Flickr Finally Responds to Trashing User Account: “I Am Afraid I Cannot Give You Any More Specific Information Than This. Thank You For Your Understanding”

MY protest....

Remember Deepa Praven? I blogged about her Flickr account back on January 10th after Flickr nuked her account without any warning or explanation. Since that time her protest photo above has logged almost 7,000 views and she’s no closer to knowing why flickr nuked her account than the day that they did it.

She hasn’t given up on her quest to get a reason out of Flickr for deleting her account though, and after getting three previous non-answer emails from them over the past few weeks, this morning they seem to have finally given her an official answer on why her account was deleted.

From Flickr:

“Hi there,

Like I said before, we saw behavior in your account that
went against our guidelines and required us to take action –
which was to delete your account. Our guidelines apply to
any and all content you post on Flickr – photos you upload,
comments you make, group discussions you participate in,
etc.

I am afraid I cannot give you any more specific information
than this.

Thank you for your understanding,
Cathryn”

The only problem is though, according to Deepa she said she hasn’t participated in any discussions or group threads in Flickr for over a year. And she felt that her content very much adhered to the Flickr Guidelines.

How frustrating.

So let me see if I have this down right.

A paid Pro account — a paying customer — a long-term customer who has been on a site for three years — who says she’s put over 10,000 hours into her Flickrstream asks Flickr for a reason on why they inexplicably nuke her account and she has to wait two weeks to get that sort of a BS answer? Is this what Yahoo meant when they spent $100 million last year promoting the message “The Internet is Under New Management Yours?” Is it too much to expect a modicum of real customer service for paying members?

The fact of the matter is that Deepa probably got screwed over by Flickr and they don’t give a shit and don’t have the human decency to actually apologize and take responsibility for the mistake. And even if they wanted to try and make it right, they can’t. Because Flickr doesn’t keep a backup of your account once they delete you. That’s right, there is no safety net. If some underling in the censorship division has a bad day or decides that they don’t like you or whatever and they press the nuke button there is no undo. You have no recourse. That’s just plain irresponsible and shows how little actually Yahoo cares about their users and our content.

“Thank you for understanding?” What an insulting way to sign off after destroying thousands of hours of somebody’s work for no sensible reason at all.

Deepa hasn’t given up yet and is still going back to Flickr to try, yet again, to get a better answer than this. In the meantime I’ve heard that Yahoo Product Chief Blake Irving is going to be stopping by Flickr. Blake, if this really is your vision for what Yahoo stands, for I’m disappointed. I hope you take the time to institute a rational, reasonable, sane and responsible process at Flickr whereby deleted accounts actually go through a due process review and build the ability to reinstate accounts for bad deletes or appeals.

We are paying customers who spend thousands of our hours creating content to drive traffic and advertising dollars to *your* site.

Deepa deserves better than this — we all do.

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34 comments on “Flickr Finally Responds to Trashing User Account: “I Am Afraid I Cannot Give You Any More Specific Information Than This. Thank You For Your Understanding”
  1. Gary Simmons says:

    I can’t believe that they would even bother responding with a ridiculous statement like that.

    This mess with flickr makes me nervous, but like you, I feel that my best photo-friends are on flickr and I don’t want to walk away from them…

  2. D. Lambert says:

    This is *exactly* the sort of thing that makes me nervous about Flickr. I completely get the idea that they need to be able to police people on their site, but to nuke someone without so much as an explanation is cold, rude, and very worrisome.

  3. Stephan says:

    Wow. This is really depressing.

    You’d think they have learned a lesson from their 2007 censorship disaster, but apparently they haven’t learned anything.

    I just hope that someone new comes along and creates a photo sharing site where we all can feel at home. For a time it seemed like Ipernity would be just that, but unfortunately they messed it up beyond repair.

  4. ruan says:

    Tip for flickr representatives: if this ^^ is all you’ve got, then keep it to yourself. This half baked reply just increases the damage caused.

    *facepalm*

  5. philipp says:

    I can’t believe that there is no backup. That’s insane… It’s 2011! Thanks Thomas, for spreading the word and I really think that your efforts will have an impact on Flickr someday. Hopefully…

  6. Rob-L says:

    I absolutely cannot fathom how a company can do business like this. Their guidelines are vague and they give you no warning whatsoever that you have violated them. At least give users a chance to correct the error or offending photo/comment. I really wish there was a good alternative to flickr. Maybe Instagram will catch on and have more of a web presence rather than just iPhones in the future.

  7. Paul says:

    Thomas, well said. Flickr, if you’re reading this take note that this behaviour is appalling with pithy responses. In your defence it makes much sense to track down the flickr operator that hit delete key and establish specifically what actions were taken by your client that warranted the deletion. If they’ve been misusing flickr then not much they can do. Surely you, flickr, wants to get to the bottom of this before too many of your paying customers hit the their delete key for your paying account.

