Use a Swear Word in a Private Email at Flickr and You Get Your Account Deleted

More Crappy Flickr Censorship:  Use a Swear Word in a Private Email at Flickr and You Get Your Account Deleted

I was disturbed today to learn that a Flickr friend of mine Pierre Honeyman had his account deleted by Flickr. Pierre had been a long time contributor to Flickr and one of its most active users. Like me, Pierre joined Flickr over three years ago back in the days before Yahoo. He was very active (daily) in many of the groups that I was in and while occasionally a critic of censorship of Flickr, I always felt him to be a responsible contributor to the community.

Apparently the deletion all started earlier today when Pierre received the following email from Flickr Censor Cop Terrence:

“Hi phoneyman,

We’ve seen an unusual number of “blocks” against your
account.

In joining Flickr, you agreed to abide by the Terms of
Service and Community Guidelines. Specifically, you must
not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate
other Flickr members:

flickr.com/guidelines.gne

If we continue to see an unusual number of blocks against
your account, we will take further action that may include
termination without warning.
(emphasis mine).

Regards,

Terrence”

First of all, WTF? Flickr will delete your account if too many people block you? That’s about the most idiotic thing I’ve ever heard of. I’ve had plenty of people block me. Are they going to delete my account too? Most of the time I have no idea why they blocked me in the first place. Anyone can block anyone on Flickr for any reason. To assume that people blocking you means you are harassing people is absurd. I can block you because I don’t like the fact that you have blue hair or that you live in Alaska or that you post too many photos of kittens or whatever. The fact that all a bunch of people have to do is block someone to get their account deleted is ludicrous.

To make matters worse, on Flickr you don’t even *know* who is blocking you. Unless you accidentally run across their photos and find that you can’t fave or comment on them it’s a deep dark secret.

That sucks.

So Pierre did what I’d expect him to do, he fired off a sort of WTF private email back to Flickr staff. In the email he swore at them and called them morons.

Now personally I’ve never known Flickr to be a place that would delete your account for swearing. I seem to remember former Flickr Chief and Founder Stewart Butterfield using a very F sort of word in a public interview on GETV a few years back.

And certainly Heather Champ, the community manager who deleted Pierre’s account is no stranger to the F word — a snipet from her blog: “F***ing illness. I’m so f***ing sick of being sick. F***. F***. F***.” Simply run a Google search for that certain F word and her name and you’ll find she’s used it liberally plenty of other places on the internet as well.

In any event, after Pierre sent this email back to Flickr staff objecting to their threat to delete his account if more people blocked him, without warning they did exactly that. They deleted his account. No warning. No second chances. No let’s sit down and talk about this. They simply deleted his account. His photos are gone. All of the years of comments and interaction on his photos is gone. Erased. Hours and hours of work on his part over the years simply erased away for daring to object to a threat to have his account deleted for a super stupid reason in the first place.

This sucks. As a *paying* member who had put thousands of hours into the Flickr community over the past four years Pierre deserved better than this. He deserved better than to have his pictures permanently erased and all the comments, contacts, and everything else that went along with his account taken away forever. This sort of retribution by Flickr was unwarranted and uncalled for.

Flickr should reinstate Pierre’s account that they deleted and simply give him a warning not to use such charged language or obscenities with Flickr staff again.

Pierre’s response to Flickr when threatened with account deletion in full:

“Oh shove it, I’ve been active here for 3 years or more.
You guys are getting f***ing ridiculous. The whole f***ing
point of Blocks is so that people can prevent users from
communicating FOR ANY REASON OR NO REASON WHATSOEVER. And
yet you sensitive morons go and use it as a reason to
threaten otherwise upstanding members about behaviour you
have no idea about? f***ing SHOVE IT. I’m sick of your
goddamn moron threats. I am who the f*** I am and yes, I’m
always like this. I don’t harass ANYONE. If people block me
they block me, and I usually don’t even know about it. Go
ahead, you f***ing twats, go find my harassing behaviour.
These threats are beyond the pale. Grow the f*** up
Flickr.Jesus. Pierre”


If you feel Pierre should have his account reinstated digg this here.


Update: Apparently a “Fun Blockers” group was set up on Flickr that had the objective of encouraging people to block people and that group has now reportedly been shut down by Flickr staff. Silencing your critics is never a good idea whether you have the power to do so or not. What’s more the group was shut down without any warning or explanation.

