jenett, you should realise that you just published a list called "How to really piss off the LJ abuse team". Did you warn them?

I'm not saying anything that hasn't already been said in public, multiple times, and in places people who are inclined to make trouble are more likely to already have seen. I am also hoping that reasonable people who say they want problems resolved might take the information and use it wisely. Calculated risk.

Yonmei:
The only way anyone would be able to see that a pic 100 pixels by 100 pixels was of a woman breastfeeding would be if they were looking over your shoulder.

My desk is out in the main library area. There are work-required reasons for this. People can see over my shoulder all the time (as is, in fact, not uncommon in a number of other setups - many offices, cubes, libraries.) I am not crazy about that lack of privacy for all sorts of other reasons not related to content on my screen, (I find other people close enough to me to read my screen distracting on a physical level) But part of the point of this discussion is that *not everyone is working in the same physical or 'Net connection setup*, and thus policies and practices might want/need to take that into account.

Also:
Because I have a Permanent account, the only way I can have any impact at all on LiveJournal is to let LJ Abuse suspend me for this, and go elsewhere. I shall miss my friends-list more than I can tell you...

Actually, that isn't the only choice you have. It may certainly be the choice you prefer to take, but it's not the only one. If you decided that you were unable to stay on LJ, another option would be to remove the icon as a default (simply selecting no default, if you prefer), delete your posts, leave a final post in your journal explaining the situation, and move elsewhere.

This would make it clear why you left (much more clearly than suspension), would leave comments you've made with content that may still be useful to others available, and you would be elsewhere, where presumably you may be happier. I can certainly understand why you may prefer to be completely gone via suspension, given how strongly you clearly feel about this issue - but to say that's the only possible option that anyone could take notice of is incorrect.

Dave Bell:
Argument from authority isn't a fatal flaw. There is a form of authority based on real, checkable, knowledge. But the LJ side of this dispute seems to be based on argument from privilege. We have been told that these are the rules, but we are not allowed to see the rules.

I understand the problem. Truly. I get that it is a lousy argument. But I'm not sure what the alternatives are. The problem with posting specific policies, as has been posted earlier in this thread, is that there are people whose hobby is to find ways around those policies. This leads to lengthy feedback loops that take time, energy, and do not improve the service (or service to people who need it) in any meaningful way.

If you have a suggestion for how to solve this, that doesn't open up a site to a lot of rules lawyering (again, not "Hey, there's a discrepency here, can you clarify?" but "Ooh, look, there's a loophole! Everyone dogpile on it!"), I know a number of people, in both online and offline settings that could make use of it.

I get that this is not 'fair'. But at the same time - does everyone out here expect this from all their *other* large scale online settings? Do you expect to be intimately aware of all of their doings, details of their management, factors in a particular response? Do you expect to be able to change policy for them, because you disagree with a point? If you have a web host, do you expect that to be the case?

I certainly know I don't. I do my best to spend my time in locations where I feel the management (professional or volunteer) are people of integrity who will try and do good things. But I also have to recognise that they are human (and may mess up), that we may disagree, or that there may be factors in a situation that I know nothing about. I also keep backups of my information that I'd be sad to lose if I left a particular online location. I periodically reconsider whether a particular space is still being managed the way it was when I joined, and whether that's a good thing. That strikes me as being responsible for myself, while not placing management of *anything* on a unrealistic pedastal.

#432 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 11:24 AM:

this is still going on! wow!

off to breastfeed now.

#433 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 11:34 AM:

DoNotEverSpamMe: What gives you the impression I have been in contact with this person?

The fact that you are expressing a view identical with the view of Gerbilsage himself and of Gerbilsage's friends who came to my journal in response to the friends-locked post that one of the friends admitted Gerbilsage had written about it: and that the situation matters to you sufficiently to post about it on this blog, while claiming to be a mere random drop-in who knows no one involved.

#434 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 11:57 AM:

Jennet: If you decided that you were unable to stay on LJ, another option would be to remove the icon as a default

You're kind of missing the point. I am not changing my default icon. Not under threat of suspension: not for any reason until SixApart change their anti-breastfeeding policy. It is because SixApart have this anti-breastfeeding policy that I am unable to stay on LJ - that's why LJ Abuse are about to suspend me. I thought that would have been clear to you after our discussion in this thread?

#435 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:09 PM:

The fact that you are expressing a view identical with the view of Gerbilsage himself

Really? Identical? I don't think so.

I *explained* to you how I came to be reading your LJ. I am a regular reader of Making Light (you also share at least two LJ communities with me and we have mutual friends on LJ and elsewhere - in fact, I first saw your icon and heard about this issue and your opinion on one of those comms.) This issue is all over LJ, just as you are all over this thread. Unless you are calling me a liar, you will have to accept that two people, completely unconnected with each other, might independently come to the conclusion that your stance is unreasonable. The fact that other people here and elsewhere on LJ also consider it unreasonable presumably only confirms to you that everyone you come across is a spy for this Gerbilsage creature.

I state it explicitly. By pure chance, and that alone, I happened to be reading your LJ when the interaction with gerbilsage occured, and I saw the subsequent trolling by him (although not his friends) because I was showing the page to a friend of mine with whom I have been discussing the 'nipplegate' thing over IM. I saw you had screened comments this morning while I was composing my initial comment, and was checking my facts (because I would have given a direct link to the discussion - though, in the end, not if those images are as revolting as you say. I saw none of that, and am very glad.)

I am not a friend of gerbilsage, have no access (nor wish for any) to his friendslocked posts, have never, ever interacted with or spoken to him (and absolutely do not want to, since he sounds vile) and my response to you is the result of watching you and your fellow activitists expound at great length upon this issue. I assume you expounded for people to think about the issue. I did - and the things that I disagree with, are the things I mention here. Your misrepresentation of LJ's position on this, is not strengtening your argument, and given that I don't actually think there is anything wrong or immoral about LJ acting by its own Terms of Service, I am not going to agree with you that LJ is evil. The arguments, particularly by Jennett, which have been put forward for this not being entirely unreasonable on LJ's part, sound persuasive to me, and the arguments put forward by you do not.

There are genuinely two sides to this, Yonmei. Don't pretend that the only reason someone would pick the one you're not on, is because they're a troll.That's the kind of tactic adopted by dishonest politicians, and I know how much you dislike those. I can think for myself, and my opinion on this issue hasn't really changed at all since PNH made this post, or since the first posts I saw on LJ about it. I disagreed with you and your fellow activists then, I disagree with you now - I don't need anyone, trolls included, to tell me what to opinion to hold.

Certainly, it does make it easier to ignore my arguments if you want to put up the straw man of why I came to be reading your LJ,but it's not as sinister as you are pretending. Ironic that LJ's success came about because it was so very easy to network, to find new journals, read the opinions of those we might never have cause to interact with. It's why it's such an important social tool and why, also ironically, LJ finds itself in the position of trying to please everyone on this icon issue (and failing miserably.)

(But if you want to persist in your paranoia, by all means - email me, I'll respond, and you can have my IP address on record. Then you will know whether I have posted or ever do post on your journal, wherever it ends up.)

#436 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 12:24 PM:

DoNotSpamMe: Really? Identical? I don't think so.

Yes. Oddly enough, also, the only people who have expressed the view that Gerbilsage's original comment was not a troll post have been the people who visited from his friends-list. It's an open post: if you're not one of the seven people who have already been banned from my journal for this, you too could and can comment there to say so. But as you're commenting here without identifying your livejournal username, I suspect that your assertion that you have no connection with Gerbilsage is untrue. But this is a threadjack, and I'll have no further part in it.

#437 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 01:26 PM:

Yonmei: As I only saw gerbilsage's comment, I have no idea what the other people said because you have screened them. I could equally call you a liar and say none of these other people or comments exist. As I'm not going to descend to your level on this, I will assume that you are telling the truth, though I know this is not a courtesy you will ever extend to me. I already said that the comments that I *did* see (which were by the sockpuppet created by gerbilsage) were undoubtedly trolling, and if that was in this person's mind when he made the first comment, then you called it exactly right. Taken purely on its own, without reference to subsequent behaviour, or the person's user information, this comment:

Congratulations! This is the single most ridiculous development of the drama so far.

I honestly don't understand why you lot can't be respectful of the rules. They're not banning breastfeeding. They're not even banning breastfeeding avatars. They're restricting default avatars from depicting various things. That's all.

Get off your high horse.

Is not to *me* (not a UseNet user) in itself trolling (and nothing more than what has been said here by other people), though it's definitely less than respectful, and definitely blunt. You seem to think its trollish nature is self-evident - it's not. It's that tricky 'two sides to every question' thing again that you seem to have so much difficulty with. You were just as blunt and rude to someone else who commented further downthread who happened to disagree with you, and I've seen you make much ruder comments to people on LJ comms (such as metaquotes.) I would have assumed from such behaviour that you would vehmently deny you were a troll for making such comments, and would accept a similar level of bluntness from other people, but I am clearly mistaken on that score. A troll to me is someone who deliberately posts inflammatory or offensive material on a list or journal just to start a fight. All I saw *at that point* was someone disagreeing (forcefully) with you, and your comment, with which I also disagreed, about how you defined a troll, and that you were banning him. Between reading that, switching to IM to paste the link and coming back, the person had gone from pugnacious to deliberately stirring trouble, at which point the justification for your action was obvious.

I am *not* defending this person, and you are forcing me into trying to defend myself on a complete nonsense (and deflecting away from the issue in hand and any criticism of your position.) I am saying that if I only saw the first comment, which was what I saw first, I wouldn't have called him a troll. You have a different interpretation, one that you are free to enforce and act upon because LiveJournal gives you that right and freedom. Other people have a different level of tolerance and they are equally free to enforce their standards in their journals too. But don't use the freedom that LJ gives you on hand, and then be all 'OMG oppression!' when they want to enforce their own standards or preferences.

My *only* reason for mentioning this troll business at all was that you demand rights and concessions for yourself that you refuse to grant to other people. You are revealing your inconsistency in that, just as your use of a non-consenting infant in your user icons is inconsistent with your stand on consent and women's rights.

And no, I'm not commenting in your LJ because this discussion is happening here, and frankly, I trust TNH's moderation of her blog more than I trust yours. While she might disemvowel or ban someone, she doesn't screen or delete comments that she dislikes. You are demonstrating how you treat people who disagree with you - calling me a liar and a troll on no evidence whatsoever, and accusing me of threadjacking for the temerity of responding to you and disagreeing with you (that's another dishonest political trick, by the way.) You also mischaracterise and mispresent people's words - saying SixApart have an anti-breastfeeding policy is breathtakingly dishonest. So is your assertion that you are about to be suspended for a policy which doesn't even exist. You are about to be suspended for your voluntary act in breaching the Terms of Service of the company which hosts your journal by using an image in a place which does not meet their restrictions. You're aware of the breach, have been given an opportunity to rectify it, but you refuse to do so. So if you are suspended, it's because of *your* policy, not SixApart's. You don't breastfeed so I fail to see how an imaginary 'anti-breastfeeding' policy could be the reason for your suspension.

If your position is so frail that you must resort to spurious ad hominem arguments, then that only affirms my belief that the most reasonable party in this is LiveJournal. I certainly wouldn't want to change anything a company I owned did, faced with such behaviour.

#438 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 01:38 PM:

*ahem*

Both of you.

#439 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 01:46 PM:

TNH: my apologies. Shutting up now.

#440 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 01:48 PM:

No hard feelings. It was just that the argument was starting to develop a rotating movement and an eye.

#441 ::: pixxelpuss ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 03:32 PM:

Well, as this discussion seems to be petering out into snark and irrelevance, I bid you all adieu. Best of luck with the protest, and (if applicable) your moves to other websites. If it picks up again, feel free to email me...

#442 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 10:27 PM:

DoNotSpamMe: are you seriously expecting an infant to give informed consent -- especially if it can't even speak clearly? This is contrary both to every legal doctrine I've ever run across (allowing that IANAL) and common sense. For that matter, do you believe that the \infant/ is being indecently exposed, and therefore requires to be consented for?

Jennet: Everything in your response sounds plausible, but you didn't answer my question: why was it necessary to react instantaneously, or even overnight, or even before the end of the weekend, to a complaint about a long-standing condition? I repeat, this was not a combat situation; I don't see anything in your explanation that suggests that fast action was necessary. And I don't see any reason not to consult on something that affects a large number of users -- or, having seen by evidence that this affects a large number of users (since I'll grant that the team member might not have wanted to review huge numbers of default icons beyond those the troll complained about), not to take a step back and suspend implementation of the policy for proper consultation. (For that matter, I don't see why \everybody/ in authority gets on with the rest of their lives at the same time; I've worked enough conventions to understand the concept of shifts.) From what I see, this has blown up because somebody on the line made a wider decision than they should have and nobody at the upper levels was willing to say that this was visibly a more sensitive, larger-scale issue that they were going to take a little more time to think about. This is not something requiring an MBA; I can point to large numbers of volunteers just in the small circle of fans I know who have learned all the ways to support the front lines.

#443 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:02 AM:

CHip: No, of course an infant can't give informed consent, which is my point. It's not the indecency or otherwise of the image which is the issue - I was explicit in my comment, I thought, in stating that breast feeding and naked breasts are not lewd, indecent, or unpleasant, but if I somehow wasn't clear, let me say it again. Breast feeding and depictions of it are not lewd or indecent. Breasts are not lewd or indecent, covered or not, and I object to the hysteria and Taleban like nitpicking that's going on about exactly how much can be exposed before middle America will drop dead from apoplexy. I live in a country where a nude Keith Chegwin could present an entire TV show (Naked Jungle) with completely naked and unpixellated participants on a major channel, and the national response to the collected tits, arse and dangly bits was an enormous yawn. That's a healthy response to nudity. It should be normal, just as breastfeeding and images of it should be normal, regardless of how much breast is shown. I would *rather* not see icons made of photos of breastfeeding because I believe it's intruding on a private moment of love, but that is entirely my own scruple.

I would campaign for them being banned where a child's photo is involved, simply because the child cannot consent to having their privacy violated or their image used in that way (I would extend that objection to any icon where a baby or very young child is used.) I'm still staggered that so many women are apparently howling over the right to expose a couple of square centimetres of darkened skin, while their child (or a complete stranger's child) has no choice in whether their entire face is exposed. I believe a child's image should not be used for so trivial a purpose - and in many of these cases, the icons' owner is using someone else's child. That's beyond defensible or reasonable - unless you assume the child has no rights. I start from the assumption they do, and I'll fight for those rights long before I get worked up about whether a woman can show a nipple or not. The first time I started to see these icons in the communities I share with people involved in this dispute, I had this reaction, and I was surprised that no one else seemed to be bothered. Maybe I'm the only one it *does* bother, but while these activists want to be selective about the human rights they're defending, they'll get no support from me.

#444 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:31 AM:

DoNotSpamMe,

you allege, in many of these cases, the icons' owner is using someone else's child.

Do you have any evidence for that? And not just one or two instances, please. You said many.

I think your whole argument about consent is a red herring of unusual size, but that particular claim is also an accusation of mendacity.

Put up, or shut up.

#445 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:48 AM:

I've decided that the one-word description which best characterises SixApart's attitude is patriarchal.

Perhaps that's a misjudgement of the company, based on misleading accounts given by people who, commenting in this thread, have claimed privileged knowledge of the rules followed by the LJ Abuse system.

OK, so the "private law" which lurks at the linguistic roots of "privilege" isn't private in the sense we usually use today, but there is so much happening today which still uses "private" with a sense closer to that of the original privileges. And the rules which are imposed on SixApart users are both unknown to those they are imposed on, until after the fact, and private in the sense of not being owned by the public.

To be honest, using the term "patriarchal" feels like an insult to the good men of the world, but that's another word which has drifted away from its roots. And the current usage fits.

Of course, you could make it clearer by using more words. SixApart are running LiveJournal like an abusive father runs his family; punishing his children for breaches of rules which, for all they might know, only came into existence at the moment his desire to punish was formed.

Patriarchal takes less typing, and I'm sure that, should anyone have the need, that Teresa has a box of spare vowels under the desk.

#446 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:54 AM:

Dave, many people are using pics of babies breastfeeding that aren't their own babies or their own breasts. The original people being targetted were breastfeeding mothers who were - I have no reason to think otherwise, and personal knowledge to confirm it in some cases - using icons made of a photo of themselves breastfeeding.

Following SixApart's decision that breastfeeding icons were "inappropriate" and subsequent editing of FAQ 113 to cover this decision, many people (I'm one of them) began using breastfeeding icons deliberately to protest this decision. Those icons were made from googled images available on the net. There may be copyright issues with using such images, but I don't see how it's "mendacity". I've never asserted that the icon I've been using is a pic of myself (after all, I used to regularly switch between a platypus and Mo from Dykes to Watch Out For): merely that I was using that pic to support friends who breastfeed and the issue of public breastfeeding.

#447 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 07:48 AM:

FAQ 113?

I think you've mistyped the number. I've not traced anything other than FAQ 111 and FAQ 112, and the most they say is that nudity tends to be inappropriate. Let me know if there is anything else openly published.

#448 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 09:26 AM:

I think you've mistyped the number.

You're right. Good catch. My bad. I was thinking of FAQ 111, and for some reason typed FAQ 113.

#449 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 10:56 AM:

After much reflection, here's what I think:

1. An individual user may be responsible for infracting a venue's rules; but when you have a dustup this big and this fraught, and what sound like solid online citizens are complaining about the capriciousness, unresponsiveness, and opacity of the moderation system, then the people who are running the venue are the ones at fault.

2. If you're trying to address a complex and difficult problem, consider telling your users that that's what you're doing. There's a good chance they'll help. They want the place to survive and go on running smoothly, same as you do.

3. It can be valid to use volunteer labor in a profitable enterprise, but you cannot skimp on oversight, training, and overall direction.

4. Is there an excuse for half-running this operation? I hadn't heard that LJ was such a marginal enterprise that it couldn't spare some thoughtful managerial attention to core user-interface issues.

#450 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 11:20 AM:

Amazing. Days later and the "SixApart changed the policy" meme is still alive. Just so you know, I asked someone on the Abuse Team about this, and they said that the nipple test has been the standard for that person's entire tenure there (four years), so it's at least that old and probably older. Which, for those who've brought it up, is almost certainly why nobody looked at the first request and thought "Uh-oh! This is a special case and requires special handling!".

Most users never receive a suspension warning. For those that do, it's a very big deal. They'll probably only ever get one, unless they're one of a small number of trolls that enjoy getting them. The day you receive that warning is a big day for you. For an Abuse Team member, that was Wednesday. That was item twelve on a list of twenty-eight things to do that day. It's always possible that an Abuse case will result in some kind of major issue, but I imagine after you've handled three hundred of them that stops being at the top of your mind. And, again, even if it were passed up the food chain and back the same situation would have resulted - keep in mind that the upper management is clearly aware of the issue at this point, but the policy hasn't been changed and the suspensions have been happening on schedule.

(Have taken the weekend off from this, since I've been trying to get the word out on various forae for a couple of weeks and I needed a break from telling people that, yes, it's just the default icon and, no, breastfeeding pictures are not banned. It's amazing how fuzzy the proponents of the inconsistent child-excepted nudity policy have made those particular things.)

Dave: Oh, and no mention of "nipple" in the TOS either.

I do recall mentioning a few times that the FAQ and TOS are not meant to be exhaustive lists of things that are not appropriate. They aren't designed that way. They couldn't be designed that way, especially since, as Jenett pointed out above, things are going to come up that you can't anticipate. A complete list even of the currently-known things would be impossibly verbose, and the longer the list, the more people assume that it's complete; we've already seen what happened with FAQ 111 when it had two examples of things not allowed in default icons. Imagine how people would have yelled if it had had fifty! Your argument here is roughly equivalent to the argument of the people that claim that the Constitution contains no privacy rights because the word "privacy" isn't used.

And yes, the document which says "no nipples" is not public. To be honest, I don't even know if there is such a document, or if the standard is just something that's been arrived at through trial and error and is imparted verbally during training. I personally would prefer that things like that were publicly available, although Jennett's points about people trying to find loopholes are well-made.

That said? I would definitely be sympathetic if LJ's Abuse Team appeared and said "You have a nipple in your default icon. You are now suspended and you may never return." Arbitrarily damaging someone's account for a policy they may not have clearly understood is an immoral act. That's not what happened. The people in question were warned that the icon was considered inappropriate and given plenty of time to change it. They elected not to do so as a means of protest, but the fact that someone is protesting cannot mean that they are made exempt from policy, if that policy is to have any effect. And the people involved can get their accounts back at any time by agreeing to change the default icon. So if it's purely a question of people not understanding the policy, I think that's been resolved at this point.

As I said before, the writers of the ToS relied on a shared understanding of what an inappropriate image was. That served them well for at least four years. Now that it's obvious that there isn't that shared understanding, at least in certain quarters, maybe they'll change the wording so it is more obvious what they were trying to say, but lack of vision is not immorality.

Simon: One may question whether that's really spam or not - normal spam messages are identical ones sent by one person, these were identical messages sent by many people,

I believe I pasted my definition of spam upthread. It's a standard definition. But to respond to your specific point: The number of senders is irrelevant; what spam is about is cranking up the noise to drown out the signal or trying to win by volume rather than considered argument.

but OK, let's take peas-hater's point as read, that there was a lot of ignorable junk in the protests. But surely they weren't all like that? The presence of mass junk-mail doesn't negate the rest of the people sharing that view.

Not at all. But to cave to pressure of that kind sets a precedent that the right way to get LJ to change its mind is to abuse its procedures and spam irrelevant parties. And that makes it more likely that this kind of thing will take place again in the future. That's why engaging in this kind of behavior hurts your cause more than helping it - reasonable people discussing the merits of a position may be listened to but people who threaten and posture will frequently be ignored, because it's not worth causing the problems of tomorrow to make solving the problems of today easier.

Now I have to repeat again: the above paragraph is just my opinion and not an official policy statement by LiveJournal. (I'm not empowered to make those anyway.) Nobody on the LJ Staff or Abuse Team has said any kind of similar thing to me at any time.

And to various folks: I take enormous quantities of offense at the idea that because I think the Abuse Team is right in this particular case (and because I haven't seen a major mistake on their part, without in any way denying that a major mistake may have been made by them that I have not yet seen), I'm some kind of LJ jingoist. But I'm not going to get into that argument past making this single statement, since a position and the motivations for holding that position are seperate things.

#451 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 11:21 AM:

I'd add:

In a sufficiently large group (where "sufficient" size may be very small indeed), any issue can be major, and any issue can lead to major ones. Assume it will be deathly serious to someone and be prepared for it.

