FanFiction.Net adult content purge felt across fandom two weeks on

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

FanFiction.Net's purge removed stories from Harry Potter, Naruto, Twilight, Hetalia - Axis Powers.
Image: alixe75 on ffdotnetrants.

Two weeks ago, FanFiction.Net purged the site of much of the adult content, surprising many fan fiction readers and writers; leaving several archives on the Internet unprepared for a deluge of new users, problems continuing to this day. FanFiction.Net removed around 62,000 stories after a change allowing writers under the age of eighteen to register.

FanFiction.Net spelled out the reasons for their purge on the front page of the site:

Please note we would like to clarify the content policy we have in place since 2002. FanFiction.Net follows the Fiction Rating system ranging from Fiction K to Fiction M. Although Fiction Ratings goes up to Fiction MA, FanFiction.Net since 2002 has not allowed Fiction MA rated content which can contain adult/explicit content on the site. FanFiction.Net only accepts content in the Fiction K through Fiction M range. Fiction M can contain adult language, themes and suggestions. Detailed descriptions of physical interaction of sexual or violent nature is considered Fiction MA and has not been allowed on the site since 2002.
 
— FanFiction.Net

According to alixe75 on LiveJournal's ffdotnetrants, FanFiction.Net deleted 2,002 Naruto stories, 1,497 Twilight stories, 1,256 Harry Potter stories, 670 Glee stories, 364 Inuyasha stories, 364 Hetalia - Axis Powers stories, 282 Kingdom Hearts, 213 Pokemon stories, 143 Yu-Gi-Oh stories, 127 Dragon Ball Z stories and 47 Doctor Who stories amongst others. rahirah on Dreamwidth provided another statistic, "Approximately 11% of all BtVS [Buffy the Vampire Slayer] stories were zapped. That may not sound like much, but FFnet is big - that comes to thousands of stories." feckless-muse on Dreamwidth reported the purge included banning users. Despite the purge, Alexa reports no drop in traffic to FanFiction.Net.

Critics United

 
Note — June 20, 2012
 
Critics United is a subcommunity of FanFiction.Net users; this was not clearly explained in the article.
 

Some in the fan community blamed Critics United for the purge, and a few Tumblr users created a group to fight them. The group earned a mention on the Huffington Post.

According to feckless-muse, "people reporting these so called site violations are literally ganging up on the writers and leaving comments like the ones below en masse. The poor writers are spending hours (and in some cases months and years for ongoing fics) on their works only to be abused, bullied and then having their work deleted without notice." With these sentiments being echoed on LiveJournal, jessioriginal reported threats from the group at the same time the purge took place.

It's been suggested that part of the reason behind the purge were the mass-reports coming from a trollish community on FanFiction that felt they have the right to judge which stories do and do not belong on the site. Unfortunately, they are not alone. My Fatal Fanfiction story—a Fatal Frame parody revolving around the recent purge—was targeted by them. Apparently the short prologue with references to the characters, story, and setting of the game was enough for them to declare my story an original work. They have since demanded I change it or remove it, threatened me, they've reported my story, and they keep leaving those kind of reviews.
 

Two months ago, David Anderson, of Dudley, Massachusetts, created a petition condemning Critics United which drew increased interest in light of the purge. By earlier today, 224 people signed it including Danny Kleemann of Peoria, Illinois, Brian George O'Connor of Chatham, New York, Tegan Chin of Arlington, Texas, Holly Reichert of Euclid, Ohio, Claire Owen of Houston, Texas, Joanna Zhang of Charlotte, North Carolina, Amber Keystone of Monroe, Louisiana, Lily Hamilton of Charlotte, North Carolina, Allison Law of Charlotte, North Carolina and Erica Winchester of Clinton, Massachusetts who all signed today. Earlier this week, Timothy Hall signed, saying "The profiles are being deleted due to either content violations or inactivity, including the stories in connection with the profiles. Most of profile and story deletions are because of depicted content about adult or violent themes being detailed beyond its 'suggestion' even in the slightest manner."

So great was one person's anger, they created a page about Critics United on Encyclopedia Dramatica several months ago. People mentioned this and praised people trolling Critics United on Tumblr and LiveJournal as recently as yesterday.

 
Correction — Jun 18, 2012
 
The Critics United page on Encyclopedia Dramatica was created on June 6, after the purge.
 

Fan response

A scene from Mary West's mature rated Harry Potter fan fiction "Time for a Change"
Image: SSHGGillian.

Twelve days ago, a FanFiction.Net contributor named Charlotte Weatherly created a petition on Change.org requesting FanFiction.Net stop its own destruction by purging stories. Earlier today, the count of signatories stood at over 30,000, many offering their perspectives on why the site acted in error. Kara Bularzik's comment, liked over 270 times, said: "... I cannot believe so much valuable work is being trashed because it doesn't fit parameters that have not been strictly enforced since they were put into action. [...] What is the point of a ratings system if anything disagreeable is automatically purged? [...] I am truly disheartened, and I hope either a different course of action is taken or I wish ff.net and its future users (all within the PG reading range) the best as I sadly look for a site where one can truly 'unleash their imagination'." Zaynab Quadri's comment, liked 88 times, expressed a similar sentiment: "Writers give warnings when they write explicit content, so if anyone's reading anything they shouldn't be, that's their own fault. Let the writers have freedom of speech." Lex Black's comment, liked by 30 people, said: "Some of the best stories are being threatened by this. This rule hasn't been inforced[sic] for ten years and limiting creativity now is ridicules.[sic] If it upsets you, then be MATURE enough to not read it."

