Archive for the ‘Censorship’ Category

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.

Washington State Firefighter “Fireman Johnny” Has His Account Deleted by Flickr

I was disappointed this weekend to learn that a friend of mine and fellow DMU member “Fireman Johnny” had his long-standing Flickr account of 5 years deleted without warning by Flickr Friday night.

Johnny is a Washington State firefighter who was very active in our DMU group where he could always be counted on to tell us great stories about what real life as a firefighter was like. In addition to being active in our DMU group, Johnny also administered two other groups on Flickr. One that warned about the dangers of drinking and driving and another “The Brave Soldiers and the families who support them” which was a central place for military families to come talk about issues. Now that Johnny’s been deleted, he can no longer administer this group which was very important to him and a number of families of American soldiers who went there for support.

Johnny’s as genuine a guy as they come.

So why did Flickr nuke Johnny’s account?

This is Flickr’s official answer back to him:

Hello,

Flickr account “Fireman Johnny” was deleted by Flickr staff for violating our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.

www.flickr.com/guidelines.gne

# Do play nice.
We’re a community of many types of people, who all have the right to feel comfortable and who may not think what you think, believe what you believe or see what you see. So, be polite and respectful in your interactions with other members.

# Don’t vent your frustrations, rant, or bore the brains out of other members.
Flickr is not a venue for you to harass, abuse, impersonate, or intimidate others. If we receive a valid complaint about your conduct, we’ll send you a warning or terminate your account.

DMU group discussion titled “NEW! Level 3 Sexual Offender Moves In Nearby…Oh how charming!”

-Flickr staff

The thread referenced by Flickr has also been deleted from Flickr now as well.

And what was the thread about?

Johnny was upset that a level 3 sex offender (the worst 3% of all offenders) with previous convictions for child molestation had moved into his neighborhood next to a school. Johnny was upset by this and so he posted a thread about this in DMU on Flickr along with the molester’s *publicly available information* from a state run sex offender registry. The registry is public information and anyone can access it here.

The registry has no stipulation against sharing or republishing the information and in fact even has a “tell a friend” button right on the form where you can put in a friend’s email address and have the entry sent to them automatically.

In the thread Johnny never threatened anyone. He simply posted the public info sheet on this sex offender (freely available to anyone on the internet) and then talked about his frustration with the situation in his neighborhood. But apparently he violated Flickr’s policy against “venting ones frustrations online.”

Because Flickr has no undo account deletion, Johnnys 5-year account is now permanently erased.

Fireman Johnny has started a new Flickr account as Firefighter Johnny, but unfortunately his previous five years, including all his photos and entire digital existence on Flickr have been wiped completely off of planet Flickr.

I quite honestly don’t know what to do about these reckless and random account deletions that seem to be happening more and more frequently on Flickr. If Fireman Johnny can be deleted, any of us can be deleted. Being upset about a level 3 sex offender and posting about it on Flickr absolutely should not get your account deleted. Johnny was upset that this guy moved into his neighborhood right by an elementary school. That’s a natural reaction. He shared his upsetting news in a thread on Flickr and whamo, the Flickr police nuked his account right out from underneath him.

Another DMU brother hits the dust, and a good one at that.

That sucks.

Blake Irving, if you really care about Flickr like you claimed Friday in your tweet, you’ll fix this mess.

Account deletions should not be immediate, permanent and irrevocable. If we invest thousands of hours of our online lives into Flickr we *deserve* an appeal process. We *deserve* due process before our digital lives are deleted. We *deserve* an opportunity to take self-corrective action before you nuke us out of existence.

We entrust you with our digital lives. Have some respect for the content we bring to Flickr. Have some basic human decency. Because without our content your Flickr is nothing. Flickr only works because of our generosity in sharing our content. Acknowledge that and show us some respect.

Why couldn’t you have just told Johnny that you had a problem with his thread and that if he didn’t delete it you’d nuke him? Why couldn’t you have just nuked the thread and left his account alive? Why destroy a 5-year account, his administration of other important groups and his whole digital life on Flickr?

