dawn_felagund (dawn_felagund) wrote in silwritersguild,

Changes to LJ's ToS and How That Impacts Our Community

As most of you have probably heard by now, LiveJournal--which was purchased by the Russian company SUP several years ago and moved its servers to Russia earlier this year--has changed its Terms of Service in some pretty major and disturbing ways. Many of these changes are directly contrary to the values of the SWG.

First and foremost, the new ToS obligates us to mark content that is "adult" according to Russian standards (where the recent Beauty and the Beast film was given the equivalent of an NC-17 rating for a few seconds of two men dancing together):

9.1.3. Mark Content estimated by Russian legislation as inappropriate for children (0 −18) as "adult material" by using Service functions.

Now those of you who have been around for a while might remember that SixApart (the U.S.-based company that owned LJ before selling it to SUP) tried something similar with respect to adult content. Journals/communities or posts marked as "Adult" cannot be accessed by minors (and anonymous users must verify their age to access them). The difference is that 6A did not require users label content as adult. They reserved the right for the Abuse team to apply such a label if content was flagged. (Which I also didn't agree with but was several shades less bothersome than this rule, since the 6A rule came with no penalty.)

This one does:

10.3. The Administration shall not verify the compliance of Content and/or Users’ actions with the terms and conditions hereof and with the applicable laws; however, it reserves the right at its own discretion or upon the request received from the competent authority and/or the substantiated request by another entity without User’s prior notice, marked Content as an "adult material", take measures specified in clause 2.5 hereof and restrict the access to Blog/Community for certain Users.

2.5 Users breach hereunder may cause termination of his/her access to his/her Account or deletion of such an Account as well as full or partial deletion of the Content or suspension thereto without prior notice.

10.3 wields badly translated and garbled English grammar like a champ and is therefore hard to understand, but it seems to state that reports of "adult content" on a journal or community now allows LJ to delete that post or the entire journal/community.

This violates our values in two major ways. First of all, we have always trusted our members to decide for themselves what content they are comfortable reading. Likewise, we trust parents to decide what their minor children are mature enough to read. As such, while we provide authors the opportunity to rate or attach warnings to their work (or to label the work clearly if they prefer not to rate and/or warn), we have never restricted access to content based on our or anyone else's judgment of what is "appropriate" for a particular user to read.

Secondly and more importantly, we have never rated slash or femslash higher than gen or het works. And given Russia's dismal record on LGBTQ+ issues, to comply with their law, I can only presume that anything containing homosexual relationships would have to be marked as adult content, even if it contained no sexual content. As a mod team, this is deeply offensive to us and runs contrary to our values as a group that recognized the value and contributions of all of its writers and recognizes the dignity of all human beings, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Since we would not hold writers or stories with LGBTQ+ characters to different standards than we hold writers of heterosexual characters, this essentially forces us to label the entire community as Adult.

My inclination as the founder and owner of this group is to refuse to follow the new ToS. It flies in the face of our group's values and, indeed, part of the reason the SWG even exists (considering the homophobic atmosphere in Tolkien fandom when the SWG was formed and my commitment to welcoming all Silmarillion stories, regardless of pairing, equally). However, this means that the posts or the entire community could be deleted, which is not a decision lightly undertaken.

This opens an additional question of what to do with the content on this community. Our LiveJournal community (along with our Yahoo! Group) is the oldest SWG space. It is older than the website. It contains invaluable history from the early years of the SWG, as well as fanworks that may not be found anywhere else.

The SWG has maintained a Dreamwidth community for some time now. We decided, however, when we set up this community not to import LiveJournal posts into it. It seemed a violation of our members' rights to post their work on another site without their consent. Of course, at the time, our community did not face the threat of deletion. The circumstances have changed quite a bit.

Given the changes to the LJ ToS, we as a group have important decisions to make concerning this community. The mod team decided this was something that needed to be discussed and decided on by all SWG members and friends who wish to offer an opinion. After all, this is your community as much as it is ours.

We have two questions to settle:

1. Are we willing to comply with the new ToS, which would require labeling our entire community as "Adult" and would restrict access to our community by minors?

2. What, if anything, do we want to do as far as importing posts on this community to a backup on Dreamwidth? (Please note that users who do not want their posts on Dreamwidth could opt out of this, or contact us to delete their posts on DW at any time.)

Let me also be very clear about what we are not doing. We are not proposing to shut down our LiveJournal community. We are not encouraging use of the DW community over the LJ community by users who prefer LJ. Many people prefer LJ, and we hope to continue to offer a space here for those users.

Please take a moment to fill out a brief survey on these issues related to the new LiveJournal ToS. Both SWG members and non-members are welcome to participate. There is a space on the survey form for additional comments related to this issue.

If you have questions or would prefer to offer your feedback over email, you can reach our moderator team at moderator@silmarillionwritersguild.org. Comments are open here as well.

We will collect survey data on May 15, 2017, so please participate before then. We'll post a reminder here and on our website and other satellites as that date approaches.
Tags: mod post
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