#452 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 11:47 AM:

Teresa: 1. An individual user may be responsible for infracting a venue's rules; but when you have a dustup this big and this fraught, and what sound like solid online citizens are complaining about the capriciousness, unresponsiveness, and opacity of the moderation system, then the people who are running the venue are the ones at fault.

Well, the Abuse Team's policy is currently that they don't and can't discuss their individual cases publicly. They deal with a tremendous amount of private information and there's a tremendous pressure from LiveJournal as a whole to keep secrets secret. What would you suggest as an alternative method of maintaining a privacy policy of that kind while still having some kind of transparency to the end user?

(Serious question. Can't hurt to suggest things to them.)

2. If you're trying to address a complex and difficult problem, consider telling your users that that's what you're doing. There's a good chance they'll help. They want the place to survive and go on running smoothly, same as you do.

This I agree with, and I think Doug's post in the boob_nazis forum was an attempt at this. (A fairly decent one in my opinion.)

It hasn't come up in the large-scale LJ places, of course, like the news journal. I'd personally support putting it there, but I can see why they might not - this issue seems a lot bigger to the people involved in it than it really is. There are probably a few hundred LJ users who are upset about it. There are a couple of million active LJ accounts overall. Things that go in the Very Big Comms have to be things that affect a large percentage of that population, and currently I'm not sure that even 1% of LJ's population /knows/ about the issue.

3. It can be valid to use volunteer labor in a profitable enterprise, but you cannot skimp on oversight, training, and overall direction.

This statement is self-evidently true, but a point on this particular case: as has been mentioned above in numerous places, this policy doesn't originate with the Abuse Team. Their actions in this case are consistent with LJ's overall policy. Having seen the messages they received (since the people receiving them decided to post them publicly), I'm not entirely sure what I would have done differently in the place of the people involved.

4. Is there an excuse for half-running this operation? I hadn't heard that LJ was such a marginal enterprise that it couldn't spare some thoughtful managerial attention to core user-interface issues.

Well, I disagree with your underlying assumption, but LJ is not exactly a huge company, no. The ratio of user-to-staff is incredibly high, and the number of users who generate money for the site by paying isn't. (Hence their recent introduction of advertisements, which may ultimately result in them having enough money to beef up their operations in many respects.)

#453 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 12:38 PM:

Will people please post links to documents they're referring to.

You will note, Gentlethings, that this is what I have tried to do in this thread. I am getting a trifle weary of people making vague references to documents they assume we all have read.

If somebody called Pip, Squeak, or even Wilfred, has posted something, somewhere else, which you happen to think is a useful addition to the debate, or if there's been an informative press release, Flash animation, or music video with a chorus of jack-booted, delta-winged, nuns, don't just airily point vaguely over there, post a link!

We now return you to Making Light's usual flamage, vituperation, derision, and vowel free debate. Thank you.

#454 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 01:01 PM:

idonotlikepeas: Yes, the "SixApart changed the policy" meme is still alive, because it's still the best way to describe what happened. The policy is what LJ tells the user base it is, not what LJ secretly enforces without revealing it to anybody. (Your own words: "The document which says 'no nipples' is not public. To be honest, I don't even know if there is such a document.")

Agreed, LJ doesn't have to itemize every prohibited thing. But it does have to give users a reasonable expectation of what is covered by the prohibition list. And nipples simply didn't apply in the original statement. That - since the reaction seems to be puzzling you - is why the users asked to remove their default breastfeeding icons got their backs up over it: because they were being asked to abide by a previously existing unwritten rule that they could not fairly be expected to infer from the rules that were written.

Read Dave Bell's definition of an abusive patriarchy again: "SixApart are running LiveJournal like an abusive father runs his family; punishing his children for breaches of rules which, for all they might know, only came into existence at the moment his desire to punish was formed." Doesn't matter if they did only come into existence at that moment or not. From the children's perspective, they can't behave properly unless they do know. They know now about this, of course. But what will be the next thing they don't know? Since neither you nor Jenett are admitting the massive disfunctionality of LJ Abuse, problems like this are going to keep on happening.

Now, about your defense of LJ Abuse getting its back up and refusing to reconsider its policy because a lot of emails (whether they're "spam" or not) got sent to irrelevant as well as relevant administrative personnel:

That's a natural human reaction. But here on planet Earth, as PNH pointed out way way uptopic, the way a large number of people indicate that they are a large number, and that they protest some policy, is by organizing a letter-writing campaign. Get used to it. If LJ Abuse wished to be responsive, rather than truculent, it could have nipped the campaign in the bud by addressing the concerns raised by the campaign. There's nothing like responding to the problem to calm down angry people. I've worked in customer service, and I know how this works.

Especially if, as you wrote in your next post, the protesters represent just a tiny portion of the LJ user base. A company attuned to customer service would treat a "tiny portion" as a warning, not as an excuse to dismiss it. I think the rule of thumb is one protest for every ten people annoyed. I'm an LJ user, I don't breastfeed and have no opinion on the subject, but I'm mightily annoyed by this. I haven't written LJ Abuse about it, though? Why? Because it's clear, especially from what you say, that Abuse only treats complaints as an excuse to ignore the complainers. If that's LJ's and SixApart's attitude as well as your own, there's only two possible responses: to give up, or to enlist more people and shout louder!

Meanwhile, not everyone affected by this policy was responsible for the letter-writing campaign. Why should they suffer just because Abuse was annoyed at some other people?

Lastly and most importantly: if LJ Abuse really is a customer service outfit, and not just a tool of an abusive patriarchy, it should suppress its collective annoyance at its own customers, and address the problems. Brushing aside customer complaints, for fear that the next round of complaints about something else will be worse, is the tactic of a beleagured aristocracy, not of people who actually want to help people. Instead of dampening the problem, it will only escalate it. In politics, this usually leads to the French and/or Russian Revolutions. In business, it leads to the disgusted departure of your customer base, a danger which tomorrow's protest is intended to illustrate. Is that what you want? Because if you really wanted to de-escalate future protests, you'd advocate LJ Abuse to cease its heavy-handed tactics, instead of building up a defensive wall.

[This is my third attempt posting this. The server keeps freezing on me.]

#455 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 01:32 PM:

I think I am seeing the first signs of protestors suspending their LJ accounts.

It's already Tuesday in Japan.

Pity, it seems to have short-circuited a rather interesting little exchange on just what position Idonotlikepeas might hold in any LJ organisation there might be, which one or two other volunteers were joining in on. And I can't link to the comments now.

#456 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 01:52 PM:

Simon: Yes, the "SixApart changed the policy" meme is still alive, because it's still the best way to describe what happened. The policy is what LJ tells the user base it is, not what LJ secretly enforces without revealing it to anybody. (Your own words: "The document which says 'no nipples' is not public. To be honest, I don't even know if there is such a document.")

They clearly believed that the standard that bare breasts aren't all-age-appropriate was held commonly. I'm entirely willing to admit that was a mistake on their part, and that they should correct it (already have, in fact, by making that interpretation explicit in the FAQ, so I guess I don't need to admit that). But to claim that this represents a change of policy is another matter entirely. That claim means that LJ altered the way it does things specifically to attack breastfeeding mothers, and that's just plain not what happened.

To say "LJ made a mistake when they wrote up their policy" is not the same as saying "LJ's enforcement of their policy is wrong". Punishing someone for violating a rule they don't understand isn't the wrong thing to do, especially if you've given them plenty of warning before the punishment actually happens so they have time to stop doing whatever it is they're doing wrong, as long as you've made a reasonable effort to make sure that they understand the rules. Which they apparently did, since this disagreement didn't happen for four years.

That's a natural human reaction. But here on planet Earth, as PNH pointed out way way uptopic, the way a large number of people indicate that they are a large number, and that they protest some policy, is by organizing a letter-writing campaign. Get used to it. If LJ Abuse wished to be responsive, rather than truculent, it could have nipped the campaign in the bud by addressing the concerns raised by the campaign. There's nothing like responding to the problem to calm down angry people. I've worked in customer service, and I know how this works.

Four problems:

1) Abuse is not the right place to send feedback about the site.
2) Setting up an auto-spam form and having it deliver mail to a bunch of people who aren't involved complete with spoofed addresses is not an appropriate way of running a letter-writing campaign.
3) The spam occurred very shortly after the original decision. There wasn't a ramp-up period or a set of reasonable discussions or /anything/ first, as far as I can tell from reading the boob_nazis community.
4) The manager of the Abuse Team (a paid staff person) started sending out responses as soon as it became evident that it was a spam campaign. It didn't stop. It's not 'response' that people are after. It's 'compliance'. The Abuse Team responded entirely as they should have; people are upset because they didn't respond the way they /wanted/ them to (by allowing the icons). They didn't put out, as it were.

A company attuned to customer service would treat a "tiny portion" as a warning, not as an excuse to dismiss it.

The problem hasn't been dismissed or ignored. The head of customer service for Six Apart (who I believe reports to the CEO) went to the community and responded right here: http://community.livejournal.com/boob_nazis/1763041.html - I'm not sure what more than that could be asked for in terms of escalation levels.

I'm saying it does't go in the news journal for that reason. Not that it doesn't see response at the highest level for that reason. And I'll point out again that conflating "Abuse" (the people who enforce the policies) with Sixapart (the people who decide what the policies are) is an error.

#457 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:03 PM:

Pity, it seems to have short-circuited a rather interesting little exchange on just what position Idonotlikepeas might hold in any LJ organisation there might be, which one or two other volunteers were joining in on. And I can't link to the comments now.

You could also just ask me. I'd be happy to tell you. (You could also have just looked at my LJ profile, but what the hey.)

I'm a volunteer in LiveJournal's technical support area. I'm currently the administrator of the Web Interface support category and a co-administrator of the Mobile Features support category, which means that I do my best to coordinate technical support relating to those fields by training new volunteers, dealing with particularly problematic requests, and participating in decisions about technical support policy.

I'm not paid by LiveJournal and don't have any kind of ongoing financial relationship with them, although services to date have earned me a permanent account. (Which I'll retain if I stop doing Support.) I have signed a non-disclosure agreement to prevent me from giving out any private information I may learn in the course of doing technical support, although I don't have access to things like protected journal entries or payment information. I also do not have access to Abuse reports or training materials, but I do know a few Abuse team members personally and have conversed with them about this issue.

Anything else you'd like to know?

#458 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:12 PM:

Have you changed the FAQ again?

The last time I checked...

Well, it was over the weekend, and there have been a lot of posts, and I can see you haven't yet read them all. But what the FAQ says seems to be rather different to what you think it says.

I really can't see how a statement that nudity tends to be inappropriate turns into your no titties. The relevant sections of the FAQ seem to be FAQ 111 and FAQ 112.

Where on earth are you reading this stuff? Please, if we've all missed something, tell us where to find it.

#459 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:34 PM:

I'm not sure that's addressed to me, but I'll pretend it is anyway.

FAQ 111 is the right one to look at. FAQ 112 defines decency standards for journals, which aren't the same as the ones for default icons (since the latter are visible everywhere and the former have to be visited explicitly). FAQ 112 explicitly says that stricter guidelines will be defined in places like default userpics.

FAQ 111 now uses "nudity" as an example of things that aren't allowed in default icons. Yes, it says "don't tend to be appropriate", because of aforementioned border issues about when breasts are inappropriately nude, etc. No, it does not now spell out every conceivable criterion for inappropriate userpics and I don't imagine it ever will unless LJ decides they want a twenty megabyte FAQ.

#460 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:37 PM:

idonotlikepeas: everything you say here has already been responded to, eloquently, by several others uptopic on previous occasions, so one gets the feeling that explaining it to you is like talking to a brick wall. But OK ...

Sorry, but this wasn't a "clarification" of an existing rule, it was a rewording to mean something new, regardless of what was going on in the heads of the people who re-wrote it. It was retroactive harassment. This has been explained to you over and over again on this topic by many people.

And if the policy is inane in the first place (pictures of breastfeeding are "inappropriate"?) and arbitrarily enforced (obscenity lies in default icons, not in other icons?), it only makes it worse.

I'm not interested in the specific minute etiquette violations of the e-mailers, about which I know nothing. That's a procedural issue with no relationship to the merits of the argument, and unjust when applied to the cases of the people who filed individual complaints. (Also, it was established uptopic that it's not true that LJ Abuse wasn't the place to go. I can't find it now, but a post was quoted directing people to LJ Abuse.) LJ Abuse should address the issue, rather than dismiss a whole category of complaints because of procedural violations.

Addressing the issue would consist of apologizing for being misleading, and of ceasing to issue draconian suspensions for retroactive violations of unexpressed rules.

If I see a mob of peasants attacking a castle with pitchforks, my first thought is going to be, "Gee, they must be really angry about something," not to whine over the lack of permits for their pitchforks.

#461 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:38 PM:

(Also, I don't have access to change the FAQs in those categories.)

#462 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:45 PM:

Which they apparently did [i.e. understand the rules], since this disagreement didn't happen for four years.

This makes it sound as if everyone knew for four years that breastfeeding icons were inappropriate, and somehow suddenly forgot.

Which is ridiculous. What it means is that either the issue didn't come up (there were no breastfeeding icons, or Abuse didn't come across them, or didn't bother to enforce them), or the individuals asked to abide by this previously unexpressed policy were willing to do so.

It must not have come up very often, or an intelligent FAQ-writer would have added it a long time ago, instead of when it was added.

#463 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Sorry, but this wasn't a "clarification" of an existing rule, it was a rewording to mean something new, regardless of what was going on in the heads of the people who re-wrote it.

Uh, it was exactly that. A clarification of an existing rule. You can argue all you like that the rule wasn't made as obvious as it should have been, but that doesn't make the rule go away or mean that it didn't exist before.

And if the policy is inane in the first place (pictures of breastfeeding are "inappropriate"?)

Pictures of breastfeeding aren't inappropriate. Pictures with visible nipples are. The presence or absence of a baby in a picture with a visible nipple is irrelevant to that particular policy.

and arbitrarily enforced (obscenity lies in default icons, not in other icons?), it only makes it worse.

That's not arbitrary enforcement. That's sensible enforcement. A default userpic is seen everywhere. Other userpics are only seen where the poster deliberately puts them. Restricting the default userpic and not the others is the way that LJ preserves free expression without making their entire service not kid-safe. Regardless of whether you believe they've drawn the nipple/no-nipple line in the right place (and I see can arguing that point), this is absolutely the right place to draw the line for restricting userpics.

I'm not interested in the specific minute etiquette violations of the e-mailers, about which I know nothing.

I'm not either. The large-scale violations of standards and harassment of the e-mails do concern me, however, and therefore I've attempted to explain them to others.

LJ Abuse should address the issue, rather than dismiss a whole category of complaints because of procedural violations.

They have addressed the issue. At length, with every individual person that successfully opened a request. They've said no.

Also, it was established uptopic that it's not true that LJ Abuse wasn't the place to go. I can't find it now, but a post was quoted directing people to LJ Abuse

Abuse is the right place to go to report violations of policy or ask questions about it. It isn't the place that decides what the policy actually is and it isn't the right target for protests.

Addressing the issue would consist of apologizing for being misleading, and of ceasing to issue draconian suspensions for retroactive violations of unexpressed rules.

That's not "addressing the issue". That's "giving up and changing the policy". If you want LJ to give up and change the policy, that's something else and should not be referred to as "addressing the issue".

If I see a mob of peasants attacking a castle with pitchforks, my first thought is going to be, "Gee, they must be really angry about something," not to whine over the lack of permits for their pitchforks.

I would probably think "It's dumb to attack a castle with pitchforks. You guys should set up a siege instead and starve them out." And then I'd go find out what the grievances were rather than picking a side arbitrarily.

#464 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:51 PM:

What it means is that either the issue didn't come up (there were no breastfeeding icons, or Abuse didn't come across them, or didn't bother to enforce them), or the individuals asked to abide by this previously unexpressed policy were willing to do so.

Or, and far more likely than any of those, the Abuse team sent warnings to people with icons with nipples on them on several occasions and the person said "Oh, oops! I guess I'll change my default. Thanks for telling me!" and that was the end of it.

#465 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 02:52 PM:

Also, if LJ doesn't want to write a 20MB FAQ, it shouldn't enforce it as if it had written a 20MB FAQ.

A 55 mph speed limit is a clear and unambiguous border between the acceptable and the unacceptable. Unlike, say, whether breastfeeding counts as "nudity" (let alone that "nudity" wasn't in the FAQ before), or what is "inappropriate."

Yet most cops don't give out tickets for going 56, and those who do get reputations as draconian speed-trap demons.

Suspending someone for a breastfeeding icon is being a draconian speed-trap demon.

#466 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:02 PM:

Also, if LJ doesn't want to write a 20MB FAQ, it shouldn't enforce it as if it had written a 20MB FAQ.

The alternative would be to allow anything in default userpics, which would be worse than what's going on now.

A 55 mph speed limit is a clear and unambiguous border between the acceptable and the unacceptable.

The difference being that speed is exactly one variable and can be tracked numerically. Nudity and inappropriateness are neither...

Unlike, say, whether breastfeeding counts as "nudity" (let alone that "nudity" wasn't in the FAQ before), or what is "inappropriate."

...and therefore the enforcement isn't going to look the same either. And breastfeeding doesn't count as nudity. It just may involve nudity if the baby isn't covering enough. Breastfeeding is not banned, and breastfeeding icons are not banned as defaults.

Yet most cops don't give out tickets for going 56, and those who do get reputations as draconian speed-trap demons.

True. And apart from what I've said about the differences above, which makes this whole analogy flawed before we even get to this part: while a cop of that kind may be called draconian, nobody says they should be fired or that they can't be ticketed for it.

#467 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:06 PM:

Sorry, the rule didn't exist if it wasn't expressed to the users. And it's been explained to you over and over again that nothing in the old FAQ implied the coverage of this. You can claim that it was in the heads of the Abuse team, but it wasn't in the heads of those who had to abide by it. I wonder if you've actually been reading the arguments, from Yonmei and others.

Or, and far more likely than any of those, the Abuse team sent warnings to people with icons with nipples on them on several occasions and the person said "Oh, oops! I guess I'll change my default. Thanks for telling me!" and that was the end of it.

Now I know you haven't been reading me, because that scenario is exactly the last one in the list of mine that you just quoted above that!
"The individuals asked to abide by this previously unexpressed policy were willing to do so."

But however you wish to express this scenario, it can't have happened very often, because if it had, an intelligent FAQ writer would have realized that the FAQ was not conveying what they wanted it to convey.

They have addressed the issue. ... They've said no.

That's not addressing the issue. That's refusing to accede to a request. Addressing the issue would require an explanation of the policy of "inappropriateness." There hasn't been one.

And then I'd go find out what the grievances were

Yes, that would be a really good idea, wouldn't it? As it is, you sit here baffled by these angry users whose legitimate complaints you wish to invalidate.

#468 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:13 PM:

The alternative would be to allow anything in default userpics, which would be worse than what's going on now.

That's ridiculous. I'm sure we can both think of pictures that would unambiguously violate the nudity rules in a way that the most nipple-revealing breastfeeding does not. Those, we're not arguing over.

The difference being that speed is exactly one variable and can be tracked numerically. Nudity and inappropriateness are neither...

Precisely! Therefore it would be wise to stop treating them as if they were. "Remove that picture from your default, or we'll suspend your account."

this whole analogy flawed before we even get to this part: while a cop of that kind may be called draconian, nobody says they should be fired or that they can't be ticketed for it.

Nobody's saying that LJ can't enforce its rules, however arbitrary. The protest is over whether they should. And, uh ... overzealous cops do get disciplined, y'know. At least in conscientious jurisdictions. Even if they don't themselves break laws. (If they do, they get arrested. That's not the kind of discipline I mean here.)

#469 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:18 PM:

Sorry, the rule didn't exist if it wasn't expressed to the users. And it's been explained to you over and over again that nothing in the old FAQ implied the coverage of this. You can claim that it was in the heads of the Abuse team, but it wasn't in the heads of those who had to abide by it.

The FAQ isn't the policy. I've gone over this a number of times. The policy is against inappropriate pictures. There is not a list of what inappropriate pictures are. There's a reasonable assumption that bare breasts are inappropriate. There's a guideline that the Abuse team uses that says that a breast is bare if you can see the nipple. The violation of policy occurs way back at inappropriate, not at "what's in the head of the Abuse Team".

I wonder if you've actually been reading the arguments, from Yonmei and others.

Shall I wonder in turn if you've been reading my counterarguments? That line of discussion is fruitless, and I encourage you not to pursue it in future discussions in which you may become involved.

Now I know you haven't been reading me, because that scenario is exactly the last one in the list of mine that you just quoted above that!
"The individuals asked to abide by this previously unexpressed policy were willing to do so."

Not at all. Because you said "previously unexpressed policy", and it wasn't. I'm not going to say "it's the last one you said", because it includes a clause to which I do not agree.

But however you wish to express this scenario, it can't have happened very often, because if it had, an intelligent FAQ writer would have realized that the FAQ was not conveying what they wanted it to convey.

Speaking in a general customer support way, an assumption is never made that the user has read the FAQ until they're sent it. If an Abuse response is sent to a user, including a link to the FAQ, and the user says "OK, have changed default", I can't see any reason to assume that the FAQ is insufficiently clear. If there were some kind of flood of inappropriate userpic requests involving bare breasts, maybe, but we don't have any evidence that that's happened in the past.

That's not addressing the issue. That's refusing to accede to a request. Addressing the issue would require an explanation of the policy of "inappropriateness." There hasn't been one.

There has, and the FAQ has been modified to clarify the policy. Is that not one of the things being objected to?

Yes, that would be a really good idea, wouldn't it? As it is, you sit here baffled by these angry users whose legitimate complaints you wish to invalidate.

OK. I'm trying to respond to your arguments rationally, but your continued personal attacks make that difficult. If you can't be civil about this I'm just going to have to stop talking to you.

As it is, I've probably spent more time scrutinizing the boob_nazi community's stance than any individual member of it has. As someone who promotes public breastfeeding and whose wife breastfed publicly, I wanted to be /very careful/ about going out and publicly saying that LJ was right on this issue. But the pro-naked-breast argument just doesn't hold up, and I have yet to see a convincing defense of the idea that LJ is obligated to allow naked breasts in default icons.

#470 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:33 PM:

That's ridiculous. I'm sure we can both think of pictures that would unambiguously violate the nudity rules in a way that the most nipple-revealing breastfeeding does not. Those, we're not arguing over.

