The purpose of this message is to inform you, members of the fanfiction community and previous users of fanfiction.net, of what goes on in the staff of fanfiction.net. We have been compiling information for months on how fanfiction.net treats is users, its staff, and the privacy of its members.
As a user of fanfiction.net, you have a right to know how your account is treated and what values your stories are inadvertently sponsoring.
THE FANFICTION.NET STAFF
Xing and Steven Savage are the two most identifiable leaders of the ff.net staff. They appear to have integrity as they use their real names and geographic locations. However, they lack one crucial thing: managerial talent.
As fanfiction.net grew larger, Xing had to delegate responsibility to other staff members. Some of these staff members have not yet graduated from high school. Legally they are not adults, and yet they have control over many aspects of fanfiction.net, like what gets posted, what fics get deleted, and who gets banned from fanfiction.net. The criteria for becoming a member of the fanfiction.net staff are unknown, but we understand that Xing does not know many members of his staff personally. He has not interviewed them over the phone; he has not met them in person. Essentially, he has no idea who they really are.
These younger staff members cannot vote or drink in the United States. But they have access to personal account information on fanfiction.net such as passwords and ISP numbers. As members of the FLF, we find this extremely frightening, and so should you. In January 2001, Michela Ecks, a former member of the ff.net staff and founder of Writers University, posted a seven-page manifesto on every message board in the fanfiction.net site. She gave a detailed account of how she had been lied to by members of the staff, namely Steven Savage, and how she had endured abuse at the hands of the staff. [see Ecks's letter at this FLF forum under the topic of "For reference--Ecks' Seven-Page Manifesto" or click here]
While we do not know if Ecks's statements were true, we know this: this member of the fanfiction.net staff was unhappy and unstable. In the midst of being disgruntled and dissatisfied with fanfiction.net, she had access to sensitive account information.
Yes, we are aware that these things happen. People in business have fights, they have fallings-out. But this is why most people are interviewed before they are hired. This is why most people must endure background checks before taking jobs where sensitive information is at stake. This is why people under the age of eighteen must have parental consent before they begin working.
Some might object to this by saying that fanfiction.net is not a business. It is a profit-free organization dedicated to helping you unleash your imagination and free your soul. This might have been true last year, but this year it's a whole new monster. Fanfiction.net offers support services that members must pay for. Xing must pay taxes on it. It is officially considered a business.
We became aware of just how much the fanfiction.net staff knows about us last May, when FLF member RD was banned from ff.net for the crime of "flame-bait." A member of the fanfiction.net staff calling herself Meimi appeared on a public message board and revealed details about RD's password, user-location, and ISP number. Unfortunately, another ff.net member who shared RD's ISP was also banned from the site because of his proximity to the alleged offender.
CRITERIA FOR BANNING MEMBERS
Try as we might, we at the Fanfiction.net Liberation Front have been unable to find ff.net's criteria for banning members. They have a TOS certainly, but what few people realize is that the TOS was written not by a lawyer but by Michela Ecks, a college student.
We have asked fanfiction.net for a list of reasons why one might be banned from their site and have yet to receive a satisfactory answer. RD's crimes included "flame-bait" and using multiple accounts. However, no one really knows what "flame-bait" is, and nowhere in the TOS does it state that having multiple accounts is against the rules. Many members of fanfiction.net have multiple accounts and they are not banned. People post NC-17 rated fiction in fandoms that are densely populated by children, but often this is not considered flame bait.
You can find the collection of poems that the staff of fanfiction.net considered flame-bait here: [this FLF forum under the topic of "Banned From FU.NET" or click here] They were appropriately rated NC-17, but patrons of the Bible fandom, where these poems were placed, attacked the material on the grounds that it offended them.
Fanfiction.net sided with the patrons of the Bible fandom. However, it should be known that in the past fanfiction.net has sided with the individual authors in these "flame-bait" cases--especially concerning Harry Potter slash. Interestingly, many of the members of the fanfiction.net staff write Harry Potter slash.
It's hard to know what's considered flame-bait and what's simply considered controversial, and ff.net has never made the distinction in its terms of service.
In May it was made known that members of fanfiction.net can be banned from the site for their behavior--even when they are not on fanfiction.net! Like a Catholic school student, your behavior represents your school even when you're on vacation or hanging out with friends on the weekend.
In a letter to Lucifer Daimaou, Xing made this clear:
"However, I do want to say that Fanfiction.net reserves the rights and power to remove anyone's account under any circumstances. I'm not saying you have but stuff that occurred outside of ff.net such as spreading un-founded rumors are grounds for banning. In other words, your actions are your actions regardless of whether you are on fanfiction.net or not."