You can read more on that here. (Note, Flickr has deemed the Delete Me Uncensored group “adult” despite the fact that I can’t ever remember seeing a nude photo in it ever, so it is blocked to the general public. The only way to see the thread is to sign up at Flickr, consent to viewing adult material and joining the group). More crappy censorship at Flickr.

Update #2: Derek Powazek, the husband of the person that deleted Pierre’s account, tried to defend Flickr’s decision for deleting his account on digg. I suggested that he ought to disclose the fact that he’s married to the person who deleted the account and I get called an abusive douchebag asshole and jerk by him. Question. Why can Derek call me names like that and keep his account while Pierre calls someone names and loses his. Seems like a double standard to me. Nice.

Be Sociable, Share!
Loading Facebook Comments ...

34 Comments

  1. Dennis says:

    I agree. Fuck Flickr! Time to move to another service and let everyone know about this.

  2. merkley??? says:

    I don’t know thomas,
    with all due respect, i’m not sure what your friend was expecting. it shows very little respect for the flickr rep and also paints a pretty clear picture of why MAYBE this guy has been blocked.

    i think many reasonable people would have done the same thing. no one needs suffer abuse.

    I have received many different notices about complaints about my flickr due to my language and content and i have always responded in a clam manner and flickr has always had my back, had i responded calling them fucking morons i would have expected to be deleted.

    i’m guessing he didn’t get deleted for swearing, seems he got deleted for apparently acting like a spoiled rotten ass with a very high sense of entitlement.

    at a certain point one needs to take responsibility for the way they communicate with people. being a hot head can have it’s rewards but there is also a cost.

    otherwise it wouldn’t be fun anyway.

    i’m gonna have to side with flickr on this. we get what we give.

  3. merkley??? says:

    I don’t know thomas,
    with all due respect, i’m not sure what your friend was expecting. it shows very little respect for the flickr rep and also paints a pretty clear picture of why MAYBE this guy has been blocked.

    i think many reasonable people would have done the same thing. no one needs suffer abuse.

    I have received many different notices about complaints about my flickr due to my language and content and i have always responded in a clam manner and flickr has always had my back, had i responded calling them fucking morons i would have expected to be deleted.

    i’m guessing he didn’t get deleted for swearing, seems he got deleted for apparently acting like a spoiled rotten ass with a very high sense of entitlement.

    at a certain point one needs to take responsibility for the way they communicate with people. being a hot head can have it’s rewards but there is also a cost.

    otherwise it wouldn’t be fun anyway.

    i’m gonna have to side with flickr on this. we get what we give.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    merkley, I hear you. And I’m not defending the Pierre responded to Flickr. But that’s just him, he’s Pierre and he’s well known for his language on the site. He’d been threatened with account deletion and probably could have reacted better. But total account deletion is too much in this case. Thousands of hours of work goneski. Erased.

    He should have at least gotten a warning or been put in the penalty box and had his account frozen for 24 hours or a week or whatever. But total account deletion over something like this is too much.

    The punishment needs to fit the crime.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If someone Flickr-mailed me a message like that, I would be well within my moral right to block him/her.

    I understand that is not the point of your post. Your point is that Flickr deleted his account.

    You call the Flickr-mail he recieved a “threat” in your post.
    You then go on to say:
    “They deleted his account. No warning. No second chances. No let’s sit down and talk about this.”
    It is interesting you say that since the Flickr-mail they sent him was in fact a warning, a second chance, a “sit down and talk” if you will. (unfortunately your friend didn’t “sit down” before he continued communication)

    He returned the favor by sending Flickr the mail above?
    This account being deleted has nothing to do with censorship or language. It was your friends attitude that got his account deleted.
    We have no idea how many people did block your friend. It could have been far more than several.
    I can assure you, (and your readers)Flickr does NOT delete accounts just because the account had a certain number of blocks.
    Flickr deletes accounts only
    if they have violated the Community Guidelines.
    Apparently, intimidating (wild guess) “an unusual number” of people who blocked him is enough for Flickr staff to check out the validity of those blocks. Hence – the Flickr-mail.
    I’m afraid his hasty answer is the reason why his account was deleted.
    I’m also sorry that no amount of diggs will get his account back. Once they delete it its gone. Flickr does not (unfortunately) keep backups of our accounts.