But listing those would still require an enormous policy document. There simply cannot be a complete list of every conceivable thing that's not appropriate. Nobody would read it, even if it existed! I personally would give on page seven, around "shaven wombat penis". And once someone makes an attempt to provide a 20 meg policy on what's inappropriate, that allows anyone who can find something that's not in the 20 megs to get away with it, because if the policy claims that the list is comprehensive it must be.

Precisely! Therefore it would be wise to stop treating them as if they were. "Remove that picture from your default, or we'll suspend your account."

Tsk. That's penalty, not detection of violation. You were arguing that it was easy to detect speeding and therefore it should be easy to detect inappropriate pictures. That's false, for the reason I gave. We were not discussing how the penalties should be applied. As it is, I think "please stop doing that or we'll have to suspend you to keep the image from showing up" isn't bad. It's a lot better than speeding, which penalty is "now you pay some money to discourage you from doing this again".

Nobody's saying that LJ can't enforce its rules, however arbitrary. The protest is over whether they should.

It is not. You yourself have just been arguing that LJ's rules aren't what they say they are. That's what I object to. If people want to stop using the service in protest of its policies, that's their right and I'd never say that they shouldn't. They just shouldn't go out of their way to damage the service on the way out.

And, uh ... overzealous cops do get disciplined, y'know. At least in conscientious jurisdictions. Even if they don't themselves break laws.

Sure. But when, say, there's a policy that says "No speeding" and a sign that says "55 miles per hour" and a private policy on behalf of the cops that says "65 or over only", it would be unfair to yell the cops for stopping people who are driving 65 and not the person next to them driving 64.

#471 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:36 PM:

The FAQ isn't the policy.

That's the problem, isn't it? It looks like a policy. People use it to understand what the policy is. That's what it's there for, isn't it?

There's a reasonable assumption that bare breasts are inappropriate.

There is not a reasonable assumption that breastfeeding is inappropriate depending on exactly how much nipple you can see. We have established that this is not reasonable. That is what the peasants with pitchforks are marching about.

Shall I wonder in turn if you've been reading my counterarguments?

Yes I have, and it was the accumulated speciousness of your counterarguments that caused me to weigh in in the first place in a thread I had previously ignored, as it doesn't affect me. I just couldn't believe the things that you and Jenett were posting.

Because you said "previously unexpressed policy", and it wasn't.

But ... you just said, "The FAQ is not the policy." The policy is not available for the users to see. It is unexpressed to any given user until someone tells them about it. There's nothing for you to disagree with in this phrase.

If there were some kind of flood of inappropriate userpic requests involving bare breasts, maybe, but we don't have any evidence that that's happened in the past.

Right. That's what I'm saying: it must not have.

the FAQ has been modified to clarify the policy. Is that not one of the things being objected to?

The FAQ has been modified to retroactively change the expressed policy, the policy that users have access to.

So, my "you sit here baffled" is a "personal attack," and your "picking a side arbitrarily" isn't? OK, one rule for the goose, one rule for the gander. Very typical of LJ, I guess.

I have yet to see a convincing defense of the idea that LJ is obligated to allow naked breasts in default icons.

I don't think anybody is saying LJ is obligated to do anything. People are just expressing their strong disapproval of what LJ has chosen to do, its total ineptness at expressing what it has chosen to do and the arbitrary way it jumps on people to enforce this, and a wish things could get better.

#472 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:38 PM:

Simon...

Constable Savage.

How long before LJ Abuse suspends somebody for logging on with intent to read a web-page?

#473 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:51 PM:

But listing those would still require an enormous policy document.

No, we don't have to list the unambiguous violations. That was my point! I'm not at all sure what you think I'm saying here, and it gets worse when you say,

You were arguing that it was easy to detect speeding and therefore it should be easy to detect inappropriate pictures.

Good lord, no. That's the exact opposite of what I was saying. I was saying that, although it is easy to detect and identify speeding, there are nevertheless some fuzzy boundary issues. How much fuzzier, therefore, should the boundary issues be on an issue that is not so easy to detect and identify, such as "inappropriate pictures."

I think "please stop doing that or we'll have to suspend you to keep the image from showing up" isn't bad.

I think suspension is pretty severe.

It is not. You yourself have just been arguing that LJ's rules aren't what they say they are.

OK, to "whether they should enforce their rules" add "whether they should make their rules clear before they enforce them, instead of afterwards."

If people want to stop using the service in protest of its policies, that's their right and I'd never say that they shouldn't.

But do you want them to?

They just shouldn't go out of their way to damage the service on the way out.

Are you claiming that anyone is actually doing that, and if so in what way? If by that you mean loudly expressing their dissatisfaction, I'd say that's part of their right in leaving.

it would be unfair to yell the cops for stopping people who are driving 65 and not the person next to them driving 64.

It would. But now the cops are stopping people who are driving 64. ("People driving 64" = people showing areola on a breastfeeding icon. "People driving 65" = people showing a plain old bare breast.)

#474 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:59 PM:

Quoth DoNotSpamMe:

I find icons of it inappropriate for the same reason it's inappropriate for me to stand and stare at a woman breastfeeding in front of me - it's a private, intimate and beautiful act, one between her and her child, that is rude of me to intrude upon.
It's been a very long thread, but I believe somewhere way far back it was mentioned that this particular opinion you have of breastfeeding is exactly one which those in favor of allowing public breastfeeding wish to oppose. As I understand their position, it goes something like this:

"Unlike making love with your special sweetie, breastfeeding isn't about private, sacred acts of love. It's about feeding a baby. Whether your motive is from 'it's too sacred for public consumption' or 'it's lewd and indecent,' you are wrong to tell mothers that they must hide away the act of feeding their child. How can any mother feel able to make a feeding choice based on what's best for her and her baby, when she's being forced to also take onboard the idea that breastfeeding in public is somehow shameful?"

A shorter way of addressing your opinion goes as follows: "Whether it's private is up to the mother in question. If you don't like her decision, don't watch."

That, as I understand it, is one of the arguments advanced upthread by those in favor of public breastfeeding.

On another topic, I would like to suggest that idonotlikepeas's reaction to the emailing campaign ("LJ should not be expected to cave in under pressure") resembles more a president's reaction to terrorists' demands than a business owner's reaction to customer outrage.

#475 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 04:04 PM:

That's the problem, isn't it? It looks like a policy. People use it to understand what the policy is. That's what it's there for, isn't it?

It is supposed to help you understand the policy, by expressing a couple of examples of things that are not permitted and via a statement of intent. It has done this successfully, for the most part. It's not intended to be the entire policy. The entire policy is "No inappropriate userpics," so even the document we're describing isn't the entire policy; it would be an expansion of that policy to describe every possible use of the word "inappropriate".

There is not a reasonable assumption that breastfeeding is inappropriate depending on exactly how much nipple you can see. We have established that this is not reasonable.

Breastfeeding is not inappropriate, nor judged inappropriate by these actions. Pictures of naked breasts are inappropriate in default user icons. I consider that an obvious statement. The definition "naked breast = exposed nipple" is slightly less obvious, but is still well-accepted generally and happens to be what's used as a guideline by the people trying to determine whether a breast is naked or not.

So while you may have established that breastfeeding is appropriate (which should have been easy, since I can't imagine who'd argue the opposite in this forum since there's a rule above about it), there has been no argument that establishes that pictures of naked breasts are appropriate everywhere in some special cirumstances, which is the real issue here.

But ... you just said, "The FAQ is not the policy." The policy is not available for the users to see. It is unexpressed to any given user until someone tells them about it. There's nothing for you to disagree with in this phrase.

There is, and I've expressed it several times. I mentioned it above, again, but I'll say it here too: The policy is "no inappropriate userpics". Previously, the people that wrote that policy assumed that users would realize that "naked breast" = "inappropriate". Since that turned out not to be the case for certain people, it has been clarified.

So, my "you sit here baffled" is a "personal attack," and your "picking a side arbitrarily" isn't? OK, one rule for the goose, one rule for the gander. Very typical of LJ, I guess.

Honestly didn't intend that to be referring to you specifically, although looking back I see why it looked like I was. Fine. I apologize for the appearance of insult, and I'll accept everything up until now as payment for that (even the stuff that occurred before it), but please stop from this point forward.

I don't think anybody is saying LJ is obligated to do anything. People are just expressing their strong disapproval of what LJ has chosen to do,

Actually, no. The argument has very much been that LJ is obligated to do this, and the laws of the state of California have been trotted out on numerous occasions to explain why they believe this to be so. You may not personally be advancing that argument, but many are.

And I refuse to see spamming my friends as a positive step or a good idea, even if it was done with the best of intentions.

its total ineptness at expressing what it has chosen to do and the arbitrary way it jumps on people to enforce this, and a wish things could get better.

And, of course, I disagree that any of this has even happened anywhere except in the minds of the people who actually received the suspension notices. I think LJ's main failing in this has been that it has yet to come out and say "The Abuse Team was right to suspend these accounts, that's totally in line with our policy and we hope everyone understands." I'd like them to do that, and to say why naked breasts are not allowed in defaults; right now there's a lot of misinformation being spread about breastfeeding being targetted specifically, and it might behoove them to clean it up.

#476 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 04:33 PM:

No, we don't have to list the unambiguous violations. That was my point! I'm not at all sure what you think I'm saying here, and it gets worse when you say,

What you appear to be saying is that if LJ wants people to understand what the default userpic policy is, it must write out every possible case in which a userpic could be deemed inappropriate. And that otherwise they're not adequately informing people of what the policy is. What else could I glean from the idea that they should have mentioned the nipple issue specifically? There are just as many other boundaries involved; why are those different? Why should they not be listed?

That's the exact opposite of what I was saying. I was saying that, although it is easy to detect and identify speeding, there are nevertheless some fuzzy boundary issues. How much fuzzier, therefore, should the boundary issues be on an issue that is not so easy to detect and identify, such as "inappropriate pictures."

They are indeed fuzzy, which is why groups like the LJ Abuse team have to have clear standards under which to operate, because otherwise you end up with inconsistent enforcement and, worse, people believing that enforcement has been inconsistent and becoming upset because their "arty" nude was banned and their friend's "pornographic" nude was allowed.

I think suspension is pretty severe.

Not as bad as you think. They had plenty of warning before it happened, and they can get their accounts back whenever they like if they're willing to change the default image. The suspension is just a way of motivating them to change the default and of getting the default out of the public areas while it's still inappropriate.

If people want to stop using the service in protest of its policies, that's their right and I'd never say that they shouldn't.

But do you want them to?

Hmm. Interesting question. Since you asked... No, not really. I'd prefer it if they changed their default userpics and stuck around. I like breastfeeding advocates, by and large, and I think they're usually a force for good. I'd like to see most of these people stay around LiveJournal and direct their energy towards getting breastfeeding accepted at a higher social level. I'm not even wholly against the idea of putting a special exception in for breastfeeding pictures, although I've set to see a version of it that wouldn't be abused six ways from Sunday by the trolls (my main reason for currently advocating against it, not that I actually have any influence on LJ policy at all).

My intent in these discussions has always been to make sure that LJ's position is represented fairly. I'm not always going to agree with them, but I hate it when people are attacked for the wrong reasons, and I hate it even more when my friends are attacked for things that aren't their fault.

Are you claiming that anyone is actually doing that, and if so in what way? If by that you mean loudly expressing their dissatisfaction, I'd say that's part of their right in leaving.

Nope, that's fine. I mean spamming campaigns, spreading misinformation about what the policy is, and disseminating a distorted view of the events that led up to the current situation. If they want to say "LJ's no-naked-breasts policy doesn't have an exemption for breastfeeding, and that's wrong." I wouldn't object. They might even be right, although I'm not convinced. If they want to say "LJ is against breastfeeding and attacking mothers", I am forced to comment because that's not what's happening and those kinds of distortions hurt the service.

It would. But now the cops are stopping people who are driving 64. ("People driving 64" = people showing areola on a breastfeeding icon. "People driving 65" = people showing a plain old bare breast.)

Not at all. It's just that nobody who was stopped for driving 65 before made this much of an issue out of it; most of the fines have happened for people who are driving 70 and that's the area that's been focused on.

#477 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 04:53 PM:

On another topic, I would like to suggest that idonotlikepeas's reaction to the emailing campaign ("LJ should not be expected to cave in under pressure") resembles more a president's reaction to terrorists' demands than a business owner's reaction to customer outrage.

Ha-ha. Was wondering if someone would make that comparison. Well,

1) I'm not part of LJ's staff. That's my personal thought, but not necessarily their strategy or what they'll ultimately do.
2) Unlike certain presidents, I haven't advocated that LJ take any action at all against the pro-naked-breast coalition, only that they enforce the exact same policy they always have.
3) I certainly wouldn't advocate that LJ attack another femenist group, because, you know, they might be harboring pro-naked-breast sentiment...

#478 ::: Jenett ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 05:24 PM:

I had other replies, had problems posting, lost the file it was saved in.

Simon:
Since neither you nor Jenett are admitting the massive disfunctionality of LJ Abuse, problems like this are going to keep on happening.

See, I don't think it's massively dysfunctional. I think that like most things, it could be improved. I have no trouble seeing those as co-existing. (I also, like I've said, don't assume I'm going to agree with any online service's preferred policy or practice. I don't think they're abusive just because I disagree with their handling when I've already agreed to something that says "We make the rules: it's possible they may change without notice.")

What's functional? At least every eight to ten days, on average, based on the last numbers I saw (which are outdated), the Abuse Team handles 1000 cases. Think about how few of those you hear about. Spam reports. Significant physical world issues of harassment, criminal action, threats, suicide reports, etc. Someone posting someone else's phone number to get them in trouble or harass them. Helping people who don't know the tools deal with comment harassment, banning someone etc.

Also think about the fact that at least *some* of the cases that make noise, people feel they have something to gain by being vocal. A number of them don't want to cooperate for various reasons (some good, some not so great). Some of them lie about why they got told to make a change. Some of them just like drama or attention or feeling like they're a victim. Not every thing that raises a huge stink and cry has a good reason behind it.

[Note: In this particular case, I personally feel that almost all of the people being vocal in this particular issue have raised good points, reasonable concerns, etc. I've been hoping to point out that there are better and worse ways to raise those concerns, and that escalating tensions rarely makes anything better. I say 'almost' because I cannot see how reasonable people consider significant threats or personal harassment responsible action towards solving a problem.]

Now, are there things that can be improved? Absolutely. However, many of those things don't have easy answers. Yes, in hindsight, it's clear that this should have been handled differently. However, there is *always* a topic that someone won't know the nuances of, and there are often times, on social networking sites, that something new will come up.

(Perhaps some of you remember the outrage over people being required not to use clips from the beheading videos in Iraq as a default user pic. I don't think that anyone expected people to want to do that until someone did: it certainly wasn't explicitly in the documentation at that point. Or whether graphic cartoon/drawn sex in an animated gif is different from a video clip of actual people doing it.)

I've seen a lot of "There should be better training!" Well, okay. What kind of better training? Given that this is a new and still developing technology, where are people supposed to get that training *from*?

There is, so far as I know, no inter-site communication of "Hey, we had someone try X, and claim it was okay" going on - there's occaisionally a little, through personal contacts, but there's little professional-level communication. A lot of sites are reinventing the wheel, and different issues will hit different sites first. That's a technology-wide issue, not a site-specific one.

Do you require people handling Abuse cases to go through an introduction with every topical community on the site, learning which things are hot buttons, and what phrases may be particularly inappropriate or considered insulting? That might be nice, but it's impractical in a number of ways (least of which is that those communities continue to change, grow, and develop nuances themselves Plus, on a number of topics, different sub-groups disagree on which things are actually an issue. And have you looked at the number of topics that'd need to cover?)

As noted, if you publish explicit lists saying X and Y are forbidden, someone will try and get away with Z, even though it's clearly related and intended to be covered.

As also stated, there are occaisional little blips in any community - people get upset over something, then cool down and realise it's not a huge deal or that there may be good reasons for those rules.

I work in a high school: teenagers push these kinds of boundaries all the time. (It's part of being a teenager.) F'ex, the clearly stated library/lab closure time is 4. We often get kids who want to stay later. Is the answer a) "Oh, sure, I'll stay, unpaid, as late as you want, even though I have evening plans or a meeting" or b) "Hey, sorry. Sometimes one of us can stay late, but not tonight. You have five minutes to save and finish up. Check first, next time, okay?"

Do they gripe about leaving at four? Absolutely. Ditto how they are expected to treat the space, where they can have food and drink, use MP3 players, or use school laptops. Doesn't always mean it's a rule that should be changed, or that can be changed without other consequences.

This also happens with Abuse reports. I'm sure it happens in police reports, or with other enforcement areas: some people just like pushing boundaries, and the smoke and noise don't automatically mean that a change is needed.

What people seem to want here is a system that shortcircuits replies on *both* sides (both what's coming out from the Abuse Team, and what people are reading as replies that have *already* gone out) that's instantaneous or close to it. Or a way to forsee which issues are going to be a momentary blip, and which really are a big deal.

There are, of course, real issues (like this one turned out to be). How is someone supposed to tell the difference at the point where it makes a difference? And particularly, how is someone to tell the difference between the point when the first emails of "This is our policy." go out, and when lots of complaints come flooding back in (again, often the difference becomes clear in the space of 60-120 minutes.)

If there's training out there that covers this sort of stuff, why is no one being specific about how to implement it in a practical way? This is not just general managerial stuff, either: some of the issues are specific to the format and technology methods, to age of the population, etc. I'd suspect that AOL and MSN have relevant experience: do you think they share what they know easily?

I think I've asked some pretty detailed questions about what would help here. I've seen very few replies besides what seems to boil down to "Well, they should have known better." Hard to fix something that unspecific.

(Obviously, clearly, there are some places that could be improved: someone saying "Hey, wait, big issue here, we're putting a X day hold on these cases while we learn more" would have made sense. Thing is, *that's* a policy change too. And it doesn't solve a number of other concerns people have raised.)

If you have real, qualifiable suggestions, suggest them. If you can't stand the site, don't use it. But if you actually want change, surely there are better and worse ways to handle that, and doing the better ones is more likely to get you to your actual stated goal, right?

#479 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 05:33 PM:

As far as I can tell, there is no published document which supports Idonotlikepeas description of LJ Policy.

I am prepared to believe that there is only one person using that ID, both here and on LiveJournal. I'm prepared to believe there is a real person behind the label, rather than some sockpuppet.

But the sloppy reasoning, the apparent lack of understanding of what other people are writing, and that glorious name in LJ Info of McAlias--what is there in that to give his words any significance?

One might, I agree, use any name one wishes. But one who so blatantly hides their identity will, I reckon, be due little or no respect here unless their words stand the scrutiny of one of the most literate, most verbally adroit, most diversely informed, bunches of reprobates it has ever been my pleasure to associate with.

Idonotlikepeas, you're fighting so far out of your class that it's embarrassing. Your arguments hold water about as well as a cracked colander, and you show a starkly regrettable infacility in the comprehension of the English language.

You do not even get the short words.

It's too late to even suggest that you quit while you're ahead. Your hole-digging ability would put Ferdinand de Lesseps to shame.

You are nothing.


(I just know I'm going to get disemvoweled for this, but it feels so good...)


#480 ::: Echidna ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 08:53 PM:

What you appear to be saying is that if LJ wants people to understand what the default userpic policy is, it must write out every possible case in which a userpic could be deemed inappropriate.

I haven't seen anyone saying that other than you, as a straw man. What I have seen people saying is that the policy should have been written so as to allow people to reasonably discern where the boundaries were. If you're going to prohibit all pictures of birds, don't say that pictures of ducks are inappropriate and expect people to generalize. Many people believe that the pre-May-20 policy, which mentioned "graphically sexual" images, could not have been reasonably construed as setting the bar so as to include pictures of a breastfeeding infant that include a visible nipple and/or aureole. "Nudity" is just as easy to say as "graphically sexual"; the fact that the original policy did _not_ say nudity was unacceptable could be read as implying that nudity that was not "graphically sexual" was acceptable. That's certainly how I would read it.

It may or may not be the case that, prior to the change in wording, LJ Abuse _believed_ they had clearly stated that non-sexual nudity was inappropriate, and I don't have the insiders' knowledge necessary to comment on that; nevertheless, the fact that they have since changed the FAQ wording suggests that they at least recognize the grounds for confusion.

#481 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 09:15 PM:

I haven't seen anyone saying that other than you, as a straw man.

I'm thinking of it as a reductio ad absurdum. If that one boundary must be documented, why must all the other boundaries be ignored? Should the FAQ have information about exactly how much exposed bone must be visible in a hole in someone's skull for it to count as a violent wound? I might even agree that it needs (and has received) special attention now, since the misconception has happened, but to argue that it should have been there all along?

What I have seen people saying is that the policy should have been written so as to allow people to reasonably discern where the boundaries were. If you're going to prohibit all pictures of birds, don't say that pictures of ducks are inappropriate and expect people to generalize.

Let's follow that analogy. What if the Terms of Service contained a phrase like the following: "Animal images are not allowed. Please keep them out of userpics."

And Abuse had a stock answer, which referred to a FAQ. That FAQ said "Please do not include any animal images. Particularly, images of ducks and rabbits should not appear."

Now let's say that a user uploaded a picture of Goofy. That person could make a reasonable argument that this isn't a picture of an animal - it's a picture of a cartoon dog who doesn't even act or look very much like a dog! He's basically a man with big floppy ears. But the people responsible for enforcing the policy have had a guideline for four years that indicates this is close enough to an animal image to warrant removal under the policy.

So, another user sees the picture of Goofy and reports it as violating the policy. The Abuse Team sends out its standard no-animals-in-default-userpics e-mail, which links to the FAQ. But it turns out that this user is a member of a Disney community! And they make an aggrieved post in that community. And then all of the members of the community are encouraged to fill out a form which sends e-mail to a number of LJ addresses asking why Disney images are disallowed (although only images of animals are disallowed, and only in default icons, not all Disney images everywhere). They point at the FAQ and say "It doesn't mention dogs! Or cartoons!" One of the Abuse Team people, seeing this issue, changes the FAQ to read "Particularly, images of ducks, rabbits, and dogs should not appear, even if they are cartoons."

Has the policy changed? No. But a piece of explanatory text about it was clarified. Was it unreasonable to suppose that "no pictures of animals" included cartoons? No. Was it unreasonable to assume that it didn't include cartoons? Also no. But once that user received the e-mail saying "Sorry, cartoon animals are still considered animals by LJ", that barrier of reasonability disappears. They're given a fair period of time to change their default, since they didn't know they were doing the wrong thing, and if they won't do it in that time they're suspended until they agree to.