People continue to support the petition, with Maria Adams of San Diego, California, Matthew Sandrock of Santa Maria, California, Jessie Brown of Clinton, Mississippi, Cynthia Mora of Renton, Washington, Anis Rosdi of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, James Clarke of Cedar Point, North Carolina, Blair Ritchie of Ashland, Oregon, Rianna McMahan of Auburn, Washington, Hannah Johnson of Tuolumne, California and C.J. Concepcion of Goodyear, Arizona signing today. Discussion of the petition on a FanFiction.Net message board generated over 3,000 messages, and is still active.

On Dreamwidth, members urged FanFiction.Net users to back up their work lest it be deleted. Users auronlu, vieralynn and others encouraged people to spread the word of possible deletion.

The purge story was picked up by Hannah Ellison at the Huffington Post two days ago, who compared the FanFiction.Net purge to a book burning. Ellison went on to say, "[t]hese unpaid authors are at the mercy of the sites willing to house their work and as such must adhere to the lines drawn in the very murky sand of copyright law. Some of these authors spent months writing and editing novel length works to then have them deleted entirely, as if they were something with no artistic or cultural worth; artefacts that either follow the rules or don't." Ellison's post earned 1,900+ Facebook likes, with 50 comments on the article.

Ellison's story appeared on several Tumblr posts. xmarisolx posted her response on Tumblr a day ago, claiming FanFiction.Net was shooting itself in the foot, driving traffic to other archives such as An Archive of Our Own (AO3). candycanine, quoting Heinrich Heine, supported Ellison's book burning reference.

Talking to Wikinews, former fan fiction writer and current professional writer Angelia Sparrow indicated a lack of surprise over FanFiction.Net's actions saying, "Ten years ago they purged all the NC-17 stuff. Sounds like they just did a cleanup again. We're getting more puritanical everywhere, you know? All Romance Ebooks is strongly limiting what romances can contain."

Long time Thunderbirds fan fiction writer Tikatu told Wikinews, "The content purge hasn't bothered me at all, really, though I've been lurking around on ff.net's Critics United. They've been blamed for all the deleted stories -- never mind that they don't have enough people to have reported that many fics."

Anime fan fiction writer and artist Hurricane Islandheart defended FanFiction.Net's actions, saying "All FF.net was doing was catching up on their site maintenance and reports - people just freaked because they'd finally been caught breaking the rules." She reinforced this idea on her LiveJournal.

I think that's what finally killed me about fandom. That bullshit merited coverage by the Huffington Post, and all that happened was FF.net finally decided to deal with some reports and enforce their rules for a little while again. They've done this before. We did it at MediaMiner, when that site was actively moderated - reports would pile up in slack time, when all the mods were busy, and when we'd finally get a chance to look at them, some would take it as a "sudden attack" on their fics. No, it's not a "sudden attack" - you got away with breaking the rules for a while, but now, between some mods who have time on their hands and a group targeting shitty fics, they finally got caught. (For the record - my fics flagrantly disregarded the rules at FF.net, and for the last few years I had a notice up on my profile in boldface that said as much and that I was aware of it. I was never, ever, reported; I never, ever had CU comment on any of my fics; I never, ever had FF.net staff remove them. I finally got sick of the site and took them down myself a few days ago, since I've decided to make my move to AO3 permanent.)
 

Fan fiction archives

In response to the purge, users flocked to other sites and archives. Recommendations for sites included DreamWidth, LiveJournal, YourFanFiction.Com and An Archive of Our Own (AO3).

AO3 experienced down time as the site's servers could not handle the additional load from FanFiction.Net users, generating a number of 50 errors at the height of the problem. The site's parent organization, Organization for Transformative Works, not mentioning server problems on their Dreamwidth account, updated their website six days ago to discuss the situation.

This sudden and dramatic expansion has come about largely as a result of changes on Fanfiction.net, who have recently introduced more stringent enforcement of their policies relating to explicit fanworks which have resulted in some fans no longer being able to host their works there. One of the primary reasons the AO3 was created was in order to provide a home for fanworks which were at risk of deletion elsewhere, so we're very keen to welcome these new users, but in the short term this does present us with some challenges!
 

The traffic increase came on the back of Quantcast-reported increase earlier in the year, 57,201 visitors at the end of April, up from 40,560 at the end of March. Alexa reported a big drop in traffic for the archive the day of the purge and traffic has subsequently remained at above average before FanFiction.Net purge levels. This matches other organizationally reported increase. AO3 took measures to reduce server load such as disabling tag filtering, improving statistics caching, turning off alphabetical listing of users, suspending the ability for people to request invitations to and from the site. Even before FanFiction.Net's adult content purge, AO3's invitation code queue exceeded 17,000. Before the site closed registration, Tumblr user alien-rz requested a code and received a confirmation e-mail saying "You’ve been added to our queue! Yay! We estimate that you’ll receive an invitation around 2012-12-13."

FanFiction.Net users like fujiwara-nanaho registered for Dreamwidth in case FanFiction.Net removed their content.

No problems were reported by Hurricane Islandheart on MediaMiner.Org, an anime-centric fan fiction site popular in the mid-'00s that is largely absent of moderators at the moment. The site saw an increase in traffic earlier this year, going from 24,156 at end-December, according to Quantcast, to 58,558 visitors at the end of March this year.

According to Tikatu, a member of FanFiction.net Writers Unite, an eFiction software based site, YourFanFiction.com went down under the additional traffic strain. According to Tumblr users, having been created in response to the purge, the site swelled to over a thousand users including a number of Tumblr users like bluelilacflame, konata-the-espeon and getwhatyouwantorjustgetold.



Sources

Wikinews
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