  8. William Beem says:

    My Flickr account is paid through April of next year. I won’t be renewing if Flickr’s management practices aren’t drastically improved by that time. It’s a shame. The users are great. The overlords seem to hold their customers in contempt.

  9. sirshannon says:

    It is well past time to start filing complaints with the BBB.

  10. Kevin Behringer says:

    If there was an actual violation of terms, they have the right to take disciplinary action. BUT, they should be required to illustrate what that violation was. Essentially their response was, “Obviously there was some violation of our terms which is evidenced by the fact that your account was deleted.”

    Sadly, until there is a viable alternative to Flickr, they’ll be able to keep getting away with this type of stuff.

    Kevin

  11. Chris says:

    onerous…so what’s a good alternative? Quick, easy photo sharing, but also the social aspect? Aside from Facebook which has no respect for copyrights, etc.

  12. Brent says:

    I have had a very long hatred towards the whole Yahoo business model, which this seems to be rather routine. They do not care about their customers – Bottom line. How they have stayed in business this long really does surprise me.

    My fun started back when they switched to an age appropriate account sign in setup. They switched this one night, with out warning. That is fine and dandy, but I had the misfortune to have an age down as being 18 months old. I was being a smart ass – sue me, but give me back all the webpages and work I had done in their servers to project my work to the Internet.

    I never got a response back either. And it wasn’t just one account they screwed up. I had 3 or 4 accounts with Yahell at the time. They somehow compressed 2 accounts into one and gave it a new name with both sign in names combined (OR some such crap) I don’t know because I could never get logged back in to those account(s) find out what it was they had done.

    Yahell sucks big time as far as I am concerned.

    Brent

  13. Bob Abela says:

    It doesn’t matter if you have 100 or 100,000,000 images. If you object to Flickr’s poor customer service, it’s best that you move on. There are alternatives.

  14. deepa’s plight is a perfect example of why flickr is so messed up and why we all should walk away from it. I have looked over deepa’s photography and she produces lovely images with excellent use of color. She presents her country in a positive upbeat style.

    What difference does flickr’s reason make? They have a TOS that nobody understands. Dont be the guy… Al it means is if anyone finds something to complain about the account is gone. I used to get 200,000 hits a month, boom , gone right before Christmas. I will never have a paid account on flickr again.

    How do they find the time to delete deepa when flickr is full of porn?

  15. Kevin Behringer says:

    Lots of people saying “we should all leave” but I’m not sure where we’d go.

    Here’s one I saw recently, but it’ll be a while until it’s big enough to draw people from Flickr.

    http://www.slickpic.com

    Kevin

  16. tatyana says:

    I have been following your posts regarding this, and needless to say in complete agreement with your conclusions. By the very least, ethically flickr is obligated to be transparent in their decisions, which they are not.

    This only reinforces my painfully earned via own experience impression that this service is hardly for someone whose work has value. I will not be renewing my flickr pro account for this very reason amongst many others

  17. ChiliMac says:

    My money is on Yahoo finally getting rid of Flickr just like they are doing with Delicious. It doesn’t fit in their portfolio and they’ve never figured out how to monetize it. I hope they do this….and soon.

  18. Andreas Guther says:

    This kind of action is very, very disrespectful. Unfortunately too little people who use Flickr know about those incidents.

  19. How are people supposed to figure out what is bad behavior so they can avoid it, if the folks at Yahoo only talk in generalities? Why don’t they go after the pervs who have faved thousands of photos of children, or the other weird stuff which goes on there, and leave the rest of us alone?

  20. Doc Searls says:

    I added Deepa’s latest to my What if Flickr Fails? post, with pointage to this post here. There are already more than 100 comments over there.

    Several points are worth making here as well:

    1) From what Cathryn says, it’s easy to conclude that there is no institutional memory of why Deepa’s account was deleted, and possibly no record of any kind. I believe their terms of service protect this practice.

    2) A service the size of Flickr is hard to manage at the personal level, if not impossible, even for Pro accounts. Scale has its downsides, and we are witnessing one of them.

    3) The cookie-based client-server system on which the commercial Web has been based since 1995 is stale and breaking, if not broken outright. Relying on sellers alone to set terms of service, and to take full responsibility for defining and managing relationships with customers, is unfair and wrong for both sides. This needs fixing. Some of us are working on that. if anybody wishes to join the effort, bear in mind that we are working on fixing this problem from the customer’s side, not the seller’s. That’s because the problem can’t be fixed on the seller’s side alone. Leaving it all up to them is the heart of the problem. Complaining to them will do little or nothing, as we’ve seen. But they can help by joining the effort too.

