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The Great Enabler

So far, I've refrained from posting about the Great Slashthrough (or whatever it was called). The calls for fandom[*] to up sticks and move to an LJ-a-like are, quite frankly, daft[**]. The big issue to arise from this is the nature of the interpretation of LJ's terms of service. As a company incorporated in California, LJ's legal context is understandably parochial, but the breastfeeding usericon debacle showed one thing to be clear. Despite the provisions in the Californian civil code with respect to public breastfeeding (Cal. Civil Code § 43.3 (1997)[***]), LJ/6A have so far demonstrated that they take a more conservative line than that which is required by the letter of the law. With this in mind, their attitude to drawings of possibly underage fictional characters doing rude but consensual things to each other was entirely predictable.

Less predictable is their attitude towards pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia communities, or ana/mia if you'd prefer to pretend that they're lifestyle choices and not life-threatening psychological conditions. I became aware of these a couple of years ago, but never really gave much thought as to whether they represented a contravention of LJ's terms of service. Given the following clause, it's fairly clear to me that they do:

XVI 13. Promote or provide instructional information about illegal activities, promote physical harm or injury against any governmental entity, group or individual, or promote any act of cruelty to animals. This may include, but is not limited to, providing instructions on how to assemble bombs, grenades, and other weapons or incendiary devices;

I'm then more that a little disappointed that LJ/6A have chosen to ignore communities that exist to enable self-harming behaviour, as this quote suggests:

we allow pro-anorexia communities to remain because they are, in most cases, serving as support groups for the members. Silencing them won't make their problems go away; we'd rather allow them to heal together as a community.

Let me restate that: LJ/6A is happy for communities that promote self-harm to remain because they're support groups? If that isn't enabling destructive behaviour, I'm not sure what is. Lest this be mistaken for a member of LJ staff voicing their personal opinion, we were later reassured (by the same person) that this was official policy. Either LJ/6A's policy is straight from cloud cuckoo land, or they need to rein in their staff before they commit another policy blunder.

(and a tip of the hat to hanacandi for spotting this)

[*] At this point I should point out that this is primarily the Harry Potter fandom I'm talking about. Quite why they describe themselves all-encompassingly as 'fandom' when they have little overlap with mainstream SF fandom is quite beyond me. But I digress.

[**] I'd also ask where the HP fandom was during the spat over breastfeeding images in default usericons.

[***] 43.3. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and the child are otherwise authorized to be present.

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If the anorexia/bulimia groups were actually support groups then that wouldn't be as much of a problem. As it stands, though, it seems like they exist solely to glorify psychological conditions rather than work through them as a community. The correct place for anorexia groups to go would be some sort of forum set up by a proper eating disorder support group with counsellors on the board.

Agree totally. These sites offer self-reinforcement, not genuine, caring assistance with a life-threatening condition.

Yes, that would be my idea of a real eating disorder support group, and that's a long way from that which LJ/6A is turning a blind eye to.

I have two points: (1) the pro-ana/pro-mia groups are not illegal; (2) they can actually be useful to help sufferers seek help.

(1) Tiptoeing around my former membership of the LJ_Abuse hivemind, I can wholeheartedly say that LJ_Abuse (who are currently the arbiters of What's Okay, based on the TOS passed down from On High 6A) has thought long and hard about the pro-ana/mia comms. You may have noticed from the Beeb today an (unusually well-researched) article on Myspace/Facebook pro- groups.

At the end of the day, LJ <3 free speech, and trying to achieve as much free speech as possible within the bounds of relevant US law is one of the stated aims of LJ_A. That "within the bounds of relevant US law" clause is why anything even remotely possibly underage-image-y is dealt with quickly and permanently -- because, as a wise person on my flist said today, LJ/6A doesn't want to be the service provider standing in front of a 70-year-old judge and explaining why aged-up Harry/Snape is actually not dodgy in the slightest. (The fact that they haven't just. said. this. is frustrating.)

Similarly, self-harm in and of itself is not illegal. (Caveat harm-or: some self-harm may well be illegal: see drugs, etc.) Even telling someone how to harm themselves is not illegal. It might be actionable if LJ were to allow such advice to remain on their servers, so LJ doesn't allow advice when such advice is reported to the Abuse team. (LJ does not and cannot police all journals without content being reported for DMCA reasons)

(2) I'll play the eating disorder card right now and say that I come from a personal history of eating disorders (multiple, even!), and I would love for fellow sufferers to get the help they need. I have seen testimonials from pro- comm members saying that they gained the reassurance that they were not alone through pro- comms, and then were able to seek help knowing that they were not the only freaky eaters out there.