Johnny didn’t deserve this. Thanks for making Flickr a little bit safer for child molesters and a little bit more hostile and fearful for the rest of us Yahoo.

Nice work indeed Flickr!

Deepa Praven’s Protest After Flickr Deletes Her Paid Pro Account Without Warning or Explanation

MY protest....

The Problem With Yahoo’s New “Yahoo Contributor Network” is Yahoo

Yahoo!  Totally You = Totally Screwed

Yahoo is out today promoting their latest social media offering. They picked a fancy new name for it. “Yahoo Contributor Network.” Apparently you can write articles, take photos, do all sorts of work and publish it to the new network.

From the Yahoo Anectdotal Blog:

Have you ever wanted to have your voice heard by an audience of millions? How about hundreds of millions? Whether you think your tips for dissolving credit card debt would be at home on Yahoo! Finance, or you want to share the secrets to being a happy and successful stay-at-work mom on Yahoo! Shine, the launch of the Yahoo! Contributor Network is your chance.

We designed the Yahoo! Contributor Network especially for you, our users, and we’re inviting you to share your perspective and creativity on some of our most popular content sites – including Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Sports, Yahoo! Finance, omg!, Shine, and even the Yahoo! homepage. The Yahoo! Contributor Network gives you an unprecedented opportunity to reach the largest audiences on the Internet on the topics that matter to you most.

This all sounds sort of interesting, especially to me as a photographer — until I remember that it’s *Yahoo.*

My problem with this offering is that best that I can tell, Yahoo can destroy all of your content on their system that you create at any time for any reason. From the TOS:

“YCN may, without prior notice and at its sole discretion, immediately terminate, limit your access to or suspend your YCN Contributor account and access to the YCN Services, for no reason or for cause which may include your breach of the TOS. YCN shall not be liable to you or any third party for any termination of your account, any associated email address, or access to the YCN Services.

Termination of your YCN Contributor account includes any or all of the following: (a) removal of access to all or part of the offerings within the YCN Services, (b) deletion of your password and all related information, files and content associated with or inside your account (or any part thereof), and (c) barring of further use of all or part of the YCN Services. “

That’s right. Your account can be destroyed immediately and without warning for “NO REASON.” It says so right there in their TOS. Why does this bother me? Because like Flickr, Yahoo here is relying on hours and hours and hours of generous contributions by contributors like you and I. And like Flickr, the rug may be pulled out from under you at any time for any reason.

Since I’ve been involved with Flickr, I’ve watched account after account after account be destroyed without warning. When Flickr destroys your data there is no getting it back. It’s irrevocable. It’s nuked. Gone. Last year I watched as Flickr completely destroyed a pro free speech group on Flickr with over 3,000 members permanently destroying thousands of pages of user contributed content with the flickr of a switch.

So now you’re trying to get me to try out this new service where I submit even more content to Yahoo while at the same time telling me that you can destroy the content I submit at any time for any reason? No Thanks Yahoo. I might buy the argument that this is just lawyerly doublespeak in your TOS except for the fact that I’ve watched so many of my friends have their own data destroyed without warning on Flickr.

How about you show some respect for user data first — and then maybe we can talk about other ways that I might be willing to share my content with you.

All Things Digital’s report on the new network here.

Apparently Yahoo/Flickr Deleted NYCTreeman’s Account

Treeman

Apparently Yahoo/Flickr Deleted NYCTreeman’s account. I’m not sure exactly what he did. I heard it had something to do with him posting or hotlinking some sort of a cartoon in an inline group discussion thread. Something about a cartoon of a woman and an elephant or something.

I’m continuously amazed that Flickr will so quickly, easily and ruthlessly destroy accounts that involve in many cases thousands of hours of work without so much as batting an eye. The deletion system is irrevocable and frequently no warnings are issued when they take this irreversible action — that’s wrong — unfortunately it is entirely consistent with the disdain that Yahoo Management and Staff seem to hold for their users. No wonder the entire web is buzzing talking about Yahoo being taken over and sold for scraps.

Users should be respected. They should be cherished and valued as customers. Having a monopoly in the photo sharing space ought not give Yahoo license to abuse their users.

