liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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This journal may disappear at any time. But, guess what? So could yours.

ETA: I have provided a Screen Capture of the back and forth between myself and Alice of LJAbuse to show that all information presented below is truthful.

You might remember that on August 9 I sent a support request to LiveJournal asking them to confirm if it was true that they were going to smack people around — i.e., either suspend or ban accounts — for simply linking to objectionable material off-site.

The rumor seemed ridiculous to me. Talk about a complete misunderstanding of how the Internet works. It's not unheard of for formerly "safe sites" to suddenly become "unsafe" as a result of Web page movement and disappearance. The Internet is, by its very nature, an unstable and temporary place. It's virtually impossible to be sure that a once-linked site will be safe forever.

Especially if you tend to do link round-ups for breaking news or interesting Web sites of the day. The very thought of regularly checking every off-site link I've ever posted to make sure those links are still "safe" under the rules of 6A/LJ is enough to make me break into a cold sweat. And I'm only a link princess. I can't imagine what some of the link queens on my FList (as in they do a daily news round-up consisting of a zillion links) and news communities on my FList are going to do.

So, as I said, it was time to go to the source.

I didn't receive an answer by August 13, when lj_biz posted the non-clarification of 6A/LJ policies. The mention of hyperlinking to off-sites was not at all helpful, either, especially since they were throwing that "child porn" label around like they were hoping it would stick to anyone who dared to complain about 6A/LJ's high-handed behavior and lack of customer service.

Following the "clarification" post on lj_biz, a number of people have tried to get a straight answer on the linking issue, only to get the whole child porn thing thrown out there again and again.

Well, your intrepid correspondent has decided to push the issue to its logical extremes. And thanks to finally getting an answer from LJ Abuse, I have an answer...sort of.

Please keep in mind that this whole conversation was set to private by LJ. Therefore, I can't objectively prove that I had this real conversation with someone from LJAbuse.

The short answer is: Yes, we will be held responsible for the content of all off-site sites that we link to. Yes, we are expected to regularly check those links to make sure that every hyperlink within our journal real estate remains "safe."

If there's any good news, current policy dictates that if LJAbuse is able to determine based on the content around your link that you initially posted to a "safe" site and that link has now been redirected, you will be contacted and asked to fix the link. They will most likely not use it as a "strike" against you in their shiny new "two strikes yer out policy" if LJAbuse decides that you didn't intend to link to a site LJ/6A thinks contains ToS-able content.

Below the LJ Cuts are the actual back-and-forths between myself and LJAbuse.

Original Message from Liz Marcs
Thursday, August 9

There is currently a rumor going around the user base that LJ/6A would delete or suspend a journal if the user links to a Web site or Web page that contains content that the Abuse Team deems as objectionable.

I'm not talking about displaying an objectionable image hosted on, say Photobucket, and linked using the "img" tag.

I'm talking about linking to a site or an image using the "a href" tag.

So, for example, I post a link to a Web site (just a link and nothing more) and say someone reports the entry to LJ Abuse.

If LJ Abuse deems that I have, indeed, linked to material that would otherwise get me ToS'd if LJ servers were hosting it, would my account be suspended/deleted because I merely posted a link to another Web site.

Thank you for your prompt response on this matter.

Response from Alice on LJAbuse
Thursday, August 23
(Bolded italicized words below were inserted for emphasis.)

Dear LiveJournal User Liz_marcs,

Thank you for contacting the LiveJournal Abuse Prevention Team. LiveJournal's policy regarding links in user journals and communities is that posting links must be treated in precisely the same way that posting the material itself would be treated. If the content is prohibited on LiveJournal itself, it is a violation of LiveJournal's Terms of Service ( to post links which enable access to material posted elsewhere. Please see this post in "lj_biz" for clarification of what material may not be posted on LiveJournal:


LiveJournal Abuse Prevention Team

Clarification Request from Liz Marcs
Monday, August 27

Let me echo what just about every single customer on the site has said: "No, this does NOT answer my question. At all."

For the bazillionth time, this is NOT about the right to link to "child porn." This is a question about linking to anything off-site to material that may be questionable or objectionable material (as for what's questionable or objectionable in LJ's've yet to make THAT much clear).

For example: has legitimate articles on that site. It's also a soft porn site. Say I link to an article on, such as Wil Wheaton's "Just a Geek" column. This column by the way, is completely work-safe although there may be a thumbnail picture of a naked over-18 tattooed girl in the upper right hand corner.

Now, I link to "Just a Geek." I warn the link may not be worksafe. Will this get me ToS'd?

Here's a second question (using the same example). Say Wil Wheaton gets into a bitch fight with Say he takes all his "Just a Geek" columns and goes home. Those links that I've put up, say, a year ago, now go to home page, which is most definitely not work safe since there's a lot of over-18 tattooed naked flesh there.

Will I get ToS'd because the link's been redirected to a page full o' porn, even though context clearly shows that when I originally put up the link that it didn't actually land on a page of porn?

