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Public information, by definition, is not private. - lj_abuse didn't work out [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
lj_abuse didn't work out

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Public information, by definition, is not private. [Oct. 8th, 2004|04:54 pm]
lj_abuse didn't work out

abuse_lj_abuse

[schmuckythecat]
I know brad reads this community so this is an open letter:

Brad, LJ Abuse is out of control.  This isn't something you're new to hearing.  A few weeks ago you said you'd be implementing new policies and tools for LJ Abuse.  I would think that would make for some pretty immediate review procedure.  I'd also hope for some healthy internal discussion about past suspensions that were dealt with poorly.  It's obvious that this hasn't been done.  People are still being suspended for stuff that isn't wrong.

The TOS is a contract and contracts are two ways.  The TOS allows LiveJournal to be pretty draconian if you want - although you claim not to.  The TOS also gives users a presumptive belief that if they follow the rules they won't be suspended or termed harassers by Abuse.  Abuse isn't following the TOS.  They use different and unreasonable definitions than the rest of the world and those found in the TOS, they have secret policies and processes.  That makes LJ a violator of it's own contract.

The biggest problem I've had recently is people abusing the abuse process to censor posts and comments they don't like.  People, not even LJ users, come to LJ Abuse and claim that some post "violates their privacy."  Then Abuse suspends the journal of the person who made the post.  Abuse is acting on a different standard of "invasive to anothers privacy" than the rest of the world.  Abuse has defined "invasive" as "personally identifiable."  Even for non-lj users, even for celebrities.  That is absolutely not a workable definition of "invasive of privacy".  Even initials are "personally identifiable" if you know both people in some post.  Information from public or otherwise open sources - the phone book, the newspaper, the WHOIS database, records kept by the state, a sex offender database, the persons userinfo screen (!!), the persons own web page, or just. a. name., etc - is not private.  Public information, by definition, is not private.  Public information can't invade the privacy of anyone.

The act of posting public information to LiveJournal is also not, by itself, unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, or libelous.  It isn't possible to sustain LJ with a policy that any "personally identifiable" information on another person is grounds for account termination.

LJ Abuse has gone to tortuous extremes to suspend people.  You have staffers acting on the mistaken assumption that people own their name and that gives them rights to deliver take-down notices to LiveJournal.  Even trademark names as obvious as Coca-cola have no right to ask for a take-down of content just because they don't like it.  The full name of any given person isn't even trademarked!  Abuse has gotten to the point that they are even threatening suspension for writing something that sounds like someone's name if that someone asks for the post to be removed.  Most people's names aren't unique - a name by itself doesn't even match up to "personally identifiable" never-even-f-in-mind something that just SOUNDS LIKE some hypersenstive person's name.

Earlier today I had my account suspended.  I talk about my vacations, my hobby of pro-se lawyering, politics and random crap.  I'm not an abusive lj user.  Most people find my stuff boring.  But, because I put a record from the WHOIS database in my journal, WITHOUT COMMENT, I was suspended.  That's wrong.  I made a second account using the name of the person who was so easily offended by cetan  This is an extremely common name - there are half a dozen people with this name in any large city.  I even met someone yesterday with this name when talking to a state agency, I laughed at the coincidence.  The point though, is that the name itself isn't personally identifiable but LJ Abuse shut down the account and told me it was "harassing" when the account had done nothing but make a single post stating that public information wasn't an invasion of privacy.  No further names, no links, nothing.  That's not harassing and it's wrong of LJ Abuse.  I would go so far as to say this guy is abusing LJ Abuse by being so sensitive and he's not even an LJ user.

Brad, LJ Abuse needs to be told that simple repetition of a name is not abuse.  That nobody owns their name.  That any information in an open or public database can't be a violation of privacy.  I'm sure Abuse does a great job most of the time - that's no excuse for this to continue.  I'm sure it's stressful being an Abuse staffer - that's a great excuse to lighten their load and not deal with inane crap like suspensions for writing down someones name.  Right now it's less hassle to simple claim "privacy violation!" and have someone's account suspended than it is to create a proper DMCA copyright notice on a real copyright violation.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Thanks for reading my diatribe!
--schmuckythecat
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: picoelpiff
2004-10-09 12:04 am (UTC)
Couldn't agree more.
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From: cyns
2004-10-09 12:17 am (UTC)
tl;dr.
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From: cyns
2004-10-09 12:17 am (UTC)
cliffs notes pls.
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[User Picture]From: shamanix
2004-10-09 12:23 am (UTC)
Brad, LJ Abuse is out of control. This isn't something you're new to hearing.