Any company that is involved with social networking ought to treat their users and their user’s data with fairness and respect. Permanently destroying user data without warning over minor infractions is not fairness and respect. I suspect NYCTreeman probably did post a distasteful cartoon in an adult (18+) members only forum. But instead of just nuking all of his photos and wiping him off the face of flickr, maybe a better thing to have done might have been to simply ask him to remove whatever cartoon that Flickr found so offensive.

Here is a link to the Flickr Help Forum thread (where I’ve still been banned for over a year now for daring to criticize flickr in public) regarding this unfair practice and NYCTreeman’s account deletion.

I suspect that by the time you get to it it very well may already be locked — Flickr/Yahoo usually thinks it’s a good idea to lock down conversations that end up being critical of them.

Alleged Con Man Graham Hnedak Uses Flickr to Source Victims and Then Victims Get Accounts Deleted by Flickr Staff for Documenting Fraud

James Kimball first met Graham Hnedak, a convicted con man who had served almost four years in prison in Tennessee, in January of 2009. Their initial introduction had been simple enough — Hnedak made a comment on one of Kimball’s Flickr photos. More interaction on Flickr quickly followed and soon Kimball and Hnedak had become fast online friends.

One thing led to another, Hnedak needed a place to live, and Kimball and his partner Rich Bailey agreed to allow Hnedak to live with them for two weeks in exchange for room and board (with a contract) according to Kimball. Kimball claims that this arrangement ended up in a personal nightmare when it ended up taking five months to get Hnedak out, during which time Hnedak defrauded them telling lie after lie and story after story as to the money that he owed them. Kimball documents what he calls his “five months of hell” month by month in detail on the photo descriptions in this set of his here.

Since that time Graham Hnedak has been charged by Seattle prosecutors with 8 counts of felony forgery for allegedly charging thousands of dollars on another former roommate’s credit cards. You can watch the most recent news report on Hnedak from KOMO News above.

On this news report there are dozens of other comments by people also claiming to be victimized by Hnedak in the past.

According to Kimball, Hnedak is a charming con man who uses his still active Flickr account here to source victims. Kimball said that he has complained to Flickr about Hnedak’s activity and even provided documentation of the fraud charges against him to no avail. Angry at having been victimized by Hnedak, Kimball then turned to his own Flickrstream to tell his story and inform the Flickr community about Hnedak. Kimball estimates that there are over 30 victims of Hnedak’s in the Seattle area and at least one victim from as far away as New Zealand.

Unfortunately, Kimball says, his own accounts have now been deleted three times by Flickr staff as he’s tried to warn others in the Flickr Community. All three times he said these accounts were deleted without warning or explanation. It was only after Kimball insisted on an explantition after his third account deletion that he was provided with a formal response from Flickr. According to Kimball they told him that his account had been deleted because he was “harassing” Hnedak.

In a post on his 4th new account on Flickr entitled “I Will Not Be Silenced” Kimball expresses his frustration at Flickr over deleting his accounts:

“Am I angry? No, frustrated is a better word to use. I don’t understand why so many other social sites have removed his accounts when evidence was provided but Flickr doesn’t seem to care. Is it a matter that they don’t care about their community? That’s a very good question.

In all honesty I don’t get it. Why leave Graham’s account up when from the evidence and testimonials others have offered to Flickr? He has used Flickr to gain victims, solicit money, advertise fake business, he posts photos that are not his, he slanders people and so on. What does it take to get Flickr to take notice? It would seem pretty easy since this was my 3rd account to get deleted. Oddly enough every complaint I have sent to Flickr has come back from the same person and they don’t seem to care.”

I tried to contact Hnedak via flickrmail but did not receive a response. I was able to find a William Graham Hendak listed in the Tennessee Felony Offender database as being released from prison in Tennessee in August of 2007. I also contacted PR contacts at Yahoo and received no response from them either — although at least one page from a former account of Kimballs would appear to be online in a version of Google’s cache. If I hear back from either Flickr/Yahoo or Hnedak directly, I will post their response as an update to this post.

Thanks to Invisible Cirkus for the heads up on this story.

Update: It would appear that Graham Hendak’s Flickr account has now been deleted.

