theljstaff (theljstaff) wrote in lj_biz,

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Illegal and Harmful Content Policy Clarifications

We are sorry it has taken so long to address the concerned community members. From reading the recent comments there's a lot of misinformation regarding the two users who were permanently suspended on Friday. In this post we're going to try and condense and reiterate all of our recent policy clarifications as well as address the most frequent questions we've seen.

To begin, we'd like to restate our policy on illegal and harmful content:

Our goal is to encourage and promote a free and open community. We will only intervene to the extent needed to remove illegal and harmful content that is reported to us.

I. Content which violates LiveJournal’s policy against illegal and harmful content is:

a. Content that intrinsically violates existing United States or California law; in other words, where merely possessing, displaying or transmitting the content is a crime. This includes child pornography and threats against the President and successors to the Presidency.

b. Content that encourages or advocates hate crimes, the abuse of children in any form, or rape, even if the content itself is not illegal and may be protected by the First Amendment. This portion of the policy reflects the especially reprehensible nature of these activities; users who encourage or advocate these acts, regardless of their motivation, are simply not welcome on LiveJournal.

c. Content that solicits the commission of, seeks customers for, or provides instructions for illegal activities that would cause immediate and lasting physical or economic harm to others.

Review Process

II. We do not review content until it is reported to us. We will accept all reports of material that is reported to us, regardless of the source, but we will only take action when that material violates our policies.

III. Reports of policy violations must include the full URL(s) of the content to be reviewed.

IV. We will review private content for violations of this policy only if the report provides a reasonable basis for us to believe that there is a violation. We will not review private content in response to an unsubstantiated report that there is a violation “somewhere” in a private journal or community.

Actions where violations are questionable

V. We recognize that the nature of this policy is such that there may be edge cases in which policy violations are not clear. When this is the case, the reported content is reviewed by Abuse Prevention Team members, LiveJournal staff and Six Apart management regarding what action to take.

In such cases, other publicly viewable portions of the journal or community may be reviewed to determine if other clear or potential violations of this policy exist, which may serve as additional context for making a more informed decision.

----------End Policy Statement------------

Because this still leaves people with questions and concerns about this policy, here are some more answers to the most frequent questions we've seen.

* How do these policies apply to images of minors who are not real?

To ensure that we are compliant with child pornography laws, we have decided to treat any content which contains a graphic visual depiction of a minor (anyone under the age of 18, as defined by Federal and California state law) engaged in sexually explicit conduct as a violation of our policy regarding illegal content (see this link for definitions of graphic, visual depiction, and sexually explicit conduct). We feel this approach creates the clearest guidelines possible for users to follow and for the Abuse Prevention Team to enforce, and minimizes the risk of an incorrect evaluation of material. In short, we want to eliminate child porn from being hosted on LiveJournal.

* How do these policies apply to text?

Written material -- fictional or not –- is also subject to Federal laws. But as we stated in a previous post, over the years we've looked at thousands of reported journals and communities and we rarely have come across a case of creative fiction or fanfic text that warrants review.

* How is LiveJournal determining whether figures depicted in drawings/artwork are underage?

A number of factors are involved in making this determination. Any stated age of the individuals present, the apparent age of the people or characters present in an image, and outside knowledge of the person or character's age are all taken into consideration. The only one of these factors which can be evaluated alone is how characters present in the image are drawn, and this is only done when there is simply no other information available to help determine age.

* Does content that is posted behind a friends lock, as private or under a custom friends filter have to conform to the same standards of acceptability as content that is available publicly? Does content posted on a journal that contains advertising have to conform to the same standard?

Yes, these are held to the same standards. Content must first be reported to the Abuse Prevention Team. If the report contains information which gives the team a reasonable expectation to find a serious violation of our policies present, they will investigate. If there is no strong evidence provided to give the Abuse Prevention Team reasonable expectation of finding a major violation of our policies, the content will not be reviewed.

* What is the correct avenue for a user to take if they would like to appeal a suspension?

Users wishing to appeal their suspension can submit a request to our Abuse Prevention Team as outlined at

* If a paid or permanent account holder is suspended is there any avenue available for them to request a refund from LiveJournal and/or Six Apart for their unused paid time? If not, can you give a reason for this?

As stated in our Terms of Service, "Paid accounts are nontransferable and non-refundable." While a limited number of exceptions to this rule are made under some circumstances, accounts suspended for violations of the Terms of Service will not be refunded.

*Can a warning system be put into place regarding prohibited content, much the same way that there is a 3 strikes rule in place for copyright violation complaints instead of banning users on their first offense?

Content that meets this definition is likely to be illegal under child pornography laws so we cannot continue to host it after it has been reported to us and we have reviewed it. Users wishing to appeal their suspension can submit a request to our Abuse Prevention Team as outlined at

* Do you plan to change the Terms of Service to reflect this policy?

No. The Terms of Service is not a document designed to detail every specific situation. Specifically, the content covered by this policy consists of various violations of Section XVI, Part 1, or content that is unlawful, harmful, abusive, obscene, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.

--------End Q&A-----------

We recognize that some of you may dislike this stance, disagree with how we implement the policy, or disagree with our evaluation of certain content. Our goal is to keep the site running, thriving and growing, and to that end we must take a firm stance on illegal content. We appreciate the community's engagement in this issue and have put a lot of thought and effort into making our policy as easy as possible for the community to understand.

Some of you took offense to a comment made by one of our staff members burr86  in a community dedicated to ironic humor. No one is perfect, and in this case he exercised bad judgment, especially since his jokes made him seem to feel the opposite of how he really does. We are positive that his intention was merely to blow off a little steam in a highly stressful and intense situation, and he did not mean to belittle these issues or fandom as a whole. Abe is an active member of the LJ community and does a tremendous amount of great things for the community behind the scenes. We have reminded our team to be respectful of possible interpretations of their comments at all times.

One thing we've heard loud and clear through all of this is that you want us to do better in our communications to the community. We appreciate people like bubble_blunder 's efforts to help aggregate and articulate concerns of the community like she attempted to do in this open letter. How can we do better? We welcome your suggestions in the comments.
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