Barak Berkowitz, Chairman and CEO of Six Apart, has released an admission that "For reasons we are still trying to figure out what was supposed to be a well planned attempt to clean up a few journals that were violating LiveJournal's policies that protect minors turned into a total mess. I can only say I’m sorry, explain what we did wrong and what we are doing to correct these problems and explain what we were trying to do but messed up so completely."Link
Explaining LJ's intentions, Berkowitz also says: "Another issue we needed to deal with was journals that used a thin veneer of fictional or academic interest in events and storylines that include child rape, pedophilia, and similar themes in order to actually promote these activities. While there are stories, essays, and discussions that include discussion of these issues in an effort to understand and prevent them, others use a pretext to promote these activities. It’s often very hard to tell the difference."
His formal statement concludes with: "One could say that no matter what we did we would either be accused of opposing free speech or endangering children but I am sure we should and could have done this much better. I hope you can forgive us and we can regain your trust." He has since added notes about specific questions, although the 76 pages of comments after this entry alone suggests that some users do not think his answers were thorough enough.
Previously on BB:
Reader comment: Dan Wineman says,
I just wanted to comment on this quote from the Six Apart CEO:Julie Richardson says,While there are stories, essays, and discussions that include discussion of these issues in an effort to understand and prevent them, others use a pretext to promote these activities. It’s often very hard to tell the difference.Well, yeah. That's the entire reason ideals like freedom of speech exist: because it's not just *hard* to tell the difference between good and bad speech -- it's *impossible* to set an objective standard that everyone agrees on. So the only policy that's safe from turning into tyranny is to allow all speech, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. Yes, people could be harmed; yes, even children. Freedom is more important.
LiveJournal wouldn't be in this situation if it hadn't tried to regulate the content of its users' speech. End of story. The lesson to be learned isn't "regulate better" or "police more carefully" -- it's "don't even try." Most likely, the law (and the Constitution definitely) will be on your side.
In the US, anyway.
Thanks for posting LJ's response to the erroneous purging of legit child sex abuse survivor sites and fanfic sites not actually promoting paedophilia. I just wanted to respond to the reader's comment you included at the end. LJ was not trying to censor anyone, just enforcing it's own TOS that stated "You agree to NOT use the Service to: Upload, post or otherwise transmit any Content that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortuous, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, …" . The true paedophile and paedo-advocacy sites are in violation of this TOS as they promote actions that are unlawful, harmful, and abusvie to children. As Six Apart is a private company, they are under no obligation to publish any speech, particularly that in violation of their TOS.Elizabeth says,
I am mother to two children whose lives have been decimated by their father, a man who was/is deeply involved with child porn and incest-style writing. People like me hope that LiveJournal, etc. err on the side of protecting children. Whenever I read an article like this on Boing Boing, I wish you would also occasionally link to sites where people can learn about protecting children from predators, pornographers, etc. Free speech is important; it’s also vitally important to protect children from people who want to hurt them.Dan Wineman chimes in again,
Julie Richardson is absolutely correct that 6A is a private company and has no obligation toward free speech. They are within their rights to block or remove whatever speech they care to -- I never said anything to the contrary. But they also enjoy the freedom NOT to block anything, at least in the United States. By choosing to enforce these content restrictions on a minority (and thereby calling attention to the prior restraints in their TOS), they risk alienating the entire community. In fact, judging by the hundreds of angry comments on Berkowitz's journal entry and elsewhere, that has already happened.
Elizabeth, there is no doubt that what happened to your children is tragic and regrettable. I'm certainly not suggesting that we shouldn't try to protect children. It just isn't LiveJournal's responsibility to do that -- in fact, they can't do it without damaging their community, as we've just seen, and the content would simply reappear elsewhere. The only solution that works is to allow as much discourse as possible, and let the marketplace of ideas (link) sort out the good from the bad.
It's a cliche, but it bears repeating: The cure for bad speech is more speech.