  6. merkley??? says:

    well, i’m not sure how i’d react because it’s never really happened, but if someone went off like that to me in my living room, i think throwing them and all their stuff out on the street would be a fair and expected move. gently guiding him onto a small chair in a corner for a time out might be a little condescending to everyone.

    you know, because we are adults 🙂

    btw, being all too familiar with the ins and outs of being a hothead, i have all my comments and entire flickr account rss’d and saved, you know, just in case I get drunk and get myself kicked out of the living room.

    wouldn’t be the first time… 🙂

  7. Pierre says:

    The email was deliberately inflammatory because being “warned” for something I have no control over is infuriating, and rude. However, I did my best to also deliberately word the missive to Flickr, the organization, not any particular person – certainly not the one who fired off the form letter.

    Frankly I wasn’t even convinced, at the time, that anybody took the time to read replies to those things, after all, it’s a form letter probably generated by pressing the “Warn – Blocks” button on their admin. browser.

    As further background my account had been, without warning, set to Restricted. I have no idea why. Hours later it was set back to Safe, and immediately following that I received (ironically from the same rep.) the “too many blocks” email. I was already extremely pissed, with good reason, by the time I got that one.

    Anyhow, fuck ’em.

    Pierre

  8. Anonymous says:

    here’s an idea. let pierre say whatever the fuck he wants whenever the fuck he wants. what is this preschool? what a crock of shit.

    -opaddy

  9. Greg Furry says:

    Thomas,

    Glad to see you back. It has been a couple posts since you have been riled up. 🙂

    Robert makes a good point. If companies (yahoo) wants us to take the web seriously they need to act accordingly. What if this was Yahoo mail. You fired off a nasty email to someone and they deleted your mail application. No not your Yahoo mail but your actual mail application and all the mail in it. People would think that was insane. This is the same thing to people who are growing up on the web.

  10. db says:

    I’d have deleted his account, too. In a heartbeat. Not because he dropped the F-bomb in an E-mail, but because the E-mail was so extremely childish and insulting.

    If I was the person who opened that rant (who was probably just an innocent customer service/tech support type person), I’d have had these thoughts: things: 1) I didn’t make up the policy you’re complaining about; 2) I didn’t send the E-mail that set you off; and 3) you don’t know me from Adam, and yet you’re spewing profanity at me and calling me a moron.

    And then I would’ve thought “If you’re as sick of Flickr as you say you are, I can certainly help you with that problem.” And I’d have deleted his account.

    This policy of Flickrs of counting blocks against some total and deleting anyone who goes over that total is ridiculous. But it doesn’t take that much effort to just draw a breath, realize whoever you complain to probably had nothing to do with the policy you’re complaining about, and show that stranger some basic, common courtesy. (Well, not so common these days, but it should be.)

    People who behave like asses can’t affect positive change, because the people they’re ranting at and insulting aren’t interested in hearing what they have to say. A calm, reasoned E-mail saying why he was annoyed and why he finds the policy unfair would’ve gone a lot further toward making Flickr reconsider the policy — and it wouldn’t have resulted in him being banned.

  11. Jonathan says:

    Who writes emails like that? Seriously?

  12. victoria says:

    Thomas, first of all there is a HUGE difference between Heather Champ using the f-word *on her own blog* and that over-the-top, abusive, poison-pixel temper tantrum phoneyman threw.

    At first blush, I disagree with Flickr’s policy of threatening account deletion if someone accumulates a lot of blocks mainly for the reason you mention, that we don’t know who all is blocking us or why. So while I can wholly understand the frustration and anger behind such an email, the best response is that you type that stuff out in a text editor (get all the vitriol out) *and then you edit it* so that you make your point without coming off like an abusive jerk. (I’m not saying Pierre IS an abusive jerk–I don’t even know him–I’m saying the tone of that email is that of one.)

    You say that you wish Flickr staff had given a warning (which they did, how many warnings/chances is enough?) and offered to sit down and talk with him about it. Reading that email, Thomas, Pierre pretty much took a big dump on Flickr staff and then slammed the door on the possibility of any further productive dialog.

    Pity.

  13. Ulrich says:

    Every user decides about whether he or she wants to ‘donate’ thousands and thousands of hours to flickr and even pay for that. By signing the contract you sell your soul.

    All screaming or cursing useless. It is all over when the big master flickr decides so. Period.

    You think what you put on flickr is your content? Think again.