It's not anything that LJ Abuse is new to hearing, either.

A few weeks ago you said you'd be implementing new policies and tools for LJ Abuse. I would think that would make for some pretty immediate review procedure.

From what I understand, a great deal of discussion happened, and tools are in the works. A LOT of stuff was talked about, but I don't believe there was anything that could be changed immediately. Major changes to Abuse have to be VERY carefully considered before anything changes, simply because of the potential to make things worse, instead of better. While a month may be enough time to get some basic stuff in the works, LJ is a fairly small company and the folks doing the coding aren't 100% dedicated to doing Abuse tools. The tools, incidentally, pretty much required all new code and a LOT of work on the part of one coder.

I'd also hope for some healthy internal discussion about past suspensions that were dealt with poorly. It's obvious that this hasn't been done. People are still being suspended for stuff that isn't wrong.

I'm going to be blunt here: You're completely full of shit that internal discussion didn't happen. I, along with three others quit Abuse due to remarks made by Brad back when the last big hubbub happened, and I can assure you that a 200KB IRC log was generated from the discussions that occurred as a result.

The TOS is a contract and contracts are two ways.

I snipped a bunch of this, because your entire arguement here is pretty much negated by the phrase "...in LiveJournal's opinion.

They use different and unreasonable definitions than the rest of the world and those found in the TOS, they have secret policies and processes. That makes LJ a violator of it's own contract.

This has been addressed countless times both here and in lj_biz. The policy document that Abuse uses is, at this point, almost entirely contained in the FAQs if you read between the lines, as are the common answers to most Abuse issues. AFAIK, there was some talk about putting a slightly stripped down version of the internal policy document up, but that's conjecture on my part at this point since I'm no longer privy to the information. Disclosing the entire document would lead to more abuse, because the people who create problems would have exactly the information they'd need to sit right on the line.

The biggest problem I've had recently is people abusing the abuse process to censor posts and comments they don't like.

To be frank, this is just as much a flaw in United States law. The DMCA (when applicable) is CONSTANTLY abused on LiveJournal. However, LJ would get into serious legal hot water if they ignored what were perceived as invalid DMCA complaints. LJ is a US company and is therefore bound by US law. DMCA stuff, they can't do squat about. If someone submits a valid complaint, they are required by law to take action.

People, not even LJ users, come to LJ Abuse and claim that some post "violates their privacy." Then Abuse suspends the journal of the person who made the post.

This isn't entirely correct. You say it as if suspensions are immediate in all cases. When I was on the team, the only time immediate suspensions occurred was when someone's phone number was posted, and occasionally full name+address+incitement to go kick their butt. I also recall one case where someone's Social Security # was posted and that was also an immediate suspension. All of these scenarios should be pretty obvious as to why suspensions happen. Also, these suspensions were/are temporary, until the user agrees to remove the info in question.

(snipped for length. Part 2 as a reply to this comment)
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[User Picture]From: shamanix
2004-10-09 12:33 am (UTC)
Addendum to part 1: In "non-urgent" invasion of privacy, (ie: full names, partial address, etc), the user usually gets 72 hours to remove it prior to suspension. This may have changed since I quit, however. *shrug*

Abuse has defined "invasive" as "personally identifiable." Even for non-lj users, even for celebrities. That is absolutely not a workable definition of "invasive of privacy". Even initials are "personally identifiable" if you know both people in some post.

Also incorrect. Celebrities (ie: George Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Arnold, etc) are exempted from the name rules, for obvious reasons. If someone posted Tom Arnold's home address, and he complained, I suspect Abuse would ask the user to take the info down. Initials, AFAIK, are not invasive, nor is an LJ username even if the username is the person's full name.

Information from public or otherwise open sources - the phone book, the newspaper, the WHOIS database, records kept by the state, a sex offender database, the persons userinfo screen (!!), the persons own web page, or just. a. name., etc - is not private. Public information, by definition, is not private. Public information can't invade the privacy of anyone.

I agree with you about the userinfo and Abuse may have made exceptions for that in the past, but don't quote me on it. ;) If someone sticks something in their userinfo, I don't personally think it should be actionable, as long as it's their information to provide.

