We hear the community asking for clarification on what's allowed and what's not allowed. People far smarter than us have been trying for years to wrap language around these definitions, and it's not possible. What we can do is tell you the standards that we will be applying when "questionable" content is reported to us.
Not all content involving underage sexuality is illegal -- but some of it is, and we can't allow that to be posted on LiveJournal. Rather than reply to every question, we (meaning our legal counsel and the LJ staff) would like to address some common themes:
First of all, child pornography is illegal under any circumstances and has no place in LiveJournal. We have zero tolerance for it and we hope that view is shared by all of the members of our community.
Some people have noted a Supreme Court case from a couple of years ago striking computer-generated images from the definition of child pornography and asked whether, as a result, drawings of children in sexual situations can be considered illegal. The answer is, yes, in some cases. Congress reacted to the Supreme Court's decision in that case by changing the obscenity laws to put back what the Supreme Court struck down from the child pornography laws. Those obscenity laws are still on the books today and still being enforced. As a result, our policy prohibits obscene images of minors in graphic sexual contexts.
Written material -- fictional or not –- is also subject to United States obscenity laws. There's been a great deal of discussion and argument about the role that the "Miller test" plays in determining what's obscene and what isn't. Nobody can dispute that it involves some very subjective elements, and raises some difficult-to-answer questions: Whose community standards? Who defines "literary, artistic, political or scientific merit"? This evaluation is subjective, forcing us to carefully consider everything in context.
An example of some of the questions we'll ask in order to determine if material falls into this category are: is this writing intended to eroticize the sexual abuse of children? Is the fact that someone's underage, a critical element of the work, or is it incidental? Is the language excessively graphic instead of suggestive? Is there context beyond the sexual situation, or is the material designed just to focus on the sexualization of minors and nothing more? Does the work have an overall message, or is it written only to appeal to an adult's potential sexual fascination with children? These are only some of the questions we'll ask, and we have to consider everything that's reported to us in context and as a whole.
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. If the content is similar in tone, context, feel, and level of explicitness to something that could be found on the shelves of a national chain bookstores, we'll take that into consideration as well.
We also wanted to clarify that we aren't proactively seeking violations of this policy, and require anyone who reports something to us, to provide specific examples of our policies being violated -- links to individual entries, rather than links to entire journals or communities.
We aren't making these decisions in a vacuum. Groups of people from various parts of the LiveJournal team are going to evaluate anything that's reported to us using a standard that we hope accommodates as many of the diverse views of our global community as possible, within the constraints placed on us by United States law.
We hope this is helpful and provides some reassurance. As always, we'll be reading the comments here -- and thank you to everyone for your feedback on the previous post -- but we can't respond to every individual comment separately. We'll be reading, though, and incorporating any other comments you have into our discussions.