You're quite right. the pro-anorexia/bulemia communities are not illegal in the same way that child pornography is illegal. However, that's only one part of that clause of the TOS; surely these communities "promote physical harm or injury against any [...] individual", namely the self? Should their attitude be different towards communities which encouraged other forms of self-harm (cutting, for example), and suggested strategies for concealing the evidence? What about the LJ equivalent of alt.suicide.holiday?

The BBC article makes the point that "if properly regulated, they can be used for positive means" (emphasis mine). Is there any evidence that there is any regulation of the LJ communities beyond the purely reactive attitude of LJ/6A's 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.") Sure, they're relying on the DMCA's safe harbor provision to protect themselves against copyright infringement lawsuits, but I'm not convinced that that allows them to abrogate their responsibilities in other areas.

So...more regulation for eating disorders; less regualtion for fandom.

...I think I'm getting about done with this undebate.

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I call bollocks on your last point.

You know, that was what I *really* wanted to say, but I was just too damned polite...

Psudeo Support

This is disturbingly similar to the state of a pair of usenet groups circa ten years ago.

alt.support.depression, (AKA ASD)
alt.support.depression.recovery (ASDR)

The ASDers considered the mere existence of ASDR a gross insult, in that implied that the "rest of the depressive community" (And ASD in particular.) had no sincere wish to recover.

To put this into context I once saw someone post to ASD about self harming, saying that they felt compelled to do it, but couldn't understand it, and it scared them. The prevalent responses to that post wasn't advice about diversionary techniques, deconstructive exercises, or how to approach your GP, they were about the "safest" ways to self harm.

Personally? I always thought that ASDR was for those who really needed to recover from having set foot in ASD in the first place.

But that was usenet, it was free and it was anarchy. Livejournal isn't free. And this smacks of nothing other than lazy administration. A complaint has been made: That users (either willfull of witless) are using livejournal to encourage others to self harm, and also to ignore any nagging traces of sanity they have left.

Rather than INVESTIGATE the complaint it's merely been checked that they got a "support group license" from the local post office, and they can go on their merry way no questions asked.

BTW: If depression,anorexia,bulemia can all be viewed positively as lifestyle choices, can we have a pro-munchausens forum please?

Fine, I call bollocks on your statistics. (Linkzplz, because the entire ED area is notoriously statistically inaccurate because of self-reporting and other issues.)

Yes, pro-ana groups do often promote harm, via dia-mia, purging, restriction, drugs, and so on. LJ_Abuse has said, publicly, that it will take action when instructional posts that would result in harm are reported to it. (The fact that many of the communities are locked and members aren't exactly going to report them is a barrier, of course.) The usual point about LJ_A needing direct links applies, so "OMG $comm is pro-ana!" isn't going to cut it. But if there's clear instructional material, the policy is to require the post's removal.

Yes, it would be idyllic if the only ED comms were support groups, OA, ABA, and so on because nobody were on a down-slope of a disorder. They're not, because not everybody has hit the rock bottom that one usually needs to hit before getting the help one requires.

I'm sorry that you've gone through the hell that is an eating disorder, because it's utterly diabolical. I know from firsthand experience. The problem with your metaphor is that people in these comms are not in ED units -- they haven't hit that rock bottom yet. As the standard LJ response states, and as I agree, allowing these groups to openly exist is better than driving them underground: it's more likely that an open group will result in either the sufferer recognising the reality of their disease and seeking help, or that another person they care about will do so and will get them the help they need. I'm not interested in you calling bollocks on this, frankly, and we may just have to disagree based on individual experience.

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1 & 2. Well, we're two rounds into each stating our respective separate conclusions based on the same facts, and I guess that means we'll have to agree to disagree on this.

3. Totally unconvinced by the stats there, based on sampling size, self-selection and geographical restriction. The conclusion seems pretty woolly too -- may doesn't exactly cut it for me. Sounds rather like the recent "scientific" conclusion that Type 2 diabetes meds are contributors to heart disease, rather than heart disease being a comorbidity of obesity, itself a factor in T2D.

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