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LiveJournal says sorry for blanket sex-talk censorship

'Well, we really screwed this one up...'

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LiveJournal has apologised after taking down 500 discussion groups it felt were too sexed up. The purge was intended to wipe out discussion of paedophilia, rape, and sexual violence, the firm says.

Ironically, journals run by people who work to support victims of sexual abuse also got caught in the cleansing. Barak Berkowitz, chairman and chief executive of Six Apart, the company that owns LiveJournal, explained that this is because interests listed in profiles are automatically interpreted as "I'm in favour of x" or "I support x".

Journals containing literary criticism, fan fiction, and role-playing characters were also caught up in the clear-out.

The move triggered a huge backlash from users, with complaints flooding in to parent company Six Apart. Berkowitz moved quickly to issue a statement saying: "Well, we really screwed this one up..."

"For reasons we are still trying to figure out what was supposed to be a well planned attempt to clean up a few journals that were violating LiveJournal's policies that protect minors turned into a total mess. I can only say I'm sorry, explain what we did wrong and what we are doing to correct these problems and explain what we were trying to do but messed up so completely."

The company now says it has reinstated all fandom journals, all fiction journals, and all the journals that only had a problem flagged in their profile.

"A large number of journals that are clear violations of our policies will remain suspended," Berkowitz said.

Some users commenting on Berkowitz's post have appreciated the swift and open response, but others still feel betrayed by the host's actions.

Altoidsaddict writes:

"I'm more resentful that this happened:

a) lumping rape survivors in with perpetrators and b) at the behest of one of the worst "save the children" groups out there, and not when Perverted Justice offered to help a long time ago, and c) because it affected the bottom line, not because it was the right thing to do.

The suspensions can be fixed, but these intangibles can't with a mere flip of a switch.

Meanwhile, Spell writes:

There has been NO irreparable damage done here, people are blowing it WAY out of proportion and creating way more drama than there needs to be. And now it's those people who are looking like the assholes here, because at least LJ has the good grace to admit their mistake and try to clear it up.

Part of the reason for the sheer ferocity of the backlash must lie in the source of the complaint that prompted the suspension of so many journals.

One of the groups that complained to LiveJournal is a group called Warriors for Innocence. A representative of that group, referred to only as "Sues", told CNet's news service that the complaint did not "knowingly" include fandom or role playing journals. She also says on her own blog that she did not intend that survivor and support groups be deleted: "[LiveJournal's] decided who to delete," she concludes.

Berkowitz says that although the complaint may have come from WfI, it was LiveJournal's own standards used to determine which sites would be suspended: "The source of this complaint was not the source of the problem we created."

As of Thursday, journals had started to reappear. ®

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