May 30, 2007 3:47 PM PDT
Mass deletion sparks LiveJournal revolt
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Legal experts say LiveJournal is clearly not liable for fictional stories and related discussions posted by its users, thanks to a 1996 federal law immunizing Web-based discussion forums from lawsuits. "If the content is otherwise legal, then LiveJournal has no obligation to police its site or remove any legal content it finds," said Eric Goldman, who teaches at the Santa Clara University School of Law.
LiveJournal's terms of service ban "objectionable" content and say any account can be deleted "for any reason." But the company also claims to "provide users with as much freedom of speech as possible."
"Our decision here was not based on pure legal issues," countered Six Apart's Berkowitz. "It was based on what community we want to build and what we think is appropriate within that community and what's not. We have an awful broad range of discussions and topics and other things going on in LiveJournal, and we encourage other broad-ranging conversations on all sorts of topics. This was a specific case where we felt there was not a reason (for these journals to stay online)."
Berkowitz said the company would "obviously apologize" to anyone whose journal was deleted in error but added: "That's going to be a very small minority of the sites. I would be shocked if it's more than a dozen."
Some LiveJournal users have taken the abuse department's claim--that discussions of illegal activity must be deleted even if they're fictional--and tried to counter it with examples from literature. One post listed a slew of fictional works including Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (Juliet is 13- or 14-years-old when married), Mary Shelley's Mathilde, Sophocles' Oedipus plays, and It by Stephen King.
Others have tried more creative forms of activism. A "pro-fandom" protest group set up this week already counts 4,468 members. Others are touting GreatestJournal, JournalFen, or InsaneJournal as less-censorial alternatives. A petition to LiveJournal management has appeared, as have groups calling for a online war against the people associated with the Warriors for Innocence group.
Warriors for Innocence did not respond to an e-mail request for comment on Wednesday. But a recent post on the group's Web site replies to the protests by taunting the activists: "Let the caterwauling and complaining continue; LJ has chosen to enforce rules that were already in place for all to see. 'I finally got held accountable, and it's all your fault' won't fly."
CNET News.com's Anne Broache contributed to this report.
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