[For more details on this, see this FLF forum under the topic of "Official Regime" or click here]
This pretty much speaks for itself. Anyone who has an account on fanfiction.net must watch what he or she says and does online at all hours of the day. Fanfiction.net is not simply a website; by signing up as a member, you are agreeing to subscribe to a set of values. Is this in the contract? No. But in this statement Xing manages to sum up everything about ff.net: your account can be banned under ANY circumstances.
This is our conclusion: Fanfiction.net bans people because it can.
We at the FLF understand that fanfiction.net is a privately owned website. However, we believe that users and members of ff.net are deserving of respect. We believe that our passwords and ISP numbers should only be available to Xing. We believe that banned members deserve better explanations for their severance from ff.net.
Banning happens more frequently than the average member of fanfiction.net might believe. In June, a writer named Cassandra Claire was kicked off for allegations of plagiarism. The circumstances surrounding this incident were not clear, but many Claire fans declared that Claire did not really plagiarize, that she forgot to cite, that it was an accident. Members of the FLF had problems with the banning because we felt it was hypocritical; fanfiction.net is a site dedicated to copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and the violation of creative property rights. To ban someone for the crime of plagiarism seems downright contradictory. In addition, fanfiction.net allowed Claire's rights to be violated. They widely advertised that she was a plagiarist when the only way to delcare someone guilty of that is in a court of law.
Others contended that Claire was banned on trumped up charges of plagiarism because the staff was jealous of her writing (she did have a phenomenally large fan base). While the FLF takes this rumor with a grain of salt, we do wonder about it . . .
Interestingly, fanfiction.net staff members are not held to the same standards as the average user. Remember Meimi? And remember Xing's declaration that a member must represent fanfiction.net well in all of his online transactions? Well, around the time of RD's discharge from fanfiction.net, Meimi goaded and insulted RD on a public coolboard. To our knowledge, she was never reprimanded for her appalling conduct.
Around the time of Cassie Claire's banning, a person self-identified as a member of the fanfiction.net administration made an appearance on Lucifer Daimaou's message board at pub40.ezboard.com/bblabj This person called herself "Shaft" and repeatedly engaged in antagonistic discourse with members of the FLF. At one point, she threatened to have Kirstma and RD banned from fanfiction.net and have an ISP block put on their accounts due to misbehavior. This is what fanfiction.net threatens to do to people who protest its actions and authority.
MESSAGE BOARDS AND MAILING LISTS
For the past few months, fanfiction.net has supposedly been engaged in promoting more discussion on its site. They have expanded the message boards and set up new ones. However, deletion of posts on fanfiction.net has become a widespread occurrence. As with everything else, fanfiction.net board moderators do not have to give reasons or explanations for things they delete, though they seem to have a penchant for deleting messages that question the integrity of the site. Yes, fanfiction.net has the right to keep homophobic, racist, sexist, or sexually explicit material from being posted on message boards, but fanfiction.net goes farther than simply deleting objectionable material. Fanfiction.net deletes topics without warning and topics that become "argumentative." Fanfiction.net is not about promoting dialogue.
But this is perhaps the least of our worries. Post deletion has been rampant on ff.net for a long period of time. What makes us uncomfortable is the fact that fanfiction.net has taken to banning certain people from its yahoo mailing list. This is a new infraction. With fanfiction.net continuing to experience technical difficulties, members have flocked to email@example.com. This mailing list is NOT a part of fanfiction.net, it is a part of yahoo. Nevertheless, this shift in home base has not kept the administration from acting in an antagonistic manner.
Recently FLF member Kinch Gallagher was banned from this group without an explanation. You can read more about Kinch's circumstances by going to [this FLF forum under the thread "WHAT EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW about fanficion.net writers" or by clicking here]. Kinch did not publish anything defamatory. He did not try to start a fight. He questioned some of the rumors surrounding the technical problems at ff.net. This alone was enough to have him banned from the yahoo mailing list.
This action was completely capricious. Letters were sent to Steven Savage and Michele Savage. Neither wrote back. Kinch also filed a complaint with yahoo's terms of service on grounds of discrimination and wrongful discharge. This matter is still being reviewed.
Yahoo is not controlled by fanfiction.net. Fanfiction.net must comply with yahoo's terms of service, and this means not discriminating against members. If you feel that your rights have been violated on the fanfiction.net mailing list, please visit add.yahoo.com/fast/help/u.../cgi_abuse
Also, if you want to talk about fanfiction and don't want to deal with the bureaucracy of fanfictionnetwriters@yahoo, feel free to sign up at this new group: groups.yahoo.com/Fanfiction_iNet
No topic is too controversial, no one will ever be banned. Unlike the official mailing list, posts will not be pre-screened.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FF.N'S SPONSORS
We at the FLF understand that corporate sponsorship is necessary for the survival of fanfiction.net. We are not opposed to ff.net's recruitment of advertising to lessen some of the costs of running such a huge website. However, it has come to our attention that fanfiction.net is probably breaking quite a few rules in being an Amazon.com Associate. You've probably seen the Amazon.com box and link at the bottom of the home page and you've been encouraged to visit the site.
