Last week I blogged about a Flickr user Shéhérazade who without warning saw her self moderated account get permanently deleted. The user was upset about this because they thought that they were abiding by all of the Flickr rules and posted a thread on this in the Flickr Help Forum which was promptly censored and shut down there. A lot of people felt that this was not right.
This week we have another Flickr user who was concerned that her account might not be set up right and so she wrote to Flickr staff asking if they could review her account and provide her input regarding if she had set her account up correctly or not.
Flickr’s response? Rather than respond back to the user and/or direct her on what she might need to do to have her account structured correctly at Flickr, simply without warning just pressed the big fat red delete button wiping out her entire account and all of her content permanently.
From the deleted account:
“I had an adult orientated stream of photos on flickr and was slowly building up a list of contacts, comments and views. All my pics were public and marked restricted except for 1 that contained no nudity and was marked moderate. My account was rated safe.
I have been deleted in the past and had done quite a bit of checking around to make sure I was on the right side of the law. It will make me sound like a bit of an anorak but I spent in excess of 4 hours on this and still was not sure. I got a flickr mail from another user (one of many) which said put all my pics f&f [edit: f&f = friends and family] or I would be deleted and this prompted even more checking and in the end I decided I would try and request flickr for help – primarily because the guidelines are so vague.
My email was nice enough. It contained the information in the first paragraph of this post and then went on to say that I did not want to get my account deleted for doing the wrong thing and that I would appreciate a review of my account to check I was all ok.”
The deleted user goes on to document her reply from Flickr:
“I got a response back within 12 hours
[Flickr Case 1054684] Re: Account Review Request
Flickr account “flashergirl77″ was deleted by Flickr staff
for violating our Terms of Service and Community
Flickr reserves the right to terminate your account without
warning at any time.
-[edited out by staff]”
Now, Flickr tells people that they are allowed to host adult content as long as it is self moderated. Adult content, nudity, etc. is all over Flickr. The Flickr rules are that if you post that stuff you have to label it as “restricted,” this way people that don’t want to see it (and the default Flickr set up if people don’t bother to say one way or the other) won’t see it. It’s like it doesn’t exist to them.
So why when a Flickr user is playing by the rules and has self moderated all of their explicit photos “restricted,” do they summarily get their account deleted without warning simply for the crime of asking Flickr to review their account and tell them if they are doing everything ok?
Certainly Flickr owes its community more than this. It is the community after all that makes up Flickr. Flickr would be nothing without its community. And yet time and time again, over and over again, they seem to get away with deleting accounts and censoring content with no repercussion. Because Flickr seems to be the 800 pound gorilla and because today this is where the larger photo sharing community largely interacts, they seem to feel that they can just do whatever they feel like without any sort of consequence whatsoever.
And what’s sad, is maybe they’re right. Maybe they can just keep on censoring accounts and deleting accounts on a whim whenever they feel like it. Maybe they can continue destroying years of people’s work, thousands of comments, their uploaded images all without consequence because what are you going to do about it anyways?
But that still don’t make it right.
If you’d like to follow this case in the Flickr help forum you can do that here. Don’t be surprised though if the thread gets shut down shortly.
Update: Heather Champ has responded as follows in the Help Forum thread:
“I just wanted to follow up that I’ve sent an email about an hour ago to flashergirl1977 with an apology for the actions taken by the team in recent days. I’ll leave it up to them as to whether or not they want to share the content here.
That’s why I suspect this particular case is an aberration (not common, accident, etc) or there’s more to the story. The last thing Flickr wants to do is create a sense of distrust among the users. Unfortunately it’s only the cases handled improperly that end up getting any public attention (there’s no “Great Job Flickr!” forum.) and thus leads to public fear, as if that’s how all of their cases are handled.
You’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve circled round with the team here regarding our process and policies. “
As an aside there are currently 94 threads (most of them closed or locked by Flickr) in the Flickr help forum with the words “censorship” and “mistake” in them. And yet still Flickr doesn’t have a way to undo “accidental” account deletions.
Update, not unsurprising, but Flickr has now permanently closed this thread complaining about their censorship.
Update: Bonus Feature. What to do you do when Flickr deletes your paid Pro account not once but twice?