It's not a matter of people just making up interpretations of the policy and keeping them secret to be cruel; it's a matter of a policy that people thought was clear enough, but obviously turned out not to be. Does all of that mean that the Goofy images should now be allowed? No. They're still against policy, and the last twenty people that posted Goofy images as defaults had them removed, and so did all those people who tried to use Donald (who, being a duck, has no excuse at all), so why does this one get special treatment? If there's going to be a change of policy to allow cartoon animals, that's fine, and then people can use Goofy as their default icon again, but until then the policy has to be enforced and those people can set their default userpic to Cinderella instead.

#482 ::: milesawaygirl ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 09:48 PM:

This thread just keeps going faster than I can keep up! So these are responses to posts way upthread.

idontlikepeas
I needed a break from telling people that, yes, it's just the default icon and, no, breastfeeding pictures are not banned. It's amazing how fuzzy the proponents of the inconsistent child-excepted nudity policy have made those particular things

No they haven't. I've been reading this discussion and discussion threads in LJ (in boob_nazis, in news, and on numerous personal journals) and elsewhere extensively and people understand fine that it's only the default icon that is subject to this policy enforcement, and explain the issue very clearly.

The people in question were warned that the icon was considered inappropriate and given plenty of time to change it. They elected not to do so as a means of protest, but the fact that someone is protesting cannot mean that they are made exempt from policy, if that policy is to have any effect. And the people involved can get their accounts back at any time by agreeing to change the default icon. So if it's purely a question of people not understanding the policy, I think that's been resolved at this point

The users are disputing LJ Abuse's judgements that their default icons depicting breastfeeding and which partly show areola or nipple are inappropriate for public view. They are pointing out that breastfeeding in public is normal, and that laws have been enacted in the USA and in many other countries in support of this protecting the rights of nursing mothers.

They would like LJ's policy on default icons to take account of this.

Now, I'm guessing that the people who were first threatened with suspension explained all this to LJ Abuse and optimistically hoped that the Abuse staff would maybe go away and check this out and think “hmm, I never realised that was the law and I never realised how much aggro & hassle breastfeeding mothers can sometimes face. Maybe we should consider if/how our policy might take account of this.”

They elected not to change their default icons because they did not consider them to be inappropriate as default icons and are trying to get LJ/Six Apart to understand this.

As I said before, the writers of the ToS relied on a shared understanding of what an inappropriate image was. That served them well for at least four years. Now that it's obvious that there isn't that shared understanding, at least in certain quarters, maybe they'll change the wording so it is more obvious what they were trying to say, but lack of vision is not immorality.

Or maybe the shared understanding among many users (not just the ones affected and others who are supporting them) is that breastfeeding in public is normal and unremarkable, breasts are inevitably partly visible in the process, and the LJ policy-makers may wish to incorporate that into their shared understanding.

We don't want you to clarify the wording, we want you to revisit the policy.

They clearly believed that the standard that bare breasts aren't all-age-appropriate was held commonly. I'm entirely willing to admit that was a mistake on their part, and that they should correct it (already have, in fact, by making that interpretation explicit in the FAQ, so I guess I don't need to admit that). But to claim that this represents a change of policy is another matter entirely. That claim means that LJ altered the way it does things specifically to attack breastfeeding mothers, and that's just plain not what happened.

The whole wilfully obtuse “The FAQ is not the TOS, the TOS is not the FAQ, the TOS is not the policy, the FAQ is not the policy” run-around has been more than adequately addressed by others. The FAQ guidelines changed from restricting “sexually graphic” default icons, which did could not realistically be interpreted to include breasts in the context of breastfeeding, to the much broader “nudity” which could. Why is so difficult to concede that users have a valid point in being pissed off about the goalposts being shifted like this?

Please stop misrepresenting them as “the pro-naked breast coalition”. They are not asking to be able show bare breasts full-stop in default icons and you know that. There is a baby latched onto and therefore concealing most of the nipple in these pictures. They are taking issue with the nitpicking interpretation of “no nudity” that sees some of them being suspended simply because the pics show a bit of areola.

Their point is that they consider that breasts depicted in the context of breastfeeding to be all-age-appropriate, and that in a picture of a child nursing at the breast the visibility of the areola, or, heaven forbid, part of the nipple itself does not make a fundamental difference to its appropriateness.

Restricting the default userpic and not the others is the way that LJ preserves free expression without making their entire service not kid-safe. Regardless of whether you believe they've drawn the nipple/no-nipple line in the right place (and I see can arguing that point), this is absolutely the right place to draw the line for restricting userpics.

Strong language is allowed in default icons. What's that all about? Won't many parents take issue with that?

This argument that default icons are the first line of protection for casual visitors and young or easily offended users is pretty silly. Before ever joining LJ, I've followed links from elsewhere that led straight into LJ journals or communities and their comment threads, where there must have been non-default icons aplenty. I can't remember seeing any offensive icons, but potentially there could have been some.

Anyhow, I understand and accept the stated reasons for restrictions on default icons. But I do not consider the breastfeeding icons that have got users suspended to be inappropriate for children or anyone else to view.

That's not "addressing the issue". That's "giving up and changing the policy". If you want LJ to give up and change the policy, that's something else and should not be referred to as "addressing the issue".

'Giving up'? That speaks volumes about your attitude to the users directly involved any and all of us who want to support them – you just want us to be quiet and not bother you any more.

Addressing the issue would be to acknowledge that the users concerned have a point: that breastfeeding in public is normal and that governments have laws and policies actively designed to encourage the acceptance of mothers breastfeeding in public.

Nowhere yet have I seen anyone who speaks for LJ in an official capacity acknowledge the shaming, ignorance and harassment that breastfeeding mothers can be confronted with simply for wanting to feed their babies. Or the fact that such negative attitudes have a real effect in discouraging women from starting or continuing with breastfeeding.

The other glaring omission is the failure to acknowledge the gender discrimination in the “no nudity” condition – is LJ going to suspend users whose default icons feature bare male chests? Unlikely. Ok, cultural standards dictate that – but at least have the backbone to acknowledge that the rule disproportionately restricts pictures of women.

I'm not even wholly against the idea of putting a special exception in for breastfeeding pictures, although I've set to see a version of it that wouldn't be abused six ways from Sunday by the trolls (my main reason for currently advocating against it, not that I actually have any influence on LJ policy at all).

Please explain, how could the trolls push the boundaries? If the “no areola or nipple” rule is excepted for pictures of breastfeeding, how would people be able to abuse that rule? If a photo features a baby nursing on a breast, then the picture genuinely depicts breastfeeding. Clear enough. If someone or something other than a baby is on the breast and not fully concealing it, then it's not an instance of breastfeeding.

If you run to LJ Abuse and say look, look, there's some people being racist, or, there are some people describing having sexual thoughts about children, then they'll politely and firmly say something like “As long as the content posted does not solicit illegal activity, it is considered allowable under both the Terms of Service and the ideal of free speech. LiveJournal is committed to preserving as much free speech as possible for its users, as long as that speech does not cross the line into invading other users’ privacy.”

So, if someone were to open a complaint about seeing a default user icon of a nursing child where the mother's breast including part of the areola is visible, there is no reason why LJ Abuse shouldn't politely but firmly state that their policy allows for such pictures, referencing those laws in the USA and elsewhere that specify that breastfeeding in public is not indecent, and affirming that LJ is fully supportive of efforts to promote and educate about breastfeeding.

#483 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 09:51 PM:

I've deleted my account.

I don't think it will do any good, but it's still the right thing to do.

#484 ::: grey_evil_twin ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 10:17 PM:

I could have an LJ default icon of a close up of my cervix, because frankly, you'd be going "what the hell is that?" Is that inappropriate?

Boobs have been sexualised and objectified, and yet a thing that is very close to Reproduction Central doesn't have the same sensationalism, and the only reaction would be along the lines of "It's a medical thing".

It's more interesting to wonder why they want to ban it. Afraid someone might get horny looking at it? Then there would be a slew of icon bannage to deal with.

If pictures of breastfeeding as icons are a bad thing according to LJ, then as LJ users we can quite rightly give a contrary opinion if we feel so inclined.

#485 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 10:29 PM:

No they haven't. I've been reading this discussion and discussion threads in LJ (in boob_nazis, in news, and on numerous personal journals) and elsewhere extensively and people understand fine that it's only the default icon that is subject to this policy enforcement, and explain the issue very clearly.

And I've been doing the same, and this hasn't been the case. I'm glad that not everyone is behaving poorly. In fact, I believe that the majority of the participants are not behaving poorly. But dealing with the minority has been troublesome.

The users are disputing LJ Abuse's judgements that their default icons depicting breastfeeding and which partly show areola or nipple are inappropriate for public view.

That's why I mentioned protesting. If they believe that strongly enough to let themselves be suspended rather than change their default icons, then I salute their bravery. I just don't want people to claim that LJ is immoral or foolhardy for following through on the suspensions - to do otherwise would be to make threats of suspension useless in the future. (They could be staved off by calls of "we're having a protest!")

And I don't want people to think the penalty is more severe than it is - every one of those people can have their accounts right back if they change their default icons (or if the policy gets changed at some future point, of course). It's not as if all that stuff is going to be deleted when the account is suspended.

Or maybe the shared understanding among many users (not just the ones affected and others who are supporting them) is that breastfeeding in public is normal and unremarkable, breasts are inevitably partly visible in the process, and the LJ policy-makers may wish to incorporate that into their shared understanding.

Could be. But I haven't seen anything of the kind. In fact, there seems to have been pretty much the same amount of protest from other communities saying that they /don't/ want the standards changed. (Although they haven't bothered with a press release as yet.) And of course all of this is playing out in one of LJ's many sub-areas; the vast majority of LJ's users haven't heard about this yet. They will if the policy changes, though, and neither side of this debate has any idea how they'd react then.

We don't want you to clarify the wording, we want you to revisit the policy.

Just a small wording note - I'm not one of the people involved in setting policy for the site (except in the technical support area, and even then only in an advisory capacity). LJ isn't a you, it's a they.

LJ has said they're revisiting the policy. It may be that the answer is "no, nudity is still nudity even if there's a baby in the picture". It's their right to set that policy, just as it's your right to leave if you don't like it. But that policy isn't an inconsistent or even an unfair one in this respect - you may feel it devalues breastfeeding as an activity, but others (including me) disagree. That is the rightful domain of this argument; not prejudice or unfairness or the natural beauty of brestfeeding or any of those things: whether a nude breast can sometimes be OK for display in a default icon, and the specific cases where that might be so.

The whole wilfully obtuse “The FAQ is not the TOS, the TOS is not the FAQ, the TOS is not the policy, the FAQ is not the policy” run-around has been more than adequately addressed by others.

It's not a run-around; it's simply the fact of the matter. The FAQ really isn't the policy. It's a tool designed to help people understand the policy by providing some instructive examples. It isn't designed to be an exhaustive list of everything you can't do.

I understand why people might be upset if they're informed that their icon violates the site's rules when they didn't think it did. But to then claim that it really doesn't violate the rules, and that the people running the site are wrong, is less comprehensible to me in this case.

Strong language is allowed in default icons. What's that all about? Won't many parents take issue with that?

Probably! But there's got to be a line somewhere, and a decision was made that people over 13 probably know swear words already (but may not have been exposed to naked breasts).

This argument that default icons are the first line of protection for casual visitors and young or easily offended users is pretty silly. Before ever joining LJ, I've followed links from elsewhere that led straight into LJ journals or communities and their comment threads, where there must have been non-default icons aplenty.

LJ can't control what other sites do, though. It can only control what it does itself.

'Giving up'? That speaks volumes about your attitude to the users directly involved any and all of us who want to support them – you just want us to be quiet and not bother you any more

Well, I'm not on the Abuse Team and I don't work for LiveJournal. So all I have to do to stop being bothered is stop visiting threads like this.

But I think I've made it pretty clear in my last several responses why I consider it "giving up". This protest was gone about in a wrong way, and I don't like it when people get rewarded for doing things the wrong way. It sets a bad precedent. On the other hand, people have been behaving much more reasonably in the last few days, so maybe I should just get over that.

Addressing the issue would be to acknowledge that the users concerned have a point: that breastfeeding in public is normal and that governments have laws and policies actively designed to encourage the acceptance of mothers breastfeeding in public.

http://community.livejournal.com/boob_nazis/1763041.html

Doesn't use your words, but the intent is definitely there. Nobody on the LJ side is claiming there's anything wrong with breastfeeding. Only that pictures of naked breasts aren't appropriate everywhere.

The other glaring omission is the failure to acknowledge the gender discrimination in the “no nudity” condition – is LJ going to suspend users whose default icons feature bare male chests? Unlikely. Ok, cultural standards dictate that – but at least have the backbone to acknowledge that the rule disproportionately restricts pictures of women.

I'm not an official LJ representative, but I freely admit that this is not fair. But as you say, it's a cultural thing and nothing to do with LJ. If you can convince our culture that women's breasts are fine for public display, I'd be deeply indebted to you. (And no, I do not mean that in some kind of perverted way.)

Please explain, how could the trolls push the boundaries? If the “no areola or nipple” rule is excepted for pictures of breastfeeding, how would people be able to abuse that rule? If a photo features a baby nursing on a breast, then the picture genuinely depicts breastfeeding. Clear enough. If someone or something other than a baby is on the breast and not fully concealing it, then it's not an instance of breastfeeding.

Well, just as an example. Let's say my default icon is a picture of a naked woman. The Abuse Team contacts me and says "Sorry, got to drop it." So I photoshop in a baby with its mouth near the picture's right nipple. Is it now OK? How close does that mouth have to be? Ten pixels? Five? What if I do that ahead of time so that the Abuse Team doesn't even know I photoshopped it? If photoshopped pictures aren't allowed, what if the photo quality on a real picture is bad and it looks photoshopped?

If you run to LJ Abuse and say look, look, there's some people being racist, or, there are some people describing having sexual thoughts about children, then they'll politely and firmly say something like “As long as the content posted does not solicit illegal activity, it is considered allowable under both the Terms of Service and the ideal of free speech. LiveJournal is committed to preserving as much free speech as possible for its users, as long as that speech does not cross the line into invading other users’ privacy.”

That's because they have a clear, firm line for that stuff; because it's all in individuals communities or journals, where content is less restricted than it is in the public spaces of LJ.

#486 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 10:32 PM:

DoNotSpamMe says, "I guess I'm a 'pompous hypocrite' too..."

Not a bit of it! digable was pretending he was so much cooler than this discussion while begging us not to notice he was a part of it. But you, DoNotSpamMe, you are right down here rooting around in the muck with the rest of us, without pretense of a higher calling. Welcome, brother!

Nope, your sin is just that you lack critical reading skills! And judging by your mangling of my name you're rolling some misses on reading skills in general.

Bruce Baugh says, In a sufficiently large group (where "sufficient" size may be very small indeed), any issue can be major, and any issue can lead to major ones. Assume it will be deathly serious to someone and be prepared for it.

Preach it! Clearly a man who has kept his eyes open.

The preparation I'd advise is a mental state... Assuming you give even half a damn about the other people involved, be ready to give credence to their concerns.

#487 ::: idonotlikepeas ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 10:40 PM:

I could have an LJ default icon of a close up of my cervix, because frankly, you'd be going "what the hell is that?" Is that inappropriate?

If nobody can tell what it is, it's not inappropriate. Because nobody can tell what it is.

Boobs have been sexualised and objectified,

Boobs are sexual in nature as well as nurturing. This is an important thing to understand. LJ did not make boobs sexual, nor did culture, society, or any of those things. They are sexual for purely physical reasons. They are also lifegiving and nurturing, but neither role diminishes the other or prevents it from being.

and yet a thing that is very close to Reproduction Central doesn't have the same sensationalism, and the only reaction would be along the lines of "It's a medical thing".

If you made your default userpic a microscopic close-up of your nipple which wasn't obviously anything except an enormous set of oddly-colored canyons and mountains, that wouldn't really be inappropriate either. (At least, not in my opinion, keeping in mind I don't speak for LJ.) Because, again, nobody would know what the hell it was. It's not about where on the body it is.

If pictures of breastfeeding as icons are a bad thing according to LJ, then as LJ users we can quite rightly give a contrary opinion if we feel so inclined.

I'd be first in line to do so. (Well, OK, probably six hundredth. Lines form fast at LJ.) Luckily, they haven't said any such thing. Nude breasts aren't allowed in default userpics. Some breastfeeding pictures happen to have nude breasts in them. That's all. There's no blanket ban on breastfeed images with nipples in non-default icons, no blanket ban on breastfeeding images in default icons if they don't show nipple, and no statement by anyone official that there's anything morally wrong with breastfeeding or breastfeeding images (in fact, many officialy statements to the contrary).

#488 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 10:58 PM:

viz "Constable Savage": I knew if I kept reading this, something life-enhancing would show up.

#489 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 11:01 PM:

Ok... and not posting for a day will make what kind of difference to LJ exactly?

#490 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 11:47 PM:

Deanna Hoak:Because the fact is still that nudity is against the law. Thus, yes, pictures of the woman nude would still violate the law.

Actually, not always. For example: my college paper is still (some 30 years after the fact) given grief from the Board of Trustees because it published photos of a group streak on campus.

The streakers posted flyers. The mall was packed with people who came to see the show. They piled out of a couple of cars and started running.

The mall is a bit more than half a mile long, before they got halfway they had stopped running and were jogging, by three-quarters they were walking.

All of the staff photographers were somewhere along the route, and the tail end (where the cars had swung around the campus to pick them up) was right by the city room of the paper. They were interviewed and even stood for a couple of group portraits.

Much conversation was had about which pictures to publish. Would we crop out breasts? Would it be fair to crop out women's breasts, but leave male chests? What about the shots of them running, which got the drama from the speed, and needed the whole body to convey that? How about shots from the rear (as a compromise)?

What ran was a shot of them running toward the crowd. Some shots of them walking, amidsts the crowd, and one of the group portraits.

It was used as an example of how to make touhg calls, and the need to go over the responses a paper might get, weighing the news value of a thing against the shock value (the story, as written was about the way it started as a shocking event, and ended with people taking the streakers for granted, and everyone just sort of fading away (there were about eight, as I recall, but it was a couple of years before my time on staff; though the advisors who were there when it happened were still there when I was in the program).

In that context the pictures were thought appropriate, and we ran them. There was much huffing and puffing, but the decision was, according to our lawyer; and the districts, though the trustess didn't get over it; and none of the Board was still serving when I was Managing Editor, but damned if it didn't get thrown in our face by a couple of them when they didn't like a piece of coverage I did of a board meeting where the president of my college was called a racist; unjustly, and I reported the fireworks, that it was provoactive, but legal.

If anyone complained to the police, or the DA's office, nothing came of it.

#491 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:10 AM:

pixexelpuss: If I taped a plastic frog over my nipples and then walked into a mall, would that still be nudity? If I walked around topless with a bandaid over each nipple, am I then fully clothed?

Are you "fully" clothed, no. Would it be nudity? Not in my book. Are you legally dressed if you have covered your genitals? Yes, at least in Calif.

In Mass (and IIRC New Jersey) you are legal without the bandaids. The funny thing about the Mass. case (which was about a woman who wanted to mow her lawn topless in the summer) was that the news program which covered it had to pixelate her chest.

The New Jersey case was in the late '70s, early '80s (and I might be wrong about the state) but happened when a woman wanted to be topless at the beach. The judge ruled that she could be topless (again IIRC, it was in a Playboy squib) nude as well, and not be indecent; but that the same could not be the case for men, as involunatary reactions might cause them to become erect, which would become innately objectionable to some people.

I can't say that the New Jersey case hasn't been overturned, but I know that I have seen women in Calif. who have been in public (at beaches) with nothing more than pasties, on their breasts, and have then gone about in the nearby towns without adding any other clothing.

#492 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:28 AM:
That's not "addressing the issue". That's "giving up and changing the policy". If you want LJ to give up and change the policy, that's something else and should not be referred to as "addressing the issue".

'Giving up'? That speaks volumes about your attitude to the users directly involved any and all of us who want to support them – you just want us to be quiet and not bother you any more.

Exactly my point. idonotlikepeas continues to use the language of war, battle, standing up to oppressors and terrorists--"We will not give in to pressure!"--rather than the language of business/customer relations. I find it distinctly odd that idonotlikepeas would characterize LJ's policy makers in such a way. Any business that actually views its customers as an enemy is not going to get far. Customers don't like to be treated with hostility; it tends to make them want to find other people to give their money to.
#493 ::: nalo ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:32 AM:

I get a headache at the notion that LJ is trying to protect children from images of children being fed in one of the many common ways that children can be fed.

#494 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:12 AM:

"...and a decision was made that people over 13 probably know swear words already (but may not have been exposed to naked breasts)."

Seems unlikely to me...

#495 ::: LindaW ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:21 AM:

milesawaygirl: If a photo features a baby nursing on a breast, then the picture genuinely depicts breastfeeding. Clear enough. If someone or something other than a baby is on the breast and not fully concealing it, then it's not an instance of breastfeeding

Now, if this were the policy, I'd be fine with it, but do you seriously think they can define what a "baby" is without upsetting some people and encouraging various trolls to come out and push the issue?

How would be too old? 2 years? 5 years? 10 years? Where do you draw the line? This is why I'd agree with what LJ have done. I don't think breastfeeding is bad. But you need a line somewhere, and I can see why they chose to draw it there. I'd have a hell of a time judging how old a kid was. 12 months? 15 months? 22 months? 24 months? 3 years? 4 years? I'm a terrible judge of age, and I'd hate to have to be the guy trying to decide which side of the appropriate age line a particular photo fell.

#496 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:28 AM:

amanda (and others).

The tech side of the current protest is this.

An account flagged as "deleted" can be reactivated within 30 days.

During that time, journal entries are invisible to others.

During that time, comments on other journals are still visible, as are LJ-User tage, but marked with a line through the name.

The intent of the protest is that your LJ-friends notice this happening, ultimately raising awareness of the issue.

#497 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:34 AM:

Dave Bell said : I think your whole argument about consent is a red herring of unusual size, but that particular claim is also an accusation of mendacity.

Well, Yonmei herself proved I wasn't making it up. I know she's childless, so she couldn't be using her own child's image. She also admits that the images have been taken off the internet, so certainly neither the child or the photographer has consented specifically to the use of the image in that context.

I'm sorry you think the issue of consent is a red herring. It's a *huge* issue for me, and I was even arguing with my partner about it over breakfast yesterday. I agree not everyone will think it's a problem - but not everyone thinks displaying a nipple or aureole, with or without a baby attached, is a big issue. You do your argument no favours by dismissing the importance of others, yet this is a feature of this entire discussion. The 'boob nazis' (their term, not mine) are making various demands in their campaign for the right to breastfeed (which is not and has never been under threat in this dispute.) But in doing so, even just here, never mind all over their personal and community journals, they dismiss other rights, such as:

1. the right of an employee not to be fired for inadvertently breaking a employer's rule about not viewing nudity at work, just because they do a LJ search.

