Jeez, what a ratfuck this has become. LiveJournal has (hopefully) learned two important lessons from this incident: First, censorship by keyword just doesn't work, and second, think about the consequences of caving into conservatives when so many of your users are not of that political/social persuasion!
On the first point, censorship by keyword. This hasn't worked, evah. AOL tried to block descritpive synonyms to the female chest, and found they had blocked user access to sites promoting breast cancer awareness, breast feeding, and other "legitimate" boobie-related subjects. LJ fell victim to this same problem. By trying to remove journals and communities by keyword, they attacked the good as well as the bad. (There is potential here for a meta-debate, as to whether LJ should be in the censorship business in the first place, but that's a difficult one to have when issues like child molestation are involved.)
The second lesson LJ has learned tells us all something about how LJ has defined itself. When I tell people I keep a LiveJournal, they assume it's simply another "social networking" site, such as MySpace or Facebook. When SixApart acquired LJ, I'm sure they told their investors just that. The description is accurate, but the target demographic of LJ is quite different from other social networking sites. Fandom communities are the ties that bind users to LJ, crossing age brackets and spanning the political spectrum. Just how important are the fan communities to LJ? The service has experienced some significant performance degradations in the last two days as the fangirls perform wholesale download/backup operations on their journals.
All because a supposed anti-child molestation group threatened Six Apart, claiming they would go after their advertisers. Both Warriors for Innocence and Perverted Justice (links not provided, feel free to use Teh Google) are both pressuring LJ on the issue of pedophiles. Again, the main problem here is the clash of fantasy and reality. The fannish communities argue:
- writing about something isn't the same as acting it out
- "pedophilia" isn't the same as child molestation
- rape, even the rape of children, has a place in literature
The groups opposing these viewpoints hold an absolute zero-tolerance policy when it comes to pedophilia and child sexual abuse. On these issues, WFI and PJ are the equivalent of the teacher who reported the kid with a GI Joe-sized gun for violating the school's zero-tolerance policy on firearms, or the school who suspended one girl for giving Midol to a fellow student. There's no arguing with these people, so it's now up to LiveJournal to decide where their bread is buttered.
I come down on the side of fandom in this debate. Writing about the darker side of the human condition is not the same as joining that darker side. Right off the top of my head, two novels come to mind: Lasher by Anne Rice, and A Secret History: The Book of Ash #1 by Mary Gentle come to mind. In the Rice novel, two of the main characters, one fifteen, the other in his forties, have consensual sex. (In an earler scene, the fifteen year old has consensual sex with a peer as well). Mary Gentle describes her main character, Ash, being raped (vaginally and anally) at age 8, and how Ash kills her attackers.
Contextually, one can make very legitimate arguments for the inclusion of these scenes in both novels. Both authors have made a bit of money from their work, and Amazon.com sells both products. I see little difference here between these published authors and the fanfic authors of LJ.
I have little patience for "zero-tolerance" advocates on most issues. WFI and PJ fall into that category. LJ got suckered by these people, and they're now trying to rectify their mistake. The best defense against zero-tolerance advocates is education and bright spotlights turned back on these people. Rather than continue to bash LiveJournal, fandom's best move now is to expose WFI to daylight. If they can withstand scrutiny, then they will be forced to debate and discuss their positions.
My guess is it won't even get that far. Rarely are these groups what they claim to be in the first place.
[YatPundit] (YatPundit entry)