[For more cases of LiveJournal Abuse Team behaving abusively, check out http://ljabuse.blogspot.com/.]

For several years I was a paying user of LiveJournal. Now I pay for web hosting and run my own content management system. It's not by choice; this is the story.

In a nutshell, following an altercation with a racist troll, LiveJournal suspended my account without warning, even though I had not breached their Terms Of Service. They didn't suspend the troll's account--instead, they announced that (contrary to their written terms of service) racist comments were in fact perfectly acceptable on LiveJournal.

Attempts at compromise to resolve the issue were ignored and rejected, even when I offered to delete offending comments. The money I had paid for the service they were refusing to provide was not refunded.

Please read the whole thing before leaping to conclusions. The situation is not as simple as it seems after the first few bullet points.

Here's the story:

So, that's where we stand. LiveJournal is a safe haven for racist trolls, and you can taunt people about their being raped and infected with HIV without the abuse team enforcing the terms of service against you. But if you post any personal information about someone that they themselves continue to publish on their own web site for the entire world to see, your account can be yanked without notice.

To say that I am disgusted by the de facto policies of the LJ Abuse team doesn't really cover it.


For clarity, here's a list of the problems I see with how LiveJournal is handling things:

I also think that it is ludicrous to publish information publically on the Internet and then expect to control whether people are allowed to refer to it.

A few clarifications

Attempts at resolution

So, how could this dispute have been resolved? Here are various offers I came up with:

Common responses defending the LiveJournal abuse team

"Everyone knows LJ will suspend you if you post personal information about someone."

Maybe "everyone" knows it, but I didn't know it, and it wasn't in the TOS.

Even if it was unofficial policy, it was applied arbitrarily, on the personal whim of anonymous individuals.

"It's about context."

Yes, and the context was that the guy continued to point at his address after my account was suspended, and invite people to pay him a visit. He continued to post personal information about other people, and the abuse team did nothing.

"The TOS prohibits any posting of personal information about someone, public or not."

Maybe it does now, but it didn't at the time. Perhaps they have finally had a lawyer look at the document? If only they had done that at the time I'd have happily deleted the comment and the situation could have been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. I made that offer, as I've already stated.

And again, even if it had been in the TOS before my posting, it's an issue that LJ refused to act when the abark troll posted someone's HIV status.

"LiveJournal were just worried about getting sued."

If they had wanted to put in a clause saying "Anything which might get us sued is prohibited", I'd have happily retroactively complied with it. I made that offer too.

"You shouldn't have issued an ultimatum."

I didn't. I made many offers, at no time did I say any of them were final, or that there would be any consequences for refusing them. It was the LJ abuse team who issued the only ultimatum: do what we say or else, and we're not going to discuss it.

That's right, they were the ones who broke off communication, saying they were unwilling to discuss the issues with me or anyone else.

"Even if the information was already public, that doesn't give you the right to repeat it."

That's an interesting opinion. I think you'll find that if you publish something publically on the global Internet, and then try and ban people from repeating it, you won't have much luck. I believe it is unreasonable to imagine that you have the moral right to control the flow of information after you yourself make it public.

But regardless, the LJ abuse team is not there to enforce morality, so whether what I did was ethical is a whole separate discussion. The issues I'm concerned with regard whether what I did was prohibited by the terms of service, how those terms of service are enforced, and whether they are enforced fairly or capriciously.


Think I'm in the wrong? Got a reasoned argument you don't think I've addressed above? Let me know.

Think LiveJournal are in the wrong? Let them know. For reference, it was support request #321889. But remember, they say they are "not allowed to" comment.

For what it's worth, Brad Fitz says he has no idea what the LJ Abuse team do, and is concerned by their behavior and the tales of abuse he hears. Just not concerned enough to actually do anything…