Aug. 23rd, 2007

LJ issued two statements on [livejournal.com profile] lj_biz concerning the banning of artists who, according to them, had posted art showing minors in sexually explicit situations and what was supposed to be a clarification of their policies. These posts are here and here.

The part that had me curious was this:


* How is LiveJournal determining whether figures depicted in drawings/artwork are underage?

A number of factors are involved in making this determination. Any stated age of the individuals present, the apparent age of the people or characters present in an image, and outside knowledge of the person or character's age are all taken into consideration. The only one of these factors which can be evaluated alone is how characters present in the image are drawn, and this is only done when there is simply no other information available to help determine age.


Seeking more information, I posted a question to both threads and did not receive an answer. However, my support request finally did get one.

Am posting the exchange here and leaving the post unlocked (and uncut, sorry!) for anyone who feels the need to link to it. Will add to it as I get more answers.


Original Request:
I would like to ask about this part of your policies:

"* How is LiveJournal determining whether figures depicted in drawings/artwork are underage?

A number of factors are involved in making this determination. Any stated age of the individuals present, the apparent age of the people or characters present in an image, and outside knowledge of the person or character's age are all taken into consideration. The only one of these factors which can be evaluated alone is how characters present in the image are drawn, and this is only done when there is simply no other information available to help determine age."

In the case of series/books/anime where the characters in question are minors, a lot of artists including myself increase their age in both art and fic (alternate universe genre/future genre). In that case, if the artists post art/fic with these characters and a disclaimer that says "the characters depicted are over the age of 18", would that be enough to protect the poster? Assuming that, especially in the case of art, the characters don't look 7. If not, could you please tell me why?

In the case of series/books/anime where characters are, in fact, not minors but look like minors (example: the anime Ouran High School Host Club has a character called Hunni who is at the time of the anime 15. However he looks 7, so at age 20 he will still look very young) how do these policies apply?

Comment:
Image of the character in question, Hunni: http://syu.less3.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/04/260406_ouran_0007.jpg (edited for this post only: try this link: http://www.anime-source.com/banzai/images/topcharacter/84mitsukuni.jpg, the other one doesn't seem to work anymore)

I've been informed that Hunni is in fact 18 in the anime and still looks 7. I would still like to know how your policies apply in this case.

Answer:
Dear LiveJournal user summerbreeze21,

Stating an age for a character as being 18 or older, and drawing them as an apparent 7 year old engaged in explicit sexual conduct would be treated as a minor. Stating an age for a character as 18 or older, and drawing them as someone who is 18 or older, would almost certainly be treated as the character were an adult. It would likely qualify as a "questionable" violation if the character had a stated age of 18, and were drawn to appear as a 14 year old, and be treated as explained in part (b) of http://community.livejournal.com/lj_biz/242136.html.

Regards,
Eric
LiveJournal Abuse Prevention Team

Comment:
Thank you for the response, even though it took almost 2 weeks.

I would like further clarification in the case of a character that is stated to be 18 but, according to LJ staff, looks 14. This concerns me because in many cases this is due to the style of the particular artist and is not in fact an indication of the character's age. In cases such as these, where a warning is issued to the poster, does the poster get the chance to argue against it? Would showing other samples of the artist's art that contain the same style be enough reason to revoke the strike?

Answer:
Dear user summerbreeze21,

Thank you for your follow-up questions. LiveJournal is aware that there are many styles of art where a character is made to appear younger than they actually are. However, for the purposes of enforcing our policies as described previously, the visual appearance of the person being depicted will always be given high priority in determining whether the material is a violation.

The situation you describe is one of the scenarios that led to LiveJournal revising its policies to give a 'warning' of questionable material, rather than invoking a suspension immediately. It gives the warned user a chance to remove such material and any other content they have posted that may fall into the same categorization to avoid any action being taken against their account.

The warned user would always be able to appeal the decision by contacting the Abuse Prevention Team with their concerns. It is unlikely, though, that additional samples of the artist's work would have any influence on a decision, as decisions are made on the reported material individually. Please let me be clear that this is not to say that 'an appeal would never be successful' -- it is only to indicate that the specific act of showing additional material would likely have little to no effect on a decision on its own.

Regards,
Annika
LiveJournal Abuse Prevention Team

Comment:
Thank you for the follow-up.

