ETA: This post has been made public and not public so often that I've decided, "Fuck it. I got shit-all to worry about. It's public and it's staying public." Mostly because despite my best efforts, I can't prove anything that anyone says. So know what? It's public and that's that.
ETA2: I am not linking to the "Warriors for Innocence" site. Google it if you want to see it.
ETA3: I have received a response. I will post it up tonight after supper.
ETA THE BIG CHEESE: I've followed up this post with the Warriors for Innocence response, and my response back.
Also, a lot of information is probably going to be shared in response to this post and the follow up, so I urge you all to remember one important thing...confirm, confirm, confirm wherever possible. There are a lot of rumors floating around right now, and it's hard to separate the truth from hysteria. Lord knows I ran into that earlier today, so take a lesson from me on this one.
I only ask that you please keep a cool head, and please keep it polite. Do not threaten violence or to do anything illegal. Any threats that involve the commission of crimes will be deleted. This is for your protection as well as mine. I've got a ton of people linking to me at the moment, so friendly banter or blowing off steam can be taken the wrong way.
Okay. I'm gonna take this in steps.
On Friday, I posted about the perfect storm of wank in fandom. A small part of that post mentioned in passing that there was a rumor that LJ was being pressured to shut down and kill the accounts of certain LJ users and communities with questionable intersts listed. Fandom assumed that it was aimed at us.
As it turns out, that rumor is actually partially correct. My correspondent was kind of enough to give me links to some group calling itself "Warriors for Innocence," which has decided to turn its sights on LJ. The goal is to pressure LJ/SixApart to shut down LJs of people these bloggers have determined to be "pedophiles" or potential pedophiles.
Now the group does blog some squick-worthy examples, it's true. However, LJ Abuse's responses are also right on the money.
For example, saying "I find 5-year-old girls hott!!1!!!1" while positively squick-worthy, ick-worthy, and unfriending-worthy is a far cry from actually sexually exploiting a 5-year-old girl or posting pictures of 5-year-old girls who are being sexually exploited.
In short: no crime, no time out from LJ.
What you can't see is the screened response from someone purporting to be from "Warriors for Innocence" responding to the commenter.
This response, by the way, was posted within an hour after my correspondent gave me the heads up. That kind of coincidence makes my teeth itchy. That and the fact that I am automatically suspicious of any organization that uses the word "warrior" in its name that isn't associated with: 1) sports and; 2) Battlestar Galactica.
Frankly, I was just gonna leave the comment screened, although I did click on the link. Then I tried to Google the organization. The dearth of information about them makes me, well, deeply uncomfortable here.
The more I thought about it, the more I didn't like the fact that they showed up in my LJ within an hour of being mentioned, and the more I didn't like the fact that these people had very clearly not done any of their homework.
Now let me be clear: I think cyberpatrolling and nailing cyber-predators is a good idea.
However, doing it without training, without an association with an actual law enforcement agency, and without transparent operational guidelines that the public can inspect at any time strikes me as a bad idea at best and vigilantism at worst.
Listen, I've known people who've volunteered on these official cyberpatrols, citizens like myself and you, and they are intensively trained and supervised by local law enforcement. They work hard, and are dedicated, and volunteered so much of themselves for this duty. I've even sat in on a few sessions as they went around various chart rooms or internet discussion boards and waited for the predators to come to them. I know how hard they work to keep from crossing the line into entrapment while making sure to get the evidence from the bad guys "on chat log" or email. It's legit, and it's hard, and no, I wouldn't do it for a million dollars, let alone for free.
And that's why "Warriors for Innocence" have annoyed me, even beyond the fact that a portion of my FList went into panic when this rumor started.
In any case, I sent them the following email (which is available under the LJ Cut if you want to read it). If "Warriors for Innocence" answers the questions, I'll post the answers.
I'm taking you up on your offer to ask you a few questions, mostly because your sudden anonymous comment in my LJ linking to your "Warriors of Innocence" site (which I'll get to in a minute) bothered me quite a lot. What really bothered me is that you made it in response to someone explaining where the whole "an outside pressure group is trying to force LJ to dump some users" rumor started. Since it actually turns out that you may have been the cause of it, and because you unfairly scared half my FList to death over it, let's just say that I'm not in a terribly charitable mood when it comes to you, your Web site, or your cause right now.
However, what really, really bothers me is that you posted your anonymous response to my correspondent (as opposed to me, the owner of this here LJ) within an hour of your organization being mentioned in my comments. I swear that it was almost like Bloody Mary appearing after someone makes the mistake of looking in the mirror and saying her name three times.
It's enough to make me wonder if you had been following that particular commenter around from LJ to LJ. And if you haven't, why the hell would you even poke your nose in mine? So, let's just say your timing is seriously making me seriously wonder.