"To begin the enrollment process, you will submit a complete Program application via our site. We will evaluate your application in good faith and will notify you of your acceptance or rejection. We may reject your application if we determine (in our sole discretion) that your site is unsuitable for the Program. Unsuitable sites include those that:
-promote sexually explicit materials
-promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age
-promote illegal activities
-include "amazon" or variations or misspellings thereof in their domain names
-OTHERWISE VIOLATE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS" (emphasis ours)
Fanfiction.net is guilty of violating several criteria here, though none of them stick out like the last point. Fanfiction.net is admittedly all about violating intellectual property rights. It of course takes no responsibility for the actions of its members, but nonetheless, it is a place that exists solely for the purpose of publishing material that violates copyright law. Please note that those of us at the FLF are not opposed to fanfiction; we are opposed to the idea of the site receiving money from a sponsor whose values contradict the purpose of fanfiction.net. And most importantly, we are opposed to fanfiction.net misrepresenting itself to get corporate sponsorship.
You can see for yourself that most of the material on fanfiction.net does not quite pass Amazon's test. Hell, most of us here have written sexually explicit and violent material at one time or another. Clearly something is amiss.
Don't misunderstand us here. We're happy that fanfiction.net gets sponsorship. But remember, Napster was brought down because corporate sponsors were paying to advertise on a site that was not in compliance with copyright laws.
LET'S SKIP TO THE GOOD PART
If you've been around long enough, you've probably heard of us. What you've heard most likely wasn't very flattering. We've been called everything from terrorists to punks to people who eat babies for breakfast. Michele Savage was even kind enough to say this about us in a recent fanfictionnet writers post: Please do nothing about it.. and please no longer go to that board and give it hits. That particular message board has an owner who has a long history of trolling at FFnet. Never believe anything posted to that message board. Just let it go.... We thought it was funny that she would try, in her limited powers as a board moderator, to keep people from coming to a message board devoted to freedom of speech and uninhibited dialogue. Here are other rumors you might have heard:
1. "FLF is bent on destroying fanfiction.net." In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. We want to restore fanfiction.net to its previous state: a caring, private environment. In addition, we want to see your privacy rights protected. We want a more coherent terms of service agreement. We want to know exactly why people are banned, and why certain topics can't be talked about. That's all. We're here to protect you, to make fanfiction.net your community. Fanfiction.net belongs to Xing, true, but it wouldn't be anything without its users.
2. "They're just a bunch of kids who want to make life difficult for people." Also untrue. Most of us are college educated. Many of us are in our twenties, and some of us are graduate students. We know a lot about writing and freedom of speech laws. Some of us have won prizes for writing, others hold prestigious jobs. We wouldn't be in this if we didn't believe we were doing the right thing.
3. "They're crazy!" Maybe so, but you won't hold it against us, will you?
4. "They're communists." Completely false. Even the most leftist among us recognize the fruitful benefits of capitalism and the positive affect free trade has on writing.
So what are we doing to help you? Well, for one thing, we're encouraging dialogue--something that ff.net hopes to do without. Our home base is Lucifer Daimaou's forum at pub40.ezboard.com/bblabj To post a message, you don't have to sign in or be a member. You don't even have to provide an email account (of course, we would prefer that you did, but that's beside the point). NOTHING you say will EVER be censored. No posts will be locked, no members banned.
Right now we're also trying to find out more about the problems at fanfiction.net. Members of the fanfiction.net administration were deliberately oblique when we asked them about rumors of a corporate takeover. If fanfiction.net does fold, we're going to try to help people get their fics back. We're going to try to help people who signed up for support services get a refund.
Being banned from an online community is a painful thing no one should have to go through without good reason. If you ever run into problems with a fanfiction.net administrator, we'll be there for you. We'll advocate on your behalf. We're YOUR counsel, your representative. Large online businesses like fanfiction.net need a support system, someone to lobby for each individual member. That's us.
If you want to help us in our mission, the best thing you can do is question everything. Question us, question fanfiction.net. The message boards and mailing lists of fanfiction.net are kind of a dead end (everything good gets deleted, we know), so we encourage you to talk amongst yourselves. Visit our message board. Visit our new mailing list. Email Xing about privacy issues and staff issues at fanfiction.net.
Right now, the FLF is looking into other venues of publishing fanfiction on the internet. We're looking into creating alternate sites for writers, and we're doing this because we love writing and we love reading other people's fanfiction. We're here for you, your home away from fanfiction.net. We'd never ask you to do anything you don't want to do.
The Fanfiction.net Liberation Front
Note from Quinkie: All information contained herein has now been documented. The links should work. :)