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Journal herejackback's Journal: Livejournal's Newest Failure and PR Nightmare 10

In one of the most laughable examples of corporate failure that I can recall seeing, Livejournal, a division of Six Apart and a popular blogging site, has erupted in a user revolt just two months after their last kerfluffle that was featured here, in an article by Green Monkey.

Apparently, LJ/6A hasn't learned much, because after they deleted the multiple (and paid for) accounts of two Harry Potter fandom artists for their admittedly tasteless graphic art depicting the characters in sexual acts with a slash tone. Fandom writers reacted strongly, and began to pester LJ for answers. Livejournal management had promised online that no subscriber would be deleted or suspended again without a warning, and that they would be clarifying exactly what was and was not permitted on the site.

Author would like to note here that these reassurances were done just prior to Livejournal's once a year permanent accounts sale, where large numbers of users snap up lifetime accounts for $150 non-refundable smackeroos. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds not used to line the company coffers is donated to several charities, at least three of which are helmed by LJ/6A's top brass. A more cynical writer might wonder if there's a tax shelter involvement, but I believe in the inherent goodness of this company. Please note that I still watch for the Tooth Fairy and gremlins in my closet. But...I digress.

So, a rational person, confronted with a looming storm from a large and well organized part of your customer base known for being a TAD dramatic, might decide to quickly put out the fire with a soothing assurance.

LJ is not rational, nor do they have a Public Relations person (if they do, then this is worse). They wait five days (one day after a promised day of information) to post a response that was so much two stepping, spinning and flailing that this writer got motion sickness just reading it. And, of course, in that five days of silence, the users went nuts.

Now you might think that they were being held prisoners on an island, or that they were in deep, thoughtful discussion. Au contraire! The worker bees at Livejournal were busy posting in public posts, using their official journals with their management monikers, to label (allegedly in a roleplay humor), calling members of fandom "pedophiles" and the works in question "child porn". Well...that was when it got ugly.

But it didn't end with screaming, threats of fandom hatred or unfunny cat macros. Oh, noes! The other members of the community, less emotional but no less irate, began to organize. Complaints began to slam into the California State Attorney General's Office, the Bay Area Better Business Bureau and other consumer groups. Class action suits are starting. In one rather inventive move, permanent and paid account users are contacting their credit card companies to demand refunds, because Livejournal is essentially altering the contract. Can they succeed? Possibly. Livejournal is attempting to alter their enforcement of Terms of Service, singling out one group while allowing pro-anorexia, right wing hatemongers and other groups more clearly in violation to walk scot free. In fact, one Livejournal staff member, again under her official journal (have these people never heard of private journals?), defended the pro-anorexia community that endorses young girls starving themselves to death."

The employee stated that it was not illegal to aspire to be thin.


Unfortunately, the ineptness and terminal foot in mouth disease spread on to the Vice President of Livejournal, who used vulgar language in blasting Internet media sites (such as this one) and complaining customers in a post that he edited to backpedal on faster than you can say "Mr. Gibson, WHAT did you call that officer?".

A quick thinking and saavy PR type could come in and make a fortune with this band of witless wonders. Of course, company founder Brad Fitzpatrick, the golden boy about to leap from LJ to one of the many net companies courting him, took the opportunity to join with his shunted comrades in idiocy, and issued this gem, again in an open journal.

While rushing to do his part for the public relations shooting off of the company foot that his coworkers were doing, he managed to remain glibly and adorably clueless regarding the core issues, instead smacking the customers with the label of child porn. BUZZAH? Child porn? Fictional characters in bad graphics are kiddie porn? Oh, Brad, we're mad, for you, too. Now take the money and run like a good corporate dog.


But it remains Abe Hassan who wins the ultimate loser award. In a move that shows clearly why tech guys should not handle PR, Hassan called his own fandom customer base "pedophiles", which brought fandom geeks and all kinds of groups together to put the smackdown on LJ in legal and consumer action ways that LJ/6A never could have imagined.

Hassan speaks and Firefox notes it:

Fandom fires back:

While Livejournal's new sockpuppet account (or is that goatpuppet?) flailed and failed.

The winners in this, of course, are the two artists (note the liberal use of that term) who are now Internet fandom martyrs and celebrities. Also smiling with glee are Greatest Journal, Insane Journal and Journal Fen corporates, who are reaping the windfall of mass migration.

The losers? Livejournal, of course, about to try for their IPO. Magic 8 Ball Plus, they get the fun of facing the legal wrath and economic boycott of their "smarter than the company" subscribers, who are hitting back in the wallet and the legal system. But also losing are the tens of thousands of writers, gamers and artists who came to LJ to help one guy build something, and who now feel betrayed by the company they generously supported. Networks of community fun and sharing are being broken apart by the migration, and by paranoia over Livejournal's witch hunt targeting slash art and fiction.

Stay tuned to see if LJ/6A grows a brain and tries to mend fences, or if the site goes the way of the dinosaur thanks to their folding under pressure from Confederate flag waving, homophobic neoNazi groups who pressured them.

Yet to be heard from are the advertisers. Pepsi, anyone?
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Livejournal's Newest Failure and PR Nightmare

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  • Well done you! Excellent sum-up of the entire mess. I honestly hope that LJ/6A gets roasted alive over the coals of their own ineptitude because, really? Too stupid to live. And you know what? Apparently they do have PR people. [] Whatever they're paying them, it's too much.
  • Great article, and I especially appreciate you putting together all the links in one place. There are some real surprises there, and not good ones.
  • Well done! I am glad to see mention outside of fandom about class action lawsuits. 6A really screwed this up, and they deserve the repercussions that are sure to follow. Thanks for this!
    • I agree. There is the starts of a mass exodus of lj users from my friends list (all fanfic peoples) and because I am not in any of those communities I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. Still, it leaves a not very nice feeling and is causing me to reconsider if I will keep my paid account when my time runs out.
  • Well-written and fairly presented. SixApart has managed to do such a tremendous amount of damage to what was a thriving community that one wonders if it isn't part of some cunning plan. Surely no one running such a major enterprise could be so stupid as to make libelous statements about its' customers? Or refuse to refund money after canceling an account without warning that doesn't violate the then-current ToS? I'm sure that this is exactly what the potential stockholders want when LJ attempts IPO - la
  • Your round-up is excellent, but there is no evidence of a 6A IPO in the near future. If there is, I'd be grateful to learn more. This is not a source: [] The author freely admitted it was speculation. Not that an IPO matters all that much. 6A plans to squeeze every farthing out of LiveJournal before handing its withered husk to someone else. Exactly how they do it doesn't make a difference to their outraged customers.
  • The two sites I read most often every day are Slashdot and LiveJournal... figures, somehow, that I had to come here to figure out what was going on over there. That bodes ill, somehow, haha. But thanks. That's the most coherent summary I've seen yet of what happened while I was away.

    (And there's some kind of irony in being linked to a Slashdot journal FROM LiveJournal to figure out what happened ON LiveJournal, but I think I'll ignore that all and go have a martini.)
  • Abe Hassan's been pissing off the userbase for over a year--this is just his newest low. What really is upsetting is that they deleted every account registered to a given email address. If that had happened in the original Strikethrough, instead of temporarily losing two minor RPG villain accounts that were later restored to me, I'd have lost over 100 accounts: my personal account, my fic account, my RPG, and the 90-odd NPC accounts that the 200 other accounts in my RPG, which has been running in some fo
  • Great to read a calm, balanced analysis. In the end, it's not the actual suspension that's driven so many people away--it's the clown show that became LJ's response.

The means-and-ends moralists, or non-doers, always end up on their ends without any means. -- Saul Alinsky