THAT's more the example I'm talking about. Given the nature of the Internet, it's not unheard of for formerly safe links to become very unsafe. If I have to go through all three years' worth of entries on a regular basis to check every single link I have ever linked, that is an undue burden on the customer, don't you think?

Response from Alice on LJAbuse
Wednesday, August 29
(Bolded italicized words below were inserted for emphasis.)

FAQ Reference:
What kind of material is prohibited on LiveJournal?

Dear LiveJournal User Liz_marcs,

Thank you for following up with the LiveJournal Abuse Prevention Team. As we have said before, if the content is prohibited on LiveJournal itself, it is a violation of LiveJournal's Terms of Service ( However, LiveJournal does not prohibit the posting of/linking to material that may offend some users, so long as that material is not illegal in itself nor does it fall into the specific categories of inciting violence against a particular race, religion, ethnic group, or minority; invading the privacy of another user by posting personal information; infringing the copyright or patent of an individual or corporation; or is created solely to harass another user. Please see the FAQ referenced above for more detailed information regarding the specific categories of material prohibited on our site.

Since this is the case, links to sites containing material dealing with adult sexuality are not a violation of the LiveJournal Terms of Service. Since LiveJournal users are held responsible for the content of their journals and for the material to which they link, and due to the fact that the internet changes frequently and links may change or become outdated, it is a good policy to check and update your links frequently. As you are aware from recent posts in "lj_biz", the LiveJournal Abuse Prevention Team only investigates material which has been reported to us. Should a link be reported in a case where it is clear from the context that any violation of the Terms of Service is entirely unintentional and caused by a change in the page content after the time the link was made, the action LiveJournal would take would be to ask the user to remove the link; it would not count as a "strike" under the "two strike" rule.


LiveJournal Abuse Prevention Team

Clarification Request from Liz Marcs
Wednesday, August 29

I hope you realize that this policy is completely unworkable.

Myself and a number of other people use LiveJournal in the same manner as a traditional blog. We link to interesting, often political, sites to report breaking news. We link to videos, blogs, traditional news sources, and the like as part of that effort. I, myself, have linked to HUNDREDS of such sites over the years I've been here, and I'm nowhere near the most active linker just on my FList alone.

You are quite literally asking us to check hundreds, possibly thousands, of hyperlinks on a regular basis to make sure the links remain "safe." Please also be aware that every single person I know who regularly links off-site or has a specific political bent attracts trolls who would be more than happy to abuse that little abuse button for any excuse at all. And since now you don't even have to be an LJ member to report "abusive posts"...well I think you can see the problem here.

And I'm not just talking about individuals with private journals. What about the news communities or the political communities on LJ? How quickly, and how often, do you think they're going to be reported for posts made three or four years ago where the links no longer are safe?

The fact of the matter is that you're opening a whole can of worms here on people who are using the Internet like it's supposed to be used: as a network to exchange news and information.

While I would love to believe that "bad links" made in good faith will not be counted against account holders under the "two strike" rule, 6A/LJ's track record over the past few months does not inspire confidence — especially since your organization has been caught going back on its word already.

Furthermore, while YOU say that you, as an Abuse Team member would not count it as a strike, you're also saying it in a private message to me. What assurances do people worried about this very issue have that the Abuse Team members will follow this policy?

In short, there's a whole community of people on LJ who really, really, really need to see this policy stated clearly and publicly so they can actually point to it if they find themselves at the wrong end of the banhammer because someone at LJ/6A decided that context doesn't matter and we find ourselves without a journal.

Either make it clear in the TOS (and by the way, there is NOTHING in the TOS about hyperlinking to "objectionable" material) or put it in the FAQ or put up a post on one of the announcement communities stating this. Right now, you've got an awful lot of people concerned about this issue, and it's a lot of the reason why people are taking their ball and moving to WordPress. If you really want to stop that bleed off to the competition, you might want to state this hyperlinking policy in a public place where everyone can read it.

Not that I think it'll save you, really. It seems to me that it'll just push that many more people to leave. Only this time, it'll be the people you want to keep. You know the kind of people I'm talking about: The kind of people who score in the Top 3,000 blogs on Technorati. I'm pretty sure that those are the kind of people you really don't want to lose, since they bring eyeballs to your site and all.

Liz Marcs

I'll post the response when I get it (assuming I get a response).

You know? That closing line of my email just gave me a good idea.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to show 6A/LJ that it isn't just us, the customers and journals owners, who create the community here on LJ.

We need to show that as content providers we also bring eyeballs to the site, eyeballs that have to see their advertising.

To that end, maybe we should all post our Technorati and LJSeek links, just to show that taking down one journal could very well mean a big drop-off in the number of visitors LJ gets. And I know for a fact that I have nowhere near the number of visitors and/or links most people on my FList have.

So, here goes. My stats from LJSeek and Technorati.

From LJSeek:
My rating

From Technorati: View blog authority

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