And no. I have not unscreened your comment. Nor am I about to unless you answer the following questions:
- Are you associated with a local law enforcement agency? How about a national law enforcement agency? How about a regional, national or international organization that deals with missing and exploited children? Just off the top of my head: I don't even see the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or Amber Alert linked to your blog, and let's be blunt, that alone is a head-scratcher. Furthermore, I don't even see links to survivor and support groups concerned with these issues. I see zero by way of resources. I find these lack of links on your blog highly suspicious.
See, I ask because I've known people (civilians) who've volunteered for such programs. These are people who have received training from the law enforcement agency they're working with (even if it's only a couple of weeks), willingly slap IP tracking software on their own computers, and volunteer x-number of hours a week, and only sting those who are actually committing a crime by trolling for prepubescent girls and boys under the age of 16.
- I do not see the following on or linked to your Web site: Code of Conduct (for yourselves), Mission Statement, Q&A, or any other similar Web page that tells people who you are. I'm not saying give away personal details on the Web, I'm just talking about any information at all beyond links to other blogs that are directly connected to this one (i.e., your personal blogs). I can't even begin to tell who you're targeting or even why.
And by the way, any legit organization involved in tracking down online predators would not only have these documents on-hand, but they would have them up and available for inspection by the the general Web trawling public. Again, the lack of this information makes you highly suspect in my eyes
- Where's your guidelines or standards? In short, what, in your mind, makes someone "guilty" or a potential "child predator?"
See, I know plenty of fandom terms that can easily be taken for "predatory code words" to the uninitiated. Same goes for several other specialty interests that are outside the purview of child predation (or the threat thereof) or abuse survival.
See, I ask again because the people I've known who've worked in these programs could actually show me the precise guidelines they operated under. And in every case, they only turned in the IP address. The actual investigation and arrest was performed by a law enforcement officer.
It goes without saying that I see no such guidelines or standards on your website. You should have this information available on request to interested parties, because going by your entries, I can't even begin to tell what your standards are.
If you looked at all around my LJ, you'll find that I am part of a large subcommunity of LJ. Part of that is writing fiction or "fan fiction." Sometimes fanfiction may depict scenes of abuse, predation, rape, incest, and pedophilia. Sometimes these issues are handled tastefully, sometimes they are not, and sometimes they are done strictly for titillation purposes. Going by current campaign against LJ, I can only assume that unless the interests you are targeting are associated with survivor groups, I can only assume that fan fiction writers who lists your "hot button words" in their interests are going to be getting a visit from you and possibly harassed.
Here's the problem I see with your blog: I can't tell who you people are just going by your entries. Your total lack of linkage to legitimate volunteer organizations and law enforcement concerned with online child safety; your lack of a FAQ spelling out your mission and your goals; and the utter lack of transparency for your organization, I can only conclude that your vigilantes who are trying to shut down speech you don't particularly like, makes you feel uncomfortable, but is not necessarily illegal. Going by at least one entry, this is exactly the case.
Let me make something clear, I don't like child predation or pedophilia or child abuse or incest any better than most human beings. Hell, I won't touch any story that doesn't treat these themes seriously with a 10-foot pole, and the more "titillating" those stories are, the more likely I'm going to complain about them. Loudly. And in public. However, I can tell the difference between "real life" and fiction. The fiction tells you nothing at all about the person writing it. Just because they like writing about a subject you find distasteful, it doesn't mean that they actually condone said actions in a real-life situation.
I also need to bring up one other thing: searching for "predators" on LJ on the basis of their interests listed on the user info page and then advertising that you were doing that was a spectacularly stupid idea. Do you have any idea how fast that information got out and shot around LJ? At the speed of light. Do you have any idea how quickly those lists of interests disappeared from the user info pages and how fast some LJs locked down to only a small, trusted reading list? At the speed of sound.
Way to go, guys.
You just not only just gave real predators the heads' up and drove them deeper underground (thereby making them harder for law enforcement to find), you also scared the panties off a whole lot of innocent people and communities. After looking at your blog, I don't blame them. Because no matter how many links I click, I can't find anything resembling a clear statement of your mission, nor can I find your standards, nor can I discover the law enforcement agency you're allied with.
While I'm sorry this email turned rather angry towards the end, vigilantism leaves a very, very bad taste in my mouth, especially when you drag it into my LJ.
In either case, I look forward to reading your reply to my questions.
Okay, okay. That reads wanky as hell, I know. But I was deeply annoyed by their blog, for all the reasons stated above.
And now that I've outed myself as hating Wincest, Twincest, and other-cest in all its forms, at least you know I'll be the first to say you've got the right to write it (provided you properly warn for it).