    4) We need more examples of unexplained terminations, and not just on Flickr. If anybody has any, please contact me (first name @ last name dot com). Thanks.

  21. Thomas Hawk says:

    Doc, there are two very simple things, one from the customer’s side and one from the seller’s side that Flickr, or any similar service, could do to dramatically improve this problem.

    1. Flickr already has the ability to make an account completely private. You can set up a flickr account that nobody can see but you. Rather than immediately permanently delete accounts, where Flickr deems it necessary to nuke accounts due to the severity of the TOS vioation / behavior, simply have the account convert to a completely private account for a week prior to permanent deletion. During this time bad deletes could be reversed or users could be given an opportunity to correct whatever it is that Flickr has a problem with. Once the problem was fixed, the account could be changed back from private to public. As flickr already had the ability to convert an account to private, this likely wouldn’t even involve any additional coding and makes tons of sense.

    2. From the users side, give the user far more robust blocking tools. Rather than giving Flickr 100% of the responsibility for removing offensive content from their site, empower the users to each create their own individual experience. If you don’t like some content, block that user and you never see anything from them again. Flickr is essentially filtered of that user for you. Rather than putting the censorship back on Flickr’s case for the whole community, give each individual more powerful tools to censor their own flickr experience as they would like.

    Also let users know that part of the flickr experience is an expectation that they will use these tools rather than crying to Flickr at everything that they don’t like on the site. Flickr is a big community with many different individuals with many different views of what is appropriate or desirable content on the site. Rather than requiring Flickr to determine what the lines are for everyone, give users this tool and let each user establish their boundaries themselves.

  22. Doc Searls says:

    Thanks, Thomas. Both are good ideas. Are there any signs from Flickr — that you or anybody else has seen — indicating a willingness to make these moves?

  23. Thomas Hawk says:

    Doc, none that I’ve seen. One of the problems with Flickr is a serious lack of transparency. They are not really willing to discuss things like this openly. Past attempts in the Flickr Help Forum have resulted in threads being locked. Heck, I myself am permanently banned from the Flickr Help Forum.

    Suggesting these sorts of solutions involves questioning their current business practices and they do not handle criticism well at all. It’s too bad because the best communities are those that are actually run transparently.

  24. tatyana says:

    haha, just got this from flickr today
    “Just a friendly reminder that your Flickr PRO account will expire on: [..].
    »
    You can purchase another year or two of Flickr PRO goodness here:
    http://www.flickr.com/upgrade/email/

    And, if you upgrade today, you’ll get a super cool (free) photo book*. Exciting isn’t it? ” blah blah blah

    So, they DO have a way to appeal to their customers? A “(free) photo book”

    No, thx, flicrk!! (:

  25. Gopan says:

    A photo sharing platform is in back of my mind for some days, i am not talking about substituting flickr or something of that level in an overnight. Instead i intent to develop a platform which includes limited number of users, with much better terms and conditions and backup options.

    limited users, because i don’t think today i am capable of handling 1 million users. If there is demand in a later stage this limitation shall be reassessed

    I invite your suggestions on this matter, especially on the expectation about the Terms & conditions. No website can run without terms and rules, it is essential to protect the existence of the site and obviously we have to respect law of this world.

    But i don’t think an account should be deleted without any notice for whatever level of offence, instead it can be suspended from the web with an option to correct the offence when it is something correctable

  26. Gopan says:

    Thomas, those two should be the minimum we demand from a social website

    makes a lot of sense

  27. ubuntolaio says:

    It would be nice to make a class action against FLICKR

  28. BigScreen says:

    Thomas,

    Both those ideas make a lot of sense. If #1 is possible, then it should be the logical first step in any action against a user. Of course, to be effective, the action should not be reversible by anyone except Flickr staff.

    #2 makes sense from a user’s perspective, but my guess is that there are tons of legality issues that come into play. When an organization chooses to moderate/control content, they become responsible for that content; they are no longer just a common carrier of information. That liability is probably the job responsibility of a team of lawyers, which is most likely the source of the actions that cause the most angst.

    Maybe instead of a photowalk, you need to organize a photopicket. Everyone brings their cameras, and pickets the headquarters of Yahoo/Flickr until you get some official attention.

    Come up with a slogan and some artwork to represent your movement. Convince as many people as possible to change their Flickr/Facebook/Twitter/etc. avatars to that artwork and link to a page that talks about your demands. Idle complaints without action do no good and just waste energy and bring everyone down.

    Change is not going to happen until change is the better option for those in control. There has to be some incentive, whether it be revenue-based or public-relations-based, for the company to make a change, or else it’s quite happy to continue doing what it’s doing.