However, just because my real name appears in a WHOIS database, state records, etc, doesn't mean I want John Q Idiot spewing out my personal info on LiveJournal. As for the sex offender thing? Don't even bring that up - every state, as far as I'm aware, that publishes lists of sex offenders also has a stipulation in their laws that the information in the database cannot be used to harass the individual in question. Spreading information about a convicted offender on LiveJournal is not "informing the public", it's harassment plain and simple. It is neither the responsiblity nor the right of a private citizen to "inform the public", where "the public" is potentially millions of people, about a convicted offender.

Also, public record != public information. Furthermore, LiveJournal is well within its rights to define "personally identifiable information" however the hell it wants to. It's a private business and is under no obligation to be as loose about what information is considered public as the government.

The act of posting public information to LiveJournal is also not, by itself, unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, or libelous. It isn't possible to sustain LJ with a policy that any "personally identifiable" information on another person is grounds for account termination.

(snip part 2, part 3 in a reply)
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[User Picture]From: shamanix
2004-10-09 12:54 am (UTC)
Oh, and if anybody actually read all of that stuff I just wrote, I'll mail you a cookie or something.
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[User Picture]From: janinedog
2004-10-09 12:59 am (UTC)
I read it all! Too bad I knew everything you said already, but yeah. :)

Cookie? ;)
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[User Picture]From: mcfnord
2004-10-09 01:19 am (UTC)
I guess I'll skip the whopper about you not being abusive, and just ask: is this public? It's a record kept by the state, and it's on your own web page. May I excerpt liberally?

If you want to be a mudslinger (and you do), I guess you get your own web space (and you can).
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[User Picture]From: bdinger
2004-10-09 01:35 am (UTC)
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA ++++ WINS THE INTERNET!!!
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[User Picture]From: bdinger
2004-10-09 01:35 am (UTC)
The gross stupidity on LJ went up about 10 points thanks to this post.

Okay, really. Let me spell it out for you:

1.) You posted someone's personal info on a public forum. I don't give a shit if that's publicly available via whois, that is a whole different matter (meaning that when you sign up for a domain, you agree that the information you submit will be made available via the whois database, not that some idiot with and LJ who thinks he's cool can post it). I hate to break it to you, but essentially you DO own your own name. Hence the reason that a news outlet cannot post "Trent Reznor is a fucking faggot", and not be able to defend themselves by saying "oh no, we meant some dude in South Beach" when they get sued into oblivion. There is much tort to back this up.

2.) You ignored LJ abuse's initial warning, or at best tried to act like a ten year old and change the name. I mean, really, come on.

3.) You created another account to impersonate a person who placed an LJ abuse complaint about you? Am I not the only one who notices the dripping stupidity?

Seriously, this is asinine. I'd like the five minutes of my life I spent on this back.
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[User Picture]From: schmuckythecat
2004-10-09 03:06 am (UTC)
1. No, "Trent Reznor is a fucking faggot." is just an opinion - protected speech. Try reading the NY Post or listening to Howard Stern. "Trent Reznor caught HIV from Genesis P Orridge." is factual content, it's not protected speech, unless true.

2. Yes, there is a point to be made. Why shouldn't changing the name suffice if that is what is at issue? This is lj, not happy happy journal land.

3. There wasn't any impersonation, other than the name. Names aren't protected (well, not in the real world.) so yes, I don't notice the dripping stupidity.
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[User Picture]From: killhamster
2004-10-09 01:57 am (UTC)
note to cetan: replace "Duck Howling" with "Fag Fagling" and see if the whining continues.
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[User Picture]From: hojja_nusreddin
2004-10-09 02:37 am (UTC)
АТ must die!
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[User Picture]From: aml
2004-10-09 03:20 am (UTC)
yeah i'm not really sure why abuse feels it necessary to be proactively stupid.
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[User Picture]From: shamanix
2004-10-09 08:51 am (UTC)
I've always preferred to think of it as pre-empting stupidity from users, but that's me. :>
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-11-12 03:38 am (UTC)

yeah, its damn ridiculous!

LJ abuse took away my account for using ONLY the letters S.H.

I was abbreviating "shit head", and some ninny said it was so close to his name he felt his privacy was violated!

This is exactly how it went down, I still have the LJ abuse emails regarding it.
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