Yahoo, How Does Censorship Make Yahoo and the Web More Open and Social

Yahoo, How Does Censorship Make Yahoo and Web More Open and Social?

If you want to see if Yahoo is censoring any of your photos go to the Flickr organizer here. Once you are there, click on “more options” at the bottom of the page. Where it says no privacy/safe search filter, change that to show restricted or moderate content. This will show you what photos of yours that Flickr is currently censoring.

Yahoo today announced that as part of their 2008 “Yahoo! Open Strategy (Y!OS) initiative” they are integrating with Facebook. Every time I hear about this so called Y!OS “open” strategy I’m puzzled.

So Yahoo will integrate with Facebook. But will they do it with the full version of Yahoo content? Or will they do it with the censored version of Yahoo content? At present Yahoo censors Flickr photos on the web institutionally. From the Flickr FAQ:

Note: If your Yahoo! ID is based in Singapore, Hong Kong, India or Korea you will only be able to view safe content based on your local Terms of Service (this means you won’t be able to turn SafeSearch off). If your Yahoo! ID is based in Germany you are not able to view restricted content due to your local Terms of Service.

So this means that photos of mine (like this 1874 painting from the Art Institute of Chicago) are effectively filtered out of view as indicated by Yahoo above.

Further, these photos are also completely stripped out of all RSS feeds even for all *USA* based accounts. So if I want to feed my Flickrstream into FriendFeed or Google Buzz these photos will be censored from that feed.

My Pal Merkley does some amazing work with fine art nudes. These are not pornography, these are elegantly structured intensely detailed productions. Right now there is only one way to see these photos of Merkley’s. You have to go to Flickr itself, change your default settings from “safe search” to allow moderate and restricted content and then I can see them on Flickr. But what if I don’t want to see them on Flickr? What if, you know, with a more “open and social Yahoo/web” I want to see these photos in my RSS reader or on Google Buzz or on FriendFeed or (apparently soon) on Facebook? Will I be able to see them? No, I will not. Because Flickr feels that RSS feeds must be sanitized of most of Merkley’s art, even for adults in the U.S. Even though I’ve designated on Flickr that I want to view this content. Even though I’ve certified that I’m over 18. Still, the only place that Yahoo will let me see these photos is in the official Flickr silo itself. (And not even then if I unfortunately happen to be from India).

Unfortunately Yahoo seems to be unwilling to have an open and transparent conversation about this problem. I’ve been permanently banned from the Flickr Help Forum for asking pesky questions like this. I posted a very respectful question about this subject to the Yahoo Corporate Blog (see screen shot above) and it’s presently be censored (er. moderated). The Yahoo Corporate blog has no problem posting comments that kiss up to them. But dare criticize them and your comment is “moderated.” How is this more open and transparent?

If Yahoo truly wants to make Yahoo and the web a more open and social place, then they should stop censoring places like India and Germany and Korea. They should also stop filtering RSS feeds in the U.S. Believe it or not, some people actually don’t find paintings from 1874 at the Art Institute of Chicago offensive, even if the nanny’s at the Flickr Censorship Bureau do. By the way, I tried to appeal Flickr’s censorship decision on the painting from the Art Institute of Chicago and they refused to uncensor it.

Apparently full frontal male nudity on Michelangelo’s statue of David is ok, but a tasteful painting by Lefebvre showing the backside of a woman is not ok. How’s that for a double standard.

Victoria Kolakowski, Candidate for Alameda Superior Court Judge, Censors Comments Questioning Her Illegal Activity

Vote No for Victoria KolakowskiA little over a week ago I blogged a post about Victoria Kolakowski, a candidate for Alameda County Superior Court Judge here where I live. I was annoyed after having received an unwanted robodial from her campaign on a Sunday afternoon on my cell phone in the middle of my son’s baseball game. I hate robocalls in general and thought I’d use my free speech rights on my blog, Twitter account, Facebook account, etc. to express my dissatisfaction at having received this impersonal and unwanted solicitation from her.

