Thursday, April 21, 2005

The TOS thing

The following is a comment I wanted to leave on Scalzi's Journals and TOS entry.  Unfortunately, it was over the 2000-character limit, so I'm just moving it here as a post.  If you haven't been following the story... a journaler had his journal permanently deleted for an alleged TOS-violation ... excepting it turned out that it wasn't a TOS violation at all.

So I said...

The thing that absolutely made my blood run cold about this was that an entire journal was deleted and can never be brought back.  When we all signed up with AOL, we agreed to TOS, but I honestly don't remember any agreement that 18 months worth of perfectly acceptable posts could be deleted based on a single TOS offense.

Of course, the fact that it WASN'T a TOS offense makes AOL comes out smelling none too rosy on this.  But I can make allowances for that.  That was a mistake, a misinterpretation, perhaps someone a little overenthusiastically jumping the gun.
(Of course, the fact that the journal was permanently deleted for a nonoffense is a pretty good illustration of why permanent journal deletion absolutely should NOT be used as a first-line penalty -- because mistakes CAN be made.)  But, I don't want to get caught up on the innocence issue here.  The fact is, the REST of the journal WAS completely non-offending.  I can't really see ANY good reason why AOL couldn't simply delete the offending entry when the CAT is convinced there's been a violation.  Seriously -- delete the entry you have trouble with and send the offender an email pointing out the offense (not just saying "go read TOS again") so that it doesn't get repeated.  We all WANT to be in compliance here.  Removing an entire journal is simply too draconian of a punishment even IF there was, in fact, a TOS violation.

The lesson that I'm afraid people will take from this is that if they want to protect their journals from permanent deletion is to never discuss any controversial topics which might upset anyone and trigger a superficially-plausible TOS-report.  We'll end up with an AOL-J community that is nothing more than a lot of teen idol adoration and pet pictures.

I appreciate AOL's Terms of Service and its desire to have AOL be a family-friendly sort of place.  But I also appreciate that AOL seems to want to encourage us to discuss controversial topics in our journals -- and with that has to come an understanding on their part that sometimes the marketplace of ideas isn't always PRETTY.  If AOL truly wants AOL-J to be a place for OUR thoughts and opinions, AOL has to have a TOS enforcement system that isn't so arbitrary it stifles speech.


gabreaelinfo said...

Hmmmm. So I wonder why they just didn't remove "The Post," or "Post's?" That would of made more since than deleting an entire journal. Strange .... But with the current administration in the white house it seems to me everyone/thing is being censored.

andreakingme said...

Yes! NZ girl, no one's said it better in my opinion.

andreakingme said...

gabrealinfo wrote:

"So I wonder why they just didn't remove "The Post," or "Post's?" That would of made more since than deleting an entire journal."

Yes, it does make more sense, doesn't it? And that's usually how they handle that sort of thing. It's how they handled another Journal last year about this time. Someone posted one of my Journal entries word-for-word in THEIR Journal (with no link directing traffic back to my Journal) and then proceeded to rip me another butthole. That new hole rippage was bad enough, but the TOSsable offense was in copying and pasting an entire entry of mine without permission. Copyright infringement. That's why I reported the entry in question and that's why that entry was removed.

I learned afterwards that no one had bothered to explain WHY the entry was removed, which surprised the hell out of me.