2. The right of employees of LiveJournal not to be harrassed or threatened (they've received death threats, apparently)

3. The right of a company lawfully going about its business to carry out that business under the terms of service which each of its users consent to.

4. The right of people to put contrary views forward in a debate in a civil manner - telling people to 'shut up' isn't civil, is it? It's not where I live, anyway.

And I won't get into certain other rights which are being dismissed as of no importance because Ms Nielsen Hayden has embargoed the topics. But to me, the biggest right of all is the right of privacy. No child is being denied breastfeeding by the inability to use an icon of the act which happens to show a bit more of the tit than LJ deems acceptable. But every time a child's photo is shown without their consent outside their intimate circle, their privacy is being violated. It's very hard, using words on a page, to convey how extraordinarily angry that violation makes me, but you can pretty much assume that however exercised the 'boob nazis' are about their issue, I am about this. Red herring or not.

Madeline F said: Nope, your sin is just that you lack critical reading skills!

Because I added an extraneous letter to your name (for which egregious error, I apologise), or because I don't agree with your point of view? Really, if you have to keep bringing your comments down to a personal level, I see that as a sign that you have nothing truly convincing to say. I read real good, miss, honest. I just don't *agree* with you.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said: A shorter way of addressing your opinion goes as follows: "Whether it's private is up to the mother in question. If you don't like her decision, don't watch."

Well, you can say the mother's permission overrides the right of the child, and at the moment, the law supports that - I don't agree with it. But if someone's using a default icon with that act being shown, I don't get much choice but to watch, and the child has no choice but to *be* watched. The pro-breastfeeding icon supporters are demanding their choices be validated by SixApart (though why any company should be forced to make a declaration on all the things it supports, I really don't know - do I actually give a damn what webhosting company feels concerning home schooling, for instance? Or the use of organic produce?) If choice, consent, human rights are important for *them*, it's important for everyone, including infants and children too young to know what's being done to them.

I have no doubt SixApart will probably cave in on this because it won't cost them much to agree, and it will be a nice little sop to throw at the ravening hordes. But since the victory will be won by bullying, dishonesty and disinformation, then it will be a hollow one, one which wil have actually done the cause of breastfeeding no good at all, and which will have just reinforced muddy thinking and prejudices on both sides. It won't be one to be proud of.

#498 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:37 AM:

Madeline F: Welcome, brother!

And I'll be mean here and make a slight dig at your own reading skills by pointing you at my first comment where I declare myself to be 'a pro-breastfeeding woman'. A penis would be a handy thing to take to a picnic for sure, but I sadly do not have one.

However, such mistakes are inevitable when one is reading a large thread, don't you agree?

#499 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:15 AM:

Terry, the problem with your examples is that they're essentially local community standards, for a big value of local. And so are community standards in Baghdad, Kabul, Tehran, and Riyadh.

When the FAQ, the only published source of rules which Idonotlikepeas has referred to, only states that nudity tends to be inappropriate, your examples are strongly indicative. But, given his attitude to the status of the FAQ, and his reliance on hidden rules which only he can see, I don't think it'll affect his thinking.

Meanwhile, I see that he're claiming that, if LJ's hidden policy did allow an exception for breastfeeding, somebody might photoshop a baby onto a picture of a totally unclad woman.

Is this guy for real, I ask myself. Has anyone else even suggested that breastfeeding excuses genital exposure?

I can't quite put together the words to describe what seems to be going on in his mind; it seems to be a problem of understanding the distinction between a part and the whole.

And, maybe a little bit, we're making the same mistake. He seems to be the only voice from the LJ side, entirely unofficial, stupendously unhelpful in directing us to any official statement, and we're all tending to paint that pattern onto the whole of LJ.

#500 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:40 AM:

Dave bell said: Has anyone else even suggested that breastfeeding excuses genital exposure?

When I was discussing this with my partner yesterday, he brought up the question of whether a picture of a woman giving birth would be allowed. It seems to me that exactly the same arguments could be made (say, by proponents of home births) for allowing icons of a vagina and cervix if a child was being born through them at the time. And yet I doubt many people would have a difficulty with LiveJournal saying such an image should not be in a default icon, even though childbirth is natural, necessary and legal - in fact, all the things that breastfeeding is and more. I also have no doubt there would be people who would nail themselves to their styrofoam crosses just as readily to demand cervixes and vaginas should be allowed if the picture is showing a birth, and equally claiming how oppressed they are, and how Six Apart don't approve of birth, and installing birth pools in SixApart's offices, while the rest of us are going, "What the hell? This isn't about the right to give birth! This is about what's allowed in a default user icon that's viewable in libraries, schools, offices and other public areas." And the 'birth nazis' would be all "OMG LJ have changed the rules on us again, they never told us we couldn't use pictures of birth in an default icon! Kill the witch!"

And so on.

LiveJournal have to draw a line *somewhere*. The line they have drawn, if you accept that breasts are not acceptable everywhere (though they should be), is not unreasonable, and, more importantly, can be enforced completely equally by employees of all beliefs, experience or background. No nipple showing, no aureole - no need to argue about whether the image is offensive, or obscene, or acceptable. You get the same interpretation (allowing for variations in monitor quality etc) from a 17 year old fundamentalist Christian trainee, and a middle aged hippy earth mother, from women and men, breastfeeders and formula feeders alike. It's not discriminatory if the same rule is applied to all.

You are trying to make it sound like Idonotlikepeas sound is being secretive. To me, he and the other people here like Jennett who've been trying to explain LJ's position, have also been trying to give you the information and illumination that you're demanding (and doing it with charming politeness and patience which continues to impress me.) If you don't like the way things are done at LiveJournal, you need to take it up with the company. Idonotlikepeas is taking a particular position given his background as an LJ volunteer, and giving you the information available to him. If that's not enough, then maybe you need to take it further up the food chain.

#501 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:02 AM:

DoNotSpamMe;

Dave Bell said : I think your whole argument about consent is a red herring of unusual size, but that particular claim is also an accusation of mendacity.

To which you responded:

Well, Yonmei herself proved I wasn't making it up. I know she's childless, so she couldn't be using her own child's image. She also admits that the images have been taken off the internet, so certainly neither the child or the photographer has consented specifically to the use of the image in that context.

I'm sorry you think the issue of consent is a red herring. It's a *huge* issue for me, and I was even arguing with my partner about it over breakfast yesterday. I agree not everyone will think it's a problem - but not everyone thinks displaying a nipple or aureole, with or without a baby attached, is a big issue. You do your argument no favours by dismissing the importance of others, yet this is a feature of this entire discussion. The 'boob nazis' (their term, not mine) are making various demands in their campaign for the right to breastfeed (which is not and has never been under threat in this dispute.) But in doing so, even just here, never mind all over their personal and community journals, they dismiss other rights, such as:

[Specific details deleted, but not to be considered dismissed]

First, I'd hoped I was careful about my wording. You made a specific claim, for which I requested evidence. That evidence has been provided. I also suggested that your claim amounted to an accusation of mendacity.

Now, to deal with consent.

If you are the parent, law and custom gives you a great deal of authority to give, or deny, consent on behalf of your child. I would suggest that a mother posting a picture of herself and her own child, whether or not she is currently breastfeeding, is entirely satisfying any reasonable consent requirement.

(This is, incidentally, is one reason why one should be very careful about "not your baby" allegations.)

And, yes, I know there are some limits on the ability of parents to give or deny consent on behalf of their children. It gets argued before the courts from time to time, when parents refuse consent for medical treatment. The last case I recall seeing mention of, in the British press, seemed to involve medical treatment that was, at best, only going to extend a sick infant's life by a year or two. And the judge came down on the side of the parents right to make the choice.

Now, elsethread, we've had a strawman constructed on the topic of naked breast-feeding women. I would be unsurprised to discover that there was a sexual fetish combining bonking and breastfeeding. But that sort of photograph would, I reckon, fall outside of any general capacity for a parent to consent on behalf of a child, because the act of taking the photograph (not necessarily the act taking place in front of the camera) would be illegal, under child pornography laws.


Briefly glancing over your other points, mostly not quoted, I'm inclined to eye-rolling myself over the boob_nazis label. And the other, conflicting, rights are a problem, as they often are. Though calling some things "rights" is stretching the classification.

The trouble is that I'm not sure that there can be a right to not be offended, which seems to be the direction you're headed. At least some of the time, what you have described as a right of one party may be better treated as a duty of the other party.

In a civilised society, I consider I have a duty not to be indiscriminately offensive. That is not the same as a right not to be offended, though it's close.

But all that is getting a bit far from the main issue, which I consider to be the way that LJ Abuse have behaved, and the way that LJ policies on inappropriate material are defined and published. We are told almost nothing about what the rules are until we break them, and for all we know the rules didn't exist before we were told about them.

#502 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:18 AM:

DoNotSpamMe, maybe I was too brief in my point about genital exposure.

A policy which allows the exposure of the breasts as part of a depiction of breastfeeding neither allows nor excuses the exposure of the genitals. They are two different parts of the body.

You may, if you wish. try to apply the arguments supporting the depiction of breast-feeding to depictions of actual childbirth. But you are not talking about the same part of the body, the counter-arguments are different, and you should not expect to reach the same conclusion.

To be honest, I'm not all that bothered about the actual policy which is claimed to exist.

I just wish LiveJournal, as an organisation, and its supporters, as individuals, wouldn't be so damnably idiotic about keeping all these rules a secret.

#503 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:58 AM:

Dave Bell said: I also suggested that your claim amounted to an accusation of mendacity.

Which it did not. My claim was that the people were using icons for which they had not obtained the consent of the mother, the child, or the copyright holder. Yonmei's response makes it clear that at least in her case, this is correct (finding an image on the internet does not give you the right to reproduce it, as any number of artists will tell you, with sharp sticks too, because it's an issue over which they get very very upset). As 'nipplegate' has nothing whatsoever to do with breastfeeding, and everything to do with the use of images, it seems to be much more relevant to talk about whether the images are used with permission, and whether the participants in those images consent to having them used in LJ icons or for promoting one cause over another.

Any mendacity comes from the repeated claims that LJ changed its TOS (which it hasn't) or that LiveJournal/SixApart have an 'anti-breastfeeding' policy when they don't. I can understand *why* the people saying that are doing so, because saying LJ/SA have an 'anti-naked breasts in default icons regardless of why the breast is being bared policy', isn't as emotive. It's more honest, but that seems to be unimportant to some people in this debate.

A policy which allows the exposure of the breasts as part of a depiction of breastfeeding neither allows nor excuses the exposure of the genitals.

No - I was simply arguing that exactly the same arguments can be put forward for the exposure or otherwise of images of female genitalia as for female breasts. Both have non-sexual and sexual functions, one is not inherently more obscene than another, and as I said in an earlier comment, both can be seen on British television after the watershed without anyone getting the least bit upset about it. (Well, no one who would be listened to without widespread mockery.)

The thing that needs to be changed is not LJ's exercising of its own rights under a mutually agreed contract, it's societal perceptions of what is dirty and offensive. You said The trouble is that I'm not sure that there can be a right to not be offended, which seems to be the direction you're headed. Far from it. While I don't like icons being made of breastfeeding for the reasons I've given before, I am not offended by them or the act in any circumstances - but even if I *were*, that's not a reason to ban them. I want people to have the same rights as everyone else - and the right to privacy isn't anything remotely close to a right not to be offended.

My partner was also very annoyed that the 'boob nazis' were turning their ire on LJ, when the real villain of the piece is hardvice whose deliberate and targeted complaints about icons used in breastfeeding and pagan communities, in response to his own TOS-violating icon being reported, are actually at the root of this. I tried to explain to him that hardvice targetted those communities to get exactly the kind of reaction that he got, and is no doubt sitting back and hugging himself at how wildly successful his trolling is. My partner said the 'boob nazis' and Yonmei should have gone after him - but as I tried to explain to him, hardvice is playing LJ at its own game, by its own rules. They can't throw him off LJ because he's a wanker - not yet, anyway.

An intelligent response to this widely-advertised and overt trolling by the communities involved, once the suspension notices started arriving, and once they realised what was going on (which happened pretty quickly, as I understand it, as I read about hardvice's role over a weeks ago), would have been to have removed the icons in dispute, told members of the comms not to walk into hardvice's trap, and then open up a dialogue directly with LJ or Six Apart about this question. It would have given LJ/SA time to formulate a coherent, open response (and if they failed, the wrath of the offended could have falled on them with complete justification), the troll would have been denied his pleasure, and a resolution could have been reached which allowed all parties to come out with honour and enlightenment.

Instead all that's happened is that people like myself and other LJ users who are pro-breastfeeding, have been completely turned off the entire pro-breastfeeding icon argument by the stridency and dishonesty of its proponents, LJ is making policy on the hoof which satifies no one, a siege mentality has developed in LJ Abuse which is not going to encourage thoughtful or considered responses, and some people are going to give up their LJs which they otherwise enjoy having. Other people are being made to feel guilty for *not* joining in a rather pointless boycott, or are being pressured into join other services which don't meet their needs. It's a damnable mess - and what's worse, an *avoidable* mess.

#504 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:09 AM:

I have now deleted my account. Not expecting it to make any difference. I guess "strident" is when you protest and it isn't noticed.

#505 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:45 AM:

Dave Bell said: The last case I recall seeing mention of, in the British press, seemed to involve medical treatment that was, at best, only going to extend a sick infant's life by a year or two. And the judge came down on the side of the parents right to make the choice.

If this is the same case I'm thinking on, the decision was exactly the opposite of your description. Under UK law, the wishes of the parents do *not* override the welfare of the patient, child or not. In this instance, parental consent was not paramount, nor should it have been, as it's what's best for the child in this case that's (more) important (though this is a desperately sad case, and the parents were acting honourably and honestly and with not the slightest malice. They have my sympathies).

So under the British system, at least, if a parent were to consent to having their child's image used for some offensive or irresponsible purpose (say, to make a ridiculous example, to promote terrorism, or incite murder), I think the law would take a dim view of it - though who would bring suit in such a situation, I have no idea. The child certainly might do so when it grew up, and under current human rights legislation, would have an arguable case that its privacy and rights had been violated. I am not attempting in the slightest to say a picture of breastfeeding comes remotely close to this, but parental consent does have limits. Where someone doesn't even bother to find out if that consent exists, then they have no defence at all, to my mind, and should only use images when they respect the rights of all the persons involved.

#506 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:47 AM:

I'd like to rather belatedly try playing amateur referee about a particular point: whether the FAQ and all were or were not clearly covering breast feeding pictures by impliction.

The fact is that words don't do anything on their own. Words do things in human minds. (And others, but since for the moment I think only humans post to LJ on a regular basis, let's focus.) The same phrasing can be clear in its implications to one person, very unclear to another, and they're both right. LJ can't sensibly use as a defense "it was clear to us", given the demonstrated reality that others read the same text and with (in a bunch of cases) good will and reasonable intelligence came to different conclusions. On the other hand, the fact that I read a text one way doesn't give me a free pass to accuse its author of bad faith when I find out they intended it another way, either.

The non-butthead thing to do when you find that your inferences aren't matching up is to back up, talk about underlying principles, and try rewording.

I agree with whoever it was said up above that the sensible thing for LJ to do would be to have a placeholder icon to insert and tell customers "We've got a concern here. This is what we intended our policy to mean. Let's see if we can find an accommodation." That leaves room for all sides to maneuver a lot more productively, I think. But even in the current situation, there's a lot to gain by simply admitting that words can mean quite different things to different people and to try finding other words when the current ones seem not to do the job.

#507 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 07:17 AM:

Bruce Baugh said: I agree with whoever it was said up above that the sensible thing for LJ to do would be to have a placeholder icon to insert and tell customers "We've got a concern here. This is what we intended our policy to mean. Let's see if we can find an accommodation."

It would be eminently sensible. There are two good reasons they could decide not to - one, it exposes the dispute mechanism between user and LJ Abuse (i.e. reveals that a user is in conflict) and that's a breach of their privacy (since other users are not allowed to view abuse tickets or be privy to negotiations, and if they find out about it, it's only through the user in question, not LJ Abuse); and two, more mundance, their code might not be centralised enough to make such a swap out quick or easy (lots of design issues in LJ make me, as a pro in this area myself, think there's some pretty mucky coding behind scenes that really needs ripping out and redoing from scratch).

But the principle is sound. Everyone stepping back and taking a deep breath on this would do them and the situation a power of good. But as a friend of mine commented when we were discussing this on Sunday, some participants in this whole mess are a lot more in love with the struggle than any solution.

#508 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 07:18 AM:

LJ did not make boobs sexual, nor did culture, society, or any of those things. They are sexual for purely physical reasons. ,
says idonotlikepeas. I have to quibble.

Maybe my sampling is small, but of the women who've told me where their erogenous zones are (or whose erogenous zones I've found out, empirically) not everyone favors "breasts" and a similar number favor "ears".

An argument could be made that breasts are sexual in an evolutionary context for men inclined to reproduce. This argument could also be made for wide hips and faces without boils on them.

Let me know when you ban pictures of these.

#509 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 07:33 AM:

Oh: I'll add that in my state, Oregon (and quite a few others, such as New York; I only know the specifics locally) women are allowed to go topless in public, for a very simple reason: gender equality.

This doesn't come up very often. I don't think I've seen a publically topless woman yet. I imagine this is because the mores are rather more restrictive than the laws, and any female who takes advantage of her equal legal status is likely to find herself subject to LOTS of attention and bewilderment, so it's not a very casual thing.

#510 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:09 AM:

DoNotSpamMe, I do think we're getting somewhere on this. It looks as though I was mistaken in my recollection of the court case, but we seem to be agreeing about there being limits to what parents can consent to.

The problem though is centred on the pictures of other people's children. And it goes a bit wider than just breastfeeding.

I've had a hobby of photography for over thirty years now, and in the last two or three there seems to have been an outbreak of paranoia about people taking pictures in public places, especially if there happen to be children in the picture. A certain aount of this seems linked to digital cameras, some of them small enough to be easily sneaked into places where there is a genuine expectation of privacy. A call for consent could, I reckon, start to turn into de facto censorship. No pictures, there are children here. So I'm wary of how far to take it.

Now, if you wish to argue that breast-feeding, even in a photograph taken in a public place, needs a chain of consent so as to protect the child, it's something I can live with, but it's getting very close to my limits. And if the public place element is there, I suggest it blows a huge hole in the arguments which support LJ policy.

Anyway, this issue isn't, I suggest, essential to the breast-feeding argument. It's connected, but the way you brought it up comes across to me as an attempt to stir up trouble. Is it relevant to an image taken from a painting that's the best part of a half-millenium old? How, in the general case, do you tell if a photo is of somebody else's baby? And why should the consent question be limited to pictures of breast-feeding?

And what happens if Annie-Lou says that it's a picture of her neighbour Sally-Jo, who gave permission for it to be used? How far should LJ Abuse go to test a claim of inappropriate content, if consent is a requirement?

Anyway, there's a whole truckload of giant economy-size cans of worms in the issue of consent. And I don't think there's any good in pushing it as an argument in this case. It muddies the waters and, whether you intended to or not, your introduction of the issue amounts to an attack on the pro-breast-feeding lobby, as a group.

You should, I suggest, have been more specific. You could, justifiably, have asked if it were a good example to follow. But what you did looked like indiscriminate mud-flinging.

#511 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:30 AM:

I can imagine two or three different ways that this dispute could have been handled, in the first instance, which might not be practical because of the limits of the LJ software.

My understanding is that this started with a group of complaints from a single user, made in the middle of a weekend.

It's an obvious alternative to control the specific icon, pending a check; it would have met the pereceived need to be able to act quickly against inappropriate content.

It's quite possible that the available tools don't allow that sort of control.

As it is, we have the sort of tripwire response that might have launched the nukes when the first Soviet soldier stepped over the IGB.

And, like a missile, there doesn't seem to be a recall code.

#512 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:35 AM:

Dave Bell saith, And, like a missile, there doesn't seem to be a recall code. And this seems to me the heart of the problem. SixApart did things that can't be gracefully and quietly undone, not with any reliability. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that grievance procedures that work that way are pretty much guaranteed to do more harm to the company, sooner or later, than any particular violation by a customer.

#513 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:41 AM:

Dave Bell said: the way you brought it up comes across to me as an attempt to stir up trouble.

I don't know what I did or said that gave you that impression. It wasn't an issue that had been brought up, I grant you, and it was because of that, after reading this thread for several days, and the various journal entries for a week or so, that I finally decided to say something. Yonmei decided to label me a troll for reasons that seem reasonable to her, but she's mistaken. Her label doesn't make me a troll, and I hope I have not behaved trollishly here.

Is it relevant to an image taken from a painting that's the best part of a half-millenium old?

Nope. I was *very* specific in referring to photographs, and if the baby in it has grown up and given consent, it's also not an issue.

As you are a photographer, I'm rather surprised you're not bothered by the copyright issue, and that Yonmei's admission that she might very well be breaching copyrights, doesn't send up some flags for you.

How, in the general case, do you tell if a photo is of somebody else's baby?

Two ways - when the same image is used by a bunch of women, and in Yonmei's case, when I know for a fact she's childless (I've said this before, and I'll say it again - she and I have mutual real life friends. I do know her circumstances, I'm not making them up.) The burden of proof is surely on the person using the image - they should be able to, when challenged, say, yes, I have permission to use that image. Yonmei has finally admitted she doesn't have permission to use the icon which has led to her to receive a suspension notice. It seems a little ridiculous to be painting oneself as oppressed when you're possibly using stolen pictures.


And why should the consent question be limited to pictures of breast-feeding?

I believe I said, when I first mentioned this, that I don't limit my objection to breastfeeding images. Using a child's image in this manner whatever they're doing in it, is unethical. *In my opinion.* I am not a lawmaker, and I'm not a god. This is just my own, firmly held belief.

But what you did looked like indiscriminate mud-flinging.

Well, no, it's not, and since I've been vindicated, it's rather graceless of you to complain, and I think you might retract that comment. The indiscriminate mudflinging isn't coming from this side of the fence at all.

How far should LJ Abuse go to test a claim of inappropriate content, if consent is a requirement?

In any number of ways, if this ever really became a requirement. They could require users to explicitly state they own or have permission to use all images in their user icons (the degree of image theft on LJ is simply appalling, and *is* a breach of very many artists and photographers' copyrights, regardless of any other issue). They could ban the use of images of all persons under the age of 18, regardless of origin. They could even require a statement of permission to be filed before a user could open an account.