Nobody likes getting robocalls. It’s annoying to pick up your phone to be blasted by some recording trying to get you to buy something or vote for someone, or whatever impersonal thing they are trying to get you to do. I’m not sure why politicians use them. They turn people off, make them angry and provide no value.

While researching robodialing in general I learned that in California at least that robodialing is actually illegal. So I posted another blog post about the illegality of Kolakowski’s calls and posted my concern about this illegality on her Facebook campaign page.

So how does Kolakowski respond? Rather than addressing the illegality of her campaign’s actions she blocks me on her facebook campaign page and censors my comments asking her to explain her illegal actions. What’s more, she not only blocked and censored me, she also killed other comments by other people as well who were also questioning her ethics and illegal campaigning.

So rather than address why she as a sitting law judge, sworn to uphold the law, knowingly breaks the law — and interestingly enough, she is presently a law judge at the California PUC, the *exact* same agency that issued this bulletin about robodials being illegal in California — she instead chooses to try to simply censor the allegations to make them go away. This is not right. Kolakowski should provide an explanation as to why she feels her robodials are not illegal if this is in fact how she feels, or she should apologize for using illegal robodials and pledge not to use them in the future. But trying to censor those who are trying to hold her accountable for her shady campaign tactics will only backfire.

I also contacted Oakland City Attorney John Russo’s office. Russo was the person whose voice and name were used on the robodial asking for a response from him. In Russo’s case, I at least received a reply back from his communications director telling me that they were looking into the matter and would get back to me. That’s certainly better than the censorship and no response that I got back from Kolakowski.

Starbucks Tries Social Media on Flickr, Fails, Locks Down All Discussion Threads to Silence Their Critics

Starbucks Tries Social Media on Flickr, Fails, Locks Down All Discussion Threads to Silence Their Critics

I was troubled today to see Starbucks take the draconian step of locking down 100% of their group threads in the Official Starbuck’s group on Flickr. All threads were locked today and a note was added to their Flickr Group reading:

“This group has helped inform us of the inconsistent experiences photographers have in our stores. We have put group discussion on hold until we have more updates on an official policy for photography in our stores. We appreciate your patience and encourage you to check back in the following months for an update.”

Censorship is never good and for a corporation to open a dialogue with their customers and then shut it down due to criticism is pretty much directly in contrast to the transparency that social media ought to be about.

In December I blogged about the difficulty that Starbuck’s was having articulating a reasonable photo policy in their Flickr group where they have been being attacked by photographers over the course of the past months. Many photographers on Flickr felt it was somewhat hypocritical of Starbucks to encourage photographers to post photos representing their “Starbuck’s experience” when so many photographers were regularly being told that they are not allowed to photograph in Starbuck’s stores.

The question about whether or not photography is or is not allowed in Starbucks stores still seems very much in the air, and from the request that photographers now check back with the group in the “months” ahead (after having this issue linger since September of last year) it doesn’t sound like they will be resolving this question anytime soon. Taking over six months to respond to photographers on this issue is a huge Starbucks FAIL. And now locking their threads to avoid continued criticism for what will likely be many more months, well, it’s obvious that Starbucks does not get social media and an even bigger FAIL.

Starbucks should apologize to the photographers who have invested many hours in this group of theirs and reopen threads. They should make it a priority to establish a reasonable photo policy and have it communicated to their stores ASAP. Of course their timing for shutting down their group threads, late on a Friday afternoon where it hopefully will get lost over the weekend on the web is also pretty obvious and weak.

There is an unlocked thread on another non-official Starbucks group about this issue here.

Flickr Begins Censoring Content In India

Flickr Begins Censoring Content in India

Over the past couple of days Flickr has quietly begun censoring content viewed by people using Yahoo IDs coming from India. Flickr user crazydude2006 found this out the hard way when he noticed that he could no longer see photographs by many of his contacts or groups that he previously had been able to view.

Flickr staffer Criz responded to his question with the following:

“As you are coming in from a Yahoo! ID in India, and we just localized our site to India, you won’t be able to view moderate or restricted content.”

This now adds India to the list of countries that are unable to view content rated moderate or restricted on Flickr in addition to Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea. Additionally users in Germany cannot view content rated restricted.