  14. Anonymous says:

    more people should block heather

  15. Jeff says:

    I love all the comments about “Pierre is who he is and Flickr knows that” and “he was frustrated at being singled out” (my interpretation). Last time I checked, Flickr had over 40 million unique monthly visitors – do you really think anything is handled personally there? Actually, the fact that Heather and other Flickr folks are active enough to make it feel personal is pretty impressive. And for all the folks that said this all started happening when Flickr got big and Yahoo bought them, well it’s just too bad Flickr was successful. Perhaps we should all invest our time in services that will never make it big if we want them all to keep that “folksy” feel. Of course, then they would go out of business and we’d lose all our stuff anyway.

    Not to say that perhaps Flickr should revisit that policy and not completely delete someone’s account until they have had a chance to defend themselves, but suggesting that they are singling out any member or should know that Pierre is just being Pierre is just plain ludicrous.

  16. Matt says:

    Well, that kind of language and anger… Serves him right for getting booted out.

    Maybe he should be a bit more respectful, and he would’ve got somewhere. Anger can be useful, but its generally not very helpful.

    Actions have consequences. He just has to deal with it.

  17. Yaniv says:

    If I was the admin, and I’d receive this email, I might have decided to close the account.

    And that’s the real problem.

    We live more and more of our life online. By storing our photos and comments and relationships on Flickr (or any other service) we give commercial entities unprecedented power over our life.

    It doesn’t matter if the act of closing Pierre’s account was justified or not according to the terms of use he accepted when he joining Flickr. The point that bothers me most is that even if it was not justified, there isn’t much Pierre or anyone could have done about it.

    We give our admins a “suspend” button. Clicking suspend is a lot easier than filing a lawsuit, appearing at court and getting someone convicted. But the effect of clicking suspend may in some cases be just as severe.

    I just had my Flickr account set to Restricted, and then back to Safe, for reasons I could not figure out. My attempts in communicating about this with Flickr resulted in having the account set to Safe, but the emails I received from “Terrence” provided no explanation and seem to be completely unrelated to my emails.

    I’ve posted a fuller account of my experience at http://yaniv.golan.name/blog/2008/09/22/you-may-or-may-not-be-aware/, in case you’re interested.

  18. John Rav says:

    @ TH Pierre’s response was a bit much. He should have gotten a warning

    He was responding to his warning, and he was reminded of the possibility of getting the account he spent 3 years on deleted, with-out further warning!

    Very active Flickr users put thousands and thousands of hours into their accounts. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime in this case. They should reinstate his account.

    So, do you really think if they offered some different punishment’ for time served (which is ridiculous to even contemplate) that he would have reacted any better or less like a sailor talking to a 2 dollar whore? Somehow I do not think so.

    Maybe a more appropriate title would be, Lack of respect = Account deletion.

    Otherwise, good discussion on online community behavior.

  19. eyebex says:

    Here is a piece of information not mentioned so far in the blog post nor in any of the comments:

    After Pierre’s account was deleted, he was told by flickr staff that he’s welcome to open another account as long as he behaves.

    The message this sent was: Listen Pierre, we don’t like you talking to us the way you do so we’re gonna destroy 100’s (or probably 1000’s) of hours of your work and efforts to teach you a lesson and there’s nothing you can do about it.

    They have leverage and they have misused it.

  20. Pierre says:

    So who thinks that an actual person reads a response to a form letter? Generally I don’t. Usually when I respond to a Flickr form letter I get no response whatsoever.

    Pierre

  21. Os says:

    jeepers, flickr is supposed to be a proper company, I’m surprised that deleted due to an impersonally rude email.

    Call it a crock if you like, but some folk are brought up swearing, just as much as folk are brought up with colloquialisms.

    One could argue that this is yet another form of culture. A rude one yes, mayhap a counter culture, but a culture all the same.

    I could understand being kicked from a group for cussing, but to have your years of photography destroyed so thoroughly is at best vandalism and at worst a complete betrayal of trust.

    Not everyone in the world is a do-gooding sweetie, some of us cuss and fart at the dinner table. And whilst Pierre was certainly feisty and often close to the knuckle he generally was rather sweet and made intelligent comments on other peoples stuff.

    He’s also a pretty shit hot street photographer. Don’t forget that.

  22. Brian says:

    Flickr’s “Block” email was stupid and completely uncalled for. Indeed a decision of morons or moronic business practices.

    But his response email to them was a magnitude more stupid and uncalled for.

    If I had a customer talk or write to me that way, I too would kick them out and say “Thanks for the business, but I don’t want or need that kind of business.”