All of which is probably excessive (though banning the use of children's images might be a reasonable limit, and one I would support, within reason). I merely state how LJ could cover such a requirement.

your introduction of the issue amounts to an attack on the pro-breast-feeding lobby, as a group.

That's a logical leap of Grand Canyon proportions. I don't agree with the pro-breastfeeding icon supporters for reasons I have given in detail, therefore I am attacking breastfeeders? That's the kind of dishonest conflation which really is muddying the waters. I support breastfeeding wholeheartedly. What I absolutely dispute is that this issue has the least thing to do with breastfeeding. This 'if you're not with us, you're against us' mentalility is really deeply frustrating, and if all I've said to you, hasn't managed to convince you that it's entirely possible to disagree with this campaign and its methods, agree with LJ's approach, and *still* be supportive of breastfeeding and women's rights and be nice to puppies and babies, well...then I'm wasting my time responding because you're simply not reading the words I'm typing. If you want to talk to me about things I've actually said and done, and not the script you think I should be following, then please, I'll enjoy the conversation. But I won't allow you to brand me a troublemaker and an anti-breastfeeding activist, just because you don't like or agree with my opinions.

#514 ::: Nikki ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:12 AM:

"...and a decision was made that people over 13 probably know swear words already (but may not have been exposed to naked breasts)."

Been thinking about this all day. People over 13 'know' swear words, but they are 'exposed' to naked breasts?

I didn't know breasts could be dangerous.

It seems to me that this kind of unconscious speech leads to the kind of half-baked policy that people are complaining about, which in turn leads to protests, which in turn leads to increasing on-the-hoof justifications to keep up this position, that I suspect the LJ people hadn't really considered deeply enough.

In the consent/privacy/copyright issue, in the U.K. it is now commonplace for schools to refuse parents permission to take photos of their children on sports day or during plays, ostensibly to protect the privacy of the children, but also to prevent theoretical paedophiles taking pictures, or using said pictures. It begins to sound a little like Minority Report.

#515 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 09:27 AM:

Nicole: I find it distinctly odd that idonotlikepeas would characterize LJ's policy makers in such a way. Any business that actually views its customers as an enemy is not going to get far. Customers don't like to be treated with hostility; it tends to make them want to find other people to give their money to.

Well, IDontLikePeas is tech support (I think he said upthread) not LJ Abuse, and IME tech support do sometimes perceive customers as "the enemy" - the people who are doing such awful and stupid things with the company's lovely software! And for the most part (there are a couple of exceptions) current members of LJ Abuse seem to have been steering clear of this discussion. But the exceptions have been very, very hostile.

One of the changes SixApart made to LiveJournal was perhaps more significant than it seemed at the time: the minimum age to be an LJ account holder used to be 13. There is now no lower age limit. On SixApart's front page, 6A's four products are listed as:

TypePad: The choice for professional and passionate bloggers.
MovableType: The first choice for self-hosted blogging.
Vox: The latest in personal blogging. Coming soon.
Livejournal: For young, independent bloggers.

The modal average age on Livejournal is 18. (From the stats page.) There are over 15 thousand LJers aged 13 - as near as I can tell, there are more people on LJ aged under 15 than there are over 40. This new change to the rules for default icons - and the active policing/enforcement of the new rule - is potentially a first step by SixApart to try to get adults off livejournal. (Of course, if that were so, it would be rather foolish of them to begin by attacking parents of young children.) To market it specifically at children/teenagers. The new business model for LiveJournal, with free "sponsored" accounts for targetted ads, does suggest that SixApart are looking for a malleable audience, rather than active customers.

#516 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 10:54 AM:

idonotlikepeas: and, worse, people believing that enforcement has been inconsistent and becoming upset

Which is part of the problem LJ has right now. I have to say that, even accounting for one being most likely to hear those who have a grievance, my impression of LJ abuse has been that the people who have had to deal with it (and it predates the present flap) that it is arbitrary and capricious. That the actual rules are hidden from view and only the whim of other users determines whether they get enforced. I can't say as the things I have seen here have convinced me otherwise.

I happen to be moderately sympathetic to LJ's position. There are people capable of making the lives of all users difficult, over things I think of as appropriate (and if you had asked me if a photograph of a breastfeeding child was appropriate, I should have said yes. It's a behaviour which can be done in public without censure (certainly without legal censure, and for most of my life without social censure, which life encompasses Calif, Ohio, Ariz., Washington (D.C. and State), as such it wouldn't occur to me that it was "inappropriate," in depiction. But I can accept that some things aren't going to fly in the face of the Mrs. Grundys of the world.

On the flip side, I am not at all sympathetic to the present position. Putting aside the way in which the complaints which led to the current situation arose, the response to the people who felt LJ had treated them unfairly was poor, from both a business standpoint, and from one of fairness. Updating the explication of the TOS, and saying it was always that way; using hidden rules, and boasting of it; saying the apparant caprice isn't a bug, but a feature, and decrying those who tried to use what means LJ told them (as Yonmei pointed out) to redress what they saw as an inequity to take one for the team, and hope they would be better treated later, that's wrong.

To equate an attempt at making one's feelings (as a group) known, and be told that they are thugs and ne'er do wells (which is the way being called, as a blanket term, spammers comes across to me) and to imply that I can expect to be discounted if I should ever belong to a group LJ has slighted, and the concommitant, that some single person who has a grievance will get a better hearing than a group... well that boggles the mind, again, on both scales, that of fairness and business (it inverts the idea that the needs of many outweigh the few, or the one. That idea has some flaws, but in a business model it has a lot of merit).

You keep accusing people of spreading disinformation. From here, looking at both what I think (about the ToS, and FAQ 111 {which I read when making my userpic, because I didn't want to, inadvertently fall afoul of the rules}) and what has been said; I don’t see the steady hand of impartial fairness.

To take the strained speeding analogy. Speeding is variably enforced. That’s part of how it manages to work, no one knows when they might get caught. This allows a small number of police to constrain (within some reasonable limit) the behaviour of lots of people. But the cops aren’t the ones who make the citation. That’s being done by other citizens. LJ Abuse then steps in to play judge. That’s a system which is open to abuse; as this case seems to point out. The mess is the result of one person feeling slighted (and; as the offense they appealed has been overturned, it seems they were slighted) and going on a crusade to show that many others were violating this secret rule.

And the secret rule is the main problem. If the law says, “No Speeding in the City Limits” and the city limits aren’t defined, or speeding is purely defined by the citing officer, based on criteria the drivers aren’t permitted to know, and in apparent contravention of a reasonable interpretation of the examples given, e.g. “Drivers should not drive faster than other cars,” being the explanation in the handbook, and “25 miles an hour if the roadway is at all wet” being what the cops are told to enforce, then there is a problem, and it’s not with the drivers who are doing 35.

Dave Bell: I know my examples are local standards (though for tolerably large values of local; number some several dozens of millions, but still unable to encompass all of the cultural patterns and morés of those who us LJ. I offer them to point out that making a blanket statement that, “of course” no one could have foreseen that something, normal, legal and performed in public might be used as a userpic, in light of the ToS and the FAQ, well it flies in the face of fact; because there are large, encompassing the dozens of millions, in the United States (and the complaints that LJ, like so much of the Web, is US-centric, and that the Falwells and the Dobsons of our culture are allowed to affect those hundreds of millions in other parts of the world, and they have to assume that legal, acceptable, and appropriate things will be banned as a matter of course is a whole ‘nother issue). But I keep looking at the ToS, and then the, pre May 20 FAQ 111, and I don’t see that breastfeeding meets the standard of violation. Which goes to all of the above, on hidden rules, and boundary lines the violator can’t know were crossed until someone with a sense of outrage finks them to the judge.

DoNotSpamMe: My problem with your argument with Dave isn’t that some people use breastfeeding icons of children not their own (and I’m not going into the intimate act in public issue; for some of my feelings on that see There has to be a better way of promoting breastfeeding). It’s the accusation of “mendacity.” The actual word you used (with elaboration) was “unethical.

If I were to be posting a userpic of breastfeeding it would, perforce, not be my breast. Right now it must not be my child (as at the present I am unaware of any offspring). It wouldn’t be mendacious. It wouldn’t even be a fib, as anyone who reads me will, in short order, find out I am male. As such the ethics of it are two-fold, was I honest in my use of it (by which the question becomes one of intent, was I trying to pretend to something I wasn’t) and consent. You made a point about copyright infringements, that is a grey area. Fair use, and a number of other issues; here, and in the rest of the world, keep it from being a cut and dried as one of simple theft. I think assuming that the user of such pictures is engaging in, a priori theft, and improper use of them, is an accusation which can be reasonable interpreted as, “mendacious.” I also don’t think such use is, be default, either mendacious, or unethical. Our mileage obviously varies.

I am not sure what to make of the consent issue. By your lights I can’t see any way to allow anyone to post a picture of there young children. At some point they reach an age of reason, and one can post pictures of them; after getting their consent, but that seems ridiculous. A kid crawling on the floor is a picture of a kid crawling on the floor. A kid on the bottle is a kid having lunch, and so to is a kid on the breast. By my lights the odds are the crawling on the floor is as likely to cause embarrassment in later life as the feeding.

#517 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:06 AM:

DoNotSpamMe: re the issue of photography, and photographers' work.

I am a professional photographer. I've been doing photography for more than 20 years. I have a problem with copyright violations. I also don't see user icons as such (there are some questions which might arise about loss of copyright, and public domaining of pictures from such things, but those are issues which need resolving anyway).

From my perspective, as a photographer, such a use is probably in the general category of, "so what." For someone to have a picture of mine in an LJ, as a userpic means it had to be published somewhere. As such I can show copyright. If they are claiming as their own work, I can ask them to give me credit. If they don't I can embarrass them, or report them to LJ Abuse. I could go to my lawyer and get a cease and desist letter sent to them.

As a final recourse I can take them to court.

The last two are probably over the top.

If they are actually trying to pretend to be me, then there's nothing I can do about it, and short of affadavits, and registered copyrights for every picture out there in an LJ, there's not a thing LJ can do to prevent someone from stealing something of mine. Mostly I don't worry about it. Sooner or later it will either bite them on the ass, or it will end up helping me (because if someone likes the style of the pictures, when they see mine they will be pre-disposed to liking them).

Dave Bell: You ain't kidding about the taking of pictures in public places. I've been at the beach, shooting birds and surf, and surfers, and had a hand clapped on my shoulder because someone complained to the cops about me.

And that which an SLR, and no attempt to be hidden in my work. Happily a couple of words with the cops, (and the convenience of having some military ID) have always stopped it cold. I suspect the expensive camera helps.

(and no, I didn't drag my lawyer into it. I told the truth and didn't look nervous. At the first sign of the cop getting itchy, the call would have gone out).

#518 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:24 AM:

Terry Karney: Most photographers probably feel as you do, although I personally know artists who get pretty worked up about the abuse of their rights in places like LJ, even if it's too much trouble for them to chase up. I'm not seriously suggesting that you or anyone like you should go after all the violations of your rights.

I started this conversation from the perspective of seeing a bunch of people hopping up and down about *their* rights, and alleged infringements thereon, who at the same time were amazingly insouciant about the rights of other people, among who being the photographers whose work they were using in these icons. That I found ironic. What I found infuriating was the use of children's images without permission, or even the attempt at gaining permission. Other people are less worried about this than me, and I accept that. I'm simply pointing out that in this entire kerfuffle, many rights are being trampled on - not just (or not even) the right to post breastfeeding images which show nipples and aureolae in a default icon.

Your copyright is protected by the Berne convention among other places. No law maker has seen fit to protect the display of nipples in default LJ icons, but perhaps when Dubya finishes banning gay marriage, he can move onto this manifest injustice, and be counted as the great defender of boobies (though, since he seems to do nothing else in office but support and promote any number of boobs, he may already own this title.)

#519 ::: frumiousb ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:38 AM:

Terry Karney:On the flip side, I am not at all sympathetic to the present position. Putting aside the way in which the complaints which led to the current situation arose, the response to the people who felt LJ had treated them unfairly was poor, from both a business standpoint, and from one of fairness.

Yes, agreed. What I find interesting about this discussion is that the response from people supporting the current livejournal position seems to assume a greater need for reasonableness from the consumers of a service than from the providers of the same service.

For instance, DoNotSpamMe writes:An intelligent response to this widely-advertised and overt trolling by the communities involved, once the suspension notices started arriving, and once they realised what was going on (which happened pretty quickly, as I understand it, as I read about hardvice's role over a weeks ago), would have been to have removed the icons in dispute, told members of the comms not to walk into hardvice's trap, and then open up a dialogue directly with LJ or Six Apart about this question.

To my mind, you need to reverse this. Six Apart is the business. Once the representatives of Six Apart realized that someone who was clearly trying to cause trouble was the source of the complaints about the default icons, it was their responsibility to change course and respond more appropriately and (most importantly) constructively. To my mind, they should have (once the pattern was detected) immediately escalated this issue before they started sending suspension notices. This would have given Six Apart time to approach the challenge with some degree of care before everyone got themselves into positions from which they were unwilling to back down.

What baffles me now is that Six Apart still seems unwilling to do this-- surely they can recognize that a situation which has resulted in users with mermaid cartoon icons receiving suspension threats cannot be correct?

I am sympathetic, in general, with the lj position. I am utterly unsympathetic with the way that it has been handled, and the unwillingness to admit that it is symptomatic of a larger problem with the way that abuse complaints are handled.

p.s. This discussion has spread well out of the parenting communities, for those who thought that it was confined to a small group of users. I am child-free, have no connection at all to anti lj-abuse communities, and no personal acquaintenceship with the people whose accounts have been suspended. This is making the rounds in the groups of the older folks (where many of the paying users come from, I suspect) because of the silliness of forbidding Klimt paintings as default icons.

#520 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:51 AM:

Terry Karney: sorry, I missed your remarks to me in your first comment.

It’s the accusation of “mendacity.” The actual word you used (with elaboration) was “unethical.

These two words mean entirely different things, as I'm sure you know. I consider someone using a non-copyrighted image of a child who's not consented to the usage (or, if you insist, whose parent has not given consent) to be acting unethically. 'Mendacious' means 'untruthful' or 'lying'. I have not, and do not, claim that Yonmei or any of her friends who have used internet images are lying about their parental status etc, or claiming the children are their own. They *are* using those images without permission, and that is also unethical (and also possibly illegal), in that it's also a breach of the original artist's copyright. The least you can accuse them of is being careless of other people's rights, and if you're going to act as the flag carrier for a fight about alleged violations of rights, then you better be damn sure your own hands are clean.

Parental consent is an area where we will not agree, I suspect. I don't think parents should sign off their child's privacy for anything other than serious reasons, and I'm afraid making an LJ icon doesn't count as one. Sure, share those photos among your private circle, because being a parent is a great thing, something to celebrate and share. What justification is there for pasting a close up of your kid's face in a forum with thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of viewers? I can think of a few good reasons why you would do so - making an LJ icon isn't one of them, though I'm very aware parents would dispute this. But what I am quite sure about is that the only person who can reasonably give permission to do this, is the parent when the child is too young to speak for themselves. If that permission hasn't even been sought, then there's no justification at all.

At some point they reach an age of reason, and one can post pictures of them; after getting their consent, but that seems ridiculous.

Not to me. Adults don't like their images being used without permission - I'm sure as a professional photographer you're familiar with getting clearances or consents or whatever the correct word is for it. If adults are entitled to be asked first, then why aren't children? At the very least, why aren't the parents?

Being scrupulous about not transgressing human rights can be rather inconvenient - that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen. Dave Bell seems to think that the issue of consent is too big a can of worms to open. It's already been opened, in my opinion, and while it's doubtless more convenient and emotive to paint this as a terrible threat against the freedom to breastfeed, if nothing else, this enormously long discussion proves that the issues involved *are* complex, and there is no simple answer to it.

#521 ::: Hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:51 AM:

Isabeau: and I kind of wandered away from my main point, which is that one can be pro-breastfeeding and pro-breast without feeling like LJ is being discriminatory or needlessly prudish.

Yes, one can. But the problem, as I see it, is that LJ is being discriminatory, because the rules are not being applied to both men and women. I understand that it’s because it’s legal for a man to expose his nipples and not legal for a woman in some jurisdictions. However, legally institutionalised sexism is still sexism. If LJ doesn’t want to be discriminatory, and doesn’t feel that they can allow female nipples to be shown without restrictions, then they should apply the rule to male nipples as well.

#522 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 11:59 AM:

frumiousb said the silliness of forbidding Klimt paintings as default icons.

At least it's consistent. Silly, but consistent. I'll take silly over discriminatory any day.

I agree the response from LJ/SA has not been inspiring. However, the response of the users caught up in this has not been edifying either, and their rhetoric doesn't make me sympathetic with their position. No one is coming out of this well, and as I said above, while I can see the 'boob nazis' winning this one, I won't applaud their victory. I suspect in 20 years' time, people will be talking about 'nipplegate' and Six Apart's entry in the annals of really Bad Corporate Mistakes, the way they do about Coca Cola and the New Coke debacle.

#523 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:18 PM:

DoNotSpamMe: I am all too familiar with both the law, and the ethics, of using peoples' imaage.

The fact of the matter is the law allows a far greater use of them than most people realise. So long as I am not selling your image, I can take your picture and do pretty much what I want with it. If you aren't really recognisable (even if you know it's you) I can sell it.

Context matters. The girl who was napalmed in Viet-nam, she wasn't old enough to give consent, according to your standard, and so the event depicted ought to have remained hidden. This is the whole bugbear of "appearance." As was pointed out upthread, if a 30 year old tries to look like a child in a sexualised context, that can be classed as kiddie porn; consent, age and the like notwithstanding.

That's a ridiculous position. To give a person absolute right, from having an image of them displayed, and making it so that such things as baby pictures can't be seen until they are old enough to give that consent (and one supposes the right to retract it) is a social contract I can't accept.

Then we get such thigs as the forced consent (which is part of another problem with such things as LJ's ToS, which forces one to accept a clause which allows them to be arbitrary and capricious, allowing no recourse, and in fact getting such responses as, "No one made you agree, and they told you up front they were allowed to be assholes) like entry to a sporting event, or a theme park, or even a zoo, which says (in small print, on the back) that entry to the event grants permission for the owner of the venue to use your likeness in any way they see fit.

I find it amusing that you are defending LJ's ToS, with that abuse of people's right to consent. LJ could change the ToS to make all things hosted on LJ the property of Six Apart (which would be an arrogation of my copyright, on both my words and images) and that would be, at first blush, legal per the ToS. It would lead to lawsuits, but they might well win, because it was agreed they could change the rules.

The law now (and in my opinion, rightly) allows the usages you dislike. The law now, also allows LJ to be asshats. I suspect niether of our opinions on either of those things is likely to change.

#524 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:24 PM:

DoNotSpamMe: Being scrupulous about not transgressing human rights can be rather inconvenient

I missed this before. I am well aware of the difficulties of aboserving human rights. I just don't think this is something of that nature.

There are embarrasing pictures of me in the world. There are some I wish didn't exist. That's the way of things. It's not my right to never be embarrased, or offended, or intruded upon.

There are people who think they ought to have the right to not be looked upon. There are people who think their religious rights ought to allow them to practice suttee. I think they are both wrong.

I appreciate your consistency, but I think the principle you are applying (that no one may use another's image, for any reason, unless that person has been able to give informed consent. If that's not your position I'm sorry, but it's what it seems to be to me) is overbroad, and creates a right which doesn't exist.

#525 ::: Shawn Struck ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:38 PM:

Oddly enough, Anil Dash, one of the VPs of sixapart, has responded to to the controversy here, on John Scalzi's "Whatever":

http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/004263.html#comments

"...And we're all guilty of the lack of perspective... I'm pretty sure there's still systematic rapes going on in the Congo, but as long as they're not infringing on the "right" for us in the first world to tweak our icons on our blogs, they don't have to fear political action." says Anil.

#526 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:41 PM:

Terry Karney said: then we get such thi[n]gs as the forced consent

'Forced'? I must have missed the part when LiveJournal came in and held rifles to the heads of over ten million people and made them sign up to their ToS or else. You make it sound like LiveJournal is the only possible venue where these special interest groups could air their thoughts, network and support each other, so their memebers were 'forced' to sign up to this desperately unfair and oppressive and unreasonable ToS by a hateful and undeserving company. And that is simply not the case, not even close to being the case.

I already acknowledged the law allows more freedom to use people's images than I consider acceptable (though the law in many countries *is* clamping down on unauthorised usage of children's images because the sad fact remains that those images *are* being used by paedophiles. I suspect my view and that of the law won't be so divergent in a few years.) I already acknowledged that I am taking a rather narrow view (though not as narrow as the view which says a breast can be offensive in some contexts just because it's a secondary sexual character.) I don't think anything you're saying negates the fact that a image can be both legal and a violation of a person's right to privacy, and if that right is going to be violated, I would really rather see that being done for some more serious reason than making an LJ icon out of it. You have just described a serious reason for violating the right to privacy, because that napalmed child's image helped to fight a great injustice. I might be whacky, but to me, revealing the horrors of war and attempting to make people aware of what is being done in their name, is just a tad more important than the 'right' to show certain bits of boobs in a default icon on a weblog. If you come back and try and tell me it's about the right to breastfeed, well, I'm afraid I will have to think poorly of your reasoning powers, because it's not about that at all.

I find it amusing that you are defending LJ's ToS

I am *defending* their right to enforce a contract willingly agreed to by their users. Consent has been freely given here on both sides, and that makes all the difference to me. You will find very similar 'we can do whatever the hell we want to' clauses in almost every webhosting contract in the world. No one's forcing me to sign any contract with any of these companies. If I *choose* to sign a contract - and hand over money for a service - it behooves me to read that contract carefully and understand what it implies. If I don't, then whining about the consequences later is just silly.

If the ToS sucks in your opinion, don't use the service. It's really that simple.

#527 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:48 PM:

Terry Karney said: that no one may use another's image, for any reason, unless that person has been able to give informed consent.

Our comments crossed, but I agree with you there are sometimes (perhaps often) good reasons for not waiting to obtain consent. Where we disagree is where the line should be drawn. If those embarrassing images of you are being restricted to the group of people with whom you are intimate, then you probably can't reasonably complain. If one of those images ends up on the Sky News channel with the words 'wot a prat' plastered across it...I think you would probably have something to say about it. Or your image was used in a poster for a cause you vehemently disagreed with. You would at least have an arguable case to sue.