I understand the points you clarified better now, however I still have a few questions. I can understand that LJ would rather be safe than sorry and that styles that make the characters look younger can be a risk. However, [livejournal.com profile] rachel stated in the lj_biz post that an age statement on the art of the suspended users would have been enough to keep them safe. That thread can be found here: http://community.livejournal.com/lj_biz/242136.html?thread=14176984#t14176984

This directly contradicts with what I have been told and I am curious about why what [livejournal.com profile] rachel said is not feasible, since unless the art (containing an age statement) shows a character that is, without a doubt, less than 18 (this would mean the character doesn't even look like a teenager since seeing the difference between a 16 year old and an 18 year old is extremely difficult) there should be no reason to give the poster a warning. If I am wrong about this could you please explain why?

My second question is what would make an appeal successful or what should a warned/suspended user do to show that the art/fiction in question did not contain a minor if LJ is already convinced of the fact that it does depict underage sex?

Comment:
It's been a week since your last response and I am still waiting for an answer. Please don't make me wait another week.

Answer:
Dear user summerbreeze21,

I apologize for the length of time it has taken to respond to your follow-up questions. The Team attempts to respond to all inquiries within a few days, but during times of heavy load or in regards to more complex situations, this can cause a longer delay than we would like.

An age statement is unlikely to ever qualify, on its own, as the sole determination for the age of a depicted individual. Though it can provide assistance in determining age, the actual appearance of the character as drawn will always take precedence.

There are basically three categories of ages that are being discussed with regard to these policies. Let me address each one individually and how the 'appearance' of the character would be affected, or not affected, by the presence of an age statement.

1) The first category is images or artwork that clearly depicts a child under the age of 13/14. This would be material that nearly all dis-interested third parties, looking at the image or drawing, would easily assume the depicted person to be a child. To use your original example of the 'Hunni' character, people who are fans of or are interested in these works may realize that the character may in fact be 20 years old. But to anyone outside of that realm, the appearance of the individual as drawn is that of 7-year-old. There would be virtually no difference between such an image and a separate drawing of someone who was actually 7 years old.

Therefore LiveJournal is choosing to act on such images regardless of the 'story arc' of the characters or the art style being used. In these cases, an age statement that the character was over the age of 18 would likely have no bearing on the decision and resulting actions.

2) The second category is images or artwork that depicts individuals in the 'teenager' years -- not yet a legal adult but no longer a child. In these cases, there would likely be a far greater discrepancy on what dis-interested third parties would say was the age of these individuals. A 16-year old may appear 20 to some people, 16 to others, and 14 to others. Therefore, this is the general age range for which the 'questionable' policy was adopted. Because it is no longer clear to a majority of viewers that the person depicted is a child, the LiveJournal user will be given a warning and a chance to remove that image before further action is taken.

In these cases, the presence of an age statement that the person was 20 years old, for example, would be taken into account during the decision process. The age statement provides an indication of what the intended age of the character is, which can be used as a guideline while reviewing the content. Again, though, an age statement is not a 'get out of jail free' card, so to speak. The physical appearance of the character will always take precedence.

3) The third category is images or artwork that obviously depicts individuals who are adults over the age of 18. This category, as you noted, is rather self-explanatory. All or nearly all third parties would assume the age of the individuals to be over the age of 18, and therefore the presence or lack or an age statement would not be a critical factor. As the image or artwork is clearly depicting adults, no action would be taken.

To address the comment made by staff member Rachel, I apologize that her statement was made in such an 'absolute' fashion -- as you are already well aware, there can be no absolutes in regards to these issues and policies. As explained above, an age statement alone will never be the sole factor in determining the age of depicted individuals.

To address your final point, we do not have examples of what might constitute 'additional proof' that could be used to appeal a decision that has been given. In general, though, it is unlikely that discussion of 'art style' or the book/series from which a character originates would have very much effect on a decision that has been given. In the case of an appeal, I can only say that we would ensure that the decision and original material is again reviewed thoroughly, with the likely addition of at least a few more staff or Team members to give additional perspective.

Should you have additional questions, please feel free to reply to this request. Please let me also state that I understand your frustration in these matters, as you and many other users are trying to get as many clarifications as possible. The unfortunate reality is that this is a very difficult subject to draw lines around -- there can be very few 'black and white' absolutes when dealing with these topics.

Regards,
Annika
LiveJournal Abuse Prevention Team

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February 2011

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