    How was flickr to know that was just Pierre being Pierre? Do you expect them to waste time researching every person who sends them an inflammatory message?
    I think it was just Pierre being an offensive moron, and if that’s him being him, so be it.

    Flickr erred originally, Pierre erred incrementally, flickr responded appropriately.

    As for hm losing “thousands of hours”: BS – he gave them up when he knowing sent a message that could easily be construed as inflammatory and even threatening.

  23. Anonymous says:

    So I’m hearing things like “I’d delete his account because his response was childish and insulting, or because he was disrespectful.”

    Is being childish really a banning offense? It’s like having a store but not allowing any customers who are childish. I think if flickr wants to delete accounts on account of “childish behavior” they’re going to be shit out of customers soon.

    His first warning was basically a mistake on flickr’s part, because 5 out of the 6 images objectioned to, when a staff member actually reviewed the account, they rescinded their objection, the last was an honest mistake that was corrected immediately. Actually I’m not sure he got a warning, so much as they took action (restricting the account.) There was never a “your behavior is inappropriate and we may delete your account,” email sent, because until that letter quoted, his behavior was entirely appropriate. He went through the channels, got his account reviewed, all that. He was warned that he might be deleted due to other people’s behavior (flickr has no way of knowing the causes behind blocking, which are far and varied), which is not the same thing. The FIRST time that someone said “your behavior is objectionable” was the letter sent with the deleting.

    Angela

  24. tinou says:

    your friend is a fucking twat, to use his own words. he does realize that his email is read by a human being, not some robot, right? would he have said the same things to a person’s face? how would you react if he had walked down to flickr HQ and cussed out the receptionist. would you still be defending your friend?

  25. Wow! This is looking very ridiculous. I’ve never been a huge fan of Flickr, just like some of the features they have. And although, for now, I won’t stop using Flickr I will seriously think about not continuing my pro account once it runs out sometime next year.

  26. Anonymous says:

    “would you still have defended your friend?”

    The issue isn’t whether or not that was a “good” letter to send. I believe Thomas Hawk has already stated that he doesn’t approve of the letter. The issue is whether or not flickr staff should have responded by deleting the account. If I walked into my bank and talked that way to the receptionist, I would be told to stop. Then, if I continued, I would be asked to leave. If I continued to come back every day and repeat the behavior, perhaps then, after those many warnings, they might revoke the account, give me my money back and tell me to leave. Flickr basically skipped all those in-between steps, and went straight from “objectionable behavior” to “deleted account,” with no intermediary steps. The only warning flickr had given previously was for a different issue.

    Angela

  27. Adam says:

    Pierre’s email is pretty much the poster child for ‘Customers I don’t need’.

    While I’ve got issues as well over Flickr’s policy towards heavily blocked accounts, given that sort of response from a customer for a $25/year service I would terminate them immediately. And unlike Flickr apparently did, I’d make it clear that they were not welcome to return. Some people are simply more trouble than they’re worth as customers, especially on low-buck services.

  28. Nathan Sparks says:

    Huh, off-topic. When did Thomas stop declaring that he’s the CEO of Zooomr when talking about Flickr?

    You always have done in the past Thomas, is this an oversight or has something changed?

  29. Anonymous says:

    people have been deleted from Photo.net for far far less than that.

    its internet Eugenics if you ask me

  30. jm says:

    just get on with your life and say the hell with flickr. it’s just some staff that deletes accounts because they don’t like certain pictures, comments or descriptions. it’s some weasel pressing a button. you don’t want to be part of a site like that!

  31. bonkyprima says:

    Derek Powazek has anger management issues and nothing to do besides play with his star wars legos and wait for his wife to bring home the check. My experience with him is that he is scary phony IRL and ridiculously trite and desperately dismissive of all except his own work. Played the big victim at jpg after blocking progress for years in my view. He’s a stay at home dog mom toy playing miserable little creep in my opinion.

  32. NJHunkguy says:

    Has Flickr only hire that only one person named Terrence? I was thinking in this economic downturn massive layoff, he should have been fired! NOW!…..

  33. Omsel says:

    Perhaps Flick is just trying to weed out some bad street photogs to improve site searches.

    Recalling his hot headed rants in the forums years ago, with a too big for his britches attitute its no wonder after a letter like that he got snuffed. I do shed a tear but Flickr staff maybe a bit sensitive to being called twats and morons??