Adults can argue and fight their own battles. We need to be more careful about children because they trust us to argue and fight on their behalf. We should extend as least as much courtesy and scruples to them as we do to ourselves. If you wouldn't like your own image used for political purposes without your consent, don't do it to a child. That's pretty much the sum of my argument on that head.

#528 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:54 PM:

Gad. I'm losing respect for Mr. Dash, whom I used to find very interesting reading.

#529 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 12:57 PM:

Hamadryad: they should apply the rule to male nipples as well.

Yes, they should. I agree with your comment completely. It's not discriminatory to ban an icon even if it's by Klimt, but you're correct - the sex of the subject should make no difference.

#530 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:02 PM:

DoNotSpamMe:

Wait a sec. You assert as a matter of fact that pictures of children are being used by pedophiles. I have several concerns about whether this is a justification for legal restrictions. The first one, though, is the fact that so many violent abusers, serial killers, and the like have oppressive religious backgrounds. Does their existence justify banning the Bible? Likewise, a huge number of people die on American highways every year. Ought we to ban cars, or allow only professional drivers?

Unless there are a whole lot more pedophiles than I think, I'm really unclear on why the fact of that particular abuse justifies such sweeping restrictions, when more harm comes from other things that could be subject to equally draconian bans.

Second, unless things have changed since I last researched the matter - and they may have! this is an admission of the limits of my knowledge - the huge majority of child abuse is inflicted by relatives and neighbors, not random strangers. If the goal is to protect children from exploitation, wouldn't removing them from their families and raising them in creches with randomly selected others from distant locales actually do the job better? Do you have data on the extent to which pictures taken by strangers actually contribute to the chain of desire and abuse?

#531 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:14 PM:

Bruce Baugh said: I'm really unclear on why the fact of that particular abuse justifies such sweeping restrictions

I think you're mistaking for my statement of the present and future state of the law, for my support for the reasoning. Sorry if I was unclear. I only meant to say is that the law is becoming more restrictive of the use of children's images, and my own view (for a different reason) is also rather restrictive. I'm not going to get into a debate about paedophilia here, nor about how to best protect children from paedophiles. I certainly don't want you or anyone else to start jumping up and down and say that I think anyone using an unauthorised image of a child is a paedophile.

#532 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:16 PM:

Re:Anil Dash's comment to John Scalzi, particularly:

And yeah, a 100-pixel-square icon that might be one of dozens that you can display on your journal doesn't seem *exactly* equivalent to being forced to sit in the back of the bus because of your skin color, but I've long since given up trying to understand why different people prioritize different things in different ways.
Before you think he's indulging in hyperbole, I have seen comments by LJ users comparing their right to a default icon to the struggle against racial oppression. So he's not making that up out of whole cloth.

#533 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:20 PM:

DoNotSpamMe: If you don't approve of the restrictions on the use of others' images based on the threat of pedophilia, then I'm really not sure what other point there is in your objections. I mean to say, I get that you don't think children's images should be available for others to use without their own mature consent, but I don't quite see why. I have a feeling I'm not alone in this confusion.

#534 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:24 PM:

A general observation (though if the cap fits I hope it doesn't fall over deaf ears).

There seems to be disagreement about the significance of what is not said.

Consider these three sentences:

1: I know that some X do Y.

2: I know that X do Y.

3: I know that all X do Y.

Now, I think the extra word, in each case, makes sentences 1 and 3 clear and distinct from each other. But if you use sentence 2, what do you mean? And how can you be sure that other people will read it in the same way?

More to the point, does the ambiguity allow you to mislead people without telling an untruth?

#535 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:28 PM:

OK, I've read the whole thing, at least up to June 06, 2006, 01:02 PM, and although there has been much discussion of who's looking at what, and who should be looking at what, (d)evolving into issues of photographic consent, everyone seems to have missed an elephant. (Perhaps a very *small* elephant, but still retaining some pachydermal characteristics.) I don't know whether it was with malice aforethought or serendipitous accident, but of the three pictures posted as examples by Our Gracious Hostess, right up at the top, two of them were not photographs, were dated from roughly 550 years ago, and were designed to appear in public places. Furthermore, they were objects of religious devotion. (I can't find my copy of Caroline Walker Bynum's _Holy Feast and Holy Fast_, but memory suggests that it deals with this in great detail.)

Discuss, particularly in the context of whether LJ, by disallowing (in whatever way) these images for other reasons, is interfering with the practice of religion.

#536 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:37 PM:

What real-world religion requires its adherents to set certain images as their default userpics?

#537 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:42 PM:

What real-world religion requires its adherents to set certain images as their default userpics?

If there isn't one, we should invent it.

#538 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:48 PM:

Lis Riba -- What real-world religion requires its adherents to set certain images as their default userpics?

None, to my knowledge. But I'm not looking at a positive requirement, but rather a negative prohibition. It could be argued that a restraint on such might be read as preventing one from performing an act of devotion, or from advertising one's religious affiliation, in the same space as, say, a cross, a Star of David, a headscarf or a turban.

#539 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 01:50 PM:

I should blush in shame for misidentifying Our Gracious Host as the Hostess. Oops.

#540 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:12 PM:

DoNotSpamMe: I feel the ToS on LJ, like the EULAs on most software are coerced. I am not allowed to actually negotiate with them. I am told to like it or lump it. If I am willing to to remain "anon" and not be able to post to many of my actual friends journals, or to partake in discussions in closed communities, with people I share interests with, I am forced to forgo that, or accept (in the "Open source" world that is LJ) the ToS.

The differential of power is such that I don't see it as an agreement I was truly able to enter freely. It's (to make a strained analogy) like sex between an 18 year old and a 35 year old. The relationship isn't equal, and the power of experience the 35 year-old has makes it something less than kosher; since the elder's advantage puts the junior (even though it seems there was informed consent) at a situational disadvantage which can't be overcome.

And you are defending their right to impose such terms; with the power of money, and the percieved "free choice" which they can impose from the marketplace's perception of individual insignificance. After all, if 10 million people choose to do it, it must be ok, or at least something we'll allow.

#541 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:18 PM:

Is the paedophile issue another red herring of unusual size?

It wasn't something that appears to have been part of the original argument. LJ Abuse, so far as I know, never claimed the presence of the child was the negative factor.

I'm unsure now whether DoNotSpamMe wants to argue about LJ censorship or about the exploitation of children. There are connections, and it does look as though I've opened the door, but I'm starting to wonder if I've crossed the line between pointing out possible connections and dragging in irrelevances.

#542 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:22 PM:

Terry, I mislike your analogy.

...

I've thought better of saying more. Number 10 can, labeled "Worms."

#543 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:25 PM:

Bruce Baugh said: I'm really not sure what other point there is in your objections.

I thought I made it abundantly clear, to the point of tedium, that my objection was because of the violation of the child's right to privacy. If you see no point in that, so be it. The issues are separate, and I'm sorry if you were misled by what I wrote into thinking I'm conflating them.

Terry Karney siad: I feel the ToS on LJ, like the EULAs on most software are coerced.

I don't feel that way. As LJ's software is open source, if you don't like the way they operate it, you're free to take it and set up your own version of it, as many people have. If that means you can't play with the cool kids...well, you know, there's a bit of a difference between that and 'oppression'. I'm afraid I have no sympathy for your position at all on this. You have complete freedom of choice in this issue. That your options are restricted if you choose one path over another is really just how the world works.

Oh, and people (especially Dave Bell) should note that even some of the 'boob nazis' think this nipplegate protest is pointless and silly

I hope this puts paid to the nonsensical argument that opposing this campaign somehow makes you anti-breastfeeding, because if the 'boob nazis' are 'anti-breastfeeding' then I'll eat my boobs and my hat too! (I don't wear a hat, but I can find one to eat for the occasion)

#544 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:28 PM:

DoNotSpamMe: If one of those images ends up on the Sky News channel with the words 'wot a prat' plastered across it...I think you would probably have something to say about it. Or your image was used in a poster for a cause you vehemently disagreed with. You would at least have an arguable case to sue.

In the first example, maybe, depends on who I am (at least in the states). If I am public figure (and I think the line too broadly drawn, but that’s a different aspect of libel law) then I have to lump it.

In the second case (again in the states) I wouldn’t have any standing to sue.

For some of my thoughts on the latter you may read Times like this I'm glad I don't have a rifle handy, 24/7 . You may think it inconsistent, but the gripe I have with that isn’t so much that they are using him for something with which he disagrees; that’s something that happens. Be present at an event, and those who see it differently from you can use it to make their case. My complaint was that it was tweaked, and faked.

If I am in a public place, people can take my picture. So long as they don't break the law in that use, I am not likely to protest, o'ermuch.

Were some group I disdain to take advantage of my likeness to make a profit, in the furtherance of their agenda (as opposed to merely using it as a prop in propaganda) then I might sue.

On the flip side, I'm not likely too, unless they are being really successful in the money gathering, lest I give fuel to a soldering heap and make a blaze.

#545 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Dave Bell said: Is the paedophile issue another red herring of unusual size?

You seem to love this piscine analogy, though I wonder if it means what you think it does. The conversation is roaming freely, and has gone off on tangents here and there. I'll state it again, and then you can consume whatever fish you please - I only said that while the law doesn't generally prevent people's images being used without that consent, the law *is* starting to become restrictive about the use of children's image, because of paedophilia. The fact that I am objecting to what is at the moment lawful (on entirely different grounds, doesn't mean that in five years' time, it will still be lawful.) The law and ethics, the law and realities of what happens in the real world, are often out of synch. In five years' time, most people might well be appalled to see any child's image used for any purpose in public. Equally, in five years' time, people may still think I'm just banging a broken drum on the whole privacy thing.

Now, I'm not going to talk about paedophilia any more. I'm sorry I mentioned it. Consider it unmentioned.

#546 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 02:49 PM:

yonmei, that's an interesting observation about the LJ age distribution. And the raw data page linked to from that Stats page shows even younger ages, down to 5, as I recall.

I did a quick tot-up of the figures and (I'm not using LJ today) I recall an under-18 total of just over a million.

And I know I didn't specify a birth year in my birthday entry.

I wonder what age-group that puts me in.

#547 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:04 PM:

WRT users under five, some people do create journals for their pets or small children, although the actual journalist is an adult.

#548 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:05 PM:

Dave Bell: And I know I didn't specify a birth year in my birthday entry. I wonder what age-group that puts me in.

Interesting. They do have an option in stats for "gender unspecified", but they don't have an option for "age unspecified". I wonder why not?

#549 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:05 PM:

Very good, Bruce. Excellent addition.

A General Announcement:

The way I see it, all the participants who are still in this argument are here because they want to be. I feel they should get to finish it off at whatever length they find satisfactory. If anyone gets nasty, vowels go boom.

I will be observing a double standard. Newcomers to the argument (if there should be any) are strongly advised to be douce, meek, and concise in their remarks.

#550 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:07 PM:

I have a livejournal as well, and feel completely against their blackout. Why? Not because I feel they are wrong, but because they have a specific goal that is ONLY for them. THEY are being 'discriminated' against. They decided to completely ignore the broader aspect of women's breasts, and focus on the 'natural', 'intended' usage.
Not all of us are planning on having kids, so does that mean the only way we can show OUR boobs on LJ is to censor the nipples out? Why is it okay for them to show a nipple and we cannot? Why is a boob with a baby 'completely normal' but a boob without is sexual?

Sorry, I'm pissed.

I think watching ANY animal suck on another animal for nourishment is gross. But that is just my opinion.

#551 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:10 PM:

Yonmei, you can leave your birthyear out of your birthday data. It's optional.

#552 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:19 PM:

Yonmei: Interesting. They do have an option in stats for "gender unspecified", but they don't have an option for "age unspecified". I wonder why not?

Age is required as part of account creation to comply with COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

The year isn't stored, and you can remove it from your user profile once they've accepted you for an account, but they do legally need to ask.

Which means, statistically, even if they don't associate the year with a particular account, they do know the age at account creation of all accounts.

#553 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:30 PM:

DoNotSpamMe: It's true, I don't on some deep level get the benefits of defining the right of privacy so broadly. It feels to me like a denial of society reminiscent of the property-focused denial of society when it comes to social welfare. I think some actual wrongs (and kinds of wrong) can be addressed more narrowly, and that we can and should learn to live with some kinds of risks when we step outside hermetically sealed boxes.

I say this as someone who's had their weight and medical condition used in public tirades about why their prose sucked, by the way; I'm not speaking theoretically. I responded to the offenders as violators of norms of decency and relevancy - as jackasses - and think that I'd have undercut my position by resorting to law. Where possible, I think that knavery is better handled by leaving it looking tawdry and ugly and not glamorizing it with the label of crime. This is of course a tricky balance, one I fall off both sides from time to time. But I still think that all exploitation requires the law, and that the real exploitation that does require or really benefit fromt he law is not justification for prohibiting everything that might generate some exploitation.

#554 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 03:57 PM:

sara: I have a livejournal as well, and feel completely against their blackout. Why? Not because I feel they are wrong, but because they have a specific goal that is ONLY for them. THEY are being 'discriminated' against. They decided to completely ignore the broader aspect of women's breasts, and focus on the 'natural', 'intended' usage.

A bunch of us who wanted to do something to show SixApart how we felt, discussed, off livejournal, what we could do - what we could ask others to do - and what we wanted to ask SixApart to do. (A necessary part of any strike action is to figure out first what you're asking for...)

But my reasons when - after discussion - I finally wrote the "this is what we want" post for focussing on the breastfeeding issue were threefold:

1. Changing the patriarchal assumption that women's bodies are sexual and men's bodies are neutral is an awfully, awfully big fight, and one that I didn't think we'd win in this one battle, whereas I was quite hopeful that we could win the specific fight about breastfeeding icons.

2. There are all sorts of good reasons why everyone (even the happily childfree, which includes me) ought to support women feeling comfortable about breastfeeding in public, and why even tiny steps backwards - such as SixApart's decision that you can't have breastfeeding pics as default icons - should be opposed. (See Bohemiancoast's post quoted above...) This applies whether you normally oppose public nudity or you are an ardent campaigner for shame-free nudity for everyone - breastmilk is usually the best milk for babies, and discouragement of public breastfeeding is generally discouragement of breastfeeding, end of story.

3. Breastfeeding icons were plainly and obviously OK as default icons under the pre-May 20th version of FAQ 111 amplifying the TOS, and FAQ 111 was evidently rewritten specifically so that LJ Abuse could get away with banning breastfeeding icons. It's a nice, clear-cut case, and when campaigning, nice clear-cut cases are good.

I'm a feminist. Ultimately, I want to destroy the patriarchy. But, to avoid being a choked-up feminist, I accept that I can only try to destroy the patriarchy in small, manageable bites.

Grr'rr.

#555 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:06 PM:

Yonmei, that's the clearest, most eloquent statement of the "pick your battles" strategy I've ever seen.

And this, btw is why the trolls come in and say "you're outraged by this but not that...I'm shocked." Because if they can get us fighting every battle in the world, they know we'll be completely ineffective.

#556 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 04:30 PM:

(Off thread-topic but responding to Terry on a side issue)

The differential of power is such that I don't see it as an agreement I was truly able to enter freely. It's (to make a strained analogy) like sex between an 18 year old and a 35 year old. The relationship isn't equal, and the power of experience the 35 year-old has makes it something less than kosher; since the elder's advantage puts the junior (even though it seems there was informed consent) at a situational disadvantage which can't be overcome.

That's a pretty strained analogy. Real-world experience as the younger side of two 19-year-old/38-year-old relationships tells me that:

1. They need not be exploitative at all. And they were vastly, hugely, amazingly superior to relationships with people my own age, which tended to be both exploitative (how fast can a a guy talk you into bed and how fast can he vanish once he's been there?) and, ah, lacking in that experience thing and therefore less than, ah, satisfying, if you get my meaning.

2. There's also a good chance of a 38-year-old guy going ga-ga over a teenage girl and being at a serious situational disadvantage power-wise.

I rather resent your implication that older teenagers, including my younger self, are/were incapable of giving informed consent in those situations. I expect some are and some aren't, but at 18 we're not talking about barely-pubescent children.

With an additional nineteen years of perspective, I still feel nothing but good about those relationships.

#557 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:15 PM:

Xopher: I'm not completly happy with it either. Culturally that's one of the first power-problem relationships we have in mind.

A less problematic example would be the company store.

DoNotSpamMe if you don't like the way they operate it, you're free to take it and set up your own version of it, as many people have. If that means you can't play with the cool kids...well, you know, there's a bit of a difference between that and 'oppression'. I'm afraid I have no sympathy for your position at all on this. You have complete freedom of choice in this issue. That your options are restricted if you choose one path over another is really just how the world works.

You're right, I could try to set up (at whatever expense) a parallel world, and try to create an "LJ" community of my own. Somehow I have to persuade all those who are on LJ to leave it for my copy. You have all the lack of sympathy for my position you like. On the other hand, you are asking me (and the rest of us) to be sympathetic to your view of how images of children should be treated; but the things I see as abrogating real consent you brush off with, "That's the way the world is," which answer you find less than satisfactory in your own special pleading.

As for the opinions on the Boycott, I'm not taking part in it, because as a means of protest I don't see it having any effect. Given the number of users, the number who are upset (and my upset is about the mechanics of LJ/SA's repsonse, and what it says about the company's view of its customers, who are the people providing the reason for advertisers to use them, and so are the providers of revenue) and the second order effects being minimal, at best, this was a battle I don't have enough of a dog in to take part.

But that doesn't mean the protest is pointless. It just means I am not exercised enough to man the barricades. That this specific fight doesn't move me doesn't mean the protest is useless. It has, at the very least, made a vague awareness of a problem more evident to me, and that has merit.

And this thread, with the active participation of those who seem to have some insight to the inner workings of LJ Abuse, would not have come to pass without Patrick's outrage, so it's a net good, IMO.

#558 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:25 PM:

Susan: I'm sorry if I offended, and (as with anything else) no generalisation is perfect. My Grandfather was some fity years older than my grandmother, and some seventy years older than his third wife..

But, by and large (even accepting that the twelve year gap between myself and Maia is at the edge of what I would, by general assumption think was problematic, as she was 21 to my 33: but those three years make a difference, not so much as that between 16 and 18, but the break-point I chose was that which was legal), that sort of raltionship has the risk of being less than sound.

And (though as I said, it wasn't the best analogy) there are those for whom accepting a EULA, or the sort of ToS as LJ/6A have is done without reservation, I don't think it's really entered into with the complete free-will of the junior partner (which is different from the analogy. I knew I was buying a pig in a poke when I signed on, and if the burden becomes to odius to me, then I will collect my marbles and go someplace else.

#559 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:29 PM:

Why is a boob with a baby 'completely normal' but a boob without is sexual?

Because women's bodies are dirty unless they are being used for breeding, which is the whole purpose of their existence?

Just to complicate the situation:

The whole idea that breastfeeding is not a sexual turn-on is a bit off-base. When my ex-gf was breastfeeding, she was regularly propositioned by adult men who wanted to, ah, be breastfed as well. Apparently this is a fairly popular fetish among het men. I don't know if they get turned on by representations of the Virgin Mary, but I could certainly see actual photos of nursing women being, functionally, specialized pornography. I believe there are magazines and websites for the nursing fetish, though I am not going to be googling for them from the office.

I'm sure that guys for whom this is a fetish would be 100% on the side of the women who want to use breastfeeding photos as default icons.

#560 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:34 PM:

Terry: Let's go with the company store analogy. I like that better.

Susan: all kinds of right-on.

#561 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 05:44 PM:

Terry, I agree that the open-source nature of the Live Journal software doesn't change the power balance much. I think you missed a very obvious, and more general, reason for there being an imbalance.

Code runs on hardware. What we are dealing with SixApart for is access to the hardware which runs Live Journal. Pretty well everything else you mention depends on that.

Also, as the Absolute Write recovery appears to demonstrate, differewnt hardware and operating system configurations can prevent reliable operation of the same code and data.

#562 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:16 PM:

Madeline F: Nope, your sin is just that you lack critical reading skills!

DoNotSpamMe: Because I added an extraneous letter to your name (for which egregious error, I apologise), or because I don't agree with your point of view?

No no no. See, here, again you're demonstrating your lack of critical reading skills. You appear ignorant of what "critical reading" is, though, so it's incumbent upon me to explain:

Critical reading is reading and getting the meaning of what you read, not just the words. There's a good tutorial here, from the University of Toronto.

Critical reading came into our discussion before when you took umbrage at my haiku, when a grasp of the previous discussion would have made clear to you that the haiku was for pretentious people who joined the argument only to deem it not worth arguing, merely a "tantrum". In this most recent instance, you suggest that I'm just calling you names because you didn't look at my handle before responding... But, see, if that was the case, what purpose does the sentence immediately following the one you quoted serve, the one that went, "And judging by your mangling of my name you're rolling some misses on reading skills in general"? The conjunction "and" alerts the reader that something new is being added, and the phrase "you're rolling some misses on reading skills in general" is that new information. See how there's a contrast in the two sentences between "reading skills in general" and "critical reading skills"?

Study up and I have confidence that you'll begin to grasp the nuances of conversing in a highly literate manner!

And as for your assertion that you're not my brother, we are all part of the brotherhood of man. ;)

#563 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 06:41 PM:

Dave: You're right, I did gloss the issue of hardware (that was in the, "at whatever expense" part of things).

Part of my annoyance is that contracts (and laws in general) are meant to mediate between people and to make their different needs and wants something that both parties can serve, and come out ahead in.

When one party (say Sony) takes advantage of its positional power to inflict; or reserve the right to inflict, a real harm on the other party, that's not a fair contract.

When the system says, it is; that the weaker party had the right to not accept that contract and that's a fair deal, well it chaps my hide.

#564 ::: milesawaygirl ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:02 PM:

idontlikepeas said (a long while back now):
Just a small wording note - I'm not one of the people involved in setting policy for the site (except in the technical support area, and even then only in an advisory capacity). LJ isn't a you, it's a they.

Sorry, imprecise writing. Consider most of those “you”s addressed to LJ at large. I am aware that you are not officially speaking for LJ, and that you are speaking in a personal capacity informed by experience as an LJ volunteer.

But there's got to be a line somewhere, and a decision was made that people over 13 probably know swear words already (but may not have been exposed to naked breasts).

Aargh, those dangerous radioactive naked breasts! ;) Sorry, that was just the mental picture conjured up there.

I'm the eldest of my parents' four children. We were all breastfed. I saw my mother breastfeeding my other siblings when I was 3, when I was 5, and when I was 9. She didn't go around baring her breasts for the sake of it, the breasts came out as and when necessary for feeding the baby – it was no big deal.

It's an odd assumption to make, that a young person assumed to be unfazed by swear words that nearly all have sexual connotations, (and that are often used as harsh putdowns, insults and expressions of aggression), would be expected to find the image of a partly exposed breast in the non-sexual context of breastfeeding potentially offensive or upsetting (or perhaps corrupting – am trying to imagine the various ways in which someone might be thought to need protection from something).

Let's say my default icon is a picture of a naked woman. The Abuse Team contacts me and says "Sorry, got to drop it." So I photoshop in a baby with its mouth near the picture's right nipple. Is it now OK? How close does that mouth have to be? Ten pixels? Five?

No one is arguing that the mere presence of a baby, whether real or photoshopped, near to an exposed nipple (not feeding from or otherwise not obscuring nipple) in an otherwise nude icon should make that icon allowable as a default pic. Breastfeeding women don't need to flash the unused breast, the protestors are not arguing that they should be able to do that in their icons. If the breast without the baby is covered or not depicted, and the visible breast has a baby or other object - hand, twirling pasties, whatever - obscuring the nipple, the image is compliant .

Ok, nipples are verboten in default user pics, that seems a straightforward reasonable line to take. However LJ Abuse's working definition of 'nipple' seems to include areolae. An otherwise identical depiction of breastfeeding would see one default icon allowed and one banned because the latter nursing mother has a larger or darker areola that is more visible in the icon. A few pixels worth of pigmented skin is getting users suspended. I've read a lot of posts and comments among affected users making this point.

The bottom line of my polite protest letter to LJ/SixApart will be: police the nipples if you really must, lighten up about the areolae in breastfeeding pics.

For general edification (purely because I have just looked up & established the difference for myself):
areola - a small circular area, in particular the pigmented skin surrounding a nipple.
http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/areola?view=uk

aureola - 1 (in paintings) a radiant circle surrounding a person to represent holiness. 2 a circle of light around the sun or moon.
http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/aureole?view=uk

That's because they have a clear, firm line for that stuff; because it's all in individuals communities or journals, where content is less restricted than it is in the public spaces of LJ.

My point regarding LJ refusing to be thought police was not to do with comparing allowable types of content in public versus private LJ space. My point was that in the quoted example (sorry no idea why link didn't work) LJ firmly invokes both the ideal of free speech and the laws that protect it, and personally I would love to see LJ positively seize upon the existence of laws in the US and elsewhere regarding the normalcy of public breastfeeding to make equally confident affirmations about breasts visible in the context of breastfeeding not being inappropriate in default icons.

#565 ::: milesawaygirl ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2006, 08:07 PM:

Ok, nipples are verboten in default user pics

That should of course read female nipples.

#566 ::: Deanna Hoak ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:20 AM:

Susan, I am an attractive woman who has nursed in all kinds of places all across the US, and I have never ever--in years of public nursing--been propositioned by an adult wanting to breastfeed. Neither have I heard from any of my breastfeeding friends that they have ever been propositioned. (And I would have heard.) I don't for an instant believe your anecdotal evidence.

People have fetishes about all kinds of things. Judging by a Google search, far more people--vastly more--are into feet as a fetish than are into breastfeeding as one. By your reasoning, then, images of feet are pornography and should be banned.

#567 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 02:57 AM:

Susan, I am an attractive woman who has nursed in all kinds of places all across the US, and I have never ever--in years of public nursing--been propositioned by an adult wanting to breastfeed. Neither have I heard from any of my breastfeeding friends that they have ever been propositioned. (And I would have heard.) I don't for an instant believe your anecdotal evidence.

Just out of curiosity, are you calling me a liar or my ex a liar? Your sheltered life doesn't mean this doesn't exist. I would suggest a google on "breast milk fetish" or "lactation fetish". (I would suggest NOT doing this from work.) If you add "DVD" to the search terms you will find all kinds of material. You might find the "Lactamania" series of porn videos illuminating, for example.

In the safe for work category, this page is a Flickr breastfeeding discussion site that mentions the problem the "perverse" signing up and grabbing their pix to "get jollies" from. Three of the most recent nine topics appear to relate to this problem.

People have fetishes about all kinds of things. Judging by a Google search, far more people--vastly more--are into feet as a fetish than are into breastfeeding as one. By your reasoning, then, images of feet are pornography and should be banned.

No, actually, my reasoning was that since people are saying female breasts in general should be banned because some people find breasts sexual, breasts-involved-in-nursing should also be banned since some people find them sexual. Apparently that was too subtle.

I do completely agree that banning pictures of anything some subset of people find sexual is silly, but if that's the reasoning you're going to follow, both male nipples and breastfeeding breasts should definitely be on the list.

#568 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 03:36 AM:

Another thought about the LJ user stats:

They start off with the total number of accounts, a few percent over 10 million.

But only about 12 percent are described as active.

I wonder which figure they're trying to use to sell advertising space? How does the counting compare with other websites?

#569 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 04:19 AM:

It's an odd assumption to make, that a young person assumed to be unfazed by swear words that nearly all have sexual connotations, (and that are often used as harsh putdowns, insults and expressions of aggression), would be expected to find the image of a partly exposed breast in the non-sexual context of breastfeeding potentially offensive or upsetting (or perhaps corrupting

Well, really it's the trolls who are upset by breastfeeding. I don't know if it's young trolls in particular. They don't seem to grow up very much.

#570 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 04:28 AM:

Re: Susan, Deanna:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraphilia#List_of_paraphilias

Some choice examples:
Harpaxophilia: sexual arousal from being the victim of a robbery or burglary
Sitophilia: sexual arousal from food
Andromimetophilia: love of women dressed as men
Agalmatophilia: sexual attraction to statues or mannequins or immobility

And thus we lose depictive art. Anyone been practicing medieval Islamic styles?

#571 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 06:02 AM:

On Monday three women went to SixApart's office in San Francisco for a "nurse-in" and were invited in to talk with Doug Bryan and Ginger Someone. Doug seems to be claiming that the problem is that he can't be "autocratic" with LJ Abuse volunteers:

I basically reiterated everything Carrie has already told Doug. I said that I think he should just tell the Live Journal Abuse team that breastfeeding icons are ok, period, end of story, as long as the baby is latched on. That is pretty clear cut. It's hard to know exactly what he is saying when he talks, but basically he said that he doesn't want to be "autocratic" with the abuse team members. He went on about how they are a volunteer staff and how they would have to hire 4-6 full time employees to replace them. He said the only person he can be "autocratic" ... with is Denise. link

If true, this doesn't speak well for Doug's ability as a manager.

Using volunteer labour is cheaper. Volunteers don't have to be paid. If that's the only reason an organisation is using volunteer labour, the organisation needs to take a long hard look at what it's using volunteer labour for.

Livejournal needs a police force. Any big community does. And in my opinion, even a bad police force can be better than none at all. I think LJ Abuse is a bad police force, but it's better than nothing.

What kind of police force it needs depends on the nature of the community. A science-fiction convention generally does just fine with volunteer security and clearly explained rules: and in many ways, livejournal used to be run very like a science-fiction convention. But it's not: it's a corporately-owned online community running on corporate servers... policed by volunteers who are, according to Doug Bryan, not under SixApart's control. That's a bad police force, and Doug's toleration of that because he doesn't feel he can lay down firm rules for volunteers that they must follow, makes him a bad manager.

Of course, Doug may not have been altogether honest about this: it may be that he is blaming LJ Abuse because LJ Abuse is a convenient target for user rage, and he would rather have us blame LJ Abuse than blame Six Apart. If so, that doesn't just make him a bad manager: it makes him a bad human being.

I started out to write this comment just as a link to what-else-is-being-said, but the importance of Doug's claim has struck me in the writing of it: I'll be cross-posting this.

#572 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 08:24 AM:

Possible over-analysis here:

4-6 full-time staff is barely adequate to provide 24/7 cover. I've no reason to disbelieve that the current volunteer-based 24\7 cover has saved lives by allowing prompt reaction to such things as apparent suicide notes and other please for help.

It's possible that DB is suggesting one paid employee on duty at all times to take on the abuse-specific functions. Could some volunteers be feeling that the LJ Abuse label has unfairly put them in the target zone?

Anyway, the numbers suggest to me that the level of abuse-related activities is pretty low. This may have led to the LJ management thinking they didn't need any formal management structure. Unfortunately, while there may not be a who-works-when management problem, there still needs to be somebody with the authority to resolve opinion differences between the customer-facing abuse staff.

#573 ::: fivesheetfacts ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 10:24 AM:

An abuse team member, speaking froma position of authority, talks about how he/she sees the issue here:

http://mullenkamp.livejournal.com/841156.html

The money quote?
Immediately some woman stands up and goes "WAH WAH YOU'RE DISCRIMINATING AGAINST BREAST-FEEDING MOTHERS! WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IT ANYWHERE WE WANT AND SHOW IT ALL! COME ON, GIRLS!" Immediately a bunch of overreactive wannabe rebels who apparently can't find any actual injustices in the world to protest all rush the stage to take off their shirts and breastfeed there, although their child's welfare certainly doesn't depend on them breastfeeding in a particular area.

Straw man much?

#574 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 11:57 AM:

Well, actually, a child's welfare does depend on a woman being able to breastfeed anywhere she wants--or, rather, anywhere the child wants. Babies get hungry in the darnedest places.

But that bit about "can't find any actual injustices in the world"--that's just the this isn't as important as rapes in the Congo lame all over again. It's related to the not as bad as Hitler defense. The claim that one may not respond to an injustice unless the injustice peaks over a given watermark is a deadly one if given any credence; it's manufactured to shut people up.

#575 ::: fivesheetfacts ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 12:58 PM:

And from further down that link:
hey'd always gone by that standard, though, ever since I was on the team - it just wasn't worded clearly enough for these people who were trying to do the loophole thing, so they spelled it out more clearly. As I said above:

Wankers said "OMG! They changed the ToS specifically to get us breastfeeders! So evil!" (I actually am reminded more of that episode of the Simpsons where the announcer was like "Ticket should not be taken internally." And then Homer proudly states "They have to say that now because of me!")

Wow! THIS is the sort of people working for LJ?

#576 ::: piranha ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 10:19 PM:

1. An individual user may be responsible for infracting a venue's rules; but when you have a dustup this big and this fraught, and what sound like solid online citizens are complaining about the capriciousness, unresponsiveness, and opacity of the moderation system, then the people who are running the venue are the ones at fault.

i think after reading through many thousands of words in this brouhaha, that most of what this dustup shows is how quickly facts get lost in an avalanche of rumours and distortions. and as soon as outsiders get involved (which happened here very quickly), things get completely out of hand, and you can't make yourself heard with a fact anymore if you had a PA system. i've seen jennett and idonotlikepeas try their damndest here, but the faulty information gets repeated over and over anyway, because shit stirrers don't like facts, they like the drama.

that said, i definitely think 6A is not doing the best it could to address the problem. instead they're letting the abuse team take the brunt of the outrage, which is wrong on more than one level.

2. If you're trying to address a complex and difficult problem, consider telling your users that that's what you're doing. There's a good chance they'll help. They want the place to survive and go on running smoothly, same as you do.

absolutely. this is IME a major mistake all too many organizations make, to not keep their users informed of what's going on. and LJ/6A are guilty of that all too often, including in this case.

also, i think that when a policy is under debate, it might be a good idea to stop with the enforcing of said policy for a while, to allow the waters to calm. surely 2 weeks of letting breastfeeders show off their icons isn't going to result in puritan meltdown all over america. if after review the policy stands, there's always time enough to enforce it. especially since LJ does not actively police anyway, but relies on reports of violations.

3. It can be valid to use volunteer labor in a profitable enterprise, but you cannot skimp on oversight, training, and overall direction.

i was on the LJ abuse team, and i've gotta say, my training was more comprehensive than the training lots of customer service reps seem to get; it was as good as what i got for my volunteer job at a crisis hotline. denise paolucci, the manager of the abuse team, is one of the best managers i've ever encountered (and i am rather above the age range of the average LJ user, *snicker*). there are things that could be improved, but honestly, i don't think there is anything fundamentally wrong.

i am strongly suspicious of people who complain that the abuse team is rude to them, because i've never seen it -- the training is quite explicit on how to word interactions with customers, and even people who're habitually blunt are taught how to adjust their language, and to not ever lash out no matter how rude the users get (and they do, do they ever). how some abuse team members conduct themselves off the job, when not in communication about a specific complaint is possibly a different story, but that should not matter.

the biggest problems at the time were always in regard to unclear policy. it was very difficult to get clarifications from higher up, mainly because i don't think brad fitzgerald really cared to think about such things; he wanted to program, and LJ had long outgrown his own vision as regards the community aspects. he was out of his league IMO, and he did not properly support the abuse team even though he put them there to do his dirty work.

i was hoping this would change with the takeover by 6A, but it looks like maybe it hasn't changed enough (i left the team before the takeover). the abuse team does not set policy, and should not get stuck with it if said policy runs into a problem. so, shame on 6A. get your heads out of the sand, and send your PR person up front and centre.

4. Is there an excuse for half-running this operation? I hadn't heard that LJ was such a marginal enterprise that it couldn't spare some thoughtful managerial attention to core user-interface issues.

i have no idea of the finances involved. but regardless, it's simply good sense to deal with problems before they snowball, because that costs time (which is allegedly money) and energy too, and it burns out one's employees and volunteers.

#577 ::: Tony ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:17 PM:

This whole icon issue is so full of smoke and mirrors that it's absurd.

First of all, the LJ abuse team with their "Neener neener we didn't change the TOS". They are correct, they didn't, the tos just simply doesn't deal efficiently with this issue. They have the FAQ for that, which the LJ abuse team changed, so they should stop pretending they didn't move the goalposts.

The easy and obvious response from LJ abuse would have been to say they treat each default icon individually and to tell people to grow up, instead they've encouraged a witch hunt and got themselves into a fine mess.

You don't work on an issue with people, and then continue to suspend them. That's like entering peace talks and one side turning round and saying "Shoot to kill". This is really poor customer service.

Then we have the amazing revelation that there is a different forum for suggesting change, but people in the LJ abuse team couldn't be bothered to point this out, even though that would have got them partially onto a sensible footing over this whole issue.

I have time for the LJ abuse team and the volunteer system, they must deal with a lot of rubbish and get little thanks for it, but they've handled this extremely badly.

#578 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 01:40 PM:

A.J. Luxton:
Harpaxophilia: sexual arousal from being the victim of a robbery or burglary
Sitophilia: sexual arousal from food
Andromimetophilia: love of women dressed as men
Agalmatophilia: sexual attraction to statues or mannequins or immobility

And thus we lose depictive art. Anyone been practicing medieval Islamic styles?

That's what I was trying to address with the sentence "I do completely agree that banning pictures of anything some subset of people find sexual is silly," and why I find a strategy that tries to define exactly what parts of a breast are sexual and in what contexts to be both hopeless and offensive, since it inevitably devolves to "our breasts are good and your breasts are bad", which is a step backwards for people trying to un-objectify women's anatomy.

I said many posts above that I'm generally in favor of public breastfeeding and happy for people to have icons of it, and I will add that I think LJ's policy is ludicrous and (as they are discovering) impractical to enforce. But I'm having a little trouble feeling passionate about this particular struggle because (some? many? most?) of its advocates seem to want to win by defining every breast without a baby attached as sexual/obscene/etc. I'm just not generous of spirit enough to be willing to define my body as nasty and theirs as wholesome because I haven't had the foresight to breed an infant of my own to attach to me to make my body acceptable. Selfish, I know, but it reminds me of feminism purging the Evil Lezzzzbians in the 1970's.

I think that LJ is asking for trouble by doing any kind of content-based censoring of images; there lies the unhappy territory of judgment calls and fuzzy lines. By far the best solution (as someone else suggested in this thread) would be to not have default icons appear on whatever search function or public page they currently appear on. (Not really being on LJ, I'm not clear on exactly where the default icons come up and the anything-goes other icons do not.) That would eliminate the entire problem, yes?

#579 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 03:06 PM:

Susan: But I'm having a little trouble feeling passionate about this particular struggle because (some? many? most?) of its advocates seem to want to win by defining every breast without a baby attached as sexual/obscene/etc.

I acknowledge upfront it's entirely possible that you've simply been reading a completely different subset (of the monstrous amount that has been written about this issue) than I have, and the subset you've read has included people who are in opposition to LJ Abuse/Six Apart's position because they think a naked female breast without a baby is "sexual/obscene", but with is OK.

Nevertheless: the subset I have read consists entirely of people arguing for breastfeeding to be permitted in default icons because even if SixApart/LJ Abuse has decided to define the naked female breast as obscene (while the naked male breast is decent), it's absurd that this should include pics of breastfeeding babies - since even in parts of the US where it's legally indecent to expose a female nipple, breastfeeding is (always? usually?) a legal exception.

That is, the advocates of the position that breastfeeding icons should be permitted as a default are not arguing that the female breast is obscene: SixApart/LJ Abuse are arguing that, and so are their supporters.

What I have seen being brought up as a kind of straw baby is a succession of people belonging to childfree communities on livejournal claiming that the people opposing SixApart/LJ Abuse are arguing that a female breast is sexual/obscene without a baby attached - indeed, often in those exact words.

But never an example of an actual case of this argument being used.

It's almost as if these people from cf communities really do think female breasts are indecent/obscene, and cannot conceive that anyone could think otherwise; and therefore they conclude that anyone arguing that it's okay to breastfeed in public and okay to have default pics of a woman breastfeeding, must be arguing that the indecent/obscene spectacle of a woman's breasts is only justifed with "a baby attached".

But that's mere speculation on my part.

#580 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 03:10 PM:

Susan: I think that LJ is asking for trouble by doing any kind of content-based censoring of images; there lies the unhappy territory of judgment calls and fuzzy lines. By far the best solution (as someone else suggested in this thread) would be to not have default icons appear on whatever search function or public page they currently appear on. (Not really being on LJ, I'm not clear on exactly where the default icons come up and the anything-goes other icons do not.) That would eliminate the entire problem, yes?

Yes, and that's an excellent idea. (Default user icons show up in two sets of places: on the user's "user info" page, and sometimes on search pages.) Unfortunately, LJ Abuse does not appear to be open to suggestions on how to fix the problem - still, I'll add this wish for a technical fix to the next letter I write to them.

#581 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 03:15 PM:

I remember a scene I channel-surfed past once. I think it was from Look Who's Talking, a movie where an actor speaks aloud the thoughts of a baby, which is cute, but the plot was otherwise lame. Anyway, John Travolta (:-P) and the baby see a woman with large breasts.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Travolta inanely asks the baby.

"Yeah! Heh heh...LUNCH!" says the baby.

#582 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 08, 2006, 06:57 PM:

piranha. you wrote:

i was hoping this would change with the takeover by 6A, but it looks like maybe it hasn't changed enough (i left the team before the takeover). the abuse team does not set policy, and should not get stuck with it if said policy runs into a problem. so, shame on 6A. get your heads out of the sand, and send your PR person up front and centre.

There certainly seems to be a shortage of easy-to-find info on the LJ web pages. There's a Press section, which seems to be ancient history, more about what reporters wrote in the distant past than about what LJ/6A want people to know now. You would, for instance, expect to see the Press Release on the takeover in such an obvious place.

Instead, I see indirect mentions, here and elsewhere, of various LJ communities which I'd never heard of before. My fault for not clicking on the correct question in the FAQ? Perhaps so, but I end up wondering if LJ, and now 6A, are really committed to keeping their users informed.

A lot of the flamage here, for instance, arises from a series of claims made by a self-described LJ Volunteer, who seemed unable to point to any authoritative source. Even after being asked.

Frankly, LJ Abuse may be the most perfectly trained volunteers in the known universe, the sans pareil od dedication to their duty (though a universe which includes the RNLI makes this difficult to believe), but I know of no credible source of information about what LJ policy is.

#583 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2006, 05:57 PM:

Terry Karney said:the things I see as abrogating real consent you brush off with, "That's the way the world is,"

Sorry - I didn't see anything in your comment which abrogated real consent in that you were complaining about a situation where you as a capable adult have complete choice not to agree. If you want to see your dislike of EULAs etc as a greater problem than my concerns about children's right, then so be it. There's really nothing more I can say to you that I haven't already, and if Dave Bell thinks the issue of child consent and privacy is a 'red herring', then surely this is a far more irrlevant distraction from the topic in hand. Not going to get into a discussion about software rights over human rights.

And I have nothing new to add to this debate (and far less time on my hands than some other people seem to have to pursue this), so I am going to thank the Nielsen Haydens for allowing me to offer my opinions, and then contribute no further to this. In any event, the moderator of the group allegedly being supported by these activists has very publicly disavowed herself and her fellow boob_nazis from this entire business, the small number of disgruntled LJ users have admitted their 'boycott' was of no use at all, and Yonmei and her colleagues continue to stuff fingers in their ears and refuse to acknowledge any other view points (witness yet more labelling as trolls and banning on that greatest journal comm.)

The breastfeeders and their sympathisers themselves are saying in very large numbers, 'Get off my side, you're making my side look stupid'. As one of the women allegedly under attack by LJ, let me say that I also would like people to stop sticking up for my rights, if they can't find a more intelligent and honest way of doing it.

#584 ::: DoNotSpamMe ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2006, 06:14 PM:

Madeline F said: Study up and I have confidence that you'll begin to grasp the nuances of conversing in a highly literate manner!

Thanks, but having finished my post-graduate course three years ago, making that the third degree I've completed, I figured I'd take a break from studies for a while. I know none of them are from institutions as august as the University of Toronto, and masters degrees aren't what they used to be, but what's a poor illiterate to do when they thrust the bits of parchment into one's unworthy paws? It would be uncouth to refuse, don't you think?

But hey, I appreciate the attempt to help me improve. And it was so...politely expressed too.

Now I'll be off, dragging my knuckles in the dirt. I think my partner has plans to knock me up and hide my shoes, and I mustn't keep his lordship waiting.

#585 ::: crayolaphoenix ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2006, 06:50 PM:

I find it odd that six apart is staging this witch hunt over breast feeding icons, when, I can easily pull up users whose main icons are of penises.. either flacid or hard, many times in the act of intercourse or masturbation.

seems to me there's a huge double standard..

just sayin..

btw.. the user who is listed as having the information on the black out has been suspended and I can't find the proposed date for it. Can you please give me information as to if it's taken place yet, and if not, when it's supposed to?

#586 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2006, 06:06 PM:

Can you please give me information as to if it's taken place yet, and if not, when it's supposed to?

It took place on 6/6/6 (6th June 2006). Further discussion here.

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